We're just one day away from the first major Bellator event of 2016. Ken Shamrock will complete his trilogy with Royce Gracie, who theoretically could compete with his gi on, but has otherwise chosen not to. Bloody Elbow's staff is siding with Shamrock, with 7 of 10 picking Ken to finally beat his rival. Phil Mackenzie is picking Dada 5000 over Kimbo Slice, Tim Burke is picking neither man to win, while everyone else is backing Kimbo.
Strap yourselves in because this ended up being a lively predictions post.
NOTE 1: 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 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: Bellator predictions do not count towards the staff's season standings.
Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock
Anton Tabuena: With their age, inactivity or recent performances, no one can honestly predict anything here with certainty. It's so weird trying to make a technical breakdown or prediction on two guys so far out of their primes, and still has styles from the days where no one knew any grappling. Neither are good by today's standards, but Ken is far worse on the ground than Royce. I can say the same with their striking, but I expect Ken to have a slight edge there with both technique and power. I have no idea how it plays out, but it's probably going to be slow, sad and sloppy. Despite inactivity and a massive size difference, I guess I'm just leaning towards picking the "younger" and less shopworn of the two. Royce Gracie by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: Too many of you wrote too many serious words on this. Here's how the fight will go down: 1st round will be an all-time classic. It'll be MMA's Gatti/Ward, Hagler/Hearns, and Trinidad/Vargas all rolled into one. During round 2? The IRS bursts through the cage door and snatches Royce away. The taxman cometh. Chaos and confusion ensues as authorities detain Royce and cuff him using his gi belt. Shamrock wins by default. Ken Shamrock via DQ.
Victor Rodriguez: Welp. can't say I have much excitement for this, but it's not as bad as Kimbo/Shamrock in terms of watching geriatric brain trauma. Shamrock might use leg kicks, which I'm fairly certain Royce won't check. Royce will probably catch them hands standing and only really has a shot at winning this fight on the ground - and therein lies the rub. How is he going to get it there? It just seems unlikely. I doubt Ken will have the same kind of brain farts he displayed when he failed to choke out Kimbo last time, and he'll utilize his top game to bludgeon Royce. I've got a lot of love and respect for Uncle Royce, but he eats elbows on this one. Ken Shamrock via sad violence.
Phil Mackenzie: This fight plumbs the depths of what is terrible about MMA. Pointing out that Ken's joints couldn't bend proved to be prescient when he couldn't finish a fully locked in RNC, and Royce's last fight was nine years ago, when the drug testing machines exploded due to the amount of nandrolone in his system. I don't see submissions or knockouts in this fight. It's essentially picking a showdown between two rigid blocks of wood which can only be flexed with the help of softening biochemicals. I guess I'll pick the slightly larger block of wood which has more of a chance of falling over onto the smaller one. Ken Shamrock by unutterably terrible unanimous decision.
Tim Burke: Who breaks a hip first? Are they drinking metamucil between rounds? Will Royce wear his pajamas in the cage? So many questions I don't give a shit about! Royce Gracie by sub, round 1.
Artem Safarov: Ken needs a win. His recent loss to Kimbo Slice raised many questions. Many fans called it a "controversial" fight. Ken's fans now doubt both his physical conditions and his ability to finish a fight. For a 52-year-old MMA veteran whose career's peak was from 1990-1996, Ken is a shadow of his former self.
What we used to forget is Ken Shamrock's submission record - he has almost twice as many submission wins than his opponent: 23 for Shamrock vs 12 for Gracie.
Gracie's BJJ always used to be his main and only weapon. As we remember, the main idea of Gracie family was that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu surpasses all other fighting styles. Royce came to the sport at the dawn of Mixed Martial Arts and confronted the best of the best fighters at the moment. His BJJ used to be a fearsome weapon. But the sport evolved over time and fighters learned to protect themselves from his skills. Looking back, we can easily see that Gracie's last submission win took place in 2004, when he dominated Chad Rowan (0-0 at the moment of fight and 0-4 in his career). His last fight and last win occurred in 2007, where Royce avenged his old loss to Kazushi Sakuraba, defeating him via unanimous decision. From Ken's side, he haven't experienced a loss via submission since his fight with Minoru Suzuki back in 1995!
When I look at the zealous efforts Shamrock puts in his training, adding here more than mediocre striking skills of Gracie's and taking into attention that BJJ domination era has passed long ago, I can't see how Royce Gracie can win this fight. Ken Shamrock wins by KO/TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: If I'm being honest, the most likely outcome here is a repeat of their 2nd fight. Shamrock is the bigger fighter with the better wrestling game. Plus, Gracie is all too willing to just lie there on his back, waiting for the sub opportunity. There are certainly holes in Shamrock's game - oh my are there holes. But they are holes in striking, and is 2016 Royce Gracie really going to knock out Ken Shamrock? That seems highly unlikely. So yes, Shamrock by decision is probably what we're getting. BUT, a combination of my love for Royce and visions of Shamrock nearly having a heart attack against Kazuyuki Fujita FIFTEEN YEARS AGO demands that I throw in with one of my favorite fighters of all time and the man who made me truly fall in love with this wacky sport of ours. Royce Gracie by submission, round 1
Zane Simon: It's been 2007 since Royce Gracie last stepped into a ring to fight someone. And while I don't doubt that he's just as much of a mean cuss as he's always been, I don't know that he's necessarily up to speed on just what the sport is anymore. Ken hasn't exactly been riding high, but he seems a lot more grounded in just what's going on with the sport and I have the feeling that he's been doing a lot more to stay in touch with MMA training. I'm gonna take Ken by TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Gracie: Tim, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Shamrock: Artem, Nick, Victor, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Zane
Dada 5000 vs. Kimbo Slice
Anton Tabuena: Kimbo should have more technical strikes and be more aware on the ground. But he's old, and this is heavyweight, where the first big punch probably wins it, so who the f*** knows, really? Kimbo Slice by Gogoplata KO.
Mookie Alexander: C'mon. The answer here couldn't be any more obvious. Dada 5000 is a street fighter. Kimbo Slice is an MMA fighter with a street fighter background. Advantage Kimbo, who will show off some new skills. Kimbo Slice via omoplata, 45 seconds into round 1.
Victor: Oh, wow. Surely I can't be the only person that has a bit of disbelief that this is actually happening, right? Kimbo's been training with ATT and has done more in professional MMA and his brief (praise Vishnu) stint in boxing than Dada has when it comes to anything resembling a respectable record. Kimbo's trained with better people at ATT while Dada looks like he only recently hired someone to train him for their last preview special. I had previously joked that he was probably only doing bench-presses in his backyard prior to this, and have no faith that he's expanded his skills to anything that would make this more than just a glorified fistfight in a cage. Dada looks really strong, but after the open workouts... ugh. It would be hilarious if NCAA Dada showed up and just mauled Kimbo from top side control, but none of us should hold our breath. Kimbo by sloppy KO.
Phil Mackenzie: The real main question here is: why does Dada 5000 not have a deal with a company which sells cleaning products. Firstly he has a brillo pad on his head. Secondly, I'd like you to closely observe the way he punches. If you've ever been caught halfway through the washing-up and have had to pick something up with your elbows or forearms, then that is the way that Dhafir Harris throws strikes. He should be in an advert where his fists are covered in suds and he flails away with his forearms and wrists at an army of poorly animated germs (PAY ME, AD COMPANIES). The secondary issue is that although Mr. 5000 punches like one of the Thunderbirds, stand-up is nominally his primary skillset... or is it...? Perhaps he's been hiding a wrestling and grappling base all this time; playing the long con by concealing a top game which would make Jacare quiver in terror. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is true. Dada 5000 by ezekiel choke, round 1.
Tim Burke: I can't even be original enough to make fun of this. I'm in Japan. This fight should be in Japan. That's all I'm gonna say. Double DQ (corner brawl)
Artem Safarov: Kimbo is barely the main draw in Bellator right now and a legit heavyweight title contender. But now he is about to face one of the most dangerous heavyweights Bellator has got in the roster - the fearsome Dhafir Harris, better known as "Dada 5000". Kimbo's nemesis comes directly from the same neighborhood in Miami. The drama escalates when we know that back in the day, Kimbo and Dada used to be close friends. They even promoted their own MMA event known Worldwide as "Kimbo beats another no-name at the backyard"
Dada's MMA achievements definitely look impressive. His opponents - Cedric James and Tim Papp hold a 1-16 record altogether. Kimbo would be an easy match-up for younger Harris, but his recent lopsided win over Ken Shamrock makes this fight hard to predict. I take Kimbo, because his MMA legacy is too solid to be ruined by anyone. Kimbo Slice by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: So help me, I actually watched Dada's two pro MMA fights to get ready for this. And you know what, he's terrible. I know you are sitting there saying "Well duh Fraser, obviously he's terrible", but no - I mean he is TERRIBLE. I do not even recall the last time I saw a fighter with this little skill. Art Jimmerson watches him and says "Man, you really don't know what you're doing in there, do you?" Jon Hess watches this guy fight and thinks "Dude, you need to work on your technique more." Did I mention he's terrible? Kimbo Slice, KO, R1
Zane Simon: There's a good chance that this just turns into an ugly mess where the toughest chin to land the first big shot wins... In fact that's almost the only way this fight will go. In that case, flip a coin, who knows. Dada 5000 is a mess but he's willing to just go in and club a dude for a 1 min TKO. Still, I think Kimbo will stay just sharp enough for just long enough to either land a clean counter shot, or to get an ugly takedown for some terrible GNP win. Kimbo by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Dada 5000: Phil
Staff picking Slice: Artem, Nick, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking double DQ: Tim
Emanuel Newton vs. Linton Vassell
Mookie Alexander: As long as Newton doesn't get himself screwed before the fight, I think he wins the rematch. Vassell is a tough fighter but I do worry about him getting caught with one of Newton's big spinning attacks. Newton tends to churn out inconsistent performances, which leads to a variance in the quality of his fights, but I think he's still at least the 3rd best LHW on Bellator's roster and will beat Vassell again. Emanuel Newton by unanimous decision.
Artem Safarov: I will say simply - Newton all the way. He already defeated this guy once. Emanuel Newton via Submission.
Victor: Newton is a fighter that frustrates me to no end with his wasted kicks and his constant spinning attacks, but he's super-fun to watch when he can disrupt his opponent's rhythm with his funky style. Vassell got choked out by Newton in 2014, and there really hasn't been the kind of growth in his game to lead me to believe things will go much differently for him. Newton by submission.
Phil Mackenzie: Linton Vassell is arguably the second-best MMA wrestler in Bellator's light heavyweight division. I'm almost not kidding. He lost to Mo handily, but it was almost all due to getting beat up on the feet, and he outgrappled Newton for two rounds. Why can't he do it again? Oh yeah. Terrible chin and gas tank. But I believe in the power of British Wrestling! Linton Vassell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I really want Newton to win this, but I don't have faith in it looking different enough from their first fight to pick him to take a decision over 3 and I don't think Newton stops Vassell inside the distance. Linton Vassell via decision.
Staff picking Newton: Artem, Nick, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Vassell: Phil, Tim, Zane
Derek Campos vs. Melvin Guillard
Mookie Alexander: I'm not picking Guillard again unless it's vs. an absolute can. He's physically declined and his skills have eroded. The guy has been in MMA for almost 15 years with 50+ recorded pro fights. And he's not a heavyweight. All of those are bad signs for someone's career if they're facing even top 50 opposition. Campos isn't top-shelf and is prone to getting tagged a lot, but he's probably good enough to get the win here over what's left of Guillard. EDIT: And Guillard misses weight. That seals it for me. Derek Campos by unanimous decision.
Artem Safarov: I pick Derek Campos. Unfortunately, Guillard's career is at the major downturn right now. Campos via decision.
Victor: A few weeks ago, I wondered if Melvin even had the motivation to get himself together for this fight. After talking to him last week, I can't pick against him. He really seems to have thought this one through and is taking the right steps for this bout. He has the right kind of game to get that big knockout he's been craving. Melvin Guillard by KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Melvin just looked so lost in there last time out. I can't pick him. Like I wrote about last week, sometimes whatever it is that makes a fighter is just gone, and it looked utterly gone from Melvin. Maybe that was a shock which is driving him to make better decisions training and in life in general, but like BJ, I think the actual competitive fire is snuffed. Derek Campos by unanimous decision.
Tim Burke: I'd pick Jonathan Goulet to beat Melvin Guillard right now. Derek Campos by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I really don't like picking Guillard anymore, but I see him being able to get Campos in a slugfest, and that ending poorly for Campos. But I am not confident in this at all. Melvin Guillard, KO, R1
Zane Simon: Like the Newton fight, I just want Guillard to win. I don't trust him to, and I don't know if his hands won't shatter, and he didn't make weight. But I think Campos is being set up to get Guillard over even if that doesn't mean much long term. Guillard by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Campos: Artem, Phil, Tim, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Guillard: Nick, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Zane
Daniel Pineda vs. Emmanuel Sanchez
Mookie Alexander: Nothing against these two, but this fight belongs on a normal Bellator card. We've had so much fun with the main and co-main events that this is just a thing that gets in the way of the absolute trainwreck that will be Shamrock/Gracie III and Kimbo/Dada 5000. Anyway, Pineda is pretty much a sink-or-swim fighter, in that he's never won a fight without finishing his opponent. Sanchez is a good striker who can probably avoid Pineda's submissions and outwork him for three rounds. Emmanuel Sanchez via unanimous decision.
Artem Safarov: My pick is Emmanuel Sanchez via decision.
Victor: Pineda's a solid fighter, but Sanchez has better range and boxing. His clinch game can be tricky, his submission attacks are enough to give Pineda pause. Daniel is really good, but Sanchez has more avenues for victory here. Emmanuel Sanchez via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Easily the most interesting fight on the main card. I think I actually like Pineda for this one- while Sanchez is an excellent stalker and pressure fighter, I don't think that style plays well against aggressive ground and clinch guys because it gives them too many opportunities to lock up. Should be fun though. Daniel Pineda by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Given his element, Pineda is a pretty good fighter and Sanchez seems like just a little less exciting version of the classic Roufusport guy. Which is to say that he's a good range striker that can be closed down and is too willing to grapple. That makes me think Pineda gets what he wants, a grappling battle, and beats Sanchez there. Daniel Pineda via submission.
Staff picking Pineda: Tim, Phil, Zane
Staff picking Sanchez: Artem, Nick, Anton, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie