UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch staff picks and predictions

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch, and unsurprisingly we have a unanimous vote for Luke…

By: Mookie Alexander | 6 years ago
UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch staff picks and predictions
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch, and unsurprisingly we have a unanimous vote for Luke Rockhold to get the win. If you think history is repeating itself, you are wrong. Eddie Mercado did pick Bisping over Rockhold at UFC 199. Lots of one-sided choices have been made for this event, so will we see some surprise results on Saturday? We’ll find out soon.

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.

Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch

Mookie Alexander: I don’t see the path to victory for Branch that isn’t some fluky outcome or a horrendously boring decision. Rockhold losing to Bisping was a stunner, but what isn’t a stunner is that Bisping is a fundamentally better boxer than him. Luke is horribly wooden with his hands, and I hope Henri Hooft can help him fix that issue, because he’s got powerful kicks that can finish fights and sap your cardio. Branch isn’t going to take Rockhold down, and Luke is an excellent grappler in his own right. This is going to be a dominant win for Rockhold, who seems to draw plenty of ire from fans for being arrogant, but you can’t deny that he’s been an elite middleweight for quite some times. Luke Rockhold by TKO, round 3.

Dayne Fox: Rockhold has proven to be susceptible when he doesn’t respect his opponent… like when he lost the title to Michael Bisping. He hasn’t been showing Branch much respect. Nonetheless, I’m still picking the AKA representative as he is one of the most physically talented middleweights on the planet and I can’t see him being so arrogant as to not have learned anything from the loss to Bisping. Then again, I don’t know if there is a fighter more arrogant than Rockhold…. Rockhold via TKO of RD3

Staff picking Rockhold: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Branch:

Mike Perry vs. Alex Reyes

Mookie Alexander: Perry vs. Alves would’ve been genuinely compelling given Alves is quite savvy and has a lot of tools in his striking game that Jake Ellenberger lacks. I’d have likely sided with Perry to just destroy “Pitbull” anyway because he’s just a comically powerful striker. Now that this fight isn’t happening and the replacement is a lightweight lacking in any decent wins, the outcome feels inevitable. Mike Perry by KO, round 1.

Dayne Fox: I don’t know much about Reyes as this contest was made too late for me to look at any footage of the newcomer. What I do know is he is a natural lightweight and that he’s been around for about a decade. Perry was an unknown when he burst on the scene, but he is also a natural welterweight with incredible punching power. Oh… and he was also very young in his career with only seven career fights in just two years. My guess is Reyes is what he is at this point and isn’t likely to surprise. Perry via KO of RD1

Staff picking Perry: Bissell, Ram, Nick, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Reyes:

Hector Lombard vs. Anthony Smith

Mookie Alexander: Lombard is going to look stupidly tiny compared to Smith. I don’t see Lombard being able to handle Smith’s pace and his reach advantage, which will lead to him getting hit quite frequently. I’m not sure Lombard should still be in the UFC, and I think “Lionheart” is going to see to it that he is competing elsewhere. Anthony Smith by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Lombard looked technically fine in his last fight, but also like his dynamism was fading away. Anthony Smith has been a strange fighter- his cardio was dreadful, until it wasn’t. His wrestling appears to be improving. The main advantage he holds is that he can keep a big pace, he’s pretty hard to knock out, and he has a massive reach advantage on Lombard. While the first round will be hairy, I just don’t see how Lombard can keep wading through a barrage of front kicks and Cheater Arm punches for three rounds. Anthony Smith by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Lombard: Nick, Ram, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Smith: Bissell, Stephie, Mookie, Phil

Gregor Gillespie vs. Jason Gonzalez

Mookie Alexander: I’m sold on Gillespie as at least a future top-15 fighter. Gonzalez is just not good enough defensively and I can easily see Gillespie doing to him what Drew Dober managed back at UFC 203. Gillespie is also a great wrestler and probably can win a decision that route, too. Gregor Gillespie by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Hmmmmmm. Gonzalez is a kill-or-die type of fighter, and an absolutely comically vast lightweight. He’s 6’2 and relatively thick in the upper body. What the hell. He would be a very big welterweight back in the day. Given Gillespie’s not-great defense and the fact that he’s basically a featherweight, I can very very easily see him getting bopped. However, Gonzalez’s defense is even worse, either in the striking or (more pertinently) in the grappling phase, and Gillespie can likely take him down and wear on him repeatedly. However, if he eats an uppercut on a phase-shift or gets choked out on an entry, it may be an object lesson in how “the Frankie Edgar” is a difficult role to pull off against some of the humongoid weight-cutting freaks in the modern UFC. Gregor Gillespie by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Gillespie: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Gonzalez:

Sergio Moraes vs. Kamaru Usman

Mookie Alexander: This is the most intriguing fight on the card for me. Usman has a real chance to become a title challenger within the next year or so. His striking has come along very well and he’s a tremendous physical specimen. He’s not been getting the finishes in his wins but he has been winning in dominant fashion. Heavy ground-and-pound, excellent top control, and a very good gas tank. I honestly rate him well beyond Colby Covington as far as upside is concerned. Moraes is by no means an easy opponent, even if I feel Usman should be taking on ranked competition. Sergio throws powerful, if often sloppy punches, and obviously his best asset is his BJJ. That makes the matchup on the ground a lot more interesting, but I feel Usman is too strong and Moraes won’t be able to sweep him easily or come up with anything great off of his back. Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Moraes has janked his way to a 6-1-1 UFC record. Not the greatest competition, but a 7 fight undefeated streak is nothing to sneeze at. Everyone who has faced him has treated the floor as being radioactive, so it’s interesting to see if Usman does the same. Usman is a monstrous physical talent, and I think a future champion. I expect he can win this fight on the feet quite handily, as Moraes makes his bread and butter with surprisingly quick and accurate but incredibly loopy shots. Usman can likely pressure and counter like he did against Strickland. Can he wrestle though? It will be interesting to see if his sheer physical strength insulates him from Moraes’ grappling. I think he beats him up quite badly, but Moraes has always been very tough. Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Moraes: Bissell, Ram, Tim
Staff picking Usman: Nick, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Phil

Justin Ledet vs. Azunna Anyanwu

Mookie Alexander: The devastating KO on Contender Series was nice, but Anyanwu probably didn’t get a UFC contract right away on the basis of very little actually happening in the fight leading up to the finish. I’m liking Ledet as a steadily improving prospect, and I suspect this fight may be somewhat similar to the Chase Sherman one, in which Ledet’s boxing is on point but he’s not powerful enough to put a tough opponent away. Justin Ledet by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Ledet looks like a legit talent in the division. He’s a good athlete, he can box, and as he showed last time out, he can scramble a bit as well. Anyanwu has some craft on the feet, but he basically looks like a pudgy middleweight. He’s both tough and willing to hang back, which means that I think Ledet might struggle to finish him, or even walk into a counter shot, but there’s no real reason to think that he’s likely to win. Justin Ledet by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Ledet: Bissell, Nick, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Anyanwu: Ram

Tony Martin vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier

Mookie Alexander: This is a nice feature prelim. Aubin-Mercier still strikes me as a little too uncomfortable on the feet, and the progression of Martin as a range striker with a quality jab and much more fluidity to his overall kickboxing. Martin really didn’t look ready for UFC level opposition when he began his career, and he didn’t fight particularly smart, but I thought his win over Johnny Case was the best of his career. OAM can always find his way to the back and sink in a rear-naked choke, but I don’t think he’ll be able to grind Martin out in the clinch, and he’ll be outmatched as a striker. Tony Martin by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Great matchup between two athletic and skilled lightweights who have seemingly gotten over early humps. In terms of who has improved more, it has to be Martin. He was basically a blindly aggressive sub grappler who exhausted himself in his early UFC run, but he’s picked up a genuinely cohesive striking game and a nasty jab. OAM has sort of tried to do the same thing, but he’s just not a comfortable striker. He does have a very clinch-heavy, grinding grappling style, and it’s conceivable that extended exchanges could wear Martin’s gas tank out, but I like Martin’s reach and comfort at distance in a close fight. Tony Martin by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Martin: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking OAM: Bissell, Ram, Tim

Anthony Hamilton vs. Daniel Spitz

Mookie Alexander: Yeah… Anthony Hamilton by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Hamilton looks and fights a bit like an inflatable parade float of Daniel Cormier, but he is big and powerful, whereas Daniel Spitz lost to Mark Godbeer and… look, I like Mark Godbeer. He has an awesome name. But still. Anthony Hamilton by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Hamilton: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Spitz:

Uriah Hall vs. Krzysztof Jotko

Mookie Alexander: Uriah Hall isn’t a prospect anymore, you guys. Just felt like repeating that since it’s surely going to be said at some point on the FS1 broadcast. You can’t discount Hall if only because he really can turn fights around (or end them) with one absurd strike, but I honestly feel like he doesn’t actually enjoy fighting. Martial arts? Yes. Actual fighting? Nope. I expect Jotko to win. He’ll pressure him, probably get a couple of takedowns, and cruise to a decision as Hall throws 3 meaningful strikes a minute. Krzysztof Jotko by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Is it just me or has Jotko’s pace dropped? I feel like he’s becoming a bit more of a counter fighter, and I don’t think that giving space or kickboxing with Hall will be the right way to approach him. On the other hand, though, Hall looked dire against Mousasi and Brunson, doing almost exactly the wrong things. Most concerningly was how he just seemed to give up from bottom position against the Moose. Given how much he’s struggled with his confidence, I fear this might be the last time we see him. Krzysztof Jotko by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Hall:
Staff picking Jotko: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Tim

Gilbert Burns vs. Jason Saggo

Mookie Alexander: Don’t really think Durinho is going to pan out as a future contender as some may have hoped. I do think when he’s at his best, he’s extremely fun to watch. His jiu-jitsu is great and he has an intense dislike for the well-being of other people’s arms. Saggo is tough and has never been finished, but I think Burns ends that streak. Gilbert Burns by armbar, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: This looks like a blowout for Burns on paper, but I’m really not sure. One thing about Saggo is that he appears to be very mentally tough, and I’m unconvinced that the same can be said for Burns. Saggo’s kick and scramble game is a little reminiscent of a much smaller and less physically overwhelming Rockhold, so if he can keep distance and/or outpace Burns, I could see him picking up a win. On the other hand, while I expect the grappling exchanges to be very fun, there are levels to this. Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Burns: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Saggo:


Who wins the UFC Pittsburgh main event?

This poll is closed

  • 68%

    Rockhold by stoppage

    (541 votes)

  • 16%

    Branch by stoppage

    (133 votes)

  • 6%

    Rockhold by decision

    (51 votes)

  • 7%

    Branch by decision

    (58 votes)

  • 1%


    (10 votes)

793 votes total

Vote Now

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About the author
Mookie Alexander
Mookie Alexander

Mookie is a former Associate Editor for Bloody Elbow, leaving in August 2022 after ten years as a member of the staff. He's still lurking behind the scenes.

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