Bloody Elbow's staff has made its predictions for UFC 192, and we lean slightly towards Daniel Cormier to defend his light heavyweight belt against Alexander Gustafsson. There's a similar edge given to Rashad Evans to defeat Ryan Bader in the former champion's first fight since 2013. We're surprisingly split on Jessica Eye vs. Julianna Pena and even have a couple of folks (myself included) going with Ali Bagautinov to beat Joseph Benavidez.
NOTE: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected on Friday. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Tuesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he's going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
NOTE 2: Occasionally, staff members who didn't submit their predictions in the document will edit the post after publishing.
Anton Tabuena: I'm not sure why Daniel Cormier is this big a favorite, as I believe this will be a really tough fight for him. Unless that brutal KO against Rumble really messed him up, Gus should be able to stay on his feet for stretches and be able to land good shots from the outside. Can DC rough him up in close and eventually take him down and wear on him? Sure, but stylistically I think it's a pretty even fight, one that is much closer than what the odds portray. I've been flip flopping on this decision, but I'm leaning towards a fight where Gustafsson is able to fight much better at range to win enough rounds. Alexander Gustafsson by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is a really really tough fight to call, and Gustafsson's getting a title shot off a KO loss aside, it's a much more compelling matchup to me than Cormier vs. Bader will ever be. Gustafsson is a sharper, better boxer than Jones and can very well make Cormier's world hell if he can't get inside effectively. Gustafsson has the cardio that Anthony Johnson lacks and great takedown defense. This isn't a lock for Cormier at all. I do wonder how Gustafsson will look after such a devastating loss, though. If Cormier can make this an "ugly" battle where he wins with dirty boxing and is relentless with his takedowns, I think he can win that way, because I don't believe he outstrikes Gustafsson for 5 rounds. Ultimately, Cormier gets the win in the later round after Gustafsson has a good start. I'd almost rather Gustafsson win though because him vs. Jones 2 > Jones vs. DC 2. Daniel Cormier by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I've been watching a lot of footage from both men in anticipation of this fight, and while normally that clarifies picks for me, this time it's just muddied it. My immediate gut instinct when the fight was announced was Cormier all the way, but now I'm less sure. I can envision Gus using a lot of the same strategies Jones used and adding in his brutal Thai knees from the clinch to win those battles. Of course, it could end up looking like Cormier vs. Rumble, but Gus has the cardio to avoid that fate for awhile at least. The real X Factor to me is that Gus is coming off a nasty KO - the first of his career. I wonder if he needs a rebound fight - which this most definitely is not. So right this second, I'm going with this, but I wouldn't be surprised if it switched again by fight time: Daniel Cormier by decision
Zane Simon: Here's the thing, Daniel Cormier being a fleet footed HW has really skewed perception of him as a striker. He's not bad. In his element, when he's got a hand on someone and the ability to dirty box, he's actually really very good. But, Cormier is not a good range striker, either offensively or defensively. He's very open to getting hit, and he doesn't have a lot of consistent tools to return fire with. Anthony Johnson dropped him in a heartbeat and Jones roughed him up every time he tried to close the distance. He's got a good chin, but it should be noted that Jones isn't a great power puncher. I have a feeling, if Gustafsson doesn't go the Johnson route and just throw himself bodily into getting taken down by Cormier, he can force DC to strike with him a lot and work a serious advantage while he's there. I won't be at all surprised if DC just rips him to the ground and rides him round after round until he's exhausted, but I'm going to bank on Gus being a good enough wrestler to stay upright, and DC not being a good enough striker to easily take rounds standing. Alexander Gustafsson by decision.
Staff picking Cormier: Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Mookie
Staff picking Gustafsson: Phil, Zane, Anton
Anton Tabuena: Bader is good, and is really underrated by most fans and pundits. If Evans has really lost a step after those surgeries, he is going to get pasted. That being said, I think anywhere close to the Rashad we're used to seeing, and he should have the skill set to pull off a victory here. Rashad Evans by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: If Rashad wasn't coming off an extremely long layoff and back-to-back surgeries, I'd pick him in a heartbeat. But that's not the case, and I won't pick him mostly because of that, and also the fact that Bader looks to be reaching the peak of his career. You wouldn't back him to ever beat Jon Jones and I wouldn't favor him against Cormier, Gustafsson, and possibly Johnson, but he's developed a style that is reliable enough to consistently win fights against virtually everyone except the absolute top-tier. I have a feeling that Evans is going to not look anywhere near the guy who dominated Phil Davis and Bader will capitalize as such. He may even do it with his boxing, which isn't bad by any means. Ryan Bader by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I've said this before, but I think there's a significant misapprehension in how Rashad is perceived. He is as pure a counter fighter as you are likely to see, and he just can. not. lead. Given nothing (as against Lil Nog, or to a lesser extent Henderson) he will return nothing. Given extreme aggression, like Sonnen, he will wreck shop. There are approaches which work against this (feinting distance management or better counter fighters)... but Bader's solid, meat'n'potatoes wrestle-boxing (which I think is in many ways a "better" style) is not a particularly strong counter to it. Evans' lay-off and mental state are the big ones here, wouldn't be surprised to see him look awful. Even so, Rashad Evans by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I've been a strong believer in Ryan Bader's ability to climb to the top 5 for a while now. I even think it wouldn't be a disservice to anyone to see him get a title shot, if for no other reason than to let whoever the champ is shine a little. But, generally, Rashad Evans should be the wall between a guy like Bader and title contention. I say "should," because knee injuries and, perhaps, some in-cage identity crises have created a lot of mystery as to just where he's at right now. He hasn't fought in two years and while he looked great against Chael Sonnen, he looked not great against Henderson and Lil' Nog. As Phil mentioned, that's almost certainly because he's a counter fighter to the bone, but it does create some reasonable doubt about just what he looks like coming back. Laying those doubts aside however, Bader works a high output, decent-but-not-great, striking game. More recently he's turned to a taller, muay thai style that honestly seems like a regression from previous form. If he were fighting a bit more like he was at the point he took on Glover Teixeira I might give him a better shot, but he stands so high and narrow in his base these days, I think he'll just wade in, get slapped with a counter takedown and then get beat up. And of course he's always liable to eat a huge shot and get KO'd standing. Rashad Evans by decision.
Staff picking Bader: Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Evans: Phil, Fraser, Tim, Zane, Anton
Anton Tabuena: At heavyweight, advantages in technical ability can a lot of times be overcome by advantages in athleticism, speed, and power. Will this be the case here? A bit tough to say, but I'm going to say yes. Shawn Jordan by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Magomedov is the lightest hitting heavyweight I've watched in the UFC for quite some time, but he makes up for it by being really good technically as well as accurate. This is a favorable matchup for him in the sense that Jordan is athletic and powerful but way too inconsistent. Also, can we PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE get a HW under 30 with some promise (Magomedov is 29)? Please?! Ruslan Magomedov by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Ruslan Magomedov is a a big, young, technical heavyweight and is worth his weight in gold. His main flaw so far is that he lacks that most historically overvalued of heavyweight attributes- punching power. From underrating Cain, to overrating fighters like Erokhin and Lewis, the ability to splatter people is not a significant differentiator at heavyweight (being able to withstand getting splattered, on the other hand...). Jordan is way shorter and is going to have to fight his way inside Magomedov's jab and kicks, and I'm unconvinced by Jordan's durability. Ruslan Magomedov by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Man, I am torn here. I like Magomedov a lot. I want him to win. Jordan has steadily improved, is a great athlete, and is well rounded, but he's still not really technically good at anything. I think the early going in this fight might be rough on Magomedov, he doesn't throw enough volume, he doesn't have big power, but if he can stuff takedowns and wear Jordan down a bit, I think he could turn things up in rounds two and three for a decision win. Still, I won't be surprised if Jordan just melts him or some other nonsense. Ruslan Magomedov by decision.
Staff picking Jordan: Anton
Staff picking Magomedov: Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Zane
Anton Tabuena: I'm still unconvinced on Pena, but I'm quite sure Eye isn't going to cut it at the top of the division, so... Julianna Pena by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I don't really think Pena is better than Eye, but I'm mostly picking her because this division badly needs an injection of new contenders, and Pena fits the bill. She's way too wild and raw for me to consider her ready for the absolute elite (that means Rousey, Tate, and Nunes), and she was definitely just technique-free with her ground-and-pound in the Dudieva fight in April. All that said, I'm feeling like we'll be having a lot of unexpected results tomorrow night, so you gotta start somewhere. Julianna Pena by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: We just saw this fight? Pena might conceivably look bad coming off a huge layoff but other than that, she's bigger and more physical than Tate, even if she doesn't have the boxing technique that Tate does. More than Pena's potential improvements, I think the big story is just how Eye seems to have plateaued or even declined fighting out of her current gym. Julianna Pena by unanimous decision
Fraser Coffeen: I'm not quite ready to write off Eye yet, and against top level talent, I really don't like picking people coming off a year plus long layoff. What's that? You say I picked Rashad above? Right, well, about that, uh... Jessica Eye by decision
Zane Simon: I really have major doubts about the Julianna Pena/Miesha Tate comparison. Pena might be a bit bigger, but she is 100x less technical. I also really wonder how well she can fight past round 1. The way she tends to burn through energy, it seems like she will only get worse if this fight goes more than 5 minutes. The big thing to remember with the Eye vs. Tate fight is that Eye was doing great and staying upright right until Tate dropped her. Pena doesn't have any of the boxing technique to make me think she'll do that. At this point Pena just has way too much to prove, and the wins she's got so far don't prove a lot. Jessica Eye by decision.
Staff picking Eye: Fraser, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Pena: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Anton
Anton Tabuena: Benavidez will beat every flyweight not named Demetrious Johnson. Joseph Benavidez by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: We have no idea how Bagautinov will look off a year's suspension because of EPO, so there's one major factor. Benavidez has held firm as the 2nd or 3rd best 125er in the world for years, but the Moraga and Ortiz fights (admittedly both wins) have me a little weary about picking him here. Benavidez is not as dominant as he used to be and he's looking slower and more hittable. Bagautinov is a damn good fighter and I think I'm going with the upset here. Ali wins it with good takedown defense and power shots on the feet. Ali Bagautinov by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Benavidez has been beating the people he's expected to, but it hasn't been quite as easily as might have been expected- I worry that a combination of technical stagnation and potential physical decline might be sneaking up on Joe B. However, his combination of rough hewn middle range kickboxing and evil submission grappling is still a really, really tough out. Bagautinov has a couple of advantages- he's bigger and I think he's actually better at setting up his takedowns, but I don't think takedowns have that much of a role to play and that Benavidez wins a tight kickboxing match. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision
Fraser Coffeen: Team Alpha Male - the team where you beat everyone in your path except the champ. Unless you train with Bang Ludwig. Joseph Benavidez by decision
Zane Simon: If this fight is 3 years ago, Benavidez wins every time no matter what. He's faster, more consistent, higher output, a better grappler, and just as good a wrestler. I still think that means he wins here, but (and it's a reasonable but), I think he's getting slower and I worry about him taking big shots. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him generally handing Bagautinov his hat and get caught with a big shot or two in the middle of a striking exchange and dropped. If that happened, would he recover, would he go out? I don't know. But Bagautinov can hurt him and I wouldn't be surprised if he does. Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Staff picking Bagautinov: Tim, Mookie
Staff picking Benavidez: Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Anton
Mookie Alexander: HAHAHAHA Zane likes hookers. Or maybe just has a favorite hooker. Anyway, Dan is a good fighter but Rodriguez has the better upside and is definitely the better, more skilled athlete. Yair Rodriguez by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: These two are better fighters than we thought they were. Rodriguez in particular has really shown to be quite a special talent who improved an absolute ton between his last two fights. While he has two UFC (T)KOs to his credit, I'm not sure that Hooker quite packs the necessary athleticism and sheer stopping power to make his style work. I just don't think he's quite as good as Rosa, who Rodriguez dealt with pretty handily. Yair Rodriguez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I like Hooker, he is scrappy to a fault. Always coming forward, varying his striking attack. A good clinch striker and a good grappler. But, he was also getting muscled around by Hatsu Hioki. I mean, if ever there's a guy that shouldn't be muscling you around, that's a good place to start. On the other hand, Rodriguez is pure fast twitch, adrenaline fueled highlight material. He's not consistent, he's not technically mature, but he's got a lot of baseline tools Hooker doesn't. If it becomes a prolonged grappling battle, Hooker might get a come from behind sub, but otherwise, Yair Rodriguez by decision.
Staff picking Hooker:
Staff picking Rodriguez: Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Anton
Mookie Alexander: Albert Tumenov gonna throw hands and make pretty boy Jouban a beaten man because that's the plan you understand? Albert Tumenov by KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Another great fight in a card absolutely jammed with great fights. Mini Rockhold probably leans on his freakish physical toughness a little too much and Tumenov is the cleaner technician, but this is a wonderful fight which could go either way. Albert Tumenov by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Jouban is fun and tough and the harder you hit him, the more he comes back at you. But, he's also very defensively open when on the attack and has trouble placing his shots as well as he wants to. If he can force Tumenov to the ground a bit and try and grapple him, I could see him wearing Tumenov down and even subbing him. But, if they stay standing, Tumenov is too accurate and too consistent in his own element. Albert Tumenov by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Jouban:
Staff picking Tumenov: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Anton
Phil Mackenzie: Going from Leo Kuntz to Adriano Martins is an... interesting jump. There's a case for making the a Makhachev pick based on his sheer sky-high potential but I think Martins hasn't really shown a vulnerability to the toolset the Dagestani possesses. Martins is big and physical but also kinda smart- he understood that he could pressure Cruickshank and outfight and counter-wrestle an ugly fight against Khabilov. On the plus side, if Makhachev wins he's virtually announcing himself as one of those beyond-blue (ultraviolet?) chip prospects for whom the rules just don't apply. Adriano Martins by (ugly) decision.
Zane Simon: I'm going hype train here. I think Makhachev's southpaw stance and constant striking aggression will force Martins to try and wrestle/grapple him. And he's very good at that, but I'm not sure he's good enough. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Staff picking Makhachev: Tim, Zane
Staff picking Martins: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Anton
Anton Tabuena: I think Hill is the much more technical striker, but if you couple Namajunas' threat of a tricky ground game, Rose can conceivably put Hill out of her element and even make her second guess her options on the feet. Rose Namajunas by submission.
Phil Mackenzie: These two are still super raw and I don't feel comfortable making a pick although I assume Namajunas is a hefty favourite. I'm going to go with her because I feel like her style of aggressive grappling, kicks and power subs is more effective at these lower levels, and she's just a better athlete. However, I think that Hill's clinch game and MT is a more stable approach long-term, it just requires her to put in more time to build up her defensive grappling and shot selection. It's time which I'm not sure she has. Rose Namajunas by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: I absolutely love this fight, and am probably overly excited for it. As Phil said above, these are two raw talents, but both are fighters that have the pieces to be really excellent contenders or champions down the road. They're not quite there yet - but they are equally not there, which makes this is a really fascinating fight. On the feet, Hill is the better fighter I think, though Rose's reach is tough to deal with. But on the mat, this is all Namajunas, and when you factor in her creativity, I think that's enough for her to take it. Rose Namajunas by submission, round 2
Zane Simon: Nothing I've seen from Hill so far suggests to me that she can stay on her feet when she absolutely has to or that she can deliver the kind of consistent offense to keep aggressive fighters at bay. In fact, Hill's love of and reliance on the clinch should play right into Namajunas' need to connect to some part of her opponent's body and submit it. Either in a scramble, or on the ground, I think Hill's getting subbed. Rose Namajunas by submission.
Staff picking Hill: Stephie
Staff picking Namajunas: Phil, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Anton
Mookie Alexander: Phil's kinda creeping me out with this whole cooking humans in the oven analogy. So I'll go with Sage Northcutt by TKO, round 1 and get the hell out of here.
Phil Mackenzie: Northcutt appears to be a wonderful talent and Trevino is a cleverly booked debut fight for him, as he's not a huge offensive threat but he is at least UFC-level durable. I wouldn't suggest betting or anything, because for all Northcutt's obvious potential there is a real chance that the UFC is taking him out of the oven before he's quite done cooking, but Sage Northcutt by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Trevino is the definition of a regional can crusher. Really padded record, small for his division, lacking the physical tools to support the style of fighting he employs. Unless Northcutt adrenaline dumps, gets caught in a funky sub, or just freaks out and cracks under pressure, he should have this all the way. Sage Northcutt by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Northcutt: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Trevino:
Chris Cariaso vs. Sergio Pettis
Anton Tabuena: So they're going to strike, and it will be a back and forth contest. Cariaso has holes in his game, but Sergio doesn't seem like the type who can take advantage making this a very good match up for him. I'm picking the underdog again, and not just because he's part Filipino. Chris Cariaso by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Pettis is fortunate in the fact that Cariaso has no considerable punching power and never really has, but Cariaso is still a pretty good fighter who has only lost to upper echelon talent at flyweight. Is Pettis really a top 15 flyweight? I'm not entirely sure he should be in the UFC right now, and may be better served winning in the smaller promotions again until he's ready to jump back in. Having a bad chin early in your career is a problem and Sergio has shown that too often for me against inferior talents. Again, Cariaso isn't the guy to exploit that, but he's good enough to me to at least win a decision. Chris Cariaso by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I really like Chris Cariaso. I feel like he gets the short end of the stick for faltering against elite athletes, but he's given tough fights to legitimately good fighters. He's got solid defensive wrestling, an unorthodox clinch game, and good body kicks. However, I also think Sergio Pettis is underrated. He might have a bad chin, but he's only 22, has yet to fully grow into his frame (a reason why I think flyweight is a bad idea and one which likely compounds his chin issues) and is still not yet comfortable with responding to shots. I think this is a coin-toss, but Pettis is 12 years younger and likelier to show improvements as long as he has no weight issues, and Cariaso doesn't have the pop in his hands to threaten. Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Much like Julianna Pena, I feel like we're at a real question point for Pettis of,what are we actually giving him credit for? To date, his only dominant win is over the offensively anemic Yaotzin Meza. Everything else has been close scrappy decisions or massive upset losses. Cariaso may not be the most dangerous cat out there, but he's consistent and well rounded and only tends to get beat by surefire top 5 fighters. Pettis isn't that. Wouldn't be shocked if Pettis won, Cariaso isn't an awesome force, but I could see him losing this fight just on points. Chris Cariaso by decision.
Staff picking Cariaso: Stephie, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Pettis: Phil, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: Pretty much what Zane said. Lewis is cooked if he can't get the KO. Viktor Pesta by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: This might be the end of the UFC line for the Black Beast. Each of his fights has been the definition of a puncher's chance, and Pesta showed that he's super tough and determined against 1-dimensional punchers. Conversely, though, also showed that he's hittable early, and Lewis is not the kind of guy to let land shots if you like keeping your brains inside your skull. Still, I think Pesta just sticks to him like glue, wears him out and likely taps or exhaustion-TKOs him late. Viktor Pesta by submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: Other power punchers couldn't KO Pesta and Lewis is about as limited as power punchers come. If Lewis doesn't get a KO straight away, he's losing. Viktor Pesta by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Lewis:
Staff picking Pesta: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Anton