* Matt Mitrione over Cheick Kongo, TKO, R2
It's time to start taking Mitrione seriously. The goofball from the 10th TUF season has quietly gone 5-0 in the UFC and if he beats Kongo, will get himself into a contender's bout in his next fight. How in the world did this happen? It happened by Mitrione being a generally tough nut to crack, able to take a punch, land a punch and knowing enough basic wrestling and jujitsu to stave off more experienced guys in those disciplines. Kongo is, as ever, going to try to keep it standing but I'd expect Mitrione to take him down a couple of times, and eventually Kongo will tire out and Mitrione will land a bomb or two that ends it.
* Scott Jorgensen over Jeff Curran, decision
Curran is your classic gatekeeper fighter that loses to top-level guys and beats lower-level guys. I don't think Jorgensen is quite a top-top-level fighter who will be seeing a title shot anytime soon (especially since Dominick Cruz just beat him for the WEC belt last year) but he's got enough to top Curran. It'll be a pretty exciting 15 minutes, but Jorgensen's got this one.
* Hatsu Hioki over George Roop, submission, R2
I'm breaking one of my cardinal rules here in that I'm picking the highly-rated Japanese fighter who's making his UFC debut. In a lot of cases the guys who competed in DREAM, PRIDE, CAPITAL LETTERS and other international organizations had their reps boosted by facing inferior competition (this is known as 'pulling a Diaz') and then getting a reality check when fighting in North America. The thing is, in this case, I think Hioki is actually legit and George Roop, while only tops out at decent. Roop will probably get himself tapped and Hioki will get himself established as a new contender at featherweight. Should Hioki win, I'd suspect he might get the next shot at Jose Aldo, probably at the UFC event in Japan in February. It's either Hioki or possibly Chad Mendes, though Hioki has the advantage in that he isn't criminally boring. Sorry Chad, next time hail from a country that's hosting a UFC PPV. (Though, according to Wikipedia, "Mendes is of Portuguese, Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish and Indian descent," so you figure it's just a matter of time.)
* Roy Nelson over Mirko Cro Cop, KO, R3
Man, poor Cro Cop is definitely in the "Jordan with the Wizards" phase of his career, except Jordan just missed the playoffs in Washington. He didn't walk off the court and get knocked unconscious at the end of every season. If Frank Mir and Brendan Schaub and catch Mirko at this point in his career, then certainly Roy Nelson can as well. Nelson, for all the crap he's taken about his physique and cardio, still took Mir and Junior Dos Santos to decisions in his last two outings. Roy escapes getting cut (both literally and figuratively) once again by beating Cro Cop to stay in the UFC.
* B.J. Penn over Nick Diaz, decision
When Georges St. Pierre pulled out of this card with an injury, thus cancelling the main event against Carlos Condit, I considered not even bothering with a predictions post. But, hey, why pass up the chance to publicly bash Nick Diaz? Anyway, Diaz (a.k.a. the most overrated fighter in the world) has sullen-ed his way into a high-profile bout in his return to the UFC following five years in smaller promotions. In that time, Diaz has gone 11-1-1 with wins over such notables as…uh….well, guys who either used to be good (Frank Shamrock, Mach Sakurai) or guys with negligible 'potential' (Cyborg Santos, Marius Zaromskis, Paul Daley) that haven't capitalized on it because they're not actually good, or just outright cans. In spite of this unimpressive win streak, Diaz has fooled a number of MMA fans into thinking he's actually an elite fighter, and when combined with his unabashed punk attitude, it's made for a really obnoxious wall of hype going into this event. Had Diaz not been unprofessional and no-showed a press conference, it would've been the one getting the shot at St. Pierre on this card.
Instead, he gets B.J. Penn. It's not going to matter. Diaz can't beat GSP, Diaz can't beat Penn, Diaz can't beat Jon Fitch, Diaz can't beat Condit, Diaz can't beat Josh Koscheck, Diaz can't beat Jake Ellenberger….do you want me to keep going? I can keep listing top-10 welterweights if you wish, but the bottom line is, Diaz is an overrated fighter to say the least.
The only, ONLY way that Diaz has a chance here is if Penn has one of his half-assed training camps and comes into the fight in poor shape. It's possible Diaz could outwork BJ for two rounds out of three and steal a decision, but really, Penn is usually fine in the first couple of rounds unless he's against a real elite guy like GSP or Frankie Edgar. If Penn can manage to crack Jon Fitch in the first two rounds, I'm sure he can goddamn figure out Diaz, and there is zero chance Diaz can win a 10-8 round in the third to steal a draw like Fitch did. I'm saying Penn by decision but really, it's also possible BJ just knocks Diaz out cold since Penn is an actual boxer, unlike Diaz and his pitter-patter punches. In short, Penn wins by however he wants. The bright side for Nick is that once he's proven to be irrelevant, he won't have to attend any more press conferences when he's fighting on the undercard. Hooray!
* Francis Carmont over Chris Camozzi, submission, R1
* Danny Downes over Ramsey Nijem, decision
* Donald Cerrone over Dennis Siver, submission, R2
* Bart Palaszewski over Tyson Griffin, decision
* Brandon Vera over Eliot Marshall, decision
* Clifford Starks over Dustin Jacoby, decision