UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa staff picks and predictions

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa, and everyone is going for Junior dos Santos…

By: Mookie Alexander | 4 years ago
UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa staff picks and predictions
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa, and everyone is going for Junior dos Santos over Tai Tuivasa, which is a surprise to me. As for the co-main event, most of us are going with Mark Hunt to win his farewell fight vs. Justin Willis.

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.

Junior dos Santos vs. Tai Tuivasa

Mookie Alexander: It wouldn’t be a shock if Tuivasa hurt JDS against the fence and just swarmed him for the knockout. JDS has a great chin almost to a fault though, so rarely does one huge shot do the damage. The Arlovski fight certainly gives me pause as far as Tuivasa being rushed up the title ranks, as he arguably lost that one, and Arlovski is much more faded than JDS. If Tuivasa is willing to stand in the middle of the Octagon and give JDS the fight he wants, which involves a lot of jabs, the overhand right, and now leg kicks, I believe dos Santos can win this fight in similar fashion like he did against Blagoi Ivanov. Junior dos Santos by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Look, I want to believe that Tuivasa is the shot in the arm the division needs, and was excited when this was announced. As the fight draws near, I’m worried this is a terrible mistake. Tai’s bold and fights with intensity and ferocity. He bullied Cyril Asker and brutalized him with body shots and plenty of unanswered punches, and held his own against James McSweeney in a bizarre fight that I won’t bother linking to. Junior’s a specimen that won’t get pushed around, and still has some of the best – if not the best – boxing in the division’s history. How does Tai contend with that? Junior’s tough to take down, and Tai isn’t exactly Cael Sanderson. Sure, Tuivasa’s got decent cardio for a heavyweight, but staying jiggly at this level in the division is not a good sign. I thought that maybe Tuivasa would draw Junior into a firefight, but now I’m thinking he gets boxed up and picked apart from the outside with dos Santos’ quick in and out game. Unless Tai Homer Simpsons his way to exhausting Junior, he’d better pound some heavy body shots as he comes in and work in some uppercuts from the clinch. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe he can attempt replicate some of that Cain Velasquez magic of pressing Junior and making him carry his weight to break him down, but I’m not holding my breath. Junior dos Santos by decision.

Zane Simon: It’s very possible that Tuivasa will come into this fight having taken another big step forward. To be honest, his performance against Arlovski was a huge improvement on his past fights. However, if he hasn’t, that Arlovski fight also felt very much like Tuivasa’s relative ceiling just at this moment. His footwork in pursuit of an opponent still isn’t great, his ability to maintain the pocket without falling into the clinch is still limited, and his game outside of power hooks and kicks is still pretty nonexistent. Could he back JDS to the cage and catch him with a huge shot to put him away? Maybe. It’s definitely a weakness in JDS’s game that he just can’t seem to fix. But, as with Ivanov, without the actual footwork to close him down, ability to maintain a range to land power shots, or a consistent combination boxing game, it’s very likely that Tuivasa just gives JDS too much time to set up a craftier, more diverse range striking arsenal. Junior dos Santos by decision.

Staff picking JDS: Harry, Nick, Bissell, Victor, Mookie, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Tuivasa:

Mark Hunt vs. Justin Willis

Mookie Alexander: I don’t think Willis has enough power or craft in his game at this point to seriously hurt Hunt or knock him out. Hunt’s durability is clearly going away, but stylistically I think this fight favors him to get one more win before bowing out of the UFC for good. He’s going to land a counter shot for one last walkoff KO. Pride Never Die and all that. Mark Hunt by KO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: We’ve seen Mark Hunt not only age before us, but really wear those years. It’s been sad to witness, but he’s still got enough to put away Derrick Lewis (and by god, Marcin dodged a Banzai Bill when his fight with Hunt got cancelled). Willis is on the way up, though. His striking isn’t bad, he’s deceptively athletic for a guy that carries his kind of frame and he can wrestle well. Is he on a Curtis Blaydes level? No. I worry that Willis’ wrestling may not be high-level enough to create a concern unless Hunt shows up completely flat. Hunt fighting at home for what he knows will be his final fight under the UFC banner means he’s not gonna half ass this one. Besides, anyone that’s been here a while knows where my loyalties as a fan lie. Thanks for everything, Mark. Go out there and put on some fireworks. MARKU HANTU by violence.

Zane Simon: I have a really really bad feeling that Willis rides through some terrible punishment early and just keeps firing counters over and over until one catches Hunt and puts him away. But, Mark Hunt should be able to win this fight. Willis’ offensive arsenal is incredibly limited to a counter 1-2. Leg kicks, counters-to-counters and long body punches should all be able to pick Willis apart from outside. Also, I’ve been a ride-or-die Mark Hunt fan for too long to pick against him in a fight like this. One last win at home before he rides off out of the Octagon. Mark Hunt by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Hunt: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Victor, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Willis: Bissell

Mauricio Rua vs. Tyson Pedro

Mookie Alexander: Why. Tyson Pedro by KO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: I’d like to think Shogun has some veteran mindset that can help him outsmart Pedro with some small tricks and adjustments. I’d also like to hit a Canadian Destroyer on the guy from those Micro Machines commercials, so… no. Shogun could pull off a shocker, but the way 2018 has gone, we all know what we’re likely to get. Tyson Pedro by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Shogun may be the most technical boxer he’s ever been. But he’s also too fragile to be in constant wars in the pocket with someone as tough as Pedro. Tyson Pedro by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Shogun: Nick
Staff picking Pedro: Harry, Bissell, Mookie, Victor, Zane, Stephie

Jake Matthews vs. Tony Martin

Victor Rodriguez: I like the maturity and growth we’re seeing from Matthews, but Martin’s looking so good, man. His striking is getting that much better and he’s blending everything together so well. Going with the more finished product here. Tony Martin by TKO, round 3.

Zane Simon: Probably the best fight on this card. Matthews has become a bigger, stronger, more explosive version of the young prospect he once was. But, he hasn’t added that much depth to his game. He still dives into the pocket and jumps out of it on straight lines, where he can be picked off by more technical strikers. And he’s still a decent, but not amazing wrestler and grappler. It’s taken more time and more nuance, but Martin’s pressure-counter boxing game is a lot slicker than Matthews’ power striking. If he can keep pushing Matthews back and finding angles to land counter punches as Matthews swings at him, I think he’s got this one. If Matthews can get him down early and keep him down, then this whole thing changes. But, Martin’s last two performances, against a very good wrestler and a very good grappler have me more convinced that he can handle this fight. Tony Martin by decision.

Staff picking Matthews: Harry, Bissell, Mookie
Staff picking Martin: Nick, Zane, Stephie

Paul Craig vs. Jim Crute

Victor Rodriguez: Crute’s really rough around the edges, but he’s ballsy and lives to scrap. Craig’s happy to oblige, but he’s also such a scrappy opportunist with his submission attempts, that it’s hard to pick against him in this scenario. Paul Craig by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: I want to pick Craig, it’s exactly the type of fight he wins. But it’s also exactly the kind of fight he wins while getting his ass completely kicked for most of it. It’s just too hard to bank on a guy who reacts as poorly as Craig does to punches, who doesn’t have a wrestling game to speak of, and throws a lot of kicks without any setup or defense. If Crute charges out and puts hands on him and doesn’t stop, he should take this. Jim Crute via TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Craig: Harry, Bissell, Victor
Staff picking Crute: Nick, Mookie, Zane, Stephie

Damir Ismagulov vs. Alex Gorgees

Zane Simon: Ismagulov is a very good, smothering wrestle-grappler. Gorgees looks like he’s trying on a style of slick sniper striking that he just doesn’t have the athleticism to pull off. Ismagulov via submission, round 1.

Staff picking Ismagulov: Harry, Nick, Bissell, Mookie, Victor, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Gorgees:

Elias Garcia vs. Kai Kara-France

Victor Rodriguez: They never should have let Kai walk in the first place. God, this is so dumb, but at least one of the better talents is where he belongs. Kai Kara-France by TKO.

Zane Simon: I’m not sure that Kara-France is diverse enough in his offense to be a real force at flyweight at the UFC level (or at bantamweight, if it comes to that), but I’m also not sure that Garcia is athletic enough, and that’s a much tougher problem to overcome. Kai Kara-France via decision.

Staff picking Garcia:
Staff picking Kara-France: Harry, Nick, Bissell, Mookie, Victor, Zane, Stephie

Wilson Reis vs. Ben Nguyen

Victor Rodriguez: Reis doesn’t get enough credit for his wrestling, which makes his BJJ game even deadlier. Fights still start on the feet, and Nguyen fights pretty smart. I love Wilson, but Ben’s probably gonna be too quick and too clever with his striking setups in this one. Ben Nguyen by decision.

Zane Simon: Nguyen either wins quick or loses late. Reis has a bad habit of starting cold, and picking things up as the fight goes on. I’m concerned that Reis has been a little too “solved” lately, with a style that’s predicated on all parts working or no parts working. So, I’ll assume that Nguyen does his work early, but if he lets Reis get his boxing going, the wrestling and grappling will follow. Ben Nguyen via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Reis: Bissell, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Nguyen: Harry, Nick, Victor, Zane

Yushin Okami vs. Alexey Kunchenko

Zane Simon: I really don’t want to pick modern-day blanket-Okami to win this fight, but I’m not sure I see enough urgency out of Kunchenko’s style to make me feel certain that he can finish the former middleweight title contender between long stretches of getting smothered. Okami’s really only lost to fighters that could flat-out out-wrestle him. Kunchenko doesn’t seem like that guy, although I won’t be too shocked if his speed means he nails a flying knee that puts Okami out cold. Yushin Okami via decision.

Staff picking Okami: Harry, Bissell, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Kunchenko: Nick, Mookie, Stephie

Suman Mokhtarian vs. Sodiq Yusuff

Victor Rodriguez: Mokhtarian is actually kinda fun. To me, anyway. Yusuff’s grappling isn’t up to snuff for this matchup, and Suman’s got a mean streak. Suman Mokhtarian by TKO.

Zane Simon: The Mokhtarian fighters almost universally seem less athletic or technically refined enough to be fighting at this level. Suman may be better than his brother, but he mostly seems like he’s getting by on being tough and aggressive. Yusuff is just a way way way better athlete and a pretty composed striker. Maybe Mokhtarian smothers him, but he couldn’t even do that against Ricky Steele on TUF. Sodiq Yusuff via KO, round 2.

Staff picking Mokhtarian: Harry, Bissell, Mookie, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Yusuff: Nick, Zane

Keita Nakamura vs. Salim Touahri

Victor Rodriguez: Yes, I love Nakamura. Yes, he’s had some surprisingly good wins in the last few years. Still can’t trust him for some reason. Bad hunches, everywhere. Salim Touahri by decision.

Zane Simon: Touahri is getting a really tough go of things in the UFC. A decent, but not all that great anywhere young prospect out of Poland with some punching power, but who needs to be able to take a fight everywhere to win consistently. Nakamura is still almost impossible to KO, and is a worlds above Touahri as a grappler. Keita Nakamura via RNC, Round 3.

Staff picking Nakamura: Harry, Nick, Bissell, Mookie, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Touahri: Victor

Mizuto Hirota vs. Christos Giagos

Victor Rodriguez: Hirota against a physically imposing guy that can wrestle? Oof. Christos Giagos by decision.

Zane Simon: Giagos isn’t nearly as dominating as his physical gifts suggest he should be, and Hirota has a long history of fighting hard while down on the cards. But, HIrota just doesn’t have much power to his game. And fighting from behind consistently, also means being consistently behind. Christos Giagos via decision.

Staff picking Hirota: Harry
Staff picking Giagos: Nick, Bissell, Victor, Mookie, Zane, Stephie

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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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