My breakdown for each fight here is going to be brief. I’d love to go into more detail, but I only have so much time, and I’ve spent a lot of it researching what was supposed to be a main event between Alexander Gustafsson and Gegard Mousasi.
205 lbs: Ilir Latifi vs. Gegard Mousasi
There’s no reason to think Latifi has a better than 10% chance of winning this fight, and even that may be a bit generous. I believe that outside of a freak injury or fluke punch, Latifi’s only real chance of beating Mousasi is to take him to the ground and hold him there for three rounds. That’s way too difficult to do – Mousasi is very active on the ground, and is very good at sweeping his opponents. Mousasi is also an excellent finisher, and given 15 minutes to work with, he should absolutely finish Latifi in this match.
Pick: Gegard Mousasi by TKO
155 lbs: Ryan Couture vs. Ross Pearson
Pearson recently said that he doesn’t believe Couture is on his level, and I have to agree with him. Pearson is the much better striker – he hits harder, he’s more aggressive, and he mixes up his strikes better. Couture does have better BJJ than Pearson, but first he has to take Pearson to the ground, and that’s not easy to do. Given that I believe Pearson is the better striker and wrestler, I believe Couture will have to finish him to win this match. Pearson has a suspect chin, so it’s not out of the question, but Pearson is just the better overall fighter here.
Pick: Ross Pearson by decision
265 lbs: Phil De Fries vs. Matt Mitrione
De Fries has fought four times in the UFC. Against sub-UFC level competition in Oli Thompson and Rob Broughton, De Fries emerged victorious, but not in impressive fashion. Against tougher competition in Stipe Miocic and Todd Duffee, De Fries was obliterated both times. Mitrione is probably somewhere between those levels as a fighter, which means he should be a strong favorite to win this one. On paper, Mitrione should dominate the striking and have enough athleticism to prevent De Fries from taking him down.
Pick: Matt Mitrione by TKO
135 lbs: Mike Easton vs. Brad Pickett
I’ve been guilty of overrating Pickett in the past, as I always felt he would make up for his deficient striking defense by landing takedowns. Against Mike Easton, however, Pickett really should prove to be the better striker. Easton is at his best when he takes his opponent down, but rarely does so, instead preferring to stand and strike. In his last fight, he was easily out-pointed by Raphael Assuncao, who is not the first bantamweight I think of when I think of good strikers. As long as this is a striking match, Pickett should have the upper hand.
Pick: Brad Pickett by decision
145 lbs: Diego Brandao vs. Pablo Garza
In terms of pure talent, Brandao is the far superior fighter here. He has much better wrestling than Garza, and very good KO power as well. My concern, as always, is that Brandao will gas out sometime in the second round, and open the door for Garza to make a comeback and perhaps win by late stoppage. As long as Brandao is fresh, though, he really should be able to keep this fight standing and land big strikes. To put it another way, if a fighter needs his opponent to gas out to win, he probably shouldn’t be the pick.
Pick: Diego Brandao by TKO
145 lbs: Akira Corassani vs. Robbie Peralta
Peralta has established an identity as a fighter who forces his opponents to stand with him, where he will out-pace them with strikes and very likely finish them by knockout. That’s bad news for Akira Corassani, whose three career losses are all by TKO. Corassani needs to take Peralta to the ground if he wants to win this match, but I just don’t think he has the wrestling skills to do it.
Pick: Robbie Peralta by TKO
155 lbs: Michael Johnson vs. Reza Madadi
I can never be confident in picking Michael Johnson to win a fight, because his submission defense is very poor by UFC standards. That gives Reza Madadi a great chance to win this fight, since Madadi is at his best when the fight is on the ground. The problem for Madadi is that he needs to get the fight to the ground first, and he’s never shown the ability to do that consistently. Johnson is easily the better striker and wrestler, and should be able to keep this fight standing.
Pick: Michael Johnson by decision
170 lbs: Adam Cella vs. Tor Troeng
Despite losing their respective first fights on TUF, Cella and Troeng are being given a shot in the UFC. Cella showed against Uriah Hall that he’s not afraid to stand and strike, and that assertiveness could be the key to victory against the relatively passive Troeng. At the same time, Troeng is the much more experienced and well-rounded fighter, and should prove to be the better overall mixed martial artist in all areas of the fight.
Pick: Tor Troeng by decision
185 lbs: Adlan Amagov vs. Chris Spang
This one figures to be a striking match, and both Amagov and Spang have looked impressive at times in Strikeforce. Overall, Amagov has the more impressive resume, so I’m going to pick him to win here, but honestly, this is a great example of a fight where I’ll be learning about these guys along with you.
Pick: Adlan Amagov by decision
145 lbs: Marcus Brimage vs. Conor McGregor
Brimage has had a nice run in the UFC so far, and has established an identity as a fighter who keeps his fights standing, and out-paces his opponent. Bad news for Brimage – UFC newcomer Conor McGregor is a terrible style match for him. McGregor also likes to stand and bang, but has proven to be a much better finisher, with 11 TKO wins in 14 fights, compared to 2 TKO wins in 7 fights for Brimage. Brimage has yet to show even average striking defense, so I like McGregor to pick him apart here.
Pick: Conor McGregor by TKO
170 lbs: Ben Alloway vs. Ryan LaFlare
When I see that a newcomer to the UFC is undefeated and from the Ring of Combat promotion, I pay attention. Ring of Combat might be the best regional promotion in MMA – Chris Weidman, Costa Philippou, and Uriah Hall developed there, and it’s housed a bunch of other great prospects as well. LaFlare is 7-0 with all seven fights in ROC, and that alone is enough for me to favor him to beat Ben Alloway. Of course, once again I’m not as educated about these guys as I would like to be, but I’ll be watching LaFlare closely as a fighter with great potential.
Pick: Ryan LaFlare by submission
185 lbs: Michael Kuiper vs. Tom Lawlor
In Michael Kuiper’s UFC debut, he was taken down repeatedly by Rafael Natal. In his last fight, he crushed Jared Hamman, a fighter who exists in the UFC for his opponents to crush him. Until Kuiper proves to me that he’s improved his takedown defense, I can’t pick him to beat a wrestler, and Tom Lawlor is exactly that. Lawlor should be able to take frustrate Kuiper with takedowns throughout this one.
Pick: Tom Lawlor by decision
170 lbs: Papy Abedi vs. Besam Yousef
I know there are people who like Papy Abedi’s potential, but I’ve never been able to figure out why. Sure, he’s a physical specimen, and he’s had fleeting moments of success in the UFC, but from what I’ve seen, I just don’t think he’s emotionally ready for the UFC. Against Thiago Alves, Abedi looked confident and aggressive, but against James Head, he looked tentative and almost scared. His conditioning is also very poor. Besam Yousef is no world-beater, but given what I’ve seen out of Abedi, I just can’t pick him to win a UFC fight until he proves otherwise.
Pick: Besam Yousef by submission