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UFC Fight Night 76: Our picks and preview

UFC Fight Night Mexico

After the events of last week's UFC 193, it's hard to think anything on this show will top what we saw in the main event. The TUF Latin America finals show does feature some interesting names and, on paper at least, has "fun card!' potential, especially the top three fights.

Our panel:

- Jack Encarnacao (98-39 | .715): Sherdog Rewind host, The Lapsed Fan podcast co-chair

- Steve Juon (92-45 | .671): AngryMarks founder, MMA Mania writer

- Mike Sempervive (89-48 | .649): Wrestling Observer Live & Big Audio Nightmare co-host

- John Pollock (89-48 | .649): Fight Network personality, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, The MMA Report host

- David Bixenspan (89-48 | .649): Figure Four Weekly writer, Observer Daily Update writer, podcast host

- Dave Meltzer (85-52 | .620): Wrestling Observer founder & writer

- Front Row Brian (85-52 | .620): MMA newsbreaker, Twitter personality, podcast host

- Mike Sawyer (81-56 | .598): Tough Talk MMA, 2014 picks panel champion

- Josh Nason (81-56 | .591): Wrestling Observer digital media and content guy, WON Twitter enabler


> Neil Magny (16-4) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (11-1)

This is a much-different fight than the one we originally had with Gastelum and Matt Brown, out to due to an injury. However, while Magny doesn’t have marquee value, he is a surprise story at 170 pounds, having won eight of his last nine. After a Demien Maia loss derailed a seven-fight win streak, he looked great in beating Erick Silva via decision earlier this year. He’s a solid fighter and a live dog in this one.

The big story here is Gastelum who did make weight (hooray!) and could be the next big force at welterweight if he can keep making weight and keep winning. The good news is the 24-year-old has youth on his side, and has plenty of time to work things out. This is his first true fight at 170 in a year as he missed weight against Tyron Woodley (loss) and fought at 185 against Nate Marquardt (win).

Gastelum (favorite): Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer, Bix, FRB, Pollock, Sawyer, Encarnacao, Juon

> Ricardo Lamas (15-4) vs. Diego Sanchez (25-7)

The 33-year-old Lamas is coming off a first-round TKO defeat at the hands of Chad Mendes, snapping a two-fight win streak. He’s caught in a tough position -- not good enough to beat the top stars but good enough to beat the rest of the top 10. A winner of six of his last eight, he is a big favorite going into this interesting co-main event.

Also 33, Sanchez’s fight mileage has taken more of a toll on his body than it has for Lamas. About to fight in his fourth weight class in a UFC career that started more than 10 years ago, he’s fought sparingly in the last five years with just six fights. This is the first time we’ve seen him this year due to recovery from a broken collarbone. Every fight could be his last, so enjoy him while you can.

Lamas (favorite): Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer, Bix, FRB, Pollock, Sawyer, Encarnacao, Juon

> Jussier Formiga (18-3) vs. Henry Cejudo (9-0)

Many people, including Caplan, believe this is THE fight to see on this show and it’s hard to disagree. Cejudo is the anointed next great challenger for Demetrious Johnson which, unfortunately, should be something we see in 2017 as opposed to 2016 as Cejudo is still baking as a UFC fighter. The undefeated double-Olympic gold medalist is 3-0 in the Octagon with three decision wins, but hasn’t had that singular UFC standout moment...yet.

The 30-year-old Formiga is a formidable test, a battle-tested veteran who has found his footing with three straight wins after a 1-2 start. Those three wins: Scott Jorgenson, Zach Makovsky, and Wilson Reis. If there’s anyone that can derail Cejudo on his way to the title, it’s Formiga, and it’s hard not to imagine him getting a title shot if he does.

Cejudo (big favorite): Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer, Bix, FRB, Pollock, Sawyer, Encarnacao, Juon

> Efrain Escudero (24-9) vs. Leandro Silva (18-2-1-1)

Now in his third Octagon stint, the past TUF winner has picked up two straight wins in 2015 and was last seen submitting Drew Dober in just 54 seconds. The 30-year-old Silva is in his second UFC stint is 2-1-1 in his last four -- one of those who controversially “submitted” Dober earlier this year.

Escudero: Nason, Sempervive, Bix, FRB, Pollock, Encarnacao, Juon
Silva (slight favorite): Meltzer, Sawyer

> Erik Perez (14-6) vs. Taylor Lapilus (10-1)

After three straight wins, Perez was once the rising prospect UFC was trying to push as a Mexican star. A loser of two of his last three, he finds himself in the middle of the division trying to find his place. The 23-year-old French Lapilus has won five straight, and will likely have emotion on his side as a Paris native. He’s 2-0 in the Octagon after making his UFC debut this year.

Perez (slight favorite): Sempervive, Meltzer, FRB, Pollock, Sawyer, Encarnacao, Juon
Lapilus: Nason, Bix