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

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff's picks and predictions for Sunday night's UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Oliveira card in Pittsburgh, PA.

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The Bloody Elbow team has unanimously chosen Cowboy to win Sunday's UFC Pittsburgh main event. And by that, I mean we're all going with Donald Cerrone over Alex Oliveira. Tim Burke and Victor Rodriguez are the lone dissenters in the co-main, as they like Roan Carneiro to upset Derek Brunson. Tim is joined by Victor again in choosing Tatsuya Kawajiri over Dennis Bermudez.

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 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: Read Tim Burke's Bermudez/Kawajiri prediction and Phil Mackenzie's Riggs/Camozzi breakdown.

Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Oliveira

Anton Tabuena: This isn't going to be close. Cowboy should be more technical and dangerous on the feet, and while it probably won't matter, he is also better than Cowboy on the ground. Cowboy is also coming in on short notice, so Cowboy is pretty much going to run through him here. Cowboy by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Alex Oliveira's legacy is going to be having anywhere from 15-20 UFC fights with maybe 2-3 of them booked more than two months in advance. Everything else is short notice. Yes, there are questions surrounding Cerrone's ability to absorb punishment, as well as this move to 170, but strictly speaking from skill sets, Cerrone can do whatever he wants with Oliveira. I think he hurts him and chokes him out in the 2nd round. Donald Cerrone by submission (RNC), round 2.

Victor: Big ups to Alex Oliveira for stepping up this big against a former title challenger like this. Unless he's able to capitalize on Cerrone's slow starts or just overwhelm him physically, he's going to be eating leg kicks for a while. Worst part of this is how Olivieira's ground game looked decent against KJ Noons in May of last year, but a month later has a turrible ground game showing against Joe Merritt. This should be a great showdown, but Cerrone should have enough experience and technique to dismantle Oliveira and really hurt him, he just can't get overconfident and rush in at the wrong moment. Cerrone via TKO

Artem: I root for Cowboy Cerrone, because he is completely awesome! You know, he is so badass, so real, so "Cowboy"! He is one of the most adored American fighters in Russia, because he loves to have fun, be extreme, and drink. He lives such an interesting life, full of adventures and adrenaline. Look up his Instagram and you'll become his fan forever: "Cowboy skydives with two PlayBoy models and one parachute", "Cowboy rides an ox with his eyes blindfolded and his hands tied behind his back. But he laughs", and my favourite: "Cowboy jumps from the cliff, singing ‘Highway to Hell' in his truck and showing middle-finger-sign to the skies". I am so envious and so sad. Surprisingly I have just realized that Cowboy lives a life I've been always dreaming of. As for the fight: Donald Cerrone via Knockout of The Night.

Staff picking Cerrone: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Victor, Phil, Tim, Anton, Tim Bis, Mookie
Staff picking Oliveira:

Derek Brunson vs. Roan Carneiro

Mookie Alexander: I don't get why Brunson is ranked 13th. He's only one spot ahead of Dan Henderson! I'm sold on his improvements, I feel like Carneiro's ranking is largely inflated because of how shockingly easy the Munoz win was at the time, and Brunson has powerful (if not still technically wild) striking and will outmatch Carneiro from a physical standpoint. I don't really see Carneiro being able to take Brunson down and outgrapple him unless Derek gasses or makes mistakes on the feet. Derek Brunson by TKO, round 2.

Victor: Brunson is a very talented fighter that loves his long, looping punches, hits hard, and really gets heavy with his clinching against the cage as well as his top game on the ground. Problem is, it's hard to pick against a guy that's coming in off a long layoff, but with a six-fight win streak (largely due to the one-night Battlegrounds tournament, which he won). Brunson won't keep him on his back, and Carneiro's defensive grappling is really good. Carneiro by submission.

Staff picking Brunson: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Phil, Tim Bis, Mookie
Staff picking Carneiro: Tim, Victor

Cody Garbrandt vs. Augusto Mendes

Anton Tabuena: Lineker vs Garbrandt was the only fight I was looking forward to on this card, and damn mosquitoes had to take away all that violence. Garbrandt by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I've learned my lesson about never betting on Short Notice Mendes. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Cody Garbrandt is a way better striker and a very good defensive wrestler, which means that Tanquinho's game probably won't get much play at all. Most pertinently, Garbrandt showed that he can fight boring / risk-averse when he has to last time out, which narrows Mendes' window for landing sometime funky in a scramble. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Garbrandt: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Phil, Anton, Mookie
Staff picking Mendes: Tim, Tim Bis

Dennis Bermudez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri

Anton Tabuena: This fight will probably make me sad and hate this card even more. Bermudez by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Unless Bermudez gets chin-checked, keeping in mind that happens almost all the time, Kawajiri won't hold Bermudez down and he can't hang with him standing. I think this is going to be a dominant win for Bermudez. Dennis Bermudez by unanimous decision.

Nick: Sorry Tim Burke, but Bermudez by KO.

Victor: Daddy likes him some upsets, and Kawajiri's wrestling will give him an advantage here. He's stronger, and his fight IQ isn't the best, but it's still likely better than Dennis'. I'm gonna high-five Tim after this and drop a clever Kafka quote like a true plebian. Kawajiri by decision due to veteran game running strong.

Phil Mackenzie: Kawajiri was never quick, but he's slow as molasses in January nowadays. His admittedly crude standup has almost disappeared, and he's totally reliant on having a massive wrestling advantage. He won't have that here. He got soundly outworked by Guida, who in turn got effortlessly pasted by Bermudez, and I suspect we get something like the Gil-Crusher Strikeforce fight where it looks like Kawajiri's in slo-mo compared to his opponent. Dennis Bermudez by TKO, round 1.

Tim Burke: Normally I would use caps in situations like this, but I'm going to explain this to y'all rationally for once. Dennis Bermudez is a good fighter. He's well above average for his weight class, and has had some classic fights. But after Saturday, his whole life will be different. He's fighting a legend - a man that could very well inflict enough punishment to force Mr. Bermudez to wear diapers and roll around with a drool cup for the rest of his life.

You don't sign on the dotted line to fight the greatest of all time, Dennis. You should know better. I'll do my best to cover your kickstarter for a motorized scooter and the colostomy bag. I'm a professional, after all. But you made a huge mistake here - Crusher is going to make you wish you went into accounting like your parents wanted you to. Someone uttering the words "Tatsuya" or "Crusher" or "Kawajiri" will make you instinctively run and hide inside a pillow fort for the rest of your life, Dennis. You're about to understand what pain really feels like. Ibaraki, son. It's on. Tatsuya Kawajiri, unanimous decision (30-23 x 3).

Staff picking Bermudez: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Phil, Anton, Tim Bis
Staff picking Kawajiri: Victor, Tim

Chris Camozzi vs. Joe Riggs

Mookie Alexander: Just read Phil's predictions below and ignore the rest of us. Chris Camozzi by split decision.

Victor: Riggs is the new Pudzianowski. Every time he's in an arena, the most random things just happen. Camozzi will probably be disqualified for stopping mid-fight to do a Pavarotti impression and bite the ref's forearm. But seriously, Riggs is really shopworn and we should all be concerned for his overall health. His boxing is slick and he can put Chris away, even if he's a bit undersized. Camozzi is probably the favorite, but whatever. Pushing for the crazy upset, because chaos. Riggs by TKO.


Phil Mackenzie: The border guard looked dubiously at the battered man in front of him, who smiled brightly. The intended effect was ruined by the way his ear began to slowly peel away from the side of his head.
"... so you're a Middleweight?"
"I am now, sir!" the man said, happily.
"...and you're a Blue Collar Scrapper?"
"None scrappier, sir!"
"Enter, then, Sir Riggs." The guard gestured him through, and then sighed. "Pick up your ear, please."
Duke Camozzi knelt before the King of the Powerless Volume Punchers. Bisping knocked the giant that he sparred with unconscious with a single punch, and turned to Camozzi. "You'll be pleased to know that we have a fight for you, Chris."
Camozzi bowed his head, and hid his anticipation. He considered himself a proud but loyal man. He had been exiled once, but in that exile had found his greatest moment, in swimming back to his homeland through a river infested with carnivorous alligators. The water mixed with no small amount of his blood that day, but he wore the scars like a badge. Now he hoped his courage would be rewarded. Natal? Even Leites? Perhaps a Scrapper like Alvey?
"You will fight Joe Riggs."
"The... the welterweight? Riggs the Eternally Decaying?" Camozzi tried to conceal his dismay.
Bisping looked at him sharply, but then turned away. "Our numbers shrink, old friend. Ring is gone. Tavares is lost to himself. Meanwhile, Boetsch's demise has caused Scrappers to rush out to lay claim to his throne like so many lice from rotting wood. They fight among themselves for now, but we are greatly outnumbered, and we cannot appear weak. We need a victory."
Camozzi swallowed his disappointment. "Yes, lord."
"They also say that the new Tom Watson has been looking for you. He took your victory over his predecessor... poorly."
"Askham seeks me?" said Camozzi, and allowed himself a smile. "Let him. One Watson is much the same as another."
Bisping grunted. "Be that as it may. They say this one could be different. More than just ‘a' Tom Watson."
Camozzi's smile broadened. "That old Scrapper story?" He turned to leave. "Good luck against The Spider, my lord."
"I don't need luck." Bisping ushered in his next heavyweight sparring partner. "I beat The Spider..." Camozzi closed the chamber door behind him softly over the old refrain "... eight out of twelve times..." Chris Camozzi by unanimous decision

Staff picking Camozzi: Nick, Phil, Tim, Anton, Mookie
Staff picking Riggs: Stephie, Artem, Tim Bis

Shane Campbell vs. James Krause

Mookie Alexander: I think Campbell is the better striker and thus can win (and most likely will) if he keeps it standing, but I feel like Krause may be strong and savvy enough to muscle Campbell into grappling exchanges, where he'll be able to give the Canadian a hard time. Good matchmaking, I think it's one of the best fights on the card, but I'll go with Krause ever so slightly. James Krause by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I really like James Krause, so I was glad to see him win his last fight, but... was that a replicable performance at all? Footsweep into insta-choke is badass and all, but historically Krause just hasn't had a strong takedown game. On the feet he's got tons of reach and pace and numerically outlands practically everyone he fights, but he also has no power. Not sure he can pull off the Cruickshank magic again. Shane Campbell by unanimous decision

Staff picking Campbell: Tim, Tim Bis, Phil
Staff picking Krause: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Mookie

Alex Garcia vs. Sean Strickland

Victor: Sorry, kids. No way that the Dominican Dolph Lundgren is gonna pick against Garcia. He's a Tristar wrestler with amazing explosiveness and dynamic chain wrestling. Barring some bad cardio, it's going to be difficult for Strickland to get his game running.

Phil Mackenzie: It's rare that a developing fighter wins a relatively dominant and one-sided decision over a long-term vet and it causes you to revise expectations of the fighter in question downwards, but that's what happened in Garcia-Swick. At the moment Garcia seems to be struggling with the durability cliff that the UFC represents- without being able to hulk smash people instantly, he's not developed a strong game around entries or standing pressure to consistently win decisions or push opponents towards a finish. Strickland has had similar problems as a prospect, namely pace and output deficiencies which were exposed when hitting the UFC, but his defensive grappling is very good, and his jab and outside striking represent a tough layer for a much shorter fighter to navigate. I'd honestly like to see Garcia win, but Sean Strickland by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Garcia: Victor, Tim, Tim Bis, Mookie
Staff picking Strickland: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Phil, Anton

Oluwale Bamgbose vs. Daniel Sarafian

Phil Mackenzie: The Bang Bus is back in town, and I'm sure there's some awful joke to be made about Sarafian's last win, and fingers, but I just can't put the pieces together. This is a really tough and weird fight to pick. Basically Sarafian is a vet who has never looked... good, and The Holy War Angel is a great athlete who is super duper raw. Barbarena-Northcutt type deal, although Sarafian is worse than Barbarena and Bamgbose is (slightly) more experienced than Sage. Awful tempted to make the #Zanepick but I'll just go with the vet, with great great trepidation. Daniel Sarafian by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Bamgbose: Nick, Tim Bis
Staff picking Sarafian: Stephie, Artem, Tim, Anton, Phil, Mookie

Leonardo Augusto Guimaraes vs. Anthony Smith

Phil Mackenzie: Another one where I'm not wholly convinced. Guimaraes has fought a much lower level of competition than Smith, who appears to have put his game together somewhat of late. I'll take Guimaraes to brawl him out, but not with any confidence. Leonardo Augusto Guimaraes by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Guimaraes: Nick, Tim, Anton, Tim Bis, Phil, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Smith: Artem

Nathan Coy vs. Jonavin Webb

Victor: A crazy wrestler vs wrestler bout with a solid local talent against a cagey veteran. I really like Coy, but Webb has youth and athleticism on his side, as well as a cleaner game overall.
Webb by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: What Victor said. This is something of a mirror match, where one guy just has the key advantages of being younger and a better athlete. He's not that much of a better athlete to make me sure that he can overcome Coy's pure veteran sneakiness though. Still, Jonavin Webb by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Coy: Artem, Tim
Staff picking Webb: Nick, Victor, Anton, Tim Bis, Stephie, Mookie

Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Marion Reneau

Victor: Evans-Smith is strong, hits hard and is pretty big compared to some other 135ers. She unfortunately has a propensity to get into wild dogfights, and Reneau is relentless. She seems to just eke out the slightest advantages in wild scrambles, but she does get tagged a lot with unnecessary shots. Reneau is more composed and can still make her way inside to crack Ashlee, and her submission game is really, really slick. Marion Reneau by submission.

Phil Mackenzie: Reneau possesses all Evans-Smith's normal advantages and is also just better pretty much everywhere apart from possibly in the clinch. Notably big advantages in boxing and submission grappling. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision

Staff picking Evans-Smith: Artem
Staff picking Reneau: Nick, Victor, Phil, Tim, Anton, Tim Bis, Stephie, Mookie

Kelly Faszholz vs. Lauren Murphy

Phil Mackenzie: Faszholz is potentially a quite talented fighter, but Murphy isn't a good opponent to get your big show sea-legs against. She throws an awful lot of punches. I expect her to throw an awful lot of punches. Lauren Murphy by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Faszholz:
Staff picking Murphy: Stephie, Nick, Artem, Tim, Anton, Tim Bis, Phil, Mookie

Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Anthony Hamilton

Mookie Alexander: It can't be worse than Kimbo/Dada 5000, can it? Shamil Abdurakhimov by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie. Criminy. This is not a good fight, but with the swathe of heavyweight bookings I guess I'm going to have to learn how to put a bright outlook on MMA's blubberiest division. Abdurakhimov can sort of strike, and Hamilton is not significantly worse in one area of his game than he is at any of the others, and he has a good coach. How's that? Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Abdurakhimov: Artem, Tim, Tim Bis, Phil, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Hamilton: Nick