Anton Tabuena: Brown by being the better striker. Matt Brown by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: There are only two realistic outcomes to this fight - Brown knocks Silva senseless or Silva does horrendous things to his limbs and/or neck and forces the tap. I absolutely believe Silva is capable of schooling Brown on the ground, and that's where Silva's greatest strength is. However, if Silva can't get the finish in round 1 or decides to go all-out striking, then this ends badly for him, as he has the worse defense, chin, and cardio. Something about Silva's ceiling just suggests "Brazilian Guillard" -- he's been competing in MMA for 9 years (as long as Matt Brown) -- and if he's a real top 10 caliber talent then he should've beaten one by now. He hasn't, and while this is a highly winnable fight for Silva, I'm going with Brown to continue his amazing run. Matt Brown by KO, round 1.
Patrick Wyman: This is going to be violent. Neither Brown nor Silva has the slightest idea how to be in a boring fight, both are pretty serious about finishing, and they're both at a make-or-break point in their careers. This is also a fascinating stylistic matchup. Brown's smooth, powerful combinations and footwork probably make him the better range striker, but despite his outstanding use elbows and knees inside, Silva is the better clinch grappler. Silva's striking has occasionally received (and less often deserved) accolades, but he's really an infighter and submission artist at heart. I think he shows that oft-overlooked facet of his game here, controlling Brown in the clinch before working a takedown and then hitting one of his venomous, ultra-quick submissions in transition. Silva, submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Honestly, outside of a really terrible fight against Don Hyun Kim, I feel like what I've seen most out of Erick Silva is the explosive infighter. Certainly he's had a couple KOs that have been too fast to draw a meaningful conclusion beyond "dude can wreck other dudes," but even his loss to John Fitch showed an Erick Silva that was looking to immediately close distance and out-grapple his opponent. I expect that's the Silva we'll see in this fight, and it's an Erick Silva that can and should submit Matt Brown. Of course, if he decides to fight like he did against Dong Hyun, then he'll get KOd and probably a lot quicker. Erick Silva by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Brown: Iain, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Stephie, Dallas, Fraser
Staff picking Silva: Patrick, Zane, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Ugh. Is it wrong that this fight doesn't really interest me? Which sucks, because it absolutely should. Larkin has the tools to be a top 10 middleweight, but just hasn't been able to put it together in the UFC (although he should have a win over Francis Carmont). The only thing preventing me from picking Costa is that it's looking pretty clear that he's got boxing, good takedown defense, and not much else, and if it stays standing then Larkin should be able to outpoint him by being the more varied and slightly more active striker. Fully expect this to be tepid, though. Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision.
Patrick Wyman: Unless Larkin pulls off something awesome (which is a real possibility), I think this will be mostly be a slow-paced striking match at range. Neither guy is big on volume, and both prefer to work an in-and-out kind of game at range, though Larkin's speed and power edge should give him a substantial advantage there. In the clinch, though, this is all Larkin, and I think he'll make good use of his potent elbows and underrated ability to grind down his opponent with short shots while winning most of the striking exchanges. Larkin, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Even if Larkin hasn't fixed his problems with volume striking (and it sounds like he is working on them) I think he wins this fight. Philippou will throw "punches in bunches" once he gets his range and rhythm, but that usually takes him about a round, and is predicated on him getting lots of space to work. Larkin could easily give him that space, but I think his variety and power will keep Philippou on his heels long enough to stop him from building any momentum. Lorenz Larkin by Decision.
Staff picking Larkin: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Zane, Tim, Stephie, Larkin
Staff picking Philippou: Fraser
Mookie Alexander: This is a perfect, fun, mid-level lightweight matchmaking. I'm not sure I agree with Patrick that Cruickshank has the volume edge, as he seems to only up his output in spurts, but Koch is the better, more consistent fighter and he is going to wipe Daron out here. Erik Koch by TKO, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: This is a fight that's prime for overthinking. Don't. Koch is the more technical fighter in every single phase, he's the quicker and more talented athlete, and he has more dynamic finishing ability both on the feet and on the mat. Cruickshank might have the edge in pace and volume, but I really think this is Koch's time to shine. Koch, dominant decision.
Zane Simon: I'm almost certain that Wyman is right on in his thinking here, which is why I'm totally ignoring his advice and overthinking this anyway. I just think that Koch fights the kind of fight that Cruickshank is capable of winning, an evenly paced distance striking battle. He'll give Cruickshank a lot of space to get his kicking game going and once he does I see Curickshank as being able to stay out in front and take an exciting but kickboxing match that never really gets above a simmer. I'm almost certainly wrong here, but I can't help but feel it in my bones. Daron Cruickshank by Decision.
Staff picking Cruickshank: Zane, Dallas, Fraser
Staff picking Koch: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Karim, DSM, Tim, Stephie, Mookie
Mookie Alexander: Jon Anik is probably going to say "Tim Means Business", I'm going to groan, but then I'll remember that it's a good thing because it almost certainly means (get it? MEANS?!) that Tim will win this one. He's a horrible match-up for Magny and I'm glad he's back in the UFC. Tim Means by KO, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: I actually like Magny. His volume and ability to stuff takedowns make him a fun action fighter, and he's still growing into both his ultra-long frame and his skills. With that said, Means is nearly as long, works at an even quicker pace, and complements his surprisingly technical striking game with vicious, fight-ending power. He looks like a new man at 170, not that the old version at 155 was bad, and I think he'll start to fulfill his destiny of being a poor man's Carlos Condit against Magny. Means, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Tim Means is one of those fighters I'm just drawn to. He's reasonable technical, strikes with power, and keeps the kind of aggression to make fights exciting. He's just a fun fighter to watch. Magny is getting to be fun as well, but in that low-powered kickboxing way, of someone you know will throw a lot of strikes and stay active, but probably isn't going to knock anyone out. At that point, between two reasonably technical, reasonably active kickboxers, I'll take the one with power. Tim Means by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Magny: Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Means: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Zane, Stephie, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: Not that Palelei hasn't earned another main card spot after sleeping Pat Barry, but this fight feels totally out of place with Wineland buried deep in the prelims. Oh well. Soa Palelei by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Once again, I'm willing to assume I'm crazy in picking a big underdog. Potts is one of those fighters who's rightfully been off almost everyone's radar. His record is unexciting, his early fight footage is pretty uninspiring, he's just not a heavyweight to light a fire for most. But he has a very powerful, sharp kicking game, and a really sweet judo grappling game that he translates into a nice, powerful ground game as well. There's every possibility that Palelei just sits in the middle of the ring like some immovable behemoth and crushes him with a big right hand, but I'm going to pick the more dynamic, skilled fighter to come out and surprise people. Especially given that Palelei's favored position is really in close with dirty boxing and top control, I think that will play right into Potts' Judo trips and throws. Ruan Potts by Submission, Round 1.
Patrick Wyman: Uh oh, Zane and I are disagreeing again. Palelei is the much better and more powerful athlete and he's a much, much better wrestler. If the fight goes past the 3-minute mark all bets are off, but I doubt it will. Palelei, KO, round 1.
Staff picking Palelei: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Tim, Stephie, Dallas, Fraser
Staff picking Potts: Zane
Mookie Alexander: Cariaso's inability to convincingly beat a total journeyman in Danny Martinez has me very wary of his standing at flyweight. So when in doubt, go with the prospect. Louis Smolka by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I'd rather watch this one than some of the main card bouts on here. I'm picking the former PXC champ. Louis Smolka by Decision.
Patrick Wyman: I don't think there's any denying that Smolka is a talented prospect; the real question is whether he's ready to deal with a tough, well-rounded veteran like Cariaso. I think he is. Smolka's pace, grappling, range striking, and lengthy frame make him a tough matchup for a small guy without much in the way of dynamic finishing ability. Smolka, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Cariaso is an interesting case in a fighter whose skills don't really fit their frame. He's really at his best when he's kickboxing at range. His fight against Iliarde Santos was a perfect example of an opponent giving him lots of space and trying to wing sloppy hooks from the outside. Cariaso can pick that kind of fighter apart all day. But, at 5'4" (maybe 5' 5") he doesn't get many opportunities to do so. Add in the fact that Louis Smolka is huge, has a great outside kicking game, and has shown himself to be a quality infighter and scrambler, and this is tailor made matchup poison for Cariaso. Louis Smolka by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Cariaso: Tim
Staff picking Smolka: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Zane, Stephie, Dallas, Fraser
Staff picking Herman: Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Sapo: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Zane, Stephie, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: "Don't pick the hyped Japanese talent. It normally ends badly. Don't do it don't do it don't do it don't do it don't do it....." Kyoji Horiguchi, TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: If Montague had done better against John Dodson, I'd be much more willing to pick him in this fight. Not that I think Horiguchi is every bit as good as Dodson, but they share a similar base style. Montague is very athletic and is a decently well rounded fighter, but he's also very willing to stand in front of power punchers and throwdown. That was very much to his detriment agaisnt Dodson, and I expect it to be here as well. Kyoji Horiguchi by TKO, Round 2.
Patrick Wyman: Montague is a talented guy, and it's unfortunate that he's getting matched up with brick-fisted power punchers who can exploit his crackable chin. Horiguchi, TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Horiguchi: Patrick, Anton, DSM, Mookie, Zane, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Montague: Iain, Karim, Stephie, Fraser
Anton Tabuena: Let's hope Cummings makes weight this time around. Yan Cabral by Submission.
Zane Simon: Cabral is a very very good Jiu Jitsu grappler, no doubt. But, lets not let a win over David Mitchell convince us that he's suddenly going to blow through every welterweight outside the top 20. One of the things Cabral's resume is noticeably short on is big, powerful wrestlers, and especially on like Cummings who can grapple a bit as well. I can easily see Cabral pulling out something cool and getting the sub, but I think it's much more likely that he gets overpowered by the former middleweight and ground out for three rounds. Zak Cummings by Decision.
Staff picking Cabral: Patrick, Anton, Karim, DSM, Tim, Stephie, Dallas, Fraser
Staff picking Cummings: Iain, Zane, Mookie
Patrick Wyman: This should be a hellaciously fun matchup between two really, really good strikers. If Wineland wanted to wrestle a bit, I think he could take this handily, but I doubt he'll be so inclined. In any case, he throws a little more volume and packs a lot more power, and I think that'll be enough to win a closer-than-expected but highly entertaining decision. Wineland, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I'm hoping to see Eduardo give the kind of solid, credible performance that solidifies him as a top 15-20 bantamweight in the UFC. Sort of the way Iuri Alcantara's loss to Urijah Faber did for him. Because I just don't see any way Eduardo wins this. He's a great striker but two years on the shelf to step in against Wineland at his competitive peak is just not a fight he can win. Eddie Wineland by KO, round 2.
Staff picking Eduardo:
Staff picking Wineland: Iain, Patrick, Mookie, Anton, Karim, DSM, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Dallas, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: If Lentz loses this then the UFC will cut him without hesitation. But he won't, so he'll just remain on Fight Pass forever. Nik Lentz, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Nik Lentz has exactly the kind of active, smotherin style that can bully less than elite fighters. He doesn't hit with a lot of power, he's not terribly dynamic, but he can make a fight uncomfortable for 2ish rounds. And by the time his opponent realizes that they can hurt him, they've already lost the decision. I'm not even sure this will be that competitive, as Gamburyan has looked well short of his prime lately. Nik Lentz by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Gamburyan: Karim, Dallas
Staff picking Lentz: Iain, Patrick, Mookie, Anton, DSM, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Fraser
Zane Simon: Salas may be fairly predictable in his arsenal as a competent wrestle-boxer, but Wall hasn't shown that he possesses the base skill set to deal with even the predictable at this point. Justin Salas by TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Salas: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Karim, DSM, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Dallas, Fraser
Staff picking Wall:
Patrick Wyman: I and a lot of other people were pretty high on Tumenov coming into his UFC debut against Ildemar Alcantara a few months back. Losing a close decision to a tough, savvy veteran doesn't invalidate that hype, though it does mean that he needs an impressive performance here to regain some of his lost aura. Fortunately, Lapsley doesn't seem like the kind of fighter who should be capable of giving Tumenov fits. He's a pretty one-dimensional top control/submission guy, and if Tumenov can't stuff his takedowns and work his vicious striking game, then he doesn't yet belong in the UFC. Tumenov, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Tumenov really has to prove that he can generate the kind of consistent takedown defense to keep the rank and file of lightweight off him on the ground. If he can't, the UFC is neck deep in guys like Lapsley and Alcantara who will grind him down for three rounds and show him the door. Tumenov is a brilliant striker, with great power but if he hasn't worked on the defensive aspects of his game, he'll be back on the regionals before long. This is a great fight to see if he's learned anything from his last outing, as Lapsley will test him in all the same ways that Alcantara did, just without the monstrous size. Albert Tumenov by Decision.
Staff picking Lapsley: Dallas
Staff picking Tumenov: Iain, Patrick, Anton, Karim, DSM, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Fraser