NOTE: The Spike.com streamed prelims are not included in this post.
Tim Burke: I actually think Mo can keep either body Rampage around a bit or win a boxing match, believe it or not. Rampage has become more and more of a counterfighter over the years and he could definitely catch Mo, but I think it's going to be a dull fight. King Mo by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Worst case scenario for Rampage is that King Mo turns back the clock and wrestles him to death, but that version of Mo has been nowhere to be found in his last two Bellator fights (vs. Zayats and Newton). Best case? King Mo learns nothing from his past mistakes and gets clocked and put to sleep. Worst case scenario for this fight? A staring contest. This fight can range anywhere from good to atrocious. Rampage by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Rampage is fading, but he's probably still good enough to keep it standing long enough to take advantage of the holes in King Mo's striking game. Rampage by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: I wish this wasn't the first fight I was writing about here, because I actually am pretty excited about a lot of this card. Just not this fight. Both guys have become pretty dull and tentative over the years, so we either get a Mo wrestle-fest or a Rampage kickboxing exhibition. Probably the latter. Rampage Jackson by decision
Zane Simon: I really think that Mo is just going to try and stay in the pocket and counterstrike Rampage, and I don't think he's capable of doing so consistently or with enough mind to defense to keep from getting hit really hard. I expect this to look a lot like Philippou vs. Larkin, but lesser. Rampage by TKO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Yeah, I'll put money down that this fight will be neither tentative nor a staring contest. It'll be King Mo's more fluid counter-boxing against Rampage's left-hook heavy, phone-booth style savagery. I'm not sure whether Mo has de-prioritized his wrestling or he lost some oomph from his knee issues, but takedowns, regardless of efficacy, will be a valuable weapon to quell Rampage's straight-line aggression. Rampage by decision.
Patrick Wyman: As much as we like to call Mo a bust at this point in his career, it's important to remember that he's still pretty young in the sport. I'm not saying it's necessarily going to happen, but there's a chance he could come out and look like he's made real improvements. Rampage, on the other hand, hasn't exactly looked like a world-beater in the last few years. King Mo, unanimous decision.
Staff picking Rampage: DSM, Anton, Fraser, Mookie, Karim, Zane, Dallas
Staff picking King Mo: Stephie, Tim, Patrick
Tim Burke: Will Brooks wasted the short build for this fight by telling fans how stupid they are. Good work, buddy. Michael Chandler by submission, round 2
Mookie Alexander: If/when Will Brooks loses this fight, I really hope he doesn't have to go through an 8 man tournament again, because that would be a total waste of taking up a title fight on a week's notice. Chandler is presently superior everywhere, and while Brooks has potential to be a top 10-15 guy, he's not at that stage yet nor is he going to be competitive in this one. Michael Chandler by KO, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: I don't think there's a single area in which we can confidently say that Brooks has an advantage over Chandler. He's faster and more athletic, he's a more skilled striker, he's a better wrestler, and he has a better submission game. In a couple of years, that might not be true - Brooks' upside is through the roof - but we're talking about right now. Chandler, KO, round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: Patrick nailed it - Brooks has great potential, and I like the guy, but he's also just 1 year removed from being KO'd by Saad Awad. He's improved since then, no doubt, but he hasn't improved this much. Michael Chandler, KO, round 1
Zane Simon: I think we can take it for granted, that Chandler is in his prime right now, and that prime is probably good enough to make him a top ten fighter anywhere. Brooks is not in his prime, and hasn't shown that he can consistently finish fights at the highest level. Against a proven finisher like Chandler, that's a huge problem. Chandler by Submission, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: As the great Brandt said in The Big Lebowski: "We just don't know, dude." Brooks has been able to take anybody and everybody down thus far, and his sole flaw was overlooking Saad Awad and his striking venom. It's sensible to base this prediction on overall status and stop there, but I expect Brooks to be competitive and wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if he gave Chandler a good run and/or a few scares. I would go so far as to stamp the "Upset Alert" on this one. Actually -- screw it. No one's taking "Ill Will" so I'll stir the pot a little.
Staff picking Chandler: Patrick, DSM, Anton, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Karim, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Brooks: Dallas
Tim Burke: Shlemenko spins like a top for 12 seconds and gets taken down. Round 1 over. Shlemenko spins like Dana White on drug testing for 9 seconds, gets taken down. End of round 2. Tito gasses out and gets KO'd in the third. Just kidding. Tito Ortiz by decision. Seriously.
Mookie Alexander: Size not problem for Shlemenko. He look at size and go hahahahahaha. No size means more speed and Tito like tortoise. Tito not better striker. Shlemenko too good for Tito. He beat with punch and liver kick because Tito body brittle and skull crack like Rice Krispies. Alexander Shlemenko, TKO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: The younger and smaller guy won't have a ‘cracked' anything. Shlemenko by TKO.
Patrick Wyman: This is a weird fight, but the outcome isn't really in doubt. Shlemenko's younger, a better athlete, a good-enough wrestler to stuff Tito's takedowns, and he's orders of magnitude better as a striker. Shlemenko, KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Shlemenko will be way smaller, but unless he just decided that he doesn't really need to train or work for this fight, the outcome should be set in stone. His striking is a hugely more developed than Tito's, to the point that it should make Tito's shot and clinch attempts incredibly easy to predict. A predictable wrestler is basically suicidal in today's MMA climate. Shlemenko by KO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: I think the size disparity favors Shlemenko here, as he'll be relying more on speed, angles and footwork to stay out of contact range with Tito, and his speed will also emphasize his striking advantage. Since I'm not going sentimental for Tito here, it's worth mentioning how he never gets credit for his standoff with the UFC when he was demanding higher fighter pay or as a pioneer for maximizing weight cutting. Alexander Shlemenko by TKO.
Staff picking Ortiz: Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Shlemenko: DSM, Anton, Patrick, Mookie, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Dallas
Tim Burke: When one guy has nearly been stabbed to death and came back to fight at a high level, you pick that man. Blagoi Ivanov by submission, round 1
Mookie Alexander: 50/50 call and let me just openly admit I try and avoid watching Bellator heavyweights like the plague. I'll take Ivanov but I'm not feeling confident about it. Blagoi Ivanov by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I love this fight, and I love the eventual winner of this fight vs. Minakov fight. For having a pretty weak Heavyweight division for a long time, Bellator really has some nice stuff going on here right now. I've been going back and forth on this fight quite a bit - it's the toughest one to call on the entire card if you ask me. I see this coming down to the range. If they stay outside at striking range, the significantly taller and more technical Volkov will shine. But if it gets inside, the more rough and tumble Ivanov has the edge. I think it's easier to get in then to force the fight to be at range, so I'll go with Ivanov, but I this is way closer than our picks may indicate. Blagoi Ivanov by KO, round 2
Zane Simon: I can't remember if I picked him on the Vivisection, but the fact that Volkov isn't being taken by anyone here means I have to pick him. I think his cardio is better and while Ivanov tends to be effective even when tired, he does get tired. I think Volkov will be the first man to finally turn an obvious flaw into an obvious problem and put Ivanov away. Alexander Volkov by TKO, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Great scrap and a tough one to call. Regardless of the outcome, Blagoi's story is pretty amazing. Volkov has a great chance to dominate this fight from range, and will if Blagoi can't knife inside to work his clinch game. That puts a ton of emphasis on Blagoi's footwork and entries, and ... I just don't know who to pick. Alexander Volkov by decision.
Patrick Wyman: As a few people pointed out, this is a great scrap, one of the best on the card. Volkov has had real problems with guys who can get inside and take him down, and Ivanov fits that description. Ivanov, submission, round 1.
Staff picking Volkov: Zane, Dallas
Staff picking Ivanov: DSM, Anton, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Karim, Tim, Patrick
Tim Burke: Some flying loopy somersault ninjitsu kick to the pelvis will end this. Michael Page by Cirque du Soleil, round 1
Mookie Alexander: This is Bellator, so something out of the ordinary/something they didn't expect is going to happen. And if you laugh at me, remember that these picks don't count towards our season standings so I can do whatever I want. Ricky Rainey by KO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: He's obviously not anywhere close to being the "next Anderson Silva" but boy is he fun to watch. Michael Page by TKO.
Zane Simon: I'll never understand any of the backlash or criticism MVP gets. He may have done a bit of can crushing, but 5 fights into your pro career, that's exactly where you should be, fighting inexperienced fighters. The fact that he's demolishing them utterly is promising, there are a lot of guys who fight nothing but cans and win decisions. Rainey is, himself, a big step up in competition for Page, but I don't expect that will matter. The kids got talent. Recognize. MVP by KO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: Pretty much what Zane said. MVP is on the card and at the stage of his career to entertain, not vie for a title shot. And you gotta respect this cat if you're a fan of combat sports. Venom by TKO.
Staff picking Page: DSM, Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Karim, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Patrick
Staff picking Rainey: Mookie
Tim Burke: Eric Smith is getting kicked in the balls. Twice. Eric Smith by DQ.
Mookie Alexander: Eric Smith has fought guys with surnames Funny and Hooker. I'm not making that up. Oh, and I don't care anymore about Cheick Kongo fights. Cheick Kongo by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Fun fact, Eric Smith has not won an MMA fight since 2009. This is a surprisingly deep card with a lot of good fights. This is not one of them. Cheick Kongo by decision
Zane Simon: According to DW (Dallas, not the other one... or the other other one) Smith actually has some excellent wrestling chops. But he's drastically under-experienced, drastically undersized, and taking on a fighter who can still beat any heavyweight not in the top 10. That's not a hard pick to make. Cheick Kongo by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Hi. Yes -- Smith was a D1 All-American at Boise State and actually wrestled Cain Velasquez in college (lost on points, 9-11). He also trains at Syndicate alongside Blagoi Ivanov and Roy Nelson, which is pretty legit company to keep. That being said, this is simply several steps up in competition for him, and Kongo's height, length and striking should make it especially cumbersome to implement his strengths. As an aside -- this is weird match-making. Smith isn't a big name but his background presents a risk to Kongo, and his path to victory is likely not the type to blow the fans' hair back. There's not much upside to this fight for the French Thai boxer. Cheick Kongo by TKO.
Staff picking Kongo: DSM, Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Mookie, Karim, Zane, Dallas, Patrick
Staff picking Smith: Tim
Shahbuhlat Shamhalaev vs. Fabricio Guerreiro
Mookie Alexander: Shabuhlat Shamhalaev is awesome to watch and he's ideal for those who like copious amounts of violence. Hell, I even gave him a slight chance to beat Curran before Curran almost took his neck off. Guerreiro is a nice prospect but he flamed out quickly in TUF Brazil 1 and didn't look good against Patricio Pitbull (then again not many people do). Taking the more proven Bellator commodity in what is their best weight class. Shahbuhlat Shamhalaev by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Like I said, deep card, quality fights. This one is a great one. Shamhalaev looked tremendous in his tournament win - it's a shame that he was so thoroughly blown out of the water by Curran. Meanwhile, Guerreiro struggled against Pitbull, but he was the #1 prospect on our 2012 scouting report for a reason. I'm really torn here. I'll take the more explosive power of Shamhalaev, and I'll also pick this for Fight of the Night. Shahbulat Shamhalaev by decision
Zane Simon: Both these fighters have proven themselves capable of beating all but the most well regarded of talents, but Shamhalaev just seems so much more definitive about it. His striking power is a total game changer and I think that it's going to make a tough fight for a very strong Guereiro. Shahbuhlat Shamhalaev by decision.
Dallas Winston: Guerreiro is a legit prospect. He has a Judo background, his submission game is solid, his striking is coming along nicely and he's been training with Team Alpha Male for some time now. Guerreiro will also have a hefty 4-5" height advantage over Shamhalaev, who might have to be more cautious on the feet when Guerreiro threatens with takedowns. Fabricio Gurreiro by submission.
Staff picking Shamhalaev: Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Mookie, Karim, Tim, Zane, Patrick
Staff picking Guerreiro: DSM, Dallas
Fraser Coffeen: Two very talented fighters here who underperformed this season. This could easily be a tournament final - instead, it's a make-do fight between two guys eliminated in the opening round. Richman struggles when he can't get his hands on people, and Yamauchi can indeed be elusive. I also like Goiti's ground game much more. Richman really has his work cut out for him here, but I think he can push the pace, make it a brawl, then land that shot to end it. Mike Richman by KO round 1
Zane Simon: Unfortunately for Yamauchi, at this point I think he's most effective when he can brawl with less technical fighters. That's where his superior speed and power really shows itself and sets him apart. Richman, is not a less technical brawler. If anything, he's quite a bit more technical and just as fast and just as strong. Bad matchup for a young talent. Mike Richman by KO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: It was tough to get a read on Yamauchi in his Bellator/stateside debut loss to Will Martinez, a BJJ black belt who was more than willing to tangle with Yamauchi on the mat. This is virtually a striker vs. grappler match up and I like Richman via bringing the thunder. Mike Richman by KO.
Staff picking Richman: DSM, Fraser, Stephie, Mookie, Karim, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Patrick
Staff picking Yamauchi: Anton
Fraser Coffeen: Rickson by armbar? Come on - that's SO last year. Held by leg destruction
Zane Simon: Well at least it'll probably look awesome for as long as it lasts. Marcin Held by submission, round 1.
Dallas Winston: Jolly has faced Jamie Varner and Dustin Poirier in the past (both losses) and has some NAIA wrestling experience, but this late shuffle of opponents strongly favors Held and his unbridled distaste for fully functional lower limbs. Marcin Held by submission.
Staff picking Held: DSM, Anton, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Karim, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Patrick
Staff picking Jolly: