Ill start with the undercard and save the best for last. If you just want to read the main event go to the bottom.
I will say that I think Joe Silva did a nice job with a lot of the matchups. Both stylewise, talent level, and where guys are in there careers. For example Thiago Tavares vs. Gamburyan are both good ground fighters who push a high pace, also both are coming off losses and need a win badly. Another example would be Jake Obrien vs. Christian Wellish. This fight will get very little attention but against its between two grapplers although Obrien is the wrestler and Wellish is more of a submission guy. Obrien may actually get to try a little standup this fight.
Fitch vs. Gono- Looks like Fitch is getting bitch treatment for challenging Danas authority. Gono is a crafty veteran with decent standup and a pretty slick ground game. Fitch should have a nice size advantage on him as well as the definite wrestling advantage. In typical Fitch fashion I expect him use his wrestling and ground control to stay on top of gono and wear him down. Fitch did spend a month in Thailand working on his muay thai so he may look to showcase some of his newfound skills. I think the best bet though would be to play it safe and pound on gono for a tko from top or a decision.
Jones vs. Bonnar- Bonnar is the far more experienced fighter and is much more polished with his striking and bjj. Jones is a far better athlete, will have a huge wrestling advantage and he also has an unorthodox style. He was extremely raw when we last saw him but he opened up far more than typicaly wrestlers who are new to the sport. If Bonnar can keep distance on the feet he should pick Jones apart but Jones will look to close the distance strike from the clinch and eventually take it to the ground. He should copy Rashad evans gameplan against Bonnar and use his wrestling to control and avoid danger from the top position. Bonnar has a good ground game but he is not explosive or extremely flexible so a wrestler with a strong top game can neutralize him ie Bader vs. Marshall. In the end I think Bonnars experience and overall skills will be a little to much for Jones as I do not think Jones will be disciplined enough to ride out a safe decision.
Guida vs. Diaz- should be a fast pace fight. Neither guy has great striking but Diaz has a big reach advantage. Diaz has been beaten up early in a lot of his fights but has been able to pull out a submission. Guida will be pushing the pace and I think will give Diaz a lot of problems similar to Pellegrino. I think Guida will be more conservative on top similar to his fight with Danzig, and unlike Pellegrino he will not fade. If he can stay in control he should be able to dominate Diaz from the top position and avoid subs. I think Guida will win an entertaining decision.
Machida vs. Silva- Machida is going to absolutely dismantle Silva. Silva is a pretty wild striker with not a whole lot of footwork or crisp punching. If he stays true to his word he will look to take the fight to Machida. Coming forward on a counter striker as quick as Machida when you are not a polished striker is a recipe for disaster. Silva also does not have great takedowns combine that with his inability to close the distance on Machida and it will be a long night for him. He does have heavy hands so if he can land one on Machida he can hurt him, he also has a strong top game so he needs to capitilize on a hurt Machida and get him to the ground. In the end Machida will pick Silva apart and may even take Silva down a few times. I see a dominant decision or late tko for Machida as Silva has shown a suspect gas tank in past.
GSP vs. Penn- It seems the override theme that everyone is saying is that if the fight ends early Penn will win and if it goes to decision GSP will win. Penn is a phenomenal talent but I think people are underestimating GSPs skillset if that is possible. It seems people are painting GSP has more of a tremendous athlete who can only win because he is bigger stronger wrestler. I certainly dont think GSP will pick Penn apart and Penn may even win round one but I think GSP will give Penn plenty of problems even before gets tired.
People will look at the first round of their last fight and expect that to be the same outcome. GSP is no longer the same fighter, he has come a long as a striker and as a complete fighter.
I dont think there is a fighter in the sport who works harder than GSP at developing each individual skill. There are a lot of fighters who take time off in between fights and then when they are called to fight they set upa training camp. Or there are guys who just do a cookie cutter mix of training the different styles. GSP takes time after each fight to focus on a particular discipline. For example after his last fight he went down to Brazil several times to work exclusively on his bjj. He also has worked with top Canadien wrestlers as if he was preparing for a tournament. Most mma guys will add in takedown defense into their training but they wont actually train with wrestlers to become a good wrestlers. This discipline specific training, combined with his work ethic and incredible athletic ability allow him to improve at a rapid rate.
He is now a black belt in bjj, he is able to takedown national champ wrestlers at will, and he also has a pretty dynamic striking game with his great kicks. The part that makes him so dangerous is that he mixes that all together. Basically it leaves the opponent completely uncomfortable as you are not sure if he is going to be throwing kicks, superman punching, or taking you down. His takedowns make his striking better and vice versa. Watch the serra fight between rounds Serras training had no idea what GSP was going to do next and clearly serra did not either.
BJ has the great boxing with very stiff punches but GSP will try to fight from distance with a heavy dose of kicks as well as takedown attemps. GSP will get Penn on the ground. Sherks plan was backwards as he wanted to wear Penn out on the feet before taking it to the ground. But BJ got into a rhythm and did not get tired throwing a steady stream of jabs. GSP should put Penn on his back early or at the very least force him to defend takedowns. Defending takedowns and or having GSP on top of him will force him to work much harder and will tire him out.
I dont expect Penn to submitt GSP off his back but he is most dangerous sweeping and trying to take the back. GSP will need to be somewhat conservative on top early because if Penn gets on top it could be over.
I think the first round will be pretty even with Penn possibly getting the edge. Second round GSP will continue to mix up the kicks, punches, and takedowns and it will start frustrate and wear down Penn. I think in the third GSP will finish BJ with strikes from the top.
In the end GSPS diverse game of striking, takedowns, top control, tremendous speed, power and endurance will be too much for Penn to handle.