The BE team has entered its predictions for tomorrow's UFC Fight Night card in Goiania, Brazil. Everyone agrees that Carlos Condit will beat Thiago Alves in the main event. Meanwhile, only I'm riding the Nik Lentz wagon to victory over Charles Oliveira, and there's a one-sided pick of Alex Oliveira to beat KJ Noons on short notice.
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 Anton Tabuena 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.
Mookie Alexander: Carlos Condit has been fighting for 13 years and is approaching 40 fights. Like it or not, guys who start their MMA careers young tend to fade at a younger age. Condit is only 31, and his 1-3 record has come against some killer opposition, but combine his longevity, wars, and this knee injury, and don't be surprised if we start to see a decline in Condit's skills. This fight is a litmus test for whether or not Condit can still stake his claim as a perennial top 10 guy, because Alves hasn't got a quality top 10 caliber win on him since the 2nd Bush administration. I'm expecting some rust after this layoff, but otherwise Condit is better everywhere and quite frankly Alves just as easily should've lost his last bout against Jordan Mein. If it stays standing it'll be a fun back-and-forth before Condit takes over and stops him with a barrage of knees, elbows, and punches. Should Alves feel adventurous and try and take Condit down and grapple with him, Condit wins that, too. Oh, and cardio is a no brainer. Alves hasn't gone to a round 5 since GSP destroyed him in 2009. Carlos Condit by TKO, round 3.
Anton Tabuena: If Condit comes in anywhere close to being the same fighter he was before, I don't think this will be a competitive fight. Not only is he faster, bigger, and more athletic, he should be the more technical and much more diverse fighter both on the feet and on the ground. Carlos Condit by one sided decision.
Tim Burke: Anyone that picks Alves is banned/fired/set on fire. My dog is coming for you. Carlos Condit by epic devastation.
Zane Simon: This fight is almost certainly a win for Carlos Condit, unless something fluky happens. As Mookie alluded to above, chances are that Condit's best years are already behind him. But, we know Alves' best years are behind him. That's pretty obvious at this point. So, even if both men look faded, I expect Condit to continue to be the more versatile, active, and consistent fighter for all three rounds.
Lewis Mckeever: Other than the heavy-hitting kicks department, Carlos Condit should have the edge over Alves in every area. I expect the first 1.5 rounds to be rather competitive, as Condit tends to be a relatively slow starter, but after Condit gets cracked a few times and starts to wake up, I expect NBK to deep-water drown Alves with a barrage of kicks, knees and elbows. Carlos Condit via TKO.
Staff picking Condit: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane, Lewis
Staff picking Alves:
Mookie Alexander: Whoa, honestly didn't expect for me to be the only one to go with Lentz here, and I probably shouldn't be going with Lentz. The first fight was mostly an Oliveira ass kicking of Lentz that ended with an illegal knee strike to a grounded opponent (a move that should be 100% legal, in my opinion), followed by an RNC because of the illegal strike. But that was four years ago and both men have made their separate improvements. Last year, Oliveira shut down Jeremy Stephens and submitted Hatsu Hioki's ghost, as well as the ghostly looking (and historically durable) Andy Ogle. Lentz has been a steady fighter at 145 and doesn't look as completely lost on the feet as he used to. There's something to be said about guys like him who can consistently impose their game against just about everyone except the elite of the division. Lentz has gone into Brazil twice already and beaten Diego Nunes (remember him?) and Hacran Dias, so playing spoiler is nothing new for him. I have a feeling that we'll actually see a fun grappling match-up as Lentz gets his takedowns but Oliveira works the hell out of his offensive guard and forces Nik to fend off submissions. If he can slow Oliveira's pace down then he can do enough to eke out the decision. Alternatively, Oliveira beats the hell out of him and my rambling paragraph is for naught. Nik Lentz by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If this fight took place two or three years ago, maybe back in 2013, I might give Lentz the edge. Oliveira seemed to be going through some growing pains and Lentz seemed to really be on a decent roll. But, I think those days have passed. Most recently, Oliveira has been proving that if you're not a really top caliber talent, you're probably not going to beat him. He put a hell of a whooping on Jeremy Stephens in their fight, and Stephens has looked great lately. On the flip side, Lentz had nothing for Chad Mendes, in a fight Mendes just wanted to coast, and made Manny Gamburyan look surprisingly competitive. Lentz is a great pressure fighter, but he's not a finisher and as fights go on, opponents have a knack for figuring him out and hurting him. Oliveira has become a more and more dominant offensive force and finishes at every opportunity. I have to pick him to get the win here. Charles Oliveira by submission.
Lewis Mckeever: Charles Oliveira because Nik Lentz vs. Andre Winner. I hope Lentz never finds his way into title contention. Charles Oliveira by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Lentz: Mookie
Staff picking Oliveira: Phil, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane, Lewis
Mookie Alexander: Part of the reason Noons did better than expected against Cruickshank were the 8 million eyepokes he got away with and didn't get DQ'ed for. Hindsight is 20/20 but it's pretty obvious now that Sam Stout is just about shot, and that win plus one over old man George Sotiropoulos are KJ's only triumphs in the UFC. Maybe it's me, but I just don't see Noons' game having sustainable success at the highest level of MMA anymore. The tail-end of the Strikeforce era pretty much proved that. Oliveira impressed the hell out of me against Gilbert Burns even in a losing effort, and even though it's a welterweight fight (because of the short notice) I see Cowboy giving Noons all sorts of trouble standing, particularly his kicks and combination punching. Oh yeah, and history shows us that Noons is 0-1 against fighters nicknamed Cowboy. Alex Oliveira by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: KJ Noons is a weird one. I was fairly convinced he was headed for the glue factory a bit ago, but he looked great against an admittedly faded Sam Stout and was doing better than I expected against Cruickshank. Oliveira is a different breed of monstrous, athletic 155er though (even though this fight is at 170, for some reason). Noons has historically been freakishly tough, but I wouldn't be surprised with a stoppage here. Alex Oliveira by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is one of those fights that has the opportunity to go totally haywire, as Noons is almost certainly going to get exactly the fight he wants. But, I'm not sure that it's the fight he can win anymore. Oliveira is a big, powerful, aggressive puncher with fast, accurate hands. His style of striking is perfectly set up for MMA success. And Noons is, at this point, getting up there. He was doing well against Cruickshank (who has a long history of struggling against inside boxers) and doing well against Sam Stout (who got lit up in his next fight as well), but I'm not sure those aren't more the product of good matchmaking for Noons than they are signs that he's "still got it." Oliveira will give him the fight he wants, but I'm not sure he's the man Noons will want to be fighting, come Saturday night. Alex Oliveira by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Noons: Anton
Staff picking Oliveira: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Steph, Zane, Lewis
Mookie Alexander: You might be interested to know that I inserted Tim's name in the "picked Jimmo" section before this went to publish and before he actually made his picks. Timmo was not pleased. Ryan Jimmo by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: The benefits of the in-out karate style have been translated to many different approaches in the UFC. Machida for striking, Gunnar Nelson for BJJ, Zach Makovsky for wrestling, and Ryan Jimmo for... something. Big ups to Jimmo for standing up against the Reebok deal, but bless him, he's just not generally fun to watch. He is a bigger and better athlete who doesn't take risks, so I expect clinchy grindy rounds in the bank, and Ryan Jimmo by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Jimmo will probably breeze through this in totally unexciting fashion. Barroso is strong enough, tough enough, and cautious enough that Jimmo probably won't light him up with a one-shot kill, so that means 15 minutes of dancing and grinding. Ryan Jimmo by Decision.
Staff picking Jimmo: Phil, Mookie, Anton, Steph, Zane, Lewis
Staff picking Barroso: Tim
Mookie Alexander: If Trinaldo is Tertiary Tibau then what is Michel Prazeres? I think they're all Tibau offshoots. Anyway, there's almost zero chance this fight is entertaining and Parke is going to wear him out and win a decision. Norman Parke by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: Trinaldo isn't very good. Norman Parke by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This looks like a "do better next time" fight which the UFC are throwing at Parke. He faltered against Tibau Prime, so they're dropping him down to Tertiary Tibau to see if he can improve on his performance against the training wheels version. He should: Parke is big, strong and tough, and has a good enough workrate to wear down Trinaldo's suspect gas tank. The main thing for him is winning impressively- a workmanlike victory is the most likely outcome, but it won't do much for his momentum in a stacked division. Norman Parke by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is Parke's opportunity to find redemption and prove that he can beat big strong grinders. Not only is Parke the more technical fighter everywhere, but he's also tough as nails and has a way better gas tank. Hopefully he turns all those advantages into an exciting win. Probably will just get the decision, though. Norman Parke by Decision.
Staff picking Parke: Phil, Mookie, Anton, Steph
Staff picking Trinaldo: Tim
Phil Mackenzie: In a fight between two slightly raw fighters, I'll almost always take the one with the more close-range and aggressive game (apart from Dutra-Breese, but shhhh). Maintaining distance and defensive parity is an inherently harder and more fragile skillset than just getting inside and throwing dem bungalows. Also, Brazilians tend to push the pace a bit more in Brazil. Thus, although this fight is rather close on paper Wendell Oliveira by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Oliveira likes to counter punch, Till likes to counter with kicks from the outside. Neither man is especially well known for being the aggressor. But, Oliveira is slightly more well rounded, a more powerful striker, and has faced much much better competition over the years. Till could be good down the line, but I don't think he'll win this one, even if it's close. Wendell Oliveira by split decision.
Staff picking Oliveira; Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane
Staff picking Till:
Phil Mackenzie: I'm just never sure about Rony Jason. He's well-rounded enough to strike, wrestle and submit, but he's not durable and athletic enough to be a consistent threat, or explosive enough to be a really dangerous glass cannon. Damon Jackson is basically just a wrestler thus far, so Jason should really be able to beat him pretty handily, but... hm. Rony Jason Bezerra by submission, round 2
Zane Simon: I could easily see this being one of the cards big upsets (as this mostly seems to be a card of clear favorites). That said, Damon Jackson is just not the kind of fighter that has beaten Rony Jason lately. Usually it's fighters that are too athletic for him to outmaneuver. Jackson may be a good technical wrestle-grappler, but he's not an elite explosive athlete. I'm picking Jason to get the win, but I won't be shocked if Jackson pulls a big upset. Rony Jason by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Jason: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane
Staff picking Jackson:
Phil Mackenzie: These guys are similar, but despite Formiga's better historical wins and higher ranking I like Reis here (although I may well be biased as the world's only Wilson Reis mark). If you look at him at flyweight, the idea of him having competitive grappling battles with Patricio Freire or the humongous bantamweight Iuri Alcantara seems silly, but he did. Fundamentally, I think he's coming into his prime as the more powerful wrestler at the right weight class, and he can hurt Formiga from a distance as well. I hope it hits the ground, because it'll be incredible, but either way Wilson Reis by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I have to admit that I'm a little shocked at just how spilt many people are on this fight. I like Wilson Reis, he's done well in the UFC, and he's fun to watch, but I haven't been especially impressed by him either. His fight against a really green Joby Sanchez was especially telling and showed that while Reis has power and a willingness to trade, his incredibly hittable and hurtable standing up. That's an area where I feel like Formiga has really improved lately, to the point that opponents seem really shocked by how much better a striker he is. The big question for me is, if Formiga can't out strike Reis, will Reis outmuscle Formiga on the ground. When he's not taking the back, Formiga is very prone to giving up rounds. Still, Jussier Formiga by Decision.
Staff picking Formiga: Mookie, Tim, Steph, Zane
Staff picking Reis: Phil, Anton
Phil Mackenzie: Jungle Fights champ vs Cage Warriors champ! I love promotion against promotion stuff. Anyway, Zaleski is a powerful striker and a hard hitter. Dalby is less athletic, but he's a really surprisingly complete fighter, who understands the value of attrition, volume and mixing it up, with a particularly underrated takedown game. This may mean that he'll hit a relatively hard athletic ceiling at some point, because he's so well-balanced that he doesn't actually have many areas for improvement. However, I do like him to outwork and potentially outwrestle Zaleski in what should be a great scrap. Nicholas "Dabooty" Dalby by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Dalby may not ever be a title contender (although if he continues to improve I wouldn't count him out at all), but I think he could walk into the UFC as a potential top 15-20 kind of guy. He's got great cardio, high output striking, and the ability to wrestle and grapple competently with just about anyone. His wrestling, especially, looked absolutely on point in his last fight. Zaleski is the bigger puncher and has a nice counter game, but I get the feeling he's going to get stuck waiting on Dalby to strike and just end up eating a lot of shots. Dalby may even just taking him down and work him over for a round or two. I don't think he's going to get the finish, but Nicholas Dalby by decision.
Staff picking Zaleski:
Staff picking Dalby: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane
Phil Mackenzie: Bektic is awesome, but he has a frankly disturbing resemblance to ‘90s Aussie-Brit R'n'B popstar turned reality TV contestant Peter Andre. Anyway, this seems like a classic puncher's chance fight. Martins can crack, but look for Bektic to impose some top control Flava and for the fight to gradually become more and one-sided. Mirsad Bektic by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I definitely want to see Bektic show off in this fight. Martins can match him for athletic ability and power, but his skills just haven't been there. Most particularly, when Martins is being pressured in any way at all, his offense just kinda shuts down. That's something that Bektic should be able to exploit to land big shots on his way to takedowns and ground and pound. But, Bektic has a reputation as being one of the sport's top prospects, so in a fight with a flawed opponent like Martins, I'd really like to see him kick things up another notch and get the finish. Mirsad Bektic by decision.
Staff picking Bektic: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane
Staff picking Martins:
Phil Mackenzie: Juliana Lima is a doughty Muay Thai striker who unfortunately seems to be going down something of the Cheick Kongo route, where she falls in love with clinch-grinding by the cage. Almeida is a submission artist who's probably never going to get the chance to put that skillset into play. Juliana Lima by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I guess she has some kickboxing bouts and the nickname, but I've really missed the boat on Juliana Lima "striker." I've always thought of her as one of the division's best technical wrestlers (behind Esparza and Gadelha). Her striking has frankly never looked better than mediocre. I think fans expecting her to have a sizeable advantage anywhere in this fight outside of wrestling and top control may be surprised. On the flip side, I also think that Ericka Almeida is much better than she's getting credit for. She seems to have good takedown entries, works to back control well, and does a good job maintaining control. She's not a great striker either, and I don't think she'll have success taking Lima down, but this could end up being an interesting fight if Lima tries to lay-n-pray her way to a decision against a grappler constantly looking for submissions. Juliana Lima by decision.
Staff picking Lima: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane
Staff picking Almeida:
Phil Mackenzie: Dutra's mostly known for being part of that incredible Kiichi Kunimoto winning run, where he tried to knock Kunimoto's spine out through his mouth. Other than that, he's a pretty standard aggressive, reasonably well-rounded Brazilian whose standout feature is how infrequently he fights. I mean... Paulo Thiago in Jungle Fights only 6 fights ago? Weird. Breese is a hot prospect with sharp outside striking and nasty subs. I have some questions about how stable his striking will be against aggressive fighters, and whether his wrestling translates, and he's very young to be making the trip to Brazil, but Tom Breese by submission, round 2
Zane Simon: This could be a very tough fight for Tom Breese. Dutra is ultra aggressive and technically proficient everywhere. But, he's also not quite the athlete he fights like he is, and often puts himself in risky positions trying to go for broke on big strikes. Unless he KO's Breese or locks up a quick transition sub, I don't think he'll win here. Breese has a very UFC ready style. He's a huge control first grappler with an aggressive sub game, once he's in strong positions. It's the kind of game that grapplers like Maia and Shields have had tons of success with and I think Breese will to. Tom Breese by decision.
Staff picking Dutra:
Staff picking Breese: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Steph, Zane