The MMA events keep on rolling and we, of course, have to give you our picks so you can scrutinize them or praise them.
Now let’s get on with it…
NOTE: Due to Rob Yundt being named as a last minute replacement for Alan Belcher, the staff did not have a chance to put in their thoughts on the Yundt/Almeida fight. We’ll all put in an unofficial pick in the comments section for you.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia (UFC HW Interim Title Match)
Sam Cupitt : Despite the crappy reason for this fight taking place, I’m still actually rather excited about it. It’s one of those matchups MMA fans have been expecting ever since the buy out of Pride by the UFC. That being said, it could very well turn out to be a snooze fest as it features “the guy that just wants to be loved”, Tim Sylvia. I think this fight will go to Nogueira on the basis that in at least one of these five rounds the fight will hit the ground. In a five round fight, to some extent the fight is going to play out to either fighter’s strength’s at one time or another. You saw it in the Monson/Sylvia fight, and to me that fight was less likely to go to the ground than this one. Whether it be by takedown or by Minotauro pulling guard, this fight will go to the ground and will be finished on the ground. Nogueira via Submission in round 2-5.
Mike MacLeod: So my boys in Vegas are telling me that many of the cabs and signs have pictures of Mir and Lesnar and no mention of Nog and Sylvia. It’s crazy that a title match takes a back set to a fighter’s UFC debut. Anyway, look for Nog to follow Randy Couture’s game plan to get Sylvia off his feet and then put him away. Nogueira via submission in the third round.
Sam Caplan: I’m really stumped by this matchup because it could go in so many ways. I think Noguiera is a bigger threat here than Vera because he has more power with his hands and because of his boxing training he’s more skilled at fighting inside, which is what you have to do if you’re giving up as much reach as he is vs. Sylvia. I’m going with Noguiera via unanimous decision.
Ben Fowlkes: Say what you will about Sylvia, he knows how to win fights. It might not always be thrilling. It might often be boring. But he wins. “Minotauro” has been absolutely dominant at times, though he’s taken a lot of punishment in his career and might be feeling the effects of it. Even if his glory days are over, Nogueira still does most things better than Sylvia, and he’s notoriously difficult to finish. “Minotauro” by submission in the championship rounds.
Ram Maramba: I don’t know what’s easier, admitting to my older brother that I wrecked his car or that I think Tim Sylvia’s gonna pull it off. This is the first time I’ve read my esteemed colleagues’ picks and I couldn’t have picked a worse matchup than this one. Big Nog has the grappling skins, the striking skills and a veteran’s moxie, but the overgrown Sylvia has kryptonite stuffed in his pants. I’ve never liked Tim Sylvia, the human equivalent of brain freeze, but his game plan and underrated skills, both physical and mental, will stuff Nogueira’s attempts to take it to the ground. On their feet, Sylvia knows too well how to keep his opponents at bay. Sylvia wins the belt by decision, lures Bret Hart out of retirement for his next bout.
Gary Herman: Noguiera has been in a lot of wars through the years while Sylvia has won a lot of fights. The difference being the amount of damage Noguiera has taken. The wear and tear showed up in the fight with Herring as he was unable to block the high kick – Nog should have lost that fight. Sylvia fights like a man who doesn’t want to lose – and usually doesn’t. Plus, does anyone think Nog can make Sylvia tap to an arm bar? Sylvia by boring decision.
Adam Morgan: Tim Sylvia wins fights, period. In order for Nogueira to win this fight he will have to take Sylvia down and submit him, something that’s much easier said than done. In order to get Sylvia down, Nogueira will have to close the distance and use the clinch to look for takedowns. None of that will happen. Nogueira is a great fighter but he’s never faced a guy like Tim who is content to ride out boring decisions, keep his distance, and push you up against the cage. Tim Sylvia via decision.
Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar
Sam Cupitt: If the UFC were really looking to protect their latest big name signing then he would be fighting Antoni Hardonk or Colin Robinson right now. I’m definitely not complaining though because I’m glad I get to see what Lesnar is made of so quickly. Unfortunately for Lesnar though, it will be too much of a test. Mir has the edge in experience and has trained at least 3 times longer than Lesnar in both kickboxing and jiu jitsu. In summation, Lesnar will get an early impressive takedown, but when he gets a little over zealous with his ground and pound, Mir will work up either an arm bar or triangle. Mir via Submission in round 1.
Mike MacLeod: What a perfect match up for those interested in Brock Lesnar. This fight should prove to be a prediction of his career. If he beats Mir, he can be considered a legit contender. If he loses, he goes back to the bottom of the ladder (and perhaps back to pro wrestling). Count me a rider on the Brock bandwagon. I look at him like a giant Sean Sherk. Unbelievable strength. Great conditioning. World class wrestling. Lesnar via TKO (GnP) in the second round.
Sam Caplan: Sam, I actually think Antoni Hardonk is a bigger threat to Lesnar than Mir. I’m not saying Hardonk is better than Mir, simply that the matchup poses more problems. Hardonk is a good striker and if Lesnar can’t get someone like that off their feet, I don’t see him performing well at this stage of his career. Meanwhile, Mir’s standup is nothing to write home about and I see a limited amount of ways for him to win. Mir was handpicked by Lesnar’s camp and approved by the UFC. If there was a great threat of Lesnar losing, this match would have never been made. Lesnar via TKO (GnP) in the second round.
Ben Fowlkes: We didn’t learn much from Lesnar’s only previous MMA bout except that, as expected, he’s a physical specimen with explosive ability. How far that ability will go against an experienced submissions fighter like Mir – that remains to be seen. Mir has typically done well against bigger guys. Then again, the last few years have been, well, difficult ones for him. Mir needs to survive the first three minutes. He does that, and Mir wins by submission.
Ram Maramba: This is a win-win for Lesnar. If he wins, the hornblasts of a win over the “former UFC Heavyweight Champ” will get as irritating as those Jennifer Lopez commercials. If he loses, his luster will barely be touched by being defeated by…well, a former UFC Heavyweight Champ. Mir isn’t on the same level he was when he won the title and his claim to the belt was one of the more flimsy ones in the UFC’s brief history. Lesnar has all the “Combine” stats and a good camp. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, thinly-veiled tattoos and all. I’m assuming Lesnar isn’t Mike Mamula and calling a Lesnar win via DDT over a gassed Mir in the 2nd round.
Gary Herman: The next big thing is here? Or is it… Mir is a skilled enough fighter to truly test Lesnar. Lesnar may be the strongest guy to ever compete in the UFC, and Mir is a seasoned veteran with some big wins. In the end, Lesnar’s freakish strength and unmatched speed will be too much. Frank Mir? Here comes the pain. Lesnar by first round tko.
Adam Morgan: I can honestly say that this is the hardest fight I have ever had to pick. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva was about as 50/50 as they come, but this is even harder to pick than that fight. I know exactly how the opening moments of the fight will go down, but past that, it’s a coin toss. Lesnar will bum rush Mir and take him to the ground with relative ease. From there, however, will Lesnar be able to ground and pound Mir for a stoppage? Or will Mir be wily enough off his back to pull off an armbar or a triangle? Lesnar’s body type and power will make it hard to submit and Mir usually crumbles when he gets hit in the face on the ground. Lesnar via TKO, round one.
Jeremy Horn vs. Nate Marquardt
Sam Cupitt: Horn is a decent replacement for the injured Thales Leites but that won’t change the result of this fight. Marquardt is a well rounded, tough and methodical fighter who is much better than his performance against Anderson Silva would lead many to believe. I expect to see positional dominance by Marquardt, who will walk away with a TKO victory in the second round. Marquardt via TKO in round 2.
Mike MacLeod: Horn is definitely on the back nine of his career as this will be his 101st fight. That’s amazing to me. Marquardt, on the other hand, is still on the rise despite his loss to Silva. Look for Nate to finish this on the ground, either by submission or strikes. Marquardt wins in the second round.
Sam Caplan: I was just really surprised by what we saw from Jeremy Horn when he fought Jorge Santiago last year on an Art of War card. Horn looked like he didn’t want to be out there and was subbed for the first time since I can remember. Marquardt strikes me as a Horn clone, except much closer to his peak. Marquardt via unanimous decision in a boring fight.
Ben Fowlkes: Horn is your typical crafty veteran of the fight game, and I mean that in the best way. He doesn’t take much damage, has excellent submissions, and has been in more fights than even he can recall. Marquardt looked great up until Anderson Silva demolished him, but that’s the case with plenty of guys. He’s still sharp in all aspects of the game, and he prepares well. Marquardt by decision, but Horn will make him work for it.
Ram Maramba: I think this fight all depends on Marquardt’s mindset after being severely outclassed by Anderson Silva in his last fight. The hype going into that fight was unbelievable, hopefully the burden didn’t crush his confidence. I was in the arena for Jeremy Horn’s last fight here in Dallas, and the man sleepwalked his way to the cage and didn’t wake up when he got in it. Sounds very vanilla-sporstcaster-man, but whoever wants it more will take home the win. If Horn wakes up, he has enough left in the tank to eke out a decision. If Marquardt comes in unholstered, he’ll dominate Gumby with vicious legkicks and technical positioning. My money’s on Marquardt laying on top of Gumby for the majority of the fight, avoiding submission for a decision victory.
Gary Herman: I once asked Horn how he got the nickname. He said it wasn’t his nickname. Interesting. At least it is a lot more interesting than the fight will be. Marquardt by unanimous decision.
Adam Morgan: Marquardt and Horn are mirror images of one another about 5-10 years apart. Both are great grapplers, but Marquardt is more near his prime while Horn is nearing the end of his career and will probably be more trainer than fighter during his latter years in the sport. As Caplan said, Horn looked like he didn’t care to be there when he fought Jorge Santiago this past summer. Horn is a good replacement on short notice but I just don’t see him winning against the Greg Jackson trained Marquardt. Marquardt via unanimous decision.
Gleison Tibau vs. Tyson Griffin
Sam Cupitt: Tyson “Fight of the Night” Griffin has faced a lot of the division’s best young talent and has always turned on an exciting performance. After scoring consecutive victories over Clay Guida and Thiago Tavares you would have expected more of a step up in competition than Tibau. Tibau’s a decent fighter and has had impressive moments since his move to lightweight but I don’t believe he is on the level of Edgar, Guida or Tavares. Griffin via TKO in Round 2.
Mike MacLeod: While “outclassed” may not be a fair assessment of Tibau, he shouldn’t prove to be too much of a problem for Griffin. If Griffin follows his game plan, he should end the fight early. Griffin via KO, round one.
Sam Caplan: I see Tibau as a one-dimensional fighter. Granted, he’s exceptional at that one facet of fighting (BJJ) but he finds himself matched up with a fighter in Griffin who is very well-rounded. Griffin’s wrestling is strong and his boxing is underrated. Griffin via first round TKO.
Ram Maramba: I like both these guys, but Griffin is on the verge of a title-fight for a reason. Tibau is an awesome grappler, but Griffin proved against Tavares he can hang with the craftiest of the craft. If Griffin doesn’t get stupid and throw arm-punches all night, he’ll earn himself his first stoppage in the 2nd round by GnP TKO.
Gary Herman: Griffin is a highly skilled fighter coming from Xtreme Couture. Randy’s disciples are always very well prepared. Tibau is a quality fighter, but he isn’t on Griffin’s level. Win or lose, Griffin always put on a show. This will be no different. Griffin by third round tko.
Adam Morgan: Griffin is the much more well-rounded fighter of the two right now. He has great striking, grappling, jiu jitsu, wrestling, everything. Tibau is more or less a BJJ guy who looks for the fight to hit the ground and work from there. He’ll have a problem taking Griffin down and keeping him there, let alone submitting him. I look for Griffin to stuff Tibau’s takedowns and try to keep this fight standing. If he doesn’t score there, look for Griffin to take Tibau down and control him from the top position. Griffin via unanimous decision.
Chris Lytle vs. Kyle Bradley
Sam Cupitt: Not much for me to say here. Lytle has the ability to make any fighter look sluggish and to frustrate them into mistakes if they don’t stick to a gameplan. A style like that is pretty much a nightmare for UFC newcomers and that is why Bradley will be constantly on the back foot for the majority of this fight. Lytle via Unanimous Decision.
Mike MacLeod: Bradley makes his UFC debut and he looks to impress with his knockout power. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be defending submission attempts all night. He’ll defend all but one. Lytle via submission in the third.
Sam Caplan: Bradley has improved a lot in his two years at the Gladiator Academy in Louisiana. He was a fighter that was in great demand when the UFC signed him and I don’t think he was brought in to lose to Lytle. Bradley via second round TKO.
Ben Fowlkes: Talk about a tough draw for Bradley. It’s his first UFC fight and he has to go against Lytle, who has never managed to win the big one but serves as a competent gatekeeper nonetheless. Bradley has never faced this level of competition before. Lytle’s career was built beating up on guys like him, and he’ll do it again here with an early submission.
Ram Maramba: It’s tough to not like Lytle, the utility player of the MMA world, but other than his awesome double-submission attempt against Jason Gilliam, he’s not going to wow anyone with his work in the cage. Bradley has the “hot prospect” label attached to him, but Lytle never loses his cool and Bradley is sure to feel the jitters from making the big time. Lytle knows this is the last of his last-chances and will open up the bag. Bradley will stick around a while but will get out-clevered by a decision win for Lytle.
Gary Herman: Chris Lytle has quietly become one of the most entertaining guys to watch in the UFC. He’ll keep it standing if possible, but if it goes to the ground he’ll be prepared there. He’s got a lot of skills, but he isn’t superb at any of them. Bradley will definitely get a true test in his UFC debut. Lytle isn’t the guy to debut against. Lytle by third round tko.
Adam Morgan: Lytle is the definition of a UFC journeyman and has made a nice little comeback for himself after being on season four of The Ultimate Fighter. Lytle is tough, very hard to finish, and is well rounded at everything. Bradley is making his UFC debut which is always a red flag to me. Bradley is a highly touted prospect and the UFC nabbed him away from EliteXC but they gave him one hell of a tough guy for his first time out. Bradley will be a good welterweight down the road but there’s no way that Lytle should lose this fight. Chris Lytle via TKO, round two.
Marvin Eastman vs. Terry Martin
Sam Cupitt: If you were a betting man, you would most likely take Martin via KO. He has very heavy hands and Eastman has shown in his three UFC appearances that his whiskers aren’t that strong. But I am not a betting man and thus I can say that I believe Eastman is the type of opponent Martin would underestimate. Eastman is much better suited to middleweight and I think he has the speed to avoid Martin’s slow punches and the wrestling to negate his takedowns. This should result in a late TKO once Martin’s poor conditioning comes to the fore. Eastman via TKO in round 3.
Mike MacLeod: I AM a betting man and Martin’s heavy hands are sending Eastman to the mat. Martin via KO in the first round.
Sam Caplan: I agree with Sam Cupitt on this one. Eastman at middleweight has some upside and I was completely underwhelmed with Martin’s show vs. Chris Leben at UFC Fight Night 11. Eastman via third round TKO.
Ben Fowlkes: Somehow, Marvin Eastman is back in the UFC, proving that taking a few high-profile beatings pays off in the end. That is, if you consider the opportunity to take more beatings paying off. Martin seemed to be on his way up before getting knocked out by hubris and Chris Leben at the same exact moment. Martin should rebound here with a TKO victory that means very little.
Ram Maramba: Martin’s no idiot and I’m sure he realizes he was on the verge of closing out Leben before getting cocky and roped into a slugfest with the iron-chinned Leben. I like Eastman, more out of nostalgia than watching him fight. “The Beastman” has some nice standup and a crazy junebug rhythm, but Martin has the wrestling mojo to stay out of trouble. I don’t like Martin at all, but he’s got some intriguing potential if he sticks to his strengths and muscles Eastman to the ground and feeds him elbows. Martin by TKO in the 1st round.
Gary Herman: This will undoubtedly be the slug fest of the nights. Both guys looking for the knockout early and often. Martin just has a little more power. If it goes to the late rounds, Eastman will win. It won’t. Martin by first round ko.
Adam Morgan: I think Eastman has the decided advantage in this fight. Moving down to middleweight could make him a faster and stronger fighter at that weight class. Martin is the perfect opponent for him and this should be a slugfest. Martin’s performance against Chris Leben was unimpressive and his chin got put to the test and failed miserably. Martin’s got great power but his overall game is lacking. Eastman via TKO, round three.
David Heath vs. Tim Boetsch
Sam Cupitt: Ah yes… the typical undercard brawl. Heath and Boetsch are basically the same human so this fight could go either way. But I’ll give the nod to Heath because of experience. Heath via Unanimous Decision.
Mike MacLeod: I like Boetsch here, giving Heath his third consecutive loss. Boetsch via TKO in the third round.
Sam Caplan: Sam, undercard brawl? That’s not Tim Boetsch’s game. Boetsch has a strong wrestling background that has been adapted well to MMA. I saw him fight in person twice in the span of one week last summer and was very impressed. Boetsch held his own with Vladimir Matyushenko during the IFL semifinals in August which has me confident that he can beat David Heath. Boetsch via TKO (GnP) in the third round.
Ben Fowlkes: Heath is coming off two straight losses against the two best fighters he’s faced in his career. It could be he’s found his limitations, or maybe just learned that there’s another level he needs to get to. Boetsch is better than people are giving him credit for, and if he fights smart he can definitely win this with his wrestling. Boetsch by decision.
Ram Maramba: I’ve only seen Boetsch fight once, his IFL bout versus The Janitor. I forgot I even saw that fight until Sam brought it up in his prediction, so needless to say he didn’t leave much of an impression. Even his name is boring. Heath, on the other hand, is as exciting as Fabiano Scherner. If he was Portuguese like Scherner, maybe the whole Babalu fiasco never would’ve happened. But if it didn’t, would we even know who Heath is? Ah, sensei! Boestch by purple-nurple in the 2nd.
Gary Herman: Heath has lot to overcome mentally since the last fight with Babalu. Boetsch is a decent ground fighter albeit not too exciting. I wish we could see Eastman and Martin fight twice. Boetsch by decision.
Adam Morgan: I’d pick Boetsch if he weren’t taking this fight on such short notice, but Heath should take this one just due to preparation. Heath via unanimous decision.
Keita Nakamura vs. Rob Emerson
Sam Cupitt: Well it will go to decision and… *flips coin* … Nakamura will win. Nakamura via Unanimous Decision.
Mike MacLeod: I think that the two will simultaneously knock each other out in the second round, resulting in a no contest. Maybe not. Instead, it will go the distance with Emerson winning the decision.
Sam Caplan: No need for a coin flip for me. Nakamura is the better fighter. Nakamura via unanimous decision.
Ben Fowlkes: Fresh off an arrest for assault, Emerson gets back in the Octagon to try and erase the memory of his performance against Gray Maynard. Nakamura is a solid fighter with a good ground game and excellent conditioning. Emerson doesn’t have the mental game or the physical tools to take this match from Nakamura, so his best bet is a flash KO. Don’t count on it, though. Nakamura by submission.
Ram Maramba: Why Rob Emerson is getting another shot boggles the mind. Someone must like him, presumably someone headless. My prediction has Nakamura hanging out of a speeding car knocking over Emerson’s mailbox and peeing in his shrubs. Or a 2nd round submission by Nakamura, whichever comes first.
Gary Herman: Emerson is only in this fight because people remember him from the Ultimate Fighter. Dana White kept saying Emerson was in great fights. I don’t think he was. I also don’t remember him winning too much. Nakamura by second round submission.
Adam Morgan: This has to be Emerson’s last go round in the UFC, right? Nakamura is going to keep this fight standing and stuff Emerson’s takedown attempts. From there he should be able to pick Emerson apart on the feet with his superior standup. Nakamura via TKO, round two.