Is anyone picking Carlos Condit to become the new UFC welterweight champion? On the Bloody Elbow staff, only Anton Tabuena and Tim Burke are going with Condit over Robbie Lawler. Everyone else is sticking with the champ. Myself, Fraser Coffeen, and Victor Rodriguez are picking Andrei Arlovski over Stipe Miocic in the co-main event. To my surprise, only Anton is going with Joseph Duffy over Dustin Poirier.
Here are our UFC 195 picks in full.
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.
Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit
Anton Tabuena: It would be safer to pick Lawler, as Condit hasn't really beaten the same caliber of opponents in a long while, but there are many things making me hesitate to do so. Before that mangled nose gave up on him, Rory was on his way to win a decision and was picking apart Lawler with a more diverse striking arsenal. Condit has the same wide range of strikes, and he is also more elusive and less predictable. In my mind, there may also be question marks about Lawler's body and state. He's been in the game for 15 years (including a decade of gym wars), and now he's returning from injury and an insane amount of damage from Rory just 5 months ago. I honestly don't know how this fight will play out as stylistically is should be close, but those unknowns are making me lean towards another title change here. Carlos Condit by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight can go in so many directions. Lawler could spark Condit early and shock us all. Condit could land some crazy, out-of-nowhere, impossible-to-defend strike that stuns Lawler and NBK pounces on him. Lawler and Condit could be what we wanted Condit vs. Diaz to be, or Condit could make this fight what Condit vs. Diaz was. There are a lot of unknown variables here, including how Lawler will look after three incredibly grueling title fights in the span of a year, plus the Matt Brown fight. His cardio is really good, but he's also liable to just flat out lose rounds through inactivity, which I can't tell whether or not it's strategy or his way of conserving energy. Condit's knee injury was pretty damn serious, and while he looked more than solid vs. Thiago Alves, that's not enough of a sample size for me to confidently pick him against the elite of the division. He also got chin-checked aplenty vs. Woodley before the injury happened, and that worries me against someone who's as powerful as Brickfisted Bob. I'm a big Condit fan (I'm a Lawler fan too, but Condit was one of the fighters I loved the most out of WEC), but in this "Choose your own adventure" game, I'm thinking Lawler keeps the magic train rolling and stops Condit with strikes in the championship rounds. Robbie Lawler via TKO, round 4.
Tim Burke: I've picked against Lawler every time since he returned to the UFC, and I've been wrong every time. He's been an animal. But Condit is one of my favorite fighters. Hell, I named my dog after him (yes, seriously). It's an even-money fight, and there's not really much separating them on the feet. But I see two advantages for Condit - cardio, and his ground game. I think he can wear Lawler down from range with kicks and a solid jab, and stay away from power shots. Come the championship rounds, he'll get it to the floor and submit Lawler to cement his legacy and claim the title. And I will run around the living room with Carlos (the dog) celebrating. Carlos Condit by submission, round 4
Victor Rodriguez: Can we agree that we're almost all torn on this one? Lawler came back from being the man on the outside looking in to demolishing Josh Koscheck and launching an improbable run at the title for one of the deepest and most talent-rich divisions in all of the sport, only to look better than we could have ever dreamed in his initial UFC run. Now in his true prime and with a world-class training regime and staff, the boy from Iowa returns after the fight of his life against Rory MacDonald to take on an even more dangerous and versatile striker. Condit is unlikely to want to take this to the ground, and if it goes there we can be certain that the fight will most likely favor him, even if slightly. Condit and Brandon Gibson could very well have devised a way to poke holes in Lawler's deliberate and controlled striking game with a more varied arsenal, but smart money's gonna be on Robert Glenn Lawler.
Fraser Coffeen: Like everyone else here (and every MMA fan on the planet I suspect), I am both incredibly excited for this one and incredibly torn on who takes it. There is some talk of Lawler being injured, which could turn the tide for Condit, but momentum is squarely with the champ. I also have serious concerns about Condit openly discussing how he's winding down his career - that's not the sound bite you hear from a man about to become champion. Stylistically this is a very close fight, so it will be determined by intangibles, and I think Lawler's will to win right now will be the intangible that makes the difference. Robbie Lawler, KO, round 4
Zane Simon: Connor and I went into a lot more detail on the Vivisection, but the short answer is that Lawler is just too comfortable in the pocket with prolonged exchanges, and too good in the clinch for Condit to just overwhelm him there. Condit is obviously the more diverse range striker, but I think that Lawler will close him down and make him trade long combinations in the pocket where Condit still is (and always has been) very hittable and Lawler mostly isn't. Robbie Lawler by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Lawler: Phil, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Mookie, Fraser, Zane
Staff picking Condit: Anton, Tim, Lewis
Andrei Arlovski vs. Stipe Miocic
Anton Tabuena: Arlovski keeps proving me wrong, and is now on an insanely impressive comeback trail a decade after first winning the UFC title. I do hope he can complete that redemption story by earning a title shot here, but it's kinda tough to pick against the younger, faster, and stronger man here. Stipe Miocic by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I really don't have a compelling reason to pick Arlovski other than repeatedly being wrong picking against him in past fights, and this is my way of removing any doubt. Miocic is the better fighter, he has good wrestling, accurate but not powerful striking, and very good cardio. He's already gone 5 rounds twice, and this one is just 3 rounds. All that said, Arlovski is going to pull another improbable win out of nowhere one last time. Andrei Arlovski via Pitbull things
Victor Rodriguez: Still bothered that Andrei didn't get his title shot already, and his last fight against Frank Mir (anyone remember that? anyone? aw, forget it) certainly didn't do him any favors. This will be the one that puts him back on track. Stipe depends on his boxing and wrestling, but Andrei has had stellar boxing for years and people sleep on his grappling chops. The Pitbull will laugh at your puny American underestimations. In 2016, title shot find you. Arlovski by disturbing and sensational KO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: In retrospect, I've clearly underestimated Arlovski in this run, putting too much stock in how gunshy he looked against Schaub. But he's back in fine form, and doing very well for himself. That said, Miocic is a tough match-up for him, as he is both a good striker and a better grinder. But I can't shake the feeling that Miocic might be a bit overrated. His best performance is arguably the close loss to Cigano, but as we saw two weeks ago, Cigano isn't Cigano anymore. I see Miocic having some success in a grinding game, but spending too much time striking with the Pitbull and ultimately paying the price. Andrei Arlovski, KO, round 2
Zane Simon: I think Miocic is just too elusive at range and a far far more technical boxer than most of the fighter Arlovski has beaten lately. Arlovski beat Travis Browne, but Browne isn't a consistent puncher and that fight was essentially a coinflip. I think Miocic stays safer, picks his shots better and gets the win. Stipe Miocic via Decision.
Staff picking Arlovski: Victor, Mookie, Fraser, Lewis
Staff picking Miocic: Phil, Nick, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Zane
Lorenz Larkin vs. Albert Tumenov
Mookie Alexander: I'm really happy that Larkin has upped his output, because that was killing him at middleweight. His power has been deadly at 170 and he looks fast for the weight class. That said, Tumenov is a special talent. He mixes up his strikes very well, is incredibly methodical and technically sound, and for as much as Larkin has improved offensively, his defense still really isn't that sharp. If Larkin goes strike-for-strike with Tumenov he's not going to win, and that's probably what's going to happen. Albert Tumenov via TKO, round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: Larkin's fight with the Ponz was way closer than I thought it was on first viewing, and a lot of Larkin's flaws are still present, most notably backing straight up to the cage. He's just better at not losing his head once he gets there and is a sharper counter puncher. Tumenov won't have the advantage of the small cage that the Ponz had, but he's a much classier kickboxer with a multi-threat jab/hook/uppercut/kick game that it's very, very difficult to scare him off using. If Larkin chills out on the cage Tumenov will surgically pick him off. Albert Tumenov by TKO, round 2
Victor Rodriguez: Lemme get this out of the way early - Larkin's not a guy I can trust. Love him and won't miss any of his fights, but his inability to be consistent with his phase-shifting is a problem to me, and his defensive lapses will cost him dearly against a relentless guy like Tumenov. That said, he hits hard and when he's on he's capable of some truly exciting violence. Not sure where his grappling is at even though he's been fighting professionally in MMA for just over 6 years now, so Tumenov all day. Submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: Larkin is better at welterweight where he's still one of the fastest guys around and isn't facing the same huge power punchers that can spark him easy. But, Tumenov is a cut above the division in technical kickboxing in a way that negates a lot of potential speed advantage. And Larkin, for all his upsides, still has a lot of the same problems he's always had with striking defense while trying to create offense and a lack of offense when being defensive. He might surprise Tumenov out of the gate, but the longer the fight goes, the worse it gets for Larkin. Albert Tumenov via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Larkin:
Staff picking Tumenov: Phil, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Fraser, Zane, Lewis
Diego Brandao vs. Brian Ortega
Mookie Alexander: Absolutely do not trust Brandao for a variety of reasons, his gas tank is the most glaring issue. Ortega's win over Tavares is more valid than anything Brandao has done in the UFC post-Bermudez win. I am concerned with Ortega getting cracked by Brandao's power, but his game is starting to come together really well, and I feel he takes the next step towards the top 15 tomorrow night. Brian Ortega by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Brandao's paths to victory are relatively clear here- either try to Brandao his opponent early, or win a top control decision as he did against Daniel Pineda, Ortega being one of those BJJ whizzes who never really bothered learning particularly stellar TDD because he didn't care. Ortega is a lot more athletically gifted than Pineda, so although I think he'll have some scares he'll be able to pull out the later rounds or a stoppage. Brian Ortega by TKO, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: Brandao is better than a lot of people think, yet his cardio and fight IQ will be the biggest things working against him. Ortega's got a great ground game, but grappling while getting hit by a guy like Diego will prove to be quite difficult, and getting there is another bag of questions entirely, because pulling guard in some crazy scramble will not be a reliable plan. Let's also remember that Brandao can throw some crazy bombs with his tendency to brawl. I really don't think Ortega's going to resist the urge to get into a dogfight with him, which will lead to ugly things as a result. Brandao by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I think Brandao is better than Ortega everywhere and probably a better athlete too. The one place he isn't better is controlled aggression. When Brandao gets carried away he makes mistakes and when the fight goes against him he often flounders. Ortega is hittable in striking, underwhelming in strength, and submission over position, but he'll come after Brandao constantly and if he doesn't get stopped I think he'll overwhelm the Brazilian and break down his game for a win that might get Ortega a fight that's really over his head. Brian Ortega via decision.
Staff picking Brandao: Victor, Lewis
Staff picking Ortega: Phil, Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Fraser, Zane
Tony Sims vs. Abel Trujillo
Mookie Alexander: Somebody is getting knocked out, and if it comes down to that, Trujillo packs a better and bigger punch. And if no one gets KO'd, then Trujillo probably wins on points anyway. Abel Trujillo via KO, round 1
Phil Mackenzie: I think of Blackzilians and Elevation Fight Team as being unrelated but having largely similar key competencies, in this case technical standup and, um, getting submitted? Blackzilians is definitely, for now, the better of the two. A bit like Poirier vs Duffy, the standup here comes down to the value of craft vs the value of sheer power, because Sims is the cleaner technician but lacks the concussive wallop that Trujillo packs. Trujillo also has a few more tools in the bag that he can bust out, like a really solid double leg and a nasty clinch. You know what, I think I just convinced myself out of picking Sims. Winner fights Ross Pearson, please. Abel Trujillo by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Oh, bother. Sims hits very hard as we saw in the Steve Montgomery fight, but he's also fairly inconsistent. While he has an advantage living and training at altitude to gain a cardio advantage against Trujillo, his striking defense will be tested against a guy that's freakishly strong and explosive. There'd better be a hell of a gameplan here to keep Sims off his back and land some solid and well-timed shots on Abel's chin, or he's in for a long night. Abel Trujillo by decision.
Zane Simon: Sure there's a chance that Abel Trujillo just sparks Sims out in the opening round. Trujillo is the way better athlete and a competent technical striker, when his head is on straight. But, Trujillo is also a bit of mess when he gets tagged and he's going to be fighting a cleaner boxer who probably has a better chin and certainly seems to fight more consistently. I have a feeling this is going to be a very bad loss for Trujillo as he looks dominant early, gets stunned with a hard shot and then falls to pieces for a TKO loss. Tony Sims via TKO Round 2.
Staff picking Sims: Zane
Staff picking Trujillo: Nick, Phil, Victor, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Stephie, Fraser
Masanori Kanehara vs. Michael McDonald
Anton Tabuena: I'm not sure how McDonald will look after two years out, but he is still just 24 years old, and should still be the more athletic and gifted among the two. Michael McDonald by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: McDonald has said in previous interviews that the low pay he was getting nearly caused him to quit MMA, and who could blame him? He makes way more money on tour with the Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins and whatever Motown stuff he also does. I think McDonald will put a beating on Kanehara that will get worse minute-by-minute-by-minute-by-minute. Michael McDonald via KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Michael McDonald is back! and I'm not sure what to expect, although I think it'll be largely the same fighter who left. He's a prodigious athlete and freakish, nuclear hitter but he already looked like he was plateauing, and I don't think a few years training with his brothers will have propelled him to new heights. While flawed, he's got the basic takedown defense and the natural MMA acumen to be able to wallop lesser athletes, and that's likely all he needs here. Kanehara is sneaky and in many ways far more skilled, but Michael McDonald by KO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Kanehara is a very smart fighter with a hell of a resume, but he's got a well-defined ceiling of mostly losing to true upper-tier fighters, and McDonald will certainly be a tall order. I just don't see Kanehara controlling the pace or doing clinchwork against the cage, nor do I see him closing the distance given McDonald's reach. McDonald will be too fast and too strong, plus his top control will be too good. Michael McDonald by decision.
Zane Simon: If McDonald is less than 100% coming into this fight, Kanehara will make things brutally hard on him. Even then, though, I'd pick McDonald to win. He's faster, hits harder, is more consistently aggressive, and is decent everywhere. That said, Kanehara has sneaky power and is a very opportunistic fighter, so if McDonald is off, I could see him getting surprised by a hard counter or crafty sub. Michael McDonald via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Kanehara:
Staff picking McDonald: Phil, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Fraser, Zane, Lewis
Alex Morono vs. Kyle Noke
Phil Mackenzie: Noke has had a weird sort of resurgence, marred by a very close loss to the also weirdly resurgent Patrick Cote. That said, I did not expect the Deathscream Bodykick of Doom. Who did? Certainly not Peter Sobotta's internal organs. Noke's an absolutely massive, fairly well-rounded welterweight and a probable nightmare for a short-notice prospect with horrible defense and the proverbial puncher's chance. Kyle Noke by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Experience will win the day here. Noke's found a way to work on his previous injuries and expand his arsenal. Morono's a hell of an athlete, but Noke's striking and movement, along with his accuracy and takedown defense will give him the edge here. Kyle Noke by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Kyle Noke does all the things that Alex Morono does, but he's bigger, probably tougher, and has more experience. Morono's just not a good enough kickboxer or grappler to have me picking him for the upset, especially not on short notice and not with Noke's recent form. Kyle Noke via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Morono:
Staff picking Noke: Phil, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Fraser, Zane
Nina Ansaroff vs. Justine Kish
Phil Mackenzie: In approach Kish is as classic an MT stylist as you'll see in the UFC, with all the good (super tough, brutal in the clinch) and bad (there to be hit, plodding footwork, lower body takedown vulnerabilities) that comes along with that. Ansaroff looked like a good athlete, but I cooled a lot on her after her fight with Lima, which was appalling. Fighters with serious long-term potential just rarely look that... inert in a loss. Kish's relentless forward motion might get her taken down and tapped, but overall I think she just mounts up the pressure and pace over 3 rounds. Justine Kish by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Ansaroff is tough and scrappy with better grappling fundamentals than Kish, but Kish is also considerably large for her division and has one more submission win on her record than Ansaroff. She's not your average Muay Thai fighter crossing over. Kish is stronger, more precise with her strikes and pushes forward all day. Justine Kish by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Ansaroff is a good athlete and has some potential, but she has way way too many bad habits that cost her heavy in rounds. She defaults to spinning strikes when she's getting backed into the cage, she's too willing to grapple from guard, and while she has a powerful, diverse kicking game, she often walks herself out of range and into the pocket where she can be pretty easily nullified. I'm not sure how Kish will look after all this time off, but she seems like a very patient, controlled, technical fighter and a great athlete to boot. Justine Kish via decision.
Staff picking Ansaroff:
Staff picking Kish: Phil, Victor, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Stephie, Fraser, Zane
Drew Dober vs. Scott Holtzman
Phil Mackenzie: Dober's had a really unfortunate run of late. I like him, but I'm picking for the bad run to continue and for him to likely get shown the door. He's an undersized and underpowered lightweight, fighting a distance and volume game which just doesn't play well in a 3-round MMA environment. Holtzman is more technically raw, but has enough in the toolbox and is in general just bigger and more physical, and that should be enough to pick up a couple of rounds. Close fight, but Scott Holtzman by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: This is the part where Dober gets himself together and really implement his wrestling and suffocate Holtzman with his top game. Scott's very talented and has John Crouch's guidance, but Dober's experience will pay off here as he'll stick with his bread and butter to keep his spot in the organization. Drew Dober by decision.
Zane Simon: Holtzman is the better athlete and the more "natural" fighter, but he's incredibly raw and really not technically good anywhere yet. Dober is a functional if not outstanding high output kickboxer and I think he's just a good enough athlete to barely out maneuver Holtzman for a tough split decision in a fight that Holtzman probably wins a couple years down the road. Drew Dober by Decision.
Staff picking Dober: Victor, Mookie, Anton, Tim, Fraser, Zane
Staff picking Holtzman: Phil, Nick, Stephie
Joseph Duffy vs. Dustin Poirier
Anton Tabuena: I still find it weird how this went from main event to fight pass prelims, but it should still be an intriguing fight either way. Poirier may be the more well rounded and more experienced fighter, but I think this stays mostly standing, making it a much closer fight. Tough pick, but I'm leaning towards the cleaner striker at range. Joseph Duffy by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: This is a hell of a jump for Duffy. His two wins in the UFC are against guys who immediately got released. Whatever you think of Poirier's willingness to get into brawls, he's really good at winning those brawls, and he's also got great skills elsewhere. His offense is extremely potent and powerful, and he's got slick submissions and good takedowns. There's the possibility that Duffy really is the real deal and a top 15 talent, but Poirier was damn good at featherweight and looks great in his return to lightweight. I like him to outstrike Duffy and outwork him on the ground en route torwards a fun decision win. Should be FOTN. Dustin Poirier by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I can see why people are picking or have picked Duffy. He does a lovely job of mixing up his strikes, keeping his weight under him and has a fantastic Weidman-esque understanding of space. However, I'm a big believer in strength of competition as a metric- you just can't tell how good someone is through (and let's not kid ourselves) matches hand-picked to give him easy stoppage wins. In particular, I'm not hugely convinced by his defensive wrestling and Poirier's wrestling and transitional fighting is really solid. Dustin Poirier by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: While Dustin is certainly the more complete fighter of the two, I just think this fight is going to be a battle of attrition that will stay standing, and Duffy will be able to survive anything Poirier throws his way. That's going to make the fight an even closer contest, and not one where either guy gets finished. The real shame is that this isn't a five-rounder as it was intended to be originally, but we'll get an exciting showcase either way. Dustin Poirier by decision.
Zane Simon: I'm surprised most people are picking Poirier considering Duffy is the betting favorite, and I felt like I was going to be fairly alone picking the Diamond. Essentially, even though he has wins over McGregor and Parke, Poirier would be a huge step up for Duffy right now. And while Duffy is a decent boxer, I'm still not sold on his boxing being the best style for MMA, especially not when it means going punch for punch with a hard hitter like Poirier. I just get the feeling that Poirier will hurt him standing and that while Duffy is a good grappler he's not so great a wrestler that he can make that part of the fight happen consistently. Dustin Poirier via decision.
Staff picking Duffy: Anton
Staff picking Poirier: Phil, Rainer, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, Zane, Lewis
Joe Soto vs. Michinori Tanaka
Anton Tabuena: If we don't get a war on the main event, this is my darkhorse pick for Fight of the Night. Tanaka will force scrambles, and Soto's defense and striking will make it interesting. Michinori Tanaka by Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This is actually a really fun, intriguing fight. Soto is definitely the much better boxer of the two, but has also been prone to letting the fight go wherever his opponent wants. He's also just not a super great athlete, coming a notch below the top tier in strength, speed and most notably durability. Tanaka is a fantastic grappler who lost to the massively underrated (and just plain massive) Kyung Ho Kang. If Soto sticks to a sprawl and brawl gameplan, I think he wins a one-sided decision. I'm just not sure that he can. Michinori Tanaka by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Have to agree with Phil here. Tanaka's pressure is going to be too much despite the fact that Soto isn't a slouch in the grappling department, either. Soto won't be able to play defense for that long and pull off an effective offensive performance that will suffice here. Michinori Tanaka by decision.
Zane Simon: The only guys that have beat Soto in his career have generally been big punchers that can knock him out. That's not Tanaka. Tanaka is a flashier grappler, but Soto is a pretty lock down position over submission guy and I think he uses that to maneuver his way to a submission win. Joe Soto via submission.
Staff picking Soto: Rainer, Nick, Stephie, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Tanaka: Phil, Victor, Mookie, Fraser
Edgar Garcia vs. Sheldon Westcott
Mookie Alexander: Briefly thought the UFC brought Leonard Garcia back. Either way, Edgar Garcia by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Garcia is a kind of go-everywhere fighter who I don't think matches up terribly well with a submission specialist. Westcott has consistently won the first rounds of his fights, and Garcia doesn't have the ridiculous toughness that Pawlak and Theodorou brought to the table. Sheldon Westcott by submission, round 1
Zane Simon: Westcott may be a one round fighter, but I think he can submit Garcia in a round. Sheldon Westcott via submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Garcia: Tim, Mookie, Fraser
Staff picking Westcott: Phil, Rainer, Nick, Stephie, Anton, Zane