The experts weigh in on UFC 127
Here are our picks for UFC 127:
Kyle Noke versus Chris Camozzi
Jon Anik: Noke by decision -- If Camozzi's Twitter account is any indication, he has certainly put in the time before the biggest fight of his career. We should be able to gauge his improvement in what amounts to a tough road game against the more experienced Noke. Noke has fought just four times in the last three years (all of them wins), but he has been a fight finisher thus far in the UFC. The same thing cannot be said about Camozzi. Would love to back the road underdog, but just can't pull the trigger. Noke in a close one.
Josh Gross: Noke by decision -- Noke boasts more experience and he's fighting in front of a home crowd for the first time in nearly three years. Because they're rangy kickboxers who can find a submission if it becomes available, and they have no problem playing rough, this should be a fun fight to watch.
Franklin McNeil: Noke by submission -- Riding a four-fight win streak, Noke has found his groove. Camozzi also has discovered the winning touch of late, but he is more likely than Noke to make a mistake. Noke takes advantage and wins it.
Chuck Mindenhall: Noke by decision -- Camozzi is willing to stick his nose in there and grind out wins, but Noke won't feel a thing fighting in his home country, where he once took Hector Lombard to a (controversial) draw. Noke by Refusal to Lose.
Brett Okamoto: Noke by decision -- My prediction for fight of the night. Noke has a few more tools and the advantage of fighting at home, but I expect Camozzi to rise to the challenge and perform well. Momentum will swing back and forth on the feet but Noke should look better on the ground, which will win him the fight.
Darius Ortiz: Noke by decision -- Buoyed by raucous fans and some camera time, Noke will walk through Camozzi's biggest shots and handle himself well on the ground to take a hard-earned decision.
Chris Lytle versus Brian Ebersole
Anik: Lytle by TKO -- So how annoying is this Carlos Condit injury? Time will tell, but instead of seeing Lytle chase his eighth UFC fight bonus against a bona fide welterweight contender, we'll see Lytle staring across the cage at one Brian Ebersole. The latter's résumé boasts more than 60 professional fights (he was actually Stephan Bonnar's victim in what was Bonnar's pro debut in 2001), but Ebersole is only now getting a crack in the Octagon. I'll take a guy making his 19th UFC appearance against a guy making his first any day.
Gross: Lytle by TKO -- Stepping in on short notice against a higher class of fighter, Ebersole is the clear underdog. Lytle, meanwhile, continues to chug along. Against Condit he had an opportunity to enter the contender picture at 170 pounds. Instead, Lytle is tasked with dispatching an opponent that offers little upside. Lytle will do what's expected of him by putting away a fighter with a wealth of experience.
McNeil: Lytle by TKO -- This fight will be decided on the feet, and that favors the professional boxer. Lytle uses his superior standup skills and Octagon experience to end this one early.
Mindenhall: Lytle by TKO -- The Condit/Lytle fight would have been fun, but there's still plenty of sheen with Lytle against Anybody. Between him and stand-in stalwart Ebersole, only now making his Octagon debut, there's a combined 120 pro fights at work in the cage. They're both game, both a little crazy, but Lytle is better all around.
Okamoto: Lytle by submission -- Lytle is quietly making a dent in the welterweight division with wins in his past four fights. Ebersole faces the disadvantage of taking the fight on short notice, not a huge deal since he just fought last month and should be in fine shape, but a disadvantage nonetheless.
Ortiz: Lytle by TKO -- Lytle has been here and done this before. Plus, Ebersole couldn't have any more going against him -- he's a late sub making his Octagon debut against determined opponent frothing at the mouth for a title shot. I like Lytle big time.
George Sotiropoulos versus Dennis Siver
Anik: Sotiropoulos by decision -- I like Siver and like him even more for asking the UFC for this challenge. That said, Sotiropoulos is as calculated and businesslike as any fighter on the UFC roster. He feels you out early, decides exactly how he's gonna beat you and then executes. Perhaps we'll see his chin tested more here than in fights past, but the outcome feels like an eventuality, with another Sotiropoulos opponent imploring him to stop with a tap. Siver will be tough enough to go the full 15, but Australia's finest will enjoy this outcome.
Gross: Siver by decision -- Sotiropoulos has people talking, and should he get past Siver he'll have a legitimate argument to be considered a contender in his division. Siver, however, poses problems other recent opponents did not. He's a powerful striker who is difficult to get to the canvas. Sotiropoulos' length is an advantage, but Siver's aggression and strength should be enough to overcome a pesky jab. I think the German is too physical for the Aussie and will win on points.
McNeil: Sotiropoulos by decision -- This is a more difficult fight for Sotiropoulos than many might expect. Siver won't go down easy, but the Australian native will refuse to lose at home.
Mindenhall: Sotiropoulos by submission -- Aside from a loss to Ross Pearson, Siver has earned the right to block Sotiropoulos' passage to title contention by going 5-1 since returning to the UFC. But Sots' work ethic borders on obsession and he beats guys so matter-of-factly that it becomes chilly. He won't lose his focus nor his place in line for the belt.
Okamoto: Sotiropoulos by submission -- When will George get the attention he deserves? He's not just winning (7-0 in the UFC), he's dominating guys. Will Siver offer more of a test than J-Lo, Batman or Joe "Daddy" Stevenson did? Doubtful.
Ortiz: Siver by KO -- Siver comes equipped with a slew of ammo Sotiropoulos isn't accustomed to dealing with. A few stuffed takedowns and an antsy crowd get the better of him in this one -- I say the moment Sotiropoulos is hurt, his game plan and place in line for a title shot go out the cage door.
Michael Bisping versus Jorge Rivera
Anik: Bisping by TKO -- Were I a betting man or Las Vegas resident, it would be hard not to throw some scratch on the upset-minded Rivera. Here, I'm simply asked to pick a winner. Confidence is high for the Bostonian and his mental toughness is an asset, but Rivera will need to call on his physical best to outclass a well-rounded contender like Bisping. Bisping could be 2-3 wins away from his first title shot and can ill afford a setback here. This space says he avoids the big shot and lands one of his own.
Gross: Bisping by decision -- Mind games galore at play in this middleweight clash. Rivera chipped away at Bisping's psyche, leaving the Brit emotional on the eve of an important fight for both men. The intention is to get Bisping engaging for longer stretches than he might otherwise. I don't see it working. Rivera most likely needs a slugfest to win, and he won't get one.
McNeil: Bisping by TKO -- While emotions will be riding high in this fight, Bisping will get his under control in time to finish it in Round 2. If Bisping is to get back in the title picture, he must look impressive against Rivera. And he knows it.
Mindenhall: Bisping by decision -- Rivera has done an admirable job of piquing Bisping's interest in this fight, and he believes he's a bad matchup for the British star, but the reality is that Bisping stands the chance of avoiding the big equalizer (Rivera's right hand) while wearing down the 39-year-old in the process.
Okamoto: Bisping by TKO -- Bisping should be thanking Rivera for the video attacks. All the prefight trash talk has turned this from an ehhh-kind of co-main event to one with a lot of buzz around it. I think Bisping does what he needs to do -- win and look good doing it.
Ortiz: Bisping by decision -- Rivera's head games might prove more potent than his right hand. Will Bisping get caught in a match of machismo to prove a point? I say yes -- he gets tagged and hurt but holds on to outwork Rivera over three rounds.
Anik: Fitch by decision -- Penn chalked up his 21-second knockout of Matt Hughes at UFC 123 to fighting like a kid again. Not sure that approach will work against the suffocating Fitch, who hasn't been finished in any capacity since 2002 and has won 21 of his last 22. One of the UFC's most proven winners and firmly in my top-10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world, I like the now-leaner Fitch to lean on Penn and outwork him en route to yet another unanimous decision.
Gross: Fitch by decision -- Can Penn handle Fitch's pressure and size? If yes, he has a real shot to become the first welterweight not named Georges St. Pierre to defeat Fitch since 2003. Penn will be light and fast, as he was against Matt Hughes in November, but Fitch, the perennial No. 2 at 170, has enough to handle the veteran Hawaiian in a three-round fight.
McNeil: Fitch by decision -- Penn did not cut corners preparing for this fight, but Fitch's size will be the difference. To pull off an upset, Penn needs Fitch to make mistakes. That's not likely to happen often, if at all.
Mindenhall: Fitch by decision -- Given that we don't always know what we'll get with Penn yet we always know what we'll get with Fitch, this is a wild card versus old steady fight. Fitch's gritty consistency overcomes Penn's yogi-like elasticity and siphons the Prodigy's gas tank ... but it'd be novel to be proved wrong.
Okamoto: Fitch by decision -- Heart says Penn, head says Fitch. That's probably a general feeling out there. It's so easy to picture. Penn comes out and lands an early straight right. Fitch in trouble! He backs up to the fence and Penn is all over him. Fitch slumping to his knees now, covering up! Ref steps in, it's over! Maybe. But probably not.
Ortiz: Fitch by decision -- The only suspense I can anticipate is what excuse Penn will come up with after he tries to fight Fitch's fight and fails miserably. Undersized? Unfit? Unprepared? Unmotivated again? Try unable to capitalize on the few errors Fitch makes in filing down Penn for three rounds.
You've read what we have to say. Now it's your turn. Vote for the last men standing at UFC 127 here.
Jon Anik is the host of "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at Jon_Anik.
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at Franklin_McNeil.
Chuck Mindenhall covers MMA for ESPN.com and is a features writer at FIGHT! magazine. He can be followed on Twitter at @ChuckMindenhall.
Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.
Darius Ortiz is the boxing and MMA editor for ESPN.com.