The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for UFC 226, and for Saturday’s superfight main event, there is a lean towards Stipe Miocic to remain the baddest man on the planet vs. light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier, who is seeking to become only the second simultaneous two-division champ in UFC history. As for the co-main event, only Ram Gilboa is picking Derrick Lewis to beat Francis Ngannou.
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.
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier
Anton Tabuena: I’ve been flip flopping on this one for a while. Both have similar skill sets, but apart from being faster, I feel like Cormier is just a little bit better on every facet of the game. But can he use that and take advantage? Because Miocic will have a significant size and strength advantage that can pretty much neutralize — or overcome — those slight technical gaps. Cormier is the far better grappler, but I doubt he can take him down and keep Miocic there unless he’s already worn him out and busted him up on the feet. He also has criper and better hands, but he isn’t a KO puncher, so not only will he have to get through that reach, he will have to avoid Miocic’s power punches while picking him apart for 25 minutes. If that’s his main avenue to victory, it will be a tough road ahead. I don’t know. The more logical pick says Miocic, but somehow I still tend to side with the more technical fighter despite the massive hurdles he has to overcome here. Maybe he picks him apart and stymies him with his speed and more diverse striking, eventually wearing him down and busting him up on the latter rounds. Or maybe Miocic just mauls the smaller opponent and I didn’t see it because I just like rooting for underdogs. Who knows? Daniel Cormier by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: There are so many variables here. Miocic hasn’t faced a serious wrestling threat in any of his wins on this current streak. Cormier hasn’t fought a heavyweight with the combination of power, speed, and boxing abilities of Miocic. Much of this fight really depends on if Cormier can close the distance, get in on Stipe’s hips, and put him on his back. Cormier has a tremendous top game and I think he’s capable of pinning Stipe down and wreaking havoc. DC is also much better with clinch offense than Miocic has ever been. The thing that gives me pause is that Cormier is clearly not in his physical prime anymore, and the injuries that have nixed a couple of fights for him in recent years certainly don’t help. He has been hurt by Jones, Gustafsson, Rumble, and tagged clean by Oezdemir several times in round 1. His chin is terrific, but can it withstand Stipe putting repeated leather on him? I don’t think so. The longer the fight stays in Stipe’s range, the worse of a chance Cormier has at winning this one. My heart says Cormier because he’s a an all-time great and seemingly a genuinely nice guy, but I’ve been underestimating Miocic too long (waves at UFC Countdown people), so I think Stipe defends his title. Stipe Miocic by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Stipe’s a better boxer than people give him credit for, and that’s saying a lot considering his body of work. Even with Stipe’s feints and ability to rush in, Cormier’s trained with and beaten big dudes before. He ate big bombs from Rumble Johnson, and despite being blasted by Jon Jones, I don’t think Miocic has that kind of creativity or reaction ability to force a headkick or anything like that. Cormier knows he’s going in there against a hyper-athletic wrestleboxer archetype, one that has a great gas tank and sound defensive abilities. But Cormier’s wrestling will still make a big difference here, as will his inside boxing game and ability to keep his head in the right place to avoid bombs up close. If you can body slam Josh Barnett and Alexander Gustafsson, you can work that strength into something devastating for Miocic as well. The lack of a weight cut and the return of Cain Velasquez in his sparring partner rotation should have him more than ready to avoid getting bullied with a full-frontal rush and get him to grind on Miocic after hitting takedowns along the fence and drowning him with strikes from there. DC will stand for Doubletime Champ after this one. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 4.
Staff picking Miocic: Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Phil, Dayne, Ram
Staff picking Cormier: Bissell, Harry, Anton, Fraser, Victor
Derrick Lewis vs. Francis Ngannou
Anton Tabuena: While I struggled with picking the main event, this one just feels a lot more straightforward to me. Heavyweights are unpredictable and Lewis has a chance to land, but Ngannou will be the stronger, faster, and more dangerous striker between the two. He has holes in his game, but Lewis isn’t the type of fighter who can capitalize on them, so this is clearly Ngannou’s fight to lose. Francis Ngannou by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I wouldn’t be surprised if Ngannou randomly took this to the ground. It’s not a good idea, but it is heavyweight, and stupid, weird shit happens all the time. Lewis is fun to watch, a great personality, but his deficiencies should play into Ngannou’s hands. He’s not particularly hard to hurt, and if Ngannou is willing to stand and trade, he’s going to get the W. Francis Ngannou by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: I think this fight will be awful for at least seven minutes. Both men like to counter, neither are comfortable moving forwards so get ready for some athletic, explosive staring and posturing. Ngannou is younger and takes a shot better, and when Lewis can be made to throw, he tends to rush forward with his chin out in front. Ngannou tends to feast on that kind of approach. Francis Ngannou by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I doubt either guy wants this on the ground. This is a matter of pride, and they’re gonna bang. For some reason, it seems to me that Lewis will be less likely to survive that inevitable firefight, with Ngannou using a few leg kicks to keep him off balance like Carlos Condit did to Dan Hardy. Captain Cameroon pours it on early but doesn’t have the same kind of steam later in the fight, so I’m guessing we’ll see a tense affair with some big shots that peters out by round three. Francis Ngannou by decision.
Staff picking Lewis: Ram
Staff picking Ngannou: Bissell, Mookie, Harry, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Victor
Paul Felder vs. Mike Perry
Anton Tabuena: There’s only a 2% chance my pick is wrong. Paul Felder by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: We can’t ignore that Felder isn’t a welterweight and Perry hits harder than many middleweights. Felder has never been KO’d, and based on what we’ve seen he has a great chin, but I suspect everyone here picking Felder is aware of how dangerous Perry can be. If you compare their skill sets, Perry’s borderline obsession with brawling has cost him against anyone with a hint of technical striking and patient, effective footwork. Felder has his own brand of violence that could trouble “Platinum,” especially those vicious elbows. If this was Perry vs. Yancy Medeiros as first planned, I’d pick Perry by KTFO. Now? Different story. Paul Felder by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Oh, wow. See, Perry really is a very good fighter. Put your personal feelings about him as a person aside, and you’ll see he’s got some serious potential in this division. But Felder is just so good at working his submission grappling and keeping his in-and-out striking in check to avoid damage against a guy like Perry. At first glance, I see Perry outmuscling Felder and making it a brawl, which Felder will oblige him in and get brutalized in the process. But seeing his understanding of the game through his analyst work (and my personal homer bias), I’m getting a sense that this looks more like the Jouban fight. Stick, move and avoid unnecessary trouble. Draw Perry in and outwork him. Paul Felder by decision.
Staff picking Felder: Bissell, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Fraser, Ram, Victor
Staff picking Perry: Harry, Dayne
Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis
Anton Tabuena: Chiesa is a good grappler, but I think Pettis is also a bit underrated these days. Chiesa isn’t the most powerful wrestler, so if Pettis can keep this standing for stretches, he still has the tools to pull this off despite his recent struggles. Anthony Pettis by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Evidently this is Chiesa’s farewell to LW after Friday’s weight miss. Chiesa is stronger than he’s given credit for, and he likes to pressure, which is Pettis’ worst nightmare. Pettis is seemingly on the downside of his career, but I also can’t ignore that Chiesa is a Sikjitsu fighter — body shots aren’t to be blocked at that gym — and Pettis likes body kicks. The formula is right there! Anthony Pettis by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: I still think Chiesa is the type of style matchup that Pettis has feasted on. A slightly formless but enthusiastic striker, a grappler who really isn’t much of a consistent double leg or chain wrestling threat. Chiesa somewhat relies on people having a “take it everywhere” MMA fight with him, but Pettis will just hang out, one-two and kick. I think he is still good enough on the mat to survive scrambles, and the Sikjitsu vulnerability to kicks, body shots, and… er… striking… still seems problematic. As I said before Jim Miller, Pettis can still beat up on forgiving style matchups. I suspect this is another one. Anthony Pettis by TKO, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: Pettis was figured out ages ago. Deny him the range he wants, crowd him with volume striking and work takedowns and clinchwork against the cage. Then take him to the ground where his overconfidence in his ground game will lead to him hunting for triangles and armbars instead of getting up. That’s what’s led to so many of his decision losses, and Chiesa lacks the fundamentals to implement that very first step. That makes this very winnable for Pettis, with his chance to ruin Chiesa with leg kicks and body shots (real OGs know what I’m talking about). Wait, what’s that? (Puts finger up to earpiece) Chiesa missed weight? Nah, son. Anthony Pettis by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Chiesa: Bissell, Harry, Stephie, Dayne, Fraser
Staff picking Pettis: Nick, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Phil, Ram, Victor
Gokhan Saki vs. Khalil Rountree
Anton Tabuena: Midway through 2018 and I can still use “K-1 level striking” when making predictions. Gokhan Saki by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Saki has cardio questions and we still don’t know if he’s actually good at MMA. Rountree has obvious cardio problems and more or less doesn’t actually want to engage in MMA fights. He doesn’t attempt takedowns and offers nothing off of his back, so I expect that he’ll try to kickbox Saki and pay the price for it. Gokhan Saki by TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: As with Adesanya-Tavares (but far worse) this is a “can one guy turn this into an MMA fight even though that’s not what he does” fight. Maybe they just get clinched up and fall over and Saki immediately self destructs? But other than that Rountree hasn’t shown anything like the proclivity not to give Saki exactly the fight he wants. While he didn’t look incredible against Frank Waisten, he’s still just a way better striker. Gokhan Saki by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Rountree hits hard, but as Cage Warriors commentator Brad Wharton said, so do Aerts, Ghita and Sefo. Saki’s striking pedigree is gonna be impossible to play catch-up with, and his work with the Turkish wrestling team and the guys at Allstars in Sweden should help shore up his takedown and cardio concerns. Lights out, game over, bro. Gokhan Saki by violence. Round 2.
Staff picking Saki: Bissell, Mookie, Harry, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Ram, Victor
Staff picking Rountree:
Who wins the UFC 226 main event?
This poll is closed
Miocic by stoppage
Cormier by stoppage
Miocic by decision
Cormier by decision
The speaker that tripped Cormier
1581 votes total
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