Reader… trying to chase down staff to make picks on cards like this is… painful. Oi, but here we are. We’ve got enough of them in to justify this week’s staff picks for UFC Fight Night: Allen vs. Craig. We really are at the point where the UFC is the McDonald’s of MMA, eh? Sometimes it’s good. Most of the time it’s meh. But it’s on every block, so try as you might, you can’t avoid driving past one and wondering maybe today I’ll eat the best Big Mac I’ve ever had. But I digress.
Brendon Allen vs. Paul Craig get main event duties on Saturday. Michael Morales vs. Jake Matthews serves as the co-main. The pick of the appetizers are Chase Hooper vs. Jordan Leavitt and Amanda Ribas vs. Luana Pinheiro.
When I was able to stop them from thinking about something fun and dedicate some attention to this card, the majority of staff picked Brendan Allen to get his hand raised in the desolate APEX facility.
You can see the rest of our UFC Fight Night: Allen vs. Craig picks below — hopefully they do you some good.
UFC Fight Night: Allen vs. Craig staff picks and predictions
Brendan Allen vs. Paul Craig
Dayne: I’ll admit I was wrong. Craig’s move down to 185 wasn’t as ill-advised as I thought. I should have given Craig more credit as he’s the type of guy who gets the most out of his talent and those type of fighters tend to be intelligent and measured in their approach. Craig was ultra prepared for the cut to middleweight and looked like a million bucks against Andre Muniz. However, Allen is a different animal than Muniz.
Whereas Muniz is on the small side for 185, Allen on the bigger end of things. Whereas Muniz relies on his grappling and submissions, Allen – despite having outclassed Muniz on the ground himself – is capable of outboxing an opponent. Whereas Muniz is an average athlete at best, Allen is on the upper end of the scale. Putting it that way, it feels natural to be picking Allen. And yet… I’m not.
Allen’s hubris has gotten the best of him. To be fair to him, he hasn’t suffered the brain farts that at least made his contests more difficult than they needed to be if they didn’t cost him a victory outright. But he’s also fighting with a ridiculous level of confidence. Perhaps even over confidence. That’s the type of opponent Craig tends to catch in one of his signature subs. Allen managed to survive on the mat with Muniz because he broke him mentally, He can’t do that to Craig. The Scot pulls off another improbable upset. Craig via submission of RD1
Chris: MMA is just a little bit better, a bit funnier when Paul Craig is winning. Wouldn’t it be just the crazy to see him square up with Sean Strickland? I can’t really envision him getting past Khamzat, Whittaker, or DDP, but I’d give him 50/50 odds to take the belt off the champ.
Zane: Maybe I’m being too dismissive of Craig. His size at 205 is definitely a major problem and he’s unquestionably a fantastic grappler. If being the bigger, stronger man has helped his confidence as well, then it may even be that he’ll be better at taking shots in exchanges without seeming so easily stunned (although extra weight cutting is often worse for that end of things). The thing is though, that Brendan Allen just does not get beat on the ground. That’s not how he loses fights, or at least it hasn’t been for a long time. Given that, I gotta take Allen here. Brendan Allen via TKO, round 2.
Tim: I really want to pick Paul Craig here, but I think Brendan Allen is just going to land too many punches on him. And Craig’s grappling is going to go down a notch after each heavy shot he eats. I think we see Craig get hurt when their standing and then knocked out on the ground while he’s going for a desperate sub attempt. Brendan Allen via TKO
Staff picking Allen: Kristen, Zane, Stephie, Jack, Tim, Nate, Eddie, Anton
Staff picking Craig: Dayne, Chris
Jake Matthews vs. Michael Morales
Dayne: It’s obvious the UFC views Matthews as nothing more than a stepping stone. Why else would they pair him against one of their brightest welterweight prospects? Morales is exceptionally long with a tremendously natural feel for striking. There’s a possibility Matthews is the superior grappler, but his wrestling has been hit and miss. More importantly, Matthews’ fight IQ has been a major question mark.
To Matthews’ credit, he is coming off a sterling performance, tearing apart Darrius Flowers with ease. However, this isn’t the first time Matthews looked like he was on the verge of breaking out. In fact, he’s crapped the bed every time he’s expected to build on his momentum. Perhaps he’s matured enough that that momentum sticks. After all, next year will be his tenth anniversary in the UFC.
I’m not counting on it. Matthews can be rattled when the fight isn’t going his way and Morales hasn’t exhibited a hint of panic in his fights. When the youngster is both more talented and poised, it’s hard for me to pick against him. Morales via decision
Zane: This is an ungodly difficult fight to call. Matthews has been slowly working on a backfoot heavy boxing game that delivers some decent power in open space, but doesn’t do well when challenged in longer exchanges. Morales, has cleaner, more polished fundamentals, but can more easily drift away from a clear plan or path to victory as the fight goes on. This could easily be a very rangy staring match that sees neither man create consistent offense.
If it gets to be a grappling battle, things much more obviously shift in Matthews’ favor, but his interest in initiating that fight is real limited. I guess I’ll take Morales to continue rising, but my general feeling is this will feel like an inglorious split decision. Michael Morales via decision.
Tim: I think Jake Matthews defence will stifle Michael Morales and as the fight goes on I think he can put a strong case towards the judges; one helped by him being in control of grappling exchanges for long periods of the last two rounds. Jake Matthews via decision.
Staff picking Matthews: Tim
Staff picking Morales: Dayne, Chris, Kristen, Zane, Stephie, Jack, Nate, Eddie, Anton
Jordan Leavitt vs. Chase Hooper
Dayne: I’m expecting this to be a crap sandwich with extra peanuts. Both are subpar strikers, but struggle to get the fight to the mat, where their strength lies. In other words, it’s probably going to be a crappy kickboxing contest. To their credit, both Leavitt and Hooper have improved their technique since they first entered the UFC, but it’s not saying too much. Regardless, Hooper looks more natural on the feet and appears to be making greater strides. I’m hardly confident, but I’ll side with youth on this one. Hooper via decision
Zane: Neither guy can box worth a damn, and both men are crafty grapplers willing to sacrifice position just to keep a scramble going. Hooper seems like he’s little better at achieving aggressive results on the mat, if also more willing to put himself in extreme danger. Chase Hooper via submission, round 2.
Tim: I think this will be a scramble fest and a lot of fun to watch. It will depend on who is most sloppy in the transitions and perhaps who goes for something at the wrong time. I think Hooper is more likely to be responsible for either of those, so I’ll pick Leavitt here. Jordan Leavitt via submission
Staff picking Leavitt: Jack, Tim
Staff picking Hooper: Dayne, Chris, Kristen, Zane, Stephie, Nate, Eddie, Tim
Payton Talbott vs. Nick Aguirre
Dayne: Talbott has the look of a future star. It’s still too early to say future champion, but he has an “it” factor that can’t be taught, not to mention a natural feel for fighting. Throw in that he’s absolutely massive for 135 and it’s hard to see Aguirre upsetting the apple cart. Aguirre isn’t without talent – or toughness – but his only wins have come against cans. Talbott may have less fights, but he’s got more quality wins. Talbott is one of my more confident picks of the night. Talbott via TKO of RD3
Zane: Talbott is all about the modern MMA meta, pushing extreme volume and pace. Aguirre isn’t terrible, but he’s just not athletic enough to make me think he makes Talbott pay for all the defense he gives up creating his offense. Payton Talbott via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Talbott: Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Jack, Tim, Zane, Nate, Eddie, Anton
Staff picking Aguirre: Chris
Amanda Ribas vs. Luana Pinheiro
Dayne: This should have been the co-main event. Regardless, it’s a hard contest to pick. Ribas is one of the better ground fighters in the division, having outlasted Virna Jandiroba on the mat. Given her athleticism and jab, those three factors alone give her a reasonable and realistic path to the title. However, she’s also suffered a couple of brutal finishes that has many questioning if she has the chin to become champion.
That’s part of what makes this fight a testament to the UFC’s matchmakers. Pinheiro hasn’t been able to exhibit her power that much in the UFC, but she looked like a world beater on the regional scene. Sometimes power never translates to the big show, sometimes it does immediately, sometimes it does late. If it shows itself, Pinheiro herself could end up blazing her own path to the title.
I’m leaning Ribas as she has the greater ability to control where the fight goes. She got some excellent throws and has been exceptionally tough to take down, even when she was fighting at 125. Ribas isn’t easy to outwork either and I’m not sure Pinheiro would be able to do that. Thus, I feel as though I’d be relying on the KO, which might be a possibility, but I wouldn’t be counting on it. Ribas via decision
To read the rest of our UFC Fight Night: Brendan Allen vs. Paul Craig staff picks head on over to Substack. Now that Bloody Elbow is a fully independent site the best way to support us, so that we can continue fearless coverage of combat sports, is to pick up a paid subscription. Paid subscribers help fund other exclusive content like editorials from Karim Zidan and Jonathan Snowden and investigations by John S. Nash.
We have another new leader thanks to what went down at UFC 295. Anton is now on top! His 11-2 record saw him leapfrog Eddie. The top four are bunched up so close now that we could see a completely new order after each event. Let’s see who is on top after UFC Fight Night: Allen vs. Craig.
|Position||Staffer||Correct||Incorrect||Total Picks||%||Picks Back||Week 39 Record|
|1 (▲1)||Anton 🇵🇭||291||171||462||0.630||–||11-2|
|2 (▼1)||Eddie 🏴☠️||291||171||462||0.630||–||9-4|
|3 (▲1)||Dayne 🇺🇸||289||173||462||0.626||2||9-4|
|4 (▼2)||Zane 🇺🇸||289||173||462||0.626||2||8-5|
|5 (-)||Kristen 🇺🇸||278||184||462||0.602||13||7-6|
|6 (-)||Stephie 🇫🇯||275||172||447||0.615||16||8-5|
|7 (-)||Tim 🇨🇦||262||200||462||0.567||29||7-6|
|8 (-)||Lucas 🇧🇷||242||185||427||0.567||49||0-0|
|9 (-)||BE Community 🌎||221||168||389||0.568||70||6-3|
|10 (-)||Chris 🇺🇸||204||226||430||0.474||87||7-6|
|11 (-)||Victor 🇺🇸||197||152||349||0.564||94||8-5|
|12 (-)||Jack 🇨🇦||182||126||308||0.591||109||9-4|
|13 (-)||Ben 🇺🇸||83||46||129||0.643||208||8-5|
|14 (nr)||Nate 🇺🇸||9||4||13||0.692||282||9-4|
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