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The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale staff picks and predictions

The Bloody Elbow staff makes its predictions for Sunday's UFC: The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Bloody Elbow's staff has made its predictions for the 2nd UFC event of the weekend: The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale. We're almost in full agreement that Stephen Thompson will end Jake Ellenberger's run in the top 10,  Kamaru Usman is the unanimous choice to win TUF 21's final, and Michelle Waterson and Jorge Masvidal are expected to walk through their respective opposition.

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: You may notice that we've omitted Josh Samman vs. Caio Magalhaes from the predictions list. Obviously Samman is now a fully fledged Bloody Elbow staff member, so in the interest of journalistic integrity and avoiding conflict of interest issues, we will not be picking fights he's involved in. We wish Samman the best in his fight on Sunday.

Jake Ellenberger vs. Stephen Thompson

Mookie Alexander: I feel like Ellenberger used to be a classic wrestleboxer, but now he's basically a passive boxer who occasionally wrestles. And even when he does get takedowns his top game basically involves staying in guard doing hardly anything, which is a problem of his that extends back to his early fights. Thompson's takedown defense has improved and Ellenberger seems to get completely lost when he gets hit these days. This is a fight where I would've picked Ellenberger 3 years ago, and also a case where I still don't think Thompson is top 10, but the match-up just doesn't have me feeling confident picking Ellenberger anymore. Stephen Thompson by TKO, round 3.

Zane Simon: I've honestly got to go with Thompson here. His wrestling defense has been steadily improving and he's always had good footwork and distance control. He may not be the cleanest technician in prolonged exchanges on his feet, but neither is Ellenberger. Plus, even in wins, Ellenberger has seemed unwilling to pull the trigger and really be an aggressive wrestle boxer. If he waits on the edge and tries to pick his shots, I think Thompson just potshots him for 3 rounds. Thompson by decision.

Staff picking Ellenberger: Rainer, Tim
Staff picking Thompson: Roy, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Zane

Kamaru Usman vs. Hayder Hassan (TUF 21 Finale)

Fraser Coffeen: I watched the entire season, so I should probably talk about this one here... So here you have ATT's Hassan vs. Blackzilian's Usman. Hassan pretty much single handedly won the season for ATT, winning 3 of the 5 fights ATT won. He's a gutsy fighter who stays in it and is primarily a puncher with good KO power. Usman went 2-0 for the Blackzilians mainly by using his wrestling and his workrate to grind guys down. Both guys have something they bring to the table, but both still have room to develop in their careers. And when faced with that kind of match-up, I favor the wrestler. Kamaru Usman by decision

Mookie Alexander: On these TUF fights, I'm just shamelessly copying Fraser. You all know my thoughts on this show.

Zane Simon: I wouldn't take a lot from the show in terms of Usman's game, other than that he's a good enough wrestler to lean on it when he's fighting short notice bouts with no camp. Otherwise, he's been building a decent striking game at the Blackzilians. Decent enough that I don't expect him to just get Blitzed by Hassan. If Hassan had an aggressive grappling game that'd probably be his best shot, but he doesn't. Kamaru Usman by decision.

Staff picking Usman: Fraser, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Hassan:

Michael Graves vs. Vicente Luque

Fraser Coffeen: This is the other TUF fight on the card, with ATT's Graves vs. Blackzilian Luque. Both men went 1-1 on the show, though I thought Luque deserved the win over Hassan in the last fight. Graves is an interesting one as the ATT coaching staff loves him, but he looked pretty bad in his first fight (against Usman), then was getting destroyed in his 2nd fight before rallying for an incredible come from behind win. He doesn't seem that remarkable, but again, the coaches think he has that talent. But I have to go with what I saw on the show, and that is a guy who was seconds from being 0-2 vs. a guy who should be 2-0. Vicente Luque by decision

Zane Simon: I can't say this enough, but don't scout guys off TUF. Just don't. Graves is a raw talent with good athleticism, power, and an aggressive striking/grappling game. He can get pretty wild at times, and that can cost him, but watching Vicente Luque's pre-TUF fights shows a guy that can get bullied in the clinch and is a willing guard player on the mats, and doesn't have a dominant range striking game. He may have done better than that on TUF, but I think Graves is the better athlete and the more aggressive fighter, even if he's a bit more raw. Michael Graves by decision.

Staff picking Graves: Zane
Staff picking Luque: Fraser, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Stephie

Cezar Ferreira vs. Jorge Masvidal

Fraser Coffeen: Hey, why is everyone picking Masvidal? Are folks just sleeping on Cezar or am I forgetting something? *Checks Sherdog* Oh right. Sam Alvey. Jorge Masvidal by decision

Mookie Alexander: Ferreira doesn't know the meaning of defending counter left hooks, because he's been KO'd twice by the same move. His chin isn't good, his defense isn't good, and unless Masvidal get outmuscled, or, for the 3 billionth time just decides to hit the off-switch on his offense, this isn't a competitive fight. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Lightweight vs middleweight fun. Mutante is going to be comically, ridiculously oversized if he can actually hit 170. I thought his kicking was looking better last time before he got posterized by a better boxer, and I suppose it's not outside the realm of possibility that he strands Masvidal on the outside or grinds him out, but Masvidal is faster, a more technical striker and grappler, way more durable and usually works at a higher pace. His only real weakness remains what a giant goddamn flake he is. Still. Jorge Masvidal by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Weird fight. I could see Ferreira just being so, so much bigger that he just pushes Masvidal over and swarms him. But, on the technical side, Masvidal is the better striker, wrestler, and grappler, with a better chin, and better cardio. That makes it super tough to pick Ferreira here. Jorge Masvidal by KO, Round 2.

Staff picking Ferreira:
Staff picking Masvidal: Rainer, Roy, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Zane

Angela Magana vs. Michelle Waterson

Fraser Coffeen: I'm pretty pumped for Michelle Waterson, but I won't lie - I'm not fully sold on how it will go. She's moving up in weight, and she's coming in off a loss. I'm not positive she will make the impact that she could in the UFC. That said, she should still have no issue with the thoroughly average Magana. Michelle Waterson by submission round 1

Mookie Alexander: I don't think any sensible person thinks Magana can win just about any fight in the UFC, let alone against Waterson. Michelle Waterson by submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Softball for Waterson. She's an infinitely better striker, and a way more threatening sprint grappler. She's had some problems with physicality even down at atomweight, but if she can't style on Magana then that's a very strong indicator that she just might never cut it at 115 in the UFC. Michelle Waterson by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: Waterson is going to style on Magana like there's no tomorrow. Not only is she the more technical striker and grappler, but she's the better athlete by a mile as well. This shouldn't be a competitive bout. It doesn't mean Waterson is destined to be a title challenger but she should show off here. Michelle Waterson by Submission, Round 1.

Staff picking Magana:
Staff picking Waterson: Rainer,Roy, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Zane

Maximo Blanco vs. Mike De La Torre

Mookie Alexander: I probably should side with De La Torre now that Blanco has missed weight by several pounds, but it's when you most expect Blanco to screw up that he pulls out a win. Maximo Blanco by craziness, round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: Oh boy. Picking a Maximo Blanco fight. Yay. Firstly, I quite like De La Torre. He's very game, and most notably seems just really physically strong. He's just not all that fast. Blanco for his part has recently been winning the fights that he should win. That's not all that impressive but... it almost is for him, unfortunately? Anyway, he's maybe the most athletically dependent, purely unreliable fighter on the UFC roster. When that athleticism declines, he's going to nosedive. While my gut says he's way too quick for De La Torre, I also think of how much he got hit by Ogle and Hooker, and that he can't do that against someone like De La Torre. Mike De La Torre by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: There were a few moments in his Daniel Hooker fight, where Maximo Blanco just about got his block knocked off. And that was in a fight he was otherwise dominating for 4:30 of every round. That's just the kind of guy Blanco is. He's a beast, right up until the moment everything crumbles. And even when it doesn't, Blanco is more than willing to take the Hall/Jimmo route and cruise out a loss for three rounds. De La Torre is a good athlete in quick bursts and a well rounded fighter and I think he just continually out works Blanco for the win. Mike De La Torre by decision.

Staff picking Blanco: Rainer, Roy, Fraser, Tim, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking De La Torre: Phil, Zane


Russell Doane vs. Jerrod Sanders

Phil Mackenzie: There's little tape on Sanders out there, and nor is there much to go on in the UFC, because he's just been getting blown out of the water. What little there is appears to show an incredibly one-dimensional wrestler without much durability or effective top game. Russell Doane has decent hands and is an OK wrestler himself. Russell Doane by TKO, round 2

Zane Simon: Jerrod Sanders looks like the picture of a one-dimensional wrestler in modern MMA. He's getting KO'd when he stands, submitted on the ground, and that's about it. He could certainly improve (it'd be hard not to), but Doane is already a picture of a complete, solidly athletic fighter. When he has the striking advantage, Doane is a capable, powerful boxer with quick hands. When he has the wrestling advantage, Doane is a solid, consistent wrestler who changes approaches and shoots a nice double. This should be pure sprawl and brawl on his way to a knockout. Russell Doane by KO, Round 1.

Staff picking Doane: Rainer, Roy, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Stephie, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Sanders:

Dan Miller vs. Trevor Smith

Mookie Alexander: I feel lousy just seeing how more people are picking Trevor Smith than Dan Miller. I refuse to be really convinced that Smith is that good. Miller has dealt with major surgery and appears to have hit his decline, but I side with Tim here. Dan Miller by something.

Tim Burke: MILLERBROTHER IS BACK! Dan Miller by whatever he wants

Phil Mackenzie: Another absolutely brutal fight to pick. Dan Miller in his prime was almost certainly a better fighter than Trevor Smith. Unfortunately his UFC career has been a mixture of really good and really bad fighters, making it very difficult to keep an effective lock on how good he actually is or was, but I have to assume that the whole "spinal fusion surgery" deal hasn't exactly been a turbocharger. Smith's wrestling looked better against Tor Troeng, but given how awful Tor became, it's hard to put too much faith in that either. I guess I'll go against spinal fusion surgery. Miller will always have the IFL Murderguillotine of our hearts though. Trevor Smith by unanimous decision

Zane Simon: I have a soft spot for Miller, especially considering all he's been through, but I just can't pick him to win a fight in the UFC off that kind of layoff. Smith is not good, but I just don't have any faith that Miller has a lot left for a competitive run at middleweight. Trevor Smith by decision.

Staff picking Miller: Roy, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Smith: Rainer, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Zane

George Sullivan vs. Dominic Waters

Mookie Alexander: If Dominic doesn't watch out, Sullivan will take him to Deep Waters. George Sullivan by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Sullivan is much better at using his reach, a better clinch and ground fighter, and probably hits harder to boot. Waters might conceivably have a speed advantage but mostly I see this being an awesome violent/ugly George Sullivan fight, which tend to be cool in the same way that watching cars being crushed in a scrapyard is cool. George Sullivan by TKO, round 3

Zane Simon: What Phil said. That's spot on. George Sullivan by TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Sullivan: Rainer, Roy, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Stephie, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Waters:

Willie Gates vs. Darrell Montague

Phil Mackenzie: Montague wasn't technically outclassed by Horiguchi, Dodson or McCall, they just had an athletic gear which he couldn't approach. Willie Gates is probably a better athlete, but he's obviously not on the level of any of those guys. In general I just don't think he's fast enough to make his power advantage count, and his only significant success against Moraga came off a very debatable cheapshot. I do think the Mongoose is the better technician, so Darrell Montague by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Darrell Montague isn't a top 5 talent, but he should still be a top 10 talent. And for his size and dynamic striking, Gates has never really shown himself to be a really powerful striker. At that point, I think Montague should outclass him. Darrell Montague by decision.

Staff picking Gates: Rainer, Roy,
Staff picking Montague: Phil, Fraser, Tim, Stephie, Mookie, Zane