Anton Tabuena: Say what you want about Bisping's last performance or his ‘decline', but Cung Le is 42, and hasn't competed in 2 years. Even back then, he was also a part time fighter. I think this is Bisping's fight to lose. If he fights smart during the first 2 rounds, Cung will eventually tire out and Bisping will capitalize and finish him within 5 rounds. Michael Bisping by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: There's a real chance that Bisping has hit a wall and is on his way to a steep decline. Cung Le has the striking to trouble him and knock him out, but Bisping is definitely the better all-around fighter. In a five-round fight I favor Bisping's cardio over Le's, so if Bisping can weather the early storm, where he's historically struggled, he can potentially tire Cung out and work his boxing, takedowns, and underrated ground-and-pound to a decision win. Michael Bisping via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Both of these fighters represent stylistic issues for the other man. Bisping is the kind of patient striker who will sap Le's often suspect cardio. However, Le is exactly the kind of explosive, unorthodox hitter who can trouble Bisping and catch him off guard. Bisping's eye issues and recent unimpressive run can be weighed against Le's long competitive layoff. The Count may be deteriorating, and while Le is the much older fighter, he doesn't have the tread on the tires and looks as though he's taken this layoff to fill up on some delicious Home Cooking and work on his physique and athleticism. While a Franklin-esque KO is not out of the question, in a 5-rounder I think the safe pick remains Michael Bisping by unanimous decision or late TKO.
Kyle McLachlan: Phil has offered about as comprehensive an account of how these two stack up against each other going into the bout. Going into this fight Cung looks to be channeling his inner Vitor Belfort; he is in tremendous shape. Saying that, I think Bisping will be even more cautious than usual in the early going, and will land the cleaner, if not too damaging, shots as the fight goes on. Michael Bisping by decision
Zane Simon: This is one of those ugly, tired fights that I don't hate, but can't really see any clarity in picking. It reminds me of Te Huna vs. Marquardt, or Shogun vs. Hendo 2. They're not bad fights or bad matchups, but they have so many surrounding circumstances (and so little on the line) that picking them becomes a challenge. inevitably, as others have said, I favor Bisping as I think his fight against Tim Kennedy was more likely a bad night after a layoff rather than the start of a steep decline. However, I'm not sure of that diagnosis, and I don't blame anyone who see's Le winning this, even off a 2 year layoff. Bisping by decision, but probably not comfortably.
Paul Gift: I've got one version of the model where Bisping is most likely to win by decision and another where he's just barely more likely to win by TKO. Either way, he's right around 69.1% to win somehow. Bisping by decision.
Staff picking Bisping: Phil, Kyle, Mookie, Karim, Zane, DSM, Paul, Anton
Staff picking Le: Patrick, Stephie, Fraser, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: Tough to pick, because if Kim mixes up striking and takedowns, he should be able to keep his opponent guessing and off balance for 15 minutes. I'm not really sure he does that on Saturday though. Woodley performs best against those who foolishly rush him, and I think this is where Kim's new wild and open style will cost him. Unless Kim can somehow land something crazy first, I think he will eat power shots from counters and that will be the end for him. Tyron Woodley by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: If Kim shows up as "Tall Korean Zombie" again then it's a hell of a lot more likely he gets knocked out than knocks Woodley out, which isn't to say he still can't KO Woodley by using that strategy anyway. This is an extremely tough fight to pick because Woodley has the power to turn Kim's lights off, but his cardio issues coupled with his inconsistent offensive output increase Stun Gun's chances of victory. It also goes without saying that Woodley hasn't had to deal with a highly skilled judoka before, so there are so many variable that make this an intriguing fight, but in the end I see Kim's recklessness costing him in the end. Tyron Woodley by KO, round 2.
Kyle McLachlan: Can anyone remember when Dong was primarily a wrestle-Judoka whose main attribute was his stifling top control? Because now he's a huge Korean Zombie (the original fighter with that moniker becoming seemingly more cerebral in his last fight) who pushes his man back with an array of crazy techniques. Although I correctly predicted that Rory MacDonald would need to push Woodley back and stop him exploding forward, I think Dong's sloppy assault will make him a prime candidate for Woodley's right hand counter. For me, this is the fight I'm most looking forward to this weekend.
Phil Mackenzie: Woodley is almost entirely a reactive counter-striker / counter-takedown fighter. Rory Macdonald was able to dissect him by really not giving him committed strikes to work with, but everything about the way Kim fights nowadays implies that he's going to get far too aggressive. He gets particularly wild when the opponent is backed to the fence, and this is normally where Woodley explodes. Tyron Woodley by KO.
Zane Simon: Much as the fight above it, this is a very tough fight to pick, despite how much we know about each opponent. I think if you were to draw this up as a video game fight, it's a bout Woodley wins every time. He's stronger, faster, more fluid in his strikes, and a better wrestler. But, he also has shown a tendency to totally shut down against opponents who don't show him any respect. And the modern version of DHK is about as disrespectful of his opponents skills and power as it's possible to be. Honestly, I think this is the king-maker fight for Kim, that vaults him into a real conversation for a title shot, and it may be a fight that gives pause to those who were sure that Woodley would be a future challenger at some point. Dong Hyun Kim by KO, round 3.
Paul Gift: This is the closest win probability main/co-main event of the weekend with Woodley at 52.3%. Woodley by decision.
Staff picking Kim: Patrick, Karim, Zane
Staff picking Woodley: Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Paul, Anton, Woodley
Anton Tabuena: I think Zhang dropping down to his original weight class will be much better for him. I'm still not that confident on his overall skill set or his heart, but I think he's good enough to pull it off against a guy like O'Reilly. I guess I'm in the minority here, but I think it's Zhang Lipeng by Decision.
Patrick Wyman: Both of these guys are reasonably well rounded and both are excellent athletes. O'Reilly is a little more polished in every phase, however, and he's a brutally strong physical specimen. O'Reilly, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: O'Reilly hasn't fought anyone of any note, or any real experience. His TUF run was farily uninspiring, when he got subbed 3 minutes into the first round of his bout with Kajan Johnson, on the show's first episode. But, in that fight, he showed that he has some wrestling ability, and can scramble on the ground. He may not have much in the way of striking, and he may constantly put himself in bad submission positions, but physicality and wrestling alone may be enough to beat what I've seen out of Zhang Lipeng, which is essentially exactly the same skill set. Brendan O'Reilly by decision.
Staff picking Lipeng: Anton, Dallas
Staff picking O'Reilly: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Mookie, Karim, Zane, DSM. Fraser
Anton Tabuena: Yang is very popular in China, mostly because of his ‘good looks' and modeling career. He has skills, but for the most part, he has made a bunch of money facing really low level fighters. I'm not exactly confident in this pick solely because this signifies a step up in competition for him, but he should be the much faster and younger guy here and I think that will be the difference. Yang Jianping by TKO.
Patrick Wyman: Let's be perfectly clear: neither of these guys is very good. Ning Guangyou went more than three minutes during one of his TUF China fights without throwing a single strike or attempting a single takedown, and Yang Jianping likes to operate from a distance so great that he couldn't hit his opponent with a guided missile. With that said, Yang Jianping is probably as good a grappler and a much, much better striker. Yang Jianping, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: What Patrick said... I watched a little tape on Jianping, and he appears to have a half decent pressure game to go with reasonably practiced striking. I guess that's enough to make him the favorite here. Yang Jianping by virtue of 30 seconds of dimly remembered tape.
Staff picking Guangyou:
Staff picking Jianping: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Mookie, Karim, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Anton, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: First off, I just want to get it out there and say that Wang Sai should've won the decision last time, and he should be the TUF: China champ. Now that we got that out of the way, this is a real tough test for him and he could very well be 0-2 in the UFC after this. Mitchell should be the better grappler, and that alone may enough for him to lose this one, but I think he will also be the much better striker here. He has been working diligently on rounding out his MMA game with Mike Swick and the rest of the guys at AKA Thailand, so if he can survive and keep this standing for the most part, he will take this. Wang Sai by Decision.
Zane Simon: This is as good a time as any to say that pretty much every fighter from TUF China is probably going to have to prove themselves several times over, before many of us feel comfortable picking them to win fights against guys not from TUF China. Wang Sai looked like a pretty decent, well rounded striker with decent scrambling ability and no takedown defense. And Mitchell has garbage striking from range, but is strong in the clinch and is willing to pull exciting subs out of thin air at any time. Normally, I'd probably pick Sai to stay outside and scramble well when Mitchell went for something crazy, but I don't trust Sai to actually scramble that well against very experienced opposition, or show great cage awareness... So, Danny Mitchell by submission.
Staff picking Sai: Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Mitchell: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Mookie, Karim, Zane, DSM, Fraser
Anton Tabuena: Mina is a better grappler, and seems to have really rounded out his MMA game. Anzai is a good signing, but facing a guy like Mina in a week's notice, regardless if you're already in shape and cutting down when they made the call, that is too tough a test to make me pick him. I think the home town favorite takes him down and pounds on him, before getting a finish. Alberto Mina by Submission.
Zane Simon: Alberto Mina is something of a legit prospect. A bjj grappler with quality muay thai and a penchant for finishing fights. Given his undefeated record, expectations are reasonably high for Mina, even at 32. Not title challenger high, but a quality action fighter. To that point, Shinsho Anzai is a fighter Mina has to beat. Lose this and he's a quick write-off in a division too deep for early missteps. Alberto Mina by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Mina: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Mookie, Karim, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Anzai:
Anton Tabuena: They obviously have different styles, but the only thing making me iffy about this pick is that Delorme just faced Tanaka, and will probably have been working on closing those same holes that Sasaki will be looking to take advantage of. Ulka may have trouble finishing a fellow Judo guy, but I think he's a legit prospect and will be able to showcase a lot of his skills here. Yuta Sasaki by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Delorme is a fairly gritty guy who can fight in all phases of the game, but has little particularly impressive to offer. Therefore, with the UFC attempting to expand into Asia, this is why he's seemingly being used as a measuring stick for prospects. This is one of the most competitive fights on the card to my mind, but Delorme is just a bit too fragile and Sasaki can deliver explosive fight or round-winning offense. Yuta Sasaki by decision
Zane Simon: Delorme may be one of those fighters, and there are a few of them, whose early success was predicated on a more developed and dangerous than expected skill set, but over time has become easier to predict in that skill set as there's more tape on them. Delorme charged out of the gate with three wins (and a KO loss to no-contest). But since then, he's lost two straight, and very definitively to Michinori Tanaka. Sasaki has a pretty strong grappling game, and if Delorme can't beat him there, I don't see him holding any other advantage. Yuta Sasaki by decision.
Staff picking Delorme: Stephie, Kyle, Karim, DSM, Fraser
Staff picking Sasaki: Patrick, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Anton, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: There's no way I'm picking Anything Wang. Colby Covington by submission, round 1.
Patrick Wyman: This is a mismatch. Covington is a big-time prospect, a D-1 All-American who trains out of American Top Team, and Wang Anying is...not those things. Covington should have no trouble working takedowns and pulverizing Wang from top position before locking up an arm-triangle or rear-naked choke. Covington, submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Take what I said about Wang Sai vs. Danny Mitchell, except that Wang Anying is much less well rounded and Covington is a much more promising fighter. Until TUF China guys actually show up and win fights like this, I just can't pick them to. Given this is a classic striker/wrestler matchup, it's all the more reason to pick the highly touted young wrestler. Colby Covington by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Wang:
Staff picking Covington: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Karim, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Anton, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: People forget that Phillips came into the UFC with just 1 week notice during that split decision loss and she should perform much better this time around. I think she poses an interesting stylistic match up against Dudieva's wrestling and could have an advantage on the European's somewhat predictable striking game. Elizabeth Phillips by Decision.
Zane Simon: Dudieva gets a bit of that Caucasus dap, being from North-Ossetia and fighting with that Eastern European kickboxing style, with few straight punches but a lot of solid counter hooks. She's a bit overly dependent on her power hand and leg, but Elizabeth Phillips is not any kind of striking threat and her takedown game is incredibly unpolished. Given Dudieva has already fought some pretty experienced women as well, and this is her fight to lose. Milana Dudieva by decision.
Staff picking Phillips: Anton
Staff picking Dudieva: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Karim, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: This card gets unfairly criticized even with 2 fantastic top fights, along with a few very legit prospects on the undercard, but this fight deserves a lot of what people are saying. You know those fights where it's really tough to pick because they're so talented and evenly matched on paper? Well this is the exact opposite of that. I will probably pick against Wee against any other UFC fighter, but Yao also isn't that good either... Screw it, Yao Zhikui by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Future bantamweight champion on the horizon. Royston Wee by destruction, round 1.
Zane Simon: Yao Zhikui is pretty much Royston Wee but maybe with a little less aggression and ground and pound... So, yeah. That's gonna happen. Royston Whatever, by whatever.
Staff picking Zhikui: Anton
Staff picking Wee: Patrick, Stephie, Phil, Kyle, Karim, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Dallas