Brent Brookhouse: You can count me in the camp rooting for chaos. Vera winning via a cut stoppage or something "flukey" while Machida/Bader put on a more unimpressive show. But I can't actually pick that result. Rua is about the oldest 30 year old on earth, he's been through an ungodly schedule in his career, balancing injuries with a stretch from 2007-2011 where he fought nine fights against men who either were or would be major champions. And that came well after he already established himself as a top fighter through making a similar run in 05-06. The mileage is starting to show a bit, but even a faded Shogun is better than Brandon Vera. Unless Vera somehow got much, much better or Shogun got much, much older it's not about who will win, but how they'll win. I'll take Shogun Rua by TKO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Oh man. I will be rooting for Vera to pull it off and cash in on this golden ticket he received, but it will be an uphill battle. If Vera keeps it technical and maintains his range with kicks, avoids blitzes, and maybe mix in a few takedowns, he may be able to grind out a victory. Against a guy of Shogun's caliber though, that's easier said than done, so I'll use my head and pick Shogun as it will be very hard for Vera to avoid getting caught with a well placed power punch for 25 minutes. I hope I'm wrong, but I think it's Shogun Rua by late TKO.
Mookie Alexander: If Shogun loses this fight then he should retire. Okay, I'm being moderately hyperbolic, but it's clear he is not the same guy who beat Machida twice (okay officially once). This is a clear bounce-back type of fight he's been given no matter how hard Dana White spins this into saying it's for a title shot. For the longest while the prevailing criticism of Brandon Vera over the last few years has been that he's gun-shy and tentative even against guys like Reese Andy. Well now his skills have eroded to the point where he almost got finished by Eliot Marshall. I don't see how Vera wins this unless he pulls through with "the old Vera returns" promise on the 19th attempt. Shogun via TKO (punches) round 2.
T.P. Grant: This is the kind of match where Shogun is likely feeling the pressure. Anyone who has ever competed knows what it is like to face someone who has just enough ability to make things difficult but there is a clear enough gap in skill where there is pressure to win convincingly. Shogun has struggled in the past in fights where he was the clear favorite, but I don't think Vera has the kind of style that will push Shogun, who fights best when he can set the pace of the fight. Unless Vera is able to put constant pressure on Rua, I think this fight is going to all Rua. I think Rua sets a sedate pace early, but then turns on the pressure as the fight wears on and asserts some dominance over Vera. Shogun by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: This is definitely Shogun's fight to lose. If he comes in with aggression, Vera won't be able to keep up and he'll quickly drown. The thing is, even if he doesn't, he still wins by outpointing Vera in a Muay Thai fight. So my only question is Shogun by TKO or Shogun by Dec. Shogun has definitely slowed a few steps since his Pride days, but he's still brought that fast-pace enough times during his UFC tenure to make me believe he can bring it here. Shogun via TKO, round 1
Chris Hall: This fight was specifically scheduled to set up Shogun for a rematch against Jones, apparently. Dana White has made it clear that he wants someone from this event to challenge next, and Rua has priority. It's very possible that it backfires, though. Shogun has a history of fighting to the level of his competition and tends to be reluctant force a fight where he wants it. Without a doubt he's a better striker than Vera. However, Vera has only been finished by strikes twice and one of those was an orbital smashing hellbow to Jon Jones. So, I'm confident Shogun takes this, but it's not going to be a highlight reel finish. Shogun by (Ugly) Decision.
Tim Burke: I can't see this going to decision. Shogun's not the type to sit back and play the outside game. Vera wants to for sure, but Shogun isn't going to let him. Vera could abandon his striking and work a wrestling game, but I doubt he will. Shogun breaks wills and faces. He's going to do the same to Brandon Vera. Shogun by KO, round 1
David Castillo: Fine, I'll be the village idiot on this one. Yes, I'm taking Vera, but not to simply play devil's advocate. I really think Shogun just doesn't have much left...I mean, he can't have much left. Not after the Henderson fight. Vera is not a good fighter, but the mere fact that he can appear capable at times, combined with the obstacles fate has decided to inundate the UFC's roster with, leads me to believe Vera will pull off a major upset, and possibly look good in the process, leaving us with a ton of things to write about and laugh at. I just feel it. But I also feel like Vera is static enough to make this a plodding affair. That type of fight doesn't favor him, but it does leave him with opportunities if Shogun once again looks like a dinosaur in the middle of becoming oil. Brandon Vera by Decision.
Staff picking Shogun: Anton, Mookie, ZProphet, Grant, Fraser, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Vera: David
Brent Brookhouse: It's going to be ugly as Bader flails around the cage hoping to land a single big right hand or get a takedown that I just don't think he can manage. Machida remains one of the hardest puzzles to figure out while Bader is who he is. I just don't think this goes well for Bader unless Machida is so passive that he doesn't do enough to win, but that's not particularly common. Lyoto Machida by decision.
Anton Tabuena: If Bader can't take Lyoto down at will and it turns into a stand up battle, it will be ugly for him as all he will have is the small hope of landing that big overhand. I think Machida picks him apart and ends it late. Lyoto Machida by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Bader is one-dimensional on the feet and will probably struggle to keep Machida down even if he gets him there. The mystique surrounding Machida has died down dramatically, but he has too much speed and a superior skillset. That said, I have a bad feeling this ends up being a boring fight. Machida by decision.
T.P. Grant: Machida has lost some of his luster in the past two, but make no mistake he is still an elite Light Heavyweight fighter. And his skill set poses big problems for Bader, who is a pretty limited fighter. While a fantastic athlete, Bader has never looked comfortable or fluid on his feet and needs to work a lot of clinching and grappling to be successful. Machida is not an easy man to get a hold of, even champion Jon Jones spent significant time at range while trying to close distance. I don't think Bader has the footwork to really hunt Machida down and clinch him up, so his only recourse might be to just bull rush Machida and even then I'm not convinced he could hold Machida down even if he gets him on the mat. At times this could look a lot like Machida-Ortiz, but I think Machida hits Bader clean at some point and gets a finish. Lyoto Machida by TKO, Round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: I agree that Machida is no longer the unstoppable mystic he once was, but he's still super tough. And the road to beating him is to very skillfully outstrike him. That's not Bader's game. Lyoto's never had huge trouble avoiding the takedown, and I don't see that starting here. Bader has a hail mary shot at the KO, but that's about it for him. Lyoto Machida by decision
Chris Hall: Lyoto Machida is a better fighter all around than Ryan Bader. Bader is a fine fighter that is making the most of his abilities, but he's struggled historically in even his strongest areas. He had problems taking down Lil Nog and gave away a huge upset to 2011 Tito Ortiz. He wasn't a new fighter against Rampage, either. That win said more about Jackson in that fight than Bader. Machida will win this with his impeccable counter striking and footwork alongside footwork that Bader will not be able to compensate for. Lyoto Machida by Round 2 TKO
Tim Burke: Basically what they all said. Bader is not going to get him anywhere near getting Machida to the floor or landing the huge right. He's just not good enough on the feet to give Machida problems. He's going to eat some rough counters that will stop him in his tracks early, and he'll be totally lost. Then he's start to make mistakes. Lyoto Machida by TKO, round 2
David Castillo: The impossible won't happen, and Bader isn't good enough to get inside, and control on the ground from top position. Machida will control on the feet, but I don't expect him to finish Bader. Wait, Bader did get dropped by Tito. Everyone's right. Lyoto Machida by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Bader:
Staff picking Machida: Anton, Mookie, ZProphet Grant, Fraser, Chris, Brookhouse, Tim, David, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: Varner has beat better men on the feet than Lauzon and I don't think his submission defense is that bad that he'll be caught by Lauzon's game. And Lauzon tends to fade as the fight goes on. So, assuming he survives an early scare or two, I like Varner to take some lumps early before landing some big shots in the second and getting the stoppage in the third. Jamie Varner by TKO, round 3.
Anton Tabuena: I don't think stylistically Lauzon would beat Barboza, but against Varner, his game fits perfectly. I think he lands a few strikes before ending up with another submission finish and a Fight Night bonus to go with it. Joe Lauzon by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: If this fight is somehow boring then this means the UFC has weird voodoo karma problems. Lauzon tends to set up his submissions with his very underrated striking, and I see him rocking Varner early on the feet and finishing him on the ground. Lauzon via submission in round 1
T.P. Grant: This is a great bit of matchmaking as both fighters are fast starters who tend to finish opponents in the first round. I think this is a pretty close match as Varner isn't a mark on the feet and a solid grappler. I think a Varner win would lay in slowing the match down and surviving the Lauzon blitz, but I think it is more likely Lauzon gets the job done. Joe Lauzon by Submission, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm going with the upset here. Varner's stand-up game is still underrated, even after the Barboza win. I don't think Lauzon can successfully blitz him, and when Lauzon doesn't get that early sub, he begins to struggle. I see Varner surviving round 1, then turning up the pace in 2. Jamie Varner by TKO, round 2
Chris Hall: Varner was incredibly impressive in his big upset over Barboza and I think people are holding on way too much to that. Lauzon has solid striking and is very creative on the ground. Both fighters have proven they're best in the early rounds. However, I think Lauzon is a better fighter all around. I'm gonna put my faith in Lauzon taking the fight early, but I do think this could turn into an ugly decision. Lauzon by Submission, Round 1
Tim Burke: Lauzon likes fighting wrestleboxers. Jamie Varner is a wrestleboxer. Varner's win over Barboza was truly impressive, but Lauzon isn't the same fighter. I think a lot of it depends on Varner's gameplan (takedowns or striking), but Lauzon definitely has the skills to submit him. If it goes into the second half of the fight though, it's gonna get a lot tougher. Joe Lauzon by submission, round 1.
David Castillo: Both guys have glaring flaws in their game, but Lauzon is still pretty good at confusing fighters like Varner. He's tricky enough to catch Varner in a submission, and he's not gonna get blown up on the feet. Varner isn't Pettis, and Lauzon isn't Barboza. That benefits Joe rather than Jamie. I expect Jamie to come out blazing again, only for Joe to time a takedown just right. Joe Lauzon by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Lauzon: Anton, Mookie, ZProphet, Grant, Chris, David
Staff picking Varner: Fraser, Brookhouse, Dallas
DaMarques Johnson vs. Mike Swick
Brent Brookhouse: I'm not comfortable at all here as Swick is going to be rusty, nerves will probably be a factor again, he's going to have to trust his body...etc. That's a lot of things to worry about in addition to fighting. I'm going to trust that Swick is still the better fighter of these two and just roll with it. Mike Swick by decision.
Anton Tabuena: There are several question marks with Swick having that long layoff, and all those issues with his health, but when just looking at their overall skillsets, he should be able to pull it off. Mike Swick by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: There are only two fighters from season 9 of TUF: USA vs. UK still in the UFC, and they are Ross Pearson and DaMarques Johnson. Yikes. Johnson has been stopped in all but one of his ten losses and has never gone the distance in the UFC. I have my doubts about Swick coming off a 28 month layoff, but he's much too skilled to lose to DaMarques. Swick via Swickotine in round 1
T.P. Grant: I want to believe in Mike Swick here, but I feel like there is a lot going against him. Age and injuries are going to start piling up on him, throw inactivity and that hasn't won a fight since issuing Ben Saunders a pink slip in 2009 on top of that I start to like Johnson's chances. The welterweight division has changed a lot since 2010, and while I don't think Johnson is a vanguard of that change I do think he'll be more on point. DaMarques Johnson by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm with Grant here - it's just too much of a layoff and too many injury issues to let me get behind Swick here. DaMarques Johnson by TKO, round 1
Chris Hall: I have all the same questions about Swick as any one else. However, I think ring rust play more part in an even match. When two fighters are on the same level, those intangibles, can have a huge effect. That's not the case here. Swick is a more talented fighter than Johnson. Swick by Submission.
Tim Burke: I still believe in Swick. This is a good opponent for him to come back to, and even with the layoff, he's the superior fighter. He's not going to get taken down, and it's going to be very hard for Johnson to catch him standing. I'll go Swickotine too. Mike Swick by submission, round 2.
David Castillo: Johnson is the perfect opponent for Swick. He's sloppy on the feet, defensively liable, and happens to be slower. Even though the layoff should be a factor, I still think it's the perfect fight for him, and that should be more than enough. Mike Swick by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Johnson: Grant, Fraser
Staff picking Swick: Anton, Mookie, ZProphet, Chris, Brookhouse, Tim, David, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: Height is a big factor here. If they were the same height I think I'd like Phan to win. But they're not, and I like Miller's length to help drive him to a win. Cole Miller by decision.
Anton Tabuena: If the cut isn't too bad for him that it affects his performance, this is Miller's fight to lose. He's taller, longer, and I think he has a better overall MMA game. Cole Miller by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Speaking kill of Steven Seagal is the lesser known 11th commandment. Phan shall pay. Miller by decision.
T.P. Grant: I personally like both fighters here and their fighting styles. I like Miller's skill set and I feel the biggest thing he lacks is speed, but he makes good use of his length in both his boxing and grappling. Phan is at a huge height disadvantage and I'm not sure how he overcomes that as I feel Miller is superior on the ground. Cole Miller by TKO, Round 2.
Tim Burke: I've never been a Phan fan. I know I know, that was brutal. He's very hard to submit though, and he does have the advantage standing. It basically comes down to whether Cole can get him to the floor. I think he can, but I don't think he can finish. Cole Miller by decision.
David Castillo: I hate that Phan is getting this fight (I laughed at your pun Tim for what it's worth). The height gap is truly too much. Miller doesn't even have to be good at using his height (because he often isn't)...he just has to land. He's got moderate power, and Phan doesn't have the sturdiest of chins. He's the better fighter on the ground as well, so expect this one to be hard to watch at times. Cole Miller by Decision.
Staff picking Miller: Anton, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Brookhouse, Tim, David
Staff picking Phan: ZProphet, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: Waste of time to have Davis take this fight, waste of Davis to have him on the undercard, overall...just a waste. Phil Davis by submission, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: So Fox is worried that Phil might churn out another "boring" fight for the casual fans? Bah. I think Phil dominates on this one, and makes it look pretty enough to deserve a televised slot. Phil Davis by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: If FOX had no intentions of putting a top 10 LHW on the main card then why did the UFC even bother booking Davis on FOX in the first place? Punishment? Anyway, this is definitely a contrast in styles and not a total squash match. Davis has the wrestling and grappling advantage, but Prado's striking is superior, much more powerful and he possesses hard leg kicks that could give Davis problems However, I see Davis being able to get the takedown after a feeling out process and then dominate against a grappling novice like Prado. Davis by submission in round 1.
T.P. Grant: This screams bounce back fight for Davis. He should be able to showcase what he does best in this fight, submission wrestling. Phil Davis by Submission, whenever he wants.
Tim Burke: It seems that everyone has forgotten that Davis was booked to face Chad Griggs, and it was likely going to be on the main card. He got stuck with Prado as a replacement. Some people think Prado could be the new JDS that comes out completely destroys a top opponent, but Davis is no Werdum. Phil Davis by submission.
David Castillo: I expect Prado to give David huge problems early with his superior striking, but I doubt he keeps Davis off of him for long. I wouldn't be shocked to see David lose, but he's such a talented grappler, I can't pick against the odds of him not scoring at least one takedown, which is all he needs. Phil Davis by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Davis: Anton, Mookie, ZProphet, Grant, Fraser, Brookhouse, Tim, David, Dallas
Staff picking Prado:
Brent Brookhouse: Yeah, Grispi has looked bad in recent fights and Yahya is tremendous on the ground. I just think stylistically, Yahya isn't going to be able to put the fight on the ground and Grispi is going to maul him. Josh Grispi by TKO, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: It's amazing how Josh Grispi was scheduled to fight Jose Aldo for the FW title last year. He has been completely outclassed in his last two fights and I cannot pinpoint what went wrong beyond overrating his abilities. Yahya's stand-up is brutal but he has elite submission skills and I think he can get this to the ground and pull off the W. Yahya via submission round 2
T.P. Grant: Yahya is just an artist on the mats and I look forward to seeing him ply his trade. That said he is near a major question mark on the feet. Grispi is a tough fighter, but Yahya is the more skilled and tested fighter. Rani Yahya by Decision.
Tim Burke: Size decides it for me. 5'11 and a huge reach advantage will help Grispi keep Yahya away from him. Looking back on Grispi's losses now, they're really not that bad. Roop played the long game better than him, and he dropped a decision to Dustin Poirier. As long as Grispi doesn't try to tangle with Yahya on the ground, this is his for the taking. Josh Grispi by decision.
David Castillo: A year ago I would still have trouble picking Grisp. What makes Yahya interesting is that I think his boxing has improved by a good margin since his Hero's and WEC days. So I don't expect Grispi to just destroy him despite the reach advantage. On the ground, Yahya has the clear advantage. Rani Yahya by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Grispi: Anton, ZProphet, Fraser, Brookhouse, Tim
Staff picking Yahya: Mookie, Grant, David, Dallas
Philip De Fries vs. Oli Thompson
Brent Brookhouse: This fight...sure is happening. Phil De Fries by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I originally wrote down De Fries by decision and switched it to Thompson. This is going to bite me in the ass. Thompson by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I'll give Thompson this - he's really, really strong. But he's just not all that good. De Fries isn't fantastic himself, but he should get the job done. Phil De Fries by submission, round 1
Tim Burke: Sweet, a Cage Warriors main event, right here in the UFC! Awesome co-promotion guys! The Fries by decision.
Staff picking De Fries: Anton, Fraser, Brookhouse, David
Staff picking Thompson: Mookie, ZProphet, Grant, Dallas
Manny Gamburyan vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Brent Brookhouse: Both are 1-3 in their last 4. Gamburyan's losses were to Aldo, Griffin and Nunes. Omigawa's were to Mendes, Elkins and Alcantara. Gamburyan beat Brown, Omigawa beat Young. I'm gonna go with the better fighter. Gamburyan by decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is a toss-up. So I flipped a coin and it matched my gut feeling. Gamburyan by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: It's entirely possible I'm still living on the joys of Omigawa's incredible 2009 run in Sengoku, but every time he fights in the UFC, I say to myself "OK, THIS is the time Omigawa finally shows what he's made of". And against Manvel, well, this is the time. Michihiro Omigawa by decision
Tim Burke: Manny has exactly one big win in his career, and that was over Mike Brown. He did beat Garcia too, which was big at the time, but...meh. This is a battle of remarkably similar fighters, but I think Omigawa has the better standup and he's a little craftier if it goes to the ground. Michihiro Omigawa by decision.
David Castillo: I just can't ever be comfortable picking Omigawa. He could win this fight big, score two knockdowns, and still lose if his record against judges are any indication. Gamburyan is not even especially good, but he's got enough power to likely even catch Omigawa on the feet. Which is a weird thing to predict since Manny is the one with the questionable chin. It pains me. Believes me, it pains me. Manny Gamburyan by Decision.
Staff picking Gamburyan: Mookie, Brookhouse, David, Dallas
Staff picking Omigawa: Anton, ZProphet, Grant, Fraser, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Got a feeling Moraga will get Octagon jitters first and make a mistake on the ground, and you don't want to do that against Ulysses Gomez. Gomez by submission.
Tim Burke: Both of them are good on the ground and controlling position. I think it's actually going to be a great fight, but I've got to lean towards Useless, who has more semi-big fight experience. Ulysses Gomez by decision.
Staff picking Gomez: Anton, Mookie, ZProphet, Grant, Fraser, Brookhouse, Tim, David, Dallas
Staff picking Moraga: