The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC 226, and as we normally do for the really big shows, we’re dividing these posts in two. For the preliminary card, everyone is going with prospect Paulo Costa to defeat Uriah Hall, while the majority of us are going with Raphael Assuncao to get the win vs. Rob Font. Definitely a well-matched set of fights, to say the least.
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.
Uriah Hall vs. Paulo Henrique Costa
Mookie Alexander: I’m sure Hall can win this fight through one of his random bursts of violence, but Costa is aggressive, powerful, big, and Hall still has seemingly no idea how to deal with guys who can make him move backward. I suspect this ends badly for Uriah. If not, the “Uriah Hall is actually a championship level fighter” train might get going again (it shouldn’t). Paulo Henrique Costa by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Costa is an aggressive pressuring puncher who likes to push people up against the cage, and Uriah Hall is Uriah Hall. Should he make it out or round 1, Hall’s body kicks and better reach may allow him to pick Costa off, but Paulo Henrique Costa by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Oh, UFC. Y’all a bunch of hoes for this. Brazilian Eraser by knockout.
Staff picking Hall:
Staff picking Costa: Bissell, Mookie, Harry, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Dayne, Fraser, Ram, Victor
Mookie Alexander: The UFC is hoping this is the Hendricks-Fitch moment of the bantamweight division. Younger, more exciting fighter ends the title hopes of an aging, often slow-paced and unpopular top contender. Given how outstanding Font looked against Thomas Almeida, I won’t discount it. However, Assuncao so often manages to get his opponents to fight at his pace, and he has an underrated set of offensive skills that have made him hard to beat at 135. Font’s got crisp striking and should have a speed advantage, but Assuncao is also capable of grinding this out on the ground if he wants to pursue takedowns, as Font’s defensive wrestling is definitely a weakness. I’m still picking Assuncao, but Font is a live dog here. Raphael Assuncao by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Assuncao is a fine counter puncher, but I think he has some issues with range. He tends to throw a big right hand or left hook, and isn’t the fastest bantamweight. Dillashaw was largely able to get to him in their second fight by sniping with the jab then leaping back out of range. Font is slower than Dillashaw, but is bigger and hits harder. Given an opportunity to get a jab rolling, I think Font just has too much offense for Assuncao’s pace. It will bum me out a bit to see MMA’s most underappreciated gatekeeper lose this one, but I think the style matchup is a surprisingly tough one. Rob Font by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Calling it now, this is the sleeper fight of the night. Assunçao is an underrated treasure that makes fights ugly but has great technique and veteran savvy. Font is a rising terror that doesn’t look like he’s close to reaching his ceiling but his body of work has been phenomenal even with a few road bumps. Font’s speed and athleticism should hold up long-term and give him an edge in the later rounds, but he’s gonna struggle with Assunçao’s defense and counter striking early. If he paces himself and keeps it consistent, Font should be rewarded by the judges by keeping busy, applying forward pressure and keeping Assunçao on his back foot while dodging counters. No small feat, but he’s got the tools to do it and insert himself into the title picture. Boricua Rob by decision.
Staff picking Assuncao: Bissell, Mookie, Harry, Nick, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Fraser
Staff picking Font: Tim, Phil, Ram, Victor
Drakkar Klose vs. Lando Vannata
Anton Tabuena: Vannata is this low on this card. I guess it’s a testament to how good this line up is despite Holloway not being in it anymore. Lando Vannata by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Vannata often fights worse than he actually is, but he’s good enough to stifle Klose’s wrestling and punish him on the counter when closing the distance. The hope is that Vannata has learned not to burn himself out so easily with crazy strikes, and instead focus on fundamentals. If not, Klose can take this and frustrate Groovy Lando. Otherwise, I’ve got Lando Vannata by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I get what Anton means, but card order hierarchy isn’t what it used to be. Klose’s wrestling game and savvy counters could really be a factor here for an upset. Still going with Lando due to experience and enough strike variety to keep Klose guessing, but it’s shaky. Lando Vannata by decision.
Staff picking Klose: Harry, Stephie
Staff picking Vannata: Bissell, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Dayne, Fraser, Ram, Victor, Nick
Max Griffin vs. Curtis Millender
Anton Tabuena: Curtis Millender really impressed me during his debut last February. He looked very slick on the feet, had very nice feints, and knew how to maximize his reach to control distance and counter very effectively. He’s not exactly a prospect since he’s already 30, but he’s clearly one to watch among the UFC newcomers. Curtis Millender by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I probably should be picking Millender here, as he looked sensational against Thiago Alves, more so than Griffin’s fine showing against Mike Perry. That said, Griffin just made the transition into full-time fighting, and you can see how quickly that’s benefited him. Griffin also proved against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos that he can take a hell of a beating and stay in the fight, which could serve him well if he runs into trouble against Millender. Actually, forget it. I had in my mind Griffin being able to outwork Millender and get the win, but now I’m thinking Millender is just too sharp and his striking is too diverse. Curtis Millender by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Surprisingly great fight right here. Max Griffin showed a clean, greatly improved outside striking game against Perry where he improved leaps and bounds from his fairly wooden one-two approach he had previously. Millender is… oddly similar. He naturally has the calmness which Griffin came to only after some time. In general I think Millender’s defense just looks a little sharper,but this should be both fun and close. Curtis Millender by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I’m torn here, because I love Griffin’s wrestling game and ability to fight smart, but Millender is huge and has ridiculous hand/foot speed for his strikes. Griffin better be ready for leg and body kicks, because Millender is hungry and coming for blood. Curtis Millender by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Griffin: Bissell, Harry, Stephie, Tim, Ram
Staff picking Millender: Nick, Anton, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Victor, MOokie
Daniel Hooker vs. Gilbert Burns
Anton Tabuena: Hooker has to set his pace and make this one ugly and unpredictable. It’s a tough match up but I think he can pull it off. Daniel Hooker by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Ahhh the classic Hooker-Burns showdown we’ve all been waiting for. This is both an excellent matchup and also a felony. Phil has described Hooker as a Lamas-type fighter and it’s hard to disagree. The move to lightweight has definitely benefited him, and Burns’ defensive deficiencies can make this a potentially bad matchup for Durinho. However, Burns has proven he can crack, his boxing continues to improve, and on the ground he’s just a beast, always hunting for submissions. I’m going with Gilbert Burns by submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Love the Hangman, but Gilbert is another holy terror. His striking has come far, and Daniel’s at a strength and athleticism disadvantage here. He should be able to outwork Burns and keep it standing while outpointing Gilbert at a steady pace. Daniel Hooker by decision.
Staff picking Hooker: Bissell, Harry, Anton, Phil, Fraser
Staff picking Burns: Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Dayne, Ram, Victor
Mookie Alexander: Moyle is the better fighter and I don’t really trust Whitmire’s takedown defense to hold up here, which benefits Moyle’s work from top position. I think this could be a bit of a grind with Moyle responsible for much of it. Jamie Moyle by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Both fighters have a similar amount of amateur experience, with Whitmire standing at 2-2 as a pro. She’s got a lot of upside, but she’s not there yet. Moyle’s trying to bounce back from that loss to Viviane Sucuri, and should have enough success standing to win here. Whitmire’s got decent defense and a far better overall ground game, but might get too complacent and fall behind on the scorecards. Jamie Moyle by decision.
Staff picking Moyle: Bissell, Mookie, Harry, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Dayne, Fraser, Ram, Victor
Staff picking Whitmire:
Who wins the UFC 226 featured prelim?
This poll is closed
Costa by stoppage
Hall by stoppage
Costa by decision
Hall by decision
353 votes total
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