Tim Burke: I will never pick against Big Nog. Ever. Ever ever ever ever. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by decision.
Anton Tabuena: It's funny that they're just 1 year apart in age, since Nog looks more than a decade older. Unfortunately for PRIDE fanboys, 2014 Nog has absolutely nothing on Nelson. He's not going to knock him out or hurt Nelson, and he's also unlikely to pull off a miracle submission. Regardless of how predictable his stand up is, Big Country will keep it on the feet and he will eventually land that bomb. Roy Nelson by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Big Nog in his prime beats Roy Nelson 10 times out of 10. Those days are over, so even Nelson, with his "throw the right hand" mentality, can probably get the KO. Buuuuuuut since I want to be different and piss a few of you off.... Roy Nelson by triangle choke, round 1.
Patrick Wyman: Let me be clear (he said in his best Obama voice): I don't think Roy Nelson is actually good, and I'll continue to make that argument from here until eternity. He has a big right hand, and that's all he has going for him. If anything, he's actively regressed skill-wise: for all the talk about his boulder-like top game, he's used it exactly once in his actual UFC career, against the reanimated corpse of Mirko Cro Cop, and the rest has been spamming an overhand right. He's also aging at an exaggerated pace due to his weight, conditioning, and the absolutely insane pace at which he's taking damage. Nogueira's a shell of his former self physically, but he still has the head movement at range, underrated clinch game, and wrestling to take this. Nogueira, unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I hate picking this fight. Every ounce of me wants to just say Nog taps him with ease, but I just don't see it. In recent fights, Nog has been outstruck and he's been out grappled. If he goes to the ground, I think Nelson has enough to survive, and if it stays on the feet, Nog eventually eats that Nelson hand. So Nelson by KO, right? Sure, but screw that noise. This is MINOTAURO NOGUEIRA people, and I'm not picking against him. Nogueira by submission, round 1
Zane Simon: I really wish I could pick Nog here, he's an all time favorite to watch. But, one of his great trademarks, the ability to take ungodly amounts of damage, is starting to slip. He dodges punches well when he's not throwing, often slipping jabs and bobbing under hooks, but he still wades in to exchanges hands down chin up and often gets hit hard coming in. And Nelson hits very hard. I expect Nog to look great for a round, then get clipped. Roy Nelson by TKO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Bad match-up for Big Nog, but I'm prescribing to Tim Burke's reasoning and hoping he can out-finesse Big Country on the feet and avoid that Wookie penis of an overhand right (reference suited to only the 10-12 followers of the MMA Vivisection videos). Big Nog by some classic Big Nog shit.
Staff picking Nelson: Stephie, Karim, Mookie, DSM, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Big Nog: Patrick, Iain, Fraser, Grant, Tim, Ian, Dallas
Tim Burke: Crusher is better at everything. Guida's not going to tire him out, and he's eventually going to get mauled. It shall be glorious. Tatsuya Kawajiri by submission, round 3
Anton Tabuena: They have similar skillsets, so barring another headscratching decision, Kawajiri should take this as he's the better overall fighter. Tatsuya Kawajiri by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I can only assume Greg Jackson's camp told Guida to do that bouncy castle nonsense, which is a strong argument for those who believe Jackson is set to murder MMA for a 19th time. "Old" Guida actually had some ground-and-pound, flat-footed forward movement, and wasn't content to sit in guard and throw shoulder strikes. "New" Guida does all of that, still can't strike, and he'll not only lose but the UFC will cut him. Tatsuya Kawajiri by unanimous decision.
Patrick Wyman: It's difficult to overstate how similar these two fighters are in terms of what they do in the cage, leaving aside the manic, pointless movement that Guida's adopted in the last couple of years. Kawajiri has looked like a new man since moving to featherweight, while Guida's had a rough run in his last few outings - he should be 0-4 instead of 1-3 in his last four - and I think that trend continues here. Kawajiri, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Am I the only one who's picking Kawajiri by submission. I know that Guida has been a tough nut to crack, but Kawajiri excels at cracking tough guys. I think his constant takedown pressure is going to get this fight to the ground sooner or later, where his smothering top game can get to work and open up a submission opportunity. It might take a while, Guida is tough, but Kawajiri by submission, Round 3.
Dallas Winston: I'm trying to cram my picks in at the last moment, so I'll just be brief and state vengeance for Guida vs. Gomi and Hioki and general Pride nostalgia as my logic here. Tatsuya Kawajiri by decision.
Staff picking Guida: Iain, DSM, Ian
Staff picking Kawajiri: Stephie, Karim, Patrick, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Tim, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: I don't think Howard has much to offer on the ground, especially on his back, and LaFlare is suffocating from top position. LaFlare will avoid Howard's power shots and put him in a place where he's not comfortable. Ryan "Ric" LaFlare by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: Wooooooooooooo! LaFlare by Decision.
Patrick Wyman: This is a much closer fight than the betting lines (LaFlare -350) indicate, and at those odds Howard might be worth a flyer. They're both strong wrestlers with solid striking games and good athleticism, though LaFlare will have a substantial advantage in height and reach. LaFlare's real edge, however, is his pace, and if he's able to enforce it he should walk away with the win. LaFlare, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I feel like I'm probably crazy when I categorize Howard as a somewhat predictable grinder. It's easy to point to his knockout wins as evidence that he has fight ending power, but other than his KOs of Dennis Hallman and Daniel Roberts (neither of them vaunted strikers) he's never really showed himself to be a great power striker when he's needed it... against good competition. And Laflare, while not a great finisher himself, is great competition. He wrestles well, grapples well, and strikes well. He still needs to figure out how to finish at the highest level, but unlike Howard he tends to be pretty dominant even in his decision wins. Ryan Laflare by Decision.
Staff picking Howard: Ian
Staff picking LaFlare: Stephie, Karim, Patrick, Mookie, Iain, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Tim, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: Not sure Dariush's stock should be overinflated based on pasting Charlie Brenneman, but I don't see Nijem as demonstrably better, especially in the chin department. Dariush should be able to win this regardless of where the fight takes place. Beneil Dariush by submission, round 3.
Patrick Wyman: Dariush is a pretty sizable favorite (-225), and I'm not sure he should be. He's pretty raw, especially as a striker, and while his wrestling is solid, it might not be good enough to get Nijem to the ground to work his venomous submission game. With that said, Nijem makes enough mistakes, especially in scrambles, that Dariush should be able to latch onto a choke in transition. Dariush, submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: I'm pretty high on Dariush as a talent. Not only has he shown to have a pretty powerful, developing striking game, he's also a top shelf grappler. He fights with patience, skill, and polished technique... Sort of the opposite of Nijem, who's more known for his wild, throw anything at any time style. That may work against the lower levels of the UFC, but I think Dariush is a cut above that. Beneil Dariush by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Dariush: Stephie, Karim, Patrick, Mookie, Iain, DSM, Grant, Anton, Zane, Tim, Ian, Dallas
Staff picking Nijem: Fraser
Anton Tabuena: Wrestling. Jared Rosholt by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Oh this is awesome. 100 degree weather in an outdoor arena and we have multiple heavyweight fights on the card. Jared Rosholt via TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't see Rosholt getting many TKOs in his UFC career. I wouldn't even be surprised if he got KO'd here. I'm not picking that, because he's got one clearly superior skill to Omielanczuk, who's only somewht better on his feet than Rosholt, but I have yet to see anything from the 3 time All-American to suggest I should be favoring him heavily in any fight. Jared Rosholt by decision.
Staff picking Omielanczuk: Karim, Iain, Ian, Dallas
Staff picking Rosholt: Stephie, Mookie, Patrick, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Rani Yahya has not been remotely interesting to watch in the UFC except for when he choked out Josh Grispi. This is however a favorable matchup for him and Bedford is just completely outmatched on the ground. Rani Yahya by submission, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: Bedford is ridiculously large for the weight class, and he has a vicious infighting game, but historically he's had difficulty with guys who have any measure of submission ability. That bodes poorly against a fighter with Yahya's grappling credentials. Yahya, submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Maybe I worry too much, but I kind of think that Yahya has stalled out in terms of generating submission offense. He's a great grappler, but he just doesn't seem to display the urgency to get something locked up within a five minute round. He should still beat Johnny Bedford though, who really only seems to shine against undersized competition. Rani Yahya by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Bedford:
Staff picking Yahya: Stephie, Karim, Mookie, Iain, Patrick, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Tim, Ian, Dallas
Tim Burke: Leites finishes this. Thales Leites by submission, round 1
Anton Tabuena: There's a reason he's a huge favorite. Thales Leites by Decision.
Zane Simon: Honestly, I see Leites as the middleweight gatekeeper to the top 10-15. He's strong, he's a great grappler, he's improved his wrestling a ton, and he boxes shockingly well. Trevor Smith is a fun fighter, but top ten material he most certainly is not. Thales Leites by Decision.
Staff picking Leites: Stephie, Karim, Mookie, Iain, Patrick, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Tim, Ian
Staff picking Smith: Dallas
Patrick Wyman: This is a really interesting fight between two excellent featherweight prospects. Alers is the better wrestler and grappler, and Omer the better striker; the fight probably comes down to whether the Iraqi-German can keep the fight on the feet long enough to work his crackling boxing game. While Omer has improved his takedown defense during his long layoff, I don't think he'll be good enough to stuff Alers for all three rounds. Alers, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I definitely think Omer is a bit overconfident in his guard game against Alers. I'm not sure he'll get subbed (although it's certainly possible) but I think it's very likely that he gets very few opportunities to generate meaningful offense. Jim Alers by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Alers: Stephie, Karim, Patrick, Mookie, Iain, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Tim, Ian
Staff picking Omer: Dallas