Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida
Bruce: I'm picking Machida. Why? Simple. Matt has an unnatural mancrush on Rampage so I KNOW he's going to pick him. I'm picking against just to do so. Let's see how I do. Want more science? Machida beat Rashad Evans in May 2009. Rashad Evans beat Rampage in May 2010. So what does Pythagoras tell us? Machida beats Rampage. WINNER: MACHIDA via TKO in 3rd
Matt: Rampage is easily my favorite athlete for a number of reasons, but I'll try to put that aside. His main weakness as a fighter is when he's on his back, which isn't the same threat here as it was against Rashad Evans (then again, it shouldn't have factored into his loss to Forrest Griffin, but it did). As shown against Shogun Rua, Machida's elusive striking style is less effective against an aggressive fighter. 'Page has a straightforward boxing style and tends to engauge opponents and then score on counterstrikes. Machida is hard to counter, but if Rampage gets into close range, he's got the technique and power to end this quickly the way Rua did. I also think, despite his borderline childish attitude outside the cage, he won't get as frustrated by Machida's style and can take a methodical approach to land his knockout shot. WINNER: RAMPAGE via KO in 3rd.
Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn
Bruce: The rubber fight between these two should be interesting. Penn has had a rough year. He's dropped two fights in a row to Frankie Edgar and lost the Lightweight Championship in the process. Hughes has been on the “one more fight” victory lap for a while now. You never want to bet against Penn, but he's been exposed. Like Randy Couture, Hughes just keeps on going. Hughes will be the sentimental pick, if there is such a thing in MMA. He's mine too. WINNER: HUGHES via unanimous decision
Matt: I figured Penn to dominate this one from the moment they announced it. In fact, I'm stunned Hughes would even take the fight. He's been on a steady diet of past-their-prime fighters ever since losing to Georges St. Pierre at the end of 2007. What do Penn and GSP have in common besides being younger than Hughes? They're both faster. Consecutive losses to Frankie Edgar don't mean BJ is on the decline - it means Edgar is pretty damn fast. Penn's got hand-speed and athleticism to overwhelm Matt Hughes in almost all areas. The only chance the farmhand has is if Penn's conditioning comes up lacking after a round or two. WINNER: PENN via submission in the 2nd.
Gerald Harris vs. Maiquel Falcao
Bruce: Harris impressed me at UFC 116 with his slam knock out of Dave Branch. He impressed me more by stopping the punishment when he knew Branch was out cold. Falcao seems to be Harris' opposite number. He wants to stand and throw. I don't think that will be enough. I look for Harris to take the fight to the mat and win there. WINNER: HARRIS via TKO in 2nd
Matt: Harris has been improving and his last win earned him some new fans. I don't know anything about Falcao and I've got to stick with what I know in this case. Falcao comes from Wanderlei Silva's Chute Box camp, so while he's a dangerous striker he could also be vulnerable to Harris' wrestling strengths on the mat. WINNER: Harris via unanimous decision.
Phil Davis vs. Tim Boetsch
Bruce: This seems to me like the fight where they feed a fighter on a hot streak a tough journeyman to see if he's really as good as he has seemed. Boetsch, on his second stint in the UFC, really needs a win to avoid returning to .500. Meanwhile, Davis has rolled up three straight wins (7-0 career) since joining Zuffa. I think this one goes to Davis, though I'm pretty sure Boetsch will push him.WINNER: DAVIS via TKO in 3rd
Matt: I think Davis is the next dynamic young star of the UFC - Jon Jones but slightly smaller. He's got a wrestling background but doesn't just focus on controlling his opponent (a la Jon Fitch). He goes after finishes, and if he keeps winning like this - it seems like he's barely been tested so far - his profile will rise exponentially. I don't know what Boetsch has anything in his toolchest to combat Davis' athleticism. WINNER: Davis via submission in the 1st.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Joe Lauzon
Bruce: I picked Sotiropoulos on a whim for UFC 116. He won and I didn't look like a complete rube. This time out he faces another “mired in the midcard” guy in Lauzon. Sotiropoulos has, as Matt noted last time, much more upside. I still think that applies. Perhaps even moreso now. A seventh straight win will have to put him in the mix for a lightweight title fight. I think he's up for the challenge. I'd like see a definitive ending to this one. That is the one place I think Lauzon will give him trouble. WINNER: SOTIROPOULOS via unanimous decision
Matt: There was point right afdter the end of his Ultimate Fighter run where Joe Lauzon seemed poised for a big run in the lightweight division. Some tough losses and injury delays have taken away all of that buzz - now he seems like another guy in a crowded division. Sotiropoulos has been on a more recent TUF season and has continued to get better ever time we've seen him since. WINNER: SOTIROPOULOS via split decision
Aaron Simpson vs. Mark Munoz
Bruce: Simpson's record has a single blemish thanks to Chris Leben. There is no shame in that. Leben has played spoiler a couple of times this year. Munoz also lost his last fight. His loss came by split decision. That's another unfortunate way to lose one. Both of these guys are solid fighers and this one is has the potential to be a standout. If its a stand up fight, Simpson has the advantage. If they go to the mat, the advantage is to Munoz. How to pick this one? WINNER: SIMPSON via TKO in 3rd
Matt: Two wrestlers face off in this one. Simpson has had a more consistent run recently, but he's also older. I think there's a point where he slows down and a younger guy like Munoz takes advantage. WINNER: MUNOZ via unanimous decision.
Matt Brown vs. Brian Foster
Bruce: Brown is sitting in the precarious “3 losses and you're gone” spot having lost his last two fights. Foster's UFC record is a suspect 2-2. This one doesn't exactly send chills down my spine. Its a couple of guys fighting for their respective careers. Brown hasn't looked especially sharp in his last two fights. Foster has at least won one. WINNER: FOSTER via TKO in 2nd
Matt: Brown's got a weak ground game but he's exciting on his feet. There's no reason to think he won't encounter the same problems against Foster, who has won a number of fights by submission. However, I'm going to give Brown credit and assume that after the Chris Lytle loss, he works on keeping things standing and playing to his own strengths. WINNER: BROWN via KO in 2nd.