Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver
Anton Tabuena: Puncher's chance? Maybe. Siver doesn't have the ground game to cause problems, and will be the shorter and less dynamic striker. I'm pretty sure he makes it past the 60-second prediction, but styles make fights, and this is a really bad match up for Siver. Conor McGregor by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: For as much as the betting odds really don't reflect how good Dennis Siver actually is, he's still a 36-year-old in the featherweight division, having been a career lightweight with some fights at welterweight. McGregor has the length, speed, accuracy ... practically everything needed to snipe Siver from distance. Siver doesn't land that spinning back kick remotely as often as the UFC advertises his supposed specialty, and I don't think he's going to challenge/be able to get McGregor to the ground. This is a showcase fight so I will not try and find avenues for Siver to win where there are none. Conor McGregor by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I'm not dismissing Siver... Okay, maybe I'm dismissing Siver. He's a decent fighter, but he's going to lose. Conor McGregor by KO.
Staff picking McGregor: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Siver:
Detailed analysis and predictions for McGregor vs. Siver by Connor Ruebusch, Zane Simon and Dallas Winston below (full version here)
Donald Cerrone vs. Ben Henderson
Anton Tabuena: I would be more confident about this pick if he had a full camp, but I still think Cerrone takes this. Since their first bout that ended really close, both men have improved leaps and bounds. That said, I believe Cowboy has evolved even more, especially on areas that will give Henderson trouble. His clinch work and defense has improved, and his striking is much more dangerous now. For some reason, Henderson hasn't looked as impressive on his last few bouts in that area too. Tough pick still, but I think it's going to be Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Whoa, I did not expect so many Cerrone picks from the staff. I must admit, this is a pick made with a level of recency bias and generally being down on Ben Henderson as of late. This is still a really bad match-up for Cerrone if Henderson makes this one of those grinding fights against the cage where he can use his knees to the thighs and short body punches. On the ground, Henderson is probably the one guy who can match Cerrone's scrambles move-for-move. But the biggest gap between these two since their last fight has to be the progression of Cerrone as a striker. "Cowboy" has developed KO power, his boxing is much more technical than Henderson, who still can't jab, and his kicking game is just absolutely lethal. I know Cerrone isn't much of a "fight plan" guy, but he needs to go heavy on the leg kicks early to reduce the chance of Henderson taking him down, and do not react poorly to forward pressure as he's been known to do in the past. In a 5 round fight I might favor Henderson, but in 15 minutes I see Cerrone taking 2 rounds. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: My heart tells me Henderson, but my head doesn't see a clear path to victory for him, especially with the kind of tear Cowboy has been on lately. Cerrone by decision.
Staff picking Cerrone: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Stephie, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Henderson: Karim
Uriah Hall vs. Ron Stallings
Anton Tabuena: This is just too late of a notice. Uriah Hall by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I really really give up on Uriah Hall if he loses this fight. It'd be borderline worthy of a cut. Hopefully someone has told him you can throw combinations and also not be forced into punching while backpedalling when pressured. Uriah Hall by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Hall's problem's largely center around the fact that he's dreadful when forced backwards. Like JDS (but even worse), he runs straight back to the cage and then riverdances along it with his head and upper body bolt upright the whole time. My untested theory is that this is the real reason why he's on this Irish-themed card. Stallings throws volume, but he doesn't actively push opponents into the fence, and Hall owns gigantic physical advantages. Uriah Hall by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Believe it or not, Hall should still have some room to develop in his career. Hopefully this will be a good opportunity to show that. Hall by Decision.
Staff picking Hall: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Stallings:
Gleison Tibau vs. Norman Parke
Mookie Alexander: Rule of thumb - Don't trust Gleison Tibau to win main card fights. Most of the time he loses. Norman Parke by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Parke is mostly a high-volume clinch fighter. This approach has worked for some (Dunham) and has failed for others (Hallmann) against The Eternal Monolith Of 155. While this is very close, I don't think Parke quite has the brute physical strength to do what Dunham did, and Tibau's boxing, while simplistic, is better than advertised against all but the quickest opponents. Gleison Tibau by 29-28, 28-29, 29-28
Zane Simon: Norman Parke is way, way better than people think, especially at the things Tibau does well. I think he can be a true top 15 fighter, and this will be the fight to prove it. Norman Parke by Decision.
Staff picking Tibau: Phil, Fraser, Tim, Stephie
Staff picking Parke: Karim, Mookie, Anton, Zane
Cathal Pendred vs. Sean Spencer
Mookie Alexander: I hate picking this fight. Sean Spencer is a thoroughly middle-of-the-pack UFC welterweight, and Pendred has been flat out unwatchable. Pendred has to show more as a striker or else his one-dimensional game will be neutralized by every one of the 25 best WWs on the roster. This is a cheap cop-out, but Spencer's athleticism gives him the advantage I see to get him a win. Sean Spencer by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Ah, Cathal Pendred, my fight picking nemesis. We meet again. I always pick against him, and he always proves me wrong, but somehow manages to do it in a way that means I am completely unconvinced by the virtues of picking him the next time out. So, Sean Spencer by unanimous decision, dammit.
Zane Simon: Pendred is like Ireland's Gasan Umalatov, getting the love of his countrymen without nearly the signs of progress or upside. He's big and physical, but Spencer is technically way, way better. Sean Spencer by Decision.
Staff picking Pendred: Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Spencer: Mookie, Phil, Zane
Mookie Alexander: Another brutally tough fight to pick because both men are maddeningly inconsistent. Howard has a hell of a left hand but that's not really sufficient enough to beat most fighters since he doesn't have much else to his stand-up. Unless Larkin's TDD disappears at a new weight class, he should be able to keep this standing and outpoint Doomsday. Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Howard is well-rounded enough to capitalize on most fighters' deficiencies, but Larkin is a very strong takedown defender whose historical weakness is against pressure striking. Howard is largely a one-handed stand-up fighter, throwing the left hook in various forms, and while Larkin's game lacks synergy, he should be faster and more diverse in the striking exchanges. Close, but Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Howard absolutely has all the tools to beat Larkin, who has yet to show that he has the complete game to win consistently. And Howard has been a physically competitive MW, so it's not like Larkin is just going to out muscle him. Still Larkin is the fighter who still has room to grow, and I'm hoping to see that here. Lorenz Larkin by Decision.
Staff picking Howard: Fraser, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Larkin: Mookie, Phil, Tim, Karim, Zane
Anton Tabuena: Still contemplating making a last minute small bet on Zhang, as he really shouldn't be as big of an underdog here. I think it's going to be a close, gritty, and potentially boring grappling contest, or it becomes a sloppy kickboxing bout. Either way, I think it will be much closer than what most people think. Ah, fuck it, I think Zhang can beat a second straight (not really decorated) wrestler. Zhang Lipeng by Unanimous Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Lipeng isn't as bad as his record makes him look. Chris Wade by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Chris Wade showed himself to be a lot better than he looked on the regionals, and I think he'll continue his run with a quick win over Lipeng. Chris Wade by submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Lipeng: Anton
Staff picking Wade: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Zane
Patrick Holohan vs. Shane Howell
Mookie Alexander: Shane Howell looked completely out of his depth against the admittedly exciting prospect Ray Borg. Holohan shouldn't be too challenged by anything Howell offers. Patrick Holohan by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Holohan's lack of wrestling and physicality were exposed badly last time out, but Howell is clearly booked for The Hooligan to style on. Patrick Holohan by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: This could easily be a really ugly brawl of a fight, but it's one that I think Holohan has more tools to win. He's a better submission threat with more dynamic offense. That may not be enough every time out, but it should be enough here. Patrick Holohan by submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Holohan: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Howell:
Phil Mackenzie: Two similar (and not particularly good) fighters, but Case is probably the better athlete, isn't on short notice, and has UFC experience under his belt. Johnny Case by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Case has been around for a long time, and fighting consistently. He's developed a nice inside striking game and a scrappy grappling game. But, I have a feeling that Perez may be able to exert more ground control and compete everywhere. I'm taking Perez, but it's basically a coinflip. Frankie Perez by Decision
Staff picking Case: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Perez: Zane
Phil Mackenzie: This fight between two skilled prospects is a notable bright spot on this lame duck of an undercard. Soriano's active takedown defense is a work in progress, so he was not ready for the kind of endlessly tenacious, physical wrestling which Kawajiri and Skelly brought to the table. I don't think Rosa is that kind of threat. Unless those losses wrecked Soriano's confidence, I expect his advantages in speed and power on the feet to play out into a fun decision victory or late stoppage. Sean Soriano by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I just don't like Rosa's game for the UFC. A kick heavy bottom grappling game rarely finds significant success, and it's not the kind of thing that's caused Soriano trouble. Soriano is the more polished striker and wrestler, and that usually wins the fight. Sean Soriano by decision.
Staff picking Rosa: Mookie, Fraser, Karim, Stephie
Staff picking Soriano: Phil, Tim, Anton, Zane
Matt Van Buren vs. Sean O'Connell
Mookie Alexander: Nobody told me that TUF 19 would be involved in this card beyond just Pendred. Ugh. Sean O'Connell by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Sloppy brawl incoming. Van Buren is undoubtedly the harder puncher, but like many tall fighters, he's appallingly hittable on the inside. Unless he whacks O'Connell on the way in, expect O'Connell to work him over from there. Sean O'Connell by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Flip a coin, and then turn off your TV. Read a book, pet your cat. That way, you'll be the winner.
Staff picking Van Buren: Tim
Staff picking O'Connell: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Karim, Stephie, Anton, Zane
Tateki Matsuda vs. Joby Sanchez
Phil Mackenzie: Sanchez is a very solid, violent prospect. No shame in losing to Wilson Reis, especially as he almost finished the Brazilian. Matsuda is good at being tough... and not much else. The question basically becomes whether Sanchez can commit to finishing him. I'm going to say yes. Joby Sanchez by TKO, round 1
Zane Simon: Joby Sanchez is super legit, but Matsuda should be a fun test that will take him to a tough decision. Joby Sanchez by Decision.
Staff picking Matsuda:
Staff picking Sanchez: Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Stephie, Anton, Zane