UFC 158: GSP vs. Diaz staff picks and predictions

A look at who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking for every UFC 158 fight in Montreal on Saturday night.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz

Brent Brookhouse: Georges St. Pierre is the obvious choice here. If it somehow becomes a boxing match, Diaz has a fair shot, but don't doubt for a second that GSP and his camp have dissected every second of the Diaz/Condit fight and understand how to avoid being pulled into engaging the way Diaz wants. But it's extremely unlikely that this is a boxing match anyway, GSP is going to work takedowns and he's going to be able to control the fight. Georges St. Pierre by decision.

Tim Burke: This is pretty simple to me. GSP takes down Diaz. Diaz wriggles to get up. GSP says ‘ow bout you stay on da floor and five minutes later, the round ends. Even on the feet, Diaz can be figured out. He'll either work too hard to back Georges up and get taken down in the process, or he'll come out with some new gameplan that won't work. I'd be 1000% surprised if the bout doesn't hear the final horn. Georges St. Pierre by decision.

Anton Tabuena: Forget Condit's ineffective and boring gameplan, GSP should just follow Bendo when he took on Nate: At distance, throw low leg kicks, If Diaz tries to close in, clinch and get that takedown that Nick is more than willing to give. That way, Nick's unorthodox boxing would be nullified. I think it would look similar to Ben vs. Nate, but with slightly less kicks, and more takedowns with GSP shutting him down on the ground. As a fan, I hope I'm wrong and this gets contested more on the feet, but I doubt that would happen. Georges St. Pierre by Decision

Mookie Alexander: Diaz is going to be game as always, but he's going to get crushed. GSP is going to take him down and cut him open with elbows and punches for 5 rounds. I'm so confident that GSP will beat Nick Diaz that if he doesn't, I will pick the underdog for every UFC title fight for the remainder of 2013. That includes Sonnen, Weidman, Wineland, Bigfoot, Melendez, and whoever Ronda Rousey fights next. You can quote that for the potential embarrassment factor. GSP by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: I just don't see a path to a Nick Diaz win here. On the mat, GSP is stronger and better at control, so will keep Diaz on his back and avoid the sub. On the feet, Condit showed that with a good technical approach, you can solve the riddle of the Stockton Slap (not that I think GSP will fight exactly like Condit did). And GSP has shown time and again that he's the one that picks where the fight will be fought. Diaz may pressure him, but I see a lot of angry members of Team Gracie as the champ just methodically shuts Diaz down again and again. Georges St. Pierre by decision

T.P. Grant: Diaz's biggest weapon, what really stirs the drink for him, his boxing has largely been taken away from Carlos Condit. It wasn't pretty but Condit showed that if you move and don't get trapped against the fence Diaz's offensive ability is drastically reduced because he cannot punch and move. St. Pierre will use his jab and move off to the side and out and never let Diaz start his swarm attack. St. Pierre has taken down every fighter he has faced during his second title run and I don't think Diaz the defensive wrestler to break that streak. On the ground I think Diaz's guard is good enough to be seriously threatening to St. Pierre, but since it will be the Canadian dictating when they go to the ground I don't think he will spending a lot of time in Diaz's guard. GSP will have to be careful because Diaz is always a threat to finish a fight, but in the end we should hear Buffer shout "AND STILL", but Diaz fans will likely be unhappy with the way the this fight progresses. Georges St. Pierre by Decision.

Connor Ruebusch: Doesn't look like this will be an exciting--or surprising--pick. GSP has all the necessary tools to take Diaz apart. Nick has a very dangerous guard, but his boxing game is predictable and will be difficult to implement against a fighter with excellent lateral movement like Georges. I expect to see GSP cracking Diaz with his lightning jab, and constantly moving to Diaz' right. Nick's got a good right hook, but not the footwork to consistently put it to work. After half a round of jabbing, GSP will put Diaz on his back and survive his guard just like he survived Condit's, all while peppering away with elbows, and short punches. KJ Noons already proved that Nick doesn't fight so well off the back foot. Georges is one of the few fighters who can pressure Diaz into the fence, rather than the other way round. Georges St-Pierre by Decision.

Dallas Winston: Noice. I'm happy to chime in late as the only longshot-pick for Diaz, because it's so unlikely that it increases my anticipation for this fight so much more. The advantages for GSP are obvious and have already been voiced. Here's what I'm fascinated with about this match-up: despite the clear case for GSP, does anyone really believe he's a better striker or submissionist than Nick? His edges boil down to strategy, Fight I.Q. and wrestling. I'm geeked beyond reason to behold how GSP handles being on top of Nick because I think he'll have to choose between two routes: surfing on top of Nick's incredibly active hips and playing a safer game to prioritize control, or posturing up to level big ground strikes which will open the door for Nick's sweeps and subs, which are among the best in MMA. Nick's weakness is wrestling but he's never -- I repeat, never -- been merely held down and contained. Striking-wise, GSP will have to choose between an elusive, motion-based strategy to stay out of the phone booth or to embed himself at contact range and lock horns in the clinch or shoot takedowns. Just like GSP has all the tools to pin Nick's head on the fence and finish with volume ground-and-pound, Diaz -- since GSP has never been out-wrestled -- has all the tools to wreak havoc in every other category. Nick Diaz by submission.

Staff picking GSP: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Connor, Brookhouse, Tim
Staff picking Diaz: Dallas

Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks

Brent Brookhouse: I'm picking against my heart here. I'd really like to see Hendricks win as I think he's a very interesting opponent for GSP, and we've also already seen Condit against GSP, and while it was a good fight, it didn't leave a lot of questions. But Condit knows how to fight with a smart gameplan that will likely involve staying away from power punches and picking opportunities to get in, score and get back out. If Hendricks starts trying to turn it into a wrestling game, I trust that Condit will be able to survive on the ground more than capably and will be the fresher man down the stretch. Carlos Condit by decision.

Tim Burke: I can't get the image of Ellenberger flattening Condit out of my head. It was a while ago, but it's no secret that Condit will go in there and trade with guys sometimes and that makes him hittable. Remember when he knocked out Hardy? Hardy was about a millisecond short of landing the same bomb - Condit just got there first. Yes, he used a Jackson gameplan on Diaz to perfection. But I don't think there is a perfect gameplan to negate Johny's game. If Hendricks is smart, he wrestles this time out instead of looking for the KO. If he has fallen in love with his hands, he could be in for a long night though. I'm leaning Hendricks, but would dearly love Condit to take this. Johny Hendricks by decision.

Anton Tabuena: I love watching Carlos Condit fight for the most part, but I think he would try his best to make this more like his bout against Diaz, which was a complete stinker. He will probably try to circle away from Hendricks' power shot and try to land a few shots without really engaging. I think Hendricks knows this could very well happen, but it won't be easy to figure out since Condit is much more technical and agile on the feet. That being said, Condit was successful against Diaz, but Nick was still able to land a good amount of punches. Against Hendricks, he can't let that happen. Tough choice, but It's hard not to pick Hendricks knowing that Condit has to stay away from a big shot for 15 minutes. Johny Hendricks by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I've gone back-and-forth on this one. Does Hendricks have an obvious wrestling advantage and vicious KO power? Yes. Can he outwrestle Condit and put him on his back repeatedly? Yes. But Condit also has a more diverse striking game, very good submissions, a fantastic chin, and better cardio. I'm going with Condit because I think he is the most dangerous offensive fighter Hendricks has faced, and I think (as Fraser said) it's Condit who could wear down Hendricks with his aggressive style whilst avoiding Johny's tank of a left hand. Carlos Condit by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Hendricks has that kind of scary power where it's tough to pick against him. It's often said, but in his case it's true - he can literally end the fight with one accurate punch. But Condit is a very good striker in his own right, with good defense and a solid chin. He has more tools in his arsenal, and I think manages to grind Hendricks down with a fast pace. Carlos Condit by decision

Connor Ruebusch: Unlike Kampmann, Condit actually has the ability to back up the hype that surrounds his striking by showing some measure of defense on the feet. Hendricks has power, but we haven't really seen if he's crafty enough to put away a striker with the movement and craftiness (and chin) of Condit. I'm thinking that Hendricks will get frustrated and take this fight to the ground, or else he will rock Condit and jump into his guard. Unfortunately for him, the underappreciated ground game of Condit will be waiting for him--the same ground game that allowed Carlos to flip Dong Hyun "Thousand Pounds of Broccoli" Kim onto his back like a pancake. We'll see how good Johny Hendricks' submission defense is tomorrow--I'm taking a risky guess and saying "not good enough." Good work, Joe Silva: Carlos Condit by Submission.

Dallas Winston: I've gone back and forth on this one and still feel that Hendricks should be able to dismantle Condit because he's hittable with mediocre takedown defense. Much like the main event, Hendricks will have to choose his range carefully and prioritize control over offense in Condit's guard to nullify his grappling voracity. I'm surprised that most are leaning Condit but, then again, I'm joining the club too, despite what I feel is an adverse match up.

Staff picking Condit: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Connor, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Hendricks: Anton, Tim

Jake Ellenberger vs. Nate Marquardt

Brent Brookhouse: I hate picking Marquardt fights because who the hell knows which Nate you're going to get. There are times he just can't get it out of first gear and plays whatever game his opponent wants, and there are times where he's determined to control the fight and be offensively dynamic. I'm going to roll with Ellenberger, thinking that Marquardt won't be sharp. Jake Ellenberger by TKO, round 3.

Tim Burke: Jake will fade like he always does. It's a matter of whether Marquardt can take advantage or not. He seemed completely confused in the Saffiedine fight, but this is a lot more like the Woodley fight stylistically and that should benefit him. He has the ability to take away the wrestling, and let's not forget that Jake is very hittable too, especially later in fights. I think Marquardt loses the first, but takes the 2nd and 3rd for the decision. Nate Marquardt by decision.

Anton Tabuena: Jake can end it with a huge bomb, but I do believe Nate Marquardt is just the better all around fighter. Nate Marquardt by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Marquardt's path to victory is cardio, effective striking, and avoiding Ellenberger's wrestling entirely. Can he achieve all 3? I'm not sold. I think Ellenberger is developing way too much flak for the Kampmann and Sanchez fights. To me, he's still clearly an elite WW with gigantic power and a strong wrestling game. I don't see a career resurgence for Marquardt at 170, and as long as Ellenberger has learned not to blow his wad when he tries to finish a fight, I think he actually stops Nate the Great. Jake Ellenberger by TKO (punches), round 2.

Connor Ruebusch: Tough call. Ellenberger's plenty scrappy and he has the wrestling advantage, but Marquardt is always ready to bust out one of those 10-hit Tekken combos of his. Nate's defense and positioning on the feet is far from "Great," but he should be able to survive a few scares early on and rally to take the win. Nate Marquardt by Decision.

Dallas Winston: Nate is the more polished fighter overall but I'm guessing Ellenberger's wrestling (in reverse) will keep the fight upright, where the variables are whittled down to a straight striking confrontation. Nate is a crafty vet with excellent in-fighting, yet without any distance weapons (which is what Saffiedine capitalized on) he'll be relegated to standing in Jake's wheelhouse or hoping he gets tired as the fight drags on. Jake Ellenberger by decision.

Staff picking Ellenberger: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Marquardt: Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim

Chris Camozzi vs. Nick Ring

Tim Burke: This shouldn't be on the main card of a Bellator event, much less one of the biggest PPV's of the year. I'm sure the fight won't be that bad, but it's pretty irrelevant. I want to pick Camozzi, but I can't get past the way he got worked by Kyle Noke and Francis Carmont. Nick Ring by decision.

Mookie Alexander: If I'm being completely honest, this fight does absolutely nothing for me. Nick Ring should be 1-3 in the UFC and not the 3-1 he is right now. It's hard to get a read on Camozzi's win streak when he's not fighting good competition and he's buried on Facebook. Nevertheless I think Camozzi is the better of the TUF 11 alums, and he takes this. Chris Camozzi by unanimous decision.

Connor Ruebusch: Nick Ring has all the charisma of a damp dishrag, which makes it even harder for me to forgive him for the gift decision he received over Court McGee in July. Camozzi hasn't been tested against the opposition that Ring has, but Ring has really passed his tests, and the less-impressive names on Camozzi's record were at least beaten in decisive fashion. I expect Chris to be gutsier than Nick and force the judges to forsake their usual favorite. Chris Camozzi by Decision.

Dallas Winston: Camozzi is a rugged grinder but I have trouble believing he'll accomplish what Tim Boetsch couldn't in the first 2 rounds against Ring. Camozzi will probably be physically stronger and the better wrestler yet I don't feel that's enough to compensate for Ring's artful striking and sub-grappling, though Ring is consistently prone to spells of dropping his hands and lumbering forward in a straight line. Nick Ring by decision.

Staff picking Camozzi: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Brookhouse
Staff picking Ring: Fraser, Tim, Dallas

Colin Fletcher vs. Mike Ricci

Brent Brookhouse: Yikes, this being a main card fight is a real drag. I get the feeling that Ricci is someone the UFC would like to see be around for a little while, and in those situations I tend to think they're being matched to get them the win. Mike Ricci by decision.

Tim Burke
: This is a pathetic main card fight, as others have said. Mike Ricci will not be a top-level guy, and he's not going to be the draw that the UFC thinks he is in Montreal either. Ricci is back in his own weight class though, and Fletcher wasn't that awesome on TUF Smashes (which I finally watched two months after the finale - take that, people that say I don't do my job! I do it just fine well after the fact! Hosers!) Mike Ricci by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: This has no place on the main card. I assume that the UFC brass have fooled the Montreal crowd into thinking it's actually the former Quebec Nordique and not another TUFer. By the way, the NHL Ricci was a BEAST on the N64. Anyway, I read what Fraser wrote and will just nod my head and assume he's right, because I ignored TUF 16 until the finale. Mike Ricci by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: I'm not sure what to think about Ricci here. I felt really solid about picking him over Colton in the TUF finals, but he let me down. I still think he's a solid striker and good all around fighter, but he's just lacking that edge to push him to the next level. Still, Fletcher didn't impress me much, and he's not the kind of wrestler Ricci struggled with last time out. So I'll pick Ricci here, but fear I may be wrong yet again. Mike Ricci by decision

Connor Ruebusch: I'm with Mookie on this one. All I know of Ricci's skills I learned from the TUF 16 finale, which didn't give me a very good impression of his grappling. Then again, he had enough hype behind his striking in the show build up to make me think there's something more to him, and Fletcher doesn't have Colton Smith's grinding top control. Mike Ricci by Decision, I guess.

Staff picking Fletcher:
Staff picking Ricci: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Connor, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas

Patrick Cote vs. Bobby Voelker

Brent Brookhouse: With power, I'd lean Voelker's way, but he doesn't have it and Cote does -- though, it should be noted that Cote has only recorded one stoppage (not counting one injury TKO) in the last 5 years. So I guess I don't trust Cote to get the finish. My hope is that he looks in solid shape this fight and it isn't a drag to the finish. Patrick Cote by decision.

Tim Burke: Voelker hasn't fought since July 2011. Cage rust, UFC debut, and Patrick Cote across from you? Sorry, that spells doom. This will be a slugfest, but unless Cote's cut went bad or his chin's gone all of a sudden, Cote's going to pick up his first UFC KO in five years. Patrick Cote by TKO, round 2.

Mookie Alexander: Cote has not looked good in his umptillionth UFC run. He didn't land much of anything against Cung Le and was noticeably wobbled against Alessio Sakara legally before Sakara illegally battered his neck. But Cote still has KO power and Voelker hasn't fought in almost two years. As long as Cote isn't noticeably drawn out in his 170 debut, he should take this. Patrick Cote by KO (round 2)

Connor Ruebusch: Bobby Voelker's striking is as sloppy as Patrick Cote's was five years ago, except he doesn't have Cote's power. Cote has found himself in a series of rough matchups recently, but he should be able to keep this one on the feet and put Voelker away. Patrick Cote by TKO.

Staff picking Cote: Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Voelker: Fraser, Grant

Antonio Carvalho vs. Darren Elkins

Brent Brookhouse: Wrestling. Darren Elkins by unanimous decision.

Tim Burke: Pato has a solid base and he's pretty hard to take down. Elkins is relentless though, and I think that pace, rather than actual wrestling, will be the difference. Carvalho is going to need to shy away from his regular kick-heavy game too, or he's going to get stuck. Look at it this way - this can't be any worse than Pato's last fight against Damm. That was terrible. Darren Elkins by decision.

Mookie Alexander
: Elkins is going to grind out a win through his wrestling again. Darren Elkins by unanimous decision.

Connor Ruebusch: I've loved Antonio Carvalho since I witnessed his poignant reaction to knocking out Daniel Pineda at UFC 149. And it is because of that love that I'm about to put my fight-picking reputation on the line. Carvalho will knock Elkins out as he dives for a takedown with a knee, kick, or well-placed right hand. Antonio Carvalho by TKO.

Staff picking Carvalho: Connor
Staff picking Elkins: Fraser, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Mookie, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas

Jordan Mein vs. Dan Miller

Brent Brookhouse: Miller has fought (lost to, but fought): Bisping, Maia, Sonnen, Marquardt and Palhares in the UFC. And he has not been stopped in any of those fights. So I don't see Mein getting a stoppage here. I also like Miller's tenacity, so I'm leaning his way. Dan Miller by decision.

Tim Burke: Best bet on the card. Miller has the wrestling to stop Mein in his tracks, and while his striking isn't top-level, it's serviceable enough to set up takedowns or clinch work. I still believe that Mein will be a star one day, but this is just a bad matchup for him in his first bout. I want to pick Miller by guillotine, but I'll go with the safer pick. Dan Miller by decision.

Staff picking Mein: Fraser, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Miller: Stephie, Anton, Brookhouse, Mookie, Tim

Daron Cruickshank vs. John Makdessi

Brent Brookhouse: Obviously this is a killer fight that should be exciting if they keep it standing. Cruickshank might decide to go for the takedown though which is the only reason I lean his way. If it stays standing, I'd pick Makdessi in a heartbeat, but I think Cruickshank will just try to play it safe. Daron Cruickshank by decision.

Tim Burke: Maybe I'm just not a TKD guy, but I don't really give a poop about this fight. Makdessi's style is cool I guess, but I'd hardly call it super exciting. And while Cruickshank impressed me with the KO in his debut...he's still a TUF guy to me. Hopefully someone gets knocked out. But I doubt it. John Makdessi by decision.

Anton Tabuena: Oh man, I am really excited about this Taekwondo battle. This is probably the only time I wish they don't get smart and take things to the ground. I don't really care who wins, I just want to see how it all unfolds on the feet. If you put a gun to my head and ask me to pick, I'd probably say John Makdessi by Decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Oh you know I love this fight. Should be a tremendous stand-up battle, with both guys bringing their TKD based arsenal to the cage. I like Makdessi on the feet, though not by a huge margin. The difference though is that Cruickshank also has ground skills and knows when to use them. And when to use them is against John Makdessi. Daron Cruickshank by decision

Connor Ruebusch: Boy, is there anyone who doesn't think this should have been on the main card instead of Ring vs. Camozzi? At the very least it's gonna be a damn good fight. The outcome hinges on who will be able to control the range. Despite Makdessi's legendary side kick, I think that Cruickshank has the better, more powerful kicks, and will win on the outside. The Henry Martinez fight did not, however, convince me of his boxing, whereas Makdessi's boxing looked better than ever against Stout. If Makdessi can get in close, then he can jab and left hook his way to victory, and he's got the movement and techniques to put Cruickshank's back to cage and go to work. John Makdessi by Decision.

Staff picking Cruickshank: Fraser, Grant, Stephie, Mookie, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Makdessi: Anton, Connor, Tim

Quinn Mulhern vs. Rick Story

Brent Brookhouse: Rick Story has fallen out of the contender picture and is close to falling out of the UFC. But he's being given as good of a fight as possible to move his career back in the right direction. Rick Story by decision.

Tim Burke: Quinn's a super-tough guy who is usually pretty entertaining. But Story desperately needs a win and he's going to do what he needs to in order to get it. I still think he can be a force in the division - getting manhandled by Demian Maia and losing to Kampmann isn't that bad. And he fought Brenneman on a day's notice. Yes, I'm making excuses. But this is my party and I'll drink if I want to! Rick Story by decision

Fraser Coffeen: Make or break time for Story, who went from sudden contender in 2011 to 1-3 in his last 4. Still, those losses all come against top talent, and I don't think that's Mulhern. Rick Story by decision

Anton Tabuena: Exactly what Fraser said. Rick Story by Decision.

Connor Ruebusch: Rick Story tends to win when he's able to bully his opponent. If Quinn Mulhern isn't the name of a man who's easily bullied, then I don't know what is. Story is tough enough to beat the middle of the division, and should stay on as a useful gatekeeper for years to come. Rick Story by Decision.

Staff picking Mulhern:
Staff picking Story: Fraser, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Connor, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas

T.J. Dillashaw vs. Issei Tamura

Tim Burke: Let's be real here - Tamura's hooped. He went from a bout he could win against Mitch Gagnon to a strong wrestler. Sorry Tamura. I think you'll be looking for a job after tomorrow night, and your pink slip will be sponsored by Dairy Queen. T.J. Dillybar by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Dillashaw is a horrible matchup for Tamura. I see TJ winning in impressive fashion. TJ Dillashaw by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Dillashaw: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Tamura: Anton

Reuben Duran vs. George Roop

Tim Burke: It's not Halloween so I don't know why the UFC is busting out the skeleton for the curtain jerker. I do look forward to his debut at flyweight on the newest episode of Tales from the Crypt though. Reuben Duran by decision.

Mookie Alexander: I am never ever ever picking George Roop at 135 lbs. I wrote this up before the weigh-ins but he's probably going to look like a skeleton, and just on that alone I give Duran the advantage on the likelihood that he'll at least look "reasonably alive". Reuben Duran by decision.

Connor Ruebusch: Skeletons are pretty scary, though. Roop should be able to control the range in this fight with his kicks, and maybe even do what he did to the Korean Zombie back when he wasn't so terrifyingly close to being cut. I'll play it safe with my pick, though, and say Roop by Decision.

Staff picking Duran: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Roop: Connor Ruebusch, Brookhouse, Dallas

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