UFC 191 is almost here, and the Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for tomorrow night’s event. Stephie Haynes is the lone voice going for Dodson over Johnson, while only Josh Samman and myself are picking Frank Mir to beat Andrei Arlovski in the co-main event. The main card sweeps are for Paige VanZant over Alex Chambers, and for Anthony Johnson over Jimi Manuwa.
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Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected on Friday. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Tuesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson
Anton Tabuena: Dodson has rare power in the division, and if he lands big, he can change the outlook of the fight at any point. That said, Johnson is just a superior MMA fighter who can transition beautifully from distance-clinch-ground. I believe he will showcase his skill set once again and pick Dodson apart. Demetrious Johnson by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Dodson isn’t going to win the later rounds (which he failed to do the first time), and Johnson has gotten so much better that the early rounds going his way would seal the fight for him easily. He’ll overwhelm Dodson with his movement, takedowns, mixing up his strikes with his wrestling, and so on. Dodson has a puncher’s chance, and I still think he’s the one guy who has the best (but increasingly smaller) shot at beating him, but Johnson is too good at this stage. Demetrious Johnson by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I have to admit, I’ve never been super crazy impressed with Dodson. He’s a good, skilled, high level fighter, no doubt. But I see nothing in him that makes me think he can topple the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world (that’s right, #1). On top of that, this is a rematch, and rematches tend to go to the smarter fighter whose team is more capable of learning from the first fight. That’s the champ. Demetrious Johnson by decision
Josh Samman: While I don’t see Dodson getting finished here, I do think that the rematch will be a bit like Johnson’s rematch with Benavidez, in that Johnson will be more improved, further widening the gap between him and the rest of the division. DJ via decision
Zane Simon: What Josh and Fraser said, but I’ll add one more small wrinkle into this, and it’s that I think John Dodson may be slowing down a little. his last two fights haven’t been losses, but his Makovsky fight was a lot lot closer than expected. Makovsky is very good, but I feel like some of the innate speed that Dodson has relied upon for years might be starting to slip just a little. As it does, the chances of him beating a fighter like Mighty Mouse decrease rapidly. DJ via UD.
Staff picking Johnson: Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane, Tim, Anton, Lewis
Staff picking Dodson: Stephie
Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir
Anton Tabuena: I don’t think Mir can take down Arlovski unless he hurts him on the feet, which is where I think the fight will be decided. While Mir has improved his boxing significantly, this could boil down to who lands big and who lands often, so I’m still picking the better and more consistent striker who is more likely to accomplish that. Anything can happen at heavyweight, but I believe that it is more likely that this ends with Andrei Arlovski by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: On paper, this is a fight Arlovski should win, but I’m going with Mir because … well I have no rhyme or real reason for it. I just think it’s going to happen. Ideally, Arlovski wins this so Mir is spared the guaranteed blowout loss vs. Werdum or Cain, because it’s not like those 4 losses in a row are suddenly stricken from the record books. Heavyweights produce weird results, so on a whim … Frank Mir by submission, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I am beyond excited for this fight. Probably irrationally so, but so what? This is going to rule. It’s also very, very tough to call. Mir has really improved his stand-up over the years, but he still can get overwhelmed. On the feet, this is Arlovski’s fight, but I don’t think by as wide a margin as some people anticipate. If it goes to the mat, Mir snaps something, but I don’t think that happens. They trade, eventually Arlovski’s technical superiority gets it done. My pick makes this an Arlovski sweep so far – but even if we all pick the Pitbull, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a sure thing. Andrei Arlovski by KO round 1
Josh Samman: There are a few different storylines that the heavyweight division could go in over the next year, and a third Mir championship would be my favorite. However unlikely that may be, I’ll still take him to beat Arlovski here. Mir via KO
Zane Simon: Both guys are former champs, I honestly think both guys have actually improved their ring craft lately (for all it sounded like bluster, Mir’s boxing was definitely better against Duffee), and neither guy has been the picture of absolute heavyweight durability. But, I do think much of Arlovski’s durability issues have been solved, mostly with better defensive fighting and less foolish aggression. He hasn’t been KO’d since 2011. On the flip side, Mir had his lights turned out by Josh Barnett just a couple years ago. Eventually what I think this fight will come down to is speed. Who has the footwork and hand speed to land the harder shots first and I think that will be Arlovski every time. Andrei Arlovski by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Arlovski: Stephie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Mir: Josh, Mookie, Lewis
Anthony Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Anton Tabuena: I have never been a Manuwa fan, but I am rooting for him on this contest. I don’t think he will win though. Anthony Johnson by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Look, Rumble’s transgressions outside the cage should be kept separate from rational analysis of this fight. Manuwa is a good fighter, but Rumble at 205 is really really really good. You can knock his inabilities on the ground and his suspect cardio all you want, but he knocked Daniel Cormier down cleanly. This fight is going to be a more violent version of Gustafsson vs. Manuwa. Anthony Johnson by TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: I really like Jimi, he’s a gifted fighter who is honestly way better than someone with his background and experience should be, and for some reason I just don’t like Rumble that much. I can’t put my finger on it. Unfortunately, Rumble owns almost every advantage I can think of, with the most clear ones being durability and gas tank. Sigh. Anthony Johnson by TKO, round 2.
Josh Samman: There’s a yoga mat joke somewhere in here, but it will probably come out offensively. Anthony Johnson via 1st round KO.
Zane Simon: Even if Johnson doesn’t fight smarter than he did against Daniel Cormier, I’m not sure he doesn’t win here. After all, that got him past Alexander Gustafsson. Jimi Manuwa is probably just as good an athlete and is a pretty skilled striker with the left side of his body, but he’s pretty predictable in his offense. Rumble could crack him early and end it quick, or he could wait, figure out Manuwa’s approach and break him down. Either way, I’ve got Johnson winning. Anthony Johnson by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Johnson: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane, Tim, Anton, Lewis
Staff picking Manuwa:
Corey Anderson vs. Jan Blachowicz
Mookie Alexander: I really don’t care too much about this fight. Actually, I do a tad if not to see if Anderson is developing well as a fighter. Blachowicz is an okay fighter who is no serious threat to the top 10. Anderson is a prospect whose last-minute loss to Gian Villante was a real “pump the breaks” moment on his potential top 10 aspirations. When in doubt, I’ll go with the more established fighter in Blachowicz, who does have wins over the real Houston Alexander and the immortal Ilir Latifi. Jan Blachowicz by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: There’s a weird series of LHW fights around this one, with results that I don’t really… believe in? They’re not flukes per se, but does Blachowicz really TKO Ilir Latifi most times they fight? Beastin’ 25/8’s loss to Villante looks worse because Lawlor knocked Villante out, but… does that happen again either? In general I thought Anderson looked greatly improved against Villante. He’s a bit physically stronger than Blachowicz, is getting far technically cleaner, and most pertinently works at a much faster pace than the Pole. A one-legged Manuwa beat Blachowicz with pressure and I think Beastin’ 25/8 does as well. 25/8 by 29-28
Zane Simon: I don’t like how Jan Blachowicz fights. There, I said it. I should like it. He’s a technical kickboxer with a wicked ground game off his back, but I don’t. Mostly it’s that he’s extremely low output, rarely stringing together combinations. And without a decidedly strong offensive wrestling game his grappling is mostly dependent on being taken down or jumping on people who have been knocked down. It’s just not a fundamentally strong game for winning at the highest level and it’s why Jimi Manuwa breezed by him on one knee. Anderson is raw, but he’s aggressive, and tough, and his striking is developing quickly. Blachowicz may respond well to Anderson coming after him and hurt him enough to win the fight, but if he doesn’t… Corey Anderson by decision.
Staff picking Beastin’ 25/8: Phil, Josh, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Blachowicz: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Fraser, Anton
Alex Chambers vs. Paige VanZant
Anton Tabuena: I actually don’t think this is going to be close. VanZant is more athletic, and more dynamic with her overall MMA game. Paige VanZant by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Chambers needed a comeback to win her last fight, and maybe youthful mistakes and naivety can net her the same result vs. PVZ. I’m not too confident that happens. VanZant is going to win this pretty handily. Paige VanZant via unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Much like Mir vs. Arlovski, this is probably going to be a fight where we all pick one fighter, but it’s actually a pretty close, even fight. These two have quite similar records and levels of experience. But what VanZant has is a higher degree of athleticism, and that’s what you need to win in WMMA today. Paige VanZant by decision
Phil Mackenzie: VanZant beat Curran fairly handily, and Curran was absolutely housing Chambers in exactly the ways that VanZant is likely to before she made some nutty grappling choices. For someone like VanZant, it was a literal demonstration of the only real way she might lose this fight. The odds are still insane but I expect VanZant to just play a marginally more conservative version of her normal aggressive game. Paige VanZant by unanimous decision
Josh Samman: I’m with the others in that I don’t think this will be as one sided as the odds may suggest. I’m also in the same boat as the UFC though, in that I’m always rooting for a new potential breakout star to gather some new fans. I think that’s what happens here. PVZ via decision
Zane Simon: Chambers kicks well from range and has a crafty grappling game off her back. But, as we’ve already seen PVZ against a better, more well rounded, more athletic version of that in Felice Herrig, it’s hard for me to think what Chambers has to offer here that VanZant hasn’t seen before. PVZ by TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Chambers:
Staff picking VanZant: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane, Tim, Anton, Lewis
Paul Felder vs. Ross Pearson
Anton Tabuena: I think this will be much closer than what most people believe, but I’m still picking the same fighter. Paul Felder by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Pearson is going to get whacked. Paul Felder by KO, something cool, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: I think we can now see that Pearson’s run towards the top 15 was an artefact of some favourable matchmaking. Felder is younger, bigger, stronger but most importantly is insanely durable compared to the Brit. I do think that Pearson can have some success in the pocket, but at some point the dreaded English tendency to try to counter every single movement with a slip or a duck into left hook will have him ducking into a step knee. Paul Felder by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: See everything I said about Chambers vs. VanZant. Paul Felder by decision
Zane Simon: The biggest concern for Ross Pearson has always been foot speed. He relies a lot on his ability to move in the pocket to land his own shots and keep himself defensively sound… and for the most part it works. But because he’s just not that fast he’s often ended up getting caught in the pocket too long and clipped hard, or as we saw with Evan Dunham, he doesn’t have the agility to escape well timed level changes. Felder is reasonably light on his feet, but more than that, he’s huge and powerful and unpredictable. If Pearson spends enough time in front of him, no matter how well he does, I think he’ll end up getting hit hard and possibly KO’d. Paul Felder by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Felder: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane, Tim, Anton, Lewis
Staff picking Pearson:
John Lineker vs. Francisco Rivera
Anton Tabuena: This will be violent. But Rivera should be the bigger fighter here and that could play a big factor. Francisco Rivera by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: BEST FIGHT EVER YES I AM SUPER EXCITED FOR THIS FIGHT SO SHOULD YOU. Ahem, sorry. Anyway, these men are stupidly powerful and ruthless finishers, and this is way too difficult to convincingly pick either way. I feel that Lineker’s body punching will slow Rivera’s output down, and Lineker will be able to get the win by dominating the 3rd round after they both hurt each other in the first two rounds. John Lineker by 29-28 unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: In terms of technical improvements, I think that Rivera hasn’t actually made as many as Lineker, and I still feel like that first round against Faber is an indication of Faber being a rather limited fighter in the modern game rather than any astonishing Rivera improvements. He’s got a huge reach advantage and a better kicking game (lit: he has a kicking game), but in the end, I still remember Rivera losing a Rivera fight to Takeya Mizugaki (including getting dropped and almost finished by Mizugaki, who is not known for his power). Lineker has never lost a Lineker fight. John Lineker by TKO, round 3
Zane Simon: I’ve gotta disagree a bit with Phil, in that I think things have really just started to click lately with Rivera. He’s now more patient, has better footwork, and selects his punches better than ever before. That said, I do worry about that Mizugaki fight and the ability of a good, hard headed, technical boxer with a varied attack to get right in Rivera’s face and push the pace on him so hard that he gets wild and starts to open up his offense too much. I like Rivera, I want to pick Rivera, and doubly so now that I see he’s not getting much love from the staff. But I went with Lineker on the vivi and there’s no backing out now. John Lineker by TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Lineker: Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Josh, Zane
Staff picking Rivera: Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Anton
Jessica Andrade vs. Raquel Pennington
Phil Mackenzie: I don’t think Andrade beat Pennington the first time, but she picked up the win off forward movement anyway. I know we expect the younger fighter to naturally get better, but I didn’t see any improvements in her standup at all against Reneau, and I think that Pennington slowly began to pick up on her timing by the end of their bout. The main issue is her terrible takedown defense. Very close and we may get dissenting judge’s scores again. Raquel Pennington by split decision
Zane Simon: I have never and may never have faith in Raquel Pennington as a prospect. I think she’s got the ability to be a bit of an opportunist as she improves over the years, like she showed against Ashlee Evans-Smith, but she’s still slow, still a wooden striker, still not a great wrestler and still not a special grappler by any means. Mostly she’s just big and tough and can lean people against the cage with the best of them. Andrade actually has some power in her hands, can hit some slick takedowns, and has a good top game when she’s controlled about it. She’s even started showing a little more patience lately. Eventually, I just don’t think Pennington is a good enough athlete to win often at 135. Jessica Andrade by decision.
Staff picking Andrade: Mookie, Hutch, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Pennington: Stephie, Phil, Josh
Clay Collard vs. Tiago Trator
Phil Mackenzie: Ehhhh. I’m really not sure. Collard fights at a much, much faster pace but he looked really bad against Benitez and I’m still not sure how much he can continue to make up for obvious technical flaws with ridiculous dollops of aggression. I have zero confidence, but I’ll go for the guy that I have more faith in to push the pace and impress the judges, I guess. Clay Collard by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I really like some technical aspects of Trator’s game, mostly his clinch offense. But I’m not sure he’s a natural featherweight, and I’m not sure he’s durable enough for the UFC. Collard is not good, but he’s tough and aggressive and loves to strike in the pocket. I think he may just be able to gut his way through Trator’s early offense and hurt him late. Clay Collard by decision.
Staff picking Collard: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Trator:
Joe Riggs vs. Ronald Stallings
Mookie Alexander: Why? Ronald Stallings by something or the other.
Phil Mackenzie: What’s up with Joe Riggs? I thought he was very done, but his fight against Cote was oddly competitive, and Cote went on to have a career-best performance against Burkman. That said, Stallings is a decent athlete and an accurate, clean kickboxer who is not going to indulge Riggs in a grappling battle. Ronald Stallings by TKO round 2
Josh Samman: What is this fight doing in the UFC..?
Zane Simon: Unless Stallings just cannot keep himself from getting out-grappled by Joe Riggs, he should win this. And anyone picking Riggs to grind out a 15 minute decision should be seriously examined. Ron Stallings by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Riggs: Tim
Staff picking Stallings: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane, Anton
Nazareno Malegarie vs. Joaquim Silva
Phil Mackenzie: Malegarie is a Rony Jason type, a well-rounded guy with a nose for position whose ceiling is defined by average athleticism. He’s less dynamic than Jason but tougher. Silva is kind of a cross between an incredibly aggressive BJJ guy… and late career Dan Henderson. Yes. H-bombs away, forreal. While Silva’s the bigger hitter and better athlete, I think Malegarie has better wrestling and if Silva can’t put him away early then Silva will struggle with the more diverse and higher volume striker. Nazareno Malegarie by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Silva’s biggest problem, wrestling, is probably what Malegarie does better than most of his regional compatriots. He’s got a really nice solid takedown to top position grappling game, and enough striking chops to not get eaten alive usually. Silva is a solid bomber on the feet, but if he’s not knocking someone down, he doesn’t really have a way to get them to the ground. And if he’s not on top, he’s not winning. So Nazareno Malegarie by decision.
Staff picking Malegarie: Fraser, Phil, Zane, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Silva: Stephie, Mookie, Hutch, Josh
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