Esther Lin of MMA Fighting
Take a look at who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking to win this weekend in Minneapolis.
Brent Brookhouse: The most important thing to me is that the fight ends early. If they drag this out for 5 full rounds I fear the last three will be a big pile of bad. I don't know what I think Browne's ultimate upside is, but I do think he has a bad style for Bigfoot. Travis Browne by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: I'm going against the grain here, sort of. Bigfoot looked bad against Cormier and Cain, but Browne's not the same type of fighter. I think Silva can get this to the ground if he wants to, and he still has a lot of power in his hands. Browne is more athletic, but I can't get the Kongo fight out of my mind. If this was a three-rounder I really think Silva could take two of them and win. But over five, Browne is just the more athletic big man. Silva is going to wear down and Browne will take him out late. Travis Browne by TKO, round 4.
Anton Tabuena: I'm not sure if the hype is justified just yet, but I still think Browne has the skill set to stuff takedowns and beat a guy like Bigfoot. Travis Browne by TKO
Mookie Alexander: I can't shake off Silva looking completely uncompetitive in his last two fights (albeit against elite HWs) and having early trouble with Mike Kyle. Browne is very athletic for a big man and really hasn't been troubled too much in the UFC. I definitely think he has the striking advantage just on speed alone. Add in his power and accuracy and I feel like Browne will stave off Silva getting on top of him and slowly batter him towards a stoppage. Travis Browne by TKO, round 3
Fraser Coffeen: I don't care how much Dana White hypes him, I'm just not on board the Travis Browne bandwagon. Yes yes, he's big and fast(ish) and hits hard, but he has a lot of technical flaws, and he looked dreadful against Broughton. I just don't see the future champion others do. That said, Bigfoot is also largely hype. If he forces you to play his game, he's very good. If not, he has trouble. Browne has the takedown defense to avoid that game, so he should be fine here. I think he outpoints Silva en route to an eventual stoppage, but I don't think it will be pretty. Travis Browne by TKO, round 3
Dallas Winston: Geeew ... is the burden of whether to inflict the BE curse solely on my shoulders? What's "Hapa"-ning: Browne's size, speed and skills are definitely intriguing. I'll give him a pass for gassing against Broughton in Denver's anti-heavyweight altitude, but the Kongo fight is still a concern for opponents he can't easily out-strike or take down and out-grapple. His submission grappling is sound so the only thing keeping me from stamping him as a legit 3-dimensional fighter is his wrestling, which is still up for vote. Here, the question is whether his striking speed and diversity can overcome Bigfoot's length and power. I say yes, but he'd be wise to use footwork and stay outside. Travis Browne by TKO.
Staff picking Browne: Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Stephie, Tim, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Silva:
Brent Brookhouse: When was the last time Jay Hieron fought? It feels like it's been years. I guess it has been a year since a fight anyone actually saw (if people watch Bellator). Ellenberger is just better, even if I'd like Hieron to get the win. Jake Ellenberger by TKO, round 3.
Tim Burke: I haven't seen much change out of Hieron over the past few years. He's very good, but he doesn't really excel in any one area. Ellenberger hits really hard and should get the early TKO. If not, he can still hold on for the decision. I think. Jake Ellenberger by TKO, round one
Anton Tabuena: Ellenberger has improved leaps and bounds since their first encounter, and I think he takes this pretty easily. Jake Ellenberger by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I think Ellenberger takes this easily, but there is something I've noticed in several of his fights that needs to be corrected. In the Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann fights he scored 1st round knockdowns and proceeded to lay in guard the remainder of the round. In fact I can't even remember the last time he's passed the guard of just about anyone he's gone to the ground with. I know Hieron beat Ellenberger many moons ago and Jake's gas tank is a big negative, but I'm pretty much banking on Ellenberger to be more measured and when he lands his power shot it will be curtains for Jay. Ellenberger by KO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: Initiate Stage 2 of the BE Curse, I guess. Ellenberger definitely has some flaws -- as noted above -- but I still don't see too many arguments for Hieron other than weathering the storm and making a late charge. In a 3-rounder, Ellenberger's crunching power should be enough to win the first 2 if he can't finish. Jake Ellenberger by decision.
Staff picking Ellenberger: Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Stephie, Tim, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Hieron:
Brent Brookhouse: I think Dodson is able to dictate where the fight takes place and do enough to eek out a close decision. John Dodson by decision.
Tim Burke: I haven't been very impressed with Dodson at all. I know he coasted through TUF, but Tim Elliott looked surprisingly competitive with him. Formiga is a whole different type of fighter than anything Dodson has faced before. I've seen most of his fights and I love his style, even if he doesn't go all out for the finish on the ground sometimes. Just do me one favor, okay Formiga? Don't pull guard. Jussier Formiga by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Tough pick, but I think Dodson might be able to grind out a win here. John Dodson by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I love this fight for so many reasons, one of which is that this is a #1 contender fight, and if John Dodson gets an uneventful decision win it will immediately test Dana White's promise not to get angry at Greg Jackson in public anymore. This will be a very competitive fight and I believe that after an even first two rounds, Formiga will show off his fantastic back control and end Dodson's night in dramatic fashion. Formiga by rear-naked choke, round 3
Fraser Coffeen: Tough one here. I feel like McCall laid out the battle plan for defeating Formiga, and Greg Jackson and Dodson are smart enough to follow that plan to victory. But at the same time, Formiga's work at Nova Uniao gives me pause. Like his teammate Barao, Formiga's reputation is largely built against a lower caliber of opponent. But also like Barao, I think he's the real deal. I'll take him, but won't be at all surprised to be wrong. Jussier Formiga by submission, round 2
Dallas Winston: Actually Formiga is one of the rare few who pull guard with intelligence and technique. Per my Dissection rant, I think Dodson's much better suited to bantamweight where his speed is unparalleled and his wrestling gives him more influence on pace/location. Formiga is long and quick with frenetic pressure and excellent Judo/takedowns, and also the best scrambler and transition guy at 125. Still, I think Dodson can follow the "Uncle Creepy" blueprint and sprawl-and-brawl his way to victory. John Dodson by decision.
Staff picking Dodson: Anton, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Formiga: Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Tim
Brent Brookhouse: ........ Josh Neer by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: Edwards isn't very good. Neer's no superstar, but he's got good hands and subs. I think Neer just schools Edwards and sends him packing here. Josh Neer by TKO, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: This is .... definitely a fight. Between two human beings. Edwards really hasn't looked that good in just about any UFC fight and I expect Neer to mop him up. Neer by TKO, round 2
Fraser Coffeen: This is a perfect fight for Neer, as he can do his thing and beat Edwards down for 15 minutes. Josh Neer by decision
Dallas Winston: I'm a Neer mark who's giving Edwards a great chance here. Pre-UFC, he annihilated all comers in the 1st-round, most in less than a minute. His game isn't sparkly but his clinch skills are incredibly effective, which I could see stifling the far-from-brawny, former lightweight Neer. Neer is a rugged brawler but does his work in steady volume rather than with one-shot brilliance, so I'm open to a control-oriented upset. Josh Neer by TKO.
Staff picking Neer: Mookie, Fraser, Anton, Stephie, Tim, Brookhouse
Staff picking Edwards:
Brent Brookhouse: I'm more than willing to say I'm not picking against my guy Yves. Not really because it's the correct call, but because it's the right one. Yves Edwards by decision.
Tim Burke: Yves is battle-worn and coming off a major injury. I'm not a fan of Stephens or his style, but this looks like a good fight for him. Jeremy Stephens by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Stephens is a flawed fighter, but he's young, he's improving, and he's one of the most entertaining guys on the roster. He has holes in his game, but I don't think Edwards is the guy to exploit it. Stephen will run over Yves, and it will be fun to watch... Sorry Fraser, and Mookie. Jeremy Stephens by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Logically, I should pick Stephens because he's younger, quicker, and less battle-worn ... but dammit I will root for Thugjitsu and so will you. Yves Edwards by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Mookie speaks the truth. Stephens is the logical choice, but come on man, YVES EDWARDS. Yves looked totally done a few years ago, but starting with his EliteXC run, things have been mostly clicking for him lately. But he also hasn't beaten anyone at Stephens' level since, oh, 2005. I want so badly to pick him, but... I just can't do it. Jeremy Stephens by decision
Staff picking Edwards: Mookie, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Stephens: Fraser, Anton, Stephie, Tim
Brent Brookhouse: Johnson has improved, but he hasn't improved THAT much. High alert for a snoozer in this one. Danny Castillo by decision.
Tim Burke: I am definitely not sold on Michael Johnson's "resurgence". This bout resembles the bout with Shane Roller than Johnson won, but when he did get taken down eventually, he was in huge trouble nearly right away. I can't stand Castillo, but he's a better all-round MMA grappler than Roller nowadays (yes Roller subbed him in the WEC, but Castillo had that in the bag and done goofed late) and he has better standup too. I never thought I'd do this, but...Danny Castillo by decision.
Dallas Winston: Appreciate and respect both guys here, but Johnson's striking, footwork, balance and takedowns defense has looked nasty. He's in serious trouble under Castillo's Sherman-tank of a top game but should be too fast and precise on the feet. Michael Johnson by decision.
Staff picking Castillo: Mookie, Anton, Tim, Brookhouse
Staff picking Johnson: Fraser, Stephie, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: Hallman makes a lot of bad in fight decisions that prevent me from picking him. Thiago Tavares by decision.
Tim Burke: Hallman's crafty takedowns and positional control are good against solid standup fighters, but a lot trickier against seasoned grapplers. Tavares is good everywhere, so this is going to be an interesting chess match. I'll lean towards Tavares though. Thiago Tavares by decision.
Dallas Winston: Actually I'd argue that the only fighters to withstand Hallman's cunning submission grappling in recent years are either dominant wrestlers or one-time middleweights. He's way more crafty than Tavares and should also be able to over-power him. Look for Hallman's signature high kick to double leg to start things off. Dennis Hallman by decision.
Staff picking Hallman: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Dallas
Staff picking Tavares: Tim, Brookhouse
Tim Burke: This is Volkmann's fight all the way. Roller's MMA wrestling really isn't all that awesome, while Volkmann has adapted his style very well to the cage. One it's on the mat, it's up to Volkmann what to do - play it safe and get the W, or finish the guy with weakish sub defense. I'm thinking it'll be the former, but hoping for the latter. Jacob Volkmann by decision.
Dallas Winston: Fully agree with Tim on Volkmann's wrestling adaptation and also give "Christmas" credit for complementing his top game with sub attacks. His striking is icky and he could be in trouble if Roller can stay afoot and wing haymakers. Jacob Volkmann by decision.
Staff picking Roller: Mookie, Brookhouse
Staff picking Volkmann: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: I'm sticking to the fact that I think Bart has the right style for this fight. Nunes likes to get flashy and do some cool things on the feet, while Bart is going to get to making the fight dirty and just making it too uncomfortable for Nunes. Bart Palaszewski by decision.
Tim Burke: Bartimus continually surprises me by still being a top fighter. He looks like he has so many flaws, but he does an excellent job of not letting people take advantage of them very often in the cage. In the end though, Nunes' striking and grappling are well ahead of Palaszewski's and even if he tends to fight his opponent's fight too often, I can't see many ways that Nunes can drop this bout. Diego Nunes by decision.
Dallas Winston: Bartimus is a question mark but I think his intelligence, length, wrestling and still-sound BJJ and kickboxing combo get it done. Bart Palaszewski by decision.
Staff picking Nunes: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Palaszewski: Fraser, Brookhouse, Dallas
Dallas Winston: Uyenoyama is in another league here. Darren Uyenoyama by submission.
Staff picking Harris:
Staff picking Uyenoyama: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Brookhouse, Dallas
Tim Burke: I went back and forth on this one a bit. LeVesseur is a powerful wrestler for sure, and he can throw Prater all over the cage if he likes. But he basically handed Cody McKenzie a submission, and Prater is good at taking advantage of his opponent's mistakes. Prater has a good chin, and I think he can weather the early storm to take a submission later in the fight. Carlo Prater by submission, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I'm a pretty nice guy and good sport in these predictions. However, I refuse to even consider LeVesseur after he politely nestled his unprotected neck dead-center in the McKenzie-tine. Carlo Prater by submission.
Staff picking LeVesseur:
Staff picking Prater: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Brookhouse, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: This is a good card with lots of competitive match-ups. But also a lot of potential for snoozers. This is a leading contender in that area. Mike Pierce by decision.
Tim Burke: These guys are probably pissed that they're on Facebook, but they don't finish fights very often. Simpson talks about being reborn at 170, but he still gassed in his last bout. Pierce has hung in there with better all-round fighters like Hendricks and Koscheck and lost close decisions. This time he'll take the decision. Mike Pierce by decision.
Dallas Winston: The more that Pierce is overlooked and criticized, the more I do cartwheels for him. Mike Pierce by decision.
Staff picking Pierce: Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Simpson: Anton