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UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Brunson staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for tomorrow night’s UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Brunson fight card in Melbourne, Australia.

MMA: UFC 193-Hall vs Whittaker Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for Saturday night’s (or Sunday morning, if you’re Australian) UFC Fight Night 101 card in Melbourne. The majority of the staff is going with Derek Brunson over Robert Whittaker in the main event. In the co-main, it’s a clean sweep for Jake Matthews to take care of Andrew Holbrook. I’m sure many of you will be interested to know Phil Mackenzie’s take on Chris Camozzi vs. Daniel Kelly, and he’s provided one for you.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. 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 Wednesday 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.

Robert Whittaker vs. Derek Brunson

Mookie Alexander: Great fight deserving of a five-round billing. Brunson’s been on a finishing tear and has improved leaps and bounds as a striker from his Strikeforce days. I believe Whittaker to be the more technical striker. He’s got a lethal left hook and a great sense of timing and accuracy. His takedown defense is very solid but it will still be a major question mark, as he’s been excellent at 185, but has not fought anyone who’s as big a wrestling threat as Brunson is. Derek may also be a little less of a technically sound puncher, but he’s really powerful and Whittaker isn’t that great defensively. I’m really torn here. Brunson has a wicked top game that Whittaker doesn’t want to mess with, but Whittaker’s just a clearly better fighter at range. Going with Whittaker to hurt Brunson in the later rounds with countershots and record the knockout. I’m a fan of both so it sucks one of them will take a step back in the title contender chase, but I’ve got Robert Whittaker by TKO, round 3.

Victor Rodriguez: Tough one here, because Brunson’s wrestling and freak athleticism is something Whittaker may not be ready for. Robert’s striking, pacing, patience and sharp technique have served him well, but Brunson’s been finishing everyone lately. Five straight wins, four consecutive finishes, all of them vicious. Brunson’s wrestling is dynamic and he can explode on an opponent in the blink of an eye. Going with the fighter that has the hotter hand on this one. Derek Brunson via TKO.

Staff picking Whittaker: Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Brunson: Nick, Stephie, Victor, Fraser, Zane, Phil

Andrew Holbrook vs. Jake Matthews

Mookie Alexander: Matthews is just a better athlete with more tools in his game. There is still high upset potential given how close he was to losing to Akbarh Arreola, but Holbrook got a gift decision vs. Ramsey Nijem and then was wrecked by Joaquim Silva in his last fight. I’ve got Jake Matthews by submission, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Matthews loss to Kevin Lee was a bit of a shocker, but it's increasingly looking like Lee might be closing in on the coveted #2 Limited But Dangerous Wrestle-grappler spot in the UFC lightweight division. Holbrook doesn't have anything like Lee's athleticism and I think this is honestly a bit of a squash match. Jake Matthews by TKO, round 2

Staff picking Holbrook:
Staff picking Matthews: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Fraser, Zane, Tim

Omari Akhmedov vs. Kyle Noke

Mookie Alexander: Honestly should be picking Akhmedov on power alone, with Noke’s chin looking more and more fragile, but Omari’s got his own chin problems, horrific cardio, and his overall game is just a sloppy mess with almost no process behind it. The safe pick is clearly Noke. Kyle Noke by TKO, round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: Neither guy has looked good lately at all. Noke had a brief, weird resurgence when he hit Sobotta with the legendary BleaAAARRRgh Body Kick of Doom, but he gave away an awful decision to Morono and then got basically KOed by Keita Nakamura. That said, Akhmedov has both a bad chin AND a terrible gas tank, and Noke has at least been OK at keeping opponents away from him in the early going. A tentative Kyle Noke by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Akhmedov: Nick
Staff picking Noke: Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Tim

Yusuke Kasuya vs. Alex Volkanovski

Mookie Alexander: From what I gather, Volkanovski can erupt at any moment, and I have to go with him. Alex Volkanovski by hot lava.

Phil Mackenzie: Pretty close matchup between two fairly similar fighters. Kazuya's problems are that his electric wind godfist and hellsweep can both be sidestepped to the left, and that his poking arsenal is mediocre Kasuya's problems are in power and wrestling, where Volkanovski has small edges, but otherwise this is a fairly typical lighter weight fight of scrambling and volume striking. Alex Volkanovski by unanimous decision

Staff picking Kasuya:
Staff picking Volkanovski: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Phil, Zane, Tim

Khalil Rountree vs. Tyson Pedro

Phil Mackenzie: Fight may be weird. Pedro is a willing grappler and Rountree is not shy about just throwing himself into everything. Both men super powerful, neither very proven past one round. Think Khalil "The Fruit Pastille" Rountree gets the early KO, but this could get hellaciously ugly if it goes late. Khalil Rountree by KO, round 1

Staff picking Rountree: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Pedro:

Seo Hee Ham vs. Danielle Taylor

Mookie Alexander: Ham is fun to watch. Taylor’s debut vs. Maryna Moroz was one of the worst fights I’ve seen this year. Ham’s the more well-rounded (and accurate) fighter, so Seo Hee Ham by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Hamderlei is fun. So much fun. Taylor hits really hard and can work nice setups for her shots with feints, but not much in the way of mobility. That’s going to cost her in this fight, and it really doesn’t help that Ham has a better ground game with smart but hard shots from top control and good half-guard control. Seo Hee Ham by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Atomweights! Taylor probably has more pure power, but Ham is far more crafty and well-rounded. The x-factor is that I have no idea how each fighter responds to fighting someone of comparable height- in these kind of situations, it can sometimes be the "more skilled" fighter who struggles more to unlearn punching upwards, while the more instinctive one can adjust faster. Still, Seo Hee Ham by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Ham: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Taylor:

Chris Camozzi vs. Dan Kelly

Phil Mackenzie: Chris Camozzi, Twice-Devoured and Returned, King of the Powerless Volume Punchers, ducked hastily. The rotten fruit sailed over his head and exploded on the cobbles behind him. The grubby child who had thrown it glared at him, and then disappeared around the corner.

Camozzi sighed. The town they were riding through was part of his domain, and yet this kind of reaction was becoming depressingly common. Sometimes he would be welcomed by his subjects with warmth, or even sympathy. Sometimes they ignored him. Sometimes it was scorn. Sometimes it was thrown objects.

"I am no Bisping, am I Brad?" he said to Tavares.

"It's no easy thing to live up to a King who was the greatest Powerless Volume Puncher of all time," said Tavares, diplomatically.

"They expect me to be able to at least beat BJJ Guys," said Camozzi. "And I never have. Natal, Leites, even Santos."

"The fortunes of those fighters have depleted, though," said Tavares. "Natal lost to... I am hearing some kind of resurrected form of Boetsch the Barbarian, if that is to be believed. Leites was dominated by some new figure, one said to be Generic Beyond Generic."

"Not a comfort," said Camozzi. "If they had gone on to victories, at least my defeat would have been acceptable to my people. As it is? I can only go elsewhere. Try my hand at defeating another. This Kelly has apparently set the world of the Scrappers afire with chatter."

"What did they call him, again?" said Tavares.

Camozzi frowned. "The Kangaroo Sage..."

Miles away, the sun beat down on an old man sitting cross-legged on the packed earth. He sipped from a metal can of Castlemaine XXXX mead, his eyes closed. A two-legged marsupial bounded up to him, and dipped down until its snout was next to his ear. It grunted and coughed, and someone watching might have even thought it was speaking.

The man's eyes opened slowly.

"Someone coming to fight me, you say?" he said. "A King?"

He stood slowly, his aged joints creaking, and looked into the distance.

"Chris Camozzi? King of the Powerless Volume Punchers..." he said thoughtfully, and his eyes hardened. He crushed the tinny in his fist.

"G'day." Chris Camozzi by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Realistically, Camozzi should be able to put Kelly away with better striking, good wrestling and an underrated submission game. Still, Kelly’s Judo game has been adapted for MMA so well that I can’t totally write him off. That and the fact that he’s hard to put away. It’s tempting to go with Camozzi in hopes of another fight with Jacare (as it seems someone’s made a blood pact to have them fight 70 times), but Kelly’s got a bigger chance for the upset than people think. I’m reckless enough to take that chance. Judo Dan Kelly via… well… Judo.

Staff picking Camozzi: Phil, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Kelly: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Stephie

Damien Brown vs. Jon Tuck

Victor Rodriguez: Tuck’s got great striking chops and better timing. Brown’s pretty good, but his game isn’t as developed to really get the win here. Jon Tuck by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Is it just me or has Tuck been around gyms a lot? Kings, Alliance, The Lab? That's... not generally a particularly good sign. He is very athletic and at this point is developed and well-rounded enough that it takes comparable athletes to beat him. Brown isn't that and I'm not sure how much credit I put into his KO last time out. Jon Tuck by TKO, round 2

Staff picking Brown: Tim
Staff picking Tuck: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Zane

Richard Walsh vs. Jonathan Meunier

Phil Mackenzie: I actually really like Filthy Rich's style. He's developed from being a brawler into a much more classical Muay Thai fighter, but with the corresponding lack of defense which sometimes comes with that- bolt upright, meaning his head is still there for even the wildest strikers, and he's also pretty easy to take down. Meunier is a bit more unfocused, but he seems a higher caliber of athlete and if Tristar Quebec (?) has any of the gameplan-centric focal points of the main team he'll try and bait combinations into takedowns. Oddly intrigued by this. Jonathan Meunier by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m still salty that Walsh got robbed in that Kunimoto fight. Meunier is an interesting fighter that’s got serious talent, but Walsh’s odd style and ability to make the fight ugly in his favor might be the difference here. Walsh also trains with really good submission guys, which could also work against Meunier. Richy Walsh by decision.

Staff picking Walsh: Victor, Fraser
Staff picking Meunier: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Tim

Ben Nguyen vs. Geane Herrera

Mookie Alexander: Herrera may have good offensive wrestling, but his takedown defense is not impressive, and Nguyen works a faster pace and hits harder than Herrera. This should be a fun fight and we could see some fun scrambles, but I think Nguyen’s the slightly better fighter than Herrera, and he’ll take this in a Fight of the Night battle. Ben Nguyen by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Another one of the really fun lower-weight fights which have been sprinkled through these last few fight cards, which have otherwise been a bit sub-par. Nguyen is blazing fast and a savage puncher, but remains reliant on athleting his way out of trouble. On the other side, despite some rough style matchups of late, where he basically fought guys who were just better at him in his core competencies, Herrera is also incredibly athletic. He's a much better grappler... but is he a better, or more willing wrestler? I think mostly he's just going to strike here. He's tougher and probably can keep more of a workrate, but he's also rather hittable, which is a concern. In all I think I like his pace- if he loses I think it's probably by R1 KO though. Geane Herrera by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Ben’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch in most of his fights, but Herrera’s wrestling could end up blanketing him and nullifying a lot of his offense. Herrera could make this an unexciting but tactical affair that will test Nguyen’s cardio and determination. Going with the safe pick on this one. Geane Herrera by submission.

Staff picking Nguyen: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Herrera: Victor, Phil

Dan Hooker vs. Jason Knight

Phil Mackenzie: I don't really get Dan Hooker. I've seen him a ton of times and he doesn't make sense to me at all. What is he? Is he Condit? Just a big lanky collection of tough, fairly athletic finishing stuff that gets chucked at opponents with selective tactical thought? Is that who he is? God dammit Dan Hooker. I don't know who you are. Does that make this a close, nip-tuck affair of Knight chasing Hooker around the cage and Hooker peppering him with kicks? Is it a pint-sized Kiwi Condit vs Hick Diaz? I DON'T KNOW. I really want to pick against Hooker because it took serious veteran smarts for Big Condit to beat Full-size Diaz... but I know he's just waiting to mess me up with some nonsense. You're not going to get me this time, Hooker. Dan Hooker by unanimous decision?

Staff picking Hooker: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Knight: Mookie, Stephie, Zane

Marlon Vera vs. Ning Guangyou

Mookie Alexander: I forgot Ning Guangyou beat the legendary Royston Wee. That’s honestly the type of win that should be getting you a title shot, not Marlon Vera. Ning Guangyou by destruction.

Victor Rodriguez: Loved Vera’s personality on TUF Latin America, but that’s it. He hasn’t shown himself to be much more than a BJJ guy that got really good on the regional circuit through Panama, Peru and his native Ecuador, but no. His game was probably advanced for that level, but he’s not going to do well here unless Guangyou gets careless with his submission defense. On the other hand, Guangyou defeated Royston Wee, people. Royston Wee. I lit a candle for that man. Where’s my scotch? Ning Guangyou by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: Fight should be fun. Vera's pretty wild and aggressive, but like Victor said: Ning Guangyou beat Royston Wee. ROYSTON WEE I TELL YOU. Ning Guangyou by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Guangyou: Victor, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Vera: Nick, Stephie, Tim

Yao Zhikui vs. Jenel Lausa

Mookie Alexander: There are too many UFC events. Jenel Lausa by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Feeling the random upset here. Zhikui isn't anything special but when he throws he throws more than one punch at a time and Lausa doesn't. Zhikui also has a big head and I appreciate big heads. Yao Zhikui by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Zhikui: Phil
Staff picking Lausa: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Tim

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