Anton Tabuena: I can't believe I'm in the minority here. Machida has done extremely well against wrestlers throughout his career, and while Weidman has the power and boxing chops to hurt Lyoto, he still would be the less superior striker here. I think it's going to be close, but if Lyoto manages not to get taken down at will, which at middleweight I think he can, he is more than likely to take this fight by picking apart a slower opponent. I'm predicting we see a new two-division champ after all is said and done. Lyoto Machida by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is a truly fascinating fight. Machida has the speed and pinpoint striking to tag anyone, but Weidman really hasn't been really buzzed in any of his fights. His defense is phenomenal and quite possibly the best out of any of the current champions. I believe Weidman's best (easiest?) road to a title defense is to get Machida on his back, where as T.P states below, hasn't shown to be particularly dangerous. From that point on, it's all about Weidman working his elite top control and savage ground-and-pound. Ultimately, I feel he'll break the fight open in round 3 and get the finish in round 4 with his insanely strong guillotine choke. Side note for people to think about - While I'm sure Weidman's cardio isn't a big issue -- If you bring up the Maia fight I'll laugh -- and this shouldn't be a fast-paced or real grueling bout, he's never gone 5 rounds in his career while Machida has done so twice. Chris Weidman by submission, round 4.
T.P. Grant: This match is all kinds of interesting. Weidman improves by leaps and bounds everytime he gets in the cage, he is a Jon Jones level talent and is in a better camp than Jones to refine his skills to an elite level killer. Machida provides interesting problems to Weidman with his footwork, speed, and his very solid wrestling. It is important to remember though that this summer will mark the 5 year anniversary of Machida's Light Heavyweight title win over Rashad Evans, the Dragon is very much on the downside of his career. He is still dangerous for sure, but the combination of his age and moving down a weight class I think is impacting the speed advantage he made such excellent use of at Light Heavyweight. Machida is a slow starter and has a tendency to give away rounds, so I doubt he picks up a decision in a close fight. If Weidman can get Machida down, that is bad news for the Brazilian who has never shown much off his back and the Champion is more than able to land something heavy on the feet. All signs point to a title defense for Weidman. Chris Weidman by TKO, Round 3.
Kyle McLachlan: Machida has the feints and timing to give Weidman some hassle early on, but Weidman has his own feints, a diverse set of tools and looks a Jon Jones-calibre of fighter in terms of his mindset and adaptability. I think he can play with Machida's timing as much as Machida can stop him building a rhythm. I don't envision a stalemate though. I say Weidman moves Machida into something heavy, hurts him, gets a good position and pounds him out. Weidman, TKO, round 3
Iain Kidd: Machida is an incredible fighter, one of the best of this generation. Weidman is even better. He's a ridiculously quick learner and his wrestling will open up strikes on Machida that most opponents wouldn't have the chance to land. The exchanges on the feet will be close, but Weidman will eventually start finding his takedowns and should take the fight, either by TKO or decision. Weidman, Decision
Zane Simon: Machida could win this and will almost certainly make it an exciting, competitive fight. But I honestly think that Weidman's ability to control and close down the cage and his ability to dominate in the clinch and from top control will be too much for Machida. My heart will be pounding through my chest all the way through, no matter how it goes, but I'm taking Weidman by submission, Round 4.
Staff picking Weidman: Kyle, Iain, Grant, DSM, Fraser, Mookie, Paul, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Machida: Anton, Karim
Anton Tabuena: Ronda is far from perfect. She sometimes makes positional mistakes when she gets too aggressive, and her striking while looks to be improving, is still largely unproven. The last time she got hit flush, she degraded from crisp boxing back to - forgive me for the lack of a better term - ‘punching like a girl' technique. Davis may be able to take advantage of some of those gaps, but it's still a long shot since Rousey makes up for that with fantastic Judo and by generally being the better overall athlete. She's not perfect by any means, but that being said, to me it's still Death, Taxes, and Ronda Rousey by Armbar.
Mookie Alexander: I'm not so sure Davis even won her fight against Jessica Eye, but that's beside the point. Unless Rousey gets careless and Davis locks something up from her back or in a scramble then this is Rousey's fight all the way. Davis has effective striking, good leg kicks, and no power in her strikes. Athleticism and superior skills win out. Ronda Rousey, armbar, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Davis does pose some danger to the Champion, Rousey certainly cannot allow Davis to end up on her back. But really there is a good reason Rousey is a heavy favorite here, and it is more than just that Rousey is clearly the superior athlete. The McMann fight demonstrated that while Rousey is not a fantastic boxer at range, she is developing a highly functional clinch striking game. Davis is not particularly good at preventing the clinch and not a strong clinch fighter. So I expect Rousey to work a good deal of standing offense and mix in a few throws to keep Davis honest. I don't expect Rousey to be afraid of grappling with Davis at all, but Rousey's guard passing is not all that strong, so I do expect her to continue her strategy of picking her spots on the ground. If Ronda is able to bypass the guard I expect her to attack aggressively, but if Davis can establish her guard I don't expect Ronda to stick around and allow Davis to work a guard game. In the end I think Ronda wants a submission to make a point on the whole BJJ black belt thing and I think she is certainly capable of getting it. Ronda Rousey by Submission (Armbar), Round 3.
Kyle McLachlan: Rousey gonna' Rousey. But if Davis BJJ acumen allows her to survive the subs, Ronda will just beat her up. Rousey,TKO, round 2
Zane Simon: I like Alexis Davis a lot, and think she has a nicely varried BJJ/kickboxing game. But that's not nearly enough to defeat Rousey, especially given that she's shown zero fight ending ability thus far in the UFC against much lesser opposition. Rousey is getting deadlier by the day and I expect nothing different here. Ronda Rousey, by armbar, round 1.
Staff picking Rousey: Kyle, Iain, Grant, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Paul, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Davis:
Anton Tabuena: Struve may have some ring rust, and starting slow at heavyweight isn't exactly a very safe idea. His chin can still get tagged which makes this one a tougher pick, but since he's definitely the better fighter overall, I think it will be Stefan Struve by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: I just seriously hope that Struve doesn't get flatlined again, because if he does then he needs to reconsider his future in the sport if not solely because of the punishment his brain has taken. Mitrione hits hard and can probably tag Struve silly, but I believe Struve has to keep this fight in close, and maybe even pull guard and slap on a triangle or an armbar on someone who isn't really a wizard on the ground like Mitrione. This is a tough fight to pick because Struve can't be trusted to confidently win even squash matches, and Mitrione has been inconsistent for the past 2 years or so. Stefan Struve by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Had this been a year ago I would have picked Struve in a close fight. But after a year off, and a year that saw him dealing with serious, potential career-ending injuries, it's hard for me to envision Struve being anything close to his best. Mitrione is far removed from that undefeated fighter who seemed a win or two away from title contention, but he's still able to deal with a certain level of talent, and unfortunately for Struve, at this point in his career, I think he's at that point. But Struve is obviously a wild card here. Matt Mitrione by KO round 1
Kyle McLachlan: Struve has been out a while, doesn't have the greatest fight IQ and whilst he's tough he can't withstand leather hurtling towards him with 230+lbs behind it. He's a far cannier submission artist than Schaub, but I think Mitrione has the superior athletic ability to land first. Ill be rooting for Struve though. Matt Mitrione by KO, round 1
Zane Simon: If struve hadn't spent so much time on the sidelines, and if he wasn't so happy to get in a messy brawl inside, I'd definitely pick him as the much more battle tested, well rounded fighter here. But he doesn't fight to his strengths nearly often enough and I don't expect that illness will have done him any favors (although frankly, time off may have). Still Mitrione looked great last time out and if he can keep this fight up I think he'll take it. Matt Mitrione by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Struve: Mookie, Anton, Karim, Stephie
Staff picking Mitrione: Iain, DSM, Fraser, Kyle, Paul, Zane
Mookie Alexander: The UFC reallllllllllly wants to salvage the Uriah Hall project, don't they? Well it's all up to Uriah, who is 30 this month and doesn't have too long before he likely heads into his athletic decline. Santos is hard to read because Ferreira destroyed him in a minute and then he caught an overweight Ronny Markes with a body kick. Hall looks like the same fighter through 3 UFC fights. He can overwhelm overmatched opponents and struggle to generate offense that doesn't consist of single shots or a spinning kick against better competition. Santos doesn't really strike me as anything special, but Hall's lack of improvement leads me to believe we're in for a bad fight but a clear winner. Uriah Hall by decision.
Kyle McLachlan: This is a fight pass prelim fight at best. Hall seems shaky in the cage, and will likely negatively pot shot his way around Santos, who will give it a go and likely crack Hall a few times (Hall relies on reflexes for defence but isn't all that slick) but will lose to the flashier, if only sporadically impressive, offence of the TUF runner-up.
Zane Simon: Classic trap fight for Hall. He should have all the tools to beat Santos with ease, but Santos has just the kind of chip on his shoulder and drive to prove himself as a quality fighter, to go out and make Hall miserable in a tough fight. I'm taking Hall, but I don't think Santos will be high fiving him at any point in this one and the longer it goes, the less sure the pick gets. Uriah Hall, by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Hall: DSM, Fraser, Kyle, Mookie, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Santos: Iain
Mookie Alexander: Originally thought about picking Brimage and then Zane's argument persuaded me. And truth be told, Brimage hasn't really been remarkable in the UFC unless you count his cartwheeling skills. Russell Doane via TKO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Hawaii and Dagestan are the new Brazil, as a boatload of talented prospects are coming out of those two locations. Doane is a fine young prospect himself, and I think he's taking this one. Russell Doane by Decision.
Zane Simon: I'm honestly a bit surprised to see people picking Brimage. Sure, he's a much better wrestler than Doane, but at the lighter weight classes, where it is increasingly difficult to hold a guy down, good wrestling doesn't always mean much. At that point, I think Doane is the better striker and the more aggressive grappler and more likely to get the finish than Brimage. Russell Doane by submission round 2.
Staff picking Brimage: Iain, DSM, Fraser, Kyle, Karim
Staff picking Doane: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie
Preliminary card (Fox Sports 1)
Urijah Faber vs. Alex Caceres
Anton Tabuena: Caceres is good at scrambles, but Faber is fantastic at it. The former champ will lock in one of those chokes once they get in one of those situations. Urijah Faber by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: I'm definitely sold on Caceres' improvement, and if Faber suddenly hits a brick wall and reaches the point of a clear decline, he can win this. But Caceres is notoriously a really slow starter and Faber excels at putting guys away within the first 8-9 minutes. I'll ride with that one more time as Caceres gets caught in a submission during a scramble. Urijah Faber via submission (RNC), round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I love this fight, even though it's incredibly one sided. Sorry Bruce Leroy, but have fun! Urijah Faber by submission, round 1
Kyle McLachlan: Faber still has enough to beat the top ten of the division. While I really like Bruce Leroy, and he's definitely improved, a decent-to-fair win streak capped with an upset win over the overrated Sergio Pettis does not make him a top ten fighter. No one's saying he is, and no one should think Faber has aged to the point he can't deal with fringe top ten talent in swift fashion. Urijah Faber, by submission (rear naked choke) round 1
Zane Simon: I'm really just hoping that Caceres stays upright long enough to make this fight entertaining and raise his stock in a loss. If he goes out and gets wrecked early in round 1 (as everyone is predicting) this will do anything but help his career. If he can make a good two or three rounds out of this, he could actually gain some shine from it. So, I'll take hope and Urijah Faber by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Faber: Iain, DSM, Fraser, Mookie, Paul, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Caceres:
Mookie Alexander: Difficult fight to pick. Robertson isn't really that bad of a fighter but he occasionally forgets he's not really a striker. His game is based on submissions and takedowns. Alcantara has been surprisingly effective at welterweight and he overcame a bad start against Albert Tumenov to eke out a win. I think Alcantara can pick apart Robertson at range, but can he stifle Robertson's wrestling or at least show he can pose problems off of his back? I'll side with Alcantara but I'm not terribly confident. Ildemar Alcantara by decision.
Zane Simon: After his last performance, in which I picked Perpetuo, I feel practically honor bound to take Robertson here. Which, of course, makes me traitorous scum for once again picking against him. Alcantara is a huge welterweight who's shown a solid game of grinding control and a really nicely developed range striking game. Robertson is the much more technical wrestler, but not perhaps a more technical grappler. I'm taking Alcantara to survive some early takedown woes, find his range and timing, and use his size to force Robertson into a bad kickboxing match. Ildemar Alcantara by decision.
Staff Picking Robertson: DSM, Paul, Karim, Stephie
Staff picking Alcantara: Iain, Mookie, Fraser, Kyle, Anton, Zane
Mookie Alexander: I'm pretty sure Bruno Santos' UFC debut in December was unpleasant and awful to watch, and Krzysztof Jotko isn't a better fighter than Chris Camozzi. Gotta go with the veteran here. Chris Camozzi by decision.
Zane Simon: This is a pretty easy fight for Camozzi if he can use even a fraction of his longterm UFC experience to keep himself upright and off the cage. If he can sprawl and brawl the win is his. Chirs Camozzi by decision.
Staff picking Camozzi: Iain, DSM, Fraser, Kyle, Mookie, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Santos
Mookie Alexander: Roop is probably going to win, but the initial shock of a sustained "George Roop - Bantamweight" run hasn't worn off, and I've picked against him in all of his fights because of it, so why stop now? Rob "Comic Sans" Font by decision.
Zane Simon: Rob Font is exactly the kind of guy who beats George Roop. A hard punching varied striker with a solid wrestling game. But he's also immensely inexperienced for a seasoned vet like Roop in his first UFC fight. If this were Fonts third or fourth trip to the UFC, then I'd take him, but right now, too much too soon. George Roop by decision.
Staff picking Roop: Iain, DSM, Fraser, Kyle, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Font: Mookie
Zane Simon: Luke Zachrich looked totally overwhelmed against a pretty mediocre middleweight in Caio Magalhaes. I may be underestimating Magalhaes here (I'm not) but I think Zachrich just may not have the speed and power to compete in the UFC. Vasconcelos is a very good and experienced grappler and seems to have a decently well rounded game and a pretty high athletic ceiling. I'll take him for the submission. Guilherme Vasconcelos by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Zachrich: Fraser, Kyle, DSM
Staff picking Vasconcelos: Mookie, Anton, Karim, Stephie
Fraser Coffeen: Kevin Casey is a good grappler who doesn't use his grappling skills nearly enough inside the cage. But he's been looking better in his post-UFC run, and now that he's facing another regional level talent, perhaps he can show some of his work in the Octagon. I don't think he has a huge upside in the UFC, but I do think he can get the win here. Kevin Casey by TKO, round 1.
Kyle McLachlan: I was certain I'd never have to pay attention to Casey again. Bush looks a serviceable enough fighter. Bubba Bush, by decision
Zane Simon: Either Casey wins this early, or Bush wins it late. I'll take Casey early, but I'm gambling on fun. Kevin Casey by submission round 1.
Staff picking Casey: Fraser, DSM, Zane
Staff picking Bush: Mookie, Kyle, Anton, Karim, Iain, Stephie