The UFC makes its annual return to Toronto this weekend featuring two title fights and seven Canadians representing their home country inside the cage. Once again Jordan Cieciwa (@FitCityJordan) and I (@LynchOnSports) go head to head in our picks this week and let us know which side you're on, #TeamLynch or #TeamJC on Twitter. Also feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section below.
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson (Light heavyweight championship)
The 26-year old champion makes his sixth title defense (in his third fight in Toronto) as he faces off with the 15-1 Gustafsson. While the UFC is trying to bill this contest as a competitive matchup with the comparisons in age, height and record, don't be fooled by those statistics.
James Lynch TSN.ca (@LynchOnSports)
The Jackson/Winklejohn product has defeated five former champions during his UFC tenure while the Swede has only fought one top ten UFC ranked fighter (Phil Davis) whom he lost via first round submission.
They may both stand at six-feet, four inches tall, but Jones also possesses an eight-inch reach advantage. Stylistically the Alliance MMA fighter has relied on his size and conditioning to outwork his opponents, as he displayed in wins over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Thiago Silva.
In this fight he won't have the same advantage, nor has he ever faced a striker of the level of Jones. To his credit, "The Mauler" has made improvements throughout his current six-fight winning streak and doesn't appear to have any major weaknesses, even in the loss to Davis.
Considering Gustafsson hasn't faced an elite striker like Jones nor has he been as active with having an eight month layoff due to injury, it doesn't bode well for him. I see the current 205lb torchbearer using his wrestling and finding his range sometime in the second round for the TKO finish.
Jones via second round TKO
Jordan Cieciwa TSN 1290 (@FitCityJordan)
It's strange to watch as Jon Jones gets more interviews and you start to see him turn, well, strange. Ever since he drove his car into a pole with two girls who weren't his wife I've been waiting for his downfall. It hasn't come yet, and it seems to be strictly because he's just that good.
He's got submissions only he can do because of his long limbs and he always fights to his strengths. Jones is scary because he follows a game plan, and fights like he wants to win. He's missing the one thing GSP doesn't seem to possess; Killer instinct.
Alexander Gustafsson on the flip side, is lacking that really high level overall talent. No offense to Gustafsson, but he's missing the camp, team, and push that Jones has.
It would be amazing to see where this kids could be if he got involved with some of the right people. The test he faced against Rua could have been one to prove how good his kickboxing is, but Rua forgot to show up.
Gustafsson hasn't seen anything close to the talent found in Jones. With Jones high compete level, wrestling, almost a foot of reach, and training team, this will be a short night for "The Mauler".
Jones via third round TKO
Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland (Interim Bantamweight championship)
In a bout that was slated to headline the UFC 161 event in Winnipeg, current interim bantamweight champion Barao returns to the octagon from a foot injury, to battle the durable Wineland.
The Brazilian last saw action at UFC on FUEL 7 back in February, where he finished rising star Michael MacDonald with a fourth round arm-triangle choke. Not since his MMA debut back in 2005 has the 26-year old tasted defeat, and will be considerable challenge for the always game 29-year old.
Wineland meanwhile rose to fame back in 2006 in becoming the first ever WEC bantamweight champion, defeating Antonio Banuelos at WEC 20. He would go on to lose the title a year later and would be involved in some entertaining fights with the likes of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and most recently Brad Pickett.
We've also seen improvements in his wrestling and in his striking as he displayed in knockout wins over Ken Stone and Scott Jorgensen. What makes this fight interesting is that even in losing to top tier guys like Faber and Benavidez, they couldn't finish him. Clearly Barao has looked like an unstoppable force since he entered the UFC, but you can never count out a fighter who has a punchers chance.
This will no doubt be a competitive matchup, but I expect the 26-year old champion to come out on top. Look for the Nova Uniao fighter to push the pace into the championship rounds and submit Wineland sometime in the fourth.
Barao via fourth round submission
Eddie Wineland has a "Rocky" type of a story, and he gets you wanting the underdog to win. Renan Barao is just plan good. He's on a bit of a tear, a 29 win tear to be exact. He lost his first fight, since then, I guess he decided he didn't like to lose so he stopped doing it. Until Barao faced Brad Pickett I wasn't convinced.
Then to hang with Scott Jorgenson, Urijah Faber, and Michael McDonald and get wins, while now I'm convinced. He is more than the real deal. Eddie Wineland has been to the top of the pile, then back to the bottom, and is now on his way back up.
He's two fights in a row are not as impressive as 29 over 8 years, but, he's winning. We'll see how well the "foot" injury has healed. I don't think it will be any concern, but I do think Eddie Wineland will find a way to be victorious.
Wineland via third round TKO
Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione
A pair of Ultimate Fighter Season 10 competitors goes to war, as Grudge Training Center product Schaub faces off with 35-year old "Meathead" This is an interesting matchup for both fighters as not only are they similar physically, but inside the octagon they both share identical 1-2 records in their last three fights.
The former Buffalo Bills practice squad member Schaub rebounded from losing the TUF 10 finale to amass a four fight win streak and seemed on his way to earning a title shot. But back to back knockout losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Ben Rothwell shattered those title aspirations.
Mitrione endured a similar fate, earning a five fight win streak before losing to Cheick Kongo and Roy Nelson. While the former Minnesota Vikings DT has a decent reach and a quickness advantage, Schaub has the better wrestling. One thing you can bank on, this fight will not go to a decision as both have devastating knockout power.
Between the two, the Blackzillians fighter has the better chin and that should be the difference in this fight. This fight will likely end fast, with Mitirone getting the better of the exchanges and knocking out the 30-year old early in the fight.
Mitrione via first round knockout.
Well, I'm excited for this fight. It will be a nice break from the technical matches from all the other highly skilled fighters and nice to see two big dudes try to knock each other out. Lets be honest in this one, you have two former NFL athletes who don't want to go to the real world for jobs.
They are both on a bit of a slide, and they both punch really hard. Schaub has looked like a strong south wind could knock him out in his last two outing, so my money is on Mitirone. Schaub's only chance is a take down and some gritty wrestling, I don't think he'll get the chance.
Mitrone via knockout first 3 minutes of first round
Costa Philippou vs. Francis Carmont
For the first time in UFC history, two middleweight fighters with five fight win streaks face off as Renzo Gracie product Philippou faces off with Tristar fighter Carmont.
In his last fight, the 33-year old surprised many when he finished off the very durable Tim Boetsch in the third round back at UFC 155. The French fighter meanwhile did what he does best; earning a closely contested decision against Strikeforce veteran Lorenz Larkin at UFC on FOX 7.
Both fighters are almost somewhat forgotten with talk of contenders in the middleweight division and a statement win for either fighter could inch them closer to a title shot. Both fighters have the luxury of training with elite athletes as Philippou works with current middleweight champ Chris Weidman and Carmont trains with welterweight champion Georges St Pierre.
Despite the fact that the 31-year old is fighting in his adopted home of Canada and has a significant height and reach advantage, the edge in this fight has to go to the "Cyprus Slugger". Phillpou will use his quickness and boxing over three rounds to earn a close decision win.
Phillippou via split decision
Philipou has looked fantastic in his last five fights. He's got a ton of power in his hands, he demonstrated that best by actually finishing the job against Boetsch. The problem, that was well over a year ago, and at 33-years of age, that's a really long lay-off.
He walks in against Francis Carmont, a product of the Tri-Star Gym in Montreal. Carmont has survived being in the cage with some decent UFC talent. No one with the skills to be as solid as Philippou, but fighters with talent none the less.
He has fights in the Octagon, so his nerves shouldn't be a factor. He's riding a win streak, he is healthy, and I think he will push the pace and avoid any knock out attempt from Philippou. Given the long lay-off, I'm going with Carmont on this one. Plus, Tri Star is the home of the decision fighters.
Carmont via unanimous decision
Pat Healy vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Two of the hottest fighters in the lightweight division clash as Team Quest pupil Healy battles judo blackbelt Nurmagomedov.
Don't let the "No Contest" in his last fight fool you, Healy became the second fighter to finish Jim Miller at UFC 159 and unfortunately in the eyes of the athletic commission marijuana is still considered a performance enhancing drug.
Take that away and the 30-year old Healy is on a seven-fight win streak. Standing across the cage from him Saturday night is the 20-0 powerhouse known as "The Eagle" His UFC tenure thus far has looked nothing short of spectacular, earning wins over Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau and Bellator Season 7 tournament winner Shahbulat Shamhalaev.
No doubt the former MFC welterweight champion has the heart and determination to win this fight, but stylistically this poses a bad matchup for him. The Russian has excellent takedown defense, better striking and overall is going to bring an unorthodox style that the Oregon native has ever experienced. Expect the 24-year old to wear out Healy over three rounds, on route to a unanimous decision victory.
Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision
I usually go with the Judo guy, it's not used enough in MMA and there have been a lot of successful athletes with it. Ronda Rousey comes to mind. Pat Healy is coming off an impressive win against a very tough and talented Jim Miller, I call it a win, it was deemed a no contest due to marijuana.
Drugs are bad kids, but I'm still not sure weed helps MMA fighters win fights. But those are the rules, Healy broke them, and he has a NC where he should have an impressive win.
Khabib Nurmagomedov had the support of the UFC community in his last couple fights. People had been saying "watch for this kid", and he delivered, impressively. At 24 years old, he's got 20 fights. that's roughly three a year since turning 18. That's one heck of an active athlete. He dispatched Thiago Tavares with punches and beat Gleison Tibau in a decision. That's an impressive resume.
However, I don't think it's impressive enough after what I saw from Healy in his last fight and his desire to make this NC a thing of the past. Watch for a really motivated Healy to step in the Octagon and finish a young fighter.
Pat Healy via second round submission
Lynch: Jury, Menjivar, Thompson, Kimura, Makdessi, Ronson, Delorme, Omielanczuk
JC: Ricci, Menjivar, Clements, Kimura, Forte, Ronson, Delorme, Omielanczuk
Also be sure to tune into the "Weigh-In" on TSN Radio 1290 Winnipeg every Saturday as Jordan and I go toe to toe discussing the hottest topics in MMA