+245 Josh Burkman (29-12-0-1NC) vs. -285 Paul Felder (-285)
Josh Burkaman: TUF: season 2 vet Josh Burkman is 1-2-0-1 NC in his second stint in the UFC. Burkman fought his way back to the big show after winning the majority of his fights in local Utah shows as well as The World Series of Fighting promotion.
After a Fight of the Night TKO loss to Patrick Cote Burkman decided to make the move to lightweight. In his first bout at 155 Burkman beat a gun shy K.J Noons in a lackluster decision.
Paul Felder: “The Irish Dragon” has shown some flawless Muay Thai technique and brain rattling power early in his career. He looked very impressive in his early bouts, including a unforgettable spinning back-fist knockout of Danny Castillo.
Following back to back losses to Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson, Felder got back on the winning track with a third round submission over Daron Cruickshank in January.
The Fight: Felder is a much more dangerous striker than Noons, if Burkman isn’t able to secure his take downs he will take some brutal punishment from Felder. Expect Felder to be sprawling and brawling en route to a unanimous decision. Felder Unanimous Decision
+100 Jorge Masvidal (29-10) vs. -120 Lorenz Larkin (16-5-0 1NC)
Jorge Masvidal:“Gamebreed” has been on the wrong side of a few close decisions, he could conceivably be undefeated since his 2011 Strikeforce lightweight title fight loss to Gilbert Melendez.
Masvidal can hang with everyone at lightweight, but he needs to do more than hang, he will need to start finishing fights, or make the judges job easier by winning rounds more decisively.
Lorenz Larkin: “The Monsoon” was lights out in his first two bouts at 170 with impressive stoppages over elite strikers Santiago Ponzinibbio and John Howard. In his last outing he was robbed in a split decision to Albert Tumenov.
Larkin’s elite stand up and solid wrestling should be enough to have him ranked in the top 15 at lightweight, but the division is so deep that he is probably three big wins away from being in the contender picture, despite owning a victory over the current champion (Robbie Lawler).
The Fight: Masvidal is one of the most fundamentally sound fighters in every aspect of the game. Larkin will have a slight advantage on the feet, but Masvidal’s stand up is good enough to hang with Larkin’s striking long enough to set up his take downs. Masvidal Unanimous Decision
+165 Chris Camozzi (23-10) vs. -185 Vitor Miranda (13-4)
Chris Camozzi: Camozzi is currently in this third stint in the UFC. His first stint came off the heels of TUF Season 11 appearance. Camozzi won his preliminary fight to get into the house but was forced to leave the show when it was revealed that he suffered a broken jaw in his entrance fight.
Camozzi went 2-1 in his first stint after the show, 4-5 in his second stint and is currently 2-1 in his third stint, and looking for a signature win that has evaded him thus far.
Vitor Miranda: TUF Brazil 2 runner up Vitor Miranda has impressed since his reality show apperance at Light Heavyweight. Following the show Miranda has a 3-0 record with 3 stoppages.
Miranda is a legit threat at middleweight, he is a K1 caliber striker that trains with the Nogueira Brothers full time. The only knock on Miranda’s potential is his advanced age, at 37 he will only have one chance to make a run in the UFC and he needs the W in this fight if he is going to make the most of it.
The Fight: This one should mainly be a kickboxing match, unless Miranda has a clear advantage on Camozzi, in which case Camozzi will attempt to get it down.
However, Comozzi has a lot of confidence in his hands and I expect him to want to go toe to toe with “Lex Luther” losing a decision. Miranda Unanimous Decision
-105 #10 Tarec Saffiedine (18-4) vs. -115 #11 Rick Story (18-8)
Tarec Safiedine: “The Sponge” is coming off of a victory to Jake Ellenberger in January. Prior to the Ellenberger fight, Saffiedine took a walloping at the hands of Rory MacDonald.
Saffiedine, who was the last Strikeforce welterweight champion has all the tools to compete at the top of the division but will need to start finishing fights if he is going to get marquee match-ups in the future.
Rick Story: The “Horror” Story is an enigma at welterweight, he has the ability to defeat elite contenders like Johnny Hendricks and Gunnar Nelson or lose to a journeymen like Mike Pyle.
Story is one of the strongest wrestlers at lightweight and possess immense knockout power, if he can get by Saffidine he will have a lot of favorable match ups against the top 10 in welterweight.
The Fight: This is going to be a technique vs power battle, Saffiedine has flawless technical execution but lacks finishing power, Story has lights out power but tends get a little reckless.
In a match up like this I tend to side with technique, look for Saffiedine to out point Story on the feet and defend Story’s take downs enough to nab a decision. Saffiedine Split Decision
+165 Renan Barao (35-3-0 1NC) vs. #9 +160 Jeremy Stephens (24-12)
Renan Barao: Barao will be making his featherweight debut following two defeats to T.J Dilashaw at bantamweight. Barao is hoping the jump to 145 will help with his cardio and give him even more of a speed advantage than he had at 135.
The former champ isn’t quite starting at the bottom of the featherweight division he will get a crack at a top 10 opponent straight away and may be able to take a fast track to contender status.
Jeremy Stephens: “Lil Heathen” had above average power at 155 at 145 his hands are outright scary. 4-3 since the drop to featherweight, Stephens hasn’t shined in his new division, but he has scored some highlight reel knockouts including a show stopping knockout of Denis Bermudez.
Stephens will look to make the most of this showcase fight against a former champ and introduce Barao to the featherweight division with some heavy blunt force trauma.
The Fight: The combination of Barao moving up and Stephens moving down is going to create a power discrepancy that will be too much for the Nova Unaio student to overcome.
Barao will not be able to take down the larger Stepehens and it will only be a matter of time before Stephens is able to track Barao down and land the knockout blow. Stephens Knockout 2nd
-165 #7 Thomas Almeida (21-0) vs +145 Cody Garbrandt (8-0)
Thomas Almeida: This Chute Boxe young gun has made a huge impact on the bantamweight division in his four UFC bouts. Almeida is 4-0 with 3 draw dropping knockouts.
Almeida’s 8 limbed brand of violence is reminiscent of Shogun Rua and Wanderli Silva in their PRIDE days. A headlining bout is a good sign for what the UFC expects out of this 24 year old prospect.
Cody Garbrandt: “No Love” is Team Alpha Male’s latest challenger for the Bantamweight strap. Garbrandt has lighting quick hands and top tier wrestling that has garnered him 8 wins and zero defeats in his young career.
This will be Garbrandt’s first true test, and victory will assuredly place him in the top 15 if not 10 of the bantamweight division.
The Fight: Garbrandt’s hands may be a curse in the fight, his hand speed is typically enough to handle his opponents, but Almeida’s Muay Thai will give him more weapons to utilize in a stand up war.
If Garbrandt decides to make this a wrestling match it could get interesting, but I anticipate him eating a knee attempting to showcase his Boxing ending his night early. Almeida Knockout 1st