Esther Lin of MMA Fighting
Check out the Bloody Elbow staff's predictions and analysis for each of tomorrow's fights in Nottingham.
Brent Brookhouse: The worst loss in Struve's UFC career was to Roy Nelson. If you listen to the way people talk about him, you'd think he's been drubbed by some real low level talent. He lost to JDS when he was 21 years old, he lost to Nelson when he just got blasted and he lost to Browne on a hell of a superman punch. But he's also shown an incredibly sturdy chin in fights like the Morecraft bout, when he was on the receiving end of a very violent 5 minutes of ground and pound, went to his corner after the round and came out ready to engage. He's a flawed fighter, sure, but he's also tough and constantly improving. This fight can legitimately go either way, but I'm going to stick with Struve since Miocic looked to have some issues against SDR in his last fight that I think Struve will be able to exploit. Stefan Struve by submission, round 3.
Tim Burke: I think Stipe's wrestling and sub defense are going to make the difference here. Struve is going to have a very hard time dragging him to the ground, and I don't think pulling guard is going to work against such a heavy-handed guy. Miocic is going to chop at his legs and eventually get him on the chin. Stipe Miocic by TKO, round 2
Anton Tabuena: While still flawed and doesn't use his size and reach advantage perfectly yet, the guy is tough as nails, and keeps improving. I think Struve stands with him, but eventually ends it on the ground. Stefan Struve by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: I want to believe in Struve, and maybe he'll be elite down the road, but Miocic will humiliate him striking and do enough on the ground not to get subbed in the event it does go there. Struve has big defensive holes in his striking and realistically he might have to pull guard to come close to a submission, because Miocic probably has better TDD than Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson combined. It's a great main event between two promising HWs, but Miocic looks to be the better fighter. Miocic by TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Great fight here. My gut says Struve, though he has his work cut out for him. Miocic has the defensive submission skills to avoid Struve's underrated sub game, and he has superior striking, so should be able to win the stand-up battle. That should add up to a Miocic victory. I keep going back and forth on this one, and I WANT to pick Struve, but I just don't see it. Stipe Miocic by TKO, round 2
T.P. Grant: Struve has beaten three heavy handed fighters in a row, but people still can't get over the Travis Browne loss. It reminds me strongly of the aftermath of Demain Maia getting knocked out by Nate Marquardt, where the highlight was so dramatic people couldn't get it out of their mind enough to see the fact the fighter was actually improving. I don't think Struve is an elite heavyweight at this point in his career, but this is a big step up in competition for Miocic. It is possible for Miocic to win, if he has the top position chops to survive Struve's guard game or land that one, perfect punch. I think Struve gets this to the ground, even if he has to pull guard and taps Miocic. Stefan Struve by Submission.
David Castillo: I'm surprised there's so much love for Stipe, but then I guess years of random losses due to a complete disregard for safety has erased whatever faith people might have had for Struve. Still, I'm picking him. Miocic has not impressed me, and to me, he's still too plodding to have the advantage here. Stefan said all the right words after beating Lavar, and I think he can handle Stipe's offense. Stefan Struve by submission.
Dallas Winston: I can see this going either way but will once again bank on Struve for his inimitable size and medley of skills. His grappling has always been super slick and he's finally starting to show improvement by using his range on the feet. Miocic's combo of wrestling and kickboxing could make him tailor-made to get inside, bang him up with in-fighting and/or take him down and do the same while avoiding subs. The Croatian is legit but I need one more convincing performance to place him among the elite and I think Struve's heart, length and crafty guard will cause problems. Stefan Struve by decision.
Ben Thapa: It is really hard to submit a big, strong person who grew up wrestling with a triangle - even when you have the longest legs in the UFC. They will build good posture in an automatic process and the forward pressure will stifle your hips. Better off to go for a guillotine on the shot - and Stipe's not going to shoot in on Struve here. This will be a "Who gets the big punch?" battle and I think Miocic gets it in the late moments of the second round. Miocic, KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Miocic: Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Ben, Stephie
Staff picking Struve: Grant, David, Dallas, Brookhouse, Anton
Brent Brookhouse: Lord knows I'm not the world's biggest Dan Hardy fan. I find him entertaining but also don't think he's particularly "good." But Amir is just a stalled out decent muay thai guy without the power to survive in a drawn out striking exchange against a guy with a little heat on his strikes like Hardy. Dan Hardy by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: This fight is so blah for me it's not even funny. Amir is likely going to try and strike with Hardy, and he's probably going to lose. I don't see Hardy putting him away though. Dan Hardy by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I think Amir will strike with Hardy, and he may find some success with that, I think Hardy's power advantage will eventually play a big factor. Dan Hardy by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I am sick of Amir Sadollah getting main card fights. Nothing against him, but the UFC's promoting of him is baffling. Dan Hardy is more powerful and easily the better boxer and Sadollah will finally get sent back to the prelims. Hardy by left hook KO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I generally try not to pick Dan Hardy, but Sadollah is going to stand with him, he's going to try to outpoint him, and he'll have some success... until he gets cracked with the hook and put down. Dan Hardy by KO, round 1
T.P. Grant: Most of Sadollah's wins have come when the UFC has fed them to him. Now some will argue that the same could be said of Hardy, but he has a different level of wins than the former TUF champion. While Hardy's wrestling is the butt of many a joke, he does like takedowns and working top position, so don't be surprised when he takes Sadollah down a few times on his way to a decision win. Dan Hardy by Decision.
David Castillo: Confusion over Sadollah's continued exposure notwithstanding, I actually like this fight. It's a good clash of styles, so long as we're not stuck watching two strikers clinch for minutes at a time, as both have been guilty of in the past. I don't think we're getting that here. It'll be an ok kickboxing match, with Hardy getting the better of the exchanges. Dan Hardy by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I still like Sadollah and his pure Thai striking but he's only effective from the fringe and lacks power. Hardy won't let him keep the fight at a distance and should wind up and connect on more momentous combinations with his hands. The X-factor is Sadollah's Sambo and sub-grappling but I don't think they'll be an apt equalizer. Dan Hardy by decision.
Ben Thapa: I fully agree with T.P. Grant. We're going to see Dan use everything in his toolbox and look comfortable doing it. Not sure what's been holding Sadollah's development as an MMA fighter back, but it's been years now. He's not really taken a step up at any point and Hardy is the better fighter. Hardy, decision.
Staff picking Hardy: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Tim, David, Dallas, Brookhouse, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Sadollah:
Brent Brookhouse: Good fight between two good fighters. Pickett can do a little bit more in terms of taking the fight to different areas and, so long as he decides to take the fight to the ground, shouldn't be in huge trouble. On the feet I'd still give Pickett a small edge as I think he's a bit more durable. Brad Pickett by decision.
Tim Burke: Jabouin is a lot of fun to watch on the feet. Unfortunately for him, Pickett probably isn't going to play that game. The fight should be really good, but the British fans are going to be happy with this outcome. Brad Pickett by decision
Anton Tabuena: Pickett, easily. Brad Pickett by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I don't know what I can tell you to get you pumped for this awesome fight, other than it's an Yves Jabouin fight + Kenny Florian's commentary. Pickett by decision.
T.P. Grant: Looking forward to this fight, Pickett is a lot of fun to watch grapple and his stand up has come a long way. Jabouin is going to need to keep this fight standing and really beat Pickett on the feet, but I think Pickett is just better everywhere. At some point I think Pickett his Jabouin hard and either finishes a TKO or a mercy kill submission. Pickett by TKO, Round 2.
David Castillo: Jabouin still has to concern himself with cardio. His advantage on the feet is offset by the fact that Pickett can hurt him. Pickett has a great chin (though he put too much faith in it against Barao when they both started blasting each other), and will look for takedowns when necessary. He's a decent sized for the weightclass, whereas Yves is a small guy. Brad Pickett by Decision.
Dallas Winston: An equal striking match wherein Pickett has the luxury of falling back on his significant wrestling and submission advantages, and probably has the stronger beard. Brad Pickett by submission.
Ben Thapa: I'm a huge Pickett fan. He's delivered some of the best moments in recent MMA history with his fight with Ivan Menjivar, DJ Johnson, Scott Jorgensen, letting Renan Barao thump him and recently the demolition of Damacio Page. There is nobody on this card who brings the violence like Brad Pickett. And the man said on my radio show that he would indeed tongue kiss Dana White for a title shot if it would help. Yves has barnburners in his past, but not with this level of opponents. Pickett, sub, Round 1.
Staff picking Jabouin
Staff picking Pickett: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Tim, David, Dallas, Brookhouse, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Brent Brookhouse: I think Wiman is going to be able to keep it on the feet and win a striking battle. He's not a great striker by any means, but he can mix it up well..much better than Sass in fact. I figure he's able to just work his way to a safe decision. If it goes to the ground though? Sass is going to attack with some serious quickness. Matt Wiman by decision.
Tim Burke: Normally I pick against the one-dimensional guys, but Sass really opened my eyes when he caught Jacob Volkmann. Volkmann has great sub defense, probably even better than Wiman's, and he got submitted. Wiman is going to take this fight into Sass' wheelhouse and grind away, and there will be ample opportunity for Sass to get the sub. I really think he can. Paul Sass by submission, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Wiman is a better MMA fighter, but I don't think he will be able to handle Paul Sass' submission game. Paull Sass by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: I agree with Fraser, Sass is a specialist and Wiman is a veteran with well-rounded skills. The jury is still out on Sass' striking and he's been matched up rather favorably. I see Wiman getting the win based on better striking and avoiding the Sassangle. Best case scenario is an epic ground battle, which I'm personally hoping for. Wiman by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I like Sass, but he's too much of a specialist, and Wiman has too much experienced to get suckered into that triangle. Wiman should be able to avoid that sub, keep it standing, and win the fight on the feet. Matt Wiman by decision
T.P. Grant: You just can't go the ground with Sass, he is more than just a triangle guy, he also has a pretty nasty leg lock game to boot. Wiman wants to stay the hell away from Sass and try to beat him up on the feet. The issue is that Wiman is more of a grappler than anything else. I think his only paths to victory is very tentative and defensive top game or sloppy kick boxing. I think it hits the ground at some point and Sass hits a heel hook. Paul Sass by Submission, Round 1.
David Castillo: Despite the hype on Sass, I would say this is easily his sternest test. Wiman has the chops to win this fight handily, but he's proven to be reckless in the past, so it's reasonable to pick Sass, but I like Wiman to defend against the submissions when he needs to, and score effectively on the feet when called upon. Matt Wiman by Decision.
Dallas Winston: As much as I appreciate and respect Sass and his Luta Livre acumen, he's a one-dimensional specialist who's only faced mid-level competition -- and competition particularly devoid of submission defense -- taking on a 3-dimensional scrapper who's been immersed in top competition and has never been submitted. I think Wiman's one of the most under-rated lightweights and extremely technical in every aspect (striking, wrestling, sub-grappling), which is the ideal arsenal against a specialist. Matt Wiman by TKO.
Ben Thapa: I have to ride this Sassangle train until the wheels fall off. As Dallas says, Wiman has some very legit skills in all fields, butttttttt Sass just beat Volkmann who was on paper better than Sass in all those same fields. The man just figures out a way to hurt people or to find that opening for a lightning quick submission. He bring da pain. He get the win. Sass, sub, Round 2.
Staff picking Sass: Grant, Tim, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Wiman: Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas, Brookhouse
Brent Brookhouse: Hathaway should just be too big and too strong for an otherwise even match-up. John Hathaway by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: I like both of these guys, and I wish they hadn't been matched up with each other. Hathaway is a huge welterweight with really good wrestling, while Maguire is more of a submission grappler. Hathaway has a big strength advantage and has reach on the feet. It's going to be very tough to Maguire to get anything going here, so I gotta go with the bigger guy. John Hathaway by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Hathaway, by domination.
Mookie Alexander: You really can't bet against John here. John Hathaway by decision.
T.P. Grant: This is a real interesting fight, Hathaway got a ton of hype after he beat the tar of Diego Sanchez at UFC 114, but has since leveled off as a prospect. Maguire is on the rise with his funky grappling, and is ready for a step up. I think Maguire is used to being stronger and bullying his opponents on the ground and he won't be able to do that with Hathaway. I'm gonna be a jerk and hedge, but a submission from Maguire wouldn't shock me. I'll take Hathaway. John Hathaway by Decision.
David Castillo: Hathaway still looks stiff on the feet, whereas Maguire has decent speed, so if he rattles John at some point, his chances increase immensely, but I'm not sure he's that good on the feet. Hathaway might just walk through whatever fire Maguire offers on the feet, and I sort of expect him to. He's a big guy who will also neutralize Maguire's submissions. John Hathaway by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I'm taking Hathaway for his core competency of repelling grapplers with rangy kickboxing, but have been increasingly impressed with Maguire's crafty technique in the clinch and on the ground. John Hathaway by decision.
Ben Thapa: Dallas articulates everything well in this fight pick. Hathaway, decision
Staff picking Hathaway: Mookie, Grant, Tim, David, Dallas, Brookhouse, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Maguire: Fraser
Brent Brookhouse: I guess I just trust Ludwig's chin to hold up and let his combination striking win the fight for him. Duane Ludwig by TKO, round 1.
Tim Burke: Is Bang's chin finally fading? After a career of Muay Thai and tons of standup fights in MMA, I think he might be on his way out. Che Mills was pushed too quickly and I never really liked him all that much to begin with, but he's going to blast Ludwig here. Che Mills by TKO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: All alleged chin issues aside, Ludwig should be a much more technical striker. Che's power may compensate for that, but I'm not that sold on his skills yet. Duane Ludwig by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Che Mills is a killer! He has killed many things. He is an elite elite fighter with elite elite wins over Marius Zaromskis, Marius Zaromskis again, and um .... he is a killer! He's the Zodiac killer, BTK, OJ Simpson, and Ted Bundy rolled into one. I give Duane Ludwig amazing props for accepting death so willingly. Che Mills by decision.
T.P. Grant: Che Mills is so solid. His solidity is beyond refute. It doesn't help that Ludwig is on his way out as a fighter, and his only recent UFC wins have been over TUF fighters. He is no longer on the level of a solid guy like Mills. Che Mills by Decision.
David Castillo: Ludwig will always have trouble with fighters with power, and Mills definitely has that, despite the overblown drivel coming out of Rogan's mouth about his ability to knock out a baby elephant with his fists. Che Mills by TKO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: You never can tell what's going to happen with Bang. The Wilted Chin Theory holds some weight but I'm not ready to stamp Mills as a top-level knockout artist just yet. Ludwig is one of my original favorites and still puts his Muay Thai together as good as anyone in the sport. Duane "Bang" Ludwig by TKO.
Ben Thapa: I have a feeling this goes to a late round slugfest in which Bang runs out of energy just before Mills does and ends up deposited on the ground, which then sways the judges to pick Mills as the 29-28 winner. Mills, decision.
Staff picking Ludwig: Dallas, Brookhouse, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Mills: Mookie, Fraser, Grant, Tim, David, Ben
Brent Brookhouse: I'd feel more comfortable with this if Kingsbury didn't look completely lost in his last fight. But I'm picking a lot of fights on "he's just too big" today. Kyle Kingsbury by decision.
Tim Burke: I'm never all that big on British prospects. Kingsbury got smoked in his last fight and he has something to prove here. I think he methodically wears down Manuwa and takes him apart. Kyle Kingsbury by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: In my preview, I ended up going with Kingsbury due to the experience edge, and I still think that's the smarter bet. But Manuwa will come on strong early, either catching Kingsbury and stopping him in 1, or winning that first round. If he doesn't gas, he can hang in and take this. That's a big if, but I'll give the newcomer a shot. Jimi Manuwa by TKO R1
T.P. Grant: Kingsbury is just so big. Manuwa seems to thrive when he is the larger fighter, and Kingsbury is just SO big. If Manuwa can put Kingsbury on his back it will be a quick and brutal, but I think Manuwa could also light Kingsbury up on the feet. I'll take the new guy, but Kingsbury could just hulk his way through a decision. Jimi Manuwa by TKO, Round 2.
Ben Thapa: Kingsbury is big and knows what he's doing in training, but he seems to tighten up considerably in the cage. I know Kyle can fight much better than he has lately, but it's a comfort thing and being on the precipice of getting cut will probably make him even tighter. Manuwa has nothing to lose here and despite the Octagon jitters of the new arrivals, he should be able to crack Kingsbu a few good ones en route to a KO win. Manuwa, KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Kingsbury: Tim, Dallas, Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Manuwa: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Ben, Stephie
Tim Burke: Both of these guys aren't really UFC material. But I'll go with Akira because he's crazy. Akira Corassani by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I like Andy Ogle, but I just don't think he's all that good. He proved me wrong on TUF, but Corassani is just a better fighter. The time off gives me pause, but I'll stick with him. Akira Corassani by decision
T.P. Grant: I just refuse to pick Akira in a fight, he is too much of a head case. Andy Ogle by Decision.
Ben Thapa: I dislike Akira even post-TUF for being a really un-introspective fighter. Apparently he gets along with his trainers and fellow fighters well, but his public presentation is like watching a Vegan Bro talk himself into exuding good vibrations to the whole world. But dern it, he's the better fighter. Wouldn't be averse to Ogle getting a ridiculous KO here, but Corassani, decision.
Staff picking Corassani: Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Dallas, Brookhouse, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Ogle: Grant
Tim Burke: I like Tavares here because I believe that if you take Watson off his feet, he loses all of his effectiveness. Tavares likes to strike but he will take the fight to the floor as well, and that will make all the difference. Watson's a cool guy and a good ambassador from British MMA, but I gotta go Brad Tavares by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Good fight between two heavy hitters here. I wasn't sold on Watson for a long time, but he's impressed me in more recent fights. I like his more varied striking style here, and while he has some submission issues, Tavares is not the opponent to expose them. Tom Watson by decision
Ben Thapa: I go with Fraser's logic here. Watson's improved considerably lately and I think he's gotten some of the submission issues fixed - at least enough to stuff Tavares en route to a decision. Watson, decision.
Staff picking Tavares: Mookie, Tim, Dallas, Brookhouse, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Watson: Fraser, Grant, Ben
Tim Burke: I'm writing this after the weigh-in. Johnson came in at 183 for a 175 pound catchweight bout. Yikes. Normally I think Gunnar smokes him, but that's a serious size difference. I'll still go Gunnar, but it wouldn't shock me at all if he got ragdolled and TKO'd or something. Gunnar Nelson by submission, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: This is a mismatch. Nelson by submission, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Renzo Gracie black belt vs. guy taking the fight on short notice who is prone to making mistakes on the mat? Gunnar Nelson by submission, round 2
T.P. Grant: Gunnar Nelson all day, he will take Johnson down and tap him. Gunnar Nelson by Submission, Round 1.
Ben Thapa: Why is DaMarques fighting a month and a half after getting KO'd rather brutally? Because this is Britain and it's a short notice situation. Gunnar is incredible on the ground and he will hunt his way to a clinch and outside trip. From then on, it's going to be interesting to see how Gunnar handles a frantic UFC level fighter (which DaMarques still is) trying to push him off or stifle his offense. I think we will see a submission, but later, rather than sooner. Gunnar Nelson, sub, Round 3.
Staff picking Johnson:
Staff picking Nelson: Mookie, Fraser, Grant, Tim, Dallas, Brookhouse, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Tim Burke: I think Peralta is the best bet on the card here. Young is a powerful kickboxer, but Peralta is faster and more well-rounded. This should be a fun fight to start the card, but I'm definitely going with Robert Peralta by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Young should be able to take this, but he finds a way to lose the decision. Maybe he's turned it around? Jason Young by decision
Ben Thapa: Nobody turns it around for good. Not even Gomi. Peralta should swipe this decision pretty handily.
Staff picking Peralta: Mookie, Tim, Brookhouse, Ben, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Young: Fraser, Grant, Dallas