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UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira staff picks and predictions

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Bloody Elbow's staff makes its predictions for Sunday's UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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The UFC is in Saskatoon tomorrow night with a terrific main event featuring featherweights Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira. Holloway is favored by the Bloody Elbow staff to get the win, as is Erick Silva over Neil Magny in the co-main. I'm personally glad that the entire staff did go with Nikita Krylov to win his fight 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.

Note 2: Welcome James MacDonald to the Bloody Elbow staff. His picks are listed under "James".

Max Holloway vs. Charles Oliveira

Anton Tabuena: This should be fun either way it goes. Both men are well rounded, but I think Holloway is the more technical and effective striker, while Oliveira's tricky ground game could pose problems. I believe Holloway will be able to have this bout contested on the feet for the most part giving him the edge here. It could be a decision, but I'm picking Max Holloway by late TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Oliveira has to win this early or else Holloway will break him down and finish him. I'm pretty sure that's what ultimately happens. Other than Oliveira's guard work, I think Holloway is better than him everywhere else. He holds the striking power advantage and is way better defensively than Oliveira ever has been. I see Holloway and Oliveira engaging in a very close battle within the first two rounds, but Holloway's cardio will hold up better and he will sap Oliveira's with brutal body shots. Max Holloway via TKO, round 4.

Zane Simon: Oliveira is a very good, tough, and aggressive fighter, with a technical submission game and no huge weaknesses. So, he's always going to have a reasonable chance to get a win over the competition around him. But, especially with his win over Cub Swanson, it really feels like we're starting to see Max Holloway blossom into the kind of fighter who isn't just way ahead of the rank and file, but is way ahead of the guys filling out the top 10 as well. Swanson is no longer a title contender, but Holloway treated him like he was no longer a UFC caliber fighter at all and that's damn impressive. Oliveira's wrestling game is key here, it's been good against the right kind of opponents, and practically non existent against others. If he can't get Holloway down (probably more than once) in this fight, I don't see him winning it. Max Holloway by TKO, Round 3.

Staff picking Holloway: Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Oliveira: Rainer, Lewis

Neil Magny vs. Erick Silva

Anton Tabuena: I'm not picking a guy on a few days notice. Especially since most people who beat Silva have to be able to grind it out and survive until the latter rounds. Erick Silva by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: On a full camp, I might convince myself that Magny wins this, but on a few days notice I can't pick him. Silva isn't Demian Maia on the mat, but he's a really aggressive submission hunter when he commits to it, and while he may not be able to outstrike Magny, I think Silva is going to catch him with something off-guard and finish him. It's not a case of recency bias, because Magny also got housed by Sergio Moraes on the mat just two years ago, so the vulnerability is still there. Erick Silva by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: I knew Magny would get outwrestled by Demian Maia, but I thought he'd be able to survive on the mat and show that his grappling game was at the point of high level survival if not actually competent aggression... It's not. I'm sure that Maia fight showed him what he needs to work on, but he hasn't had enough time to work on it to change anything since that loss. As such, we know that Magny has problems where Silva has venomous finishing ability. And while Silva has problems with Magny's strengths, Magny needs a lot more time to set up his striking to get the TKO. Even Matt Brown couldn't put Silva away easily. Either Silva wins it early or Magny wins it late, I'm going early. Erick Silva by Submission, Round 1.

Staff picking Magny: Rainer, Hutch,
Staff picking Silva: Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Tim, James, Lewis, Zane, Silva, Anton

Josh Burkman vs. Patrick Cote

Mookie Alexander: Cote is slowing down and the Joe Riggs fight was a pretty telltale sign of that. Burkman isn't a world-beater (but he did whoop Fitch, Tim Burke), but he should have enough in his tank to get past Patrick. Josh Burkman by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I'm expecting this to be boring. Both men are decent enough athletes, but the singular ability they share is how freakishly tough they've been. Thus, this is likely to be a grinding, control-based affair where neither lands anything which hurts the other guy. In the end I think Burkman is slightly more fleet of foot and throws more volume, and while Cote is larger, younger and stronger, I'm not sure that his increasingly wrestling-centric style gets it done against the historically better grappler. Josh Burkman by decision

Zane Simon: This is a really tough fight to pick. Neither guy has been awesome recently, and I think Cote has the right kind of dangerous tools to make Burkman think twice and slow this fight to a standstill, at which point complicated judging metrics probably take the day. Even when Cote has been able to get takedowns he hasn't done a whole lot with them. In general his game seems more and more predicated on landing single fight changing strikes or winning rounds through blanket-like top control. Burkman seems like he has more chances of staying outside and pot-shotting or grinding Cote in the clinch or on the mat, so I'll give him the edge. Not a big edge, but an edge. Still I expect this to be ugly and razor thin. Josh Burkman by Decision.

Staff picking Burkman: Mookie, Rainer, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Cote: Stephie

Chad Laprise vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Phil Mackenzie: Actually quite looking forward to this one. Trinaldo the Tertiary Tibau moved up the Tibau Power Rankings(TM) to number two when he beat Norman Parke (although Trinaldo the Secondary Tibau doesn't have the same ring to it), and really displayed a far more consistent gas tank and technical kickboxing game. I still think Laprise is fairly underrated, with high-volume outside striking which will gradually wear the Brazilian down over time. Trinaldo's dreams of overtaking Tibau Prime for the top spot must be deferred. Chad Laprise by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Laprise has to be on his game 100% every time he fights in order to win, which makes someone like Trinaldo, who is willing to eat shots to generate offense and can grind, strike, and go for submissions dangerous. But, Laprise does seem like he's got the kind of generally technical style and approach to repeatedly make his game work in the face of fighters who don't have a deeper skill repertoire than himself. If you can't outbox him or outwrestle him, he'll usually win rounds (which I realize sounds like something you could say about everyone). I don't think Trinaldo can do either, so I'll take Laprise to win here, Chad Laprise by decision.

Staff picking Laprise: Phil, Tim, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Trinaldo: Mookie, Stephie, Rainer, Hutch

Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Tony Sims

Anton Tabuena: Olivier Aubin-Mercier by INTENSITY.

Phil Mackenzie: This fight is a referendum on OAM's ability to approach. If he's going to walk in behind strikes with his chin in the air, then Sims is a crafty and powerful pocket boxer who can light him up. However, Aubin-Mercier's been showing the kind of consistent improvements you hope for, and more to the point he appears very tough so even if Sims puts hands on him I'm not sure if he can really finish him. At some point OAM likely gets inside and puts Sims in trouble. OAM by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Alright, I'm going for the upset here. Aubin Mercier really hasn't had many tests against strikers with enough reasonably competent takedown defense to not fall over when touched. Sims may struggle when he gets up toward the top 20 and starts to meet those really skilled top level athletes that dwell there, but Aubin Mercier is still very raw. And the last time he met someone who fights anything like Sims, he lost. Sims punches a lot harder than Laprise and with a more difficult style to plan for and I think Aubin-Mercier is going to come out looking to box early, get hit hard and forced into predictable takedowns that Sims can stuff. For the upset. Tony Sims by TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking OAM: Stephie, Rainer, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Anton
Staff picking Sims: Mookie, Zane

Valerie Letourneau vs. Maryna Moroz

Mookie Alexander: I picked Letourneau but then she looked like she was knocking on death's door at the weigh-ins. Just imagine if James Irvin had ever tried cutting to lightweight, and that's Letourneau at 115. So on that note, pick change! Maryna Moroz by submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: I am compelled to be real with y'all: I have no idea what's going on with Maryna Moroz. I did not think she was very good at all prior to her fight against Calderwood and I definitely dramatically underestimated her... but I really can't tell how much. How much was her performance due to her being good, and how much due to Calderwood being a horrifically slow starter who was undergoing significant personal turmoil? It's very hard to get a grasp on her level of improvement, and Letourneau is the marginally more proven commodity at this point EDIT buuuuttt Letourneau looked like an absolute skeleton making weight. If her path to victory was based around early violence I might pick her, but she's an attritive volume fighter who needs to keep it up for three rounds, so she needs all the energy she can muster. Maryna Moroz by submission, round 1

Zane Simon: Wow... I'm a little blown away here by the number of people going against Moroz. She may have looked very questionable on the regional scene, but her combination of size, athleticism, and aggression, make her a real potential buzzsaw at 115. I don't think she'll win a title with her game the way it is, but at this point the proving ground for Letourneau has been the totally underwhelming Elizabeth Phillips and the incredibly one dimensional and fairly non-aggressive Jessica Rakoczy. Letourneau has the more well crafted, consistent approach than Moroz, but I think there's a very good chance she gets blitzed early and hurt like she did against Phillips, only this time Moroz will have the power and skill in her hands to finish her. Maryna Moroz by submission.

Staff picking Letourneau: Stephie, Rainer, Hutch, James
Staff picking Moroz: Tim, Zane, Mookie, Phil, Anton

Frankie Perez vs. Sam Stout

Phil Mackenzie: If the question around Moroz was how much she overperformed, then the one here is around how much Perez underperformed in his short-notice debut. Plenty of young guys have had awful debuts and have gone on to look much better, and Perez's regional performances indicate that he's better than he showed. Plus I just have no faith in Sam Stout any more. Frankie Perez by submission, round 3

Zane Simon: Yeah, I really can't pick Sam Stout to win this fight. On paper, Stout is the better striker, similarly skilled wrestler, and a good enough to survive grappler, but physical decline is a very real thing and I think we're seeing it in Stout. I expect Stout to look good for a while and then either get hit hard or taken down and put on his and beat up on his way to a loss. Frankie Perez by decision.

Staff picking Perez: Phil, Hutch, Tim, Stephie, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Stout: Mookie, Rainer

Felipe Arantes vs. Yves Jabouin

Phil Mackenzie: I like Yves Jabouin and I feel bad for him because I think he's genuinely shown distinct technical improvements of late, and puts together an increasingly well-integrated outside striking and phase-shifting approach. His problem is that his historically flaky chin is letting him down more and more frequently. He was probably beating Wineland, Pickett and Almeida before they cranked up the aggression and knocked him out. I really believe he can take Arantes, but he increasingly seems to have to be perfect to win. Arantes for his part is very aggressive both as a grappler and striker, and eventually I think he gets to Yves. Sigh. Felipe Arantes by TKO, round 2

Zane Simon: Much like the Stout/Perez fight, I don't have much faith in Jabouin's game anymore. The only real, sizeable hole in Arantes' approach is his defensive wrestling. And while Jabouin can and does hit takedowns, he's not exactly a dominating force on the mat. Even if he can get Arantes down, I don't see him generating much meaningful offense or keeping him there. At that point it's a matter of when Arantes lands that big strike that puts Jabouin on skates. Felipe Arantes via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Arantes: Mookie, Stephie, Rainer, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Jabouin:

Nikita Krylov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima

Mookie Alexander: The champ is here. Nikita Krylov by dolphin kick, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Rogerio de Lima young and aggressive blah blah, punching power etc Nikita Krylov awful defense and so on. Who cares. Niki Thrills has the skills to pay the bills. Nikita Krylov by KO (720 hook kick) round 1.

Zane Simon: Okay, despite all the obviously very good reasons that Mookie and Phil put forth for young Mr. Thrills, I actually do think there's a reasonable argument for picking him. Pezao is more athletic, stronger, hits harder, is perhaps even more technical in his approach... But, his last win outside of the first round was against Paulo Filho in 2010. Since then the guys he's beat are, to put a fine point on it, not very good, or at least not very tough. Krylov is not a great technical fighter, but he's big, he's reasonably athletic (especially light on his feet at 205), and he's tough as old boots to finish with strikes. If Pezao can't KO Krylov in round 1 I think the chances of him winning are slim. So, Nikita Krylov by TKO, Round 3.

(Side note: While I realize Krylov hasn't ever won outside the first round ever, I have more faith that his coaches are working to fix the problems in his game than I do with Pezao, who looks more or less like the same fighter he was back in Strikeforce).

Staff picking Krylov: Mookie, Stephie, Rainer, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane
Staff picking Lima: Anton

Chris Beal vs. Chris Kelades

Mookie Alexander: Chris wins this.

Phil Mackenzie: Hardest fight on the card for me. I suppose Beal has a bit more quickness and pop in his punches, but Kelades has a singular talent- he's really physically strong. I'm not sure if that's enough to get it done, or if it's a particularly stable approach in the division of the speed demons. In the end I'll just go with the person who I think has a more appropriate skillset for flyweight. Chris Beal by unanimous decision

Zane Simon: Beal has long been on my radar as a generally overrated prospect, and I'll admit I definitely underrated Kelades, but I'm taking Beal to win here. His boxing game is slowly but surely improving to a pretty stable high output style, and he's actually a good technical offensive wrestler. Kelades is a really great top control grappler with functional pocket boxing and a decent grinding clinch game. But I think he'll struggle to keep up with Beal at range, end up on his back when Beal shoots, and probably won't get him down very easily. So, Chris Beal by decision.

Staff picking Beal: Mookie, Stephie, Rainer, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Kelades:

Shane Campbell vs. Elias Silverio

Phil Mackenzie: Two rather different fighters who lost in similar ways last time out, in that smaller but more technical boxers cut inside on them and knocked them out. Campbell is a violent outside striker in the Cerrone / Felder mould (only not as good obviously), while Silverio is a bit more well-rounded. This one comes down to how well Silverio can set up entries on Campbell- I don't think he wins a pure kickboxing match, but he has more paths to victory and I'm not yet convinced of Campbell's defensive grappling at this level. Elias Silverio by unanimous decision

Zane Simon: Campbell's takedown defense and ground game are, by all general appearances, bad. He's one of those fighters, like Che Mills who, despite having a functional technical game in one area lacks too many skills to win a lot in the UFC. Unfortunately, and unlike Mills, the Makdessi fight suggests to me that Campbell is also just not that physically imposing an athlete. At which point, the fact that Silverio is kind of a beast at 155 and very willing to walk through fire to find success suggests to me that he will win this handily. Elias Silverio by TKO, Round 1.

Staff picking Campbell: Mookie, Stephie, Rainer
Staff picking Silverio: Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane, Anton

Misha Cirkunov vs. Daniel Jolly

Phil Mackenzie: Somewhat similar young-ish LHW prospects who have made their bones in overpowering and out-athleting their opponents in the clinch. Cirkunov appears to be better at virtually all the key areas. This includes youth, strength, amount of experience, takedown technique and level of competition. This doesn't mean much, because both guys are still relatively raw and incomplete, and in a heavier weightclass to boot. Misha Cirkunov by unanimous decision

Zane Simon: Cirkunov's biggest problem is that he's willing to try for submissions before he has positions locked down. Against the cream of the crop at 205, this will very likely cost him if he hasn't fixed it by then. Until he hits that point, however, I don't think he'll have much trouble throwing lower tier LHWs to the mat and twisting them up in pretzels. Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 1.

Staff picking Cirkunov: Mookie, Stephie, Rainer, Phil, Hutch, Tim, James, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Jolly: