After two straight weekends claiming major milestones, new kind of picks with UFC on FX and my 50th win, it’s nice to settle in and take a little bit of the pressure off. Not that I really need less pressure, after all my job is watching UFC preliminary cards and predicting the winners. Plus, last week I put up another solid mark of 5-2, only losing the Roop/Swanson throw down and the Roller/Johnson barn-burner. Which actually puts me a quick sunken in choke away from 6-1. But enough excuses, overall it was a good night, especially if you were banking on the Anderson Silva/Chael Sonnen rematch as much as I was. No matter what the reasoning, I think I speak for most mixed martial arts fans in saying that I’m more than just a little excited for that one. However, we’ll have to sit and wait a bit longer. What we won’t have to wait much longer for is this stellar, even if slightly modified, batch of preliminary bouts.
Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier
- My Pick: Dustin Poirier
- Reasoning: The Diamond was looking at a fight, in Erik Koch, that could have very well put him right at the top of the list to face off with the champ. Now, it looks more like he’ll have to have an impressive look against a tough, but ultimately over matched, opponent in Holloway before most likely facing Koch anyways. Although Holloway does carry an undefeated record into his octagon debut, it will be only his 4th professional fight. Considering Poirier just put away a really tough opponent in Pablo Garza and the fact that Holloway is also taking the fight on short notice, this could just be the most confident I’ve ever been on a pick.
- Confidence: Extreme
Jorge Lopez Henry Martinez vs. Matt Riddle
- My Pick: Matt Riddle
- Reasoning: I’m extremely impressed by the run Martinez is on. He’s not only compiled 10-straight wins, but has done so against some formidable opponents. However, it’d be directly against one of my rules to pick a guy who is making his debut in the UFC on a whole 5-days notice.
- Confidence: Great
Alex Caceres vs. Edwin Figueroa
- My Pick: Edwin Figueroa
- Reasoning: Figueroa instantly gained my respect for life after his war with Mayday McDonald. Maybe he didn’t win, but he showed he’s one of the toughest guys out there. He showed not only heart, but also the ability to drop some bombs, which we’ve also seen in his victories over Johnny Bedford and Jason Reinhardt. Bruce Leeroy has improved from his time on the Ultimate Fighter, I just don’t know how much.
- Confidence: Good
Matt Brown vs. Chris Cope
- My Pick: Matt Brown
- Reasoning: Speaking of improved since the Ultimate Fighter, Cope showed some clearly improved stand up in defeating Chuck O’Neill, yet showed that he still had a long way to go when Che Mills flattened him. Brown, meanwhile, has one foot out the door after losing 4 of his last 5 and none of them in really pretty fashion. But if Joe Silva still has enough confidence to give him another fight, I think he can still bring it. Have I ever picked a fighter as cold as him? Doubtful.
- Confidence: Fair
Dan Stittgen vs. Stephen Thompson
- My Pick: Stephen Thompson
- Reasoning: Stittgen has had a lot of success on the ground in the past with 5 of his 7 career victories coming via submission. He’s going to have to find a different route when he faces the Machado product dubbed “Wonderboy”. And I’m not sure how many other routes there will be to take given Thompson’s amateur kickboxing past.
- Confidence: Great
- My Pick: Michael Kuiper
- Reasoning: My surprise pick of this card, and most likely the one to come with the best odds to add to your parlay, comes with the knowledge of the Dutchman’s hands. What he’s throwing may not always be technical, but it comes hard. Throw in a judo black belt and I think Natal, who has been less than impressive in his three UFC bouts, will spend a lot of time on his back, one way or another.
- Confidence: Good
As I said, there are a couple in there you should be able to add on to any parlay and still feel safe and a couple that you could use to really up the odds. Any way that you are gambling this time around, Prelim Picker has something for you.