Their first fight in April 2009 was highly entertaining and the rematch shouldn’t be any different. As I talked about in our 5 Reasons to Watch feature earlier in the week, these two always deliver exciting performances individually, so teaming them up should be awesome.
I’m a huge fan of Kampmann’s technical striking — he’s so clean, so precise, so accurate — but Condit is a bad matchup for him, and my pick to win this fight.
Kampmann is at his best when he’s allowed to pick guys apart from the outside (or capitalize on late mistakes to sneak out a submission win), and Condit isn’t going to give him those kinds of opportunities. “The Natural Born Killer” was competitive against both Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks, and has the kind of explosive power that is problematic for everyone in the division.
The other part of this is that Condit has tremendous finishing instincts, as 26 of his 28 victories have been stoppages. When he gets Kampmann on the ropes, he’ll be sure to put him away.
Prediction: Carlos Condit by TKO, Round 2.
Donald Cerrone (20-5) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (19-6)
This is a really underrated fight, and an important one for both athletes — Cerrone is looking to get back into title contention, while dos Anjos is trying to get their for the first time.
Give me Cerrone.
As much as dos Anjos has shown tremendous improvement over the course of his UFC career, he’s struggled with opponents a notch below Cerrone in the lightweight division in the past, and “Cowboy” tends to excel in this range in the 155-pound ranks.
This is going to be a kickboxing match, and there are few in the lightweight division capable of hanging with Cerrone in that kind of fight. If he comes out pissed off and firing leg kicks early, this could get ugly for dos Anjos real quick. Even if he doesn’t, I think Cerrone is the more complete fighter, and will earn the victory.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone by Unanimous Decision.
Kelvin Gastelum (6-0) vs. Brian Melancon (7-2)
If Melancon wasn’t taking this fight on short notice, I might not be as bullish on Gastelum. But with the most recent TUF winner coming off a full camp, and Melancon having fought at the start of July, I’m siding with the unbeaten Gastelum here.
I think the 21-year-old Yuma, Arizona native could eventually develop into a solid welterweight, provided the UFC doesn’t throw him into the fire too quickly. He showed solid all-around skills in his progression through The Ultimate Fighter, and with the boost in confidence that comes from winning the show — and a full training camp spent working with Chael Sonnen, Mark Munoz, and the team at the Reign Training Center — I see him getting in on Melancon’s legs, dragging him to the floor, and finding a finish.
Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum by Submission, Round 2.
Robert Whittaker (11-2) vs. Court McGee (15-3)
This battle of former TUF winners should be fun, as both Whittaker and McGee like to come forward, throw hands, and have the conditioning to keep a steady pace for the full 15 minutes if necessary.
I like Whittaker’s long-term prospects — and the fact that he’s been training with the all-stars at the Tristar Gym in Montreal is a huge positive — but McGee is my pick here.
“The Crusher” is the more experienced and more complete fighters of the two, with six UFC appearances already under his belt, compared to Whittaker’s two. As much as I would like to see these two slug it out in the center of the cage, I think we’ll see McGee try to turn this into a grind — get inside, get along the cage, get Whittaker to the ground.
I will say this though: Whittaker is one of those talented kids who could improve by leaps and bounds the more he continues to work with an elite squad, so don’t be surprised if he pulls the upset.
Prediction: Court McGee by Unanimous Decision
Brad Tavares (10-1) vs. Robert “Bubba” McDaniel (21-6)
McDaniel earned a solid win on the TUF 17 Finale, but you can’t put a lot of stock into submitting Gilbert Smith, who was extremely underwhelming the entire season. Tavares, meanwhile, has won three straight and five of six since emerging from TUF 11. I think you see where I’m going with this.
The 25-year-old Hawaiian Tavares is an easy choice for me here. He’s the more technical striker, and has looked far better than McDaniel, who has very limited experience on the big stage. Tavares has shown continued improvement over his last few fights, and I think this is the fight where he gets a big stoppage win that establishes him as a dark horse contender to watch in the middleweight division.
Prediction: Brad Tavares by TKO, Round 2.
Takeya Mizugaki (17-7-2) vs. Erik Perez (13-4)
This is a “measuring stick” matchup for Perez, a promising Team Jackson-Winkeljohn prospect who has looked really, really good against really, really overmatched competition through his first three UFC appearances.
Mizugaki won’t go away easily, but Perez looks like the real deal to me, and I think he’ll show that here.
Perez has shown good power thus far, and while Mizugaki is tough to finish, he’s hittable, and tends to get into close fights every time out, which plays right into Perez’ hands. “Goyito” is a well-rounded prospect, and this is the type of fight he needs at this point in his career.
I think he has the ability to emerge as a contender in the next 12 months, and believe this will be the fight we look back on as the moment he established himself as someone with championship upside in the bantamweight ranks.
Prediction: Erik Perez by unanimous decision.
Papy Abedi (9-2) vs. Dylan Andrews (16-4)
Love Andrews here.
Abedi is moving back up to middleweight off a mediocre win last time out, while Andrews absolutely starched Jimmy Quinlan in his TUF 17 Finale appearance. The New Zealander has serious knockout power, and we’ve seen Abedi get tagged in the past, which leads me to think this one ends quickly and violently with Andrews getting his hand raised.
Prediction: Dylan Andrews by TKO, Round 1.
Justin Edwards (8-2) vs. Brandon Thatch (9-1)
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet: Thatch has nine wins, and nine first-round finishes, and trust me when I tell that you he hasn’t just been taking out tomato cans on the regional circuit to earn those wins.
Thatch is one to watch going forward in the welterweight division — he’s a lanky, aggressive striker, comes from a solid camp, and should make a splash in his UFC debut here.
Prediction: Brandon Thatch by TKO, Round 1.
Hatsu Hioki (26-6-2) vs. Darren Elkins (16-3)
Hioki got a raw deal last time out, losing a questionable decision to Clay Guida. As good as Elkins looked prior to getting knocked out by Chad Mendes, I like the Japanese veteran here.
This is a good stylistic matchup for Hioki, who has a very active guard, and even better top position grappling. Elkins is a wrestler by trade and just an average striker, so you have to expect this one to go to the ground, and if that happens, Hioki is the better of the two.
Prediction: Hatsu Hioki by Unanimous Decision.
Jason High (16-4) vs. James Head (9-3)
High had a great run of success between his two UFC appearances, winning seven straight, but he’s gone 0-2 in the Octagon, and just don’t see how he comes away with a victory here.
Like High, Head also comes from a wrestling base, and he’s massive for the weight class, having spent his first 10 fights competing at middleweight. I think he’ll use that size to muscle High around the cage, and grind out a win.
Prediction: James Head by Unanimous Decision
Ben Alloway (12-4) vs. Zak Cummings (15-3)
In this battle of two former TUF competitors – Alloway was on The Smashes, Cummings on Season 17 — I’m siding with Cummings. The Missouri native is far more experienced in terms of the level of competition he’s faced, and should be able to put Alloway on the ground and find a submission in this one.
Prediction: Zak Cummings by Submission, Round 2.
Roger Bowling (11-4) vs. Abel Trujillo (10-5)
Both guys are coming off bad losses — Bowling got knocked out cold by Anthony Njokuani, while Trujillo was slammed around the cage by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both are in serious need of a win, and I think Trujillo is the one that gets it.
Bowling has suspect conditioning, and he just gets hit too much for my liking. As bad as Trujillo looked last time out — and he looked really bad — at least he was getting manhandled by a Top 15, maybe Top 10, lightweight. He’ll clip Bowling at some point along the way, and pound out a finish in the opening fight of the night.