Lyoto Machida vs. C.B. Dollaway
Mookie Alexander: This isn't just some big middleweight fight, this is for the lineal TUF Brazil 1 belt held by Dollaway, and Machida is gunning for that. Dollaway has good enough takedowns to actually get Machida down, but he's really not the guy I'd bet on to hold him there. Lyoto's striking, timing, ability to cover distance, and power are way ahead of Dollaway (who has admittedly improved significantly). I expect Machida to drill Dollaway with body kicks and counter him on the regular before getting the finish. Lyoto Machida by TKO, round 3.
Stephie Daniels: I'm picking Dollaway for 2 reasons. 1. I'm a fan and he's one of the rare people I pick no matter who he's fighting. 2. I just have a feeling he's gonna win. C.B. Dollaway via TKO, round 2. (Yes I know you all think I'm crazy)
Zane Simon: Someday, Machida is going to get beat by someone that has zero business doing it. But, today is not that day. Machida has yet to show any signs of decline, be it fragility, slowing of reflexes, or a weakened chin. And if Machida isn't hitting his decline yet, he matches up incredibly well with Dollaway. Dollaway has built a nice counterpunching game to go with his reactive takedowns. It's a good skill in that it gives opponents two powerful options to consider when they come in on him. But, moving forward he's still very much a 50/50 take one to give one fighter. He over-reaches his feet, leads with his head, and swings wide. Those things will get him destroyed by Machida. Lyoto Machida by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Machida: Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Rainer, Zane
Staff picking Dollaway: Stephie
Mookie Alexander: This is an absolute waste of a fight for Gagnon. He is very likely to lose and lose badly, and it does nothing for him as far as developing as a quality bantamweight. Prior to his championship reign, Barao was known for dominating lower ranked opposition, and unless Gagnon suddenly got a Dillashaw-esque uptick in his game, Barao destroys Gagnon standing and then chokes him out with something cool. Renan Barao by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Bantamweight is in a weird place right now. Very few "prospects" have successfully reached the top level of the sport intact, and much of the old guard is still running strong as a dominant force. As such, the UFC has been put in a bit of a bind, trying to shuffle young-ish fighters into big fights as soon as they viably can, or just get their top level talent whatever fights are available, irrespective of ranking. Thus, we get Renan Barao vs. Mitch Gagnon. In fairness to Gagnon, at 30 and with 7 years of fighting, his time is now... But that should probably mean a fight with Johnny Eduardo, not Renan Barao. Renan Barao by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Barao: Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Rainer, Zane
Staff picking Gagnon: Stephie
Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Patrick Cummins
Phil Mackenzie: Good developmental fight at 205. However, Cummins showed great improvements in implementing his wrestling, hiding it behind his strikes, and picking up ground and pound. Carlos Junior probably has more raw offense, but I just don't think Cummins lets him implement it. Patrick Cummins by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: I realize that Cummins is the style pick here, but I'm going to go with the potential pick and take Carlos Jr. He's a much better striker, and a very dangerous BJJ grappler, and his TDD seems on point. The big question for me will be, is he as strong and fast as Cummins. I think he is. If he's not, he's probably going to lose. Antonio Carlos Jr. by Submission, round 2.
Staff picking Junior: Fraser, Zane
Staff picking Cummins: Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Rainer
Elias Silverio vs. Rashid Magomedov
Phil Mackenzie: Cool fight. Magomedov is a bit cleaner which leads me to think that he should take it, but fundamentally this should come down to whether Magomedov can fight off the takedowns, in which case he should pick Silverio apart. He hasn't had to do that against anyone of Silverio's wrestling ability, but the way that he's been doing it makes me think that he can (if that makes sense). Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I'm not sure I follow Phil on Silverio's wrestling ability. Magomedov has fought some really solid wrestlers already... Either way though, Magomedov's takedown defense and scrambling are pretty picture perfect, technically. Silverio is a great and aggressive matchup for the counter striking Dagestani, and will probably get a lot of his own licks in, but eventually I think Magomedov just moves too well and is too technical and will pick him apart on the outside. Rashid Magomedov by decision.
Staff picking Silverio:
Staff picking Magomedov: Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Rainer, Zane
Mookie Alexander: Ho hum here's Erick Silva about to dispatch a hopelessly overmatched prospect with an 0-2 UFC record. Only difference is that no sane person can possibly re-hype him and call him a contender again. Erick Silva by submission, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Mike Rhodes is clearly being used as some kind of experiment: How badly can you destroy a decent prospect? What are the limits of human confidence? Tough debut against the (rather good) George Sullivan on a horrible weight cut, and then a loss to another young, gifted fighter who was ahead of him on the developmental curve in Whittaker. After those two losses, now is clearly the time to throw him at Erick Silva...? Don't get me wrong: Silva can lose this. He's not defensively sound, he has a terrible gas tank, but he's an absolute whirlwind of violence in every phase, and exactly the kind of guy who can plunk opponents in debilitating, wretched ways. Rhodes has not ever done well against raw aggression. It's entirely possible that "Biggie" realizes his very real potential, but Erick Silva by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: I'd love to pick Rhodes, would love to see him win, if for no one else but Pat Wyman... But, I just can't picture how he'd do it. Silva is faster, more aggressive, and more dynamic. Even if he doesn't get the early finish, and fades horribly, I could still see him taking rounds 1 & 2 and surviving round 3. But, I think the early sub is most likely. Erick Silva by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Silva: Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Rainer, Zane
Staff picking Rhodes:
Renato Carneiro vs. Tom Niinimaki
Phil Mackenzie: Really tough one. Niinimaki lost to some excellent prospects. I think that in this particular bout, Carneiro doesn't have Chas Skelly's dominant wrestling, or Backstrom's explosive offense on the feet. It's often remarked on that Backstrom tapped out Niinimaki, but let's get real: cool as it was, Backstrom was losing the grappling, won that fight with the flying knee, and the tap was academic. I think this is closer to Niinimaki's wheelhouse (where he beat Yahya), but I wouldn't be surprised to see him drop another one to a talented up-and-comer. Tom Niinimaki by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Carneiro really precisely fits the mold of the fighters Niinimaki has been losing to lately, and has already tested himself against some pretty similar levels of talent. Unfortunately, I think the real story on Niinimaki is that he should have been in the UFC years ago, and now that he is, he's not athletically competitive enough to face top flight young prospects. Carneiro is a solid kickboxer, a solid wrestler, and a really smooth, dynamic grappler. Even on short notice, I think this is his fight to lose. Renato Moicano by submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Carneiro: Mookie, Fraser, Zane
Staff picking Niinimaki: Phil, Stephie, Rainer
Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Igor Pokrajac
Phil Mackenzie: Thanks to Nate's mispronunciation on a Vivisection or something ages ago, I can now only hear Pokrajac's name as "PokerJack." Anyway. He has decent power, but got taken down by Bonnar's wrestling, neutralized by Joey Beltran's clinch game, should have lost to Fabio Maldonado and had the incredible fight IQ to take down Vinny Magalhaes, get tapped out, and then complain on Twitter about how "no-one comes to watch grappling". Feijao then killed my belief in one of PokerJack's sole remaining traits, namely his chin. There are not many UFC 205ers I'd pick him over at this point. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by TKO, round 1.
Stephie Daniels: Just wanted to note that for a long time, I also pronounce Pokrajac as "Poker Jack" WAR NAME MANGLERS!
Zane Simon: Marcos Rogerio de Lima is going to do horrible horrible things to Pokrajac here. No two ways about it. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Lima: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Rainer, Zane
Staff picking Pokrajac:
Mookie Alexander: I say this with every intent of exaggerating, this could be one of the most boring fight in UFC history. My memory blanks out thinking of a time when Hacran Dias did something notable in the UFC, and Elkins is just a wet blanket of a grinder. I imagine this fight ends up being either a horrible stalemate or a slight edge to Elkins who will win via top control. Darren Elkins by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Both fighters have made slow'n'steady improvement, but I think I actually like Hacran Dias in this one. Whilst he looked putrid against Nik Lentz, he looked a ton better against Ricardo Lamas, and debatably even won that fight. I think this one will be very close. One of the elements I like to swing this grimy clinchfest in Dias's favour is that Elkins's face explodes in blood if you look at it sideways. I entertain myself in Elkins fights by imagining that he's fighting wearing dungarees, with a straw hat and a piece of grass between his teeth. Hacran Dias by split decision.
Zane Simon: Darren Elkins doesn't lose a lot of close fights. He's only been KO'd once since 2009, by divisional penultimate Chad Mendes, and otherwise recently lost a decision to the very heavy handed Jeremy Stephens, as Stephens was able to keep him on the outside for much of it. But, if it's a battle in the trenches, a war of attrition, Darren Elkins always wins. And Hacran Dias, to date, hasn't shown much in the way of power, nor has he shown the ability to keep a fight at range and kickbox from the outside. As such, I expect him to get sucked into a grinding fence battle and I don't see him winning that fight. Darren Elkins by decision.
Staff picking Elkins: Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Rainer, Zane
Staff picking Dias: Phil
Daniel Sarafian vs. Antonio Dos Santos Jr.
Phil Mackenzie: Much like the Niinimaki fight further up the card, this is a real question mark contest, where it should resolve where Sarafian's ceiling is. Either his last two losses were the developmental stumbles which some fighters have early (particularly when they bounce between weight classes), or he's just... not good. I like believing in people, and like Niinimaki I think he has a winnable style match-up so Daniel Sarafian by unanimous decision I guess.
Zane Simon: I hate to burst a particular bubble on Daniel Sarafian "prospect" but he's 32 and has been fighting for almost 9 years. Granted he hasn't had many fights in that time, but other than losing 2012 to injury, he's still been in the gym, training, getting beaten up, getting worn down... He's almost certainly as good as he's likely to get, which isn't great. Bouncing between weight classes certainly hasn't helped him either, as it means that his prep has probably been different for each of his last few camps. I realize Junior Alpha is coming in on short notice, and that is almost always a death sentence for a debuting fighter, but he's got good TDD, solid wrestling, and incredibly powerful muay thai striking. If it were a full camp, I'd pick him no question. On a short one, I'm taking him in a coin flip. Junior Alpha by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Sarafian: Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Rainer
Staff picking ADS: Zane
Phil Mackenzie: Two pretty similar fighters. Sasaki is younger and the better athlete, and actually has a surprisingly decent level of experience, which should make him the pick in an excellent grappling showdown. Yuta Sasaki by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Along with Kyoji Horiguchi, I think Yuta is probably the best young Japanese fighter in the UFC. He's an amazingly dynamic grappler and great athlete. Issa is a tough vet, but he's just not that dynamic or dominant, even in his primary skill set, which is his grappling. I think he'll almost certainly look to take Yuta down, and if he does, he's going to get subbed. Yuta Sasaki by submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Issa: Fraser
Staff picking Sasaki: Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Rainer, Zane
Marcio Alexandre vs. Tim Means
Mookie Alexander: Pretty sure Marcio Alexandre is just "Mookie Alexander" in Portuguese, and I won't pick against myself. Go me. Marcio Alexandre by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I contest that there is no translation for "Mookie" in any other language. You are the Tigger of MMA. Anyhoo, Tim Means is the kind of guy who has a tough, scrappy fight against literally everyone. However, "Lyoto" is like Machida, but with none of the excellent clinch fighting which makes Machida's style actually viable. He's really vulnerable to getting bullied. Means is an effective bully. Push-off elbows, nasty infighting, Tim Means by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Tim Means almost always fights at the rhythm of his opposition. Which means that he can make fights a lot closer than they should be. When he shows up aggressive and looking to dominate, he usually wins. He's got a great ability to change speeds on his power boxing, throwing soft on-twos and suddenly ripping power hooks and crosses. He's generally a functional wrestler and grappler when the fight goes there, and has some great offense in the clinch. All of which makes him a pretty bad matchup for Alexandre, provided he shows up. Still, at this point I just don't like much of Alexandre's game and think he needs a lot of work to get consistent UFC wins. Tim Means by decision.
Staff picking Alexandre: Mookie, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking Means: Phil, Rainer, Zane
Vitor Miranda vs. Jake Collier
Phil Mackenzie: "Lex Luthor" is just not that good, sadly. Collier is a younger, better athlete and Miranda just doesn't have any way of stopping him getting his offense rolling. Jake Collier by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: When Miranda isn't kickboxing at range, he's not doing much well. Jake Collier has a lot of gaps in his hodge-podge style, but he's aggressive and willing to take the fight everywhere. If he gets stuck on the outside, he could easily lose, but I think Collier is a lot more likely to get the takedown and work Miranda over on the ground. Jake Collier by decision.
Staff picking Miranda:
Staff picking Collier: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Rainer, Zane