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UFC 173: Barao vs. Dillashaw staff picks and predictions

Check out who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking for each and every UFC 173 fight.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Renan Barao vs. T.J. Dillashaw

Tim Burke: This has massacre written all over it. If Faber couldn't get it done, what makes anyone think Dillybar can? The only interesting title fight at 135 right now is Barao vs. Cruz, and anything else isn't really that interesting to me. Renan Barao, TKO, round 3

Anton Tabuena: I think Dillashaw will be a much tougher test than what most people give him credit for, but that being said, I still don't think he has a great chance of winning here. Renan Barao by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Dillashaw's striking has improved the most out of all Team Alpha Male products. His combinations are excellent and he pushes a great pace. However, Barao is the best striker he's faced and I struggle to see him as having the wrestling chops to take Barao down and hold him there. Basically, is this version of Dillashaw any better than Urijah Faber? The answer is no, and Barao beat Faber twice. I think Dillashaw can be a UFC champion, but now is not the time. Renan Barao by TKO, round 3.

Patrick Wyman: Dillashaw is one of the brightest young fighters below 155, and he'll stick around at a high level for a very long time regardless of the outcome here. Unfortunately for him, there isn't a single area of skill or a single range at which the fight might take place where we can legitimately say that T.J. has an edge. While Barao probably won't be able to crack Dillashaw's perfect takedown defense, the reverse is also true, which means that this will largely transpire on the feet. Barao owns kicking distance, he throws tighter and more powerful combinations at boxing range, he's the better clinch fighter, and he has a more consistent record of throwing volume and pushing a brutal pace on the feet. In the end, I think Barao's diversity at range, proven ability to maintain high volume over five rounds, and experience will be the difference. Barao, unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Of all the fighters to really grow and develop under Duane Ludwig at Alpha Male, Dillashaw has probably shown the most. Which is why he's one of the few fighters that will be splitting his time between Ludwig's new camp and Alpha Male one Ludwig is set up. That said, a few months, or even a few years, can't replicate the kind of masterful striking game that Barao has put together. And the longer the fight goes, the more cracks are going to show in Dillashaw's combinations and defense. Barao and McDonald started out pretty even, but as the fight wore on McDonald's one dimensional striking attack became a bigger and bigger problem. Dillashaw is more complete than McDonald was/is, but I don't see him winning a pure kickboxing match, which is what I think this will largely be. Renan Barao by Decision.

Staff picking Barao: Patrick, DSM, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Dillashaw:

Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson

Tim Burke: I think this fight is going to be just as boring as Hendo/Machida and Hendo/Evans. Cormier's not gonna open up and brawl with him, so it'll be like Cormier/Mir 2. Yay. Daniel Cormier by decision.

Anton Tabuena: Henderson still has that H-Bomb. It may have saved him (and his career) during his last fight, but Cormier will be able to fight relatively safe, so I don't think it will happen here. Daniel Cormier by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Henderson has one way to win this and if Cormier can't eliminate that then it's reasonable to just scratch Jones/Cormier off your wishlist. Cormier can win just about everywhere without much trouble. Unlike Patrick, I think Cormier can finish Henderson but not with any single shot. An accumulation of strikes will force Henderson to drop and from there it'll be all over. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 2.

Patrick Wyman: This would be a bad matchup for Henderson even if he weren't showing his age and engaging in his fifth fight in the last fifteen months. That would be a brutal, grinding stretch even for a much younger fighter, but for a 43-year-old who's been around the game as long as Henderson, this is going to drastically speed up the process of decline. I don't buy the idea of Cormier as a budding power puncher and never will, so I doubt he'll be able to finish Henderson, but I think he can win on volume at range by circling away from Hendo's power hand and using his size to grind the smaller man in the clinch. Cormier, unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I wouldn't necessarily try and sell people on Cormier as a power puncher, but I do think that his frame (which was well attuned for heavyweight) carries a bit of extra heft and knockout ability for light heavyweight. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he can stun Hendo and get a ground and pound stoppage. Still, Pat's probably got the right of it and I expect we'll see all three rounds. Daniel Cormier by Decision.

Staff picking Cormier: Patrick, DSM, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Henderson:

Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger

Anton Tabuena: To me this is easy. Regardless of their wrestling backgrounds, both men will want to strike and test each other, and while both men have power, I think Lawler is the more technical striker. Robbie Lawler by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I feel like I'm ready to give up on Ellenberger, buuuuuuuut there's something holding me back. Yes, Ellenberger's top 10 ranking is now solely being crutched on the Shields win, and yes he looked terrible and frozen in his last fight, but I feel like this is a winnable fight for him, even as Lawler has looked fantastic in his UFC return. The striking should be Lawler's advantage by a considerable margin, but I contend that Ellenberger is a better/more effective MMA wrestler than Hendricks. Where Ellenberger remains frustrating from there is his lack of activity from guard. The key to victory for Ellenberger is scoring with his hard knees from the clinch and otherwise trying to "grind" out a win. Add in that this is such a quick turnaround for Lawler after such a grueling fight, and I think Ellenberger gets the upset. Jake Ellenberger by unanimous decision.

Patrick Wyman: This is a difficult fight to predict. Lawler is a substantial favorite, in the -225 range, and I wonder if that isn't underselling Ellenberger's chances a bit. We tend to talk about the Juggernaut as a vicious power puncher, and he certainly is, but explosive double-legs have always been a staple of his game. If he can work the occasional takedown to keep Lawler on his toes, that will make his striking all the more effective: he doesn't even have to hold the Ruthless One down for very long, but just to remind him that takedowns are something he has to worry about. If he doesn't, Ellenberger simply doesn't have the command of craft - distancing, pace, rhythm, angles, etc. - to hang with a striker as experienced and savvy as Lawler on the feet. I'm leaning Lawler, but with some reservations. Lawler, unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: One of the big things I remember from the Ellenberger vs. MacDonald fight is how quickly MacDonald was able to get back to his feet off takedowns. It's also one of the things I remember from Lawler's fight with Hendricks. In general, when he was down, he wasn't down for long. Couple that with the fact that Lawler really doesn't seem to mind getting hit and probably won't adjust his offense around the fear of the takedown. Given that, and the fact that Ellenberger really needs to show that he's not just going to freeze up again, I've gotta pick Lawler. Robbie Lawler by TKO, Round 2

Staff picking Lawler: Anton, Patrick, DSM, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Ellenberger: Mookie, Tim

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera

Mookie Alexander: Very tempting to pick Rivera because outside of Michael McDonald he's arguably the heaviest puncher at 135 lbs. Rivera by KO is a good possibility considering Mizugaki was getting tagged a bit by Nam Phan in the later parts of their fight, but when comparing their overall skill sets, I favor Mizugaki. Rivera is just a tad too one-dimensional for me and Mizugaki would be wise to put Rivera on his back and work from there. Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: When fighters get aggressive on Mizugaki they have the ability to hit him, and hit him hard. That is a real danger for him against Rivera, who, as Mookie points out, hits hard. But, Mizugaki has really been finding a groove lately, and Rivera, for all his power, is a pretty simple brawler. He doesn't work in tight combos, or dictate range well, he just rushes in winging punches and hoping to clip someone. Could he clip Mizugaki, yes, but Mizugaki's chin suggests he'd have to do it repeatedly and I don't think he has the technique for that. Takeya Mizugaki by decision.

Staff picking Mizugaki: DSM, Mookie, Patrick, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Zane, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Rivera:

Jamie Varner vs. James Krause

Mookie Alexander: I think Varner's renaissance has come to an end. The Trujillo fight was awesome, but his longstanding habit of getting punched in the face finally resulted in the biggest consequence of getting knocked out cold. Krause has developed his striking well enough over the years and his submission game poses huge problems for Varner and that's how he'll get the victory. James Krause by submission, round 2.

Anton Tabuena: Really surprised most are siding with Krause here. Varner has the experience to always be competitive on this type of match, and he has the better finishing ability as well. Jamie Varner by TKO.

Zane Simon: I wish I could be more sure of either side in this fight. I do think Krause got a bit overvalued for his fight with Sam Stout, who tends to fight to the level of his opposition (or below it). And Varner has a well known tendency to let himself get drawn into a slug it out fire fight when he doesn't need to be or would be ill served to do so. But, Up until he did that against Trujillo, he was winning handily. And while he got trucked for a couple rounds against Tibau, Krause doesn't have the bulk or offensive wrestling to repeat that. So, I gotta go with Jamie Varner, very probably by TKO.

Staff picking Varner: Anton, Zane, Iain
Staff picking Krause: DSM, Mookie, Patrick, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Dallas

Michael Chiesa vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Fraser Coffeen: Chiesa has shown steady improvement since his TUF run. He's still pretty raw on the feet, but it's less of a liability than it was on the show. As for his wrestling - it remains some of the most underrated in the UFC today. Seriously. He's very good at dragging you down, controlling you, and ultimately tapping you out. He has a ceiling for sure, but I think that ceiling is above this fight. Michael Chiesa by submission, round 2

Zane Simon: This is such a tough matchup for me, because I've had a lot of hope for both fighters. I really like their skills and think they can be competitive for a long time. But, if I have to pick (and I do) I've got to go with Chiesa. I think Massarunduba has plateaued a bit. And while he can be competitive with most, he isn't showing me that he can be dominant. Chiesa has shown real flashes of something more, and I'll bank on that to continue. Michael Chiesa by Submission, round 1.

Staff picking Chiesa: Mookie, Patrick, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Iain, Anton
Staff picking Trinaldo: DSM, Tim, Dallas

Tony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno

Tim Burke: I hate this fight. Kikuno's awesome but Ferguson is just a terrible matchup for him. So sad. Tony Ferguson by decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Don't listen to the rest of the staff Kikuno - I still believe in your funky Kyokushin ways. Katsunori Kikuno by KO, round 1

Anton Tabuena: Not sure what you're talking about Fraser, because I'm picking him too. Katsunori Kikuno by Karate Madness

Zane Simon: Do I love Katsunori Kikuno? Yes. Am I a cold hearted and bitter realist who rarely picks based on love? Also yes. Tony Ferguson by TKO. Round 2.

Staff picking Ferguson: Patrick, DSM, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Kikuno: Fraser, Anton

Chris Holdsworth vs. Chico Camus

Mookie Alexander: When in doubt, Team Alpha Male guy. Chris Holdsworth, submission, round 1.

Patrick Wyman: The fact that Camus has hung around the UFC - he's actually 3-1 - despite not being that great at anything is kind of astounding. He has crappy takedown defense, isn't a very good striker, and offers zero threat of finishing the fight on the ground. Holdsworth isn't a great striker, but he has fantastic coaches and he's developing quickly; he's also a much cleaner and more technical wrestler, and on the ground he holds a massive advantage. I don't think Camus can keep it standing, and once it hits the mat Holdsworth will work his venomous submission game. Holdsworth, submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: I think Holdsworth is getting a bit of a bump based on his strong performances over an exceedingly weak TUF field. However, I also think that Chico Camus doesn't offer much in the way of finishing ability, and is much smaller. So, given lots of time to work, and a much stronger submission arsenal. I think this is a tough fight but Holdsworth guts out the rounds for a late submission. Chris Holdsworth, submission, round 3.

Staff picking Holdsworth: Patrick, DSM, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Dallas
Staff picking Camus: Tim, Iain

Al Iaquinta vs. Mitch Clarke

Mookie Alexander: Awful matchup for Clarke. He's out of his depth as a striker and he can't grind Iaquinta out. Al Iaquinta by TKO, round 1.

Patrick Wyman: Pretty straightforward matchup here. Iaquinta is a much better striker with the takedown defense to keep this on the feet where he wants it, and he's flashed much-improved KO power in his last few fights. Iaquinta, KO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Well, this is a fight that's gonna happen. Iaquinta is an excellent talent hampered by injuries and occasional lapses in fight IQ. For me, Clarke just is at this point. Al Iaquinta by KO.

Staff picking Iaquinta: Patrick, DSM, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Anton, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Clarke:

Anthony Njokuani vs. Vinc Pichel

Mookie Alexander: Originally picked Pichel to test Njokuani's takedown defense, but decided he might stand with Njokuani and get clobbered. This pick will bite me in the ass. Anthony Njokuani, TKO, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: I really like Njokuani, but his takedown defense is weak, and he's only fought once in the past two years. Pichel is a somewhat pedestrian grinder, but I think that is a bad match-up for the superior striker. Vinc Pichel by decision

Zane Simon: Pichel would have to prove to me that he's a lot better than he is to pick him over Njokuani. I'd say his wrestling would be a factor if I thought Pichel could strike well enough to set it up at all. But I don't, so he's getting tooled. Anthony Njokuani by KO.

Staff picking Njokuani: DSM, Mookie, Patrick, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Pichel: Fraser

Sam Sicilia vs. Aaron Phillips

Tim Burke: No one else wrote anything about this fight yet so this is me writing something. I have no idea what to say about the fight though because Aaron Phillips sounds like a baseball player, so...yeah. I clearly studied hard for this card. Leave me alone, I just got back from Mexico. Sam Sicilia by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Phillips might be a decent talent down the line, but right now he's a fairly technical striker who suffers from a lack of activity. Basically Sicilia should be able to bull his way inside easily and repeatedly and grind away with body head combos. There's a chance that Phillips has the clinch game to manage Sicilia inside, but I doubt it. Sam Sicilia by TKO.

Staff picking Sicilia: DSM, Mookie, Patrick, Stephie, Fraser, Anton, Tim, Zane, Dallas, Iain
Staff picking Phillips:

David Michaud vs. Li Jingliang

Anton Tabuena: I'm picking the former Legend FC champ. He's one of the more well-rounded Chinese fighters, but I'm picking him mostly because I know they don't want their potential poster boy for China to lose. Li Jingliang by Submission.

Zane Simon: Jingliang doesn't really strike at all, but Michaud has a clinch grinding style that could play right into Jingliangs super clingly grappling. Jingliang is also beastly strong and Michaud is a bit undersized. Still I'm not all that confident in Jingliang's ability to close the distance, and Michaud has a lot more striking tools at his disposal. So I'll take him here, even though there's every possibility that Jingliang just drags him down and subs him. David Michaud by decision.

Staff picking Michaud: DSM, Fraser, Tim, Zane, Iain
Staff picking Li: Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Dallas