The Bloody Elbow team has submitted its predictions for UFC on FOX 24 in Kansas City, and in a stunner, half of us are picking Wilson Reis to … nah, just kidding. Clean sweep for Demetrious Johnson over the Brazilian in the main event. As for the co-main, the majority of the staff is picking Michelle Waterson to effectively secure a title shot by beating Rose Namajunas. Tim Bissell, Stephie Haynes, and Victor Rodriguez are going with Robert Whittaker to upset Jacare Souza.
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 Phil Mackenzie 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.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis
Anton Tabuena: On paper Demetrious Johnson may not be the best striker, best submission artist, or the best wrestler in the game, but there’s a reason he’s the best in the world today. He’s certainly very good at all those facets and has very high fight IQ, but more impressively, I believe he’s by far the best in MMA at blending those all together. Instead of going from kickboxing then switching to BJJ or wrestling-mode at certain positions, Johnson always mixes in strikes and setups and just transitions, blends and flows beautifully through everything. To me he’s the best representation of the more evolved style of actual Mixed Martial Arts, rather than switching through mindsets of individual sports. This is why he can tear through more accomplished guys like Cejudo (or Dodson) even in their own strengths. Johnson is obviously mortal, and like I said, he’s not exactly the very best at those individual aspects, but this is why I can’t pick any flyweight contender in the horizon just yet. Demetrious Johnson by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Wilson Reis is a really good fighter. So are the other men who have similarly lost to Demetrious Johnson by a wide margin. Reis is an impressive BJJ player who may be able to give DJ some problems on the mat, but apart from that, this is Mighty Mouse all the way. Given how shaky Reis’ striking defense has been — dropped once each by Jussier Formiga and Joby Sanchez — I foresee Mighty Mouse repeating his feat from the Cejudo fight and just brutalizing Reis in the clinch before getting the stoppage. Demetrious Johnson by TKO, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: I don’t think that this is going to be as big a blowout as some people think it will be, but it absolutely favors DJ in almost every department. He’s faster, much more coordinated and accurate with his striking, has great wrestling and is a very dynamic athlete. While I certainly think Reis has some of the best (and most underappreciated) Jiu-Jitsu in the game, I’m not sure he can slow the fight down to the point that he can successfully take Johnson down, keep control and position, then eventually get the submission. What I do see is Johnson superstyling on him as the fight goes on by peppering him with shots and limiting his mobility with leg attacks while running a blistering pace. Reis will have Del Fierro working on ways to deconstruct DJ’s movement game, but Mighty Mouse makes sooooooo many strides between one fight and the next to get caught here. Reis is too durable to get knocked out, and even if DJ gains control on the ground, Reis is too good to get submitted. Hope you guys like decisions. Demetrious Johnson by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Knee jerk reaction is just to pick Mighty Mouse every single time without fail, and for good reason. The guy is incredible, and, I would argue, STILL underrated. Still, at some point, he will lose. It happens to the best of them. Is that time now? Well, I think what it will take to beat him is a super dynamic, young, hungry fighter. The Garbrandt to Mighty Mouse’s Cruz if you will. And that is not Reis, who is a very good, very dangerous veteran, but not better than Johnson in any aspect of MMA at all. Demetrious Johnson, decision
Dayne Fox: Victor put it best. Reis has proven to be durable which should allow him to go the distance with one of the all-time greats. But Mighty Mouse IS one of the all-time greats who is dead set on breaking Anderson Silva’s consecutive defenses record. Reis isn’t the guy to deny him the opportunity. Johnson via decision
Ram Gilboa: At this point it’ll take three guys to beat Mighty Mouse, one tries to hold him down for a bit, while the other two score against him at ringside. Reis is great, but unfortunately for him he’s going against an all-time great. DJ is at his own level. Demetrious Johnson via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking DJ: Bissell, Victor, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Phil, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Anton
Staff picking Reis:
Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson
Anton Tabuena: Tough, tough pick in what should be a really fun contest. I think both are great on the ground, but this may all boil down to how they do on the feet and how they control distance and handle each other’s style and pressure. Will Waterson be patient, stay technical and mix in those kicks to keep her at bay? Will Namajunas use her length and unpredictability to set up a faster pace? Hard to say who ends up winning on the feet, but I expect it this be extremely close. I’m leaning towards Rose Namajunas by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I really don’t want either fighter to lose here. Waterson is one of my favorite personalities in the sport, while Namajunas has made serious strides since getting owned by Carla Esparza. As great as Waterson as looked, Namajunas is substantially better than both VanZant and Magana in terms of opponent quality. This is a matchup where I think Waterson has the edge on the feet, especially in the clinch. Namajunas struggled mightily against Kowalkiewicz when dealing with Karolina’s clinch offense, but the dynamic nature of Rose’s game may pose problems for Michelle. It’s extremely close on the ground, but I think Namajunas is a better scrambler and she’ll be able to outgrappler Waterson in key situations to win her rounds. I also think Namajunas is a good enough wrestler to take Waterson down if she so chooses. Err … arr … I don’t know! Rose Namajunas by split decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I’m torn here. These are two fighters who I was super excited to see signed by the UFC – both fighters with a world of potential that were some of the best Invicta had to offer. But I also think both have some notable gaps in their games that make them vulnerable. In theory, Thug Rose seems better at closing those gaps, but she also has been out for awhile, and just lost to KK. Waterson has an underrated ground game that should get her by here, leaving it on the feet where her stand-up skills can outpoint Rose in a close fight. Michelle Waterson, decision
Dayne Fox: I’m cutting to the chase of my thought process. Namajunas seems to have a love-hate relationship with fighting. When she has been away from the cage, she seems to fall back in love with the sport. If she has been fighting frequently, she appears to treat it more like a job she HAS to do rather than something she wants to do. For example, her contest against Karolina Kowalkiewicz was her fourth contest in 10 months and didn’t look like she was enjoying herself out there. Not bagging on her at all. I get it. However, considering her last contest came almost 9 months ago, I expect she is going to look reinvigorated. Namajunas via submission of RD2
Victor Rodriguez: Very torn with this one, because Namajunas has a great offensive grappling style, but Waterson is so crafty on the ground and can take a hell of a lot of damage. Not sure how Waterson makes her way in while avoiding the outside game of Namajunas. I’m guessing that at best Rose wins the range game and keeps Michelle at the end of her jabs and low kicks, and eventually they end up on the ground after some clinching against the wall. From there, Waterson’s veteran fight IQ helps her work to keep the fight at her pace and she takes over in the grappling department. It’s either that or Rose wins by decision, but my gut tells me this is going to be Michelle Waterson by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Namajunas: Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Anton
Staff picking Waterson: Fraser, Tim, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Victor
Ronaldo Souza vs. Robert Whittaker
Anton Tabuena: Whittaker is on a good streak, and he deserves a top contender, but I seem to be in the minority that thinks Jacare and just runs through him. This a giant step up in competition for Whittaker, and I just think Jacare is on a different level. Jacare Souza by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: Whittaker’s takedown defense is superb. Only Court McGee has been able to get him down, and that was at welterweight. The longer this stays standing, the more you have to like Whittaker’s chances with his lethal striking and his heavy hands
podcast. Whittaker may be the faster, more technical striker, but Jacare does pack a good punch himself, so that aspect will be fascinating. Can Whittaker counter his way into discouraging Jacare from his constant style of pressuring? What happens if he does get taken down by one of the greatest grapplers in MMA history? He probably gets submitted, that’s what happens. I’m extremely torn on this because I think Whittaker is future champ material, but I’ll be damned if this BS at the top of middleweight denies Romero and Jacare title shots for all eternity. Jacare Souza by strangulation, round 2.
Ram Gilboa: I think Jacare is the best fighter in the division, including the champ. Right now time is his main weakness, but it’s still too early for Whittaker to take advantage. Rockhold and Romero might be able to later on. So, give Jacare Bisping before it’s too late or give him Bellator. Ronaldo Souza via submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Hmm. Hmmmmmmmmm. I’m not sure how the aggression intersects in this fight. Jacare likes to pressure, and I think Whittaker does his best work on the counter. He can pressure, but it’s normally been a more scrappy, ugly performance (Leites, Hall etc) than when he can let his opponent come to him and counter with the left hook, right uppercut and leg kick (Tavares, Brunson). However, Jacare’s pressure is of a very different flavour to the type that Whittaker has thrived on- what happens when Souza closes to pressuring range and just… stands there? I guess that’s why I’m going to go with Jacare despite some of Whittaker’s obvious advantages (ironclad TDD, pace etc)- I don’t know how Whittaker can safely lead against him, and if he can’t how does he stop himself getting put into the cage? Have to admit, I don’t feel like I have a great read on this one. Ronaldo Souza by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Shit. I hate this fight, but I get why it’s happening. Smart money is on Jacaré, as it should be. But if we’re gonna be really real, dude can be cracked. Whittaker is deceptively strong and spry, and I can see him fending off some of the takedown attacks and breaking through Souza’s defense. Once he does, he’ll be able to pour on the pressure and use his precise and sharp striking to put the stamp on it. Going for the upset, because Aussie boy got nothing to lose and the tools to break the gator. Don’t @ me. Robert Whittaker by TKO.
Staff picking Jacare: Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Phil, Eddie, Anton
Staff picking Whittaker: Bissell, Stephie, Victor
Renato Moicano vs. Jeremy Stephens
Mookie Alexander: Weird fight. Moicano has looked good in the whopping two UFC fights he’s had over two years, but fast-tracking him to a top-10 matchup is surprising to me. Stephens strikes me as a guy who is going to fade young (he’s still only 30!) and start losing to guys we wouldn’t expect him to lose to, but is that time now? Moicano is a slick grappler but isn’t an overwhelming takedown machine. Stephens is more powerful and can outpoint Moicano to win at least two rounds. I’m going with Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Moicano has impressed me a lot in his UFC career- he seems just a very natural fighter, organically developing out his standup while still being a very smooth grappler. I don’t feel like his wrestling has come along at the same pace, though, which means that he’s likely to have to fight Stephens on the feet for long portions of this fight. While I could see him out-pacing and off-balancing Stephens, I don’t think he’s single-minded enough to throw Stephens off his game, which has become increasingly difficult in recent years, even in fights which Stephens might be losing. Reckon Moicano impresses in an effort where he gets a bit derailed towards the end of the fight Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision.
Eddie Mercado: This is a huge step up for Moicano. Jeremy Stephens is going to take his lunch money. Jeremy Stephens by TKO in round 3.
Staff picking Moicano: Bissell, Stephie
Staff picking Stephens: Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Phil, Eddie, Victor, Anton
Roy Nelson vs. Alexander Volkov
Anton Tabuena: Roy Nelson is predictable, and is also turning 41 soon. This is heavyweight, and he can obviously still win if he lands, but I’m not too high on his chances at this point. Alexander Volkov by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Every fear I have of Volkov getting Struve’d into a KO loss is suppressed by Nelson’s game seriously regressing over the last several years. Volkov’s takedown defense isn’t that impressive so I’m a bit weary of that, but he should be able to use his size advantage to strike from the outside and win on points. Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Huh. So, I guess this is a thing. Volkov is pretty sharp and can use his range effectively to fluster Nelson. He’s also likely to be hip to the point that Nelson is mostly overly reliant on the big overhand right (I mean, we all know that by now, right?) As slick as Volkov can be, I’m starting to think that at some point he’ll have a mental lapse that allows Nelson to get in that mid-range and execute. And if this fight hits the ground, I’m greatly favoring Nelson here. Yes, he’s not big on submission attempts, but his grappling style is suited to allow him to work his way out of trouble. Roy Nelson by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Nelson at this point is all right hand bomb, while Volkov knows how to use his reach and jab to outpoint an opponent. Can Big Country get around that and land that huge shot? Sure, it’s very possible. But I see it more likely that Volkov instead controls the striking game throughout, taking a decision win in a fight that never really heats up. (Note: Nelson certainly COULD also take him down and outgrapple his way to what would almost surely be a guaranteed win. But we all know he’s not going to do that) Alexander Volkov, decision
Phil Mackenzie: Blargh. Yuck. Volkov is super tough and can throw volume. Nelson seems to have oddly lost confidence in his standup of late, and has been reverting to being a grappler. He’s often been a bit like this (grappling strikers and striking grapplers) but there is just no linkages between his two approaches in the slightest- once he picks one he’s stuck for the entire fight, like he has to select either Bust or Slash mode with totally different movelists. Volkov to win with a knock-off version of the Miocic / JDS movement’n’jabs gameplan. Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Nelson: Victor, Dayne,
Staff picking Volkov: Bissell, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Anton
Tom Duquesnoy vs. Patrick Williams
Mookie Alexander: The Duke of Violence is here! Tom Duquesnoy by TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Duquesnoy is a fantastic, well-rounded prospect, who is exceptionally dangerous in every single phase. His primary issue is in the tuning of his power- in terms of strike selection and commitment everything is thrown hard. At some point he’ll need to develop a jab, or start graduating his rhythm and commitment (or both!). At the moment his game is complex, but not subtle. Williams is difficult to get a bead on. I think he may be a Reneau – an athletic late-bloomer who is flourishing under serious training. However, his defensive flaws and relatively limited game make it hard to put much stock into the unknown developments he might make. Tom Duquesnoy by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Williams is a hell of an athlete with veteran composure and decent fight IQ, but Duquesnoy is too good a striker and really good with his defensive grappling. I have to concur with Phil – Patrick’s defensive liabilities are going to be way too much here. Tom Duquesnoy by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Duquesnoy: Bissell, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Williams:
Bobby Green vs. Rashid Magomedov
Mookie Alexander: This is good matchmaking and it’s 99% likely to be a frustratingly boring fight. Magomedov is a more technical striker who surely won’t get goaded into Green’s little mini-game of taunting. Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Low power striker fight! Or, not so much low power as two guys who refuse to compromise themselves by over-committing.This should be really interesting. Rashid Magomedov is a defined counter-wrestler and striker; very difficult to hit clean but occasionally a bit low volume and determined to wait for a counter. Green has a really boxing-heavy style where he fences with his jab. In a sport often defined by fighters with rods through their spines, he has good head movement and does a good job of hiding behind his shoulder and baiting counters. I think Green can actually win this- the other end of the spectrum to Magomedov’s struggles with Dariush’s clinch is that he might not do that effectively if you don’t give him much to work with, but I think Magomedov’s kicking game and the fact that I don’t really trust where Green’s head is at to be the difference makers. Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Being a fan of Bobby Green is a true exercise in patience and frustration. He has a style that is tailor-made to frustrate his opponents and win rounds at the same time. At his best, he’s awesome, but anything less than that and there’s usually an errant (or not) nut shot or two. He’s a far better grappler than people give him credit for, and his striking is excellent when he finds his rhythm. Magomedov is more measured but probably won’t be quick enough to keep up with Green. Given Green’s troubles in the past few years and his inconsistent schedule, it’s hard to know what we’re going to get from him, but what the hell. I’m going with Green anyway. Bobby Green by decision.
Staff picking Green: Tim, Victor
Staff picking Magomedov: Bissell, Fraser, Dayne, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Anton
Mookie Alexander: I think Smolka’s ceiling has been found out. I was higher on him than others but if the Moreno fight was carelessness, the Borg fight showed that he’s not physical enough, doesn’t have great takedown defense, and isn’t a good enough striker to contend with the elite at 125 lbs. Smolka is going to get outwrestled, lose the majority of the scrambles, and Elliott will probably tire him out with his absurd pace. Tim Elliott by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Smolka is really, really good – but there’s no way I can go against Elliott here. His grimy wrestling style forces the fight where he wants it and creates more submission opportunities while keeping control and striking his opponent on the ground. That’s more liable to win you rounds and get ahead, and his standup is reckless but he lands shots he theoretically shouldn’t. I see a lot of Elliott charging forward and getting Smolka to the ground while Louis tries to regain guard and fight off his back. Then it’s back to the feet until Elliott feels like he wants to change that.
Phil Mackenzie: Gangle-grappler fight! Both men are OK wrestlers and great scramblers but have been outgrappled in the past (Makovsky, Borg etc). Elliott is a bit more technical on the feet and coherently put together but Smolka is much more dynamic with his striking and GnP. Should be a ton of fun. Tim Elliott by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Elliott: Victor, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Phil, Nick, Stephie
Staff picking Smolka: Bissell, Ram, Eddie, Anton
Phil Mackenzie: Surprised to see so many people picking Collier… but am not sure that I’m not going to as well? This seems very much like Athlete vs Fighter: Clark is more talented but more robotic, Collier isn’t particularly standout anywhere but clearly “gets” fighting much more and pours out a lot more offense. Hmm. Going to stick with Clark I think, just because he’s at a top-shelf gym (Jackson-Wink), and they’re very good at leveraging individual strengths in these kind of fights. In this case, wrestling. Devin Clark by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Clark: Bissell, Fraser, Phil, Nick, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Collier: Dayne, Tim, Ram, Mookie, Stephie
Andrew Sanchez vs. Anthony Smith
Mookie Alexander: They’re going to dig up Scott Smith and have him fight Andrew Sanchez next. Andrew Sanchez by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Should be a pretty close fight. Smith’s TDD is a bit weak, and Sanchez has proven more able to handle himself on the feet in his most recent fight against Hot Sauce. That, together with Smith’s somewhat sketchy gas tank leaves me favouring Sanchez slightly. Andrew “The Smith Hunter” Sanchez by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Sanchez: Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Smith: Bissell, Fraser, Tim, Ram, Eddie, Victor
Aljamain Sterling vs. Augusto Mendes
Mookie Alexander: Man, Sterling’s just going to be on Fight Pass forever whether he wins or not, isn’t he? With some hesitation, the pick is Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision, and I hope we see a good grappling match out of this.
Phil Mackenzie: Under-the-radar tough style matchup for Sterling. Has to make a choice whether he wants to aggressively grapple with Mendes, which could be disastrous, or fight him on the feet. In this phase Mendes is far more aggressive and fearless- he just doesn’t hate the pocket in the same way that AlJo does. However, I think the Assuncao fight serves Sterling well here, and that he can rack up a bit more distance strikes with the kicks, which Mendes doesn’t seem to favour defending. Mendes also seems to fade a little down the stretch. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Sterling: Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Mendes: Bissell
Mookie Alexander: Coy’s game is just far too limited for it to work in the UFC. Zak Cummings by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Seems like a rough style matchup for Coy. Cummings TDD hasn’t been bulletproof in his UFC tenure, but he’s big and surprisingly dynamic in every phase, and is a skilled and powerful counter puncher. Coy is a tough, wrestling-based vet, but he’s also not the most durable guy around. Zak Cummings by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Coy: Victor
Staff picking Cummings: Bissell, Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Anton
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Ketlen Vieira
Phil Mackenzie: Not convinced this will be a great fight – Vieira looked like she was slipping into more of a counter-fighting style in her last fight- not sure how well that plays with her overall poor defense, or her spotty gas tank. Evans-Smith should be relatively happy to lead. She has the wrestling to keep it standing, and just throws more and can keep her pace better, but I think this will be very close. Ashlee Evans-Smith by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Ashlee should have a nice size advantage here, and it should be a lot harder for Vieira to take her down and outwork Evans-Smith on the ground. Plus, Vieira’s going to have to be very clever to close the distance to get inside and do body work and exchange shots. It’s possible and likely, but not something I see her doing long-term. Ashlee will work takedowns and keep the range for most of the exchanges leading to a decision win. Ashlee Evans-Smith by decision.
Staff picking Evans-Smith: Bissell, Victor, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Ram, Nick, Stephie, Eddie, Anton
Staff picking Vieira:
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