UFN: New Zealand
Mookie Alexander: This is the worst planned main event in recent UFC history. Doesn't make it a bad fight, though. I'm of the opinion that Marquardt has declined and that the drop to 170 isn't the direct cause of it. Fighters get old, and as a TRT user he should know that. Te Huna hits hard, has lethal uppercuts, and should have the TDD to keep it standing and pressure Nate into his usual habit of being unable to mount offense when fighting backwards. From there, Te Huna goes in for the kill. James Te Huna by KO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Size, strength and power will overcome Marquardt's slightly more technical stand up. James Te Huna by TKO.
Patrick Wyman: God may have wanted Nate Marquardt to come back to 185, but he's facing a rough matchup in his return to middleweight. Nate the Great's physical decline over the last couple of years is real and demonstrable, and facing a quick-paced power puncher with a massive size advantage doesn't bode particularly well for him. Unless the cut absolutely drains Te Huna, his length, power, pace, and underrated wrestling ability make this his fight to lose. I think he outworks Marquardt on the feet before landing a big flurry to put Nate down. Te Huna, TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: I'd love to say that I'm really seeing a way through for Marquardt here, but I just don't. His wrestling has never been so dominant to give him a big technical advantage over bigger stronger men, and his kickboxing has always been very hit or miss, and lately it's much more miss. Te Huna got blitzed by Shogun and Teixeira, but Marquardt doesn't really represent that level right now. James Te Huna, by TKO, round 1.
Kyle McLachlan: Despite being sparked by ‘Shogun', Te Huna still strikes me as a tough, durable fighter, with good powers of recovery. He'll have the size advantage over Marquardt, and although his boxing is less varied than the striking of ‘The Great', he's the home fighter, will likely be much stronger and will smash Marquardt up early doors. James Te Huna, KO, round 1
Staff picking Marquardt:
Staff picking Te Huna: Patrick, Anton, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Kyle, Tim, Fraser, Paul
Mookie Alexander: I've seen nothing in Rosholt to make me believe he's got a solid future as a top 10 fighter. Palelei has been in the sport long enough and at age 36 the odds of him suddenly turning it around and being a contender are slim ... but he should cropdust Jared. Soa Palelei via KO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: I think Rosholt will be able to grind this one out. Jared Rosholt by late TKO.
Patrick Wyman: Palelei is good at two things - wrestling and hitting people really, really hard - and he's somewhere between mediocre and downright awful at everything else, including cardio. Rosholt is still mostly a wrestler, though he showed some improvement in his last outing against the far-from-immortal Daniel Omielanczuk. This seems pretty straightforward to me: Palelei is perfectly capable of stuffing Rosholt's takedowns, and assuming that the early stages of the fight (i.e. before Palelei gasses) take place on the feet, the Hulk is going to put a beating on a guy who reacts very poorly to getting hit. Palelei, KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I've been saying, fight after fight, that sooner or later Rosholt is going to get melted by some hard hitting heavyweight. Today is that day. Rosholt is a takedown machine and his top control is heavy, but he has zero finishing tools, which means everyone he fights gets 15 minutes to hit him. And, on his feet, Rosholt is very hittable. His standup is mechanical, and worse of all in a division like HW, he turns his head away when he gets hit. Even one unseen blow from Palelei would probably be enough to put him down. Soa Palelei via KO, Round 2.
Kyle McLachlan: While there's a chance Rosholt comes through the early going to stifle Soa to a decision, I can't see it. Palelei is a powerhouse, and I think he'll wreck Rosholt. Soa Palelei, TKO, round 1
Staff picking Palelei: Patrick, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Kyle, Fraser
Staff picking Rosholt: Anton, Tim
Mookie Alexander: I once picked Charles Oliveira to beat Jim Miller. I sure learned my lesson. This is a tough fight to pick because Hioki is clearly not any sort of contender, but Oliveira consistently has lost to credible opposition aside from a lightweight Darren Elkins. That, combined with his generally questionable fight IQ, I give Hioki the nod. Hatsu Hioki by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Oliveira may be the more explosive striker, but he won't be able to stop the takedowns, and Hatsu Hioki will be better on the ground. Hatsu Hioki by Submission.
Zane Simon: Hatsu Hioki at this stage in his career is basically Charles Oliveira at half speed. He does everything well, but not so well that he dominates anyone and each fighter is coming off a fairly uninspired performance to less than exceptional opposition. Still Oliveira has aggression on his side, and enough grappling chops to survive a Hioki attack that has yet to tap anyone in the UFC. Charles Oliveira by decision.
Kyle McLachlan: I agree with Zane that Oliveira is quicker, more athletically gifted and explosive etc etc but I can't help but think Hioki's more measured approach on the feet (nice jab, sporadic kicks) and on the ground will see him win a decision. Oliveira is good at snatching submissions, but I think his high pace will allow Hioki to scramble into an advantageous position. Hatsu Hioki by Submission (Armbar) round 3
Staff picking Hioki: Anton, Mookie, Kyle, Tim, Fraser, Paul
Staff picking Oliveira: Patrick, Zane, DSM, Stephie
Patrick Wyman: People are down on Biggie Rhodes right now, and it's understandable: the heavily-hyped prospect's debut loss to George Sullivan wasn't particularly impressive, though it was close, and he gassed hard in the last two minutes. It should be noted, however, that he took the fight on 11 days' notice and had to cut 36 pounds to make the weight, so it's not like we saw the full range of Rhodes' capabilities there. From a technical perspective, the striking matchup favors Rhodes: he has an excellent repertoire of long counter-punches, and historically Whittaker has struggled with guys who can make him miss and fire right back. Whittaker has a terrible habit of not moving his head while he throws, and he consistently leaves his hands far too low while standing in his opponent's range. Moreover, the absence of any sustained kicking game on Whittaker's part means that everything outside of boxing distance essentially belongs to Rhodes. The Roufusport product is also the better offensive wrestler - he shoots a gorgeous, highly technical blast double and has some suplexes in his arsenal - and he can match Whittaker's speed and athleticism. Whittaker is currently a 3:1 favorite, and that seems more than a bit off to me: I'll take Rhodes for the substantial upset. Rhodes, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is a very tough fight for me to pick, and not just because I crib Wyman constantly. Whittaker has not looked good lately. His opposition hasn't been poor, so it's tough to really knock him, but he basically got outhustled by Court McGee and purely styled on by Stephen Thompson. The problem stems from two major gaps in Whittaker's style. His output isn't nearly high enough and his skill set is really one dimensional. The combination of those things make it very hard to take him in bouts against strong competition. The question of whether or not Rhodes is strong competition is another thing entirely. He suffered from a lowered workrate as well against Sullivan, who was able to really stay on him and beat him to the punch. But, he also cut a ton of wait for a short notice bout there. I'll take the upset pick and go with Rhodes here, but that's half banking on Wyman... So, it's his neck on the line, not mine. Mike Rhodes by decision.
Kyle McLachlan: Whitaker is very one-dimensional, as has already been said. Seems Karate-based, and although he has some power in his punches and lands pretty accurately, is output is too sporadic and he can be outworked. Rhodes has a more well-rounded game, does things well without too much flash, and should get the better of the exchanges here. However, without being as unpredictable as ‘Wonderboy', and Whitaker staying out of range a fair bit, I think it will go to a decision. And that the decision will favour the fighter who's closer to home. Robert Whitaker by dodgy decision
Staff picking Whittaker: Anton, Kyle, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Rhodes: Patrick, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Tim
Patrick Wyman: I can't remember seeing a fighter with as weak a strength of competition as Dashon Johnson. That's not to say that he lacks physical gifts or skills - he throws quick, hard punches and integrates them well with his takedown game - but he is quite raw, and since he hasn't really fought anybody of even passing note, it's impossible to tell how good he really is. Matthews hasn't exactly beaten the cream of the crop, but the TUF Nations competitor has at least fought guys with winning records, and his loss to eventual finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier wasn't a total blowout. The Australian is going to have an enormous advantage in size, strength, and technical ability in the clinch and on the ground, and I think that will see him through here. Matthews, submission (rear-naked choke), round 2.
Zane Simon: Matthews really does look like a decent fighter who ended up out of his depth against a much better takedown artist in Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Johnson has all sorts of technical flaws and a confidence in his athletic talents that means he leaves himself in very bad defensive positions under the assumption that his opponent can't take advantage. Unless he's just a phenomenally better athlete than Matthews (and I don't think he is) this may be a very rude wakeup call for him. Jake Matthews by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Johnson: Fraser
Staff picking Matthews: Patrick, Anton, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Kyle, Tim
Anton Tabuena: Roldan is a decent prospect, but honestly, he's not even one of the top guys in his team, but he's Filipino, so... Roldan Sangcha-an by Decision.
Zane Simon: All I know about this fight is that Richie Vaculik is a bit of a semi-celeb in Australia and that that probably has more to do with him being in the UFC than his talents for fighting does. And if even Anton can't get excited for Roldan Sangcha-an I don't know what to say for him. One of these guys will win. I'll pull for the new blood and Roldan. Roldan by coinflip.
Kyle McLachlan: I've seen a bit of Sancha-an and he looks more than equipped to beat someone like Vaculik, who will have a size advantage and a reputation as a television tough guy but little else from what I've seen of him. Whilst Justin Scoggins made Vaculik look far, far worse than he is, the Filipino has a decent enough ground game and far better striking. I'm not sure that head kick kayo is completely indicative of his overall talents, but regardless, I'm not high on the Aussie so Im going with Sancha-an all the way. Roldan Sangcha-an by submission (rear naked choke), round 1
Staff picking Sangcha-an: Anton, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Kyle, Tim
Staff picking Vaculik: Patrick, Fraser
Patrick Wyman: I'm honestly shocked that both of these guys are getting another shot in the UFC after the beatings they took in their debuts. Neither has much upside nor much in the way of skills, but I guess Indich is a little better. Indich, decision.
Zane Simon: I saw nothing out of Indich in his fight against Richard Walsh that would suggest he can compete in the UFC. And Grujic didn't do way better against Nordine Taleb, but it was better enough. Vik Grujic by decision.
Staff picking Grujic: Zane, DSM
Staff picking Indich: Patrick, Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Kyle, Tim, Fraser
Rodrigo Goiana de Lima vs. Neil Magny
Patrick Wyman: Saying that Magny has turned out to be the bright spot of a TUF season featuring Colton Smith is about as backhanded as a compliment can get, but hey, it's the truth. Rodrigo Monstro is a physical specimen with a nasty transition game and solid submissions on the ground, but he doesn't have the wrestling skills to consistently put Magny on the mat, nor does he have the technical striking or volume necessary to beat him on the feet. Magny, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: What Patrick said, or more precisely, what I said in my Welcome to the UFC piece on Monstro. Magny by decision.
Kyle McLachlan: Magny by uninspired all-roundedness. Magny by decision
Staff picking Gionna de Lima:
Staff picking Magny: Patrick, Anton, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Kyle, Tim, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: You can never go wrong with a Hooker. Daniel Hooker by decision.
Anton Tabuena: The Phuket Top Team vs. Tiger Muay Thai rivalry spills over to the UFC. Both are quality fight teams, but I think Hooker may be the better fighter overall. Daniel Hooker by Decision.
Zane Simon: Hooker is probably more well rounded than Entwistle, it would be hard not to be. But, Entwistle is one of those Imanari-esq fighters who's as likely to lead a fight with a flying scissor heel hook as anything else. Hooker's not so dominant or polished in anyone area that I think he can make up for a serious discrepancy in submission offense. Ian Entwistle by submission.
Staff picking Entwistle: Patrick, Zane, Kyle, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Hooker: Anton, Mookie, DSM, Stephie
Patrick Wyman: Villante's been something of a letdown, but he should still have the athleticism, power, and skill to put a beating on O'Connell. If he can't, then it's officially time to give up on him him. Villante, KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: O'Connell did way better than I thought he would against Ryan Jimmo, but that's more a slight of Jimmo's skills than it is something to make me excited for O'Connel, especially considering that O'Connel eventually got put down in a heap for rushing in while throwing two punches at the same time. Villante should be able to rinse and repeat Jimmo's counter striking game, hopefully while getting hit less. Ryan Jimmo, KO, Round 1.
Kyle McLachlan: Ryan Jimmo is going to run in and take a second victory Zane? That would be unprecedented. I'm taking Villante. He's just the harder fighter and he'll put hands on O'Connell. Villante, KO, round 1
Staff picking O'Connell:
Staff picking Villante: Patrick, Mookie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Stephie, Kyle, Tim, Fraser