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UFC 199 Observer Panel Picks: Rockhold vs. Bisping & Cruz vs. Faber

It’s PPV night and UFC has a big one from Los Angeles. UFC 199 lost its main event when Chris Weidman went down due to injury but Michael Bisping stepped in on two weeks notice and will fight for a title for the first time in his 10 year UFC career.

Additionally, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz puts up his title in a rubber match against longtime rival and the only man to ever beat him in Urijah Faber. An MMA legend may be stepping into the Octagon for the final time as Dan Henderson battles Hector Lombard with just one fight left to go on his contract. And two of the most talked-about young prospects in the company hope to continue their rise up the rankings as Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier get main card PPV slots.

It’s a rare occasion in 2016 when the five biggest fights are all on the main card but that’s what we’ve got here, and our panel hopes to rebound from last weekend's Memorial Day Massacre with picks.

Below is our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks

  • John Pollock (34-16; .680) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Josh Nason (32-18; .640) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
  • Mike Sawyer (31-19; .620) – Tough Talk MMA
  • Consensus picks (26-17; .605)
  • David Bixenspan (30-20; .600) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
  • Ryan Frederick (29-21; .580) – WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
  • Favorites (29-21; .580)
  • Dave Meltzer (28-22; .560)– Wrestling Observer founder
  • Mike Sempervive (28-22; .560) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Steve Juon (27-23; .540) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Front Row Brian (27-23; .540) – MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
  • Paul Fontaine (24-26; .480) – MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer

UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold (15-2) vs Michael Bisping (28-7) II

These two met a couple years ago in a Fight Pass show from Australia, and Bisping was dominated like never before (or since) in the Octagon as he was stopped in the 2nd round. He will be extra motivated with the belt on the line tonight, especially now that Rockhold disclosed that he has been training on a torn MCL. With Bisping having taken the fight on just a couple weeks notice, both fighters will have an excuse if they lose. The presser on Thursday had both guys sniping at each other like they’ve been doing for years with interest in this fight seems to be peaking at the right time.

Rockhold (huge favorite): FRB, Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive

UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz (21-1) vs Urijah Faber (33-8)

This is one of the longest standing rivalries in all of MMA, and the heat has not died down one bit. The departure of former champ TJ Dillashaw from Team Alpha Male has only added fuel to the fire as he waits in the wings to face one (or both) of these guys down the road. The only blemish on Cruz’s career was a first round submission loss early in his career back in the WEC days. Faber has lost seven straight title fights and this could very well be his last chance at the gold. But seriously, that's been said after every loss in a title fight and he ends up making his way back up the ladder. Despite that, he’s universally regarded as no worse than the 3rd best fighter in the division.

  • Cruz (big favorite): FRB, Frederick, Juon, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bix
  • Faber: Sawyer, Sempervive

Max Holloway (15-3) vs Ricardo Lamas (16-4)
BANTAMWEIGHTS

On the first ever UFC show on FS 1 in 2013, 21 year old Holloway lost to Conor McGregor in a prelim fight. It was his second straight loss, following a split decision at the hands of Dennis Bermudez. Since then, he’s rung up 8 straight wins, including 6 by stoppage. He’s moved steadily up the card with wins over Jeremy Stephens, Cub Swanson, and Charles Oliveira. Lamas is a former title challenger and has won 3 of his last 4 since losing a title shot to Jose Aldo. The winner here will be in great position to challenge the Aldo-Edgar winner if current champion McGregor doesn’t return to the division.

Holloway (sizable favorite): FRB, Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive

Dan Henderson (31-14) vs Hector Lombard (34-5-1)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS

This is the last fight on the UFC contract of Henderson and at 45, it’s very likely the last time he will step into the Octagon. Bellator would likely sign him if he wanted to continue to fight and going out with a win, over a former Bellator champion no less, would help that cause. He still has KO power as evidenced by his stoppage of Tim Boetsch one year ago this weekend. Lombard is coming off a brutal TKO loss at the hands of Neil Magny in a lower weight class. His return to action may be too soon as that fight was just 11 weeks ago and he took a lot of damage. He’s also 37 so age could be a factor at some point. He was just 1-2 at middleweight in UFC before dropping a weight class.

  • Henderson: Frederick, Fontaine
  • Lombard (big favorite): FRB, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive

    Dustin Poirier (19-4) vs Bobby Green (23-6)
    LIGHTWEIGHTS

    Like Holloway, Poirier has rebounded in a big way from a loss to Conor McGregor. He moved up a weight class and has rung up 3 straight wins, including 2 first round KOs. His last fight was an early contender for fight of the year over Joe Duffy and he looks to continue his rise up the lightweight ranks with a win here. Green has only fought once since the biggest win of his career, a decision over former Strikeforce champ Josh Thomson in July 2014. He was beaten by Edson Barboza in November of that year and injuries have stalled his career since that point. He’s still just 29 and a win over Poirier will move him up a level in the toughest division in MMA.

    Poirier (moderate favorite): FRB, Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive

    Action begins with the Fight Pass Prelims at 6:00 pm eastern, followed by the FS 1 portion at 8. The main card kicks off on PPV at 10 pm and Dave Meltzer will be cageside with play by play coverage of the show.

    *****

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