It’s that time once again folks for the staff picks. If you have been following our picks for awhile you will see some new names among the fold as we’ve added some new faces to the team. You will also see of course the traditional names you are familiar with.

Saturday’s fight card is the UFC’s third event to air on FOX and although there’s no title bouts, there are definitely title implications in more than one of the fights.

Lightweight: Tony Ferguson (13-2) Michael Johnson (10-6)

ODDS: Ferguson -250 vs. Johnson +200

Josh Cross: The outcome of this fight I think depends on how successful Johnson is at taking Ferguson to the ground. I think Ferguson has the advantage standing while Johnson’s best chance to win is by keeping this fight on the mat. In the end though I think Ferguson will be able to defend Johnson’s takedowns and ultimately finish the fight. Pick: Ferguson via TKO.

John Buhl: This fight really doesn’t look too close on paper. Ferguson can negate Johnson’s wrestling advantage and has the more dangerous boxing skills. Ferguson by decision.

Jay Cee: I think Tony Ferguson is stronger in the striking department and I can see him winning this fight by knockout. Johnson is a good all-rounder who has the ability to finish fights but Ferguson is on a six-fight winning streak at the moment and I am not sure that Johnson will be the man to stop him. PICK: Ferguson wins via TKO.

Kelvin Hunt: I think this will be a pretty exciting fight as both fighters like to really get after it. I think Ferguson has the edge standing and is the better wrestler on paper although he pretty much likes to stand and bang. I wouldn’t count Johnson out, but Ferguson’s pace will probably be too much.  Ferguson via TKO.

Dan Theodore: While Johnson might be able to get a couple takedowns in the fight, I think Ferguson’s great boxing takes it. While Ferguson has lost to one of my training partners in Karen Darabedyan he certainly has looked very good in the UFC so far. Also, Johnson with five Submission losses may have a weakness there as well that Ferguson might be able to exploit on the ground. I’ve got Ferguson winning by TKO, Sub, or Decision in this one.

Denny Hodge: Look for Tony Ferguson to mix up his attacks against Michael Johnson who is coming in as a late replacement. Johnson has the speed advantage but Ferguson really knows how to keep his opponents off balance with his mix of striking and wrestling. He will be able to dictate the place and pace of this bout on his way to a victory. Ferguson by unanimous decision.

Oron Crawford: Johnson has come into this fight as a replacement on five weeks notice. Ferguson is on a six fight win streak. I think Ferguson makes this win number seven. Johnson is tough though, so I think this will go the distance. Winner: Tony Ferguson by decision.

Richard Mann: Johnson is a solid fighter, but he does not stand out in any one area. He likes to use his wrestling, but in this fight Ferguson will probably have the better skills in that area. Look for Ferguson to keep this fight on the feet and do a lot of damage. Ferguson by TKO.

Brian Furby: Tony Ferguson via unanimous decision.

Jack Bratcher: Tony Ferguson is a bad dude. He’s one of the most impressive TUF winners to me and he remains undefeated inside the Octagon with three straight wins over the likes of Ramsey Nijem, Aaron Riley and Yves Edwards. The fact that Ferguson has been running through veterans like Riley and Edwards should tell you a lot. He was originally supposed to face Dennis Hallman on this card, but he got hurt. Then he was going to face Thiago Tavares, and he got hurt. Michael Johnson is the third choice and Ferguson should run right through him with little trouble. First round TKO for Mr. Ferguson is my pick.

Heavyweight: Pat Barry (7-4) vs. Lavar Johnson (16-5)

ODDS: Barry -200 vs. Johnson +160

Josh Cross: I expect both of these fighters will come out swinging and not stop until someone is out cold. With that being said, I like Barry’s chances and I think he has more tools to work with in order to get the job done. Pick: Barry via knockout.

John Buhl: Maybe it’s because he’s too short or doesn’t have great cardio, but I’m not incredibly blown away by Pat Barry’s striking. He has incredible leg kicks, but he’s mainly feasted on the dregs of the UFC heavyweight division. Johnson is tough as hell and hits like a truck. His technique won’t look as pretty as Barry’s, but I think he has the size, athleticism and toughness to get out of the first round and take out Barry late. Johnson by third round TKO.

Jay Cee: I think one of these two men is likely to win “Knockout Of The Night” in this fight. I cannot see the fight going to the ground, both men like to stand and bang so I don’t think it will last long. Some may give the advantage to Lavar due to his size which in theory could allow him to control the fight more but Barry has knocked out big guys in the past so I cannot see this being an issue. I predict a first round TKO victory for Pat Barry. PICK: Barry wins via TKO in the first round.

Kelvin Hunt: Flip a coin. I’m going with the underdog. Johnson has one punch KO power, is the larger fighter and has a huge reach advantage. Johnson via TKO.

Dan Theodore: As much as I like Pat Barry, especially because he is a kicker built short and stocky like myself, I feel like Johnson might become a breakout star if he keeps coming out fast out of the gate. While Barry may be the more technical striker who’s style I like better, if Johnson comes out mad dog technical brawling I think he can TKO Barry.

Denny Hodge: Slugfest. That’s what this fight should be, but I’m still waiting to see if Barry is going to show off his improved double-leg takedown against Johnson. He told ProMMAnow before his last fight that the hair will not be cut until he gets a sub victory. Will the hair get it’s day at the barbershop? Probably not this time around because someone is getting KO’d. Barry will soften him up with those patented leg kicks, then put him away by TKO in the second.

Oron Crawford: If Lavar is able to connect his fist to Barry’s chin within the first round, this one will be done. However, I think Barry has the striking finesse and experience to be cautious, pick his shots and drag this into the later rounds where he’ll be able to finish a gassed Johnson. Although, we have seen Barry rush in and brawl for it all only for him to find his bell rung (see Barry vs. Kongo), I’m going to put my faith in Barry to play it smart. Winner: Pat Barry by TKO RD 3.

Richard Mann: Johnson is a solid athlete and that is enough to win fights in the UFC heavyweight division, but not here. Barry’s striking is on another level in this fight. Johnson may be able to hold some clinches against the fence, but he won’t be able to dominate the fight that way. Look for Barry to get loose at one point and finish the fight. Barry by TKO.

Brian Furby: Lavar Johnson via KO in round one.

Jack Bratcher: Listen to me right now. Take your money and go place it on Lavar Johnson. I’m very surprised by these odds. Fourteen of Johnson’s 16 wins have come via knockout. The other two were submissions. He’s never gone the distance. Four of his five losses have been via submission and he lost once via TKO in his FIRST pro fight way back in 2004 to The Rhino Doug Marshall. I repeat… go put your money on Lavar Johnson (at of course). Look, I’m a huge Pat Barry fan and would be happy for him if he won. He may be the nicest fighter I’ve ever met. In fact, I gave his whole team Pro MMA Now shirts because I like him so much. But Lavar Johnson is a heavy handed monster, and training with AKA, he is well-prepared for Barry’s game. I doubt this goes out of the first round — Johnson by knockout.

Middleweight: Rousimar Palhares (14-3) vs. Alan Belcher (17-6)

ODDS: Palhares -270 vs. Belcher +220

Josh Cross: I think that Belcher’s best chance to win this fight is by keeping it standing. While Belcher has talked about the possibility of going to the ground with Palhares I don’t think it would be a wise decision. If the fight remains standing then I think Belcher will win, but I don’t really see that happening. I think Palhares will ultimately get Belcher to the ground and submit him. Pick: Palhares via submission.

John Buhl: No one wants to be on the ground with a vicious leglock master like Palhares. And that includes Belcher, even though he has a strong BJJ game of his own. On the feet, Belcher clearly has more tools at his disposal. This fight will be about fending off Palhares’s takedowns and getting him into the second and third rounds, where Palhares tends to fade a bit after coming out in beast mode during round one. Belcher in another close decision.

Jay Cee: This is a really interesting fight because both men are very experienced and really dangerous on the ground. Palhares has a very dangerous heel hook that he has used to finish many fights in the past but Belcher will be aware of this and will have trained for it. I think the deciding factor may be who can dictate the fight whilst standing, if an advantage can be gained on the feet then it will make it easier to dominate the fight on the ground. I think this will be a back and forth chess match ending with Belcher scoring the decision victory. PICK: Alan Belcher wins via Decision.

Kelvin Hunt: I think Palhares is a bit overrated in that he has been winning impressively, but he hasn’t really beaten anyone of note either. Belcher’s striking is much better than Palhares and as long as he can avoid going to the ground early he’ll be fine. Palhares has shown that his cardio isn’t the best in the world either. I’m going with another underdog…Belcher via unanimous decision.

Dan Theodore: This fight is very interesting. Belcher has a huge 6-inch height advantage. Not only is that important on the feet, but WHEN Palhares goes for a leg, if he has trained extensively as I am sure he has done to stay heavy planting that foot flat on the ground, he should be able to bend over and possibly TKO Palhares from there, or later on the feet. But they don’t call Palhares a tree trunk for no reason, this guy is super strong, and when he laces the leg he is likely able to bring the fighters base down with power. But keep in mind Belcher is no joke with Submissions, having 7 to his record including a toe hold victory with only 1 loss due to submission. I’ve trained with Palhares once, and he not only ate his huge Memphis BBQ meal afterwords, but both mine and Bustamante’s left overs to feed those muscles! This is Palhares by leg lock or Belcher by TKO and really too close to call!

Denny Hodge: This fight should be really fun to watch. Whenever “Paul Harris” steps into the cage, anything can happen. Belcher needs to control the space in this bout as Palhares will aggressively pursue him around the octagon looking to close the distance and put the fight on the mat. Belcher will have to be cautious with his kicks, but I believe they will be key for him in this fight. Palhares will eventually get the fight to the mat, and Belcher cannot make the slightest mistake once there or it will be over. Palhares by submission.

Oron Crawford: This is the fight I am most excited for on this card. I expect it to be nothing but action packed, exciting, and since Palhares is in it, at least one WTF moment. Like Kelvin said in his article earlier this week, Belcher being the underdog at –300 is great odds to throw some money down on Alan “The Talent”. I think when it comes to picking a winner for this one it’s a toss-up. If Belcher can keep away from Palhares’ nasty jiu-jitsu game in the opening rounds, he should be able to win the stand up en route to a decision victory. For some reason though my gut is telling me that Palhares will be able to grab hold of a limb and force Belcher to tap. Winner: Rousimar Palhares by Submission RD 2.

Richard Mann: Belcher is certainly the better all-around fighter. However, leg locks are the ultimate equalizer in MMA. Fighters in North America are not properly prepared to deal with dangerous leg lockers. Most Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools in the U.S. don’t allow leg locks. Most grappling event do not even allow them. Even if Belcher has trained for Palhares’ predictable attack, he does not have the experience. Even if “Tree Stump” can’t get the submission, he can use the holds to keep position and win a decision. Palhares by submission.

Brian Furby: Alan Belcher via TKO in round two.

Jack Bratcher: Belcher looked so thin at weigh-ins. There’s a ton of hype surrounding Palhares — and fear — fear that he is going to grab hold of a limb and snap it like a twig. I think Belcher is experienced enough and good enough to not get submitted, and will have a distinct stand-up advantage. I love this match-up and while Palhares can certainly win this fight in a split second, I think Belcher gets the win via decision by avoiding submissions and out-pointing Palhares on the feet, but not being able to put him away.

Welterweight: Josh Koscheck (17-5) vs. Johny Hendricks (12-1)

ODDS: Koscheck -110 vs. Hendricks -120

Josh Cross: This fight is a tough one for me to pick. On one hand I can see Hendricks getting the knockout win while on the other hand I can see Koscheck using his speed and experience to earn him the decision. At the end of the day though I just feel like Hendricks will have more opportunities to land a knockout shot than anything else and that’s why I’m going to go with Hendricks to win this bout. Pick: Hendricks via knockout.

John Buhl: Between Koscheck’s complaints about the American Kickboxing Academy, his lackluster performance against Mike Pierce, and inability to really improve his game in years, I’m taking Hendricks. I’m not confident in my pick, but Hendricks has shown improved striking, and now that he has even more confidence in his hands after blasting John Fitch, I think he could be even more dangerous. Although Hendricks still really hasn’t made his wrestling skills really work well in the cage, I’m picking him to win unless Koscheck suddenly learns how to throw a jab and combinations. Hendricks by decision.

Jay Cee: Both of these guys are former NCAA champions with great wrestling ability so it will be interesting to see who can dominate on the ground. Hendricks has a very dangerous knockout punch which we witnessed when he defeated Jon Fitch at UFC 141, Koscheck will have to be careful of this as Johny will no doubt have a lot of confidence in his striking after that performance. Josh also has knockout power which is what makes this so exciting. Difficult to decide between these two men but I can see Hendricks grinding out the decision victory. PICK: Johny Hendricks wins via Decision.

Kelvin Hunt: Tough fight to call as both fighters have almost the same skill set. I think Hendricks has the edge in punching power, but Koscheck has a huge edge in experience. This fight probably goes to the judges. I think it’s Hendricks’ time… Hendricks via split decision.

Dan Theodore: I’ve got Hendricks most likely winning this battle of wrestlers turned punchers because he is a southpaw. He should be able to avoid Koscheck’s overhand right as long as he controls the footwork staying on the outside gate. If Hendricks does that, he can land his big left, and finish with a TKO standing or on the ground.

Denny Hodge: Hendricks is coming off a career-defining KO of Jon Fitch while Koscheck was given a gift-wrapped decision nod in his last bout against Mike Pierce. Hendricks has to remain patient and not expect that one-punch will dispatch a guy like Koscheck in this bout. That being said, the wrestling will be pretty even, and Hendricks will have the advantage on the feet as the fight wears on. Hendricks will do enough in the end to earn a close decision victory in this one. 

Oron Crawford: I think both of these combatants’ high level of wrestling will turn this into a striking war. Koscheck is the more experienced, he has fought the who’s who in the Welterweight division. However, time might not be on Koscheck’s side, he’s 34 and he has been going through a lot of drama with his departure from AKA. He told the media that it has been his best camp yet, with him finally being able to get all the personal attention he needs, but I’m not buying it. I think Hendricks will send Koscheck to the mat from a big strike and go on to TKO him. Winner: Johny Hendricks via TKO RD 3.

Richard Mann: There is a chance that Hendricks ends this fight in only 12 seconds, but that seems unlikely. Koscheck does a better job using his wrestling in MMA, and he is a little bit more advanced in the striking department. However, he looked miserable on the feet against Hughes, and his camp situation is in flux. Koscheck should be the favorite, but another Hendricks upset should not shock anyone. Koscheck by decision.

Brian Furby: Johny Hendricks via TKO in round two.

Jack Bratcher: Johny Hendricks almost seems like a younger less experienced version of Josh Koscheck. Both have good wrestling and heavy hands. Both guys are super tough too and will be hard either guy to put the other away. Koscheck via decision.

Lightweight: Nate Diaz (15-7) vs. Jim Miller (21-3)

ODDS: Diaz +160 vs. Miller -200

Josh Cross: I think we’re going to see some really slick ground work between these two in the bout. While I think Diaz is the better striker I’m not sure how effective it will be here. I can see Miller being able to keep his distance, pick his shots, and frustrate Diaz on his feet. I think that ultimately this fight goes the distance and I think Miller will be able to do enough to pick up the win.Pick: Miller via decision.

John Buhl: I’ll probably end up looking stupid, but I’m taking Miller. We’ve seen wrestlers take Diaz down with ease, but Miller also has a great Jiu Jitsu background to match Diaz’s ground work. Nate’s striking isn’t quite as good as his brother, so I think Miller can wade through whatever punishment Diaz dishes out — ala the Melvin Guillard fight — and score takedowns and win what should be a very exciting grappling affair. Miller by close decision.

Jay Cee: I really do have a feeling that this fight will end with a submission, both guys are great on the ground and have ended many fights via submission in the past. The bout is scheduled for five rounds so I think whoever has enough gas left in the tank during the later rounds will end the fight via submission over a weak and tired opponent. Both Diaz brothers have great conditioning but Miller is also no stranger to going the distance. It will be close but I think Nate Diaz will take this one via submission. PICK: Nate Diaz via submission.

Kelvin Hunt: Diaz has the edge in striking but has always been vulnerable to wrestlers. This fight will probably be no different. I expect Miller to make this an ugly fight as he tries to close the distance and take Diaz down. He’ll need to be careful of the active guard of Diaz. However, Miller is well versed in submissions on the ground. I think Miller takes the unanimous decision. If Diaz wins it’ll probably have to be via submission.

Dan Theodore: This fight could go a lot of ways, I predict it to be a war. Miller should be able to get some takedowns, control the mat action, and land some GnP. However, the accumulated damage from Diaz’s sharp high paced loose boxing will take a toll on Millers face. I’ve got this fight going to a 5 round split decision most likely unless either man pulls out a Submission, with Diaz winning based on facial damage winning out the judges.

Denny Hodge: This fight is crucial for Diaz to take that next step in his career. He’s been beaten in the past by wrestlers who were able to easily take him down, and has been dominant with guys that stand in the pocket and bang with him. Miller will not be doing anything remotely close to going toe-to-toe with Diaz on the feet, so it all comes down to Diaz staying off his back for long periods of time. Miller has great sub defense, while Diaz is crafty and active on his back. If Diaz cannot find a way to stifle the takedown game of Miller, or at least get back to his feet after surrendering limited takedowns, he will lose. I think Diaz is ready to address and prove that he is a number one contender. Diaz by unanimous decision.

Oron Crawford: Nate Diaz’s kryptonite has been wrestlers and Miller is a good wrestler. However, Diaz’s submission game off his back is not to be scoffed at. I think Diaz is going to keep this on his feet and frustrate Miller with the pitter patter Diaz style shots that will eventually wear Miller down. I don’t see Diaz finishing Miller, but I expect him to pull away with the fight in the 4th and 5th round and begin to dominate en route to a unanimous decision. Winner: Nate Diaz.

Richard Mann: If Miller would stick to a game plan, he could easily win this fight. He has the better takedowns, and that is clearly the way to best Diaz. Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida bested Diaz with barely any offense. Guida won a round over Diaz by basically standing behind him against the cage. However, Diaz always does a good job sucking people into his world. Miller also likes to stand when he shouldn’t. He spent most of his fight against Duane Ludwig on the feet, when he could have easily won it on the ground. Look for Diaz to get the better of the striking and do enough off his back to take the decision. Diaz by decision.

Brian Furby: Jim Miller via unanimous decision.

Jack Bratcher: Jim Miller’s wrestling may be the biggest differentiator in this fight. How much of a difference it will make is hard to say; it all depends on his game plan. Keep in mind Diaz trains with the likes of Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez and has done very well against the likes of Clay Guida (although he gave up a split decision).  Miller is a BJJ black belt so if the fight goes to the ground, things could get very interesting. Diaz is very dangerous off his back but Miller is good enough as to where he probably won’t get submitted, and likewise, Diaz is probably not going to be submitted either. A lot of people seem to think this bout is going the distance and I have to agree. Diaz should have the boxing advantage and could out-point Miller on the feet if it turns into a brawl. But I think Miller is going to play it smart, use his wrestling to mix it up. He might even stun Diaz with some big punches — don’t think he will put him away, but I do think Miller is going to win this one via decision.

By Pro MMA Now Staff

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