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UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3 staff picks and predictions

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for tomorrow night's UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3 event in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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The Bloody Elbow staff is here with its predictions for tomorrow's UFC Fight Night in Brazil. All but two of us like Vitor Belfort to win the trilogy matchup with Dan Henderson, while all of us are going with Glover Teixeira to take care of Patrick Cummins in the co-main. The fight with the most divided opinion is Clay Guida vs. Thiago Tavares on the prelims.

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.

Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson

Fraser Coffeen: Ugh, I hate picking these kinds of fights. Both men are at that stage in their careers where every fight could be their last - the one where the wheels just have clearly completely fallen off. That said, it's been 2 years and a change in TRT policy since Vitor last won a fight, while Hendo is, somewhat shockingly, currently riding a 2-2 streak. So go Hendo go. Dan Henderson, KO, round 1

Mookie Alexander: If TRT-less Vitor is so bad that he's not even a top 15 middleweight, then that would surely be the steepest and quickest drop-off of any UFC fighter I can think of since the ban was enforced. Hendo has the puncher's chance (because he pretty much refuses to do anything else), but I would think Vitor is savvy enough not to do what Tim Boetsch did. Vitor Belfort via TKO, round 2.

Josh Samman: It's boggling to think about how long these two have been competing. I'm in the same weightclass as these guys, and I was eight years old and didn't know what MMA was when Vitor took his pro debut. Hendo entered the sport only a year later, and was competing nationally in Greco and Freestyle before I was born. That's crazy. All of that said, Hendo has won only two of his last seven fights, while Vitor has lost only three in his last 13, all to world champions, two of which are in running for best fighter of all time. I haven't met a single person that's rooting for him in this fight, and we can all hope that Vitor's lack of special sauce leading up the bout may make a difference, but I think he still takes it. Vitor via KO

Zane Simon: Unless something has really radically changed with Vitor Belfort lately (and I'm not saying that's not possible), he's still a legit top 10 MW. He may not have beat Chris Weidman, but in the early stages of that fight, he gave the champ a real scare. Essentially, Belfort still seems to have the speed and power that he used to, or something close to it. Henderson has the power, but the speed is totally gone. Unlike Boetsch, Belfort's only/best chance of winning the fight isn't wrapped up in wading straight into the pocket and trying to outpunch Henderson. He can flit in and out from range, throw kicks, set up combinations. Simply put, he's got options. Henderson has his punchers chance, it's better than just about anyones, but Vitor Belfort by KO, Round 1.

Lewis Mckeever: Vitor Belfort has a dad-bod now he's off the TRT - he loses.

Staff picking Belfort: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Josh, Zane, James
Staff picking Henderson: Fraser, Tim, Lewis

Patrick Cummins vs. Glover Teixeira

Mookie Alexander: Unless Cummins has managed to get that Phil Davis type of stifling top control and grappling, Teixeira is going to piece him up. I feel that Cummins has gotten better from fight to fight but is mostly one-dimensional offensively, and Glover will be able to exploit that. He'll hurt Cummins in the middle round and get his back and sink in the RNC. Glover Teixeira by submission, round 2.

Josh Samman: I like Cummins, and his whole story of making a UFC career out of a short notice fight, but I think this Glover will be too much for him. Teixeira via TKO

Zane Simon: I have a lot of hope that Cummins will continue to improve and at some point become a top 5 LHW (much like Ryan Bader and OSP). Worries about his age seem pretty overplayed to me, since he's really only started his MMA career in earnest in 2013, fighting very rarely before then. We essentially saw a guy with one year of serious MMA experience fight DC in his debut, of course that fight was going to go poorly, and of course his UFC career was going to be an uphill battle. But, we've already seen him improve a lot fight to fight. He's been competitive with everyone he's faced, and much more often than not, he's won. That said, I think this is probably his second set back on his way to the top. Teixeira looked much much more like his old self against OSP and that fighter has all the tools to handle Cummins as he is right now. If Cummins comes out much improved that may change, but at the moment, Glover Teixeira TKO, Round 3.

Staff picking Cummins:
Staff picking Teixeira: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James, Lewis

Thomas Almeida vs. Anthony Birchak

Mookie Alexander: THERE IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH VIOLENCE IN THIS FIGHT I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CONTAIN MY EMOTIONS AND WILL INSTEAD RESORT TO YELLING EXPLETIVES AND BEING ALL EXCITED! Thomas Almeida by TKO, round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: This fight, like Lineker-Rivera, can't help but be bananas entertainment from start to finish, Hopefully this kind of stuff kickstarts interest in bantamweight a bit. While the odds are out of control, much of Birchak's strengths are in the same area as Almeida's, notably the pocket and the clinch. While both are aggressive, Almeida has massively superior shot selection and throws at a higher pace. His tendency to throw at said pace right from the beginning without testing his opponent's rhythm is one of the things which makes his opponent a live dog, but Thomas Almeida by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: If Thomas Almeida wins this, I think it'll be the best win of his career. That's the esteem I hold Birchak in, as an aggressive, energetic striker in his prime. Birchak has only ever lost by submission and early in fights (not something Almeida will do). That means that Almeida will have to beat Birchak like he's never been beaten before to get the win here. I think Almeida can do it. He's still durable enough to take the punishment he does and he only gets better as the fight goes on. I expect things will be close early, but as long as Almeida survives that, I've got him winning. Thomas Almeida by decision.

Staff picking Almeida: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James, Lewis
Staff picking Birchak:

Piotr Hallmann vs. Alex Oliveira

Phil Mackenzie: This is admittedly a bit of a wild card pick, but I feel like there's something... wrong with Oliveira's game. The Durinho fight increasingly looks like Burns was (a) not as good of a striker as we thought he should be by then (b) literally shocked at how physically strong Oliveira was. This seems to be informing Cowboy's game more and more because he's just hauling people around like so many sacks of potatoes right now. I'm not sure this is how you beat Hallmann, who is high paced and physical in his own right, and is a more technical clinch and ground fighter. I guess the real X-factor here is how Oliveira looks after a full camp? Piotr Hallmann by unanimous decision

Josh Samman: Oliveira should add a "The" to his nickname. Cowboy via decision

Zane Simon: I love Oliveira, he's exciting and aggressive... But his game is flawed. Most notably, if he can't hurt people badly with his strikes, he loses all form and confidence in his striking, throwing wild looping hooks from the hip and increasingly in the UFC, depending on his grappling and wrestling abilities. Hallmann is exactly the kind of fighter that's hard to put away striking and after that he's a better wrestler and grappler than Oliveira. I expect Oliveira to have the advantage early, but if Hallmann weathers the storm and pushes the Brazilian out of his comfort zone, his more positionally solid grappling should take it. Piotr Hallmann by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Hallmann: Phil, Zane
Staff picking Oliveira: Nick, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, James

Gilbert Burns vs. Rashid Magomedov

Mookie Alexander: Gilbert Burns is a hell of an athlete but Magomedov is even more of one. He won't light the world on fire with excitement but his patient, accurate striking and great takedown defense poses huge problems for Durinho. Burns probably holds the power advantage but I think Magomedov picks him apart. Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Durinho's big advantage in this fight is the ground, but it'll be hard for him to get it there. Magomedov reminds me of John Makdessi in that he slices jabs and straights down the center, while keeping opponents from circling with snapping kicks to the head and body. What he has that Makdessi doesn't is ironclad takedown defense and better physicality for his division. Burns is a great prospect, but the separate areas of his game have yet to coalesce- the Hooft-built kickboxing is a little rote, and while he has a good double leg and array of trips he has little way of effectively disguising them with the rest of his current toolset. Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Magomedov is a fireplug and near impossible to take down or keep there. His patient counterpunching game also means that he doesn't put himself at much risk to screw up. He'll give Burns a lot of time to work, but I'll be surprised if Burns can make anything of it. Rashid Magomedov by decision.

Staff picking Burns: Nick, Tim
Staff picking Magomedov: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Josh, Zane, James, Mookie

Corey Anderson vs. Fabio Maldonado

Mookie Alexander: Unless Anderson gasses or has a trend of inconsistent performances due to inexperience, this is a horrible matchup for Maldonado. Three rounds of repeated takedowns and smothering + Maldonado's lack of truly hard-hitting power set up Beastin 25/8 to beast for 16 minutes. Corey Anderson by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Everyone loves Fabio Maldonado, but that the Boxcar Homer of 205 has had even limited success is a damning indictment of the division. His takedown defense is essentially "give up takedowns until the other guy is tired" and his striking defense is the same thing but with punching. Beastin' 25/8 has been using the 32 extra hours in the week to get better at a solid clip, and puts together textbook kickboxing combinations with a good takedown game. While Maldonado's ridiculous durability and heart make him a sound test, I assume that Anderson is going to replicate what Teixeira did and just maul Maldonado on the feet and the ground for 3 rounds, with maybe a small scare in there somewhere. Corey Anderson by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Corey Anderson's biggest flaws are a lack of technique and experience, especially as a striker. His fitness and durability are on point, as is his general approach to fighting. Basically this is just a test of his basic fight IQ. Is he willing to take Maldonado down over and over and beat him up? If he is, it shouldn't be a problem. Corey Anderson by decision.

Staff picking Anderson: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James, Lewis
Staff picking Maldonado:

Gleison Tibau vs. Abel Trujillo

Mookie Alexander: Oh boy. Do I pick Tibau to Tibau one more time or Trujillo to get to Tibau's historically questionable chin and get the knockout? I don't really think Trujillo is ever going to be an actual contender, but I think we're finally starting to see Tibau's decline, and Trujillo will hurt him early and get the knockout. Abel Trujillo via TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: This is a close fight, so I'm going to make a Sadness Hedge, where you pick against the person you want to win so you can feel a bit better if they lose. I love Gleison Tibau. He is so cool. But he's fought approximately six thousand times in the best division in the UFC, his ability to avoid getting hit has never been all that great, and he's looking a bit more fragile lately. Trujillo is an incredibly dangerous fighter for about a round. COME ON TIBAU PRIME. YOU CAN DO IT. 29-28 (28-29) 29-28. ONE LAST TIME, LET'S GO. Abel Trujillo by KO, round 1.

Fraser Coffeen: I am amazed that Tibau is still sticking around and still a somewhat relevant player in the UFC. 9 years in the UFC - NINE! That's crazy. And you know what, I'm not ready to write him off yet. He's still at a place where he's only losing to the real top 10 kind of guys. So the question becomes - is Trujillo that guy? Honestly, I don't think he is. He's got a lot of aggression, and comes out fast and furious, but after that? He's absolutely beatable. So look for a tough round 1 for Tibau, and then some good old control-based offense. Gleison Tibau, split decision

Zane Simon: I think this fight is going to tell fans everything about just where Tibau is at this stage in his career. By all rights, he should be falling off and his last performance was a bad one. But, classically, Trujillo is the kind of fighter he always used to beat. One way or another I expect Trujillo will hurt Tibau early. If Tibau has lost a step, Trujillo has all the power to stop him. If he's still more or less the same monolith he's always been, Tibau should take the decision. I think I'll lean upset on this one and take Abel Trujillo by KO, Round 1.


Staff picking Tibau: Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Trujillo: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Josh, Zane, James

Yan Cabral vs. Johnny Case

Mookie Alexander: Cabral can definitely win this if he gets Johnny to the ground and works his dangerous grappling game, but I don't think that'll be the Case tomorrow night... Johnny Case by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Case's penetrable takedown defense is the big concern in a fight he should otherwise have sewn up as a more powerful, diverse striker and generally more varied and high-paced offensive threat, because Cabral is an absolutely brutal threat from top position. Johnny Case by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I feel weird stretching out for back to back underdog picks, but I could seriously see Yan Cabral beating Johnny Case. Case isn't a great KO threat. He's a really sharp volume kickboxer, with a good wrestling and grappling game. But because he's willing to do everything and not likely to get a KO, I could easily see him ending up tangling with Cabral on the mat, where I don't think he has the power or skill to match him. Yan Cabral by Submission, Round 2.

Staff picking Cabral: Zane
Staff picking Case: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, James

Clay Guida vs. Thiago Tavares

Mookie Alexander: I actually would pick Guida if this wasn't in Brazil, but his style is just perfect for repeated standups in Brazil, and that'll change the equation significantly. Guida doesn't really have the tools to hurt Tavares standing (although Guida inexplicably nearly KO'd Kawajiri), and while Tavares' striking isn't all that great, he can probably do enough to win a decision. Not sure the judges will reward Guida for shoulder strikes or takedowns against the fence. Thiago Tavares by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Clay Guida has to deteriorate at some point, and debatably we can see that happening already. Tavares is a better striker and a very underrated wrestler in his own right, but he doesn't have the stopping power or speed that's traditionally been required to stop Guida from Guidaing. Suspect chin and cardio don't help either. Clay Guida by unanimous decision.

Josh Samman: Unrelated note- Before Guida changed weight classes, he and Tibau had a combined 36 fights in the lightweight division without ever facing each other. Guida via decision

Zane Simon: Surprised people are picking Tavares. He's never been durable to keep fights standing as long as he'd like and while he's a very good grappler, he's kind of a sprint fighter. If he doesn't get the finish early, he slows hard. Guida is hard enough to submit that I don't expect him to tap out in a hurry and tough enough that I doubt Tavares out punches him. Guida by decision (possibly split).

Staff picking Guida: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Josh, Zane
Staff picking Tavares: Stephie, Mookie, Tim, James, Lewis

Chas Skelly vs. Kevin Souza

Phil Mackenzie: Fun fight. Skelly's sheer dogged toughness and aggression do a lot of work in papering over some technical slop. That said, he also has good accuracy and a rugged Russian-esque punch'n'clutch style which nicely complements his grappling, and his striking is definitely getting better. Souza doesn't have the size advantages he normally does at 145, but he's going to be looking to snipe with his long overhand right and left hook from the outside. There are basically two ways this seems likely to go: Souza hurts or stops Skelly early, or Skelly progressively roughs Souza up over 3 rounds to a dominant decision or late submission. Chas Skelly by unanimous decision

Zane Simon: I love Souza, he's one of my favorite "cult" fighters in the UFC. Always fun to watch. But, this is a terrible matchup for him. Skelly is wild standing and porous defensively, but he's slowly improved his timing on big single strikes and has that Darren Elkins willingness and ability to soak up damage on his way to a takedown or clinch. He's also an excellent backtake specialist. For all Souza's striking acumen, he's not a power threat. He breaks fighters down with volume. I don't think Skelly gives him the chance. Chas Skelly via RNC (Round 2)

Staff picking Skelly: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James
Staff picking Souza: Nick

Viscardi Andrade vs. Gasan Umalatov

Mookie Alexander: This is pretty much the only completely uninteresting fight on the card, so it'll probably be a thriller. Gasan Umalatov by unanimous decison.

Phil Mackenzie: Uhm. This card is actually pretty fun and competitive top-to-bottom... apart from this fight, which is competitive to be sure, but almost certainly not going to be fun. Umalatov is probably the better wrestler and striker which should give him the edge in a pretty grim bout. Gasan Umalatov by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Viscardi Andrade is another fighter that has just never really showed the ability to maintain the pace or style he wants to set. He throws a lot of big flashy strikes and has an aggressive grappling game, but as the fight goes on, all that turns to sludge. Umalatov doesn't have many of the athletic gifts to beat a lot of UFC fighters, but he's reasonably technical and consistent everywhere. I think he'll wait out Andrade for the decision win. Gasan Umalatov via Split Decision.

Staff picking Andrade:
Staff picking Umalatov: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James

Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera

Phil Mackenzie: The sudden ability of Rivera to finish fights is surprising yet heartening. It also reminded me that while he's deep into his MMA career, he's still only 26. Anyway, he poses some stylistic problems for Munhoz, namely a more variegated boxing game and debatably better striking defense, but Munhoz has also been showing clear fight-to-fight improvements as a stronger kicker and clinch fighter. Overcoming advantages at both kicking and clinch range is often a big problem for guys who largely rely on their hands, and most pertinently Munhoz is stone-cold lethal if the fight hits the mat. Pedro Munhoz by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Jimmie Rivera is a serious serious threat to KO Munhoz... or any other bantamweight at that point. He throws sharp counters with power. But, for all his background as a wrestler, Rivera's wrestling has never been that impressive. He was kind of a grinding wall-n-stall fighter before he found his boxing prowess. I think Munhoz will be able to stay safe and consistent with his own kickboxing, and at some point he'll get Rivera down and start to take over this fight. Pedro Munhoz via decision.

Staff picking Munhoz: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James
Staff picking Rivera: Nick

Bruno Rodrigues vs. Matheus Nicolau Pereira

Mookie Alexander: Bruno Rodrigues apparently goes by Bruno Korea. So I'm going to call his opponent Matheus Malaysia just to make things consistent here. Matheus Malaysia by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: TUF Brazil 4 was actually a decent show with respect to the talent involved, and this is a great matchup of two young, gifted flyweights. "Korea" is more flashy, but Pereira has superior defense and sharp, dangerous hands which he throws in crackling, Belfort-esque combinations. Essentially, once he's into the pocket I'm not sure what Korea has to offer him. These guys are both very talented though, so a sudden increase in ability for either or both wouldn't be surprising at all. Matheus Nicolau Pereira by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Rodrigues: Nick
Staff picking Pereira: Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Josh, Zane, James