Mookie Alexander: Insanely tough call. I sure as hell don't believe Jacare should be at -325 odds, but I don't gamble. The Jacare we've seen in the UFC has been outstanding, with only a bit of inactivity and over-reaching on his right hand vs. Francis Carmont being a knock on his last 3 bouts. I'd contend that Mousasi is better than Carmont, Okami, and obviously Chris Camozzi, especially on the feet. Jacare has improved substantially with his hands and is still an incredible beast on the ground, but this will all come down to whether or not Mousasi can defend the takedown. He's not doomed if it does, but it certainly decreases his chances of winning rounds. Mousasi needs to take control of the fight ASAP and fight in the center of the cage, where he can wear down Jacare with body kicks and his superior boxing. It's a great main event and I side with Gegard Mousasi by TKO, round 4.
Anton Tabuena: I think Mousasi can survive on the ground and keep it standing long enough to make a difference with his striking. Jacare has grown leaps and bounds since their first bout 6 years ago and is now a legitimate well rounded mixed martial artist, but Mousasi has as improved well and should still have the edge on the feet. Gegard Mousasi by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: It's so fascinating to me how the script on both of these men has changed since their first fight. Back then, it was the chinny "doesn't like to get hit" Jacare vs. the rising pound for pound fighter Mousasi. Now, Jacare is the more established fighter, and it's Mousasi who is constantly fighting with question marks surrounding him. Those question marks make picking any Mousasi fight tough. While I think Jacare has shown considerably more improvement since that first fight, I still see this as a stylistic match up that favors Mousasi. Jacare has made huge strides in his stand-up game, but Mousasi remains ahead, and though Jacare is the better grappler, Mousasi is no slouch there. I like Mousasi to pick Jacare apart here for the win. Again. Gegard Mousasi by decision
Zane Simon: This is a very close fight, and both men are very likely in the absolute prime of their careers right now (Mousasi may have even more time, due to the fact that he apparently spent much of his early career not training). Still, I think Mousasi's ahead. A lot of fans are ready to jump on Jacare as the best chance for a current contender to beat Weidman, and that may be true, but I can't get his fairly listless, if stifling, win over Francis Carmont out of my head. If Jacare can be thrown so far off his game by a fighter who is classically more sound and fury than power and dominance, I feel like someone who can actually strike with technique and movement at range, can stick him in a bad kickboxing match and wear him down. Gegard Mousasi, by TKO, round 3.
Patrick Wyman: This all depends on whether Jacare can push Mousasi toward the fence or whether the fight takes place mostly in the middle of the cage. The weakness of Mousasi's defensive wrestling has been drastically overstated, except - you guessed it - against the cage, where he struggles to stuff takedowns. As good as his stalking footwork is, Mousasi has a terrible habit of backing straight up when pressured, and in a razor-thin fight, that's enough for me to pick Jacare. Jacare, unanimous decision.
Staff picking Jacare: Patrick, DSM, Paul, Karim
Staff picking Mousasi: Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Stephie
Anton Tabuena: Even if Rothwell comes up with elevated testosterone again, it's not going to be enough. There's always question marks when it comes to Overeem, but stylistically, this is his fight to lose. Alistair Overeem by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Yeah, umm ... I know Overeem's chin is a mess, but Travis Browne and Antonio Silva are definitely high-level fighters. At no point has Ben Rothwell ever shown anything above "gatekeeper", and if he thinks he can rush forward like he's being possessed by the devil (as he did against Brandon Vera) then Overeem will literally knee him out of the cage. Alistair Overeem by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Overeem's defensive issues are well-chronicled, and after many years in the sport, he is struggling to reclaim a spot towards the top of the heavyweight division. Facing him is an ever-improving Ben Rothwell. Unlike Overeem, Rothwell was always famed for his toughness, but now complements it with stand-up which is brutal and technical enough to take out luminaries such as late-career Brandon Vera, and head movement which is nothing short of terrifying. Facing what may well be the greatest test of his storied career, I'll take Alistair Overeem by one-sided destruction, round 1.
Paul Gift: Reem's the biggest favorite of the night at 86.9% by the fight numbers. A TKO and decision finish are almost equally likely, with a Mir-like decision having a miniscule edge. Alistair Overeem by decision.
Zane Simon: I may be one of the few, but I was really uplifted by Overeem's performance over Frank Mir. It showed that he could not only dominate, but he could dominate in the ways that have classically found him success: Patient, powerful offense. The overeem I want to see his the dude that just mauls guys at a low simmer for 3 rounds. I think that's what Rothwell gets here, but being less accomplished with his guard, he probably goes out on the way.Alistair Overeem by TKO round 2.
Patrick Wyman: There's no real reason to think this should be competitive. Overeem is a better striker, he's a better wrestler, he's a better grappler, and while he could easily win the fight on the feet, I think he'll exploit Rothwell's subpar takedown defense and beat him up from top position. Overeem, TKO (ground strikes), round 2.
Staff picking Overeem: Patrick, DSM, Kyle, Phil, Fraser, Paul, Anton, Zane, Karim, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Rothwell:
Anton Tabuena: I don't get why people enjoy watching heavyweights, but like most contests in the division, this could all boil down to whoever lands first. That being said, Mitrione should be the more technical striker and he most probably comes out on top on this one. Matt Mitrione by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I'm probably overthinking this, because Lewis is raw, wild, and rather unpolished as a technical striker despite his ridiculous power. Mitrione probably has the speed and boxing advantage to put Lewis away, but I'm feeling a weird outcome where Lewis just clocks Meathead and he never recovers. Derrick Lewis by TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie. Yay heavyweights! Matt Mitrione showed heartening improvement in his early fights in the UFC. Then he stopped absolutely dead in his tracks, and debatably even regressed. Lewis's main attribute is freakish, monstrous power. It's more than possible that he starches Mitrione and moves onto a successful career as a kind of cut-rate Shane Carwin, but I still think that Mitrione just about has enough technical edge (?) to avoid the power, and enough power of his own to hurt Lewis. Matt Mitrione by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I must be one of only a small handful of people that saw Mitrione's performance against Shawn Jordanas an absolutely dominant, reasonably technical, one sided drubbing. Mitrione may not be young, but he's basically in his HW prime (HW is a weird place). His footwork looks better, his boxing has improved. His ground game is still hot garbage, but given that Lewis has faced exactly zero technical strikers with power, and moves at the speed of mud, I'll pick Mitrione to take him here. That said, Lewis has stupid power, so there's every chance Lewis melts him in round 1. Matt Mitrione, by TKO, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: This would be an easy pick for Mitrione if not for his terrible habit of abandoning the technical gameplans at which he's reasonably proficient in favor of exchanging bombs. He did it against Shawn Jordan (though he won the fight), he did it against Roy Nelson...actually, he does it in almost every fight. Lewis' game is basic, but if a guy is willing to throw hands with him in the pocket, that's a fight he's going to win. Lewis, KO, round 1.
Staff picking Mitrione: DSM, Phil, Anton, Zane, Karim
Staff picking Lewis: Patrick, Kyle, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie
Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Chiesa
Anton Tabuena: I think Joe Lauzon is the better fighter overall, and should have the advantage both standing and on the ground. Joe Lauzon by bonus winning finish.
Mookie Alexander: Something about Joe Lauzon's performance against Mac Danzig, a dominant unanimous decision win, didn't sit well with me. He's slower than ever on the feet and I think the slew of wars he's been in have finally caught up with him. The good news is that Chiesa's striking is just not there and Lauzon can win from that alone, and he has the chops on the ground to outwork Michael in an exciting, back-and-forth fight. Joe Lauzon by submission, round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: Joe Lauzon remains entertainment gold, but his style is just too unreliable in the modern lightweight upper echelon. He's shored up the cardio issues that plagued him early on in his career, but is still too defensively liable, lacking either major power on the feet or an explosive takedown game to really bring his submission offense into play. Notably, he also has a ton of wear on the tires at this point. Chiesa is a similar kind of strike-clinch-throw-submit dude, but he's on the upswing and showing improvements every time out, and is just more durable and probably hits harder to boot. Lauzon's superior jab could trouble the historically wild Sikjitsu striking, but Michael Chiesa by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Michael Chiesa still can't strike, but that's not exactly Joe Lauzon's strong suit either. What it probably means (hopefully) is that this ends up being a ground battle to see who the more talented scrambler is. Chiesa is developing nicely and on a hot streak. His funky wrestling and strong transitional submission game, coupled with his size and athleticism advantage should give him the paths he needs to victory. However, Lauzon is aggressive and has the craftiness of a veteran. Still, I'll go with the hot hand here and take Chiesa. Michael Chiesa by Submission, Round 3.
Patrick Wyman: Chiesa's awkward, gangly style has overshadowed the fact that he's a really, really slick grappler with a clinch game that has proven difficult for opponents to shut down. He's also getting better every time out, and I don't think we can say that about Lauzon any more: in fact, there's a real argument to be made that Lauzon is past his peak as a fighter. All of that is enough for me to take my fellow Washingtonian. Chiesa, unanimous decision.
Staff picking Lauzon: DSM, Kyle, Anton, Karim, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Chiesa: Patrick, Phil, Fraser, Paul, Zane
Mookie Alexander: All signs point to an Oliveira win, but this fight is a prelim now, and the numbers suggest that Nik Lentz is the greatest preliminary card fighter outside of Gleison Tibau. Therefore, Lentz gets the upset and I avert falling into the "Oliveira is really going to contend" trap I was in a few years ago. Nik Lentz by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Nik Lentz has improved a ton since his last fight with Oliveira, and I definitely count myself a fan. Unfortunately for him, so has Do Bronx. Now that he's fighting more appropriate opponents and not Edgar/Swanson/Cerrone, Oliveira's high volume Muai Thai and deadly submission grappling are really starting to blend together nicely. Lentz is an excellent phonebooth fighter, but he loses the range game all day here, and being too hungry to get inside Oliveira's reach and seize momentum with a takedown may put him straight into a submission. Charles Oliveira by submission, round 2.
Patrick Wyman: Want to give yourself the best chance of beating Charles Oliveira? Don't grapple with him. That's exactly what Lentz is going to do, and it's going to cost him, as it was in their first fight prior to the illegal knee.Oliveira, submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Both Lentz and Oliveira have improved, and yet both have maintained their classic problems as well. Lentz is a better pressure fighter than ever, but he tends to fade late and still has almost nothing in terms of range striking. Oliveira still has big defensive holes in his striking, and tends to let himself get outworked, potentially due to his overconfidence in his ability to grab fight ending submissions. Still, I think Oliveira has more natural gifts and fight ending tools than Lentz, and will get plenty of time to use them as Lentz isn't much of a finisher. Charles Oliveira by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Oliveira: Patrick, DSM, Kyle, Phil, Fraser, Paul, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Lentz: Mookie
Phil Mackenzie: I still like Scoggins as having the highest ceiling of the current thrilling crop of UFC flyweight prospects, despite his tough loss to Ortiz last time out. Moraga has a surprisingly tricksy game, supplemented with good power in his hands and a nasty guillotine. If Scoggins doesn't mind his Ps and Qs in the grappling or stand-up phases he could find himself in trouble. However, "Tank" packs much more diverse striking tools including a mean head-kick, bolstered by an ever-improving phase-shift game. Justin Scoggins by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: There's a very real chance that John Moraga wins this by being the more technical, defensively sound striker... However, given Scoggin's diversity at range, and his seamless blending of skills, I think he may just be too much for an opponent who, by the looks of it, appears to be stagnating. Moraga boxes well, has some decent clinch offense, and has shown some decent offensive wrestling. But, he tends to get stuck in modes and just doesn't have much diversity in what he's looking to do. I expect Scoggins to keep him off balance and off rhythm all night with a variety of kicks and punches, and to initiate enough quality scrambles and grappling opportunities to outwork Moraga, even if Moraga touches him up a little. Justin Scoggins by Decision.
Staff picking Moraga: Kyle, Fraser, Karim
Staff picking Scoggins: Patrick, DSM, Phil, Mookie, Paul, Anton, Zane, Stephie
Mookie Alexander: Iaquinta should win this easily. Frankly my dear, I don't give a Damm about this fight. Al Iaquinta by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Clearly a fight to get Iaquinta back on the winning track. Difficult to see how he loses this one, as he's bigger, better-conditioned, hits harder, has a tougher chin and is a far more technically sound striker. His stumbles in the past have come from getting opportunistically tapped out, and while Damm is a solid sub grappler, I don't see it happening twice in a row. Al Iaquinta by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Al Iaquinta is likely to give the fight away at any moment, and I expect him to have some mind bendingly huge judgement error in this fight... But unless his opponents fight continuously to his strengths, Rodrigo Damm just isn't the kind of guy to take advantage of opportunities. He essentially needs to be matched up against worse strikers who can't take him down, and that's not Iaquinta at all. Al Iaquinta by Decision.
Staff picking Iaquinta: Patrick, DSM, Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Paul, Anton, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Damm:
Mookie Alexander: This fight sucks. It will be ugly to watch and you'll be left frustrated at both men. Chris Camozzi by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: It's a strange thing that while Middleweight isn't one of the most populous divisions, it remains far more filled with generic, borderline-unidentifiable fighters than either 155 or 170. Case in point. Expect volume from Camozzi, takedown attempts from Natal, both fighters to gas out a bit (but Natal moreso), Camozzi to sorta pull away down the stretch, and Chris Camozzi by split decision in what should be a fairly uninspired affair.
Zane Simon: In a battle between a guy I can't trust, and a guy with a really limited skill set... It's hard to take the guy I can't trust. I like Natal, he's a talented fighter with decent, powerful striking, solid wrestling, and dominant grappling. He also has some of the worst fight IQ known to man. I can't pick him to fight smart against someone I know will show up and potentially over perform like Camozzi. I just can't. Chris Camozzi by decision.
Staff picking Camozzi: Patrick, Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Natal: DSM, Fraser, Paul, Anton, Karim, Stephie
Phil Mackenzie: Chris Beal is coming off what I recall as an absolutely dreadfully sloppy contest between two very, very green fighters (against Patrick Williams) which was sort of Saved By The Beal winning with a highlight-reel flying knee. I expect him to improve on his obvious physical talents but I'm still not convinced that he should be in the UFC at this point. On the other hand, Matsuda almost certainly shouldn't. Chris Beal by unanimous decision.
Patrick Wyman: Matsuda is legitimately not good, and while Beal is raw, he's not terrible. Chris Beal by unanimous decision in a really, really ugly fight.
Zane Simon: Chris Beal still hasn't faced a fighter worth his salt, unless you count Chris Holdsworth, who dusted him inside a round. He's a boxer with no knockout power and terrible defense, who can't stop a takedown. But, he's fighting a guy on short notice, who likes to box, doesn't have much takedown defense, and looks pretty lost on the ground... And his striking defense isn't great either. Essentially, Chris Beal and Tateki Matsuda are the same fighter, but Beal isn't coming in on short notice. Chris Beal by decision.
Staff picking Matsuda:
Staff picking Beal: Patrick, DSM, Kyle, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Anton, Karim, Patrick, Zane, Stephie
Anton Tabuena: Skelly isn't Kawajiri, and even the well rounded vet had a lot of trouble with Soriano standing. I think the fairly limited Skelly gets lit up on the feet here. Sean Soriano by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: What an awesome fight to start the card. Soriano impressed against Kawajiri on short notice, as he was able to punish the Japanese stalwart's takedown attempts and light him up from the outside. However, once he did succumb to the takedown, he was quickly tapped out. Skelly is still fairly raw on the feet, but is a great grappler, so both men seem capable of capitalizing on the other's flaws. Great coinflip fight between two exciting prospects, but I generally like the superior grappler to win in developmental matchups like this- the striker simply has less margin for error. Chas Skelly by submission, round 2
Patrick Wyman: Soriano isn't getting much love from the oddsmakers (he's around +180), but I think people are drastically underestimating how good a striker and wrestler he is. Getting Tatsuya Kawajiri on late notice overseas is a tall order for anybody, much less a guy in his ninth pro fight. Chas Skelly is more his speed. Soriano, unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Soriano got a bit hard done by with a short notice fight against old guard Tatsuya Kawajiri. Soriano gassed out after stuffing takedowns, but given his two 5 round decision wins prior, I can't think that cardio is a real problem for him. Skelly, on the other hand, is trying to go back to back against really stiff competition. He's got the kind of aggressive wrestle grappling to do it, but I think he will run into a wall with Soriano. Soriano is a great athlete with good takedown defence and a much, much better striker. Skelly is biting off more than he can chew with a limited camp against a good opponent. Sean Soriano by TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Soriano: Patrick, DSM, Anton, Mookie, Karim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Skelly: Kyle, Phil, Fraser