The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its picks for tomorrow's UFC 185 show in Dallas, Texas. General consensus has Anthony Pettis and Carla Esparza successfully defending their championship belts, but we have the majority of the staff siding with Roy Nelson to further add to Alistair Overeem's expansive collection of knockout losses. The main prelim bout of Sam Stout and Ross Pearson is a clear-cut Pearson win for everyone except Tim Burke.
Before we begin I'd like to welcome UFC middleweight and newest staff member Josh Samman to the predictions. He's already a better fighter than all of us but what about as a prognosticator?
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.
Anton Tabuena: I believe Dos Anjos can pose more problems and would be a much stiffer test than Melendez. That being said, I believe Pettis passes with flying colors yet again. Anthony Pettis by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: This theoretically could look similar to Pettis vs. Melendez if Pettis hasn't adjusted to dealing with pressure fighters with his back against the cage. Where dos Anjos lacks Melendez's takedown abilities, he makes up for it with more powerful boxing and THUDDING leg kicks. Rafael is a more than formidable foe for Showtime, but I also think that Pettis is in the same mold as Weidman, Jones, and Rousey as far as being special talents in the sport. I mean, who could have seen Pettis submitting Henderson and Melendez back-to-back? If Pettis loses this fight I think he gets stopped early, but in a 5 round fight I like his chances to find a way to stifle dos Anjos' attacks and land his own murderous body kicks and maybe even get another head kick win. Anthony Pettis by TKO (strikes), round 3.
Zane Simon: Anthony Pettis has flaws, exploitable flaws. Gilbert Melendez laid down a pretty clear plan as to just how to exploit them, and then he got dusted. And that's sort of the problem right now. Pettis does a lot of things well and some things not so well, but he supplants his skill with ungodly speed, technique, and toughness. I firmly believe that RDA could do everything right, win rounds, follow the plan, and still lose. Pettis, has a lot more wiggle room, as each and every solid shot he lands on an opponent seems to hurt them seriously. Pettis by TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Pettis: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Staff picking dos Anjos:
Connor, Zane and Dallas breaking down Pettis vs. dos Anjos from this week's MMA Vivisection
Anton Tabuena: I think Joanna Contender will be able to stuff a lot of takedowns, but Esparza will be persistent and talented enough to chain together these attempts until she actually gets her down. It could be a snoozer, which would be rare for this division, but I think it's Carla Esparza by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is a brutal match-up. I don't see anything but a total blowout here. I'm talking of course about Mike Goldberg pronouncing Jedrzejczyk's name. As for the actual fight, Esparza needs to obviously be weary of Joanna's Muay Thai and power, but otherwise Esparza is the more skilled fighter and her takedowns and transition game will be hell for the Poland native. Carla Esparza by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I honestly couldn't agree with Mookie less on this one. Esparza is a great wrestler and decent boxer, but we need to remember that the women she's beaten are all terrible wrestlers. The only two fights she lost were to the best wrestlers she fought. In that mold, Jedrzejczyk is not a bad wrestler. And when it comes to counter wrestling she's actually a very very good one. Will she stuff every takedown? Probably not. Will she be able to outmuscle Esparza, probably not. But if she can stuff enough of them, and keep her back off the fence often enough, she should have a decided range striking advantage. I think this one looks a lot like the Gadelha fight, except that JJ will probably be on the wrong side this time. Carla Esparza by split decision.
Staff picking Esparza: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Jedrzejczyk: Josh
Anton Tabuena: This fight is much closer than what the odds portray. Brown will keep coming, and if Hendricks doesn't manage to stop him early, he could slow down enough for the immortal one to take advantage. The only thing making me hesitate on actually picking Brown is that this will not be a 5-round fight. Johny Hendricks by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight is a must-win for Hendricks more than it is for Matt Brown. I love the Matt Brown resurgence, but there's just enough of a skill gap difference between him and the absolute elite of the division that will prevent him from being a champion. Hendricks' power is his greatest asset and his own worst enemy. You have to go back arguably to 2009 against Ricardo Funch (Who? Exactly.) to find Hendricks' last convincing decision win. If he doesn't get the KO, assume the fight will be close from there. I expect the same to happen here, and don't be surprised if Hendricks continues his habit of not winning the final round. Johny Hendricks by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: We saw a similar version of this fight when Brown fought Lawler. The Immortal's route to victory remains the same- both Hendricks and Lawler tend to have periods in the fight when they check out, and Brown is amazing at building momentum when given the opportunity. However, Lawler was mostly able to stop him from getting rolling by immediately countering his clumsy distance striking. It's a deeply fascinating fight, but shifts in the dynamics don't push it towards Brown enough for me: Hendricks fights at a slightly closer range than Lawler, but he also has the takedown offense in his back pocket, and Brown only has three rounds to work. Johny Hendricks by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Say what you will about Hendrick's ability to perform consistently down the stretch, but he's otherwise a fighter with very few exploitable flaws. He's got a powerful dirty boxing game, a really nicely developed range striking game, solid wrestling, and top control skills, and a fantastic chin and ability to absorb damage. Brown is tough, and has improved steadily, but if he's not in the clinch, he's not the most competitive striker in the world (especially at the elite level). Lawler was able to keep him at range for the bulk of their fight, and pretty handily defeated brown because of it. I think Hendricks will do the same. Johny Hendricks by TKO, body kick, Round 3.
Staff picking Hendricks: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Staff picking Brown:
Anton Tabuena: Like most of Overeem's bouts, if you look at all the tools and advantages he has on paper, he should come out victorious. Whether it be mental or just bad defense, if Overeem doesn't get the finish in his opening flurry, he loses against every single a hard hitter. Alistair should be adept and technical enough to avoid Nelson's obvious overhand rights, but Nelson is very durable and he could conceivably land big during one of Reem's lapses on defense. This could easily be an Overeem win, but I think it's going to be Roy Nelson by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Nelson has one weapon in his stand-up while Overeem has several. Roy has damn near nothing to offer in the clinch while Overeem can murder you there. Overeem can take Nelson down and pin him there with ease while we're left stunned that the amazing BJJ wizardry of Roy Nelson still hasn't been seen in the Octagon. This is a lay-up for Overeem, but history shows that anyone with a powerful strike can swat that lay-up Mutombo style and send The Reem to bed. Overeem will just ground-and-pound Nelson and only strike at range for short periods of time. Alistair Overeem by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Overeem is a -200 favourite? In 2015? Anyway, this fight is a coin-flip where the outcome is going to look incredibly obvious in retrospect. Overeem is far more skilled, Big Country is far more durable. Overeem's main path to victory nowadays should be in the clinch and from top position, as he's just not defensively stable enough to stay on the feet for long periods with... well, pretty much anyone. Nelson isn't good off his back, and has been handled pretty easily in the clinch by Cormier, Mir etc. I wouldn't bet a dime on this fight... and that's not even real money. What's a dime? Save your shillings and farthings, but Alistair Overeem by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Very tough fight to call here, though I agree with Phil that pretty soon into the fight the winner will be painfully obvious. If Reem can slow things down and make it some form of grappling battle, he'll get an ugly decision. If he can't, Nelson will pop him. It's not like Nelson is some sort of fantastic grappler overall, but I do think he has the skills to force Reem to stand up. And for the 2015 version of Overeem, standing with Roy Nelson equals death by decapitation. Roy Nelson by KO round 1
Zane Simon: Nelson isn't the easiest fighter to take down, or the easiest fighter to keep there. And he tends to push a pretty hard pace early, the kind of pace that Overeem doesn't always respond well to. Frankly, I just can't see trusting Overeem to win, even if he does. Nelson is still a tough out, Overeem isn't. Roy Nelson by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Nelson: Stephie, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Staff picking Overeem: Phil, Mookie, Tim
Henry Cejudo vs. Chris Cariaso
Anton Tabuena: Yup, the bigger battle here was one against the scale. Henry Cejudo by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: If everything I just wrote actually made it to publish, then Cejudo made weight. The fight has already been won if that's the case. Henry Cejudo by 29-28 unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: The questions last time out were whether Cejudo's head was on straight. That appears to be the case. He's an amazing athlete who is already blending strikes and clinch entries very well, and he should be able to crowd Cariaso. If Cejudo stays on the outside, then Cariaso's distance striking and body kicks should be able to open up, but I don't think Cejudo lets him. It's silly to make this pick before weigh-ins, but Henry Cejudo by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Honestly, I think the questions about Cejudo's drive are overdone/oversimplified. He seems like the kind of guy who takes his foot off the gas when he thinks he's already the best. He talked about how shameful missing weight was at UFC 177, and I'm willing to bet that re-ignited the drive that pushed him to an Olympic gold medal. It's not like he can't be one of the most driven, consistent athletes in the world and people seem to be forgetting that. As he finds more success down the road, I could see him falling back into the same traps, but right now he seems hungry and like he really has something to prove. All that said, Cariaso is exactly the kind of tough out who could take advantage of any cardio issues, or other problems. He's also the kind of fighter that can just about get outworked by Danny Martinez. I'm taking Cejudo, but I wouldn't be surprised either way. Henry Cejudo by decision.
Staff picking Cejudo: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Staff picking Cariaso:
Mookie Alexander: Pearson is going to outbox Stout and maybe even stop him with volume striking if Stout's chin is shot (noting that the Noons fight was at welterweight). Will Joe Rogan tell us that Sam Stout has big KO power? Because if he does, then we're in for a long night. Ross Pearson by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Sam Stout got splattered by KJ Noons last time out. His adamantium chin has apparently disappeared, leaving him as a low power kickboxer who is defensively spotty and probably fairly fragile. That's a terrible combination. Pearson has likely peaked as a top 20-ish lightweight, but that should be more than enough for the Brit to put Stout away at this point. Even if he's still able to take a punch, how can Stout win this? Ross Pearson by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: This should be an easy bout for Pearson, and I expect him to KO Stout in short order. Stout seems like he's been shot for a while. He barely scraped by Cody McKenzie & his magical basketball shorts. Ross Pearson by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Stout: Tim
Staff picking Pearson: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Anton Tabuena: This is also much closer than what the show, but I believe the Disney prince will stay undefeated. Elias Theodorou by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I think this one pretty much comes down to whether Narvaez can stay out of the clinch. Theodorou is a tirelessly aggressive workhorse once he locks up, but is a bit more clunky on the outside. Narvaez put forth a really surprisingly good performance in trapping Luke Barnatt at mid-range, but he was helped by Barnatt's new tendency to try and hold distance, and I'm not sure if he has the raw physicality to keep the relentless Theodorou off him. Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I think Theodorou has the higher ceiling, but there's some serious debate as to who is better right now. Narvaez's recent coaching changes look like they've done wonders for his kickboxing, and Theodorou is the kind of aggressive everywhere, technical nowhere fighter that can get stung by a fighter with one really solid skill. Still, Theodorou seems like the better athlete and the more consistent performer, so I'll take him to win what could end up being an ugly decision. Elias Theodorou by decision.
Staff picking Narvaez:
Staff picking Theodorou: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Mookie Alexander: Rosholt smother. Jared Rosholt by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Copeland is really tough, and can keep fighting for more than a round. Those are incredibly good traits to have in the heavyweight division. However, I expect a cautious, wrestling-heavy performance from Rosholt, and I don't see a way that Copeland can stop him from doing that. Jared Rosholt by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Really don't see a way for Copeland to win this, unless Rosholt has just lost any idea how to fight. Copeland is tough and athletic, but he's not a great striker and he's not a wrestler. Rosholt should have no trouble knocking him down and roughing him up. Jared Rosholt by decision.
Staff picking Copeland:
Staff picking Rosholt: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Phil Mackenzie: There are some fighters like Rick Story who are powerful, but not explosive. I think Cruickshank is a rare example of a fighter who is explosive, but not powerful (see also: 185 Lorenz Larkin, and why yes I do think Cruickshank should drop a weight class (edit: dangnabbit. Way to make me look dumb, Daron). He can knock people out, but he also gets bullied. Can Dariush bully him? Maybe. He's training out of King's, where they might as well put "We'll Teach You To Bully Other Fighters In The Cage" on the sign outside. I think Cruickshank is still just a touch further on in his development, even if he has a lower ceiling, and if he doesn't boot Dariush upside his noggin early can pick up two rounds with movement and kicking from the outside before he gets walked down. Daron Cruickshank by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: This is fight is all about Dariush's potential. Cruickshank continues to improve, show more skills, and tighten his game, but his problems remain the same. Fighters that can box him inside and out wrestle him can beat him. Dariush looks like he's developing the game to do that, but as Cruickshank improves, consistent execution becomes more and more important. I'm just not sure Dariush has that down yet. Daron Cruickshank by decision.
Staff picking Cruickshank: Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Karim, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Dariush: Mookie, Tim, Josh
Phil Mackenzie: These are the kind of fights Sergio Pettis should be getting if the UFC wants to market him off his brother, namely tough dudes with clearly defined strengths and weaknesses. Benoit is a good kickboxer who tends to use athleticism to get himself out of trouble on the ground. Pettis, to me, is still discovering himself- I think his "peak style" is closer to a Benavidez or a Hendricks than a Showtime: less a distance striker, and more a close-to-mid range combination kickboxer with good offensive wrestling. His comfort in the pocket is increasing, and he should be able to pick up well-timed takedowns and ground work. Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Benoit is probably the first guy in the UFC that Pettis has fought that can really match his athletic ability. Benoit is very explosive and a great scrambler, he's just not really technical anywhere. If he can catch Pettis early, like Hobar did, then Pettis could be in a lot of danger, but if Pettis can get through the first round, I think he takes it. Sergio Pettis by decision.
Staff picking Pettis: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Staff picking Benoit:
Mookie Alexander: Stunning turn of events as "The Librarian" Lindsey enters the arena and sets the scanners off for taking out a book he hadn't checked out at the circulation desk. He's removed from the premises. Joseph Duffy by disqualification, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Lindsey is better than his time as a human highlight-reel has shown in the UFC, but he has also shown that he struggles with a certain level of athlete. Duffy fits the bill. More than his striking or submission prowess, Duffy radiates intangibles, namely poise and killer instinct. Caveat is that he's started training at Tristar, who are something of a "break ‘em down, build ‘em back up" camp, and he may underperform if he's still in the "break ‘em down" phase. Still, Joseph Duffy by submission, round 2
Zane Simon: Showcase fight for Duffy. Lindsey is tough, but he doesn't seem to have the natural athleticism to succeed in the UFC. Joseph Duffy by submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Duffy: Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Stephie, Karim, Zane, Josh, Anton
Staff picking Lindsey:
Phil Mackenzie: De Randamie is only 30, but she has a lot of kickboxing fights under her belt and I think they've kind of worn her down mentally and physically- she doesn't really seem to "get" MMA yet, and maybe she never will. She's a decent clinch fighter and very good distance striker for women's 135, but Pacheco is younger and more aggressive, and should have the capability to capitalize in the pocket or on the ground. Pacheco is still quite raw, so it's difficult to predict improvements, but Larissa Pacheco by submission, round 2
Zane Simon: I like Pacheco, and she is super aggressive, but she's also really really raw and I think, even assuming she improves, undersells just how much improvement she needs to do. De Randamie has really underperformed to expectations in the UFC, but I really don't see Pacheco handling her like Nunes did. Not yet anyway. Germaine de Randamie by decision.
Staff picking Pacheco: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Karim, Josh, Anton
Staff picking de Randamie: Zane