Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen Faired well against the striking of Anderson Silva, but I crdit that to the talent gap in their wrestling. Jon Jones on the other hand, is a skilled wrestler who has yet to be taken down by any of his opponents. The reach and creative striking of Jones will make it more than difficult for Sonnen to get close enough to threat with a takedown, but even if he can get within range, Jones should be able to use his wrestling in reverse to prevent being put on his back. When coming in for a takedown, Sonnen better beware of Jones grabbing hold of his neck, because he has one hell of a guillotine.
Pick : Jon Jones
Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher
This may be a more anticipated fight that the main event, with many fans eager to see how this fight will play out. Whether or not he’s bluffing, Bisping made comments of having better Muay Thai than Belcher. While I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, Bisping may be trying to lead his opponent into pure striking mindset, which will allow Bisping the opportunity to gofor takedowns. This is a similar stategy he utilized against Brian Stann, which leads me to believe at some point during the fight, Bisping will look to take Belcher down. Belcher may be a huge middleweight, but after witnessing such impressive takedowns against a strong opponent like Brian Stann, I don’t think Belcher’s size will be enough to stop the takedown, especially if he’s sucked into a striking battle.
As a BJJ black belt, Belcher is proficient on the ground, but if Bisping takes him down, Belcher most likely won’t be able to pull off a submission off his back. Belcher has found himself on his back numerous times due to a failed guillotine attempt, a move he is quick to go for, but rearly can pull off. I know Belcher has the ability to KO the Englishman, but in the end, I think Bisping will fight a smarter fight. Also, the cardio and pressure of Bisping will give him the edge if this fight goes to a decision.
I know both fighters have improved since their past fights, but Bisping and Belcher have three opponents in common, and Bisping won all three fights, fairing much better than Belcher did. Just something else to think about.
Pick : Michael Bisping
Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo
Call him a gatekeeper if you’d like, but Kongo is a skilled striker who’s always a threat. I predicted both Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan to defeat Kongo, and I was wrong. With that being said, my initial edge still goes to Nelson, based on the fact that he has the potential to KO Kongo like Mark Hunt was able to do. Against Nelson, Kongo will be unable to take the fight to the ground to unleash his brutal ground and pound. Regardless of Kongo’s reach advantage, Nelson’s technically improving striking and knockout power should give him the advantage on the feet, as well as his obvious grappling advantage. Both Nelson and Kongo have fought Mirko Cro Cop, Frank Mir, and Matt Mitrione, and it was Nelson who was more impressive against all three opponents.
Pick : Roy Nelson
Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes
Magalhaes is one of the top Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the UFC, and this fight could very well end with him forcing Mr. Wonderful to tap. However, there’s one critical attribute of Magalhaes that is preventing me from picking him, his cardio. Although he lost his five round fight against Rashad Evans, he still went five rounds. I don’t think Magalhaes has that kind of cardio. In his fight with Igor Pokrajak, he was visibly fatigued even towards the end of the first round, and that has be questioning whether he’ll have any gas left to threaten with submissions in the later rounds. He may win the first round, but unless he can finish before the second round, Davis should easily take the next two rounds.
Pick : Phil Davis
Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy
Healy is the bigger fighter, but that will be his only advantage. Miller has become more aggressive in his striking and overwhelmed Joe Lauzon in the first round of their fight. When it comes to the ground game, Miller has the wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu advantage. He’s a BJJ black belt under Jamie Cruz with more than half of his wins coming via submission. Healy is a proficient submission fighter as well, but just not on the level of Miller, and will be a step behind regardless of where the fight goes.
Pick : Jim Miller
Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros
Medeiros has won six of his nine victories by knockout, so the UFC newcomer could be successful in his debut. However, Khabilov is no stranger to opponents with a repertoire of knockouts, as he man handled Vince Pichel, who had seven of seven wins via knockout. Khabilov is an expert in sambo and has proficient submission skills, but has the ability to KO anyone with his excellent suplex. I don’t think he’ll have any problem closing the distance with Medeiros and utilizes his sambo, whether that means he out grappling him for three rounds, submitting him, or getting the KO with another awesome suplex.
Pick : Rustam Khabilov
Gian Villante vs. Ovince St. Preux
I don’t normally pick a fighter based solely on power and not necessarily skill, but I’ll make an exception and pick St. Preux. I’m really not that impressed with his striking skills, but he has knockout potential similar to that of Chris Leben in his prime. Whether or not he’s losing the striking battle or is being controlled on the ground, OSP has a unique ability to consisantly turn the fight around with his heavy punches. I think Villante will come out and take the fight down quickly and control the majority of the fight until St. Preux lands that game changing blow. Villante will be on the defensive, as OSP swarms in for the finish.
Pick : Ovince St. Preux
Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff
Anyone who knows McMann’s grappling crudentials knows that she’s a force to be rekoned with. Stylistically, this is a bad match up for Gaff. Her berzerker style of fighting will open up opportunities for McMann to secure a takedown where she will have a considerable advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gaff catches her opponent early and force the stoppage, but if this fight goes more than thirty seconds, it’ll be McMann controlling Gaff on the matt until the fight ends via submission.
Pick : Sara McMann
Bryan Caraway vs. Johnny Bedford
Caraway is an exceptional wrestler, but Bedford is an all around good fighter. Bedford has been wrestling since age five, so even if Caraway is a tad better, Bedford is better in Jiu-Jitsu. We’re talking about a guy who triangle choked Daniel Pineda; that’s pretty sick. Bedford has really been showcasing his hands, and even finished his last two opponents via knockout. I just don’t see Caraway dominating the wrestling, so I’m pretty confident that Bedford win get his hand raised seing he clearly has more way to win than Caraway does.
Pick : Johnny Bedford
Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie
This fight all comes down to whether or not McKenzie can pull off a guillotine choke. Garcia won’t be looking to take this fight to the ground, so McKenzie will have to be the one to initiate the ground game. He isn’t necessarily a strong wrestler, so he may have to pull guard if he really wants that guillotine. Matt Grice was able to take Garcia down multiple times, but was unable to finish. Bottom line, I don’t see McKenzie taking Garcia down and being able to control him. Therefore, the fight should take place on the feet where Garcia has a huge advantage despite McKenzie’s reach.
Pick : Leonard Garcia
Nick Catone vs. James Head
Catone was impressive in his welterweight debut, and even won the first round in his fight against TJ Waldburger. However, Waldburger’s crafty submission game proved to be crafty as ever when he tapped Catone with a triangle choke. Not having anywhere near the Jiu-Jitsu skills that Waldburger possess, Head will not pose the same threat on the ground, so Catone will be able to contol him without fear of succumbing to a submission. Seeing that Catone had no problem dealing with the striking skills of Chris Camozzi for the majority of their fight, I don’t see Head’s striking giving him much trouble. If anything, the weight cut should only be easier for Catone, and his conditioning could even be better for this fight. No matter how I look at this match up, I like Catone chances and see him as a clear favorite.
Pick : Nick Catone
Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh
Holobaugh put up a good fight against Pat Healy, who is just outside of the top ten in the lightweight division. Now he’s facing a much smaller and less talented opponent (not saying that Siler isn’t a skilled fighter), so I’m giving my initial edge to Holobaugh. Siler has submission skills, but I have to think that Holobaugh has better wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu. As for the striking, if Holobaugh can perform like he did against Pat Healy, he should have the edge their too. Bottom line, I think Holobaugh will do enough to get the win, regardless of where the fight goes.
Pick : Kurt Holobaugh
Ryan “Fight Freek” Poli