UFC 296 reader picks and predictions

Check out who the Bloody Elbow readers think will win at UFC 296.

By: Tim Bissell | 2 months
UFC 296 reader picks and predictions
UFC 296 headliner Colby Covington last fought in March 2022.

UFC 296 is live tonight as the UFC brings the curtain down on an interesting year. There’s been big fights, sure, but there’s also been big business developments with the WWE merger and the anti-trust class action lawsuit. There was also Dana White slapping his wife on New Year’s, weeks before he launched his pro slapping league…

Tonight’s show is a bona fide banger of a card with great fighters, match-ups and storylines littered throughout. The main event is UFC welterweight champ Leon Edwards hoping to defend his strap against Colby Covington. The co-main has UFC flyweight champ Alexandre Pantoja attempting his first defense, versus Brandon Royval.

The BE staff has looked at all these match-ups and made our picks. Now it’s time for the readers to do the same. Read below to see who the BE readers think will win tonight. There’s also some analysis from reader Zeist Priest.

Reader picks are an exclusive perk for Substack subscribers. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the Bloody Elbow Substack. Paid subscriptions on Substack are the best way to support Bloody Elbow and make sure we can keep doing what we’re doing. In addition to making reader picks (which could earn prizes), paid subscribers also receive premium content directly in their email inboxes. That premium content includes editorials by Karim Zidan and Jonathan Snowden and investigative pieces from John S. Nash.

UFC 296 reader picks and predictions

Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington

Forms response chart. Question title: Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Leon Edwards (91.7%)

Zeist Priest: The read I have on this–that I think a lot of people share–is that Covington is most potent in his ability to be relentless and fast, and that both of those attributes have started to wane as he’s aged. Edwards, on the other hand, is sharp and technical, but can take his foot of the pedal or lose focus. Colby loves chain wrestling, and clinching his opponents against the cage, but his entries aren’t great, it’s just that he doesn’t stop.

Leon has great takedown defence, but works best at range. I’d have to imagine his arsenal of low kicks and disgusting regimen of elbows he dispenses at clinch breaks will work wonders here. Colby winning would be greatly depressing–he’s got that go-away heat–which makes me tempted to pick him as a sadness-hedging bet. But I can’t. Colby absolutely could win this, but Leon has so many avenues to victory, and Colby has fewer, and those he does have seem greatly diminished. Edwards takes it.

Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval

Forms response chart. Question title: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Alexandre Pantoja (100%)

Zeist Priest: This one is tough – I’ve counted Pantoja out so many times, but he’s always right there. I feel like surely the absolute wars he puts himself through must be about to catch up with him, but he looked incredible last time out against Moreno. Royval is great, but I just don’t see anywhere he excels against Pantoja. Pantoja takes it.

Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Stephen Thompson

Forms response chart. Question title: Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Stephen Thompson. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov (100%)

Zeist Priest: Rakhmonov loves testing himself against his opponents, and so far is perfect. Yet, against Neal, it almost cost him. He’s the type of fighter who has always given Thompson trouble – a great wrestler who is dangerous striking. A few years ago, I might have picked Thompson here, even against a bad stylistic match-up, as I can see the Rakhmonov who fought Neal getting clipped.

But Thompson’s output–never high even in his prime–has dropped off even more, as has the speed and dexterity that would get him out of trouble in the wrestling phases against people like Rakhmonov. If Rakhmonov is to return his undefeated record to a 50/50 balance between submission and KO victories, it means he’s going to KO Thompson. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but that’s purely because he seems to have a lot of options to get to victory here. Rakhmonov takes it.

Tony Ferguson vs. Paddy Pimblett

Forms response chart. Question title: Tony Ferguson vs. Paddy Pimblett. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Paddy Pimblett (75%).

Zeist Preist: Oooft. See, Pimblett is the favourite here, which makes me sad. And I love Ferguson, the former-CEO of CSO. Do we side with my washed favourite, go ride or die? Or do I pick the guy who I would never think could beat Ferguson a few years back? The favourite and the sadness hedge? I’m taking Pimblett, so if he wins, at least my pick is correct.

Josh Emmett vs. Bryce Mitchell

Forms response chart. Question title: Josh Emmett vs. Bryce Mitchell. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Josh Emmett (58.3%)

Zeist Priest: I don’t like this fight for Emmett, he’s looking older and more rickety. But, I also don’t like this fight for Mitchell, given his issues with cardio. Which I especially doubt on short notice. Emmett takes it.

Alonzo Menifield vs. Dustin Jacoby

Forms response chart. Question title: Alonzo Menifield vs. Dustin Jacoby. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Dustin Jacoby (75%)

Zeist Priest: The best avenue to victory Menifield has here would appear to be winning via strikes. Can he do that against Jacoby, the better kickboxer with a good chin? I’d doubt it. Jacoby takes it.

Irene Aldana vs. Karol Rosa

Forms response chart. Question title: Irene Aldana vs. Karol Rosa. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Irene Aldana (91.7%)

Zeist Priest: My confidence in Aldana dropped a lot seeing how terrible she looked on the scales. I’m still picking her, though.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Brian Kelleher

Forms response chart. Question title: Cody Garbrandt vs. Brian Kelleher. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Cody Garbrandt (58.3%)

Zeist Priest: These are two guys I would struggle to pick against other opponents. Garbrandt has had such a wild career, but I just can’t have any degree of confidence in him anymore. Kelleher takes it.

Casy O’Neill vs. Ariane Lipski

Forms response chart. Question title: Casey O’Neill vs. Ariane Lipski. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Casey O’Neill (83.3%)

Zeist Priest: What wildly inconsistent performances both fighters have had recently. The heavily-hyped Lipski managed turn around what has seemed like a bust of a UFC run this year, while O’Neill has struggled with injuries and some questionable fight IQ. I can see O’Neill just smothering. Lipski in this one, but equally I can see her trying to strike with Lipski and failing to integrate other phases of her game. I’ll go against my fellow Aussie, and with little confidence, pick Lipski for the slight upset.

Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Cody Durden

Forms response chart. Question title: Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Cody Durden. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Tagir Ulanbekov (66.7%)

Zeist Priest: A pretty fun looking fight, assuming they don’t stall out in the grappling. Ulanbekov has not especially impressed so far in his UFC run, and if he is an underachiever, then Durden is absolutely an over-achiever. Taking Durden here.

Andre Fili vs. Lucas Almeida

Forms response chart. Question title: Andre Fili vs. Lucas Almeida. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Andre Fili

Zeist Priest: The inconsistent Fili has looked pretty good in recent fights, even in losses. Almeida seems like a fun action fighter with a hard ceiling. I’ve gotta take Andre Fili, who is powered by his magical tattoo of Uriah Faber.

Shamil Gaziev vs. Martin Buday

Forms response chart. Question title: Shamil Gaziev vs. Martin Buday. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Martin Buday (66.7%).

Zeist Priest: Buday has won all of his trips to the octagon, and managed to look unimpressive doing so. Gaziev is making his UFC debut, and is undefeated in his career. I don’t have a good read on this one, but I’m taking Buday over the guy untested against better opposition.

Who wins a Performance of the Night award?

Forms response chart. Question title: Who gets a Performance of the Night award? . Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov (66.7%)

Zeist Priest: Shavkat if he pulls off something cool.

Which fight wins Fight of the Night award?

Forms response chart. Question title: Which fight wins Fight of the Night?
. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval (83.3%)

Zeist Priest: Probably Pantoja vs Royval. Has all the ingredients of a banger.

Which fight are you most excited for?

Forms response chart. Question title: Which fight are you most excited for?
. Number of responses: 12 responses.

Readers’ pick: Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington (41.7%), Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval (41.7%).

Ziest Priest: Definitely Pantoja vs Royval.


Leaderboard

Well, it all comes down to this. Christophe has been leading these standings every since we started this project back in April. His lead has shrunk over the last few weeks, with Jeremy getting within a single pick of him with just one event remaining. Adam Law has an outside shot at taking the lead, too, if Christophe and Jeremy have absolute shockers.

Time to see who comes out on top after UFC 296 in our first (and possibly last) readers pick competition. Possibly last because it takes a lot of effort to run this post (and the forms and newsletters associated with it) and, though there is a small and dedicated list of participants, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of community buy-in.

PositionCommunity MemberCorrectIncorrectTotal Picks%Week 36 RecordBonus Points
1Christophe2481513990.6227-315
2Jeremy2471523990.6198-222
3Adam Law2381603980.5987-321
4Just Simon2341653990.5866-417
5ZeistPriest2291483770.6079-117
6Tommy2151003150.6835-515
7NickyBonz2061243300.6249-112
8DJNi2021313330.6076-416
9BearHands1971813780.5215-515
10Luke G1941393330.5830-015
11Arran D124822060.6026-410
12heresgary76631390.5470-07
13Sensei Scott72831550.4650-06
14Mark S65621270.5120-07
15Kaan64631270.5040-02
16GirlCasual63551180.5340-05
17Thomas G5240920.5650-01
18Will Burns3928670.5820-04
19mklip20013638740.4860-06
20Chong Li3611470.7660-01
BE Community Standings heading into UFC 296.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015, but has been watching since the early 2000s. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Tim is currently a social worker in training.

Email me at [email protected]. Nice messages will get a response.

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