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UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic staff picks and predictions

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Check out Bloody Elbow's staff predictions for tomorrow night's UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic pay-per-view in Curitiba, Brazil.

werdum Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bloody Elbow's staff has made its predictions for UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil. Zane Simon, Nick Baldwin, and Stephie Haynes are going with Stipe Miocic to take the heavyweight title away from Fabricio Werdum. Only Victor Rodriguez and Stephie Haynes have Vitor Belfort over Jacare Souza in the co-main. None of us is picking Leslie Smith to beat Cris Cyborg.

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 Victor Rodriguez 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.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic

Mookie Alexander: Oh dear. Heavyweights. Well I’m really bad at picking these fights. Miocic’s boxing, at least in my view, is better than Werdum’s. But when it comes to overall striking, Werdum has outstanding Muay Thai and brutal knees in the clinch. I’m a bit weary of his defense, because he is hittable, and while Stipe isn’t a hugely powerful puncher, most heavyweights can put other heavyweights out at any time. If it goes to the ground then it’s going to be Werdum’s advantage and a comfortable one at that. It’s a tougher fight to call than I’d initially thought, mostly because of Miocic’s major improvements in his game, but this is a fight where the pre-fight preparation conjured up between Werdum and Rafael Cordeiro will really demonstrate what a beast Fabricio has come at Kings MMA. Werdum’s going to win a very tactically intriguing contest. Fabricio Werdum by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Miocic’s boxing may very well be the best in the division these days now that JDS has lost a step. He’s probably also the best pure athlete in the division. He’s gone from the guy that got finished by Struve to the guy that made me consider if Mark Hunt should retire and the man brutalized Maldonado something ugly. Sure, Fabio was a 205er, but whatever. Miocic still made it a close one against Junior, and arguably should have won that bout. Here’s the problem - as good as his wrestling is, Werdum will have an answer. As fast as he is on his feet, Werdum will slow him down with leg kicks and mixing up his striking on multiple levels. Werdum’s cardio is also great, and there may not be anything Miocic brings that Werdum hasn’t seen before or prepared for ahead of time. Fabricio Werdum by submission.

Jed Meshew: I suppose Miocic can win this but I just don’t see this. Aside from wrestling I favor Werdum in almost every other category. On the feet, Werdum has better kicks, is about even with Stipe at range, and has a significant advantage in the clinch. Stipe’s defense is probably better than Werdum’s but Werdum’s chin is very durable and Miocic has never shown real one-hitter quitter power. Miocic can maybe find some success taking Werdum down and working on top – if Mark Hunt did it Miocic certainly can – but everyone seems terrified of doing that. And if Werdum ends up on top of Miocic he is going to have a real bad night. Throw in the fact that Rafael Cordeiro is a brilliant tactical coach and Werdum will be making the better in-fight adjustments and I just don’t see the upset happening. Werdum by submission, round 3.

Zane Simon: So here’s the thing, and I’m not discounting or discrediting Werdum’s recent wins, but to some extent I’d argue that they were down to better preparation (and in the case of Travis Browne, just being a lot better) more so than greater execution. I don’t want to go all "sea level Cain" but Velasquez absolutely fought without proper preparation and like there was no way he could get tired. Werdum still outlasted him and beat him, but he lost the first round of that fight on the way to doing it. He lost the first round against Mark Hunt too, before Hunt slowed to a historically low pace and Werdum landed an incredible knockout shot. Outside of Travis Browne, Werdum’s recent UFC wins have all come over men he had massive fitness advantages over. He does his best to maximize that advantage by meeting and maintaining a great pace, but I think it covers for the fact that his striking offense & defense are still full of holes and that he can be clearly beaten in rounds where his opponents fight well. Miocic just seems like he has too much patience and craft in his game, and he isn’t working at a massive physical disadvantage to Werdum. Could Werdum submit him? Absolutely. But I’m going to pick Stipe to fight smart, stay controlled and keep to his best spots for a decision win. Stipe Miocic via decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Historically, there are two ways to beat Werdum. You either land a bomb that takes him out (the JDS approach) or you outstrike him and refuse to engage in a ground battle, leaving Werdum to embarrassingly butt-scoot around the cage (the Reem approach). His striking has significantly improved over the years to the point that I think approach #1 is highly unlikely now. Approach #2 is a pretty good one for Miocic though. He’s got the wrestling to avoid Werdum’s ground game, and he’s got the striking to outpoint and frustrate Werdum on the feet. I feel like I’m talking myself into a Miocic dec pick here, but the problem is that I just think, when all is said and done, Werdum is a better fighter. So with less confidence than I had 10 minutes ago, I go with Werdum via decision

Staff picking Werdum: Victor, Jed, Mookie, Tim, Artem, Phil, Fraser
Staff picking Miocic: Nick, Stephie, Zane

Vitor Belfort vs. Ronaldo Souza

Mookie Alexander: Kinda worried Jacare loses this in round 1 given how close Romero was to dusting him, and how capable Vitor is of doing the same thing, TRT or not. That said, Jacare has got good striking and power in his own hands, and Belfort’s takedown defense isn’t impenetrable. If he gets Belfort on the mat and on his back, it’s going to be a rough night for "The Phenom." I can see Jacare wearing Vitor out in rounds 2 and 3 and getting the win on the scorecards, but I can’t discount a Vitor KO. Jacare Souza via unanimous decision.

Victor: Watching Jacare transition from BJJ terror to MMA nightmare has been a pleasure to witness. He’s outstanding on the ground and has really made a lot of himself with his striking and awareness in the cage. Problem is that dadbod or not, I can’t shake the feeling that Belfort’s going to pull something out of his sleeve here. He might be off TRT, but I have the sneaking suspicion that his striking game is going to break Jacare. Vitor Belfort via old man strength TKO, round 2.

Jed: He didn’t do it. He ain’t back mama. Vitor Belfort is about to get hustled. Jacare is a world-beater who should be fighting for a title. Sans-TRTitor ain’t beating him. Knocking out an old man – badass as that old man is – is not the same thing as fighting Jacare. Jacare is going to tackle Vitor and insta-mount him like Weidman did, securing a title shot for himself and ruining Michael Bisping’s day. Souza by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: Vitor Belfort always has a shot, always. He’s got the speed and power in his hands to make things happen. He still stunned Chris Weidman for a minute, before getting taken down and worked. It’s the second part of that that has me pretty certain here. We just saw Jacare in a fight where he took an early drubbing from a freak athletic talent. Jacare survived, rallied back, and did great. Belfort still seems to have the same problems he’s always had, of getting his confidence broken if he can’t get an early win. Jacare is too tough, and Vitor, while still packing a mean punch, seems like he’s having more trouble staying in fight shape. Jacare Souza via submission, Round 1.

Staff picking Belfort: Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Jacare: Nick, Mookie, Jed, Zane, Tim, Artem, Phil, Fraser

Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith

Mookie Alexander: Kudos to Leslie Smith for accepting this fight against Cyborg. It’s going to be a bloodbath, though. Cris Cyborg via TKO, round 1.

Victor: Much respect to Leslie Smith, but yeah. No. Welcome home, Cristiane. You should have been here ages ago, but whatevs. Cristiane Cyborg via violence, round 1.

Jed: Cyborg lands 7.29 strikes per minute. Leslie Smith absorbs 8.46 strikes per minute. This is going to be a slaughter. Props to Leslie Smith for taking the fight but fighting Rin Nakai in no way prepares you for the avalanche of violence that is Cyborg. Justino by violent KO, round 1.Zane Simon: I love Leslie Smith and I hope she doesn’t lose an ear again. Cris Cyborg via KO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Leslie Smith’s best trait is that she takes a better punch than anyone who’s fought Cyborg in recent years. The "best" feasible outcome I can see for her is getting on her bike and taking Cyborg to an ugly decision (which she still loses). Cyborg most likely picks up a brutal stoppage and goes back to cruising around women’s MMA like a secret boss in a videogame that’s only there for the masochists. Emerald Weapon or Rodin or suchlike. Cris Cyborg by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Cyborg: Victor, Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Artem, Phil, Fraser
Staff picking Smith:

Corey Anderson vs. Mauricio Rua

Mookie Alexander: This basically boils down to how willing the referee of this fight is to stand Anderson up, whether or not he’s active on the ground, and how comfortable Corey is striking with Shogun. There’s still a chance that Shogun can catch him in the opening round given how hittable Anderson has shown to be at times, but beyond that … yeah, time to beast. Beastin’ 25/8 by unanimous decision.

Tim Burke - CHANGE HIS NICKNAME TO SLEEPIN’ 25/8 BECAUSE SHOGUN THE GOD IS GONNA KNOCK HIS ASS OUT! Shogun Rua, KO, round 1

Victor: Shogun Rua is an absolute legend. One of the most ferocious fighters with devastating attacks and a hard-nosed mentality that strikes fears in his opponents. He’s also so terribly unreliable and has suffered such a fall from glory that I almost don’t really want to see this fight. Anderson fights long and hits hard, whereas Shogun wades in with wide lunging hooks. Maybe the shift to Kings and time with Werdum and Cordeiro will help. Maybe. Shogun by TKO or something, because nostalgia.

Jed: I’m probably in the minority but I’m pretty happy that the Silva-Hall fight is off. I hope Silva is doing well and fully recovers quickly but the hardest part of being an MMA fan is watching the legends get buried. Fortunately, here Rua still has enough in the tank to hopefully avoid that fate. Anderson, despite Beastin 25/8, doesn’t seem to do too much actual beastin’ in the UFC with 4 of his 5 wins being decisions and Rua still hits like a pissed off truck. I think 15 minutes is enough time for him to connect clean and get the job done. Maybe this is just a nostalgia pick but Rua by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Shogun has a chance in this fight, which is why I like it. Anderson is many things, but a finisher is not one of them. He’s a grinder, he needs to control you, wear you down, and break your will. I think he can do that to Shogun, who has looked more breakable than ever lately. But, he’ll probably give Shogun plenty of opportunities to fire off hard counter hooks. Especially early in the fight, when Anderson has a real tendency to like to test out his striking, sometimes to very poor results. Still Anderson is stupid tough and if he starts getting hit, I think he can get in on shogun’s hips and plant him. After that, given Shogun’s durability issues, I’ve gotta take Anderson via TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Shogun is a shell of himself and even in his absolute prime just didn’t learn anything like a consistent anti-wrestler game or solid TDD, relying on sweeping and exploding back to his feet with athleticism in grappling situations. That athleticism no longer exists. Anderson has been facing much better defensive wrestlers than Rua of late and likely plants him on the floor and chips away to a late and crowd-dampening stoppage. Beastin’ 25/8 by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Anderson: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Artem, Phil, Fraser
Staff picking Shogun: Victor, Jed, Tim

Warlley Alves vs. Bryan Barberena

Mookie Alexander: Why’d you do this, Joe Silva? Barberena clearly isn’t a slouch, but I think it’s fair to say that Warlley Alves is a much much much higher level of prospect -- or at least further along in his development -- than Sage Northcutt is. Explosive movement, strong submissions, great athleticism, he’s got a lot going for him. I’m going with WAR(lley) Alves by submission, round 2.

Victor: Huh. Well, this certainly is an interesting matchup. Alves is yet another TUF Brazil alum that’s still undefeated and whose last two consecutive wins have been guillotine chokes. He’s got a third win via the same method against Marcio Alexandre, also known as the inferior Bizarro Lyoto. Point is, anything that leads to a front headlock is something he turns into opportunity with the quickness, and he’s probably the best guy to come from virtually nothing out of X-Gym. Barberena has a style centered largely around his wrestling, but also hits really hard and has grown under the tutelage of John Crouch despite some setbacks. Alves can snatch up a submission as soon as the distance is closed, but that window of opportunity is very brief. After that, it’s Barberena’s transitions and heavy shots that can win him this one. Barberena by decision.

Jed: Warlley Alves is a legit prospect and Barberena is a guy the UFC thought the embryonic Sage Northcutt could beat. Pretty sure that’s all you need to know about this one. Alves by submission (guillotine choke), round 1.

Zane Simon: Barbarena is a tough out, and while I didn’t expect him to beat Sage Northcutt, I wasn’t surprised when Northcutt lost. Northcutt didn’t have a skill set ready for the UFC. Warlley Alves does. Alves is a top 5 level athlete, with great power, crushing submissions, and the intelligence and toughness to fight through adversity. Alan Jouban was Alves’ Babarena fight, and whether or not you thought Alves won, he still toughed it out and kept everything together after burning his gastank in the opening minutes. Since then he’s been a much more evenly paced fighter and continued to rack up solid wins. If Barbarena wins this, I will honestly be pretty shocked. It’d be a much bigger feather in his cap than the Northcutt win. Warlley Alves via submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: What Zane said. Alves has had his wake-up call already, it was against a higher quality of athlete than Barberena, and he still won -even if no-one thought he actually did, it was a far cry from the kind of Erick Silva / Northcutt / Shoeface collapse we’ve seen from those fighters. Barberena could conceivably wear him down, but Alves has clearly learned not to tire himself out with his own offense, so how would Barbarena do it? Distance striking? Clinch? Takedowns? Warlley Alves via submission, round 1.

Staff picking Alves: Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Phil, Fraser
Staff picking Barberena: Victor, Artem

Matt Brown vs. Demian Maia

Mookie Alexander: If this is a high-paced fight where Brown can either hold his own on the ground or keep it standing for prolonged periods of time, then he very much is capable of getting the victory. But as Matt Brown himself notes, this is the worst possible matchup for him in the top 10. Maia has great takedowns, amazing top control, improved ground-and-pound, and while he’s not the submission ace he was at 185, he can still slap on a choke or grab an arm and have The Immortal looking quite mortal. Can’t pick against Maia here, and with a win, I think it’s title shot time. Demian Maia by submission, round 2.

Victor: This fight has me salivating. We should expect plenty of awesome here. Maia’s welterweight resurgence has been a thing of beauty, and dispatching the younger and more athletic fighters he’s faced with a cerebral approach, perfect technique and splendid cardio has been a joy to watch. Problem is he’s fighting Matt Brown, a guy with very good takedown defense against wrestlers and an iron will. It would be in Maia’s best interest to work Brown against the cage and use a Judo takedown instead to wear Brown out on the ground. Maia cannot and will not hang with him standing, so it’s top game and back-takes with suffocating control to break Brown’s defenses and work a choke. Demian Maia by RNC, late round 3.

Jed: This one hurts because Matt Brown is my spirit animal. The man is 10 feet tall and made of railroad ties. That being said, he’s also not a great defensive grappler and he’s fighting Demian F***ing Maia. Brown needs to try and keep it on the feet and get cooking with some elbows but Maia is a tricky enough takedown artist that I think he gets Brown down and from there it’s a clinic. But all due respect to Matthew Burton Brown for accepting a fight with Demian Maia because he knew it was a bad matchup for him and just didn’t give a damn. What a hard man. Maia by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: Normally, I’d pick Maia by decision. Late career Maia has been pretty rare with his actual sub wins, preferring to control rather than aggressively pursue a finish. However, much like Neil Magny, Brown may be in a case where he knows just enough BJJ to get himself in trouble. Late career Matt Brown has been a much more adept defensive grappler than he used to be, but he’s also, because of that, very aggressive about trying to stand back up. That aggression probably exposes something, which Maia will jump on and squeeze until Brown taps. Demian Maia via submission round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Seems academic. Brown needs to tire Maia out and work him in the clinch, and whenever he does that he’s going to be put on his back by a galactically superior grappler. Brown needs to be truly fearless for this fight if he’s going to get back up or get any offense off against Maia, and that probably means he’ll get tapped. Demian Maia by submission, round 2

Staff picking Brown: Artem
Staff picking Maia: Victor, Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Phil, Fraser

Nate Marquardt vs. Thiago Santos

Mookie Alexander: I’m not going to fool myself into picking Marquardt, even with the upset win over Dollaway. First hard shot he has to take is probably the one that ends the fight. Thiago Santos by KO, round 1.

Victor: Another fight that looks very promising and is unfairly under the radar. Former paratrooper Santos continues to reaffirm my notion that the best that TUF Brazil and Latin America has had to offer weren’t even the guys that won, but the ones that really elevated their game after the show. Santos is on a three-fight win streak with the sensational headkick KO of Steve Bosse, ruining Andy Enz and personally handing Ronny Markes’ walking papers. Nate’s been on and off, but more off than on. His ability to take a shot is more than questionable, but Santos’ isn’t. As much love as I have for the guy, Santos is too accurate and he will find that switch to shut him off. Thiago Santos by vicious KO, round 2.

Jed: Marquardt is on the way down and Santos is on the way up but since Marquardt never did anything that gave me the feels he doesn’t get the benefit of a nostalgia pick here. Santos is a talented kickboxer with power and Marquardt’s chin is fading fast. Marquardt may have some success wrestling early but eventually I expect Santos to put shin to chin and finish Marquardt. Santos by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: A couple years ago, I probably would have picked Marquardt to take this against the kicks only version of Santos. But since then, Santos has added a lot more physical domination and control to his game. He seems to be building the rest of a very functional MMA game around his dominant kicking attack. Out in space is both where marquardt tends to do best and worst, and usually only best when his opponent doesn’t have the tools to meet him there. Santos has those tools and if this stays a range war, I think Santos lights it up. Thiago Santos via KO, Round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Marquardt has always been a guy capable of either showing sublime skill or looking absolutely inert in literally any phase of MMA. As time has gone by, we’ve seen "terrible" more than "amazing", and we’re currently at the point in a fighter’s career where I no longer feel happy for them picking up upset wins, because it means I have to see them fight again. Lastly, while Nate has been incredibly inconsistent, if there’s one thing he’s never been great at it’s been fighting southpaws and more specifically kickers. Expect this to be something of a staring match before he gets headkicked at some point. Thiago Santos by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Marquardt:
Staff picking Santos: Victor, Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Artem, Phil, Fraser

Yancy Medeiros vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Victor: Despite thinking that Medeiros was going to take this based on his grappling acumen, Trinaldo has been on such a tear that I can’t pick against him in good faith. Five wins in a row in a division like lightweight is an outstanding achievement these days, even if he’s not fighting the elite of the division. Yancy’s grappling is good, but it’s not the wrestling-centric heavy style that Chiesa used against Trinaldo or that "mugging guys against the cage to exhaust them" approach that has served Gleison Tibau so well. Trinaldo’s been shucking guys off and using a great sense of timing coupled with good use of range. For all his submission savvy and quick and agile striking style, Francisco takes this. Also, the most fun nickname to say in MMA gives him bonus points. Massaranduba by TKO, round 2.

Jed: I think this is going to be one way traffic for Trinaldo. He has looked excellent lately and is fighting in his backyard. I like his ability to land effective offense at range against the defensively average Medeiros and if it goes to the ground I expect him to stay heavy on top and grind out the win. Trinaldo by decision.

Zane Simon: Not just because I appear to be the only one doing it, but for several other okay-ish reasons, I’m picking Medeiros. The biggest of these is that, like Medeiros, Trinaldo’s style is somewhat maddening to me. Yes he’s become a more functional kickboxer, but he’s still not exactly a good one, just a very very consistent one. Yes he’s a powerful top control grappler, but he’s not actually an amazing grappler or wrestler, he’s just really powerful. Medeiros, for all his flaws, has a huge frame that makes him pretty difficult to muscle around. He also likes to change up combinations with a lot of looks and unpredictability that may find him some good holes in Trinaldo’s game, which, given Trinaldo’s consistency, Trinaldo will give him those gaps over and over again. Both men are tough, so I’m not expecting a flash KO. But I have the sense that something weird will happen, where in a fight Trinaldo has largely won, he’ll get stung by a shot he doesn’t see coming and then get submitted. Yancy Medeiros via hail mary sub, Round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: Medeiros didn’t deserve to beat Makdessi in my book, but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that his standup looked far, far better, with a much more consistent jab, hook and combination punching instead of the… whatever that was he used to do before. That said, his path to victory is still basically pace and headshot volume, and Massuranduba just beat two fighters who aren’t as athletic as Medeiros but are much more skilled and experienced in those areas. Rack up another one for Tibau Two, who in the absence of Tibau Prime is gunning for the top spot, albeit with choppy, robotically consistent Muai Thai rather than Gleison’s boxing. Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Medeiros: Zane, Artem
Staff picking Trinaldo: Victor, Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Tim, Fraser, Phil

Rob Font vs. John Lineker

Mookie Alexander: Listen, I’m sure Rob Font will be a very good fighter down the line. He’s already good now. But being merely "good" isn’t sufficient enough when you come across the tiniest of terrors to ever traverse this planet. John Lineker’s nickname is "hands of stone," which Roberto Duran stole from him. I know I’ve been hard on Lineker for his weight cut failures at 125, but how can one make 125 when they have blocks of cement for hands? So as you watch the Brazilian do his free-for-all swinging away, effortlessly tossing out the paucity of fucks he has to give, just be mindful that you are watching the man, the myth, the legend, the well-fed, the whirlwind of wham-bam-thank-you-maam, Mr. John Lineker, future UFC catchweight champion. JOHN LINEKER BY DESTRUCTION, ROUND WHATEVER HE WANTS.

Victor: If you’re not amped for this fight, you need to correct that. Like, now. Font and Lineker are probably the two hardest hitters in the division and someone’s getting dropped. Font is fast and dynamic, also a better overall explosive athlete. Lineker may have eaten his way out of flyweight, but he’s still a calculated guy that can keep the fight where he wants it. Lineker by TKO.

Nick Baldwin: Read Mookie’s breakdown. All you gotta do.

Jed: This is the best fight of the undercard. Lineker has an excellent chin and the power to knock out most featherweights much less bantamweights. On the other hand, Font also has big power, is longer, more technical, better defensively, and can probably score a takedown or two if needed. If Lineker can force a brawl then he probably finds Font’s chin and get his hand raised but I expect Font to use his movement and jab to stay on the outside and chew Lineker up with kicks and ranged boxing. Font by decision.

Zane Simon: There’s a reasonable chance Rob Font wins this, but I’d kind of have to see it. He’s got the potential style to do the work, but I just don’t see wins over Joey Gomez and George Roop as strong enough indications of the consistency of that style. Moreover, early in fights, he has a habit of pushing out a lot of half power offense and not always with the best setups. I think, at some point Lineker can catch him off an un-setup kick or just waiting on Lineker to see what he does, and Lineker can start overwhelming Font with absurd pace and volume. Maybe it won’t work this time, maybe Font is agile enough to dictate range all fight, maybe he hits hard enough to really sting Lineker, maybe he’s big enough to just take Lineker down. But until I see it, I’ve got to take Lineker’s absurd aggression and combination punching for the TKO. John Lineker via TKO, Round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Been thinking about this one for a while. In the end, I think Rob Font has all the tools he needs to beat Lineker. First among these are obviously his Cheater Arms, which it’s very difficult not to see getting some play against a tiny bantamweight like Lineker. The main thing is just Font’s relative inexperience- Lineker has had at least two points in the UFC when he’s hit a wall, then adapted around them. At this point, he isn’t a fighter that kills you for going off the rails, per se, he just makes it very, very difficult to get back on the rails again. Big cage is a plus in Font’s favour, but I think he gets stuck in some of those exchanges that people find it so difficult to avoid against Lineker. John Lineker by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Font: Jed, Tim
Staff picking Lineker: Victor, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Artem, Fraser, Phil

Patrick Cummins vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Mookie Alexander: This’ll be sad. Patrick Cummins via hulksmash.

Victor: Light heavyweights in 2016, people. Looks like Cummins is no longer working with Parsons and is training at Kings to help prep Werdum for Miocic’s wrestling. He’s a great wrestler and a hell of an athlete that hits like a truck. He’s fighting another fighter that spends more time injured than in training and should have retired after beating Tito Ortiz in 2011. And don’t you dare bring up the Pan-American boxing bronze medal anymore. Dude is shot. Durkin will take him down and make you sad, like watching your dad get beat up. Cummins by a beatdown sadder than a Korean melodrama.

Jed: Noguiera is 39 going on 309. Cummins ain’t great but he’s still athletic and honestly that is probably all he needs here. Noguiera has looked so diminished from what he used to be it’s just hard to pick him over a competent LHW. Cummins should be able to take Nog down at will and grind his way to a decision. Cummins by decision.

Zane Simon: I seriously doubt Lil’ Nog has the necessary athleticism at this point to either stop Cummins from taking him down, or keep Cummins off of him on the ground. If he does, Cummins could very clearly be in trouble, but Cummins is a great athlete and a powerful, aggressive wrestler. Patrick Cummins via TKO, Round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: Yuck. In these kind of situations you generally at least want to look at the "younger" fighter and see a bright future that they can build using the shine from beating the vet. Cummins isn’t young and… he just doesn’t seem to be getting any better? He’s still doing the same stuff he was when he got to the UFC. Decent chain wrestler, decent athlete, not amazingly durable, can’t strike a lick, very good ground striking. Nog’s solution against wrestlers since Brilz has been to never open up on them, so I think we might get some comically bad opening minutes, but eventually Patrick Cummins by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Cummins: Victor, Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Artem, Fraser, Phil
Staff picking Lil’ Nog:

Luan Chagas vs. Sergio Moraes

Jed: This is Moraes’s fight to lose. He is legitimately world class on the ground and he’s fighting against a kid coming in on short notice and making a huge jump up in competition. Moraes should be able to take Chagas down, find the back and choke him out with relative ease. Now if he does something stupid like try to work on his standup, it’s possible Changas clips him but I’m assuming Moraes will fight smart. Moraes by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: Chagas loves to run himself into the clinch behind ugly, ineffective striking combinations. From there, he tends to take people down where he’s generally been the better grappler and better athlete. That’s not a recipe for success against Moraes. Sergio Moraes via submission, Round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Sergio Moraes’ run has been frankly bizarre and it’s very difficult to actually glean much insight from how he’s been winning. Semi-fluke KO? Robbery decision? It would be oddly apropos if he dropped this fight when he actually has no business losing it. Sergio Moraes by submission, round 1.

Staff picking Chagas:
Staff picking Moraes: Nick, Mookie, Jed, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Artem, Fraser, Phil

Renato Moicano vs. Zubaira Tukhugov

Jed: This fight brings into play two very important rules I have when picking fights: 1) Don’t pick people who have been off for over a year (Moicano) and 2) People with last names that end in –ov are hard ass men built for war. Moicano is on the wrong end of both of those. Aside from that though I think this fight is razor close and if Moicano wasn’t coming off such a long layoff I might be picking him. He throws much more volume than Tukhugov, is probably a hair more technical on the feet and he is crafty enough on the floor to win grappling exchanges with Tukhugov. But Tukhugov throws with more power, is better defensively, and can work the body well with kicks. Tukhugov should win the early going while Carneiro knocks off the rust and his early body work should suppress any late surges from Carniero. Tukhugov by decision.

Zane Simon: When Tukhugov can’t hurt an opponent badly enough to put them away, he tends to get into close, funky fights where he can usually edge out thin rounds. He doesn’t throw enough strikes to be either a great finisher or a clear decision taking fighter. Moicano may be a counter puncher, but he counters in volume, and kicks when he can’t lead. I think he’s tough enough to survive any one shot Tukhugov throws at him, and he’s the more dangerous grappler. Tukhugov may just be able to blast Moicano, when Moicano tries to lead exchanges, and he may just be able to hulk through any scrambles, but I think Moicano has a much more functional game designed to win rounds and rack up points, while also doing damage. Renato Moicano via decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Tukhogov is a much sloppier fighter than many of his Caucasus brethren and is a bit more of a weird brawler than anything else. Despite his giant layoff, Moicano is really quite a special talent, and I think he just figures out a way to get inside, take Tukhugov down and slice his guard up. Renato Moicano by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Moicano: Stephie, Zane, Phil
Staff picking Tukhugov: Nick, Mookie, Jed, Tim, Artem, Fraser