It's Cro-Cop! It's Gonzaga! It's the rematch you never wanted until the UFC actually booked it. The Bloody Elbow staff is mostly going with the Brazilian to go 2-for-2 against the PRIDE legend, while it's a little more even for the co-main event between Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz. The unanimous choice of the main card is Joanne Calderwood to steamroll Maryna Moroz.
As for the rest of this card? Woof. Many coins were flipped.
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: Cro Cop has done surprisingly well since his UFC release. He had a good showing in kickboxing, and won hard fought battles against a much younger Satoshi Ishii -- who was on a nice winning streak and was looking like he was already UFC-bound. Both of them are past their primes, but unless he gets taken down and submitted early, Cro Cop has a very good chance of winning this. I just hope he gets put into fun fights after instead of being fed to younger killers in the division. Rampage vs Crocop? Big Nog rematch? Mirko Cro Cop by late TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Oh this is just the worst. Do I trust faded Gonzaga to win another stand-up battle with faded Cro-Cop? Sort of. Do I think Gonzaga will try and take Cro Cop down and submit him? Hell no, relying on that is too much of a hassle. Despite what Fraser says below, PRIDE is dead. Cro Cop will give you glimpses and then crush your dreams by getting dropped and finished by ManBearPig. Gabriel Gonzaga by TKO (punches), round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Yep, I'm picking Cro Cop. And it's not just for some Pride Never Die nostalgia (though, it must be said, PRIDE NEVER DIE!) Since leaving the UFC, Mirko has been primarily in kickboxing, where he has done quite well for himself. He's a very different Cro Cop than the one who competed in K-1 in 2002 - no headkick of death to be found here. Instead, he's been a patient, effective, slow paced fighter. Sort of the Bernard Hopkins of kickboxing. And the still oddly raw and unrefined Gonzaga is perfect fodder for that crafty veteran approach. I'd feel better about this pick if it was a 3 round fight, and if there wasn't a high chance of Gonzaga just taking Cro Cop down and subbing him, but I do think this is a winnable fight for the last K-1 GP champ. Mirko Cro Cop, TKO, round 3
John Joe O'Regan: So, CroCop is basically my all-time man-hero and back when I worked fir Fighters Only I was lucky enough to visit his house in Croatia for a few days and enjoy his considerable hospitality.
Ironically I am from Manchester, England and was in the arena press section that night when Gonzaga hit ‘that' kick and did the unthinkable. Utter shock and silence enveloped the arena. My inner fanboy hit the floor with CroCop that night and still carries the scar.
Minutes afterwards I ran backstage to try and get some reaction from CroCop and was crossing the tunnel when Gonzaga was heading back to his dressing room. Our eyes locked. He didn't know me from Adam but he went "GAAAARGHHH!!!"in an expression of pure joy and made to high five me.
We high-fived and it turned into a sort of bro-hug; his delight was palpable but if only he had seen my eyes as we hugged it out. They were cold grey pools of sleet; barren winds blowing across an icy tundra. Even as Gonzaga's hug drowned me in his Sweat of Victory a little voice in my head said, "One day, Gabriel, Mirko will be avenged."
That day has come.
Mirko Cro Cop, Head Kick KO, 0:10, Round 1. Wild Boys. Wild Boys.
Staff picking Cro Cop: Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Gonzaga: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Roy, Dallas
Zane and Connor analyze and predict the main event from the MMA Vivisection
Mookie Alexander: I mean, when you can crush the almighty Ilir Latifi, how can I pick against you after that? Jan Blachowicz by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Manuwa: Phil, Fraser, Anton, Roy, Dallas
Staff picking Blachowicz: Mookie, Tim, Stephie
Mookie Alexander: Westcott looked gassed and thoroughly inept in his TUF final, but Elias Theodorou seems to be a good prospect. Pawlak got worked by Peter Sobotta, but I can't bring myself to pick a dude named Sheldon to win any UFC fight. He belongs on the Canadian Big Bang Theory. Pawel Pawlak by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Westcott: Phil, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton, Roy, Dallas
Staff picking Pawlak: Mookie
Joanne Calderwood vs. Maryna Moroz
Anton Tabuena: Easy comeback fight for Calderwood. Joanne Calderwood by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Wow. Zane Simon mentioned that Moroz isn't good based on the tape, and uhhhhh ... she really really isn't good. Negligible striking defensively and a game that consists mostly of throws and armbars. I swear she spent an entire round attempting armbars from her guard before finally getting it, and Calderwood is just way too good to play that style. Clinch mauling is coming. Joanne Calderwood by TKO, round 1
Phil Mackenzie: Moroz is going to get killed. Remember Dudieva-Pena? This will be like that, but probably even more one-sided and with precision clinch elbows rather than donkey kong flailing. Joanne Calderwood by TKO, round 1
Staff picking Calderwood: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton, Roy, Dallas
Staff picking Moroz:
Phil Mackenzie: I guess he is the Polish Pistola. I never thought I'd be so happy to see someone as skilled and reliable as Seth Baczynski on a card. He's been matched up super tough of late, and has honestly performed pretty well considering he's on a massive skid. He's not young, his enormous weight-cutting seems to have left him a little punchy, and Edwards is something of a talent, but I still believe in Baczynski's physicality and surprising well put-together strike-clinch-submit(?) game. Seth Baczynski by unanimous decision
Staff picking Baczynski: Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Anton, Roy, Dallas
Staff picking Edwards: Tim, Stephie
Bartosz Fabinski vs. Gareth McLellan
Phil Mackenzie: Two pretty similar physical top control grapplers. Fabinski is slightly more well-rounded and holds the home field advantage. Bartosz Fabinski by decision
Staff picking Fabinski: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking McLellan:Roy
Mookie Alexander: Remember when Moraes was the last man to defeat Neil Magny? Easy easy submission win for the Brazilian. Sergio's stand-up isn't that good but as long as he can overwhelm you on the ground he will tap you out, especially if it's short notice. Sergio Moraes by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Moraes wants to grapple and submit, and it's very doubtful that Lebout can stop him. Sergio Moraes by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Moraes: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton, Roy, Dallas
Staff picking Lebout:
Phil Mackenzie: Athletic prospect against journeyman who isn't really good at much. This didn't work out so great when Justin Jones fought Ron Stallings last time, but I'd honestly like to see something cool come out of this undercard. Damian Stasiak by unanimous decision
Staff picking Stasiak: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Anton,Roy
Staff picking Meza: Fraser
Mookie Alexander: I mean, when you can crush the almighty Nandor Guelmino, how can I pick against you after that? Daniel Omielanczuk by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Omielanczuk hits harder and is more of a threat in the grappling phase. I'm worried that his wrestling isn't up to snuff, but even if it isn't he has three opportunities to hit or tap Hamilton. Daniel Omielanczuk by KO, round 2
Staff picking Omielanczuk: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton,Roy
Staff picking Hamilton:
Izabela Badurek vs. Aleksandra Albu
Anton Tabuena: I have tossed a lot of coins filling up this prediction sheet. Albu by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This undercard is more raw than an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, but significantly less delicious. Like most of these fights, I'm just going with straight-up athleticism picks. Aleksandra Albu by decision.
Staff picking Badurek:
Staff picking Albu: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton,Roy
Marcin Bandel vs. Stevie Ray
Mookie Alexander: Wow, I thought Stevie Ray died in that horrible helicopter crash in 1990 after touring with Eric Clapton. Well since he's been revived ... Stevie Ray by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Tricky one. Ray is probably the superior fighter, or at least one with a more consistently winnable process. But, he's fighting a leg lock specialist on short notice. Meh. Stevie Ray by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Bandel: Fraser
Staff picking Ray: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Anton,Roy
Mookie Alexander: ROCKY! ROCKY IS HERE! THE MOST INCREDIBLE SIGNING IN THE HISTORY OF MIXED MARTIAL ARTS! Rocky Lee by flying armbar, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: What do you expect from the curtain jerker for a card like this? Lapilus is a marginally better athlete from a scene which isn't behind modern MMA training on such a broad scale as China is. Taylor Lapilus by unanimous decision
Staff picking Lapilus: Phil, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Anton,Roy
Staff picking Lee: Mookie