Mookie Alexander: I think Browne has been undervalued for quite some time, and while he's the favorite here I wouldn't be surprised if by Saturday afternoon those lines shift towards even money. Werdum's best chance at a takedown is if Browne overcommits on a strike and is driven to the ground while off balance. Werdum's best striking comes from in the clinch, and I don't think he can bully Browne there. If it does go to the ground then Browne is probably cooked, but as long as Browne can dictate the pace, fight from the outside, and really string together some effective strikes, then he'll come out as the victor once again. Travis Browne by TKO, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: Full disclosure: I scouted Browne for Werdum, so my pick is probably going to be laced with a touch of bias. After spending hours watching tape of Browne, I've come to the conclusion that he really doesn't do anything particularly complicated in any phase; the heart of his game is his athleticism, speed, and power, which makes his relatively limited skillsets overwhelmingly effective. Werdum can and has gameplanned for what Browne knows how to do, but whether he can overcome the sizable physical disadvantage is another question entirely. I'm inclined to think that Werdum's historically fantastic chin will carry him through a few rough spots at range while he works Browne over in the clinch. Eventually, Browne will get tired, and when he does Werdum will find a takedown or grab a dominant position in a scramble and work a submission. Werdum, submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: I honestly think that this fight just comes down to who can implement their clinch offense. And I think that's Browne. He's not the cleanest striker, but he moves well, doesn't tire, and hits hard, and I think when Werdum looks to clinch up and get his takedown game going he's going to hit a brick wall. Travis Brown by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Browne: Mookie, DSM, Karim, Iain, Zane, Dallas, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Werdum: Patrick, Grant, Stephie, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Would I be a bad person if I said this fight does nothing for me? Tate's fun to watch, but her progression as a fighter (and especially based on her last 4 outings or so) makes me think she's in no way a viable title threat even if Rousey loses or goes to Hollywood and never looks back. Carmouche has time and time again lost to anyone remotely in the top 5 of the division, and this is probably her best chance. Really hoping this isn't a striking contest, and that we get some fun scrambles, and in the end Tate probably gets the close decision. Miesha Tate by decision.
Zane Simon: Much like Ronda Rousey, Alexis Davis, Sarah Kaufman, and Marloes Coenen before her, Miesha Tate is exactly the caliber of opponent that Liz Carmouche doesn't have the tools to beat. She's great against small, or less grapple savy opponents who can be overwhelmed by her bullying takedown game, but any opponent with a bit of size, strength and chops on the mat can tear her apart. Miesha Tate by one-sided decision.
Staff picking Carmouche: DSM, Anton
Staff picking Tate: Patrick, Grant, Stephie, Mookie, Karim, Iain, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: Cerrone should consider testing Barboza on his back, but this is Donald freaking Cerrone, so that ain't happening. So what will ensue? Entertainment for the masses. Barboza has the stronger, heavier kicking game while Cerrone probably has the better hands. Barboza has shown a much shakier chin than Cerrone has, which is my deciding factor in this one. I expect Cerrone to hurt Barboza and then finish him off with a rear-naked choke a la the Dennis Siver fight. Donald Cerrone via submission, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: This fight is my everything. I love both of these guys, and I don't want either to lose. With that said, Cerrone's fought and beaten much better competition, and he's looked absolutely outstanding in his last two outings, with none of the slow-starting malaise that's plagued him in the past. Both Cerrone and Barboza are fairly extreme rhythm strikers, and whoever gets their timing and range first should take this; based on the Martins and Dunham fights, and Barboza's epically slow start against Danny Castillo, I think that's more likely to be Cerrone. Combine that with his underrated takedowns and grappling, and I think he takes a competitive decision. Cerrone, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I've thought a lot about this fight and two things finally swayed my fight picking. First, Donald Cerrone tends to start slow. Even against Adriano Martins, Martins had a solid 3 minutes to work with before Cerrone settled in to a rhythm. Barboza does not suffer from slow starts (rather he suffers from being unable to handle forward pressure), especially if he gets any kind of time and space to work with. Second, Cerrone often predicates his offense on being able to out kick his opponents. Being able to keep them at range with a mix of leg and head kicks allows him to find his rhythm. I think that trying to out kick Barboza is just poison. Cerrone could come out and put it one him with a blitz, but if he doesn't this is Barboza's fight. Edson Barboza by KO, Round 3.
Staff picking Barboza: Iain, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Cerrone: Patrick, Grant, Stephie, DSM, Mookie, Karim, Dallas, Fraser, Anton
Mookie Alexander: Tavares doesn't have the power to put away Romero, but he does have the striking to win a decision. Romero has the power to knock him out. Let's just pray this doesn't go the distance because at least one of these men will be absolutely pooped. Yoel Romero, KO, round number 2.
Patrick Wyman: This should be a fun, high-paced matchup between two guys who like to throw real volume on the feet. Tavares has developed into a clean and methodical combination striker, while Romero's strengths are his next-level power and athleticism, which nicely flow together with his unorthodox kickboxing style. I'm inclined to think that the latter will carry the day here, given that Tavares is hittable and probably can't threaten with takedowns the way that accomplished wrestlers like Brunson and Markes could. Romero, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I swear I just saw this fight between Tavares and Lorenz Larkin. A powerful kickboxer who likes to pick his shots and throws with accuracy... And Tavares took his lunch money. The biggest problem for Tavares has been his inability to pressure opponents, often leaving him at a sort of second gear pace where he out points without endangering them. This has allowed much lesser fighters to hang around and even hurt him. It looks like that's a problem he's solved and Romero is exactly the kind of fighter to let himself be pressured and bullied by a more active striker. Brad Tavares by Decision.
Dallas Winston: The tiny little difference between Larkin and Romero is that whole pesky Olympic wrestling thing. However, since I'm making these picks late and was leaning toward Romero, a longtime personal fave, the whole time, I have to add that Tavares is consummately underrated and this match up is apparently no exception.
Staff picking Romero: Patrick, Mookie, Stephie, DSM, Karim, Iain, Tim, Dallas, Anton
Staff picking Tavares: Grant, Zane, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: Dagestan. Khabib Nurmagomedov by unanimous decision.
Patrick Wyman: This is a close fight, much closer than the betting lines (Nurmy -250) would indicate. Dos Anjos looked better than ever before against Cerrone, mixing in some potent Muay Thai with his always-excellent takedowns and top control. I'd love to see him grab the win here, but Nurmagomedov is a brutal matchup: he has absurdly good takedown defense, a great clinch game, and the ability to do serious damage in transition. RDA probably has the advantage at striking range, though with Nurmy's improvement that isn't a given, and if he can keep the fight there he has a good chance of winning. I just don't think he can for all three rounds. Nurmagomedov, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I don't like being on the opposite side of Pat in fight picks this often, since we so often think alike. And I agree that Nurmagomedov is a tough matchup for anyone. But, I feel like dos Anjos has really hit his peak right now and his footwork and combination striking are as strong as they've ever been. He has good wrestling and great Jiu Jitsu to round it out and I don't think that Nurmagomedov has ever faced an opponent with this amount of technical polish. I could see this being a copy of the Guida fight, where Nurmy just horses him around and breaks him, but I'm going with the fighter I think is really in his prime right now. Rafael dos Anjos by Decision.
Staff picking RDA: Grant, Zane
Staff picking Nurmy: Patrick, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Karim, Iain, Tim, Dallas, Fraser, Anton
Mookie Alexander: Ring rust sucks, so that could be a factor in Alves' performance. Baczynski got merc'ed by Brian Melancon just last year and Alves is a much better striker than Melancon is. An upset loss should have Alves re-thinking his career, otherwise this will be a smashing. Thiago Alves, KO, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: Unless Alves is completely shot, and that's entirely possible, he should take this pretty handily. Alves, KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Alves wins this easily or Alves is no longer a relevant fighter in the welterweight division. That's the sad truth of it. Baczynski could catch him in something stupid, but even that would be a pretty good sign that Alves just doesn't have what it takes anymore to be a top welterweight. Thiago Alves by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Alves: Patrick, Mookie, Stephie, DSM, Karim, Iain, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Anton
Staff picking Baczynski: Grant, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: Masvidal's takedown defense is excellent, and Healy is far too slow to really win too many striking battles with Jorge. Let's not forget that Masvidal's ground game is no joke and he can win it from there, but he'll probably take the safe route. Jorge Masvidal, unanimous decision.
Patrick Wyman: Masvidal's takedown defense and counterpunching should be enough to get him the victory here. Masvidal, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Healy is just so slow. I'm reminded of watch him fight Kurt Holobaugh and how highly that made me think of Holobaugh touching him up the way he did... Then I saw Siler fight Holobaugh. Healy is slow and predictable. He's also stupid strong and nearly impossible to put away. But, I don't think that's enough for a crafty fighter like Masvidal who usually holds his own on the Mat and has the much more dangerous striking game. Jorge Masvidal by Decision.
Staff picking Healy: Grant, Stephie, Karim, Iain, Anton
Staff picking Masvidal: Patrick, Mookie, DSM, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Fraser
Patrick Wyman: White is an interesting prospect who's flown under just about everybody's radar. I wouldn't have known about him but for the fact that his aggrieved manager emailed me, demanding to know why I didn't have him on my prospect list. Once I started looking at the tape, I saw a big, skilled, and aggressive striker with a solid complementary submission game. Payan is solid at most things but not great anywhere, and I think this is an excellent opportunity for White to introduce himself to a larger audience. White, TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I'm not terribly sold on White as a UFC ready fighter, he's solid, but still needs a lot of polish. But, I'm probably less sold on Estevan Payan, who to this point has been more know for his grit and toughness than any particular skill set. White has a lot of tools to work with, and if he's smart he'll stay away from just standing and trading with Payan and make this a scrambling transition fight where he can implement a more well rounded game. Alex White by decision.
Staff picking Payan: Tim, Dallas
Staff picking White: Patrick, Grant, Mookie, Stephie, DSM, Karim, Zane, Fraser, Anton
Zane Simon: Unless Magalhaes has improved a lot, he's not better at anything than Zachrich. So far he's been known as a fighter who can keep going after his opponent has gassed out or injured himself out of competition. That's not much of an endorsement. Zachrich isn't exciting, but he's a competent grappler, decent wrestler, and has a very careful striking game that doesn't put him at a lot of risk. Magalhaes is young, so it's entirely possible that he'll come out looking way better, but I don't like to bet on that as the deciding factor. Luke Zachrich by decision.
Staff picking Magalhaes: Grant, Stephie, DSM, Mookie, Karim, Patrick, Iain, Fraser, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Zachrich: Zane, Dallas
Tim Burke: Mein is one of my favorite fighters. CANADA. Jordan Mein by murder death kill.
Mookie Alexander: Random thought here - Jordan's nickname should be "Chicken Chow". Jordan Mein, TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: He's not quite a prospect anymore, but I honestly think that Perpetuo could be one of the most exciting additions to the welterweight division. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Mein, but perhaps with a more varied striking arsenal. I think this is going to be a really close fight, but I'm hoping for an excellent debut from the Brazilian. Hernani Perpetuo by Split Decision.
Staff picking Mein: Patrick, Grant, Mookie, Stephie, DSM, Karim, Iain, Tim, Dallas, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Perpetuo: Zane
Tim Burke: Not a single Star Trek joke? Okay, Mookie tried at least. Ray Borg by assimilation.
Mookie Alexander: Ortiz has looked good thus far, but while I think he'll get the win, he's at a distinct disadvantage as far as his name. RayBorg is some laser robot thing straight out of a terrible Syfy flick. It's a fantastic name. Dustin ... is Dustin. Dustin Ortiz by decision.
Zane Simon: I like Borg from what little I've seen. His game seems really well rounded and he looks very athletic. But I haven't seen much and Ortiz has established himself as a potential top flyweight already. Dustin Ortiz by Decision.
Staff picking Borg:
Staff picking Ortiz: Grant, Patrick, Stephie, DSM, Mookie, Karim, Iain, Zane, Dallas, Fraser, Anton
Patrick Wyman: I had Bektic ranked as the top prospect in MMA regardless of weight class on my Searching for Future Champions list. He's one of the most physically overwhelming and explosive fighters I've ever seen, with an almost indescribably violent top game and outstanding aggressiveness. Skelly is a fine prospect in his own right, with an excellent wrestling base and solid grappling chops, but I think Bektic is something really special. Bektic, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I know next to nothing about Skelly, so Patrick Wyman via scouting report.
Staff picking Bektic: Patrick, Grant, Mookie, Stephie, DSM, Karim, Iain, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Skelly:
Tim Burke: Haha fat guys. Jack May by gogo.
Zane Simon: I think May is the superior striker, but has much more questionable cardio. Lewis is otherwise probably a bit more well rounded which will serve him well if this goes longer than 5 minutes. Derrick Lewis via gas tank.
Staff picking Lewis: Grant, Mookie, Stephie, DSM, Patrick, Iain, Zane, Dallas, Anton
Staff picking May: Tim, Fraser