Brad Tavares (10-1) vs. Bubba ‘The Menace’ McDaniels (21-6)
Currently on a three-fight win streak, Brad Tavares has looked unstoppable since being handed his first and only career loss to Aaron Simpson back at UFC 132. While Tavares hasn’t shown much to justify a spot in the top 10 at 185 pounds, The Ultimate Fighter 11 alum has proven he has what it takes to sustain a long and successful career in the UFC. But standing across from him in the cage is another TUF alum in Bubba McDaniels, who’s coming off an impressive submission victory over Gilbert Smith at the TUF 17 Finale. But while his last win earned him a spot in the UFC, ‘The Menace’ struggled during his time at the TUF house, dropping very lopsided stoppages to both Kelvin Gastelum and Uriah Hall. Since Tavares is essentially taking a step down in competition, I don’t see his winning streak ending as he has the advantage no matter where the fight ends up.
Tavares via Round 1 TKO
Takeya Mizugaki (17-7-2) vs. Erik ‘El Goyito’ Perez (13-4)
The hype surrounding Mexican prospect Erik Perez is palpable and with three straight first round stoppages to start his UFC career, the 23-year-old more than deserves the excitement that seems to follow him wherever he goes. But don’t expect “El Goyito” to run through his next opponent as Takeya Mizugaki has spent the last four years facing the best of the best at 135 pounds including MMA icons Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres and Scott Jorgenson. It will tough for the young Perez to finish a veteran of Mizugaki’s magnitude but with a spot in the top 10 within reaching distance I expect him to perform better than ever and cement himself as the top prospect at 135 pounds.
Perez via Unanimous Decision
Court ‘The Crusher’ McGee (15-3) vs. Robert Whittaker (11-2)
It’s a matchup of two former TUF champions as season 11 champion Court McGee squares off against TUF: Smashes champion Robert Whittaker. Facing fellow champions is nothing new for Whittaker as he’s coming off a third round knockout victory over season 16 champion Colton Smith at UFC 160. With five of 11 career victories coming by way of knockout and five more coming way of submission, Whittaker has proven he is comfortable no matter where the fight ends up. But McGee is a huge step up in competition, as he looked absolutely dominant in his first fight as a welterweight back at UFC 157. Before that night ‘The Crusher’ had gone 3-2 as a UFC middleweight before making the drop to 170 pounds to look for new life in a stacked division. While he may hold the edge in experience the only way I see McGee coming out on top is by closing the distance and grinding out a decision victory over his opponent. But this is easier said than done as Whittaker showed tremendous takedown defense and cardio defense against Smith, a fighter known for wearing out his opponent down on the canvas. If he can keep the fight standing I see another knockout coming in the later rounds and Whittaker coming out on top.
Whittaker via Round 3 KO
Kelvin Gastelum (6-0) vs. Brian Melancon (7-2)
Once an enormous underdog in his last bout, Yuma’s own Kelvin Gastelum has emerged as one of the most promising prospects in the UFC after a claiming the TUF: 17 crown with a split decision victory over the highly touted Uriah Hall. Now, undefeated and dropping down a division to his natural fighting weight of 170 pounds, the YUMMA product is looking to live up the hype surrounding him against knockout artist Brian Melancon, another man who knows a thing or two about upsets. After taking more than a year off from fighting, Melancon returned with a vengeance to make his UFC debut with a first round knockout over UFC veteran Seth Baczynski at UFC 162. Both men obviously have tremendous finishing ability as the two have a combined for 10 stoppage victories in their careers, so the key to this bout will definitely be who can set the pace early in the fight. Gastelum clearly holds the advantage on the ground while Melancon holds the advantage in the feet. If Melancon can keep Gastelum at bay to utilize his striking his chances of winning will grow exponentially. But in the end I see Gastelum living up the hype and pulling off the submission victory
Gastelum via Round 1 submission
#6 ‘Cowboy’ Donald Cerrone (20-5) vs. #10 Rafael dos Anjos (19-6)
It’s a battle between two top 10 lightweights looking to maintain relevancy in the deepest division in all of MMA. In one corner is Donald Cerrone, coming off a decision victory over MMA veteran KJ Noons at UFC 160 but before that was one win away from a title shot on two separate occasion before losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 141 and Anthony Pettis at UFC on Fox 6. Since then he revealed he’s been visiting a sports psychologist to help push past the mental barriers when the lights go on and all eyes are on him. An incredibly talented and well-rounded martial artist, ‘Cowboy’ has the tools to stand with anyone in the 155-pound division with his incredible combination of world class striking and submission game. But standing across from him the cage is the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace and MMA veteran in Rafael dos Anjos. Since debuting in the UFC back in 2008, dos Anjos has struggled to break into the upper echelon of 155-pounds. But since dropping a split decision los to Gleison Tibau, the Kings MMA product has put together an impressive four fight win streak, the longest of his UFC career. A win over a name like Cerrone would sky rocket dos Anjos up the rankings and finally earn him the respect he deserves. However, I don’t see dos Anjos coming out on top as Cerrone has all the tools necessary to negate dos Anjos’ grappling skills.
Cerrone via Unanimous Decision