For the first time in several years, the Bloody Elbow staff predictions posts have been split in half. Starting with UFC 200, the really big events (like UFC 202, the MSG show, etc.) will merit one section for the prelims, and one for the main card. This post is just for the preliminary card, which features Julianna Pena against Cat Zingano. The majority of the staff sees Zingano winning over Pena despite her long layoff. There was a huge shift in favor of Kelvin Gastelum over Johny Hendricks after Hendricks had missed weight. Zane Simon, Lewis McKeever, and Tim Burke are staying put with Johny, though.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Eddie Mercado 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.
Julianna Pena vs. Cat Zingano
Mookie Alexander: Zingano has to fix her issue with slow starts, ASAP. I know Pena is the one touted as having the higher upside, but she is still a very raw fighter. She relies heavily on just pure aggression and bullying her opponents with her size and strength. I’m not sure she’ll be able to do that to Zingano, and I think Zingano is the better all-around fighter. It’s obviously a toss-up though given Zingano’s fought all of 15 seconds in the last 2 years. Cat Zingano by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: I don’t think Cat Zingano comes back the same after injuries, layoff, and all the weight gain after getting badly out of shape. That said, I think she is still the better fighter here, so it’s a tough pick. Julianna Pena by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Yeah, difficult to tell how Zingano looks after the time away. That said, I think she’s further along the developmental ladder than Pena is, with a bit more craft in the clinch and wrestling games than Pena who is still essentially just raw athleticism. Zingano can match her there. Cat Zingano by unanimous decision.
Jed: I’m still very high on Cat Zingano. Pena is overly reliant on her physicality in the cage and she is not going to be able to do that here. I think Zingano has more horsepower and if Jessica Eye can control Pena and almost tap her from top, Cat Zingano can damn sure bring the heat. Zingano by decision.
Eddie: Cat is tough. We’ve seen her rally late to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat where as Pena is untested. Cat Zingano by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Pena: Anton, Tim, Stephie, Lewis
Staff picking Zingano: Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Jed, Nick, Zane, Eddie
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Johny Hendricks
Mookie Alexander: Hendricks missed weight, Gastelum needed the towel, and none of this is surprising. Johny looked way worse than Kelvin, so I’m about ready to give up on Hendricks forever. No bothering with analysis, at this point. Kelvin Gastelum by something, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: How funny would it be if both men missed weight for this? I think Gastelum is a live dog and a quality bet, but the safe pick is to go with the more experienced former champ. EDIT: Now that Hendricks looked sick and shaking at the weigh ins. It’s no longer funny, and I’m no longer picking him. Kelvin Gastelum by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Hendricks has taken a ton of damage, not only recently but across his career as a whole. If you look back at his fight against, for example, TJ Grant, he took an ass-kicking. He’s merely been blessed with an incredible poker face for disguising when he’s been rocked. He appears to be on the downswing, and Gastelum is going upwards. Am I going to pick Gastelum? No. He’s still not consistent enough for me, and has never quite had the clean, technical performance that would convince me that he’s turned the corner. Similarly, I’m not sure that Hendricks’ Wonderboy fight wasn’t just a nightmare style matchup. EDIT burgers! BURGERS. Changing picks because someone blew weight has bitten me before but Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision
Jed: Yesterday I would have thought Hendricks should be the clear favorite. He’s the better wrestler by a wide margin and can just win an ugly clinch fight. Neil Magny took Gastelum down a whole bunch so Johny sure could. But after missing weight and looking like he was on death’s door, no one can feel good about a Hendricks pick. Insane to see how Hendrick’s career has turned. Dana has to be thrilled Brutal Bob Lawler got the dubious decision in their rematch. Gastelum by decision.
Nick Baldwin: Hendricks looked terrifying on the scale Friday. He’s not the same fighter, especially coming off a brutal TKO to Wonderboy. Gastelum hits hard, so Gastelum via TKO; Round 1.
Staff picking Gastelum: Bissell, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Jed, Nick, Eddie
Staff picking Hendricks: Tim, Lewis, Zane (not changing now)
Raphael Assuncao vs. T.J. Dillashaw
Mookie Alexander: Potentially losing to Cruz and Assuncao back-to-back isn’t a bad thing, but off of long, injury-related layoffs for the both of them? That’d be disastrous for T.J. Assuncao is great but Dillashaw’s improved boxing will make a big difference here. T.J. Dillashaw by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: I’m not picking a guy who hasn’t fought in 2 years. TJ Dillashaw by Decision.
Tim Burke: I’m picking a guy who hasn’t fought in 2 years. Raphael Assuncao by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I love Raph Assuncao. He is a bad man and I still think his solid, no-frills countering game will give TJ some trouble, who has always been a bit less of a defensive wizard than popular opinion would have him. That said, the last fight was very close and that was essentially before TJ had learned how to throw hands at all, relying instead on headkicks and blast doubles. Give me a close and competitive fight, probably a 29-28, but this time it’s the volume that makes the difference and TJ Dillashaw by unanimous decision.
Jed: I train with Assuncao’s coaching staff and have watched him work a lot the last 2 years. I can say that he definitely has looked sharp coming into this but 2 years is a long layoff. No pick.
Staff picking Assuncao: Tim, Eddie
Staff picking Dillashaw: Anton, Bissell, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Fraser, Nick, Lewis, Zane
Sage Northcutt vs. Enrique Marin
Mookie Alexander: So now that we’re up to speed on Bryan Barberena actually being a good fighter … can we cut Sage a little slack? Prospects lose, it’s just that his hype certainly resulted in some blowback. Marin is going to be wrecked. Sage Northcutt by TKO (unrelenting smile), round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Sickness or not, Northcutt’s flaws was prominently featured on his last two bouts. He is still a very good prospect with a bright future ahead of him though, and he should be able to easily pick apart Marin here. Sage Northcutt by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: Spain is not a place I associate with a strong MMA scene. Sage Northcutt by TKO, round 1.
Tim Bissell: I still have doubts over Northcutt, as well as questions surrounding his two victories thus far in the UFC. Trevino came into their fight in less than ideal condition, and Pfister suffered from a bad stand-up more so than anything Northcutt did to him. I feel like I need to see a ‘clean’ win in the UFC before I come around. Marin doesn’t look like a world-beater, but he does look tough. I don’t know if I can say the same about Northcutt, yet. Enrique Marin by unanimous decision.
Jed: I think this fight will tell us a lot about Sage. For a karate guy he shoots a ton of takedowns and that is the only possible way he could lose this fight. Marin is a horror show on the feet but a sneaky scrambler. Sage should just keep it standing and murder him with speed. Seriously, this fight should be Sage’s highlight reel for the next 5 years. He should be machine gunning punches like young Vitor. But if he hits Marin and then enters on a double and gets swept of tapped, don’t be too surprised. Northcutt by highlight reel TKO, round 1.
Nick Baldwin: Suuuuuuuuper Sage Northcutt via smile-bash; Round 1.
Staff picking Northcutt: Anton, Tim, Stephie, Mookie, Fraser, Nick, Lewis, Jed, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Marin: Bissell
Joe Lauzon vs. Diego Sanchez
Mookie Alexander: Lauzon looked washed against Evan Dunham. Well, not “washed” but basically extremely shopworn. He’s got 1 round to win this and everything else after that involves Diego probably overwhelming him with his pace and then outwrestling him. I doubt Diego gets worked in any scrambles, and Lauzon doesn’t have the power to stop Diego (no one does it seems). That said, Diego Sanchez by split decision.
Anton Tabuena: These types of fun fights between fellow veterans are the only bouts Lauzon and Sanchez should be involved in at this stage in their careers. No need to feed them to younger guys, and they can hopefully just ride into the sunset with all of their remaining bouts being fun exciting match ups with popular vets. That said, I think Lauzon should be faster and better on the feet, where most of this bout will take place. This bloody affair probably ends up with Joe Lauzon by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Am I really making this pick? Diego has been borderline unfinishable in his career, and Joe Lauzon has an even worse gas tank than Jim Miller. So this is a two outcome fight- Joe taps or knocks out Diego early (possible, but something of a first), or Diego does what he did to Miller. I’m going to… pick… Diego… to win? Blurgh. I picked Diego and Gray Maynard to win fights! IN 2016. BLURGH. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision.
Fraser: This fight rules. And if it goes to the judges, Lauzon is doomed. Sanchez, split decision
Jed: I can’t think of a worse style match-up for Lauzon. Joe starts strong and then fades if he can’t win early. Diego, for all his troubles, is still super durable and finishes strong. No chance Lauzon can get Diego out early so he will fade after 6 minutes and Diego will start putting it on him.It also helps that Sanchez has set up shop on the Leonard Garcia corner of winning BS decisions. Sanchez by decision.
Nick Baldwin: Joe Lauzon via unanimous decision. I know, I’m stupid.
Staff picking Lauzon: Anton, Bissell, Nick
Staff picking Sanchez: Tim, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Fraser, Lewis, Jed, Zane, Eddie
Gegard Mousasi vs. Thiago Santos
Mookie Alexander: Do I overthink this and pick Mousasi to lose unexpectedly again? Or do I go with Mousasi to jab Santos up, catch Thiago’s kicks, take him down, and tear him apart there? This fight could be like another Uriah Hall upset, but I don’t think that’s what we’ll see on Saturday. Gegard Mousasi by unanimous decision.
Tim Bissell: I feel like Marreta is one of those fighters who is both unheralded enough for Mousasi to fight down to, and dangerous enough to hurt him if he does. This is more a gambler’s pick than anything else, but I think a repeat of Hall vs. Mousasi is a real possibility. Thiago Santos by KO (head kick, Rd. 2)
Phil Mackenzie: Santos seems to be coming into his own as a well-rounded mixed martial artist, but I still think he can be gotten to with focused gameplans, which Mousasi is getting increasingly good at. Can the #2 ranked Flashy but Periodically Disappointing Kickboxer deal with someone with Mousasi’s jab and offensive wrestling? I doubt it. Gegard Mousasi by unanimous decision.
Jed: Not exactly a perfect analogy but Marreta is kind of a poor man’s Uriah Hall and Gegard Mousasi was beating seven shades of shit out of Hall until Uriah popped off some of the most astonishing offense in recent memory. Marreta is still a great fighter but Mousasi is gonna murder him on top, and more than hold his own on the feet. Mousasi by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Mousasi: Anton, Tim, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Nick, Lewis, Jed, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Santos: Bissell
Takanori Gomi vs. Jim Miller
Mookie Alexander: A reminder that once Miller whoops Gomi’s ass, if not outright strangles him, you can direct all your condolences (but mockery is preferred) to Tim Burke on Twitter at @TB_Money. Jim Miller by whatever he wants.
Anton Tabuena: Same sentiment. These two should be strictly involved on just fun, senior circuit bouts. I’m hoping for some vintage fireball, now that he’s not being fed to faster, younger guys. Takanori Gomi by TKO.
Tim Burke: THE # 1 P4P FIGHTER IN THE WORLD IS BACK AND ON THE PATH BACK TO THE TITLE HE NEVER LOST BOYS THERE WILL BE MILLER TEETH FLYING EVERYWHERE AND ASAHIS BEING SLAMMED ALL NIGHT LONG WOOOO KANAGAWA REPRESENT! Takanori Gomi by KO, round 1
Phil Mackenzie: This fight will be amazingly awful if it goes past one round. Jim’s a great guy, but I hope Gomi wins because it will be funny. Jim Miller by submission, round 1.
Jed: Jim Miller might be sort of washed but there aren’t a lot of fighters whose names you would recognize that I wouldn’t pick over Gomi at this point. For a guy who used to wrestle well, he now looks like a dude who has only read about wrestling in books. Jim Miller is in decline but he is still very durable and will hustle Gomi so damn hard on the floor. Miller by submission, round 1.
Nick Baldwin: Don’t read this. Read Tim’s breakdown for the 54th time.
Staff picking Gomi: Anton, Tim, Lewis
Staff picking Miller: Bissell, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Fraser, Nick, Jed, Zane, Eddie
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