After an off-week the UFC is back with a card that will likely get drowned out by all the other action happening this week (Deontay Wilder vs. Robert Helenius and Devin Haney vs. George Kambosos Jr. 2). The main event for this one is Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araujo, with both women hoping a win gets them closer to challenging Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC flyweight title.
And most the staffers believe Grasso will be the one taking a step closer to challenging for a UFC title. The lone dissenter there is ‘me’*. There’s a lot of fighters on the card who will have to contend with the BE Curse tonight, that is they were unanimously picked by us. Those fighters are: Alonzo Menifield, Mana Martinez, Victor Henry, Joanderson Brito, Piera Rodriguez and Tatsuro Taira. The only bout with a real split of opinions is Nick Maximov vs. Jacob Malkoun, with the Diaz bros. trained Maximov getting the nod.
You can check out all our picks below. Please share yours in the comment section!
*Reminder: I’m making my picks based solely on fighter’s past winning percentages as an experiment to see how effective that nugget of data is at predicting fight outcomes. More on that here. You can see the data here. This method of picking fights is currently 22-16. Once 1,000 fights have been logged like this, we’ll take a look at what it all might mean.
Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araujo
Tim Bissell: Alexa Grasso looked really good last time out in snatching a first round sub off of Joanne Wood. That followed up wins against the tough Maycee Barber and Ji Yeon Kim. Araujo is also coming off a win, though it’s a little more ho-hum than what Grasso pulled off. Last time out she won a decision over Andrea Lee. The algorithm is picking Araujo, which I don’t really agree with. She gets the nod thanks to a winning percentage of .714 over seven UFC contests. That’s marginally higher than Grasso’s wp over nine contests. To get past Grasso (who I think is a more well-rounded and craftier fighter) she’ll need to maximize her physicality and reach advantage against and show us fight IQ unlike what we’ve seen before. Viviane Araujo via decision.
Zane Simon: This should be a very, very tight contest down to the final bell. Both women can get clipped hard and bounce back well in fights, and are generally very hard to finish and fight well through adversity. Grasso is the cleaner, more technical striker, but she tends to also be the more conflict-averse puncher. The kind of fighter who sits down on strikes with the intention of scaring opponents away, so she can go back to working from distance, compared to Araujo’s consistent pressure and power delivery. While neither woman is a fully lock-down grappler, Araujo will probably have some wrestling edge, given that she can shoot a solid power double in open space. The question for me comes down to whether Araujo can assert the type of fight she needs to win if she’s regularly getting out-hustled in distance exchanges. Can she cut Grasso off and land enough bigger shots to tip the scales? Or get her down long enough to grind away rounds? I get the feeling Grasso may have a bad round here or there, but I think she can do enough to take three on points and win by decision. Alexa Grasso by decision.
Staff picking Grasso: Zane, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Araujo: Bissell
Jonathan Martinez vs. Cub Swanson
Tim Bissell: Cub Swanson has pretty much bounced back from that wretched stretch where he lost four in a row (against extremely talented fighters) and he’s put together a 3-1 run with the only loss being a tough first round TKO to Giga Chikadze. His wp after 21 UFC fights is a very respectable .619. His opponent, who has 10 UFC fights, has a higher one, though. Jonathan Martinez has an above average .714 thanks to has 7-3 record in the Octagon. If you look at their overall careers, Martinez has a .800 wp on his 20 fight career. Swanson has .700 on a career with 40 fights. Martinez hasn’t exactly set the world on the fire with his performances, but I think he’s fighting Swanson at the right time and his youth and speed advantage will help him out-pace the veteran. Jonathan Martinez via decision.
Zane Simon: This is a real coinflip for me. For all the feeling like Cub Swanson should really have lost a big step by now, the actual evidence of that is harder to come by. He still rarely gets put away. And while he’s always struggled with more creative, footwork heavy fighters that can punish him from the outside while he looks for pocket exchanges, when that’s not what’s in front of him, he’s still winning fights. Martinez can be that guy at range, he’s got the kicking game for it. But he also tends to get into serious defensive trouble off his back foot or in the pocket. Is his footwork really clean enough to keep Cub off him if Swanson comes forward? All that said, I’m still picking Martinez, mostly just because Swanson is 38 and making his first venture to 135. If he looks slower than normal, Martinez’s calf kicks could become a huge problem in a hurry. Jonathan Martinez via decision.
Staff picking Martinez: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Swanson: Kristen
Dusko Todorovic vs. Jordan Wright
Tim Bissell: Dusko Todorovic looked like he could have been someone to worry about when he came on the scene. However, that reputation has been dashed thanks to TKO losses to Punahele Soriano and Chidi Njokuani. Those, and his loss to Gregory Rodrigues, have him at 3-3 in his UFC career. Wright has scored two TKO’s in the UFC with wins over Ike Villanueva and Jamie Pickett, but ever other time we’ve seen him he’s been finished — sometimes quite brutally. He’s 2-3 in the UFC. Todorovic gets the nod here, but neither of these guys feel like a safe bet. Dusko Todorovic via TKO.
Zane Simon: The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Todorovic. He’s the less technical fighter generally, but just seems like he enjoys the heat of battle a whole hell of a lot more than Wright ever will. If this becomes a war of attrition, I’d expect him to last longer. There’s no guarantee of that though. Both men put themselves in miserable defensive positions standing and get hit really really hard as a result. Given that Wright has some really elite speed and power and form on his strikes, Todorovic will be walking a tightrope for the first 5 minutes. But, I gotta pick the guy I expect could have something to offer in round 3, and that’s not Wright. Dusko Todorovic via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Todorovic: Bissell, Zane, Kristen, Stephie
Staff picking Wright: Dayne
Misha Cirkunov vs. Alonzo Menifield
Tim Bissell: Misha Cirkunov is another fighter who got us excited early on in his UFC career. Who can forget his bone popping submission of Alexander Nicholson? During that early run in the Octagon Cirkunov also finished Ion Cutelaba and Nikita Krylov. However, when he was given a step up in competition he couldn’t rise to the occasion. He’s gone 2-6 since the Krylov win with TKO losses to Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira, Johnny Walker and Ryan Spann. At this point in his career he may have taken too much damage to prevent another TKO in this one, versus the heavy handed Alonzo Menifield. Menifield is no world beater, but he’s shown an ability to put away a tricky submission fighter before. The wp is in Menifield’s favour, too (by .200). Alonzo Menifield via TKO.
Zane Simon: I don’t think I’d trust Cirkunov to win at solitaire right now. Alonzo Menifield via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Cirkunov:
Staff picking Menifield: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie
Mana Martinez vs. Brandon Davis
Tim Bissell: Mana Martinez has won half his UFC fighters. Brandon Davis has won a third of his. Mana Martinez via TKO.
Zane Simon: Neither of these men are really capable of keeping a fight in control. Davis made his name as a brawler and seems like he’s been trying to course correct ever since. But that only meant he got very very little done before getting slept last time out. Martinez styles himself as more of a technician, but keeps finding himself in wars against faster, stronger opponents. I’ll take Martinez, because I have faith his left hook will land on the regular, but this fight could get messy. Mana Martinez via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Martinez: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Davis:
Raphael Assuncao vs. Victor Henry
Tim Bissell: This is a weird fight, which is currently scheduled to be on the prelim card. My feeling is that Raphael Assuncao is on his way out the door (maybe with his eyes on PFL, where he could very well become a millionaire). It’s almost a year since we last saw him, in a loss to Ricky Simon. This really feels like one of those situations where the UFC ices someone out before giving them the last fight on their deal (one which sees them buried on the card and up against a lose-lose kind of opponent). If Assuncao beats Victor Henry, who is 1-0 in the UFC, he won’t get much fanfare. If he loses, which is very possible given Henry’s performances outside the UFC, then it’s another blow to his market value as a future free agent. Not a great spot for the man who was viewed as a serious title threat in the bantamweight division. Given that Henry is 1-0, the algorithm will also pick him against someone who has just one UFC loss on their record. Victor Henry via decision.
Zane Simon: Go back a few years and this fight was all Assuncao’s every day and twice on Sunday. Henry’s range kicking and pocket boxing volume approach is a great one, right in line with the modern meta, but at his height Assuncao was an absolute master at denying opponents their preferred pace and range. Now a step slower and a step more cautious and lower output, it’s just not the same story. Assuncao does too little to keep ahead of high level opponents, and while he’s a fresh face in the UFC, Henry’s Octagon debut proved he’s definitely that. Victor Henry via TKO round 2.
Staff picking Assuncao:
Staff picking Henry: Bissell, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie
Nick Maximov vs. Jacob Malkoun
Tim Bissell: The Diaz brother’s trained Nick Maximov is the pick here. He’s 3-1 in the UFC. Jacob Malkoun is 2-2. Nick Maximov via submission.
Zane Simon: I’d love to pick Malkoun here for his crafty game-planning and dexterity in fighting approaches, but he’s a 5’9” middleweight who often has to lean on his wrestling against a bigger, stronger grappler. Nick Maximov via decision.
Staff picking Maximov: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Malkoun: Kristen, Victor
Joanderson Brito vs. Lucas Alexander
Tim Bissell: The algorithm routinely fades debutantes, so the 2-1 Joanderson Brito gets picked over Lucas Alexnader here. Joanderson Brito via decision.
Zane Simon: Really like Lucas Alexander’s striking form and I wouldn’t be at all surprise if he comes out throwing heat in round 1 and puts a serious scare into Brito. But his grappling and wrestling games are just that much more raw, and he loves to take big chances standing. If Brito survives the early car crash he’ll probably start having a lot of success. Joanderson Brito via decision.
Staff picking Brito: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie
Staff picking Alexander:
Piera Rodriguez vs. Sam Hughes
Tim Bissell: Piere Rodriguez has looked like an interesting prospect in her undefeated career thus far. The former LFA champ has looked good in putting back-to-back wins together to start her UFC run. Sam Hughes has won her last two, but already has three losses in the Octagon. Piera Rodriguez via TKO.
Zane Simon: I like what Sam Hughes is doing a lot. She seems to be very thoughtful in the cage and much more capable of adapting than I’d have guessed given that she came to the UFC with little more than a wall-n-stall style. She’s learned to deliver some sharp counters as she pushes forward and has shown some good takedowns as well. Given that Rodriguez has some terrible defensive wrestling reactions, there’s a shot for Hughes to fight smart and slow this down for a win. But even given all that, she walks on to a ton of strikes to try and implement her game, and Rodriguez is a truly gifted technician on the feet. Piera Rodriguez via decision.
Staff picking Rodriguez: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Hughes: Kristen
C.J. Vergara vs. Tatsuro Taira
Tim Bissell: Tatsuro Taira is undefeated and thus gets the pick here. Tatsuro Taira via submission.
Zane Simon: This is a truly difficult test for Tatsuro. He’s got all the technical know-how to succeed in the UFC, but by virtue of his time fighting on the JMMA circuit, he doesn’t have the kind of pace that marks the modern MMA game, especially not at flyweight. Vergara may be a bit messy and slow, but he will pressure relentlessly and fill every space he can with offense. If Tatsuro isn’t prepared to handle that, he’ll break just the way Kleydson Rodrigues did. The difference here is that Rodrigues’ game wasn’t built to handle pressure at all, and Tatsuro’s is. Everything he does is made to play off what his opponent gives him to work with, and Vergara will give him a lot. I’ll take Tatsuro Taira by decision, but he may find himself in a few really bad spots getting there.
Staff picking Vergara:
Staff picking Taira: Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie
Mike Jackson vs. Pete Rodriguez
Tim Bissell: Mike Jackson has to be the owner of the weirdest pro MMA record in sports. The man’s a unicorn with all of his pro fights occurring inside the Octagon. He debuted against the 1-0 Mickey Gall in 2016, losing by first round submission. He then beat CM Punk by decision in a bout which infuriated Dana White, only to have that win scratched for an antiquated marijuana violation. Earlier this year he scored a win over Dean Barry due to an eye gouge DQ. The algorithm picks him here over Pete Rodriguez, who is 0-1 in the UFC after being KO’d by Jack Della Maddalena in January. Mike Jackson via DQ.
Zane Simon: But really, only one of these people has the athleticism needed to perform regularly at this level and it’s not Jackson. Pete Rodriguez via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Jackson: Bissell
Staff picking Rodriguez: Zane, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie
Leader board (as of Sept 3):
1. Zane 43-17 .718
2. Kristen 33-15 .688
3. Dayne 39-17 .697
4. Bissell 28-21 .571
5. Anton 20-16 .556
6. Stephie 27-22 .551
7. Victor 7-7 .500
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