It’s the biggest week of fights in UFC history and in conjunction with that, we have our biggest lineup of fights to pick from since the panel started doing picks. Even with the loss of the main event of UFC 200, that show is still stacked and we couldn’t narrow the picks down to just five fights for that show. We’ve taken most of the big matchups from that show and added the biggest fights from earlier in the week and have a lineup of 14 total fights we’re picking from.
Because of weigh-ins and any other potential changes, we’re posting these day by day and we’re onto Saturday at UFC Fight Night 91 on Fox Sports 1.
Here’s our panel with the updated 2016 records through last night with a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks:
John Pollock (41-21; .661) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
Ryan Frederick (39-23; .629) – WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
Josh Nason (37-25; .597) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
David Bixenspan (37-25; .597) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
Dave Meltzer (36-26; .581) – Wrestling Observer founder
Consensus picks (31-23; .574)
Mike Sawyer (35-27; .565) – Tough Talk MMA
Favorites (35-27; .565)
Mike Sempervive (34-28; .548) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
Front Row Brian (33-29; .532) – MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
Steve Juon (30-32; .484) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
Paul Fontaine (30-32; .484) – MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer
TUF 23 Finale –
> UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (11-0) vs Claudia Gadelha (13-1) II
Joanna Champion returns to action for the first time since November 2015 when she bested Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193 by unanimous decision. The Polish phenom is unbeaten as a pro and is 5-0 in the UFC. That also means she’s 3-0 in UFC title fights. Sound logic, right?
This is Gadelha’s first UFC title opportunity and her first main event. She’s 2-1 in the Octagon with both victories coming by unanimous decision. For what it’s worth, her team went 7-1 against Double J’s on this season’s TUF.
She faces her hated rival Gadelha who she defeated via razor thin split decision back in December 2014. The two have traded barbs for the last few months on TUF and at press conferences, and now get to finally settle things Friday night in Vegas.
– Jedrzejczyk (slight favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive, Juon
– Gadelha: Fontaine, Pollock, FRB, Sawyer, Frederick
> Will Brooks (17-1) vs Ross Pearson (19-10)
One of the more underappreciated lightweights in the game gets a chance to shine on the big stage Friday. The recent signee was Bellator lightweight champion when he got released by the promotion after the two came to an impassse over, well, everything. He comes into this opportunity on an eight fight win streak, including a perfect 4-0 in Bellator title fights, besting current champion Michael Chandler twice.
Pearson is the definition of a .500 fighter, going 4-4 over his last eight. He’s gone the distance in his last four and is coming off a split decision win over Chad Laprise in March. He’s a solid test for Brooks, but is a big underdog.
– Brooks (big favorite): Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, FRB, Juon, Sawyer, Frederick
> Jake Matthews (11-1) vs Kevin Lee (12-2)
The 21-year-old Matthews comes stateside for the first time in his UFC career, looking to improve his 4-1 Octagon career thus far. The Australian prospect has finishes in all of his UFC wins thus far and is coming off a TKO win over Akbarh Arreola and a March submission victory over Johnny Case. Originally slated to face Stevie Ray (not of Harlem Heat fame), he takes on injury replacement Lee. The 23-year-old has already fought seven times in the UFC and is coming off an April decision win over Efrain Escudero.
Matthews (slight favorite): Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Juon, Sawyer, Frederick
FROM LAST NIGHT: UFC Fight Night 90
> UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos (25-7) vs Eddie Alvarez (27-4)
The champ goes for the second successful defense of the belt he ripped from the hands of Anthony Pettis more than a year ago. Injuries have kept him a bit less than active as he’s fought just once since winning the title: a 66-second destruction of Donald Cerrone in December. The 31-year-old rides a five fight win streak into Thursday night and is also 3-0 in UFC main events. He’s 14-5 in the Octagon overall.
His opponent is no slouch in the former Bellator lightweight champion. This is Alvarez’s first UFC main event, although each of his last 10 fights in UFC and Bellator have been in the main or co-main event position. He has an 8-2 record in those fights, so that might be a good luck charm going into tonight. He’s 2-1 in the UFC and has won two straight over Gilbert Melendez and the aforementioned Pettis. He had an excellent run as a Bellator champion, losing just once in a multi-year reign (Michael Chandler). Does his UFC reign begin tonight?
– Dos Anjos (big favorite): Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, FRB, Juon, Sawyer
– Alvarez: Frederick
> Roy Nelson (21-12) vs Derrick Lewis (15-4)
For the last few fights, it’s felt like Nelson’s ample back is against the wall, but here he is again in another key spot on a big weekend. He’s lost five of his last seven, dropping him to 8-8 overall in the Octagon. The 40-year-old las was seen in a blah unanimous decision win over the later jettisoned Jared Rosholt. He’s fought a who’s who in the heavyweight division and gets another big prospect tonight.
The “Black Beast” has been on a fun run, winning three in a row — all by knockout. He’s the opposite of a decision fighter as he’s never gone the distance in eight UFC fights (6-2). Another fun fact? All of them ended in a knockout one way or another. He puts his power against the legendary toughness of Nelson in a hell of a co-main event.
– Nelson (slight favorite): Fontaine, Juon, Sawyer, Frederick
– Lewis: Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, FRB