Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
Anton Tabuena: Lawler probably won't give away two early rounds anymore, so if Hendricks decides to stand with him again for the most part, I think he will lose this time around. Lawler now knows what he has in front of him, and he probably isn't going to be as tentative. Unless Hendricks mixes it up properly, I think this bout will resemble more of rounds 3-4 of their first bout, up until Lawler gets a finish. Robbie Lawler by late TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I picked Robbie Lawler to win the first fight more on a hope than me thinking he'd actually win, and he almost won it. Hell, I even said in July on BE Radio prior to the Matt Brown fight that Robbie Lawler was the best welterweight in the world and would beat Hendricks in a rematch. So I can't back out of that now even though Hendricks is more than well-equipped to beat him again. Let's ride that Lawler violence train one last time, but I'm not terribly confident in his chances. Robbie Lawler by TKO, round 4.
Kyle McLachlan: I can't help but wonder how Hendricks is going to look, coming off an injury and way before the originally projected Spring 2015 return. Lawler has been active, and can take a lot from his first bout with Hendricks and pace himself a bit better. I'm torn on this, as I feel Hendricks improves each time out and although Robbie has come on leaps and bounds he has hit his ceiling technically. Still, as his ceiling ended up being so high and Lawler is an animal, I'm going for the ultimate riches-to-rags-to-riches story, and for Robbie Lawler to complete his renaissance. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision
Tim Burke: Hendricks beat him with a torn bicep last time. I don't think the rust will be a factor because he can always go back to his bread and butter - wrestling. I think the last fight was only close because Hendricks had to strike with him for almost the whole fight. With the ability to mix in takedowns, this will be one-sided. Johny Hendricks by dominant decision (50-45).
Zane Simon: I gotta side with Tim here, I don't think that ring rust will be a factor, and I think Hendricks will almost certainly look improved. There's a chance that Lawler comes out with an adjusted game plan that fits perfectly with Hendricks' striking and really tips the scales in Lawler's favor, but that's not quite what he's known for. Lawler is an amazing fighter, and he's amazing at making adjustments on the fly and taking advantage of opportunities. But, I don't think he has the same bloody, single-mindedness that Hendricks has when it comes to winning. Lawler seems to get lost in the thrill of the competition. He loves to fight and I think it distracts him from what he's fighting for. Hendricks is always looking to win and I think he'll do everything under the sun to keep his belt. Johny Hendricks by decision.
Stephie: WAR LAWLER!!!
Staff picking Hendricks: DSM, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Paul, Zane
Staff picking Lawler: Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Anton
Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez
Anton Tabuena: If Pettis hasn't been affected with all the injuries and the time off, he should be the heavy favorite to win this. Apart from excellent contract negotiating skills which I applaud him for, I don't think Melendez even deserves this title shot more than the other contenders lined up. I didn't think he looked great against Henderson, and beating Diego (who almost won too) doesn't really mean much these days. I think Pettis will have a significant advantage standing, as he has a more diverse skill set on the feet, and while it's possible, I don't think Melendez will win -- or even have -- a grind out wrestling game plan. I think Pettis will be too slick on the feet, and he will earn a wide decision. Anthony Pettis by Dominant Decision
Mookie Alexander: I feel like it's very wrong to be underestimating Melendez when he's proven time and time again what a great fighter he is, but I can't discount Pettis potentially being one of the best talents the sport has ever seen. Since the loss to Guida and close win vs.Stephens, Pettis has been utterly dominant and has shown the improved takedown defense that was the big question mark after the Guida fight. Melendez has to pressure Pettis virtually the whole fight, whether through takedowns, boxing, a combination of both, but he basically has to be as physically dominant as possible, otherwise Pettis will eat him up. Melendez keeps it close for about 1.5 rounds before Pettis turns on the afterburners and wins a decision. Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision.
Kyle McLachlan: Melendez is an awesome 3D fighter, but I can't help but think he's a tad overrated. As it stands, I think he is far too physically inferior to Pettis, who will wreck him assuming blowing up between fights and constant injuries hasn't caught up to him. Anthony Pettis, TKO, round 2
Tim Burke: Gil has all the tools to win this fight. I'm not sure why people are worried about Hendricks having a long layoff, but no one says anything about Pettis. Because Hendricks is 3 years older than him? Sure, Gil's been out almost as long but he wasn't hurt. Pettis is hurt a lot. Melendez really should be at 145 (actually so should Pettis), but he has the ability to get takedowns on Showtime. I firmly believe that he can make this a dogfight, and he'll have a big advantage in a grinding fight. Strikeforce never die. Gilbert Melendez by decision.
Zane Simon: I know this sounds harsh, and I'm not sure that I have a lot of visual evidence to back it up, but I think Gilbert Melendez's best years of his career are behind him. I think he can still compete at an elite level, but his ability to dominate in against an elite opponent may not be there (and it's arguable that it never quite was there). Gil does everything well, but if he's losing even half a step, there's nothing he does so well that I see him beating Pettis, right now, in his prime. This is Anthony Pettis' fight to lose, and I think he wins it via TKO. Anthony Pettis, TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Pettis: Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Melendez: DSM, Tim, Paul
Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub
Mookie Alexander: Schaub is going to fall funny. Travis Browne by KO, round 1.
Kyle McLachlan: Schaub should no longer be seen as a punchline, but Browne will be able to match him for athleticism, and he also packs much more power into his strikes. It will be one of those fights for Schaub I think. Travis Browne, by KO, round 1
Tim Burke: Browne vs. Big Brown. What a stupid nickname. I like the weird storyline about Browne training in the same gym as Schaub's supposed girlfriend though. Either way, Schaub is going to sleep. Travis Browne by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I don't see Schaub taking Travis Browne down effectively, I just don't. And if that doesn't happen this becomes a battle of who lands the big shots on the outside and in the clinch. Schaub's actually the more consistent striker, but he's also much much more likely to go down on one punch. Travis Browne by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Browne: Kyle, DSM, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Paul, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Schaub: Phil
Todd Duffee vs. Anthony Hamilton
Mookie Alexander: I still believe, dammit! It's another long layoff for TODDDUFFEE but Duffman hits hard and is generally a very accurate puncher. Anthony Hamilton sounds like a former leader of the Whig party. TRT or no TRT this is Duffee's. Todd Duffee by KO, round 1.
Kyle McLachlan: I just hope Duffee smashes Hamilton quickly, because otherwise they will both be dying from lack of oxygen and it will make for a horrible spectacle. DUFFEE, by KO, round 1
Tim Burke: If Hamilton had any offense at all I'd pick him. Everyone wants to see another Hammerfist of Doom. But he doesn't, so I gotta lean towards Duffee. Todd Duffee by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Questions lurk about Duffee's potential fitness after a debilitating nerve disorder. But, if he's fit, there's really not many avenues for him to lose. Todd Duffee by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Duffee: Kyle, DSM, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Hamilton: Stephie
Tony Ferguson vs. Abel Trujillo
Anton Tabuena: If the UFC was consistent with their policies, this fight wouldn't even happen. Tony Ferguson by KO.
Mookie Alexander: I'm not sold on either man as a contender, but I think Ferguson has the higher upside. Better striking, good physical tools, and superior ground game make him the favorite here. Trujillo's best work is from close range where he has some brutal knees, but Ferguson's reach and volume lead me to believe he can outpoint Trujillo comfortably at range. If it needs to go to the ground then Ferguson has better submissions and a dangerous guard that Trujillo doesn't want to mess with. Tony Ferguson by unanimous decision.
Kyle McLachlan: Ferguson should be able to keep Trujillo away from him long enough to survive his power punches. Ferguson is more multi-faceted and has the toughness and physicality to handle Trujillo I think. Should be a good one though. Tony Ferguson, by unanimous decision
Tim Burke: Ferguson's the better fighter. Period. Tony Ferguson by decision.
Zane Simon: Abel Trujillo is the better athlete and the more powerful striker, but he's also the more generally limited fighter. I don't think Ferguson will put him on his back, but I think if he can get past the first round, he can piece Turjillo up a bit from range and make him lose composure. Tony Ferguson by TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Ferguson: Kyle, DSM, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Paul, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Trujillo:
Urijah Faber vs. Francisco Rivera
Anton Tabuena: Urijah Faber is basically cleaning up the division for Dillashaw, and he's going to eliminate another ranked fighter before they even get anywhere close to the title. Urijah Faber by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: Rivera has power and Faber's chin is crackable, but Rivera's ground game barely exists and Faber is going to destroy him either way. Urijah Faber by submission, round 1.
Kyle McLachlan: Faber gonna' Faber. Urijah Faber, by submission, round 1 (rear naked choke)
Tim Burke: I do like Rivera, but this is just a terrible style matchup for him. Urijah Faber by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Rivera doesn't do anything better than Urijah Faber, and that includes power striking. Just a bad matchup everywhere for a fun action fighter. Urijah Faber by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Faber: Kyle, DSM, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Paul, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Rivera:
Anton Tabuena: This has been one very long and tough road back to the Octagon for Samman. Gordon is also talented and this should be a closely contested bout. That said, anyone who has read and followed Samman's comeback path will be hard pressed not to root for the guy. Josh Samman by Double Punch TKO.
Kyle McLachlan: I like both of these fighters, and Samman is going to be pumped in his first fight back I'm sure. Gordon comes from such a strong camp and has been more active as of late, so I'm going with ‘Truck' to pull out the victory in a really good fight. Eddie Gordon via decision
Tim Burke: BE represent. Josh Samman by decision.
Zane Simon: Not even going to pretend. I like Eddie Gordon, I think he can develop into a decent fighter, but Josh Samman is already a decent fighter and he's part of the Bloody Elbow family. Josh Samman by decision.
Staff picking Samman: Phil, Mookie, Karim, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Gordon: DSM, Kyle, Fraser
Corey Anderson vs. Justin Jones
Mookie Alexander: Beastin' 25/8. Nothing you can do about that. Oh, and this Justin Jones guy is a middleweight so he's going to look tiny in there. Corey Anderson by KO, 17 seconds before round 1.
Tim Burke: The best/worst nickname. Corey Anderson by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: A late notice middleweight fighting at light heavyweight is basically shorthand for "guy who loses badly." Corey Anderson by TKO in Round 1.
Staff picking Anderson: DSM, Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Jones:
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Raquel Pennington
Tim Burke: Honestly not sure why everyone's picking Evans-Smith here. She's 3-0 as a pro and beat Fallon Fox. Cool. But she was 5-4 as an amateur, got finished in all four of her losses, and got knocked out in five seconds in her last amateur bout. Pennington's 4-4 record looks bad, but she lost to pretty damn good fighters (Zingano, Smith, Andrade). I think she should be the favorite here. Raquel Pennington by decision.
Zane Simon: This is a case of short notice vs. limited skill set. Evans-Smith is the much better wrestler and more consistently aggressive fighter. Neither woman responds terribly well to pressure, but Evans-Smith applies her skills with much more force and regularity. Pennington is probably the slightly better athlete, which throws a wrench in the works here. I think, on a full camp, I'd pick Evans-Smith, no question, but on short notice this is a coinflip. Ashlee Evans-Smith by decision.
Staff picking Evans-Smith: DSM, Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Pennington: Tim
Tim Burke: Tiny Pettis should be able to take this without too much trouble. Sergio Pettis by decision.
Zane Simon: This is a fight made for Pettis to show something, but which could easily end up an ugly grappling mess. Hobar isn't really a dangerous fighter anywhere. He has some decent GNP, and some big takedowns, but he's not a big threat. But, he is tough and grinding and if Pettis can't maintain seperation this could be a long, ugly fight. Still, Pettis the Younger, by decision.
Staff picking Pettis: DSM, Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Karim, Fraser, Tim, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Hobar: Stephie
Kyle McLachlan: This should be a good fight, but although White's defensive deficiencies are glaring, I'll take him over Collard, who isn't as slick as he thinks. This should be a barn burner, but White is huge at the weight so I'm taking him to slug it out to a close win. Will be really interesting to see ‘Cassius' Clay with a full training camp though, he showed tremendous heart in his UFC bow. Alex White, by unanimous decision
Tim Burke: I still think Alex White is a hoss. This definitely could be a fight of the night candidate, but White gets the late stop. Alex White by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Clay Collard may be flashier than fans like, but he has a style that is much better suited to actually winning fights than Alex White does. White tends to be a live by the sword, die by the sword brawler, who's looking to either knockout or get knocked out. While Collard isn't the best outside striker, or slickest boxer, he actually has a pretty good infighting style and clinch offense. Both guys have a good chin, and while White probably has more power, I just think he's the less technical fighter and isn't going to find much success trying to out brawl a better infighter here. Clay Collard by decision.
Staff picking White: Kyle, Phil, Karim, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Collard: DSM, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Anton