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UFC 158: Preliminary Card Staff Predictions

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2013

UFC 158: Preliminary Card Staff Predictions

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    I have no doubt that many of you are waiting on the edge of your seats for this Saturday’s UFC 158 main event between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz. But, lest you forget, there are a number of compelling bouts on the undercard to whet your appetite.

    Indeed, the preliminary portion of the event boasts the likes of Patrick Cote, Rick Story, T.J. Dillashaw and, the fighter I am most excited to watch, Daron Cruickshank.

    As ever, Bleacher Report MMA has a crack squad of pundits who are eager to offer their picks for Saturday night’s stacked undercard. Our panel includes Scott Harris, Dwight Wakabayashi, Riley Kontek, Andrew Saunders and me, James MacDonald.

George Roop vs. Reuben Duran

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    Harris:

    Roop's strategy for his bantamweight debut is simple: Turn sideways. Then he'll be invisible. Though I guess if he wants to be a "gentleman" about it, he could put his ranginess to work and stay away from Duran's dangerous grappling.

    Roop, Unanimous Decision

    Kontek:  

    George Roop is venturing down to 135 pounds, where he will likely be the biggest man in the division at 6'1". Both he and Reuben Duran are in desperate need of a win to avoid getting booted. Roop earns a late stoppage to save his job, using his reach and cardio to outlast his foe.

    Roop, TKO, Rd. 3

    Wakabayashi:

    Roop is sitting on two losses in a row and has chosen to move down to bantamweight to try to save his career. His length should be the key in this one, and he needs to stay busy to keep Duran at range, or his limbs will be in real danger.

    Roop, Unanimous Decision

    Saunders:

    Roop has an aggressive style that fans tend to love. Occasionally, his reckless tendencies leave him open for counters. However, Duran isn't the type of striker who is likely to make him pay for those mistakes.

    Roop, TKO, Rd. 2

    MacDonald:

    I shan’t lie. It’s hard for me to imagine how George Roop is going to make the bantamweight limit. I have a feeling I’ll see his emaciated figure at the weigh-ins and expect Joe Rogan to start pleading for donations. That aside, I expect the TUF veteran to be a little bit too good for the equally inconsistent Reuben Duran, so long as he keeps the fight standing.

    Roop, Unanimous Decision

     

    Staff picking Roop: Harris, Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders, MacDonald

    Staff picking Duran: None

T.J. Dillashaw vs. Issei Tamura

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    Harris:

    The jury's out on whether Tamura is a UFC-caliber fighter. Unless I'm like a one-man jury, in which case, he's not. Ah, but seriously, Dillashaw will have too much wrestling for Tamura. This one will go the distance, but it won't be close.

    Dillashaw, Unanimous Decision

    Kontek:

    Issei Tamura went from having an incredibly difficult opponent in Mitch Gagnon to an even more difficult opponent in T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw is powerful and has great wrestling, both of which can be used to stymie Tamura's attack at any point. Dillashaw should earn a ground-and-pound stoppage here.

    Dillashaw, TKO, Rd. 2

    Wakabayashi: 

    Dillashaw has faced and beaten guys who have more pedigree than Tamura, and I think he has the potential to get better each time he steps in the cage. He should be able to get the finish from the top.

    Dillashaw, TKO, Rd 2

    Saunders: 

    There is little reason to believe that Tamura has much chance against a stud like Dillashaw, who has vastly superior wrestling and will look to put his opponent down before hunting for a submission.

    Dillashaw, Submission, Rd. 2

    MacDonald:

    T.J. Dillashaw, another veteran of TUF, has shown some promise recently. He boasts a decent wrestling base and a generally well-rounded skill set. Tamura, on the other hand, has probably hit the ceiling of his UFC potential. I expect Dillashaw to make relatively short work of his foe on Saturday night.

    Dillashaw, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Staff picking Dillashaw: Harris, Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders, MacDonald 

    Staff picking Tamura: None

Rick Story vs. Quinn Mulhern

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    Harris:

    Story's skid should end here against Quinn Mulhern, an injury replacement making his UFC debut. Mulhern might win a UFC fight before he's done, but it won't be Saturday night.

    Story, TKO, Rd. 2

    Kontek:

    Rick Story has fallen a ways from his days when he used to grace the main card; he is now being showcased on the Facebook prelims. He takes on a nifty grappler in Quinn Mulhern, but Story's wrestling and superior striking should prove far superior in winning this fight.

    Story, Unanimous Decision

    Wakabayashi:

    Story gets a debut fighter after Canadian veteran Sean Pierson had to withdraw because of injury. Story is simply too hungry to get back on track for him to let this one get away.

    Story, Unanimous Decision

    Saunders: 

    Quinn Mulhern is a dangerous grappler with 11 submission victories to his credit. Perhaps this will stop Story from utilizing his impressive wrestling and leave us with a stand-up battle. This is an interesting bout to predict, and I expect to see many look for Mulhern to continue the surprisingly successful Strikeforce invasion. However, Story has too much experience against top-level fighters to come up short in this one. 

    Story, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald:

    After initially looking like a legitimate contender at 170 pounds, Rick Story has gone on a skid of Josh Grispi-like proportions. He faces a solid grappler in Quinn Mulhern, who has put together a decent streak in Strikeforce. But with the Zuffa brass swinging the axe like the antagonist of a low-budget slasher flick, Story will be determined to kick-start his career with a win. His power and defensive wrestling should be enough to get the job done.

    Story, Unanimous Decision

     

    Staff picking Story: Harris, Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders, MacDonald

    Staff picking Mulhern: None

John Makdessi vs. Daron Cruickshank

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    Harris:

    Now we're talking. If the fight goes to the ground, it probably favors Cruickshank. I don't think that happens, though, at least not for extended periods. Both men know what fans (and Dana White) are expecting. They'll deliver. Cruickshank and his length advantage will again win the day for the American.

    Cruickshank, Unanimous Decision

    Kontek:

    Everybody is getting excited for Daron Cruickshank vs. John Makdessi because of the amazing kickboxing match that will ensue. The problem with that is Cruickshank is a great wrestler, which is Makdessi's weak point, and that will be exploited here. Expect three rounds of the Canadian on his back.

    Cruickshank, Unanimous Decision

    Wakabayashi:

    I think this fight is flying under the radar and could be a front-runner for fight of the night. Both Cruickshank and Makdessi have a plethora of strikes at their disposal, but the big size and reach advantage for Cruickshank will be the difference. 

    Cruickshank, KO, Rd 2

    Saunders:

    Outside of Cruickshank's striking credentials, the Ultimate Fighter alumnus displayed successful takedowns in his UFC debut against Chris Tickle. If the fight doesn't go his way on the feet, expect him to employ wrestling as a backup. After showing the takedown, Makdessi will have to be on the lookout for the diverse attacks coming his way. Cruickshank will catch him late in the fight. 

    Cruickshank, TKO, Rd. 3

    MacDonald:

    I am incredibly excited for this bout. I have been high on Daron Cruickshank since his lamentably short time on TUF. And in John Makdessi, he has an opponent who will no doubt bring the best out of him. Expect this fight to be contested on the feet, with some high-quality exchanges. However, Cruickshank has just that little bit of extra class that should set him apart from his opponent on Saturday night.

    Cruickshank, Unanimous Decision

     

    Staff picking Cruickshank: Harris, Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders, MacDonald

    Staff picking Makdessi: None

Dan Miller vs. Jordan Mein

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    Harris:

    With apologies to Cruickshank/Makdessi, this is the prelim fight I'm most excited to see. Mein may have had some of the sharpest stand-up in Strikeforce at the time of the promotion's folding, but Dan Miller is everything Mein is not: a grind-minded UFC veteran with proven toughness. I just can't bet against Miller here. Sound the upset alarms.

    Miller, Unanimous Decision

    Kontek:

    Jordan Mein is one of the prodigies of Canadian MMA right now, but he is taking on a man who has never been finished and is as skilled as they come. Mein will have to power through a granite chin and ruthless aggression, both of which Miller is known for. If Mein stays off his back, he will outpoint Miller with his striking en route to victory.

    Mein, Unanimous Decision

    Wakabayashi:

    Mein makes his UFC debut in this one and has a decided advantage on the feet. Miller has the advantage in the grappling game, so this battle of styles will be decided by takedowns and takedown defense. Mein fought very tight and tough against Tyron Woodley in Strikeforce, and that experience will get him through here.

    Mein, Unanimous Decision

    Saunders:

    Miller is a well-rounded stud who can score a knockout just as quickly as he can lock in a submission. On top of that, he is nearly impossible to finish. And although Mein is new to the UFC, with victories over Evangelista Santos, Joe Riggs and Marius Zaromskis, this is hardly his first big fight, so don't expect Octagon jitters. As long as he can stay off of his back, he should be able to use superior striking to earn a decision.

    Mein, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald:

    Jordan Mein finally makes his Octagon debut on Saturday night. The Canadian takes on the teak-tough Dan Miller in what should be a grueling contest. Miller, however, has his limitations, and I expect Mein to expose them.

    Mein, Unanimous Decision

     

    Staff picking Mein: Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders, MacDonald

    Staff picking Miller: Harris

Antonio Carvalho vs. Darren Elkins

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    Harris:

    No way I'm picking against Darren Elkins after that awesome victory over Steven Siler at UFC 154. At least not until he gives me a reason to do so. Plus, Carvalho was less than impressive in his last fight, a limp split-decision win over Rodrigo Damm.

    Elkins, TKO, Rd. 2

    Kontek:

    Darren Elkins is the Rodney Dangerfield of the featherweight division: whatever he does, he gets no respect. In fact, the guy has gone undefeated at 145 and has looked impressive in doing so. He continues the trend here, snagging takedowns on Antonio Carvalho and outworking the Canadian for the better of 15 minutes.

    Elkins, Unanimous Decision

    Wakabayashi:

    Elkins is the real deal, a tried-and-true professional fighter with heart-hunger and skill. He proved his mettle against Steven Siler in his last fight. Carvalho is coming off two fairly poor performances, and confidence is always an issue.

    Elkins, Unanimous Decision

    Saunders:

    This isn't a matchup between evenly skilled fighters who are engaging in a chess match. This is a fight in which Darren Elkins will look to use his grinding style to score a fifth-consecutive win at 145 pounds. Carvalho wants to strike in this fight, and he will have an advantage in that avenue; however, he will be unable to stay off his back.

    Elkins, Unanimous Decision.

    MacDonald:

    Although both are skilled, I can only see this fight going one way. Elkins’ relentless style of grappling should be sufficient to shut down the game of Carvalho and earn him his fifth-consecutive win inside the Octagon.

    Elkins, Unanimous Decision

     

    Staff picking Elkins: Harris, Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders, MacDonald

    Staff picking Carvalho: None

Patrick Cote vs. Bobby Voelker

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    Harris:

    Another exciting matchup here. Cote is making his welterweight debut at age 33. How's that going to work out for him? I have no idea; no one does. While we wait for that answer, let me take a known quantity and a Strikeforce transplant on a serious roll in Voelker. Mild upset alarms here.

    Voelker, Unanimous Decision

    Kontek:

    This right here is going to be the best fight of the night. Hard-headed Patrick Cote defends his soil against knockout artist Bobby Voelker? Count me in, and put my money on the home team.

    Cote, Unanimous Decision

    Wakabayashi:

    This one should be a very exciting fight. Cote is making his welterweight debut and believes it will help him in the reach department. Voelker will get his chin tested in his debut but is on a very nice streak of his own. These two will strike with ferocity, much to the delight of the Bell Centre fans.

    Cote, KO, Rd 2

    Saunders:

    This encounter should be a fan-friendly affair, as both men are solid strikers who will look to employ a strategy of landing straight and powerful punches in high volume. Cote is known for his granite chin, which should afford him more opportunities to connect with his equally impressive fists. For that reason, I'm leaning slightly in favor of the Canadian.

    Cote, KO, Rd. 2.

    MacDonald:

    Another Strikeforce import makes his UFC debut, as Bobby Voelker takes on Patrick Cote. Expect fists to fly in this one, heading into the main card. While my heart says Cote will win, my head thinks that Voelker will do enough to edge the decision.

    Voelker, Unanimous Decision

     

    Staff picking Voelker: Harris, MacDonald

    Staff picking Cote: Kontek, Wakabayashi, Saunders

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