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UFC Fight Night 63 Observer Picks & Preview: Chad Mendes vs. Ricardo Lamas headlines show of intrigue

UFC Fight Night 63

By Josh Nason, WrestlingObserver.com

East Coasters rejoice! A 10 AM EST card on a Saturday? Huzzah! I’ll be covering the event for this here site, so grab some coffee and a mimosa and join me, will ya?

This UFC Fight Morning 63 card is actually pretty damn good from top to bottom with a lot of returning names (remember Liz Carmouche?) and intriguing match-ups.

Our Panel:

Jack Encarnacao (24-10 | .705) Sherdog Rewind host, The Lapsed Fan podcast co-chair, Steve Austin impersonator

Mike Sempervive (21-13 | .617) Wrestling Observer Live co-host | Big Audio Nightmare

Steve Juon (21-13 | .617) AngryMarks founder, MMA Mania writer

David Bixenspan (20-14 | .588)
 Figure Four Weekly writer, Observer Daily Update writer

John Pollock (20-14 | .588) Fight Network personality, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, The MMA Report host

Dave Meltzer (19-15 | .558)
 Wrestling Observer founder & writer 

Front Row Brian (19-15 | .558) MMA newsbreaker, Twitter personality, podcast host

- Josh Nason (19-15 | .558)
 Wrestling Observer digital media and content guy, WON Twitter enabler

Todd Martin (18-16 | .529) Weekly Bryan Alvarez guest | LA Times | Sherdog

Mike Sawyer (16-18 | .470)
 Tough Talk MMA, 2014 picks panel champion 

*****

- Chad Mendes (16-2) vs. Ricardo Lamas (15-3)
Featherweight

Mendes is coming off that tremendous rematch with Jose Aldo in October, a five round awesomefest that I need to rewatch soon. Before that, he had ripped through five straight wins with four finishes and established himself as one of the top fighters in the division. I’m guessing he’s hoping Jose Aldo loses in July.

Lamas is 6-1 in the UFC and has won two straight. He’s coming off an impressive November first round submission finish of the surging Dennis Bermudez and like Mendes, would love if Aldo dropped the gold. He might not be the most charismatic guy, but he deepens a 145-pound division that features a lot of interesting fights in the years ahead.

Something of note: two of Lamas’ three career defeats came via T/KO, including one a long time ago to Mendes teammate Danny Castillo.

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

- Jorge Masvidal (28-8) vs. Al Iaquinta (11-3-1)
Lightweight

This is an interesting tilt. I never know what to make of Masvidal, who did have to give it a few tries to make weight. He’s won three in a row and six of his last seven, but I don’t have any sense of where he fits at lightweight. He goes the distance frequently which doesn’t help, but I just don’t know how I feel about ol’ ‘Gamebred’.

“Ragin’ Al” is the third opponent for Masvidal as Bobby Green and Benson Henderson pulled out due to a) injury and b) bigger opportunities. I didn’t realize Iaquinta has been in the UFC since June 2012 and is 6-2 overall. Crazy, right? He’s surging right now with wins over Rodrigo Damm, Ross Pearson, and Joe Lauzon -- all coming within five months.

One thing to note: Masvidal hasn’t been finished since May 2009, a streak of 15 fights.

Masvidal (split favorite): Nason, Martin, Juon, Meltzer, Sawyer, FRB
Iaquinta (split favorite): Sempervive, Encarnacao, Pollock, Bix

- Michael Chiesa (11-2) vs. Mitch Clarke (11-2)

Lightweight

Past TUF winner Chiesa is coming off a fun bout, albeit a TKO loss, to Joe Lauzon in September, a defeat that snapped a two-fight win streak. At 27, he’s still got time to make some noise but it must be frustrating for him to see a guy he beat in the TUF finale (Iaquinta) getting so much buzz in the co-main event spot.

Clarke returns to action after 11 months away and is riding a two-fight win streak. His last win? Against Iaquinta. His problem is that he fights once every calendar year which makes it difficult to get any momentum.

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

- Julianna Pena (5-2) vs. Milana Dudieva (11-3)
Bantamweight

TUF winner Pena is somehow ranked #13 in the division despite not having fought since November 2013 due to a massive knee injury. That’s one of many reasons the rankings are ridiculous. She faces “The Dude” (my nickname) who is making her 2nd trip to the Octagon and is coming off an August split decision. Pena is a rather large favorite which is interesting.

Pena (favorite): Sempervive, Martin, Juon, Encarnacao, Sawyer, FRB, Pollock, Bix, Meltzer
Dudieva: Nason

- Clay Guida (31-15) vs. Robbie Peralta (18-5-0-1)
Featherweight

In June 2011, Guida was on top of the world. He had just beaten Anthony Pettis, was riding a four-fight win streak, and was beloved by nearly everyone. He got a title eliminator fight against Benson Henderson as the co-main of the Fox debut show with Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos. While hardly anyone saw the fight, he lost but was still in the mix.

Then, the Gray Maynard fight happened and everything disintegrated from there. He dropped to 145 and is 2-2, far from any title shot and from the interest level he attained at his peak. He left Greg Jackson’s in March and is hooked up with Team Alpha Male, so now what? We begin to find out Saturday.

Peralta is 4-2-1 and is coming off a 33-second submission loss to Thiago Tavares. He’s making his featherweight debut, so there’s no place but up from here.

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

- Dustin Poirier (16-4) vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira (11-1)
Lightweight

For the first time since 2010 in the WEC, Poirier returns to 155 pounds after a really good run at 145. He was last seen getting dusted by everyone’s favorite Irishman Conor McGregor, a fight that snapped a three-fight win streak. CDF took the first loss of his career in October after his first two UFC bouts were finishes that earned him performance bonuses. This should be a fun one.

Poirier (slight favorite): Nason, Sempervive, Martin, Juon, Encarnacao, Pollock, Bix, Sawyer, FRB
CDF: Meltzer 

I'll see you guys not bright but early on Saturday, aiiiiight?