Since this is the second of two UFC events this week, I’ll only be giving in depth picks for the main card fights. Predictions for the preliminary fights are included at the end of the post.
Heavyweight match: Matt Mitrione (5-1, 5-1 UFC) vs. Roy Nelson (17-7, 4-3 UFC)
A reader of this blog could be forgiven for thinking I have something against Roy Nelson. It seems like I pick against Nelson every time he fights. I remember when Nelson was on The Ultimate Fighter, and I had to tell everybody I knew that Nelson really was a good fighter (despite being fat). Once upon a time, I was the one who liked Nelson, while it seemed like everybody else was counting him out.
Well, I’m picking against him once again. That’s right, I’m taking Matt Mitrione in an upset. But it’s not just because of Nelson, it’s because of Mitrione. As I’ve pointed out many times before, Mitrione has had a remarkable early career. Sure, none of Mitrione’s five wins were against anybody amazing, unless you’re a huge fan of Tim Hague or Christian Morecraft. But I challenge you to think of your favorite fighter, and look at his first five wins. Chances are that they’re not as good as Mitrione’s.
Nelson’s fights go one of two ways. Either Nelson gets pummeled by his opponent, or he wins by knockout. What’s problematic about Nelson’s UFC fight history is that all of his knockout wins are against opponents known to have questionable chins. He knocked out Dave Herman, but Herman was also knocked out by Stefan Struve. Nelson knocked out Struve as well, but four of Struve’s losses are by knockout. Nelson knocked out Brendan Schaub, but Schaub has subsequently been knocked out by Ben Rothwell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. And Nelson’s other knockout win in the UFC was against Mirko Cro Cop, in the third fight in a row Cro Cop got knocked out. By contrast, Matt Mitrione has yet to be knocked out in a fight.
On the flip side, Nelson’s losses are all to very good heavyweights – Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, and Frank Mir. As much as I like Mitrione’s potential, he’s nowhere near as good as those fighters yet.
But ultimately, based on the fight histories of Nelson and Mitrione, this fight is likely to end in one of two ways: a KO win by Nelson, or a decision win by Mitrione. Since Mitrione has never been knocked out, I like him to keep this fight standing, out-strike Nelson over five rounds, and end up winning on the judges’ scorecards.
Welterweight match: Mike Ricci (7-2, 0-0 UFC) vs. Colton Smith (3-1, 0-0 UFC)
I’m very familiar with the history of Ultimate Fighter competitors with fewer than five professional fights, and it’s not a good one. Colton Smith has shown that he’s a good wrestler with a decent chin. I just think Mike Ricci is the better overall fighter and will have a good plan to deal with Smith’s wrestling. Ricci isn’t a superstar in waiting in the UFC, but I think he has what it takes to win this one.
Heavyweight match: Pat Barry (7-5, 4-5 UFC) vs. Shane del Rosario (11-1, 0-1 UFC)
Prepare for Pat Barry’s swan song in the UFC. He seems like a great guy, but for somebody who’s known as a striker, he sure isn’t very good at it. Barry has actually taken more strikes than he’s landed over his UFC career. But I don’t think del Rosario will have much patience for the striking game here. When del Rosario fought Lavar Johnson, he took Johnson to the ground and submitted him. Barry isn’t quite as hopeless on the ground as Johnson, but he’s pretty bad. Shane del Rosario has to be my pick to win this fight.
Lightweight match: Melvin Guillard (30-11-2, 11-7 UFC) vs. Jamie Varner (20-7-1, 2-2 UFC)
We know the drill with Melvin Guillard by now. He has very fast hands and tremendous knockout power. He can be very difficult to take down. And he can fall apart in a fight very quickly. Meanwhile, Jamie Varner has never been knocked out, and has quite a few wins by submission. Anything can happen in a short period of time, but I’ll take Varner to weather an early storm and submit Guillard.
Featherweight match: Jonathan Brookins (13-5, 2-2 UFC) vs. Dustin Poirier (12-2, 4-1 UFC)
Brookins is a fighter who knows what he’s good at. He engages his opponents in the clinch, and tries to get them to the ground. Poirier does have a history of being taken down by fighters who are decent wrestlers, including Chan Sung Jung in his last fight. Of course, if Brookins fails to land the takedown, he doesn’t stand much of a chance to win a striking battle. I side with Poirier overall based on that striking advantage, but I think Brookins has a good chance of winning in an upset here.
Mike Pyle over James Head
Johnny Bedford over Marcos Vinicius
Rustam Khabilov over Vinc Pichel
Nick Catone over T.J. Waldburger
Reuben Duran over Hugo Viana
John Cofer over Mike Rio
Jared Papazian over Tim Elliott