UFC Fight for the Troops 3 staff picks and predictions

USA TODAY Sports

Check out who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking for each and every UFC Fight Night 31 bout.

Tim Kennedy vs. Rafael Natal

Tim Burke: It's really, really hard for me to care about this. Kennedy's the better wrestling and Natal rarely fights smart. Tim Kennedy by decision.

Mookie Alexander: This is a main event in the UFC. Kennedy is better at everything and I hope this doesn't go the full 25 minutes. Tim Kennedy by submission, round 3.

Zane Simon: I wish I saw a clear way that this doesn't both go 25 minutes and involve Kennedy winning. Not that I care if Kennedy wins or loses, I just don't think he'll win in under 5 rounds. We already know he's not going to get subbed and we already know that he couldn't really decisively outstrike Roger Gracie, so I'm betting on 5 rounds of grinding with a thoroughly exhausted Rafael Natal. Tim Kennedy by Unanimous Decision.

David St. Martin: Listen, I'm a total homer in this fight. Sapo was my Professor at Renzo's and I'm going to find any conceivable way he wins this fight. Rant: ON.

Kennedy doesn't have a (T)KO win since 2007, none in either Strikeforce or the UFC. Natal has never been submitted in a fight and has only been stopped once in the UFC after a dominated Andrew Craig landed an incredible head kick. Do I believe a man who struggled striking with Roger Gracie has an edge over Natal, who actively trains with Roger and no doubt helped build a winning gameplan? Not really. We'll have to wait until weigh-ins to properly gauge, but Sapo should have a good size advantage in this fight. Kennedy's grinding style will be tested early.

To those hating on this main event, relax. Oh sure, Sapo will never be the darling of the so-called "City Fathers" who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about "What's to be done with this Rafael Natal?" Give these guys a break.

Natal via Dec.


Staff picking Kennedy: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Natal: DSM, the gods

Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis

Tim Burke: Carmouche's bulldozing style can work against a lot of fighters, but I don't think Alexis Davis is one of them. Davis' striking isn't horrible (Sexton fight not withstanding) and she won't let herself get put on her back by Liz for long. Oh, and Canada. Alexis Davis by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Carmouche has historically not been able to beat top competition, and Davis should be considered exactly that. Granted, I wasn't too impressed with Davis' performance against Rosi Sexton, and perhaps that's one of the reasons she's the underdog in this one. Davis definitely has the better jiu-jitsu and submissions, but if it stays standing then Carmouche should have enough to outpoint her. This is a real close fight on paper to me, but I'm going to side with Davis' UFC debut being a small blemish and she'll be able to get another victory. Alexis Davis by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: It finally happened, Liz Carmouche faced a winning opponent and thoroughly dominated. She can now, truly, be counted as a fighter to watch. This should be a good matchup as neither Carmouche nor Davis are realistically adept at striking (I, for one won't be forgetting the stark contrast of Davis vs. Sexton and Andrade vs. Sexton). This means that sooner or later, someone's getting clipped a bit and diving for a takedown. From there I think lots of scrambling ensues and I have no real way of picking a winner. Carmouche's physicality and top control vs. Davis' submission skills and more polished attacks. I'll go Davis, but by a nose. Alexis Davis by Submission.

Staff picking Carmouche: DSM, Dallas
Staff picking Davis: Stephie, Zane, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Tim

Ronny Markes vs. Yoel Romero

Tim Burke: Markes' smothering style should play right into Romero's strengths. I'm not sure he can knock Markes out, but he'll try. Yoel Romero by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Romero is well into his 30s, which doesn't really bode well for his long-term prospects in the UFC. That said, Markes is pretty one-dimensional and Romero is going to make him pay. Yoel Romero by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: On the surface Ronny has all the tools to make Romero look bad. He's huge, he's grinding, he could get Romero against the cage and make this a boring war of attrition. But the truth is that I think Romero is too skilled and too adept in grappling exchanges to get stifled long term, and Markes has no other skills to bank on at all. Eventually that will cost him and he's going out cold. Yoel Romero by Knockout, Round 2.

Staff picking Markes: Stephie, Grant, Fraser
Staff picking Romero: Zane, Mookie, Tim, DSM, Dallas

Rustam Khabilov vs. Jorge Masvidal

Tim Burke: Dagestan. Dude dropped Kennedy on his head, he has a fan for life now. Rustam Khabilov by decision.

Mookie Alexander: I've tried writing up reasoning for this fight for two days now and I'm just really really stuck. I like Khabilov as a prospect but Masvidal has beaten better competition and is at a minimum the superior striker. I'll go with Masvidal, who was surprisingly almost KO'd by Michael Chiesa, to get a narrow win through his kickboxing and ability to stop Rustam from throwing him like a trash bag. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Picking this fight is a bit like picking which of your friends dies first in a hostage situation. There's no answer that I want to live the rest of my life with. Both men have faced good competition, both men have been on a tear. I guess I would say that Jorge Masvidal showed that he has the continued ability to underestimate his opponents early in fights and get taken way out of his element because of it. He recovers expertly and has as nasty a ground game as you'll see, but if he lets Khabilov get out in front of him there may be no catching up. Rustam Khabilov by decision.

Staff picking Khabilov: Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Tim, DSM
Staff picking Masvidal: Mookie, Grant, Dallas

Michael Chiesa vs. Colton Smith

Tim Burke: Smith just isn't very good. Chiesa's no world-beater either, but he's better than Colton. Michael Chiesa by decision

Mookie Alexander: If Colton Smith wins with this tedious grinding style ... no, I won't let myself even imagine that coming to life. Michael Chiesa by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: I think, at this point, Chiesa has proven himself to be a quality UFC product. His striking is never going to be a masterpiece, but he has a ton of heart, tenacity, and the ability to scramble and put good fighters in bad positions that few others can match. He reminds me a lot of Clay Guida pre-Kenny Florian. That's a good thing. Michael Chiesa by Submission, Round 1.

Fraser Coffeen: I like Chiesa quite a bit as, despite his serious striking deficits, he is often able to dictate the fight, taking it down and getting the sub. His wrestling game is a sharp contrast to Smith's, who uses nothing but lay & pray in lieu of Cheisa's sub approach. All that said, I think Colton is just flat out the better wrestler when it comes down to controlling the mat. Takedown, grind, grind, grind, Colton Smith by decision

Staff picking Chiesa: Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Grant, Tim, DSM, Dallas
Staff picking Smith: Fraser

Bobby Green vs. James Krause

Tim Burke: Krause beat the Sam Stout that occasionally just doesn't show up. That's not a knock on him, I just think Green's the better all-round fighter. Green will work the fight to the floor and negate his strengths. Bobby Green by decision.

Zane Simon: Was Krause impressive in his last outing? Yes. Was Bobby Green more impressive? To me he was. Krause is rangy, has learned to mix in some different techniques and looked good taking out an always tough Sam Stout. If this stays standing I think Krause can outpoint Green, but I think Green has the moxie to get Krause down and stay on top of him for an eventual submission win. Bobby Green by Submission, Round 2.

Staff picking Green: Zane, Tim, DSM
Staff picking Krause: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Dallas

Francisco Rivera vs. George Roop

Tim Burke: If only he was Bob Roop. Francisco Rivera by knockout, round 1

Mookie Alexander: Roop is 2-0 since returning to bantamweight, which is a bit of a surprise to me given how often I make fun of his Skeletor appearance. Rivera is arguably one of the 5 hardest punchers in the division, which is bad news for Roop. Yes, Rivera was KO'd by Erik Koch, who at 145 lbs kept Rivera at bay with his size and reach before planting him with a head kick, but Roop isn't as good a striker and he's way more of a defensive liability. Francisco Rivera by KO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I never know what to do with George Roop. He's capable of competing with anyone, especially at Bantamweight, but he's equally as likely to get blasted in 30 seconds. Rivera has been great lately, even if some of it may have been drug induced. And I just have a feeling that the lesser George Roop will be showing up to this fight. Francisco Rivera by TKO, Round 1.

Staff picking Rivera: Zane, Mookie, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Roop: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Dallas

Dennis Bermudez vs. Steven Siler

Tim Burke: This is my favorite fight on the card. That shows how much I don't like this card. Bermudez has taken no media scorecards lately but is somehow winning fights. I keep picking against Siler, and he's found a way to win. But not this time. This will be like Bermudez/Garza - Siler's game will be totally negated. Dennis Bermudez by decision.

Zane Simon: Bermudez has such an obvious raw talent advantage that picking against him seems silly. But that's where Steven Siler lives. He has made a UFC career out of taking seemingly superior UFC opposition and making them look god awful. And Bermudez is not exactly a technician, he loves to brawl and put himself in dangerous positions. I'm just feeling it with Siler right now, he could get bombed out in round one, but I think he makes this a war of attrition and wins it. Steven Siler by decision.

Staff picking Bermudez: Fraser, Tim, DSM
Staff picking Siler: Zane, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Dallas

Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie

Tim Burke: GDR is the better technician, and Nunes tends to fade late. I'll go Germaine de Randamie by decision.

Zane Simon: In a war between stand up Muay Thai fighters I'll take the one with natural power (but I won't be surprised if de Randamie can clinch fight her way to victory). Amanda Nunes by TKO, Round 3.

Staff picking Nunes: Zane, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, DSM
Staff picking De Randamie: Stephie, Tim, Dallas

Chris Camozzi vs. Lorenz Larkin

Tim Burke: It's kind of lame that this fight is so far down the card, because it's actually pretty good. Camozzi has some talent, but he won't want to box with Larkin. If he can get the fight to the floor he'll have a much better shot, but I'm not sure he can for any length of time. The speed deficiency is going to be the biggest factor. Lorenz Larkin by decision.

Zane Simon: Unless that "loss" to Carmont crippled his psyche this is Larkin's fight to lose. Camozzi is steady and able, but he doesn't pack a lot of power and is a bit too foot slow to track Larkin down for three rounds. Lorenz Larkin by Unanimous Decision.

Staff picking Camozzi: Stephie
Staff picking Larkin: Zane, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Tim, DSM, Dallas

Yves Edwards vs. Yancy Medeiros

Tim Burke: Yes, Yves is awesome. But Medeiros is an underrated talent, especially at lightweight. Yancy Medeiros by TKO, round 2

Mookie Alexander: Don't care that father time has caught up with Yves Edwards. Yves Edwards by Thugjitsu, round 2.

Zane Simon: I think it's finally happened. After 63 fights and 37 years, Yves Edwards has passed his peak. In losing to Isaac Vallie Flaag and Daron Cruickshank he's showed that he's no longer got the physical tools to fight his 2nd gear fighting style. His relaxed pace allows too much time and space for younger fighters to figure him out and pick him apart at range. Add into it that Medeiros is a hulking, power punching lightweight and I think this is going to be a bad night for Edwards. Yancy Medeiros by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Edwards: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Dallas
Staff picking Medeiros: Zane, Tim

Seth Baczynski vs. Neil Magny

Tim Burke: Magny's not really UFC caliber in my eyes other than having some good wrestling. Seth is good everywhere. Seth Baczynski by submission, round 2.

Mookie Alexander: TUF 16. ‘Nuff said. Seth Baczynski by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Magny has yet to show me anything beyond potential while Baczynski already has a few solid wins in the UFC. Unless Magny finds a hitherto unknown wellspring of punching power I think he'll get physically overwhelmed here. Seth Baczynski via Submission.

Fraser Coffeen: I keep thinking that at some point Magny is going to be pretty good. Tonight's the night? Sure why not. Neil Magny by Decision

Staff picking Baczynski: Zane, Mookie, Grant, DSM, Dallas
Staff picking Magny: Stephie, Fraser

Derek Brunson vs. Brian Houston

Tim Burke: Meh. Derek Brunson by decision.

Zane Simon: Finally Steph and I are in agreement once again. Brunson is a blanket, Houston is incredibly untested. Untested UFC newcomer against huge energy sucking blanket? I'll take blanket every time. Derek Brunson by Unanimous Decision.

Staff picking Brunson: Stephie, Zane, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, DSM, Dallas
Staff picking Houston:

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