The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for tomorrow's UFC Fight Night 82 card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. No one is picking Stephen Thompson to upset Johny Hendricks in the main event, which is a slight surprise. The majority of us are picking Jared Rosholt to do his thing against Roy Nelson in the co-main. Most critically, we're split on the huge showdown between Mickey Gall and Michael Jackson.
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.
Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson
Anton Tabuena: Thompson has a very good chance of winning if he manages to keep this fight standing and at range (or if Hendricks foolishly just plays his distance game)... Thompson has improved takedown defense, but if Hendricks mixes in his wrestling much like he did against Condit, he could pose a lot of problems with a grind out gameplan even if he doesn't actually complete many of them. I can see an upset here, but there's not enough reason to pick against the proven former champ. Johny Hendricks by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Public opinion of Hendricks has turned against him sharply, which has directly resulted in a drastic underrating of his skills. This is the only guy to beat Robbie Lawler since he got back into the UFC! He arguably beat GSP! He arguably won the rematch vs. Lawler! But his weight-cutting issues, fan-blaming, excuse-making, etc. have turned him into a bit of a villain. As far as this actual fight is concerned, I think this is way too big a leap in competition for Thompson, whose best win is either welterweight Robert Whittaker or a pretty shopworn Jake Ellenberger. Neither of those guys is even in the same ballpark as Hendricks skillwise. Johny has very good kickboxing, dangerous dirty boxing, knees in the clinch, and absolutely has the power to knock Thompson out. He's best advised not to kickbox with Thompson, but I don't think it's some absurd mismatch there if that happens. This fight comes down to whether or not Thompson can avoid being taken down, or if/when he does get taken down, does he offer anything off of his back? Hendricks is a control-based fighter when he's on top, so don't expect submissions or serious ground-and-pound. He's also more than willing to dump you on your ass right after you get back up. In a five-round fight, I definitely favor Hendricks to do just enough on the feet and keep Thompson grounded to win at least 3 rounds. I won't discount Wonderboy's chances, I just think he's gone from overrated to underrated to overrated again. Johny Hendricks by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Upon his arrival in the UFC, much was made about Thompson's kickboxing accolades despite some detractors pointing out that his point-based style was perhaps inflated, to put it politely. He had a sensational debut against Dan Stittgen but hit his ceiling hard when fighting the closest thing the UFC has to a T-1000 at welterweight in Matt Brown. After struggling in his next outing against Nah-Shon Burrell, he's rattled off some impressive wins and his Chuck Norris-style finish of Jake Ellenberger was outstanding. His striking is looser and his approach is more measured, plus he's got great takedown defense and stronger than he looks, plus he trains with Weidman and company under the tutelage of Ray Longo. It just might not be enough if Hendricks decides to implement the same gameplan he used against the aforementioned Brown by grinding out an ugly win. Unless Johny gets too confident in his standup and Stephen can capitalize on it, Johny might give him that work in a hideous protracted win, even with a rough weight cut (because let's face it, none of us will be surprised if that happens). Johny Hendricks via "I'm so glad this wasn't on PPV" decision.
Fraser Coffeen: It's tempting to just say Hendricks is a better Matt Brown, so Hendricks by decision. What that doesn't factor in though is the improvements Thompson has made since then. He's become more confident in his striking, and significantly improved his takedown defense. That said, he also has not faced a grinder like this since, and he's still at his best when at a lengthier range - a range Hendricks is unlikely to give him. The Thompson of today is a far better fighter than the Thompson that fought Brown. But the basic issues Brown exploited, while improved, are still there for Hendricks to use. So after all that, I guess what it comes down to is that, well, Hendricks is a better Matt Brown. Johny Hendricks, decision
Zane Simon: I'm late to the party, so what's to be said that hasn't been said already. I expect a fun back and forth fight. I expect Thompson to do well at range for good stretches, but Hendricks has such a solid multifaceted game. He will compete fine on the feet, even at range, and should win the inside battle. I expect him to be able to grind Thompson for stretches too, and just do too many things too often for Thompson to win on points. Johny Hendricks by decision.
Staff picking Hendricks: Victor, Nick, Tim Bissell, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Thompson:
Roy Nelson vs. Jared Rosholt
Anton Tabuena: I know there were injuries, but this is legitimately one of the worst co-mains in a very long time. Nelson either bombs him early, or we're in for an ugly slow grapplefest. I'm hoping it's the former. Roy Nelson by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Nelson either gets a 1st round KO or Rosholt wins a unanimous decision. Plain and simple. I'll gamble on the latter mostly because as much as Rosholt's wins aren't impressive, Nelson's only good wins in the last 5 years are Cheick Kongo and short-notice Matt Mitrione. Wrestling wins out. Jared Rosholt via unanimous decision.
Victor: I still stand by the notion that Rosholt was slated to face Struve on a main card in hopes that he'd lose, and that this is happening here in hopes that Roy punches him so hard the rest of the flag becomes visible on his chest. Rosholt should be able to take Roy down eventually, but they both have terrible cardio later on, with Jared having an advantage there. Roy's BJJ has been legendary in the sense that you hear about it but never really see it anymore, so I have no confidence that he'll be effective off his back other than making some strides to get back up once or twice to be taken down again. Nelson's overhand right is predictable to the point that it's the only effective offense he seems to dish out these days, so unless he comes up with a slick setup with his footwork, he's not landing that. Rosholt via a "this is gonna suck worse than Hendricks' win" unanimous decision.
Nick Baldwin: Rosholt is going to Rosholt his way to a Rosholt decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Big Country is fading, no doubt, but I'm not quite ready to give up on him as the Heavyweight gatekeeper just yet. And Rosholt? He doesn't get through that gate. Roy Nelson, KO, Round 1
Zane Simon: We all know there are two possible outcomes in front of us (and only two). The only question is which one you believe in more. It's not unreasonable to think that Nelson gets one opportunity too many to clubber Rosholt out of his senses. It's not unreasonable to think that Rosholt just grinds Nelson into the mat for 15 minutes. I'm taking the latter, just because HW has so few wrestlers that most aren't prepared to fight off someone like Rosholt. Jared Rosholt by decision.
Staff picking Nelson: Fraser, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Rosholt: Victor, Nick, Phil, Tim Bissell, Zane, Stephie
Rafael Cavalcante vs. Ovince Saint Preux
Mookie Alexander: Unless OSP just decides to go strike-for-strike with Feijao, who is still a powerful hitter, this is going to be a blowout. Feijao has looked good for about 3 minutes of his entire UFC career, 78 seconds of which was spent destroying Igor Pokrajac. OSP isn't ever likely to beat the absolute elite of the division (Bader and then everyone ranked above him), but he can definitely work someone like Feijao over. Ovince Saint Preux via TKO, round 2.
Victor: OSP has been a pleasant surprise from being that very raw Strikeforce guy that now has tremendous fight instinct and has only lost to a prime Ryan Bader and a cagey veteran with a decent submission game in Glover Teixeira. He packs amazing power in his hands and has been deceptive with his reach and movement as he was against Cummins and Shogun. No disrespect to Feijão, but his chin doesn't seem to be holding up and if a sloppy Thiago Silva could find the target, so can OSP. Ovince Saint Preux via knockout.
Nick: Ever since drug testing was a thing, Feijao barely looks UFC caliber and he's going up against a very tough test in Saint Preux. OSP chokes against top competition like Glover Teixeira and Ryan Bader, but looks like an animal against lower level competition, which is where I classify the Brazilian. I really like OSP here to get the finish. Ovince Saint Preux via TKO
Phil Mackenzie: OSP has plateaued into a dangerous but extremely flawed fighter. We know what we're getting here- he's big and hits incredibly hard, and has a range of unconventional subs and strikes, but his cardio, wrestling and technical striking all have holes ranging from small to enormous. Feijão, on the other hand, is in a tailspin, and looks increasingly physically and mentally incapable of competing at the top level. Somewhere in there, Feijão has a better overall skillset and technical base, but mostly I just think OSP hits him with a left straight or left middle sometime in the first and that's that. OSP by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Even when Cavalcante has done well recently he's ended up fading badly and losing. OSP may not be anyone's technical masterpiece but he's big and athletic and tough, and multidimensional. Cavalcante is dangerous, but he doesn't seem to be in shape enough to fight hard round after round. OSP via TKO Round 2.
Staff picking Feijão:
Staff picking OSP: Victor, Nick, Tim Bissell, Phil, Fraser, Anton, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Tim
Joseph Benavidez vs. Zach Makovsky
Victor: Two great wrestlers with very slick submission games? Count me in. Benavidez has some great power, but Makovsky's time at Tristar with Firas Zahabi should at least keep things closer to level on that front. Benavidez is strong and has good cardio, but Makovsky is clever and has what it takes to pull the upset here. Zach Makovsky by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I can't believe Benavidez is well over a -400 favorite against a guy who arguably should've gotten the nod over John Dodson last year. Benavidez probably dominates Makovsky if it stays standing, but he has been looking less and less dominant in some of his more recent bouts. He's like the Urijah Faber of 125 in the sense that he'll lose to the champs but beat everyone else. There will come a point though for both of them that they start suffering losses to non-champions. Makovsky is a tough out, especially with his improved boxing and very smooth scrambling skills. I don't have any solid reasoning for it, but I think tomorrow is the day that Benavidez suffers a big upset loss. And if not? Just give him one more crack at Mighty Mouse. Zach Makovsky by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Joe B is MMA's Sisyphus, and the rock that he has to push uphill is a succession of incredibly tough flyweights with minimal name value. I'm agree with a lot of what Vic is putting down- I think that Makovsky has improved while Joe is approximately the same. In particular, Zach's boxing has gotten to the point where he could compete with Dodson for three rounds. In the end, though, he's still very wrestling-dependent and I'm not sure if I can remember Joe being significantly outscrambled or outgrappled by anyone ever, including Cruz and MM. He's a harder hitter and keeps a better pace, although he's both short and not hugely quick for the division, which may be an issue against Makovsky's in-out style. Think this is close stuff, and if it is then people will shit on Benavidez for not blowing out good, multi-dimensional athletes, but Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I love Zach Makovsky. He's a cool dude and a great fighter. But he's no more a spring chicken than Benavidez is and he's struggled a lot more against elite fighters than Benavidez has. The biggest thing here is that Makovsky is just not (by the stretch of anyone's imagination) a finisher. So he's going to have to outpoint Joe-B for three rounds. The only people to do that successfully are Cruz and Mighty Mouse. Even as someone that may be losing a step, Joe B is the more dangerous scrambler, the harder puncher, and even if his fight with Bagautinov wasn't a thriller, he has the ability to scare fighters into inactivity. At some point he'll lose a fight he shouldn't, but I don't think that starts here. Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Staff picking Benavidez: Nick, Tim Bissell, Phil, Fraser, Anton, Zane, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Makovsky: Victor, Mookie
Misha Cirkunov vs. Alex Nicholson
Phil Mackenzie: This is a pretty classic striker vs grappler matchup. Grappling is generally inversely effective with the experience of the fighters in question, and as these two fighters are pretty raw, expect the far more credentialed grappler to mop up. While Nicholson has good power, I also don't like his tendency to throw yolo strikes in a fight where hitting the mat is probably a death sentence. Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: Nicholson is one of the greenest, rawest talents in the UFC. He's aggressive and tough and a good athlete, but he's just not ready for someone with a deep technical game and years more experience. Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Cirkunov: Nick, Tim Bissell, Fraser, Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Nicholson:
Mike Pyle vs. Sean Spencer
Victor: Spencer's good. His boxing looks decent, his wrestling is serviceable, but his wins have mostly come over guys in declines or slumps (2013 Yuri Villefort, a very shot 2014 Paulo Thiago) but Mike Pyle isn't that far past his prime. He's got a super crafty submission game and his range is better, plus he's capable of some crazy knockouts. He can catch Spencer on a counter and dominate from there.
Phil Mackenzie: Aside from the insane Pendred robbery, Spencer should be on a pretty good streak where he's steadily looked better and better. Pyle is... old. Age-old at 40, and fight-old in that he started his career in the ‘90s. He's never been durable or possessed of particularly strong takedown defense, but the way he lost to a one-track athlete in Covington was concerning. [Zanepick] Sean Spencer is six years into his career and we should be seeing everything coming together and clicking for him. Old people, conversely, should be turned into glue and/or some kind of soylent green derivative [/Zanepick] Sean Spencer by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I wholeheartedly disown Phil's [Zanepick /] if anything, the elderly should be used as a low cost fuel for factory machines. Still, he's got the majority of it right. Mike Pyle is a fun, rugged action fighter, who tends to lose when he gets blasted early. Spencer is somewhat low power, but I'm picking this to be a straightforward beating. Spencer is trying to find more power in his strikes, is defensively reasonably sound, and works at a high volume. Even without power, I think he stops Pyle here. Sean Spencer via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Pyle: Victor, Fraser
Staff picking Spencer: Tim Bissell, Phil, Nick, Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim
Josh Burkman vs. K.J. Noons
Victor: Burkman's grappling and durability should win him this fight. KJ Noons is slick and has some pretty great boxing, but not the kind of power to put him away. Burkman should have this by virtue of being more complete, and despite my hatred of MMAth it seems to me that if Cowboy Oliveira can finish KJ on the ground, so can Josh.
Phil Mackenzie: I think Burkman might have hit one of those late-career peaks where he suddenly "got" the game around the Fitch fight- this tends to be a point where slight physical decline intersects with the moment when the fighter's understanding is still growing. It doesn't tend to last that long, however, and I think we're seeing the inevitable downslope. That said, Noons has never really been particularly able to beat any kind of determined wrestler. Unless his chin or physicality have badly eroded, I think Burkman can probably still get to Noons. Josh Burkman by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: It just seems to me that Noons is entirely uninterested in any fight that isn't a boxing brawl in 4oz gloves. If his opponent isn't standing in the pocket going blow for blow with him, he just isn't invested. Burkman tends to stay elusive (to a fault) at range, and then likes to come in for takedowns behind big flashy strikes. He's a capable counterpuncher when he remembers it, but mostly he's a well rounded fighter who feels his way through the fight. I think he'll get takedowns here and when he does Noons will just kind of stop working. Josh Burkman by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Burkman: Victor, Fraser, Phil, Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Noons: Nick, Tim Bissell, Tim
Damian Grabowski vs. Derrick Lewis
Victor: Grabowski's only two losses are to the very dominant Cole Konrad and one of the best talents outside of the U.S. Marcin Tybura. He's lost to better men than Lewis has won against, and Lewis can't bully him around. Viktor Pesta had the right gameplan and was winning his bout against Lewis until his cardio gave out, that's not gonna happen here. Grabowski by late submission.
Nick: Grabowski has been out of action for quite some time which is worrisome to me. I'd usually say his age of 35 could also be a problem for him, but it's heavyweight. I like him here to stop The Black Beast, who, let's just say doesn't have the best cardio or ground game. The majority of Grabowski's wins are by submission, and I think he picks up another one here. Damian Grabowski via submission
Phil Mackenzie: Grabowski's record is decent, I guess, but... what's he actually good at? I haven't watched that much tape so I'm worried that I'm not seeing something that other and more diligent people are. He seems a decent topside submission grappler, but is undersized, has a sub-par shot, and is just average at clinch takedowns, largely relying on being tough and being able to fight for more than 3 minutes. He looks like a worse version of Viktor Pesta, basically, and I think he grinds in the clinch for a bit before Lewis punches his head off. Derrick Lewis by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: The chances of what Phil said happening are really high. Lewis seems to be improving (improbably) and certainly showed a better gas tank and an ability to switch gears last time out to something safer and more likely to get him a win. But I think Grabowski actually has a pretty good shot and wrestles quite well. He gets stuck in the clinch a lot, trying to box and his footwork is clunky, but he's a much more practiced and able controlling fighter than Pesta. As such, I think he grinds his way to a win here. But, if Lewis can scramble a couple times, or overpower Grabowski in the clinch, he might just make a meal of him. Damian Grabowski via UD.
Staff picking Grabowski: Victor, Nick, Tim Bissell, Anton, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Lewis: Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie
Ray Borg vs. Justin Scoggins
Anton Tabuena: I'm proposing a new nickname. Ray "Sigh" Borg by TKO.
Victor: Two very scrappy fighters that put on consistently fun fights, and I love it. More people should be hype for this. Neither party is going to keep the other down and Borg could capitalize on a wild scramble and put Scoggins out. Ray Borg by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: These odds seem absolutely barmy. Borg is around -300? Huh? I don't get it. I mean, I understand that he's the better wrestler and grappler, and that Scoggins can do silly things sometimes. There's the obvious potential outcome of Scoggins throwing a counter double into a guillotine or a round-losing scramble, but I have zero memories of Borg fighting anyone who didn't want to actively grapple with him, or of him doing literally any striking at all. Flyweight is a very scramble-heavy division, but if Borg can't set up entries and penetration steps with his hands I think he might genuinely struggle to beat a mobile kicker who's a strong wrestler and grappler in his own right, especially one at an elite camp. Justin Scoggins by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Scoggins has a clear path to victory. Pot-shot Borg from the outside, stay light on his feet, disengage whenever the fight hits the clinch. He did that well against Josh Sampo. But Sampo is much slower than Borg and had a lot more trouble tracking Scoggins down. In other bouts, when Scoggins has got into the thick of things he has tended to be a very willing wrestler and grappler. When he wins those battles he dominates the fight, when he doesn't, he loses. I think he'll be too willing to wrestle with Borg here and will lose too many of those battles, setting him up for a decision loss. But, I won't be surprised if the decision goes either way. Ray Borg by decision.
Tim Burke: SCOGGINS WILL BE ASSIMILATED. YOU WILL ALL BE ASSIMILATED. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. Ray Borg by submission.
Staff picking Borg: Victor, Nick, Tim Bissell, Fraser, Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Scoggins: Phil
Noad Lahat vs. Diego Rivas
Victor: Diego Rivas is one of those guys that kicked around the South American circuit that is largely full of generalists and better boxing than average, but nothing sensational otherwise. He fits that mold perfectly here and Lahat's training at AKA should give him a tremendous advantage due the hard-nosed wrestling approach they have for fights like this. Noad Lahat by late TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: Noad Lahat cleaned up his striking a lot in his last fight. Add to this that the earlier version of himself would probably still be enough to beat the relatively limited Rivas, and this is likely going to be pretty one-sided. Noad Lahat by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Probably the biggest lock on the card. Would be really surprised if Lahat loses this. He's the better wrestler, striker, grappler, and athlete. Noad Lahat via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Lahat: Nick, Tim Bissell, Fraser, Phil, Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Rivas:
Mickey Gall vs. Michael Jackson
Anton Tabuena: Does Mickey have the Gall to (Moon) Walk over Michael Jackson? Who the fuck knows? Coin toss says Mickey Gall.
Mookie Alexander: Oh this has potential to be a Thriller or just plain Bad. Jackson can Shake Your Body Down to the Ground. Mickey has to look at the Man in the Mirror and figure out if he really can win this. I've got Butterflies just thinking of the outcomes of this one, because when you have this many unknowns, the analysis can't be Black or White. I could make an Off the Wall prediction here considering I don't know much about either guy. My gut feeling? Mickey Gall is going to be hit by, struck by, a Smooth Criminal. The crowd will be in a State of Shock. If Jackson loses then he better not blame it on the sunshine, the moonlight, or the good time. Just Blame It On The Boogie. Michael Jackson by knockout, round 1.
Nick: This fight is probably the one on the entire card we should care the least about because both Gall and Jackson have a combined pro-record of 1-0. The UFC wants Gall to win, and I think he does here. His ground game is pretty good for a young guy like himself and Jackson has openly admitted he needs work on the ground. I won't be shocked if Jackson upsets Gall via TKO, because he excels in the striking department, but more likely than not Gall will submit the King of Pop to "earn" a shot at... CM PUNK! Mickey Gall by Submission
Phil Mackenzie: Nope.
Zane Simon: Double Nope.
Tim Burke: All the jokes.
Staff picking Gall: Nick, Tim Bissell, Fraser, Phil, Anton
Staff picking Jackson: Mookie, Stephie, Zane (chaos pick), Tim
Artem Lobov vs. Alex White
Phil Mackenzie: One of the less-discussed corollaries of TUF weirdness is how people tend to pick up KO losses that they wouldn't elsewhere. Lobov had a brace of KOs in the house, but hasn't been all that brick-fisted outside of it. So the question is- has he figured out his power... or was it just TUF? Alex White is one of the most face-first fighters out there, but he's also been pretty hard to put away, and throws a lot more. I can really, really see Lobov just sleeping him almost immediately, but I think I've made enough odd picks for now. Alex White by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I get that Lobov's record is ugly and he gifted his way into TUF and when it came time for the Finale he put on a stinker of a fight. But, Alex White is not good. And he's going to fight exactly the battle that Lobov wants. White does his very best work in the pocket as a brawler looking for the KO. He has good power, but technically he's all over the place and has just about zero recognition of defense as a concept. Lobov doesn't work at the volume he needs to be as threatening as he wants, and doesn't defend as well as he should to win a complex fight. But, here he's going to have more opportunities than he knows what to do with to land big power shots. And I trust his technique and power more than White's. Artem Lobov by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Lobov: Fraser, Anton, Zane
Staff picking White: Nick, Tim Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Tim