The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its picks for tomorrow's UFC Ottawa card, and yours truly is crazy enough to go with Wonderboy Thompson to beat Rory MacDonald in the main event, as well as Patrick Cote to upset Donald Cerrone in the co-main event. Will it pan out? We'll soon find out. Jed Meshew and Stephie Haynes are picking Cote, while Phil Mackenzie and Nick Baldwin have Thompson over Rory. Everyone else is going with the betting favorites.
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.
Rory MacDonald vs. Stephen Thompson
Anton Tabuena: I believe stylistically, Wonderboy destroys Lawler. There, I said it. Rory, on the other hand, is one of the toughest match ups for Thompson in the division, next to Demian Maia. That doesn't mean this is a sure thing though. I think MacDonald has a bigger advantage on the ground than Thompson has on the feet, but it's not exactly as simple. Thompson has been improving on his wrestling a lot, and Rory probably isn't going to constantly dive for takedowns, so I believe there are going to be long stretches of striking, making this bout much closer. There's also a question on how MacDonald looks after all that damage he took against Lawler. Rory is proven, and is probably the safer pick, but I have a feeling the underdog pulls it off standing once again. Stephen Thompson by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I’m really not sold -- because I haven’t seen it yet -- on how Thompson performs either on his back or in the later rounds of a fight he’s not in firm control of. Rory is the better all-around fighter and while I feel Wonderboy is capable of stopping anyone with his striking, MacDonald is stupidly tough. Rory commands distance well, has a quality kicking game, and a dangerous top game. What’s holding me back from picking him? A combination of wanting Wonderboy to get a title shot, plus how Rory will look after the Lawler war. It’s been almost a year, and while Firas Zahabi will probably see to it that the Lawler fight doesn’t change Rory forever, I … you know what? This is going nowhere. It’s genuinely one of the toughest main events I’ve ever picked, and while Rory is awesome, I want a Wonderboy title fight. Sorry, Rory. Stephen Thompson via TKO, round 2.
Nick Baldwin: Sorry, Canada. Wonderman via unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Wonderboy has been absolutely phenomenal since losing at the hands of Ultimate Form Matt Brown ages ago, and his comments after his decimation of Johny Hendricks were very telling. He had commented on Johny’s tendencies and how limited his striking was, how predictable Hendricks could be. Well, this ain’t Johny. Sure, Rory has a few go-to sequences and all, but he’s not nearly as easy to read as Hendricks was for Thompson, nor is he going to default to force a takedown if he starts getting into trouble while standing. Rory may not be as fast, but he can certainly work well from the outside and do a better job of not letting Thompson keep the range where he wants it. Also, consider the fact that Thompson hasn’t been past the third round - in only two 5-round fights he’s finished his opposition. But what will we see when the fight drags on? Will he be ready for that or will he drown in the pressure from MacDonald? My money’s on the guy that keeps picking his own goofy nicknames. Rory MacDonald by decision.
Jed Meshew: Wonderboy is an offensive dynamo but Rory MacDonald has one truly elite skill and that is nullifying the offense of whoever he is facing. Moreover, Wonderboy won’t have the length advantage he has enjoyed his last few outings. Rory should be able to compete at range and has the acumen to pressure Thompson, close the distance, and maul him in the clinch and on the floor. I’m not even worried about Rory being brutalized in his last outing because he is a crazy person. I still think Rory might be the best welterweight in the world (not named Carlos Condit) and I really, really hope he comes out to Huey Lewis and the News. Thompson gets the Paul Allen treatment. MacDonald by shiney ax murder, round 4.
Zane Simon: Thompson’s got a ton of momentum behind him right now, but MacDonald has the much better, more proven performance track record against elite opposition. I think this fight could look a bit like the Cote fight for Thompson, except against a much higher output, more technical striker at range. Which is to say, I think that MacDonald can do enough on the outside to keep Thompson a bit stalled out. Rory Mac has faster hands, moves well off the jab, and is really consistent about fighting long at range. He could get caught and hurt early and give Thompson the momentum he needs to take over and KO him. But, I don’t think that happens. And if it doesn’t, I see a relatively even early fight that MacDonald is much better equipped to take over late. Rory MacDonald via decision.
Staff picking MacDonald: Victor, Jed, Tim, Fraser, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Thompson: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Anton
Donald Cerrone vs. Patrick Cote
Anton Tabuena: Cote is bigger, and probably hits stronger so he has a chance. But Cerrone is much faster and more technical, so I think he will just see all his strikes coming and pick him apart. Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Okay, in theory, Cerrone should be able to win this, but this version of Cote has somewhat sacrificed pocket brawling and become a very well-rounded welterweight gatekeeper. I imagine the size difference will play a factor here, and while Cerrone is obviously a massive threat on the ground, I don’t think it’s a certainty he’ll get it there. Cote can still crack, and I believe he’s far more likely to finish Cerrone with strikes than the other way around. This is a bit of an upset special I’m going with, but lemme ride the hot hand. Patrick Cote by unanimous decision.
Nick Baldwin: Sorry again, Canada. Cowboy via unanimous decision.
Victor: I like me some welterweight Cerrone. He’s had a knack for starting slow, but I don’t feel Cote is the guy that is going to punish him for that the way dos Anjos could. Cerrone has accuracy and better defensive movement during wild exchanges, whereas Patrick is more content to take a few shots to land a big one himself. I also trust Donald’s submission game far more than I do Cote’s especially later on. Donald Cerrone by submission, round 3
Jed: Honestly, Cerrone’s first welterweight foray didn’t impress me which is a ridiculous thing to say considering he won in 2 and a half minutes. But before snatching up that triangle, Oliveira’s size seemed to be giving Cerrone real problems. Cote is going to enjoy a substantial size advantage and is one of the most durable guys in MMA despite being 58 years old. Lately, Cote has been mostly grappler Cote so that is concerning but I’m not sure Cerrone can tap him off his back anyway and the cherry on top is that Cote hits like the rapture and Cerrone is both hittable and has fading durability (especially if Cote goes for the body). Give me the dog. Cote via TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Honestly, the modern Cote, while potentially a better fighter than ever, is also more reliant on opponent’s mistakes than ever. Saunders hung around in the clinch where he was the weaker fighter, Josh Burkman did Josh Burkman things, as did Joe Riggs. Cerrone is a much safer more efficient fighter than any of these men. Cerrone knows well enough what he wants to do and can do that he doesn’t spend time in places where he doesn’t have an advantage. I really think he can pick Cote off at range, keep from getting lit up inside, and if it goes to the ground, I trust his wrestling and sub offense more than Cote’s. Donald Cerrone via decision.
Staff picking Cerrone: Nick, Phil, Victor, Tim, Fraser, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Cote: Mookie, Jed, Stephie
Steve Bosse vs. Sean O’Connell
Mookie Alexander: Somebody is getting KO’d, soooooo … flip that coin and we get Sean O’Connell via KO, round 1.
Nick Baldwin: Why do I keep doing this?! The Real OC via knockout.
Victor: I feel for you, Baldwin. I really do. Then I remember you people gave us Bryan Adams. I hope you get boils in your delicates. Sean O’Connell by horrifying KO, followed by whispers.
Phil Mackenzie: Feel like O’Connell’s game comes down to him essentially allowing his opponent to hit him as hard as they possibly can and then beating them up if it doesn’t work. Steve Bosse by KO, round 1.
Jed: Both men like to engage in a hockey fight but only one of them was a professional hockey goon. I will take the power and bolo swinging experience of Bosse but if he doesn’t get him out in the first, I expect O’Connell to wear him down for a late win. Bosse via KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: O’Connell has a habit of getting one-punched by dudes who throw big single shots and have good timing. Latifi, Jimmo... That pretty much fits Bosse perfectly. If Bosse doesn’t get the stoppage early though. O’Connell’s consistent swarming, brawling style will probably overwhelm him. Steve Bosse via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Bosse: Phil, Jed, Fraser, Zane, Anton
Staff picking O’Connell: Nick, Victor, Mookie, Tim, Stephie
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Thibault Gouti
Nick Baldwin: Ahhh… That’s better. OAM via submission.
Victor: OK, everyone should be more hyped for this than you may think, because you have two guys with really fun grappling and legitimate submission chops facing each other, including a French dude that has KO power, albeit against lesser opposition on the European circuit. Olivier should be the favorite at first glance, but I’m gonna go with Gouti for the crazy upset. Thibault Gouti via submission.
Phil Mackenzie: Feel like Gouti is getting somewhat underplayed due to an octagon-jitters-fuelled short notice loss to a Teemu Packalen who looked just much, much better than he had in the past. I still like OAM, I don’t think Gouti’s game plays well with a takedown to back-take specialist, but he’s still tough, aggressive, and decently athletic, and he could make this an ugly, violent fight where OAM has to dig deep. Olivier Aubin-Mercier by submission, round 3.
Jed: Unlike Nate Diaz, if OAM loses to Gouti I would indeed be f**king surprised. He is just a way better grappler and waaaaaay better athlete. OAM is the biggest favorite on the card for a reason. OAM by submission (RNC), round 2.
Zane Simon: A decent boxer from the French regional scene where ground fighting is severely limited, fighting a dynamic takedown/backtake specialist? OAM via RNC in round 1.
Staff picking OAM: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Gouti: Victor
Joanne Calderwood vs. Valerie Letourneau
Victor: Son… this fight is hot fire and it’s really under the radar. Letourneau proved that she could not only hang with Joanna Champion, but thrive in the pocket and do some damage of her own. Unfortunately, Calderwood’s use of range and pressure work differently, which means that Valerie’s counterstriking will be more of a struggle this time around. Joanne Calderwood via TKO
Phil Mackenzie: This is nominally a three-range fight like Alvey-Theodorou... but I’m not picking Calderwood. In general I probably underrate her, but I just cannot get past her ridiculously slow starting. For example: she did beat a very raw and short-notice transatlantic Cortney Casey, but she got walloped in the first round. Letourneau is bigger, a better athlete and has shown visible fight-to-fight improvements in her technical standup in her last two. The main x-factor here is that Jojo appears to left some of her psychic turmoil behind and gotten with a better camp, but I don’t think I can rely on that. Valerie Letourneau by unanimous decision.
Jed: Victor is absolutely right about one thing, there is a hot fire alert for the entire Ottawa area because of this fight. Calderwood has underperformed in the UFC so far, being one of the favorites to win her season of TUF and vie for a title whereas Letourneau seems to be making bigger improvements. Letourneau is also slightly bigger and has a better ground game which she will probably try to take advantage of. But when push comes to shove my pick here is based off the fact that Letourneau went 5 rounds with the destroyer of worlds that is Joanna Champion who is a much more difficult Jo to face and one that would get Calderwood out of there in under 3 rounds. Letourneau via decision.
Zane Simon: I would love love love to see Calderwood win this. At the very least, I hope she shows up and puts on a hell of a war. If she’s anything less than 100%, Letourneau is faster, stronger, and hits way harder. Even if Calderwood is on, I don’t think her offensive creativity is enough to stop Letourneau. Valerie Letourneau via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Calderwood: Victor, Mookie, Fraser
Staff picking Letourneau: Nick, Phil, Jed, Tim, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Jason Saggo vs. Leandro Silva
Victor: GAH!! Totally forgot Saggo was on this card!! And in another grappler vs grappler bout? Yeah, no. Saggo takes this. Silva’s good, but his style is predicated on being the heavier guy, but Saggo’s grappling seems like it’s suited to take on guys like that. That and the fact that his takedown game has more polish.
Phil Mackenzie: Kick grappler fight! Buscape has slowly slowly been getting more consistent despite not really being what I’d describe as a natural fighter. He’s been developing some hands, which Saggo still doesn’t really have. More than this, ATT are one of those camps like AKA with such a huge depth of grappling skill that coming for one of their guys with an almost entirely grappling-focused gameplan is immediately putting yourself at a disadvantage. If Saggo wins it will likely be much more exciting and has infinitely more chance of ending with a finish, but I don’t think Silva lets him get it there. Leandro Silva by unanimous decision.
Jed: Can Saggo get him down? That’s the only question here. The odds say yes. I say, ‘you can go S a D, odds.’ Silva by decision.
Zane Simon: Saggo is a very fun fighter with a game that just doesn’t tend to work that well at the more elite levels of MMA. He’s an okay athlete without much boxing who tends to shoot from way outside and then chainwrestle his way to the ground where his sub/gnp offense is really great. But Silva is faster, stronger, hits harder, and seems to have found his rhythm since moving to ATT. If Saggo can freeze Silva with his wrestling and kicking game, he can wear him down and beat him, but if Silva stuffs takedowns and fights smart, he’s got the advantages. Leandro Silva via decision.
Staff picking Saggo: Nick, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Silva: Phil, Jed, Tim, Fraser, Zane
Misha Cirkunov vs. Ion Cutelaba
Phil Mackenzie: I’m obviously going to pick Cirkunov here, but I can’t help but feel that he has a Latifi-Blachowicz loss sometime in his future, for much the same reasons- he’s slow. Slooooowwwwwww. "Actually slower than Latifi" slow. "Slower than perhaps anyone on the UFC roster" slow. That said, Cutelaba moves forward when he punches, so getting the clinch likely won’t be too much of an issue for Cirkunov, but if Cutelaba shows any kind of ability to land a shot and then move out of Cirkunov’s hands afterwards, this fight will go downhill very very quickly. Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 2.
Jed: With Phil’s assessment. One day Cirkunov is gonna catch an L. I’m tempted to take Cutelaba here because of his big power but I’ll stick with the safest best and that is Cirkunov to use his clinch game and excellent ground work to lock something up. Cirkunov by submission (kimura), round 1.
Zane Simon: Cutelaba is a good athlete and a decent boxer with a funky tossed together bag of skills that comes from working on the Romanian regional scene. His tendency to flurry in and get put on his ass puts him in prime position for Cirkunov to hit a reactive takedown and snatch an arm. Misha Cirkunov via sub, round 1.
Staff picking Cirkunov: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Jed, Tim, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Cutelaba:
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Tamdan McCrory
Victor: Jotko isn’t a bad fighter at all, he’s tough and can be a rough night for so many in his division. Problem is he’s facing a healthy and resurgent McCrory. Tamdan’s striking is cleaner, more accurate, and can put guys away. His submission game was always and still is on a very high level, and I don’t see Jotko having the wrestling chops to smother him for three rounds or the counterstriking ability nor movement and fight IQ - or FightQ (hi, Eddie Mercado!!) for Jotko to capitalize on and win.
Phil Mackenzie: I share the concerns of the Heavy Handed chaps on McCrory, which is that I don’t really like his game all that much? His powerful striking and aggressive grappling seem a little decoupled to me, whereas Jotko has a much more tightly integrated in-out strike-and-takedown approach along the lines of an Edgar or a Tecia Torres. McCrory’s TDD is various shades of bad, and Jotko has proven himself against dangerous but similarly vulnerable fighters like Askham. McCrory is so much more dynamic that this feels like a dangerous pick, but Krzysztof Jotko by unanimous decision
Jed: Honestly unclear why McCrory is favored this much. Yeah he’s a dynamic finisher but Jotko fights out of a gym called Planet Eater. The Barn Cat is no Silver Surfer, can’t take Jotko down, and throws less volume. Galactus gonna eat McCrory’s whole world. Jotko by close decision.
Zane Simon: Jotko is probably the more diverse fighter and definitely the better range fighter. But, he’s not nearly the finisher McCrory is and McCrory combines that finishing ability with great fast-twitch muscle. When he fires shots, goes for subs or hits sweeps, he hits them fast and hard. Jotko could pick at him from range like he did against Brad Scott, but McCrory has much more ability to return fire fast and hard than Scott does. I just think I can’t trust Jotko to stay safe against McCrory for 15 minutes. Tamdan McCrory via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Jotko: Phil, Jed
Staff picking McCrory: Nick, Victor, Mookie, Tim, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Chris Beal vs. Joe Soto
Phil Mackenzie: This is the kind of fight where you reflexively cringe for poor Joe Soto. He really, really should win this. He’s technically better everywhere, but the Crisp Eel (H/T Mike Goldberg’s Kindle) is still a fairly dynamic, hard-hitting athlete, and it’s still easy to see Soto going for a takedown or something straight into a flying knee. I worry that Joe is on his way to Jorge Rivera’ing his way out of the UFC on the back of some unfortunate matchmaking and a trash chin, despite being a skilled fighter. Joe Soto by submission, round 2.
Victor: Chris Beal is just such a dynamic athlete and I just think he’ll be too fast and hit too hard for Soto. Normally I’d pick in the opposite manner since Soto is the more technical and well-rounded fighter here, but despite the two fight losing skid, his boxing and takedown defense should serve him well in this one.
Jed: Remember when Joe Soto looked great in as short notice a fight as can be against current bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw? That seems like a lifetime ago. Anyway, Soto is better everywhere and should be able to avoid the pink slip that the loser of this fight is sure to get. Soto by decision.
Zane Simon: I don’t trust Chris Beal. I mean, I don’t trust Joe Soto either, but I really don’t trust Chris Beal. Joe Soto via decision.
Staff picking Beal: Nick, Victor, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Soto: Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Sam Alvey vs. Elias Theodorou
Anton Tabuena: Disney Prince will vanquish another evil villain, and both will live on smiling happily ever after. Elias Theodorou by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Alvey’s UFC resume is a little bizarre. He lost to Tom Watson, then beat Dylan Andrews after Andrews essentially KO’d himself, KO’d the chin-lacking Cezar Mutante, destroyed the capable Daniel Kelly, and then got smoked by Derek Brunson, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Theodorou struggled (and lost to) Thiago Santos, but I think he has the higher upside and Alvey’s just too willing to be a "hit or get hit" type of fighter. Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Alvey knocked out Mutante, but he took a lot of clean kicks before he did it. Theodorou likes kicking people. Alvey got mauled in close by Brunson. Theodorou also likes mauling people up close. Thus we have a three-range fight, where outside and inside are owned by Theodorou and Alvey has to hold onto the midrange. Theodorou is also stupid tough so it’s hard to see Alvey plastering him with a single right hook even if he can hold his preferred range for long. Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision.
Victor: Nope. I’m through with underestimating Sam Alvey, and he’ll probably lose because I’m finally picking him. If Theodorou lets him find not just his range, but his timing, he’s getting slept. Alvey is deceptive like that, but as Phil mentioned, he eats a ton of damage which may be do with him being so limited with his movement most of the time. That’s how he baits them, that’s how he clocks them. Sam Alvey via KO.
Jed: Theodorou is a dope Twitter follow and Alvey literally gets hit more than he lands. Theo by decision.
Staff picking Alvey: Victor
Staff picking Theodorou: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Jed, Tim, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Jocelyn Lybarger vs. Randa Markos
Phil Mackenzie: Markos is the better talent by a fairly significant margin, but Lybarger is exactly the kind of awkwardly aggressively, tough fighter who fills every available space with offense that John Crouch is so adept at producing, which tend to be nightmares for developing fighters. Jocelyn Lybarger by unanimous decision
Victor: I have a lot of love for Lybarger’s toughness and odd style, but Markos is a far better athlete all-around, has some of the best wrestling in the division and ridiculous pressure. Markos takes this with top control and prolonged damage.
Jed: I really, really dislike that Markos isn’t working with Tristar anymore. She has tons of talent but needs a lot of work and the stratified nature of women’s strawweight means she has to take fights like this as rebounds instead of steps up in competition. I also don’t think she can get take Lybarger down and don’t like her chances with her limited, low volume stand up. Maybe Markos cracks Lybarger because she has real power but I’m going Lybarger via decision.
Staff picking Lybarger: Phil, Jed, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Markos: Nick, Victor, Mookie, Tim, Fraser, Anton
Colby Covington vs. Jonathan Meunier
Phil Mackenzie: I think Meunier has largely won his fights through being a much better athlete than his opponents. That’s not the case here. His footwork seems too aimless to keep him out of the clinch, and he’s largely more of a wrestler than a striker anyway. Covington hasn’t developed a huge amount over his time in the UFC, but this seems tailor-made to take place in his specialty. Colby Covington by submission, round 2.
Jed: Meunier’s best asset is his top control game and being really big and athletic. Welp, he’s shit out of luck here. Convington is gonna grind all over his face. But I would like to take a minute to note that Covington’s nickname is absolute garbage and really, we should all pick against him for it. "Chaos"? Really? Covington is as chaotic as a metronome. GTFO here with that nonsense and change it to something more appropriate like "Steve" or something. Covington by snoozefest.
Staff picking Covington: Phil, Mookie, Jed, Tim, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Meunier: Nick
Ali Bagautinov vs. Geane Herrera
Mookie Alexander: Man, remember when Ali headlined a UFC PPV all of two years ago and then popped for EPO? Life comes at you fast. Ali Bagautinov by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Ali Bags increasingly seems to be becoming a proximity counter fighter (i.e. enter into a particular space and he’ll lunge out and try and take you down or punch you). It’s not a style I’m wild about, but Herrera is nothing if not crazy aggressive, which will send him straight into the danger zone. He’s also got something of a tendency to fight from bottom, so I basically think we see a few counter right hands and a few counter blast doubles into top control, some fun scrambles. I always have questions about Russian / Caucasus fighters if they get deep into prolonged grappling exchanges where they’re not in top position. Herrera can make this very interesting if he gets on top, but overall the key moments should result in Ali Bagautinov by unanimous decision.
Victor: Herrera’s really good, but Bagautinov’s Sambo background leads me to ask more questions about how Herrera’s going to be able to handle this. Despite his athleticism and speed, Bagautinov seems to have more tricks up his sleeve and better overall technique.
Jed: Dagestani. Knuckle. Game. Cartel. Ali Bags, KO, round 1.
Staff picking Bagautinov: Nick, Phil, Victor, Mookie, Jed, Tim, Fraser, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Herrera: Stephie