UFC Fight Night 43 and 44: Main Card Staff Picks

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

UFC Fight Night 43 and 44: Main Card Staff Picks

0 of 8

    USA TODAY Sports

    It's another UFC doubleheader this weekend, with Fight Night 43 and Fight Night 44 coming at you from opposite corners of the globe. In New Zealand, we've got James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt, while San Antonio hosts Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens.

    Because of the gap in time zones, UFC Fight Night 43 will start in the wee hours of Saturday morning on Fight Pass—2:30 a.m. ET for those of us residing in the Americas. UFC Fight Night 44 will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET with one prelim fight on Fight Pass and the rest of the card on Fox Sports 1.

    As per usual, Bleacher Report's staff is excited to present our main card picks. We'll be making calls for both events, but so as not to strain your focus, we'll whip through the Fight Night 43 forecast, simply stating our choices, before providing some analysis for Fight Night 44.

    Got it? Assuming you do, it's time to move on and get down to the picks. 

    Riley "Renaissance" Kontek, James "Medieval Times" MacDonald, Scott "Second Ice Age" Harris, Sean "Stone Age" Smith and I, Craig "Cold War" Amos, will now bless thou with our main card predictions.

2014 Staff Records

1 of 8

    Chris Hyde/Getty Images

    Actually, there is one more thing. Before we get to the picks, let's check in on how each member of our panel has fared so far this year.

    Riley and I are embroiled in a struggle for dominion over the rest of the pack, while the aforementioned pack is looking to close the gap and usurp our lead. We'll see whether the double booking this weekend can cause a shakeup.

    Here's where we stand:

    Craig Amos: 66-35-1

    Riley Kontek: 66-35-1

    Scott Harris: 61-40-1

    James MacDonald: 61-40-1

    Sean Smith: 58-43-1

    Now it's really time for the UFC Fight Night 43 and Fight Night 44 picks. On we go.

UFC Fight Night 43 Picks

2 of 8

    USA TODAY Sports

    Here are the quick picks for UFC Fight Night 43. The bolded name is the pick.

    Riley Kontek

    • James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
    • Jared Rosholt vs. Soa Palelei
    • Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira
    • Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes

     

    Craig Amos

    • James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
    • Jared Rosholt vs. Soa Palelei
    • Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira
    • Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes

     

    James MacDonald

    • James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
    • Jared Rosholt vs. Soa Palelei
    • Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira
    • Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes

     

    Scott Harris

    • James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
    • Jared Rosholt vs. Soa Palelei
    • Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira
    • Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes

     

    Sean Smith

    • James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
    • Jared Rosholt vs. Soa Palelei
    • Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira
    • Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes

     

    Now on to UFC Fight Night 44.

Joe Ellenberger vs. James Moontasri

3 of 8

    Riley Kontek

    By the time this is written, Joe Ellenberger may have a new opponent. It was almost a joke. He was intended to fight Frank Trevino, but then it was Johnny Case. Case wasn't cleared, so Bryan Barberena stepped up, but then he went down so James Moontasri got the call. Got it? Anyway, Moontasri is a taekwondo fighter with good knockout ability, but Ellenberger has the wrestling chops to stifle his attacks.

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Make room for another Ellenberger. The brother of welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger, Joe makes his promotional debut and hopes to make his own name mean something to UFC fans. He'll take on Moontasri, who is likewise looking to gain some traction in the UFC.

    Ellenberger, TKO, Rd. 2

     
    Scott Harris

    He may be Jake's twin, but Joe's game is pretty different. He's more of a wrestler first, and I think he'll use that to good effect against Moontasri and finally get that first UFC W.

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

    James MacDonald

    Ellenberger, now on his 56th opponent for his UFC debut, will be hoping Moontasri can make it to the cage without pulling a hamstring or blowing out a shoulder. In all seriousness, it’s difficult to imagine Ellenberger losing this one. He can beat Moontasri wherever the fight goes.

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    With three straight stoppage wins under the RFA banner, Moontasri isn’t an opponent Ellenberger can take lightly. Because of his brother’s success, Ellenberger is one of the more highly touted UFC prospects in recent memory. A lot of pressure comes with that, but his wrestling will be enough to help him to his first UFC win this weekend.

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

Clint Hester vs. Antonio Braga Neto

4 of 8

    Tim Larsen/Associated Press

    Riley Kontek

    Antonio Braga Neto has fought the injury bug for most of his UFC stay thus far. In fact, his only fight came against Anthony Smith, which seemed long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. He takes on boxer Clint Hester, who has great explosiveness and athleticism as well as the ability to knock guys out with one swing of his fist. Neto has faced guys similar to Hester with great success, and seeing as Hester doesn't have great defense on the ground, the Brazilian should notch another submission win.

    Neto, submission, Rd. 1

     

    Craig Amos

    It doesn't take much detective work to figure out either guy's game plan here. The question is, Will Hester be able to keep the action upright, or will Neto be able to put him on the mat?

    Neto, submission, Rd. 1

     

    Scott Harris

    I'm full bore on the Neto train. Hester is a fun striker, but he has tapped more than once before, and that's Neto's specialty. The world jiu-jitsu champ should go home with another limb trophy and another UFC W.

    Neto, submission, Rd. 1

     

    James MacDonald

    How this fight plays out depends on whether Hester can remain upright for the majority of the bout. If he can, it’s his fight to lose. If Neto is able to consistently secure the takedown, it’s hard to imagine The Ultimate Fighter alumnus surviving for long. My money is on the former scenario.

    Hester, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    While Hester has looked excellent inside the Octagon, winning his first three fights, he has showed some holes in his wrestling at times. He has allowed four takedowns in three UFC fights, so he doesn’t match up all that well with high-level grapplers. Coming off a submission win over Strikeforce veteran Anthony Smith, Neto has good enough wrestling to take advantage of Hester’s shortcomings on the ground.

    Neto, submission, Rd. 1

Ricardo Lamas vs. Hacran Dias

5 of 8

    USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    Ricardo Lamas is coming off a title loss to Jose Aldo and doesn't get an easy out here in Hacran Dias. If you remember, Dias was the guy who upset Iuri Alcantara in his UFC debut. He then was outwrestled by Nik Lentz, which will lay down the blueprint here. Lamas is a wrestler with backup striking, which is the recipe to beating the Brazilian here.

    Lamas, unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    I give Dias a legitimate shot in this one, as Lamas has historically struggled to defend the takedown, which is Dias' forte. However, I ascribe to the belief that spending 25 minutes in the cage with a guy like Jose Aldo makes someone a better fighter, so I'll throw my lot in with the favorite, Lamas.

    Lamas, unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Lamas took quite a tumble down the main card after his loss to Jose Aldo. He'll show against Dias that the tumble was too far. Nik Lentz manhandled Dias recently with takedowns and methodical ground and pound; Dias should expect more of the same against Lamas.

    Lamas, unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This is perhaps a tougher matchup than some are expecting. Lamas will be looking to get back into title contention after being largely outclassed by Jose Also last time out. Dias is an excellent fighter, but his wrestling leaves something to be desired. Look for Lamas to make use of his wrestling background and grind out the win.

    Lamas, unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Coming off a loss to Nik Lentz, who took him down four times, Dias will run into another solid 145-pound wrestler on Saturday. Having already beaten Erik Koch, Cub Swanson and others on the ground, Lamas should be considered a heavy favorite against a less proven fighter in Dias. Expect the former title challenger to cruise to a decision win and get back on track toward another shot at the featherweight championship.

    Lamas, unanimous decision

Cezar Ferreira vs. Andrew Craig

6 of 8

    Felipe Dana/Associated Press

    Riley Kontek

    Andrew Craig is the utility man, if you will. He's the guy who switches between positions in the field wherever you need him and does a respectable job. That'll be his downfall here yet again. He takes on Cezar Ferreira, who is coming of a drubbing at the hands of CB Dollaway and is looking for blood. He is more technical and has more in his bag of tricks than Craig. He will take Craig's consciousness from him at some point.

    Ferreira, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    I'm picking Craig to win for the same reason I picked Allen Craig in my fantasy baseball league and the only website I ever visit (other than Bleacher Report) is Craig's List: Us Craigs ought to stick together.

    Craig, unanimous decision 

     

    Scott Harris

    This could be a slugfest, sure, but it could also become a grind. This card could use all the slobberknocking it can handle, so I'll predict the former. I expect Craig's more straightforward approach will be well positioned to capitalize on a "Mutante" mistake.

    Craig, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    It’s fair to say that Craig is a workman-like fighter. He is decent everywhere but exceptional nowhere. In Ferreira, he is facing a fighter who will be looking to impress after suffering his first UFC loss. While the Brazilian is, in my estimation, a touch overrated, I expect him to get the job done here.

    Ferreira, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    With a surprising knockout loss to CB Dollaway, Ferreira might not have the potential many thought he did. However, the Brazilian is still one of the better nonranked fighters in the middleweight division. Coming off a submission loss to Luke Barnatt, Craig won’t be ready to compete with Ferreira should this fight go to the ground.

    Ferreira, submission, Rd. 1

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nicholas Musoke

7 of 8

    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    Riley Kontek

    Nico Musoke is getting fed to the wolves here. He tapped out Alessio Sakara after nearly getting knocked out and beat Viscardi Andrade after, well, nearly getting knocked out (Andrade let him off the hook). Now he's taking on a top prospect in Gastelum with great wrestling and tremendous knockout power. That doesn't bode well for the Swede.

    Gastelum, knockout, Rd. 1

     

    Craig Amos

    I like Musoke, but this is a tough one for him. Gastelum has demonstrated consistent improvement since coming off The Ultimate Fighter and looks to be headed up the divisional ladder. Musoke just might not have enough talent to stop him.

    Gastelum, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Scott Harris

    That 0 at the end of Mini-Cain's record is getting harder to ignore. He's not the upstart underdog anymore, and he'll pin Musoke to the floor and won't let him up.

     

    Gastelum, unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This is a rough matchup for the Swede. Musoke is a very decent fighter, but Gastelum improves every time we see him. The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 winner should have too many tools for Musoke, who looks to be outmatched in every department in this one.

    Gastelum, knockout, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    With a 2-0 start to his UFC career, Musoke looks to have a bright future ahead inside the Octagon. However, he matches up terribly with Gastelum. Having surrendered takedowns against Alessio Sakara and Viscardi Andrade, Musoke is going to end up underneath Gastelum, who is too solid on the ground to be submitted by an unproven welterweight like the one he’ll be facing on Saturday.

    Gastelum, unanimous decision

Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens

8 of 8

    David Becker/Associated Press

    Riley Kontek

    This is an awesome main event. Cub Swanson is arguably a win away from a title shot, and Jeremy Stephens is right there as well. He has looked amazing since dropping to 145 and has one-punch KO ability, but Swanson has just been too good and rounded. The Greg Jackson product gets it done by switching it up and keeping Stephens off balance in a Fight of the Night.

    Swanson, unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Stephens has resurrected his career by dropping to 145, but Swanson embodies his toughest featherweight challenge to date. He enters having won five straight and could advance a legitimate case for a title shot should he win convincing once again. He'll avoid Stephens' power strikes and use his well-rounded game to get the job done.

    Swanson, submission, Rd. 4

     

    Scott Harris

    Swanson may be a little better than Stephens in every phase, but Stephens has it where it counts most. He  stuffed all nine of Darren Elkins' takedown attempts, and has power to burn. Swanson is darn near impossible to finish, but Stephens will topple Swanson more than once and take an upset decision.

    Stephens, unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Despite looking terrific since moving to featherweight, Stephens may be outmatched against the resurgent Swanson. The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based fighter has all the tools to be a champion now that he has rededicated himself to the sport. Look for Swanson to end the fight late, staking his claim for a title shot.

    Swanson, TKO, Rd. 4

     

    Sean Smith

    Stephens has unreal knockout power compared to most featherweights, but he hasn’t faced a striker like Swanson since moving down to 145 pounds. His speed and more dynamic striking arsenal will force Stephens to wrestle in order to get his hand raised. While Stephens has the wrestling to ground Swanson, the Greg Jackson-trained fighter is good enough on the ground to escape regularly. Making Stephens work for his takedowns, Swanson should be able to wear his opponent down and capitalize with a late finish.

    Swanson, TKO, Rd. 4