Anton Tabuena: I don’t think Cerrone will be wrestlef*cked, so this will likely be spent on the feet during stretches. Miller, while durable as hell, isn’t going to be able to win this with his striking, so to me it’s going to be Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Why does someone have to lose? Well they don’t, because Cerrone could return to groin kick mode and turn this into a 1st round NC in no time. Anyway, even with Miller’s last two wins against Medeiros and Camoes, I have a feeling he’s hit the downside of his career. The Pat Healy fight is a lot more telling about where Miller stands than Healy. Unless Miller can wrap up a guillotine, get the takedown, or force Cerrone to fight off of his backfoot, Cerrone has the tools to pick him apart. He’s got good speed, much improved power, and absolutely sensational killer instinct. I suspect this fight will be evenly matched for about 8 minutes and then Cerrone will pile on the pressure, wear Miller down, and get the stoppage win. Donald Cerrone via TKO, round 4.
Kyle McLachlan: Very hard fight to pick. Miller is a solid but not spectacular southpaw on the feet, but will have no worries tagging Cerrone, who is upright and stiff. Cerrone is far more explosive and powerful, but Miller is tough as old boots. Both are very crafty grapplers, and it should be a lot of fun if it goes to the mat. For me, even though he’s been successful post-Pat Healy, Miller looks like he’s further gone out of these two. I think Cerrone will beat him up as the fight goes on, unless Miller catches him in a guillotine early. Cerrone, via decision
Phil Mackenzie: Fighter A is a strong anti-wrestler type, with sound fundamental stand-up, excellent BJJ, and decent defensive and offensive wrestling. Unfortunately for him, he’s not fighting a wrestler, he’s fighting Fighter B, who’s a better striker with vicious kickboxing and far deadlier distance weapons. The X-factor is that fighter A is gritty as hell, and Fighter B is something of a flake. Regardless. Donald Cerrone by submission RD 3.
Zane Simon: There are a lot of guys Jim Miller can catch out on the ground, or beat up on the feet with his high output, pressure style. I’m not sure he could do either to Cerrone with any long term effectiveness. There’s a technical striking level at which Cerrone sort of tops out. Against guys like Pettis, Barboza (for a while), or Diaz, he seems to be a couple steps behind. But Miller is more known for toughness and output than technical wizardry, and that’s the kind of fighter Cerrone has tended to beat. Add in that Cerrone is entirely competent on the ground and capable of surviving Miller’s grappling attacks, and this has the makings of a one sided fight. Donald Cerrone via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Cerrone: Kyle, Phil, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Zane, Karim, Dallas, Paul
Staff picking Miller: Stephie
Mookie Alexander: I’ve just about given up on Evan Dunham, whose bright days as an up-and-comer have long gone … although I’ve long maintained that Barboza is/was overrated and his ceiling isn’t any higher than Dunham’s. If there is anything that’s in his favor, it’s that Barboza is chinny and he can get the knockout just on that alone, but Barboza’s striking is probably going to overwhelm him, cripple his legs, and win a clear decision. Edson Barboza via unanimous decision.
Kyle McLachlan: Dunham isn’t particularly brilliant anywhere, and doesn’t pack much power in his punches. I expect Barboza to kick his legs out, though he may be cautious after his last fight, and his second stoppage loss in the UFC. Barboza, via dominant decision
Phil Mackenzie: Fighter A is a strong anti-wrestler type, with sound fundamental stand-up, excellent BJJ, and decent defensive and offensive wrestling. Unfortunately for him, he’s not fighting a wrestler, he’s fighting Fighter B, who’s a better striker with vicious kickboxing and far deadlier distance weapons. The X-factor is that Fighter A is gritty as hell, and Fighter B is something of a flake. Regardless. Edson Barboza by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Edson Barboza really shouldn’t lose this fight. He’s faster by a mile, hits harder, and Dunham doesn’t have the kind of wrestling offense to really make Barboza think twice at range. But, then again, Barboza should have beat Cerrone, the way that fight started, so who knows? I’ll take Barboza here, but it’s anything but a confident pick and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Dunham landed something unexpected and just clobbered him. Edson Barboza by Decision.
Staff picking Barboza: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Zane, Karim, Dallas, Paul
Staff picking Dunham:
Rick Story vs. Leonardo Mafra Teixeira
Mookie Alexander: Remember when Rick Story beat Johny Hendricks? Maybe he can play it safe and grind this one out, because his recent outings suggest he has more than peaked as a fighter, particularly in the stand-up department. Rick Story by unanimous decision.
Kyle McLachlan: This should be fun. Mafra is a kill-or-be-killed ball of violence, whereas Story likes to keep it on the feet and box, and is capable of really putting a hurting on his man. Mafra has a nice right hand and relentless ground and pound, but he’s not on Story’s level. He’ll get chipped away eventually, in what will be a fun fight I expect. Rick Story, by TKO, round 3
Phil Mackenzie: Rick Story is in that transition period between young action fighter and grizzled, tricky vet. He’s lost durability but gained cage-smarts. Unless Mafra nukes him with the shot of his life.... Rick Story by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is a hell of trap fight for Rick Story, and one that he’s very, very capable of losing. Mafra does a lot of things I like. He counters well, strikes with ridiculous speed and power, and stays in the phonebooth, fearlessly. He also punches and kicks at all levels, and works knees well in the clinch. Unfortunately he tends to keep his head on a pretty straight line when brawling, and is open to getting hit hard in return. He’s shown a decent chin thus far, but Story is the kind of technical, experienced vet who can and should take advantage. This is Story’s fight to lose, it’s a matchup that doesn’t make much sense given that Story is more or less top 20 at WW and Mafra is unknown. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Mafra wins the first round, or even the whole fight, with an early flurry of aggression. Rick Story by decision.
Staff picking Story: Kyle, Phil, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Dallas
Staff picking Mafra: Stephie
Mookie Alexander: This is a fine main card but this fight isn’t really doing anything for me. All I remember of Salas is that Tim Means knocked him around silly and Thiago Tavares made him look like he had never fought off of his back in his career. So on that note, Joe Proctor by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: If you only split decisioned Aaron "held together by spit and duct tape" Riley I’m not picking you. Ever. Get all the first round KOs you want. Joe Proctor by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: It’s really hard to know what to take away from Justin Salas’ win over Ben Wall. The fact that several people I trust talked about Salas’ improvement was instantly mitigated by the fact that his opponent was Ben Wall. Unfortunately on the other side, Joe Proctor’s last fight was against his good friend and training partner, Cristiano Marcello. And they more or less fought like friends and training partners. I’ll still take Proctor here, as I think he’s been more consistent and showed a more well rounded game, but I haven’t seen much out of either fighter that I like. Joe Proctor by decision.
Staff picking Salas: Anton, Dallas, Paul
Staff picking Proctor: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Fraser, Karim, Zane
John Lineker vs. Alptekin Ozkilic
Anton Tabuena: Just make weight plz. John Lineker by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Ozkilic has a solid wrestling background out here in Long Island, where he was one of the standouts at Nassau Community College in Garden City. Lineker’s takedown defense isn’t really that great, so Alp is a live dog here. But if that doesn’t happen? John Lineker is going to do bad bad bad things to his body. John Lineker via TKO, round 2.
Kyle McLachlan: Will Lineker make weight? Ozkilic went from super impressive against division veteran Darren Uyenoyama to underwhelming against Luis Smolka, but his wrestling heavy game might tire Lineker, who tends to fade as the rounds go on. Ozkilic seems durable, but Lineker is a beast so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and pick him by crushing body shot. Lineker, TKO, round 1
Phil Mackenzie: Fun fact: John Lineker is named after an English soccer captain who is famous for being in adverts where he eats potato chips, and also for pooping himself. I often wonder whether Lineker has followed his namesake in guzzling down too many Walker’s Crisps, because he does often crap the metaphorical bed when it comes to weigh-ins. Anyhoo, unless Alpaca can get the takedowns very easily, he is probably going to have to spend long periods on the feet with a man who tries to break bellies open like they are food pinatas. Lineker by feastin’ 25/8
Zane Simon: This is very much becoming a card of popular opinions. And as much as I’d like to buck them (and perhaps I should have, especially with Mafra), Ozkilic is really not a good striker at all. This was something I noticed against Darren Uyenoyama, himself not a noted pugilist, who beat Ozkilic on the feet but couldn’t stay upright, and Smolka who absolutely toasted him. Lineker is more than capable of winning the standup handily, and at flyweight, the wealth of scrambling ability generally means that Ozkilic isn’t getting people down for long. John Lineker via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Lineker: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Karim, Zane
Staff picking Ozkilic: Dallas
Mookie Alexander: It’s hard to get a good read on Lucas Martins. Edson Barboza whomping him on short notice isn’t a big deal, but he was really struggling with Jeremy Larsen before the comeback KO kept him in the UFC. He submitted Junior Hernandez easily in his bantamweight debut, but this is a featherweight fight, and he’s not been terribly impressive in his previous UFC FW bouts. White seems like the perfect type of fighter to make this a thriller, and while his level of competition is almost negligible, there’s something about Martins’ own defensive weaknesses that makes me side with White here. Alex White, TKO, round 2.
Kyle McLachlan: Interesting fight between two big fighters for the weight class. White looked too hittable and upright for me in his last fight. I’ll take Martins, in a fun shoot out. Lucas Martins, by KO, round 1
Zane Simon: Both these guys are live by the sword, die by the sword fighters without a wealth of technical prowess, but a lot of unchecked aggression. Martins, to this point, has shown a lot more variety in his finishing ability, especially hitting that nice sub on Hernandez and it’s important to note that he’s only been a pro since 2011, hardly a long time to gain experience. But, if this becomes a firefight (and it will) White has a ton of natural, one-shot, power and I’m not sure that Martins less than amazing chin is going to be primed to deal well with it. It’s likely that he’ll make it exciting and fight hurt for another minute or two, but I’m taking White to put this one away. Alex White by TKO, Round 1
Staff picking Martins: Kyle, Stephie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Karim, Dallas
Staff picking White: Phil, Mookie, Zane
Anton Tabuena: Ah, now he faces a guy big enough with a similar style. Tibau is gonna get Tibau’d. Pat Healy by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is some serious Gleison Tibau matchmaking. Gleison Tibau by split decision.
Kyle McLachlan: What a grind fest. Will Healy finally pick up a win? He is one of the few lightweights who can push Tibau for size, but Healy has no chance of replicating Michael Johnson’s smart strategy. Meh. Gleison Tibau via close decision.
Phil Mackenzie: These two "lightweights" are similar in all areas, but Tibau is an underrated if unimaginative boxer who should have the advantage on the feet. However, I don’t think he has the same will to win as Bam Bam, and wilted from a constant pressure attack similar to Healy’s MO back when he fought Evan Dunham. Expect Tibau to pick up the early going, followed by a decisive momentum shift in favour of the ginger giant. Pat Healy by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: "What’s a fight that really fails to entice you?" I’m sure someone is asking at this very moment. If ever there was an answer, Healy vs. Tibau is it. And it shouldn’t even be a bad fight, just not an especially relevant one. Not long ago, I might have picked Healy to win it, but frankly, he got worked over by Jorge Masvidal and hasn’t shown the ability to really stick to a smart gameplan. I think he’ll probably take the third, when Tibau gets tired, but until then, I’ll take Gleison on the upside of the grind. Gleison Tibau by Split Decision.
Staff picking Tibau: Kyle, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Dallas, Paul
Staff picking Healy: Phil, Rainer, Anton
Jessamyn Duke vs. Leslie Smith
Phil Mackenzie: Duke has real potential, but it remains to be seen whether it can be realized, or whether she’ll stagnate (like, for example, Liz Carmouche). A big factor is camp, and she’s not at a particularly reputable one. Tentative pick: Jessamyn Duke by unanimous decision.
Rainer Lee: A short notice fight, a monster of an opponent, and the usual jitters make me think that Smith’s hapless UFC debut against Kaufman was more a matter of wrong-place-wrong-time rather than a sign of any lasting decline. Duke, being young and of some raw talent, might show up drastically different herself, but otherwise I think Smith can out-hustle her this weekend.
Zane Simon: There’s no reason to think that Smith is going to look that bad again, considering she was fighting on less than a week notice last time out. Right before that, she was in a competitive title fight at 125 lbs. Jessamyn Duke hasn’t shown herself to be anywhere near that level right now, and still fights really poorly at range. She can’t match Smith’s variety or aggression, so Leslie Smith by Decision.
Staff picking Duke: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, DSM, Anton, Karim, Dallas
Staff picking Smith: Rainer, Fraser, Zane, Mookie
Aljamain Sterling vs. Hugo Viana
Kyle McLachlan: Decent test for Sterling, but he’ll be too well-rounded for Viana I think. Viana might pull out the overhand right, but that seems to be an anomaly and if it goes the distance Sterling will likely have done the more impressive work. Aljamain Sterling, via decision
Phil Mackenzie: What a fun and well-matched fight. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is a really hard fight for Sterling, even if it’s one he should win. Viana is pretty much a one dimensional brawler, but he’s refined that pretty well into a strong sprawl and brawl style that really packs a wallop. Sterling, by contrast is still a bit chancy in his high output kicking game, and not all of his clinch entries are polished. Still I’m expecting better things every time from the Serra-Longo fighter, so Aljamain Sterling by Decision.
Staff picking Sterling: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Karim, Zane
Staff picking Viana: Dallas
Yosdenis Cedeno vs. Jerrod Sanders
Zane Simon: I’d like to pick Yosdenis Cedeno here, but his loss to Ernest Chavez was a really bad one. Essentially, he doesn’t have the cardio or the consistency to make his flashy, high risk style work for extended periods of time. Sanders appears to be a pretty decent wrestler with an eye for finishing. Given Cedeno’s problems with taking risks and giving up position, and his lack of output, I’ll take Sanders by Decision.
Staff picking Cedeno:
Staff picking Sanders: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Dallas
Claudia Gadelha vs. Tina Lahdemaki
Zane Simon: A top 5 strawweight and likely future title contender against a pretty green, if reasonably talented fighter in Lahdemaki. Even if there weren’t a serious discrepancy and strength and technique, this is a bad fight for the Finn as Gadelha’s power takedown and top control game will find no lack of opportunities against Lahdemaki’s clinch oriented grind and trip game. Just a bad matchup all around, and should be a pretty one sided fight. Claudia Gadelha by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Gadelha: Kyle, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Rainer, Anton, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Dallas, Zane
Staff picking Lahdemaki: