Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva
Tim Burke: I really have to believe that Silva will take this a little more seriously than he did last time. We can all debate the reasons behind why he was dicking around, but the end result was him losing his consciousness. I think he opens up his striking a little more early, and he ends up hurting Weidman in the second and finishing him. Anderson Silva via TKO, round 2
T.P. Grant: I picked Weidman in their first meeting and the fact that he knocked Silva out on the feet only makes me feel more secure in picking him again. Weidman still has a healthy advantage when it comes to grappling and I still favor Silva on the feet. It will be interesting to see how the KO changes Silva's approach on the feet, clearly he will have to respect Weidman's power now, but in the first fight Silva threw basically no offense. If Silva opens up more he leaves himself at risk to be taken down. In the end I feel like Weidman is a very complete fighter who poses huge problems for Silva, and while I will never count out a Silva KO, I feel like Weidman wins a hard fought decision by mixing striking and grappling effectively. Chris Weidman by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: The new era has begun, folks. This is the Chris Weidman era and we're all living in it. He's never going to break the title defense record, but he's going to be a dominant champion and it starts by emphatically finishing Anderson Silva again. Don't get me wrong, Anderson can turn his lights off solely by being Anderson Silva, but I think Weidman (like Jon Jones) is a truly special talent in the sport. He got the takedown early in his last fight and landed some hard ground-and-pound, which I think affected Anderson and commenced the clowning/head games, and this time he's going to force a TKO stoppage by forgoing submission attempts and going straight for the strikes. Chris Weidman, TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: I feel like we're going to end up with Weidman almost across the board, which just feels... wrong. But still, I'm picking him. I have been a huge Silva believer throughout his UFC run, and picked him over Weidman last time out. But I think Weidman has solved the riddle of the Spider, and that won't change this time out. He's a smart fighter with a wide range of tools that he uses well, and I think he does it again here, though in more of a grinding, less KO-spectacular way. Which might ultimately end up being an even more impressive accomplishment. Chris Weidman by decision
Zane Simon: I will admit, I was not a Chris Weidman fan when he fought Anderson the first time. Didn't dislike the guy, but I just didn't see him winning the title. And he did, and proved me wrong along the way. All that said, I'll break the chain and pick Silva to come back and win the title here. Mostly this is me picking with my heart, because I know there's every good possibility that he loses. But I just don't feel like I saw enough in the last fight to say that Silva is the lesser fighter. I saw him put on one of the worst performances of his career (something he is very capable of repeating), but I didn't see him look slower or weaker, or worse. If I'm not picking Weidman by KO, and I don't see anyone taking that line, then I've got to take Silva to find a way over 5 rounds. Anderson Silva by KO.
Connor Ruebusch: I'm making the same prediction that I did before the first fight. I see Weidman's grappling still being the deciding factor here, though now it's bolstered by a substantial mental advantage on the feet. A TKO by strikes on the ground is possible (as evidenced by the chimp-on-a-marrow-bone beating that Weidman gave Mark Munoz after knocking him out), but I think Chris will get the sub, particularly because he'll have Serra in his corner this time out. Chris Weidman by Submission (guillotine choke), round 3.
Staff picking Weidman: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, DSM, Fraser, Connor
Staff picking Silva: Zane, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: Six months of TV doesn't change the fight one bit. It's just a matter of how long Tate lasts. Ronda Rousey, armbar, 2:11, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Oh come on. Ronda Rousey, armbar, 3:13, round 1.
T.P. Grant: While popular opinion has swung against Ronda, it is highly unlikely Tate has closed the huge gap in grappling between them. In their first fight Ronda took Tate down at will, took whatever position she wanted, and lost only one scramble where Tate momentarily took her back. Other than that brief span of time Tate was in pure survival mode the entire fight. Different level of athlete, different level of grapper. Ronda Rousey by Submission (armbar) 3:55, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Rousey by armbar is the new Rickson by armbar meme. And Rousey for the win all the way here - but does Tate stop the first round armbar run this time? I think not. Rousey by armbar round 1
Zane Simon: It's too bad that the hype these two women create is so much greater than the sum of this fight will be. Miesha, for all her ability to get under Ronda's skin, has none of the ability to beat her in the cage and really doesn't deserve to be in this fight in the first place. Ronda Rousey by Submission (armbar) Round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: I like Miesha, but when is Cat Zingano back again? Ronda Rousey by armbar, round 2.
Staff picking Rousey: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, DSM, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Connor, Dallas
Staff picking Tate:
Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne
Tim Burke: Browne is a really athletic guy with a good chin. Barnett holds a lot of advantages coming in though, and it's his fight to lose. He can play it safe in the grappling department or make a fight of it. Personally I think he gets to mount and just plays with Browne for a while. Josh Barnett by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Browne has the advantage on the feet, but it's by a pretty slim margin as Barnett has really improved in this area over the years. And Barnett smokes him in other areas. I'm not sure Barnett can make it all the way back to the belt, but if not, he'll crush a lot of would be contenders along the way. Josh Barnett by decision
Mookie Alexander: My brain says pick Barnett, my everything else says Browne (who has never been taken down in the UFC) will avoid the takedown, keep the fight standing, and pick apart Barnett with speed. I'm a bit concerned about Browne's striking defense, but Barnett isn't a particularly powerful striker even if you include his drubbing of Frank Mir. He'll take Barnett's best shots and land several on the Warmaster for the upset win. Travis Browne by TKO, round 3.
T.P. Grant: I feel like this fight is a tough one to pick. Barnett is clearly not a top 3 kind of guy any more, but he has been a Top 10 heavyweight for a decade. He is a clearly a highly skilled Heavyweight, which explains his staying power to a degree. Browne is a physical beast with power and improving skills. I think Browne has a ceiling but I am struggling to figure out is Barnett is above him. I'll roll the dice there and say Browne shocks the world here as he lands something nasty on the feet and is the first guy to finish Barnett with strikes since UFC 30. Travis Browne by TKO, Round 2.
Zane Simon: This is a fight that will be decided in the clinch. If Browne can really show that he's athletically head and shoulders above Barnett I could see him putting a terrible beating on the Warmaster. If Barnett can get against the cage, work some dirty boxing and find his trips, this fight is all his. It's a hell of a difficult fight to pick and while I'm not at all sure of it, I'm going to say that Browne takes this just by dint of his superior footspeed and athleticism keeping the fight standing and at range. Travis Browne by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: The good news for Travis Browne is that, against Overeem, he proved he can survive a minute and a half of brutal clinch work and still come back to win. The bad news is that Barnett won't stop after a minute and a half. I'm a huge Barnett fan, and I'm fully making this pick with my heart, though my head says he has tons of advantages as well. Josh Barnett by Submission (arm triangle choke), round 3.
Staff picking Barnett: Stephie, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Connor
Staff picking Browne: Grant, Zane, Mookie, Dallas
Fabricio Camoes vs. Jim Miller
Tim Burke: Not sure what Camoes is going to have for him here. Jim Miller by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Easy bounce-back for Miller, whose days as a contender are over but he's at least still a high-level gatekeeper. Jim Miller by unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Agree with Mookie, if Miller doesn't get this win something is seriously wrong. Jim Miller by Decision.
Zane Simon: Honestly, I can't believe that Camoes is still in the UFC, and I'm not altogether sure why. Saying that, he has no business being in the cage with Jim Miller. This isn't quite Mendes vs. McKenzie bad, but it's right there with Edson Barboza vs. Rafaello Oliveira. Jim Miller by TKO Round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: These fights are necessary to reestablish that the gatekeepers are still gatekeepers. Unless Miller is seriously done, he should take this one easily. Jim Miller by Submission, round 2.
Staff picking Camoes:
Staff picking Miller: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Grant, Tim, Connor, Dallas
Diego Brandao vs. Dustin Poirier
Tim Burke: I see a couple of things differently than my colleagues below. One is that I don't see Poirier's striking defense to be that great at all, and it's almost a given that Brandao is going to catch him early (even if it's not pretty). The other is the idea about Brandao's tank. From what I've seen, he's learned a lot about not going all-out early and seems to be able to go a lot deeper in fights. Poirier is definitely going to test that though. I'm honestly not sure where to go with this. Logic says Poirier, but I'm going the opposite way. Diego Brandao by decision.
T.P. Grant: I had a whole thing written up on how Brandao was going to win. But looking at other people's takes on it caused me to go back and watch his fights again. These two are similar fighters, and Brandao is the more dangerous finisher, he hits harder and is a cold blooded killer on the mat. But Dallas is 100% right, Brandao is allergic to straight punches, though I think he is the better kicker in this match up. Poirier is solid defensively, a good athlete, and has much better cardio than Brandao. So I'm doing a big ol' flip flop here and switching my pick. Dustin Poirier by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I think Brandao has about 1-1.5 rounds to win this and then his cardio will let him down. He can certainly pull it off because he has violent punching power and Poirier is pretty damn hittable, but outside of that I can't see Brandao keeping up with a high paced fight and the diverse offense of Poirier nor will he be able to solve the major reach disadvantage. It'll be a great one to watch but I think Poirier is just a little bit better than Brandao. Dustin Poirier by decision.
Zane Simon: I've said this before, which means I'm saying it again. Dustin Poirier is better than he seems, especially when striking. Like T.P. said (before he changed it), Brandao feels like the technical superior here, but I'm not sure that he'll actually have an edge anywhere other than the mat. Really, what I think this comes down to is that Brandao is still unsteady when it comes to managing the tempo of the fight. He goes full bore and then he shuts off, and as the fight wears on he begins to take bigger chances and get sloppier in his execution. With Poirier's surprising power and Brandao's history of getting badly rocked I'm taking Dustin Poirier by KO, Round 3.
Connor Ruebusch: I want to take Brandao here. I really like his style on the feet, and he's an absolute monster on the ground, but he hasn't yet convinced me that he has the maturity to manage his exertions (boy, does that sound like a sexual metaphor). He's gassed out in three too many fights for me to pick him against Poirier, who looked to be well on the way to beating the Korean Zombie in their fight before getting caught and subbed in round 4. It'll be a good first round for Brandao, a close but clear second for Poirier, and the third will see Poirier mercilessly beating Brandao to the bell. Dustin Poirier by Split Decision.
Staff picking Brandao: DSM, Fraser, Tim, Connor
Staff picking Poirier: Stephie, Zane, Grant, Mookie, Dallas
Tim Burke: This should be Hall's all the way. Leben is a shell of the guy that used to put the stamp on kids. But Hall seems to have zero killer instinct when there are more than seven fans in the crowd. If he doesn't show up, even Chris Leben will be able to outstrike him. I say the pressure is too much for Hall and Zombie Leben staves off unemployment. Chris Leben by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Yeah, if Uriah Hall can't beat an almost 2014 version of Chris Leben then he has no place on the UFC roster. I think Hall has very bad tendencies when he's on the defensive (hands down, moving backwards in a straight line) that Leben could capitalize on, but Leben is just too slow and shopworn for me to pick him. Hall is either going to make Leben crumple to the floor or he's going to methodically pick him apart for an easy decision. I'll go with the latter. Uriah Hall by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I hate picking these kinds of fights - fights between two guys who I think are inclined to lose more often than not. Clearly Hall has the potential to land the big KO shot and end Leben, though that's no easy task, and I don't think Hall will come in with the confidence to make that happen. So if it doesn't, will he get frustrated and leave the door open for a late Zombie Leben KO, or will he just stay in it and get the decision? Given Leben's last few fights, I'll pick the latter, but not with confidence. Uriah Hall by decision
T.P. Grant: The flaws of Hall have been on full display of late, his tendency to sit back, throw one strike at a time, and his grappling, or lack there of. That said Hall is still a talent, not at the level that many supposed when he came off TUF, but still good enough to stick around in the UFC Middleweight division. And because of that he should beat this current rendition of Chris Leben, if not Hall will back to being a beast on the East coast regional scene. Uriah Hall by Decision.
Zane Simon: This fight is depressing, mostly because it's actually competitive in my mind. Hall is so startlingly checked out in his fights that it feels difficult to pick him against any opponent, but well... Chris Leben is not a fun fighter to watch at this point. I hope Hall wins, just because it's in with the new and out with the old, but at this point it's hope. Uriah Hall by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Man, I am shockingly uninterested in this fight... I guess I'll pick Hall. Uriah Hall by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Hall: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Connor
Staff picking Leben: Tim, Dallas
Michael Johnson vs. Gleison Tibau
Tim Burke: Michael Johnson is getting submitted. Gleison Tibau by sub, round 2
T.P. Grant: How to fight like Gleison Tibau: Step 1: cut a ton of weight, Step 2: Bully your way inside, Step 3: pick up opponent, Step 4: slam him, Step 5: hold him down for about a minute, Step 6: Attack with a guillotine when he escapes to the feet that has no chance of being finished, Step 7: Repeat Steps 2-6 until gassing in the third round. It isn't perfect, but Tibau has overpowered pretty much everyone that isn't an upperlevel fighter, and Johnson will likely fall victim to it. Gleison Tibau by Tibau Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Michael Johnson fights are a pain in the ass to pick because (as Zane writes below) he's not that consistent. Tibau is a bad bad matchup for him and short of catching him on the feet I see Tibau doing what Myles Jury did to Michael with relative ease. Gleison Tibau by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I'm almost certain I've seen this fight before. Gleison Tibau faces decent but not great striker who's on a decent win streak. Shuts down fighter to uninspiring results and makes no real advancement up the LW ladder. That's almost certainly what happens here. Johnson has been entirely too inconsistent for me to feel good picking him to pull out the upset, and I'm not even sure that he could on his best day. Gleison Tibau by Unanimous Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: This fight is depressing. I was so psyched about Johnson after how well he did against Lauzon, and now I have to watch him get ground into dust by Gleison friggin' Tibau. Ah well. A harsh reminder of the realities of MMA--one-dimensional fighters do not prosper. Gleison Tibau by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Johnson: DSM, Fraser, Dallas
Staff picking Tibau: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, Zane, Tim
Manny Gamburyan vs. Dennis Siver
Tim Burke: I'm surprised that so many are picking Siver to stop Gamburyan. Sure, I think he wins with his striking, but I don't see Gamburyan going lights out. Dennis Siver by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Oh this is going to be a slaughter. Siver won't be taken down so that leaves us with the striking battle. Gamburyan won't be winning that. Dennis Siver by KO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Siver should take Gamburyan pretty easily. Dennis Siver by Spinning Backkick KO, Round 1.
Zane Simon: The version of Manny Gamburyan that I've seen fighting lately is not a man that looks like he can compete with the top 15 of his division anymore. Siver may be at the edge of that 15, but he's definitely in it. Dennis Siver by KO, Round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: Gamburyan has always been an awkward striker at best, and Siver is smooth as silk with his kicks, and throws some powerful counter hooks. This ain't Cub Swanson's jab he has to deal with either. Siver should be able to thwart the takedowns and put a prolonged beating on Manny. Dennis Siver by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Gamburyan:
Staff picking Siver: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Connor, Dallas
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. John Howard
Tim Burke: Howard knows that he needs to ground this fight ASAP. But I think Siyar can catch him napping at some point. Siyar Bahadurzada by KO, round 2
Fraser Coffeen: I like both of these guys, and am looking forward to this one. Siyar has the greater potential for violence and big wins in the division, but I see this as a bad stylistic match-up for him. Siyar's best weapon is a big KO, but Howard is far too slick on the feet to let that happen. Instead, this will be a 15 minute stand-up grind - and that absolutely favors Howard, not Siyar. John Howard by decision
T.P. Grant: Siyar relies heavily on his power and is a brawler, while Howard is a bit more refined and schooled on the feet. I think this is going to be a textbook example of a well rounded striker taking apart of a brawler. John Howard by Decision.
Zane Simon: I really feel like Siyar Bahadurzada has missed the boat on his top fighting potential. He has power and strikes willingly, but I don't see anything in him that suggests he isn't eminently solvable. He could catch Howard out here, sure. Howard is a good, but not great fighter. But I feel like Siyar is more or less a replacement for Paulo Thiago, without the grappling and will probably have a similar UFC run without as many peak performances. John Howard by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: It's amazing the amount of hype that Siyar brought into the UFC with him, when he's more or less always been a naturally gifted puncher with a very limited skillset. Bahadruzada packs the punch, but Howard has the movement and the versatility to control where the fight goes, and that's what MMA is all about. John Howard by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Bahadurzada: Mookie, DSM, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Howard: Stephie, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Connor
William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker
Tim Burke: I really don't think Macario's that good. Voelker isn't a superstar himself, but he isn't about to sit back and let the youngster bring it to him. This is gonna be good. Bobby Voelker by decision.
Zane Simon: I'd really like to see Bobby Voelker win this. He's one of my favorite brawlers, a guy who really throws caution to the wind and looks to blast his opponent into a violent slumber. Macario has that same potential, but he seems a lot less adept in his basic techniques. The power is there and this fight could get pretty hairy for Voelker, but I think Voelker will find Macario's chin first and end it. Bobby Voelker by KO, Round 2.
Connor Ruebusch: I don't know a thing about Macario, but at least if I'm wrong the whole BE team is going down with me. Bobby Voelker by Name Recognition.
Staff picking Macario:
Staff picking Voelker: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Tim, Connor, Dallas
Estevan Payan vs. Robbie Peralta
Tim Burke: I still think Peralta is a pretty talented guy, and this is a good fight for him. Robbie Peralta by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Robbie Peralta looked pretty poor in his fight against Diego Brandao last time around, and then he failed a drug test to go with it. As a part time fighter with a full time 9-5 job, he has a pretty limited ceiling on his talent. However, he's also shown a lot more in his 5 fight Zuffa career than Payan has in his. I expect this to be pure brawling, and I think Peralta will come out on top. Robbie Peralta by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Payan:
Staff picking Peralta: Stephie, DSM, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Tim, Connor, Dallas