Last time I barely edged out a victory over Jason Brilz, thanks largely to a questionable decision for Nick Ring.
This time I face UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz in a prediction contest that's as intense as a Nick Diaz-Paul Daley staredown. Okay, maybe not, but it's only because I prefer to keep my emotions tightly bottled up until they boil over at the most inopportune time. You think you can handle that, Dominick?
Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley
Cruz: Daley by TKO. "Nick Diaz is a friend of mine. We're on Metal Mulisha together. It's tough to pick against a guy like him, but if we're talking just the fight, Paul Daley's got that striking power. I think his takedown defense is good enough to stop Diaz from taking him down, and he's got that one big punch to put Diaz down."
Fowlkes: Diaz via submission. Daley's punching power is a variable you can't discount, and with nearly 2-1 odds it was enough to justify picking him from a gambling perspective. In straight-up picks with pride on the line, however, I'll go with Diaz. Eventually he'll be convinced to take the fight down, and once there he's so much better than Daley.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
Cruz: Melendez by TKO. "I look at fights stylistically. The way I look at that one is, Gilbert gets to decide where this fight takes place. If he doesn't feel comfortable on the ground, he can stand up. If he's not comfortable on the feet, he can take it down. He can take it wherever he wants and beat him up."
Fowlkes: Melendez by decision. Kawajiri will prove too tough to finish, but I agree that Melendez will be the one who dictates the action and controls the fight. He's a better, smarter fighter than he was the first time they met, and it will show over the course of five rounds.
Keith Jardine vs. Gegard Mousasi
Cruz: Mousasi by decision. "Jardine poses a lot of problems with his awkwardness, but Mousasi is a beast. ...On short notice fights it's sometimes hard to decide because they haven't had a full camp to prepare for the guy, but I have to take Mousasi."
Fowlkes: Mousasi by TKO. Not to discount Jardine's toughness or gameness, both of which are well-established, but taking this fight on nine days' notice will have consequences. Jardine is going to fade and Mousasi will surge, and that's when Mousasi can put him away.
Shinya Aoki vs. Lyle Beerbohm
Cruz: Aoki by submission. "I think that Aoki is just so fluid and so good with his submissions for MMA, that's the difference-maker. There's few and far between jiu-jitsu people who can figure out a style that works for MMA, and he's one of them."
Fowlkes: Beerbohm via decision. I don't disagree with anything Dominick said about the fight. Aoki is indeed something special on the mat. But I think Beerbohm will put him up against the fence and grind away at him for three rounds. I don't know how fun that will be to watch, but it's a smart and safe path to victory for Beerbohm.
Cruz picks: Daley, Melendez, Mousasi, Aoki
Fowlkes picks: Diaz, Melendez, Mousasi, Beerbohm
Tiebreaker question: time of the shortest fight on the main card?
Cruz: 2:00 of round 1
Fowlkes: 3:47 of round 1