Tim Burke: I think Faber will look drastically different in this fight if he can stay injury-free for five rounds. Breaking a rib took everything out of him in their first bout and Barao still didn't really dominate him. I believe Faber can get him down a few times and keep him down, but he's going to have trouble submitting him. Barao will outwork him on the feet though, and will probably stay up enough to win some rounds that way. I'm predicting a very close decision that Faber loses. Renan Barao by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I agree with Iain that Faber's improvement has been phenomenal over the past year, but Barao is still the better fighter to me. An historical problem for Team Alpha Male fighters in title fights has been an inability to get their opponent to the ground in addition to being the slower, inferior striker. Faber has evolved into a quality striker, but Barao is on another level. He also has terrific takedown defense and his diverse attack will remain too much for Faber to handle. Renan Barao by unanimous decision.
Iain Kidd: Faber has improved dramatically since these two first met at UFC 149, while Barao hasn't improved at quite the same pace. That might sound like advantage Faber, but the truth is Barao was so much better than Urijah first time around that he should still be able to comfortably defeat him here as well. Renan Barao by Unanimous Decision.
T.P. Grant: Very much looking forward to this fight, and I think Faber can make this more competitive but Barao is one of the best five fighters in this sport right now. He is dangerous everywhere and wears Faber down again. Renan Barao by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: Is Faber better than last time? He just might be. Which is super rare for a guy in the latter years of his career. Is he so much better that I'd pick him to overcome Barao, who he had nothing for in their first fight? No. Renan Barao by leg kicks and distance control.
Anton Tabuena: Okay, I'll be the least boring dude on staff and will go with a not-so-safe pick here. Barao certainly isn't Jose Aldo, and Faber now knows what he's dealing with after going 25 minutes with him. I don't think it's so farfetched to think that a much improved Urijah can create a nice scramble, get a good position, and take advantage from there. Urijah Faber by Submission.
Dallas Winston: The infectious influence of Team Alpha Male coach and freakish transmogrifier "Bang" Ludwig has been evident in Urijah's boxing, and it's refreshing to see such an established vet still making notable improvements. The key factor in Faber x Barao 1 was range, as Barao is uncanny at employing rangy kicks and combos with intelligent footwork. Urijah may be forging some distance weapons/tactics behind the scenes but I haven't seen anything tangible enough to elicit a different outcome. Faber either needs to chill and make Barao come after him or roll out some new tricks to supplement his frenetic chase-mode. Renan Barao by unanimous decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Despite my prior certainty that Barao would best Faber once again, a rewatch of the first bout changed my mind. Commentary off, that fight was much closer than I remembered it being, and Barao, for all his varied array of strikes, failed to land cleanly consistently, and couldn't hurt Faber when he did. It's true that Faber didn't look any better, but he's improved dramatically over the past year, particularly in the striking department. Dallas mentions above that the key factor in the first fight was range, and it was via manipulation of range that Faber so soundly beat Michael McDonald in his last fight, frustrating the young gun and then forcing him to negate his own reach, walking right into Faber's counters. It's still a long shot, but I think this might be the day that the long-deposed king returns to his throne. Urijah Faber by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Barao: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Faber: Anton, Connor
Here's Kid Nate, Dallas and Connor talking about the fight on the UFC 169 MMA Vivisection:
Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas
Tim Burke: I've never viewed Lamas as worthy of a title shot. Sorry, Ricardo - it's just the way I see it. Aldo's going to blast him. Jose Aldo by TKO, round 2
Anton Tabuena: Okay, no reason not to choose the ‘safe' pick, as the only way I see Aldo losing this one is if he gasses early. That's not going to happen though, so I think it's Jose Aldo by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Unless Aldo gases by round 2 and Lamas can outwrestle him I see no path to victory for him. And he's still a liability to get hit in the face, hence his KO losses to Danny Castillo and Yuri Alcantara at 155. Jose Aldo via KO, round 2.
Iain Kidd: Ricardo Lamas is a really, really good fighter, but Jose Aldo is a great fighter. Everything Lamas does well, Aldo does even better. I don't see Lamas outshining Aldo in single facet of mixed martial arts. Jose Aldo by (T)KO, round 3.
T.P. Grant: I feel like Aldo might have been reduced a bit by injury, but he is still a fantastic fighter and should be able to get the better of a very good fighter. Jose Aldo by Decision.
Zane Simon: Lamas is super solid, but the main cracks in Jose Aldo's game seem to be his own injury woes, and fighters that can out hustle him for five rounds. I'm not hearing anything about Aldo suffering any camp injuries and Lamas while a great fighter, doesn't strike me as the "limitless endurance type." Eventually, I could see this looking a lot like the Aldo vs. Mendes fight, just stretched out a bit. Jose Aldo via KO, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Lamas has typically enjoyed either a striking or wrestling advantage against his opponents, or has feinted attacks with one of those aspects in order to set up the other. Aldo has faced and toppled better wrestle-boxers than Lamas, though I'd add that none had Lamas' brute strength and punching power. The champ's blistering Muay Thai acumen should gradually take its toll here. Jose Aldo by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: I've called Lamas the Danny Garcia of the UFC. He's never technically impressive, but he just keeps winning. That streak ends here, though. Lamas loses to Aldo for the same reason that Danny Garcia will never beat Floyd Mayweather--the skill gap is just too wide. Unfortunately for Lamas, he doesn't have Garcia's incredible jaw, so he's probably taking a nap. Jose Aldo by KO, round 4.
Staff picking Aldo: Anton, Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Dallas, Tim, Connor
Staff picking Lamas:
Tim Burke: A Mir guillotine finish would be a thing of beauty. But bullying, cage, knees, punches, blah blah. Alistair Overeem by TKO, round 1
Anton Tabuena: Considering all the crazy momentum and hype Overeem got on his UFC debut, it's funny how they're now giving him one of the easiest (and justifiable) ways to get a UFC win for such a high profile fighter. You can all talk about his silly weight loss issues, or how he has looked like a sub-par striker for a K-1 Champ lately, but none of that will matter because this is as close to a squash match as you will ever get at this level. This is just a stylistic nightmare for Mir, and he will get trucked. Badly. Alistair Overeem by KO.
Mookie Alexander: I know it's cool to joke about how Overeem's gas tank and chin can make any lopsided fight turn against him ... but c'mon, Mir is about as favorable a matchup for him as possible in the top 10. Mir is going to be steamrolled. Alistair Overeem by KO, round 1.
T.P. Grant: So Frank Mir doesn't do well when he gets hit hard, and Overeem is really good at hitting hard, so yeah. Alistair Overeem by TKO, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Oh Reem. I keep picking you and I keep being let down. But seriously, this? This is YOUR FIGHT. You can do this! Frank Mir? He doesn't do well against strong guys who bully him and hit hard. You? You're a strong guy who hits hard. You got this! All you need to do is train your submission and takedown defense. Wait, where are you training for this fight? Thailand? You're a K-1 champ and you're training your stand-up to take on Frank Mir? Oh Reem. Alistair Overeem by KO round 1 (I hope)
Zane SImon: I have rarely felt so unenthused by the potential outcome of a fight. Overeem and Mir are both sitting on the cliffs of heavyweight irrelevancy. This is just a matter of which one falls off first. I'm going to assume that Overeem's camp change was actually good for him and that he just wasn't geling right with the Blackzilians, but if that's not so then flip a coin because there's every chance that one or both of these guys totally fails to turn up, or gets switched off in a hurry. Alistair Overeem by KO, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: I'm not as discouraged with Overeem as most seem to be. Sure, he's suffered consecutive TKO losses but against elite competition and he was literally on the verge of finishing both beforehand. He still has some highly precarious tendencies but, unfortunately, Mir is probably the illest equipped heavyweight to exploit them. Alistair Overeem by left knee of carnage.
Connor Ruebusch: The only question in this fight is how many minutes will it take Overeem to put Mir away. I'm predicting he does it in under three. Alistair Overeem by TKO (knees to the body and punches).
Staff picking Mir:
Staff picking Overeem: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Dallas, Tim, Connor
Tim Burke: This is my favorite fight on the card. Lineker's gas tank will be his biggest issue. And I believe that Lineker lacks an iron chin as well - Jose Maria tagged him pretty hard. The more I analyze the fight, the more I lean toward Bagautinov. He can take Lineker down, he hits really hard, and he's probably faster. He'll probably get rocked early, but he'll hold on and take a FOTN decision. Ali Bagautinov by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Now this is a great match up, and a really tough bout to predict. Lineker will probably still hold a size and strength advantage, but Bagautinov hits hard as well. I also think he has a much diverse skill set, and he has the tools to drag this out on a gritty war, where Lineker could conceivably start to tire out after what I assume, would be a tough weight cut. Ali Bagautinov by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I love the hell out of John Lineker, his style, his offensive output, but he's a bit overhyped. The only fighter he's beaten who is still in the UFC is Phil Harris, who is 1-2 and is cutting it close. Bagautinov I believe is the more skilled fighter, and if he wanted to get Lineker down he could. Lineker could draw him into a firefight but Bagautinov is just as capable of landing a big shot as "Hands of Stone". Oh, and write these guys bonus checks in advance because they'll win FOTN. Ali Bagautinov by unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Yeah Lineker could miss weight, get out boxed, and gas. But the man hits like a truck and I'll bet one of those punches lands. John Lineker by TKO, Round 2
Zane Simon: I don't have a lot of faith that John Lineker is improving right now. Perhaps that's unfair, and he's certainly more than capable of using his current skills to beat 70% of fighters in his division, but I think he's a bit of a known quantity. Bagautinov is not known. We know he has some decent boxing, and that he has some great sambo, but it feels like he's a fighter in development. The big issue here is that Bagautinov has never faced a striker of Lineker's quality. Vinicius and Elliott are both poor at best when it comes to their stand up and Elliott made it incredibly easy on him by just standing in front of him and eating punches. Lineker offers more skill, variety, and volume. I'll take Bagautinov because I think he has the grappling to nullify some of Lineker's offense, but this is a razor thin fight. Ali Bagautinov by Unanimous Decision.
Dallas Winston: For as much as I appreciate a fighter like Lineker, I think he's gotten away with being rather one-dimensional. Ali Baga should be able to expose the deficiency of his grappling and takedown defense as long as he doesn't stand too long or get careless on his entries. Lineker's speed and footwork will be pivotal to his survival, as he'll be susceptible to counter takedowns if he just pulls the guns-blazing bull-rush routine. Ali Bagautinov by submission.
Connor Ruebusch: Close fight. Lineker's got the aggression to give Bagautinov a very tough time. His body punches are the perfect tool to capitalize on Bagautinov's suspect gas tank. Unfortunately, Lineker's gas tank is just as suspect, and Bagautinov has the ability to take the fight to the ground if he's in trouble. It's usually a good idea to pick the Russian, and I'd say that maxim holds true here. Ali Bagautinov by Submission, round 2.
Staff picking Bagautinov: Mookie, Iain, DSM, Zane, Anton, Dallas, Tim, Connor
Staff picking Lineker: Grant, Fraser. Stephie
Tim Burke: I agree with Mookie - Varner looks a lot better lately and Trujillo is going to have a very tough time with his fluid mix of boxing and wrestling. Jamie Varner by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Varner is a bad match-up for Trujillo, in my opinion. Or at least,Varner is way better than Roger Bowling and Marcus LeVesseur. Varner had a real bad run towards the end of the WEC and on the regional scene, but he's picked himself back up and has been competitive and/or victorious in all of his UFC bouts, and I think he'll continue his turnaround here. Jamie Varner by unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Trujillo is a bit underrated just because he was thrown and knuckle dusted like a small child by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Jamie Varner might be a guy he can out athlete at this point, but I'm not sure what to make of this fight. I'll go with experience of Varner. Jamie Varner by Decision.
Zane Simon: I don't know what it is, but I'm smelling an upset in the air. Varner isn't exactly a defensive wizard, and I think that the Blackzilians are starting to turn things around. Trujillo is a complete loose cannon, and I think he loses if the fight goes into the third round, but I could see his freakish strength and speed catch Varner out in the first. Abel Trujillo by TKO, Round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: Nurmagomedov's handling of Trujillo did not make the Blackzilians product look good, but it's really his first performance against Roger Bowling that spells doom for him. True, Trujillo beat Bowling from pillar to post in their rematch, but the first time around saw him take far too many shots before gassing and getting saved by a timely knee to his downed opponent. If Trujillo can continue to look as good as he did in his last fight then he has the tools to win this, but until I see him repeat that kind of success I just don't see how Varner can lose here. Jamie Varner by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Trujillo: DSM, Zane
Staff picking Varner: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Dallas, Connor
John Makdessi vs. Alan Patrick
Tim Burke: Patrick has the ability to make this a really ugly fight because Makdessi doesn't deal well with people pressuring him or getting him against the fence. That's what gives me major hang-ups here. I'll lean Makdessi, but I wouldn't be surprised at all by a Patrick decision. John Makdessi by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I think John Makdessi is steadily improving, but let's talk about Alan Patrick for a moment. Is Mike Goldberg going to pronounce the name as it sounds or Jon Anik's version (All-ahn Pah-treek)? This is one of several names on the card that Goldberg will mangle in hilarious fashion. John Makdessi by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: TKD all the way! Makdessi has shown that you can absolutely outgrapple him, and if you play your cards right, you can even outstrike him. But he's been improving lately, and this should be his. John Makdessi by decision
Zane Simon: Huge squash match. Patrick was getting somewhat outstruck by Garett Whiteley when he finally started landing some hard shots and outside of that he's just a grinding wall-n-stall fighter. He tends to muscle takedowns and doesn't have much of a submission game to speak of. He's shown a lot more flashes of his capoeira background in the UFC than he did on the regional circuit, but he's basically fodder here. John Makdessi by KO, Round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Hey Zane, did you know that I coined the Wall-n-Stall term several years ago as the opposite of the Wall-n-Maul skill displayed by some fighter? Yes, I'm really taking credit for that. Oh wait, my pick. Yeah, Makdessi by Taekwondo styling.
Connor Ruebusch: If Makdessi's boxing and defense was as poor as Garret Whiteley's I'd see a reason to pick Patrick against him, but they're not. Makdessi's got the tools to smack Patrick around all day. The real question here is: how good is Patrick's chin? John Makdessi by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Makdessi: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Patrick:
Tim Burke: Cariaso's not awesome, but he has enough to beat Danny Martinez. Chris Cariaso by TKO, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Danny Martinez beats up nobodies and loses to anyone good. That's clear-cut. He's lost to Formiga, Hominick, and Benavidez and has not beaten any notable fighter in his career. Two of his last three fights came against guys making their pro debut. Cariaso isn't a contender at 125 but he's at least earned the role of gatekeeper and he'll have no problems with Martinez. Chris Cariaso by decision.
Zane Simon: Martinez lost to Davey Grant in the opening round of TUF 18, once again showing that he has trouble competing at the higher levels of the sport. In truth he's an incredibly one dimensional wrestler. He has a good shot and some power slams in his arsenal, but he's not much of a boxer and doesn't kick at all (he fights in shoes). I can't see Cariaso losing to an opponent who's that limited. Chris Cariaso by TKO, Round 3.
Anton Tabuena: Interesting that this fight is almost even on the betting odds. Hint Hint. Chris Cariaso by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I like Cariaso quite a bit. BE poster Archelon suggested that he sometimes looks unimpressive as a result of his own well-roundedness, and I think there's definite merit to that point. Cariaso does lots of things well, and as a result seems to get lost in his own bag of tricks sometimes--mental lapses like that are what got him caught against John Moraga, and Renan Barao back in his bantamweight days. But the fact remains that he is well-rounded, and Danny Martinez is not. Chris Cariaso by Submission, round 2.
Staff picking Cariaso: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Martinez:
Tim Burke: Watson's just not very good. Catone back at 185 is a good idea for him, and he has the wrestling to keep Watson on the defensive. It's just not a good fight for Kong. Nick Catone by unanimous decision.
Mookie Alexander: Watson should clean up Catone. Tom Watson by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I am really not confident in this pick at all. Watson is... well... he's so one dimensional. It's a fun dimension, and it makes him a heck of a lot more exciting than Catone who hardly makes an impact in my mind at all despite 7 fights in the UFC. But it's one dimension none the less. The truth is though, that Catone has a win over Costa Philippou. And other than an injury loss to Chris Camozzi the only fighters that tend to beat him are those that can out wrestle/out grapple him. Sound like Watson? No, no it doesn't. Nick Catone by Unanimous Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: This fight is tough to pick, and for none of the reasons that fun fights are tough to pick. I'm going with Catone based on the fact that Watson is Briti--I mean, bad at wrestling. Nick Catone by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Catone: Iain, Zane, Anton, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Watson: Mookie, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie
Tim Burke: I'm calling the upset here. Lee is a great prospect and I just never really saw a lot in Iaquinta. I think he's decent and his win over Piotr Hallmann surprised me, but I think Lee can catch him with a big shot early and either finish by TKO or switch to a quick sub and get the finish that way. I'll lean sub. Kevin Lee by submission, round 2
Fraser Coffeen: Another TUF grad in Iaquinta here, and another solid prospect from the Cruz vs Faber season (hey, whatever happened to that Cruz guy anyway?). Iaquinta has good experience, works with a great camp, and should have the skills to take this. He's yet to really find his groove in the UFC, but at 26 years old and 10 fights into his career he has time. Al Iaquinta by decision
Zane Simon: This fight makes no sense to me. Iaquinta is just starting to roll in his career and show the kind of ability that had him slated as one of the sport's very best prospects a couple years ago. Lee is, himself, a great prospect, but his career is in its infancy. He's far too green for this fight and I expect him to look spirited in a losing effort. Al Iaquinta by mauling.
Connor Ruebusch: Make no mistake about the dearth of KOs on Iaquinta's record--he's got sledgehammers for hands, and he's not afraid to throw them. Al Iaquinta by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Iaquinta: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Lee: Tim
Tim Burke: Not sure why they brought Enz back to be honest. You'd think Hester would be getting stronger opponents at least. Cliff Hester by TKO, round 2
Mookie Alexander: Andy's in the UFC. That's where his fortunes come to an Enz. Clint Hester by KO, round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: Hester has been looking great in the UFC, but he faces a much more submission focused opponent here. If he can survive the early grappling assault from Enz, he's knock out him out. But those first few minutes, he'll need to be sprawling. Clint Hester by KO round 1
Zane Simon: Hester is a fun fighter. He's all action and athletic ability, but a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Enz is something of an unknown. He made it to Season 17 of TUF before getting his arm broken by Uriah Hall in the opening round and otherwise he's been very successful as a grappling gnp-ing beast up on the Alaska regional scene. I expect him to be the more skilled grappler here, but the lesser athlete. Clint Hester by TKO, Round 2.
Connor Ruebusch: Hester has a known weakness on the ground, and just hasn't faced any UFC opponents with the ability or willingness to get in his face and test him there. I think Enz will be the first one to do so, and get a hyped name on his record as a result. Andy Enz by Submission, round 3.
Staff picking Enz: Connor
Staff picking Hester: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Tim, Dallas
Rashid Magomedov vs. Tony Martin
Tim Burke: Dagestan. Rashid Magomedov by TKO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Tony Martin? A good NFL wide receiver in the 1990s with the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. Rashid Magomedov? DAGESTAN. Analysis over. Rashid Magomedov by Dagecision.
Zane Simon: Once again, I'm not exactly sure what's going on here. Magomedov was a champion for M-1. He's a seasoned vet who should be able to jump into the middle of the lightweight division and compete right away. Tony Martin is a hulk (who I believe used to fight at middleweight) and he's got a crushing top sub game, but he's young and as a silky smooth counter striker Magomedov is made to wait on his mistakes and pick him apart. I don't really see what the UFC gets out of this except giving Magomedov a win on his way into the promotion and a chance to look good doing it. Rashid Magomedov by UD.
Connor Ruebusch: The UFC: where prospects come to die. Violently. Rashid Magomedov by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Magomedov: Mookie, Iain, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Martin:
Tim Burke: If Umalatov is a mediocre grappler as Zane says, Magny might have a chance here since his only real outstanding skill is wrestling. But still...I'm going with the newbie. Gasan Umalatov by TKO, round 2
Mookie Alexander: I just noticed that Umalatov isn't a Dagestan native. This changes things dramatically. Also, Neil Magny has great nickname opportunities. "Cro" Magny, "Magny" PI, the possibilities are endless. Neil Magny by decision.
Zane Simon: This is a razor thin fight, probably one of the more competitive on the card. Umalatov, unlike the rest of his Russian counterparts, isn't exactly a freakish robot bent on destruction. He's a very capable boxer with fast, crisp hands and middling footwork and a mediocre grappler who's benefitted a lot from poor competition and ring ropes. However, Magney for all his length and potential, hasn't really put together anything of note in the UFC. He turned it on late against Seth Baczyski in his last loss, but it was still a loss. I doubt Umalatov turns a lot of heads, but I think he wins his debut. Gasan Umalatov by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Umalatov, like every other Russian in the UFC, has a style of boxing completely devoid of jabs that is nonetheless very effective. His sense of distance is solid, and he puts together combinations nicely. I don't see how Magny can take this one. Gasan Umalatov by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Magny: Grant, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Umalatov: Iain, Fraser, DSM, Zane, Anton, Tim, Dallas, Connor