UFC 130 staff picks

UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill” takes place this evening at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., and features former light heavyweight champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson facing off with the tenacious Matt “The Hammer” Hamill in the main event.

Once again, the ( staff has come together to give their thoughts and predictions. See what you think about our picks, which of us has it right and who is off in left field?

Quinton Jackson vs. Matt Hamill

BRIAN FURBY: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

DENNY HODGE: I know just about everybody and their mama is going to pick “Rampage”, but I’m going with Hamill. I don’t believe that Jackson’s heart is in the game despite what he says when he’s forced to do media. That lack of focus will cost him in this one. Hamill will come forward relentlessly in this one and keep pressure on Jackson the entire fight. He may get left-hooked out of the fight quickly, but I don’t think it will happen. Hamill by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Matt Hamill chose this fight. He wanted to use “Rampage” Jackson as a definitive stepping stone for his career. And obviously his coaches have seen what Rampage brings to the table and they feel they can beat him. Here is why I think Matt Hamill will win this fight. Rampage is a plodder — his whole game is to walk you down and try to knock you out. He has primarily turned into a boxer and there’s no reason to think he’s going to change it up in this fight. Yes, if Hamill stayed in the pocket and traded shots with Rampage he would probably get KO’d sooner or later, as would anyone. But I don’t see him doing that. He’ll use his wrestling to put Rampage on his back where he will ground and pound him over the course of the fight. He will also use leg kicks and his heavy hands to set up the takedowns. Don’t be surprised if Hamill lands some big kicks in this fight. We saw what he did to Mark Munoz. Could you imagine if he KO’d Rampage with a head kick? I have a feeling he’s going to land some big kicks, and punches in addition to the ground and pound and ultimately take home the decision. Hamill by decision.

JOSH CROSS: I think Matt Hamill has more to gain going into this fight that Rampage does. Fighting Hamill seems like a step backward to me for Jackson instead of a step forward after his win over Lyoto Machida. Regardless, I think that Jackson is a more well rounded fighter than Hamill and will be able to pull off a win. Pick: Jackson via Decision.

KELVIN HUNT: The storyline going in is if Rampages takes Hamill serious…he’s going to KTFO Hamill. I give Hamill a little more credit than that..the guy can take punch really well, has a lot of heart, and is just durable. However, if he can’t get Rampage down he’s going to get punished. I’ve thought all along that Rampage has taken Hamill lightly…it’s human nature for someone in his position to do so. Hamill isn’t going to submit Jackson and it’s doubtful he can knock Rampage out although Hamill has decent power. I just think 15 minutes is a long time to go without getting hit with a bomb, especially when Hamill has likes to block punches with his face. I’m go with Rampage via TKO in Rd. 2.

RICHARD MANN: A lot of people seem to be pushing the narrative that Hamill has a realistic shot if he sticks to his wrestling. First, with the exception of the Rashad Evans fight, Jackson has always had respectable takedown defense. Second, Hamill has never been the type of guy that sticks to a gameplan. No matter what his coaches say, he will come out looking to strike (see the Rich Franklin fight). Against fighters that do not throw kicks, Jackson can set his feet in his classic boxing stance, avoid shots and counter with power. Look for Jackson to eventually land a big shot and put this one on ice. Jackson by knockout.

Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson

BRIAN FURBY: Roy “Big Country” Nelson.

DENNY HODGE: Watching the video of Nelson dominating Mir in that grappling footage was pretty damn sweet, because it’s great to see a guy that looks like he couldn’t even mow his own grass without dying, dominate a muscle-bound Adonis like Mir. Fans still talk about Mir’s improvement in his boxing, but if dos Santos couldn’t put “Big Country” away with the bombs that he was landing, then there is no way that Mir can end it with strikes. Nelson by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Mister Roy Nelson is a tough son of a gun. This is an intriguing fight for a number of reasons. Both guys weighed in at 260, they’re friends, they’ve faced each other before in grappling and they’re both really good on the ground. Both guys have pretty good boxing too. This is a hard fight to call for me and I’ve kind of been going back and forth but because of Roy’s heavy hands and his sheer toughness I’m going with “Big Country” for the decision.

JOSH CROSS: In his own words Frank Mir admitted that he did not see himself having a distinct advantage against Roy Nelson, and with betting odds seemingly split down the middle, he’s not the only one that feels that way. This is one of the fights that I am most looking forward to and while I think Nelson has a good shot of picking up the win, I think Mir is a more rounded fighter and will end up winning the fight, but it won’t be easy. Pick: Mir via Decision.

KELVIN HUNT: I like Roy Nelson in this fight. He simply has more tools in my opinion, and can take a punch among the best of them. I think a lot of folk are forgetting that Frank Mir just fought life and death with a very past his prime Mirko Cro Cop while Nelson went toe to toe with the best striker in the heavyweight division. I’m not a advocate of MMA math, but those two scenarios tell me that if the same Mir shows up on Saturday night? Nelson will take that fight. I’m going with Nelson via decision.

RICHARD MANN: If Mir can keep this fight on the feet, he should be able to take home a decision victory. Nelson has shown in his UFC career that he can crack with the best of them, but Mir does a good job avoiding shots at range. Mir has the advantage in a striking battle, because all he needs to do is avoid heavy shots from Nelson. Mir by decision.

Travis Browne vs. Stefan Struve

BRIAN FURBY: Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve.

DENNY HODGE: Struve and Browne. These two are better suited physically to come off the bench for the Mavs against Lebron and the Heat. If they did play, they would likely get ejected for blatant, flagrant fouls. As it is, these two will get violent in the cage, but I feel that Browne is going to wade into Struve’s atmosphere and get countered brutally as he comes forward. Struve by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: This is going to be a fun fight between two very skilled and tall heavyweights. Browne is the KO artist and Struve has great submissions and is tough as hell on the feet. The word on the street is Browne is looking very good for this fight. However, Struve should ultimately find a way to submit him.

JOSH CROSS: Browne is coming into this fight as a highly accomplished and successful striker, which is the main reason why he is currently undefeated. Struve has had trouble with good strikers in the past, but I don’t think it will be an issue for him in this fight. While Struve will certainly have to watch out for Browne’s powerful hands, I think that in the end the “Skyscraper” will still be standing. Pick: Struve via Submission.

KELVIN HUNT: I love Struve as a fighter….dude just brings it. However, Browne has big power and that seems to be Struve’s biggest problem in his losses, not to mention Struve just simply takes too much unnecessary punishment. I think Browne closes the distance, puts Struve against the cage and lands bombs to put him away via TKO in the 2nd.

RICHARD MANN: It seems like every Struve fight is similar. He takes a lot of punishment early, and often comes back to win. This may be a dangerous strategy here, because Browne has shown himself to be a big hitter. However, Struve has the edge in experience and on the ground he should be able run a clinic on Browne. Struve by submission.

Brian Stann vs. Jorge Santiago

BRIAN FURBY: Brian “All-American” Stann.

DENNY HODGE: Brian Stann believes that nobody at middleweight has his power, and he truly believes that he’s better in every aspect of the game over Santiago. Santiago is the better kickboxer, and his kicks will be key in him setting up a well-rounded stand up attack. Santiago will be fighting under a lot of pressure in this one, and the way he keeps his hands low is going to play right into the power of Stann’s right hand. Stann has improved greatly on the ground, which is where he will find himself at times in this bout. In the end, Stann will prevail. Stann by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: This could turn into a very fun battle on the feet. With the help of Team Jackson Stann appears to keep getting better and better, and his striking seems to be the best it’s ever been. A year or so ago I would have picked Santiago, but Stann seems to have made a leap in his progression as a fighter. This is a dangerous fight for Stann no doubt, but I think he’s ready for the challenge. Stann via decision.

JOSH CROSS: Since his last run in the UFC, Santiago has gone 11-1 and gotten immensely better as a fighter. Although Santiago faces a tough challenge in Stann, I think Santiago’s ground game and striking ability are superior and will lead him ultimately to the victory. Pick: Santiago via Submission.

KELVIN HUNT: I’m really rooting for Santiago here, the guy has a lot of tools and has been on an incredible run since exiting the UFC the first time. The only thing that sticks out is that Stann has big power in his strikes and Santiago’s chin isn’t the best in the world. So, I’m going with Stann to catch Santiago and put him away in the third round via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Santiago membership in the “Jonathan Goulet Chin All Stars” was nearly signed, sealed and delivered. After all, this is a guy who was knocked out by Mamed Khalidov with hammer fists from the bottom. However, in his last fight, Santiago was able to survive all the firepower Kazuo Misaki could throw at him. When Zuffa rolled the WEC light heavyweight division into the UFC, I thought Stann had less career longevity than Herman Cain’s campaign staff. However, he has blossomed into a respectable middleweight. With that being said, Santiago should still have a big advantage on the ground and take this fight by submission. Santiago by submission.

Rick Story vs. Thiago Alves

BRIAN FURBY: Thiago “Pibull” Alves.

DENNY HODGE: Story is a tough guy, but Alves has been re-born with the Dolce diet. He is no longer killing himself to make weight, which was detrimental to his performances in the past. Story insists that Alves will fold under pressure, but nothing folds like a lawn chair, and that’s exactly what Story will become after Alves softens him up with leg kicks, and then puts him away. Alves by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Story will want to take this one to the ground. Alves would like to keep it standing. In the end, Alves should be able to score enough with his striking to take the decision.

JOSH CROSS: This fight could easily be a grappling match that goes to decision. If Alves can keep the fight standing, I believe he has the best shot to win. I don’t see either fighter getting submitted though. Pick: Alves via Decision.

KELVIN HUNT: Story is just the type of fighter that gives Alves fits. He is aggressive, has a good chin, good cardio, and can put Alves on his back. Of course Alves could land a devastating combo and put Story away, but if Alves can’t stop that takedown he’s going to get punished while on his back. I’m going with the upset again. Story via decision.

RICHARD MANN: So far in his UFC career, Story has done his best work in the clinch. He absolutely mauled Dustin Hazelett in the position. This is a tad bit worrisome here, because Alves has also been strong in the clinch. At range the Brazilian fighter should have the advantage. If Story closes the distance, Alves has always had strong takedown defend, and he should be able to score with knees against the fence. Alves by decision.

Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson

BRIAN FURBY: Miguel Torres.

DENNY HODGE: Torres seemed untouchable at one time, until it was painfully obvious that a good, quick wrestler could take away his aura of invincibility. This is a tough match-up for Torres. Johnson possesses the perfect skill set to exploit the former WEC bantamweight champion. Torres will need to ensure that he uses good angles and stays light on his feet to keep Johnson from closing the gap. His jab will be instrumental as his kicks will leave him vulnerable for take downs. I don’t want to see Torres lose again, but Johnson is surging, and will take this one in a close decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Johnson may be able to put Torres on his back in this one but can he do anything with it when he gets there? I think it will set up the situation for Torres to submit Johnson. Torres via submission.

JOSH CROSS: Johnson, who is coming off of an impressive win over “Kid” Yamamoto, is looking to get another upset over the much more experienced Torres. This fight should be highly entertaining, and while Johnson did look very good in his last fight, I think Torres’ experience will be the deciding factor in this fight. Pick: Torres via Decision.

KELVIN HUNT: Very interesting matchup here. Torres has the huge reach advantage, but Johnson has the speed and wrestling advantage. Can Torres stop the takedown? I don’t think he can. I like Johnson to win via decision.

RICHARD MANN: A lot of people are extremely high on “Mighty Mouse” right now, and they should be. He looked great against Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and positioned himself as a contender in the bantamweight division. On the other hand, Torres raised the ire of fans by actually fighting with a strategy. I hate to say it, but if he wants to win this one, he will need to break out that same telephone-pole jab. If he employ the same strategy he used to beat Antonio Banuelos, Johnson will struggle to close the distance. On top of that, Johnson was able to score several takedowns on “Kid,” but he never did much damage from the position. Torres is extremely active from his back, and his reach will also play a factor if the contest goes to the floor. Torres by decision.

Kendall Grove vs. Tim Boetsch

BRIAN FURBY: Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove.

DENNY HODGE: How will the cut to 185 affect Boetsch? The longer it goes, the better for Grove, who will have no trouble going a full 15. Boetsch will have to get the fight to the ground, but that won’t be easy against the reach of the 6’6″ Grove. Boetsch will get the fight to the mat, but Grove will capitalize on a mistake and end it by submission.

JACK BRATCHER: Fun fight here as Boetsch makes his middleweight debut. Both Boetsch and Grove need a win here. Boetsch would like to keep it standing and Grove will oblige him for a time but ultimately Grove should be able to find a way to submit Boetsch. Grove via submission.

JOSH CROSS: I don’t have much to say about this fight. While Grove has lost two of his last three fights I think that he is a more well-rounded and experienced fighter than Boetsch and will end up with the win. Pick: Grove via Decision.

KELVIN HUNT: Tough fight to call. You never really know which Kendall Grove is going to show up. Grove has fought the better competition overall and I think that experience will pay off for him. I like Grove via submission in Round 2.

RICHARD MANN: As a member of the “Jonathan Goulet Chin All Stars” Grove has the game to be a contender in the middleweight division. However, he will still drop fights to the likes of Jorge Rivera, because he simply doesn’t handle heavy shots well. Boetsch can certainly crack, but Grove should have a rather large advantage on the floor. Grove by decision.

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