The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for tomorrow night’s UFC Fight Night 98 card in Mexico City, Mexico. Only Zane Simon and Phil Mackenzie back Rafael dos Anjos to beat Tony Ferguson in the main event. Meanwhile, Tim Burke is the only one picking Diego Sanchez over Marcin Held in the co-main. Even with the brutal weight miss, it’s pretty split between Charles Oliveira and Ricardo Lamas.
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 Nick Baldwin entered all of his predictions on Wednesday 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.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Tony Ferguson
Mookie Alexander: This fight is really dependent on Ferguson’s in-fight strategy. I do not think his style of fighting — however entertaining and awesome it may be — is sustainable against the absolute elite of the division. Sure, he put away Barboza, but he also was nearly stopped by Lando Vannata on short notice. It’s high risk, high reward, and RDA isn’t the type of fighter I can see succumbing to that. Now, there’s no denying Ferguson is gifted offensively, and in a pure striking matchup, he has more finishing tools in his game than Rafael, who developed his striking later in his career. I do not expect Ferguson to submit dos Anjos or just plain outgrapple him. It’s arguably more likely that he’ll find himself in trouble with RDA that way as opposed to keeping it standing. Dos Anjos has brutal kicks that can wear anybody out, but I don’t think Ferguson is the sort of fighter who will buckle when faced with RDA’s pressure fighting. I’m going back-and-forth on this and ultimately, I give the slight edge to El Cucuy. He’ll be more composed and economical with his strike selection, and he’s the more athletic fighter who is capable of getting a finish. I can see RDA making Ferguson pay for any recklessness, but I have a feeling (and for the historical difficulty of former LW champions staying in the top 3 in the long-term) we’ll see Ferguson hurt dos Anjos and put him away in the later rounds. Tony Ferguson by TKO, round 4.
Nick Baldwin: This is a really, really fun lightweight matchup between a former champ and one of the top up-and-comers in the sport. Both dos Anjos and Ferguson are well-rounded; both have excellent striking and their fair share of submission wins, too. I think, however, that the Brazilian is coming back too soon from his devastating loss to Eddie Alvarez this past summer. He also recently left Kings MMA, which could turn out to be a mistake — either way, it’s a distraction. Ferguson has a super funky game, one like no one else’s, and dos Anjos might just have trouble finding success. Tony Ferguson via submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: Can Ferguson fight like a video game ninja in Mexico City, at that kind of elevation? I kinda doubt it. He could KO RDA early, but I’m not betting on that. Outside of that, RDA is monumentally tough to submit or out-grapple and his high pressure, high-pace style is much more consistent and should translate better to fighting in that atmosphere. Add in that Ferguson has been hurt or beat up in each of his last three bouts and I think this is the point he finally pays for being reckless as hell. RDA by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking RDA: Zane, Phil
Staff picking Ferguson: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Lewis
Marcin Held vs. Diego Sanchez
Mookie Alexander: I’m tempted to pick Diego for the upset just on workrate alone, which can carry him in the later rounds, in addition to the fact that we’ve seldom seen Diego just get hopelessly worked over on the ground and having to defend a series of submissions from the bottom. All of that said, there’s very little out of 2015-16 Diego Sanchez to make you think he’s actually going to consistently perform well against top 20 lightweights, of which I think Held is one. Marcin Held by unanimous decision.
Nick Baldwin: Ugh. Diego Sanchez is still fighting in 2016. Well, here we go: Sanchez, the TUF 1 winner, doesn’t have much left in the gas tank. He’s always been known for his ferocity on the feet and sometimes dangerous striking, but that’s lacking nowadays. He’s never been choked out in his veteran career, but Held has a nasty ground game, so this could be the first time we see Sanchez get finished on the mat. I’m looking forward to seeing how Held looks in his debut coming over from Bellator. Although I think a finish is very possible here, I’ll go Marcin Held via unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Diego doesn’t tend to get subbed, but I’ll be damned if I pick him to beat any top 30ish lightweight in the prime of their career. Marcin Held via submission.
Staff picking Held: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Phil, Lewis
Staff picking Sanchez: Tim
Ricardo Lamas vs. Charles Oliveira
Mookie Alexander: Charles Oliveira is a hefty fella. This fight legitimately shouldn’t be happening with how badly Oliveira missed weight, but hey, Lamas wants to get paid. I get that. Might as well get that win, too. Ricardo Lamas by TKO, round 2.
Nick Baldwin: I was picking Oliveira before the weigh-ins, and him missing weight drastically won’t stop me. He’s going to be the bigger guy, obviously, and it might even look like Alex Oliveira vs. Will Brooks from a month back. Oliveira has the advantage on the ground and Lamas has the advantage on the feet. If Lamas keeps it standing, he should be able to outpoint the Brazilian for a decision win. But if Oliveira gets the featherweight contender down, he’ll find the tap somehow. Charles Oliveira via submission, round 1.
Tim Burke: MOOOOOOO. Ricardo Lamas by decision.
Zane Simon: This whole weight cut dynamic is weird. I’m picking Lamas on the basis that while he only gets things done in brief opportunities, Olivieira is the kind of guy that creates a lot of opportunities. Lamas was even able to scare off Max Holloway a few times whenever Holloway tried to open up. I expect this to be a close, ugly scrap of a fight, but at some point Lamas is probably going to land a big shot that stuns Oliveira and puts him away. Ricardo Lamas via TKO round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Like Zane said, Lamas is a guy who feasts off opportunities, and Doughy Bronx is a guy who tends to be extraordinarily fearless about giving his opponent an opportunity. He has the advantages of size (and then some!) but I also feel like his balls-to-the-wall style may get him into trouble even if he has some success- elevation not playing well with going balls to the wall and all. That being said, I keep thinking about how much trouble Lamas had with the kicks and overall MT game of Hacran Dias, who has a lower pace, hits less hard and is much less diverse than Oliveira. Charles Oliveira by submission, round 1
Staff picking Lamas: Bissell, Mookie, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Oliveira: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Lewis
Martin Bravo vs. Claudio Puelles (TUF Latin America 3 lightweight final)
Mookie Alexander: I’ll just go with Zane here since he’s obligated to break down film, and that includes international TUFs. Martin Bravo by decision.
Zane Simon: Puelles is a better athlete, bigger (potentially quite a bit bigger), and seems to be more technical almost everywhere… And yet, I’m picking Bravo. The biggest reason is that Bravo’s style is built to win rounds. He’s relentlessly aggressive and pretty diverse as a boxer, and shows a great chin. His wrestling isn’t always pretty, but he’s absolutely dogged in search of the takedown, and he works constantly on the ground to land strikes. On the flip side, Puelles is a pretty low output range striker who relies on his kicking game, he backs himself straight into the fence a lot, defaults to a high guard, and has a sub game that’s mostly dependent on him being on his back. He’s not a great counter wrestler, and he often goes for dynamic, poorly timed strikes that give up takedowns. Puelles could find a quick sub in transition or get a highlight reel KO, or he could just be so big and strong that he physically dominates Bravo with his underrated power takedown game, but if he doesn’t I suspect he’ll be on his heels, losing rounds. Martin Bravo via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: With Zane on pretty much everything. Puelles looks like he has a far higher ceiling, with better athleticism and the pieces of what could be a very good game down the road, but I can’t help but feel that Bravo is just going to try to win more. His winging punching is cause for concern defensively, but Puelles hands are one of the weaker parts of his approach at the moment, and in a matchup between two good offensive / mediocre defensive wrestlers, I think the wrestling advantage goes to the fighter who is more willing to open the grappling (and is more likely to get to his opponent’s hips due to size). Martin Bravo by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Bravo: Bissell, Nick, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Phil
Staff picking Puelles:
Beneil Dariush vs. Rashid Magomedov
Mookie Alexander: Real tight, back-and-forth matchup here. Magomedov is the better, more technical striker with good power, but he’s so damned low output almost to a fault. Dariush has worked pretty well on his striking, but I’m a little unsure of how he’ll fare with Magomedov’s accuracy. He can’t fight Rashid the way he fought James Vick, whose striking is at least 80% eye pokes. If this is purely 15 minutes of kickboxing then Magomedov wins. But if Dariush can find a way to phase-shift, not get overwhelmed standing, and take down someone who’s really hard to take down, then I think he’ll get the win. He’s incredibly slick on the mat and that can’t be ignored. The worst case for Dariush is he gets Gilbert Burns’d, who got wrecked by Magomedov. I’ve basically outlined all the reasons not to pick Dariush here, but I’m going with the slight upset here … just because I can. Beneil Dariush by unanimous decision.
Nick Baldwin: My biggest issue with Magomedov is his lack of activity and consistency. He’s been touted as a top lightweight prospect for a long time, but has yet to live up to most people’s expectations because of the two problems I mentioned. He’s so accurate on the feet but has a very, very low output and rarely gets finishes in the UFC. Dariush, on the other hand, is a jiu-jitsu ace and doesn’t have half-bad striking, as well. He’s the more well-rounded fighter, in my opinion, and, if he gets the fight down to the ground, he’ll take this one. Beneil Dariush via submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: The thing here is that I don’t see how you make Mookie’s argument and then pick Dariush. Magomedov is near impossible to take down and keep there. And while he’s low output standing, much of that is because he’s waiting for his opponent to come forward. If you don’t come forward and let him land his shots, he’s still beating you, it’s just not pretty. Dariush, to his credit, has really improved his striking, and seems naturally aggressive everywhere, but I think that just means he’ll give Magomedov that many more opportunities to hit him by trying to out strike him. Rashid Magomedov by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Magomedov is an elite neutralizer. He is defensively superb in all phases, allowing him to control the pace because he is so rarely threatened by his opponent (think Lyoto Machida, although his style more closely resembles a far more physically gifted John Makdessi).
Dariush has a few key advantages here: he hits a lot harder, and if this hits the ground for more than a couple of seconds then Magomedov is likely toast. So, Dariush needs to use his leg and body kicks to bait Magomedov to pre-emptively counter them with hands, then to counter the hands with a takedown. Can he do that? It’s a tough ask I think. Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Dariush: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Lewis
Staff picking Magomedov: Tim, Zane, Phil
Alexa Grasso vs. Heather Clark
Mookie Alexander: Grasso has potential to be a future champion at strawweight. If you see her Invicta FC highlight reel and you’ll be wowed by her striking, particularly the way she strings together combination punching. Clark’s in a tough spot here, as she just lost to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and now is dealing with one of the best prospects in all of women’s MMA. I think Grasso’s going to put on a show and get a dominant stoppage win. Clark isn’t a pushover, but the athletic gap is just too much here to overcome. Alexa Grasso, TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Clark is better than she gets credit for, but she’s also just not the most elite athlete out there, and at altitude, her pressure, power driven style will probably exhaust her. Alexa Grasso via TKO, round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: A good fight for Grasso- despite her famous composure, I think that Octagon jitters, Mexico City and the fact that Clark is a decently athletic gamer mean that Grasso will genuinely have to work for it. Still, technically it’s hard to see that she doesn’t have this one in the bag. Alexa Grasso by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Grasso: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Phil
Staff picking Clark:
Erik Perez vs. Felipe Arantes
Zane Simon: Arantes is practically incapable of keeping the fight where he has an advantage for any length of time. When he’s outside, he closes to the clinch, when he’s inside he lets himself get taken down, when he’s on top, he goes for a sub and gives up position. Perez has slowly rounded out his game and improved his kickboxing to go with being a rock tough wrestle grappler. He should stay ahead all fight. Erik Perez via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I have some questions about this fight- Perez is one of those fighters (a bit like Andre Fili or perhaps Zach Makovsky) who is an inveterate phase shifter. He just can’t stop himself mixing up striking and takedowns, even when it doesn’t suit the style matchup at all. Thus, all these fighters (including Perez himself, against Caraway) have dropped upset decisions to specialist grapplers because they dived straight into their strongest area. Arantas isn’t quite dangerous enough that I think he’ll beat Perez with a sub, but I think we get at least one scare. Erik Perez by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Perez: Nick, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Phil
Staff picking Arantes: Bissell
Marco Beltran vs. Joe Soto
Zane Simon: Theoretically, Joe Soto is more than good enough to win this fight. Theoretically, he’s more than good enough to win a few of the UFC fights he’s lost. But, as an undersized, well rounded scrapper who isn’t the most durable guy in the world, he just seems to end up caught in the wrong kind of fight for him too often. If he takes Beltran down he could work him over for the submission and I’d be zero percent surprised. But Beltran is big and rangy and learning to use that better and better and Soto is coming in on short notice with no camp. Marco Beltran by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Soto has a bit of a quandary: he doesn’t have the dynamic takedown game necessary to get his excellent grappling game going, and he doesn’t have the sheer physical durability necessary to slug it out in the pocket long enough to get it to the ground in some other way. Beltran has been steadily improving, and is big and athletic. Marco Beltran by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Beltran: Mookie, Bissell, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Phil
Staff picking Soto: Nick, Lewis
Erick Montano vs. Max Griffin
Zane Simon: If Montano can maintain control of Griffin on the ground, he could definitely take this. Griffin’s takedown defense is not at all great. However, Griffin is a very very powerful athlete and puncher, and I’m not all that convinced that Montano has the control or technique to really dominate good positions when he gets them. I think Griffin will get just enough chances to land a kill shot and that’ll get him the win. Max Griffin via KO, Round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Two main questions here: did Griffin lose to Covington because Covington is the best grappler in the welterweight division* and better than Maia* and GSP* or does his takedown defense (and overall technical game) just suck? Secondly, how tough is Montano? He’s never been stopped by strikes, and I think he can probably pick up rounds on Griffin via top control. Erick Montano by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Montano: Tim, Phil
Staff picking Griffin: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Stephie
Henry Briones vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
Zane Simon: Really tough fight to pick. D Silva is the way way way better athlete, but his self taught style is janky as hell and full of holes. Briones has zero flash or dynamic movement to his game, and relies instead on being the toughest guy in the cage and a willing brawler. I’m picking D Silva because I like his weirdness and want him to do well, but if D Silva exhausts himself, Briones could absolutely club-n-sub him. Douglas Silva de Andrade via split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Both guys have been out for a minute now, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they perform in the weirdness of a Mexico City fight card. In general I think this is likely to be boxing vs Muay Thai. Here I like de Andrade- despite his long career, I thought his round-winning fundamentals looked improved vs Gibson, as he proved he could steadily break down an opponent rather than just dusting them with crazy nonsense. Douglas Silva de Andrade by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Briones: Bissell, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Silva: Nick, Zane, Stephie, Phil
Sam Alvey vs. Alex Nicholson
Mookie Alexander: All I ask out of Sam Alvey (besides picking him to win) is that this isn’t another fight where he just waits. And waits. And waits. Waits some more. Feints. Then waits again. Waiting to counter for all eternity. That’s a recipe for me to close Fight Pass and watch Alabama vs. LSU in full dereliction of my duties. Anyway, can’t see Nicholson not avoiding Alvey’s power shot for a full 15 minutes, and if Alvey cracks him, night’s over. Sam Alvey, TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Here’s the thing. Alvey is basically “solved” at this point. Stay outside of right hook range and he has absolutely nothing. He’s ginger and thus glacially footslow (I don’t know why this is such an unbreakably consistent physical rule in the UFC, but there it is) so his opponent doesn’t need footwork to stay out of his range so much as he just need to… move backwards to kicking range. Nicholson, however, is something of a mess. I don’t trust him to stick to a gameplan even as elementary as the above. He is bigger, a better athlete and utterly fearless though. I guess I have to pick Alvey but I don’t have much confidence. At least the fight should be fun. Sam Alvey by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Nicholson fights like his feet are greased and his hair is on fire. I can’t really see him strategizing around Alvey’s strengths and weaknesses, as glaring as they are. This feels more like the Kevin Casey fight, but without the BJJ threat and with more silly spinning stuff. It should be the ideal matchup for Alvey’s limited counterpunching game. Sam Alvey via KO round 1.
Staff picking Alvey: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Stephie, Lewis
Staff picking Nicholson:
Marco Polo Reyes vs. Jason Novelli
Phil Mackenzie: Marco Polo’s fight against Little Dong was one of the best of the year, and gave one of those slightly horrifying post-fight moments when the commentator (Anik?) reached out to fist-bump him after the fight, and a glazed Reyes woozily bumped the air next to his hand without seeming to notice. This is a man willing to go out on his shield. Novelli’s tendency to wait for opportunities seems like it’ll put him in a hole as it did against Teymur. Marco Polo Reyes by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Kind of like the Griffin/Montano fight above (but different), Novelli does a lot of things pretty decently, but is going up against a polished combination boxer with great fight ending power. And while normally I’d say, Novelli can/will wrestle grapple his way to the win, he seems to have a really bad habit of getting stuck in specific gears where he’ll be just kicking, or just boxing, or just wrestling, or just grappling. And I think that means he’ll get stuck boxing with Polo Reyes and get KO’d. Marco Polo Reyes via KO Round 1.
Staff picking Reyes: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Novelli:
Chris Avila vs. Enrique Barzola
Mookie Alexander: The Chris Avila who fought Artem Lobov legitimately beats just about nobody in the UFC’s featherweight division. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Avila looked dreadful last time out- Artem Lobov is a bottom-tier featherweight, and Avila was paralyzed into near-total inactivity. He’s still got some raw talent, so a better showing is a possibility, but Barzola is fairly athletic, aggressive and pretty good everywhere, including a decent array of kicks which as of his last fight represents a slice of range which Avila is completely unequipped to contest. If he fights as he did last time Avila’s sheer passivity will make him hard to finish. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Avila is just not good at anything. Even by regional prospect standards he was losing to guys that top prospects shouldn’t lose to. He’s a young kid, at a decent-ish camp, trying to figure out the fight game. And until he does, even reasonably okay level competition is just going to run roughshod over him. Enrique Barzola via decision.
Staff picking Avila:
Staff picking Barzola: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Stephie
About the author