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UFC 201: Lawler vs. Woodley staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for the Saturday, July 30th UFC 201: Lawler vs. Woodley pay-per-view in Atlanta, Georgia.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bloody Elbow’s staff has submitted its predictions for tomorrow’s UFC 201 pay-per-view in Atlanta, Georgia. Anton Tabuena is bold enough to pick Tyron Woodley to unseat Robbie Lawler as welterweight champion, but everyone else is backing Lawler. Likewise in the co-main event, only Dayne Fox has Karolina Kowalkiewicz beating Rose Namajunas. Quite rightly, we all have Nikita Krylov defeating Ed Herman.

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 Monday 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.

Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley

Anton Tabuena: I really wouldn’t be surprised if Woodley comes in and just completely smashes Lawler here. Even if you don’t count his earlier losses, Robbie has taken an insane amount of damage in the last two years. He has been rocked and hurt several times even by a "weak" "point fighter" (lol) in Condit, so Woodley definitely has the physical tools to stop Lawler. That said, if he doesn’t get the job done early, it would be tough to pick Woodley. Not only has he been out for a year and a half, he has only gone to the championship rounds one time (a 4th round loss to Marquardt), while Lawler has been there 5 times against the very best in the world. This is a tough pick, and I’ve flipped flopped quite a bit even while writing this. I guess I’m going with the upset, Woodley by KO.

Mookie Alexander: We’ve had a batshit year, so it’d only be fitting if Woodley coming off of a 17 month layoff is the guy to just wreck Robbie Lawler’s chin (and then promptly struggle to outstrike Demian Maia for some reason). That may very well happen in round 1 or maybe round 2, but Woodley doesn’t want any of Round 5 Robbie. Anyway, I just can’t trust Woodley to pull this off, I really want to see Lawler vs. Wonderboy, and Woodley winning gets in the way of that. Lawler’s going to be methodical but "Ruthless" as ever, and then put Woodley away once he’s broken him down. Robbie Lawler by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Lawler: Nick, Fraser, Mookie, Bissell, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Iain, Eddie, Phil
Staff picking Woodley: Anton

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Rose Namajunas

Anton Tabuena: Namajunas will probably win this by overwhelming Karolina by throwing those somewhat unorthodox striking with high volume and pace. Rose Namajunas by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Hmm … you could make the argument that Namajunas lost to Tecia Torres and I wouldn’t really dispute it that much. Kowalkiewicz is more technically sound and strings together some nice combinations. Namajunas sets a grueling pace and is the more dynamic athlete of the two. I’m a bit torn on this one as Karolina can take the decision here just on the basis of her fundamentally superior striking and not being completely overmatched on the ground like Rose’s past few opponents. I’m surprised only one person is picking Kowalkiewicz here, but I won’t make it 2. I just feel Namajunas will find a way to overwhelm Kowalkiewicz late in a closely contested battle. Rose Namajunas by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I say this every time, I’m still impressed with Kowalkiewicz’s dismantling of Mizuki Inoue in Invicta. Namajunas is going to have to suffocate Karolina with pressure and fight in extra close to stop the constant leg kicks and she’s going to need to work that clinch while working tight uppercuts and hooks. Namajunas is already known for being a crafty submission fighter, but Kowalkiewicz is savvy and won’t go out easy. Both have fantastic cardio and push a consistent pace, but Rose seems to pour it on extra later in the fight, much like a female Robbie Lawler. Can’t see Kowalkiewicz finishing Namajunas, but can certainly see Namajunas wearing her opponent down late and breaking her will. Rose Namajunas by decision.

Dayne Fox: I know that I’m going out on a limb as Namajunas is physically superior, but I’m weary about Namajuna’s mentally. I scored her last fight in favor of Tecia Torres, though it was close enough I don’t have a complaint with Namajunas taking the decision. She said she had a lot leading up to the camp and wanted to take time off. That was April and here we are 3 months later and she is already back in the cage. Did she get the time off she needed? More than anything I look at how she struggles with cagey strikers -- like Torres -- plus sound grappling to prevent takedowns -- unlike Angela Hill -- and I see Kowalkiewicz taking this one. Namajunas starts out strong in the first round only for Kowalkiewicz to make the adjustments to take the last two.

Staff picking Kowalkiewicz: Dayne
Staff picking Namajunas: Nick, Victor, Fraser, Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Anton, Zane, Stephie, Iain, Eddie

Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger

Anton Tabuena: This is going to get ugly. Matt Brown by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I was so stoked when Ellenberger would get booked for fights in his heyday. Now? I just can’t see how he’s on a PPV main card in 2016. It’s sad to watch, Brown’s going to tear him apart, and that probably will be the end of Ellenberger’s career.. Matt Brown by destruction, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Reminded of Saenz-Wineland here… a once-dangerous fighter who has looked extremely checked out of late, against a clinchy, violent fighter who seems primed to break him. The pick and caveat remains the same: Ellenberger hits ridiculously hard, and Brown is no defensive wizard. What shelters Brown here is that he has a fantastic chin; he’s gotten laced to the body many times but is hard to hurt with head strikes. Matt Brown by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Brown: Nick, Fraser, Phil, Mookie, Bissell, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Iain, Eddie
Staff picking Ellenberger:

Erik Perez vs. Francisco Rivera

Mookie Alexander: Rivera is really hard to figure out. He just throws away any strategy and technique once he cracks somebody or is goaded into a big exchange. That Pickett fight was a bad decision, but Rivera kinda pissed it away. Perez’s move to Alliance MMA from JacksonWink intrigues me considerably. We have only seen him fight Caraway and Lapilus in the past two years so it’s difficult to get a read on where he is at this stage in his career. It’s a tough call because Perez may be the more skilled fighter, but Rivera has good power for a 135er. I’ll go with Erik Perez by unanimous decision.

Victor: Perez is a scrappy fighter that can show some impressive athleticism and ability to survive in tough spots, but Rivera’s got cleaner and more accurate striking, plus he hits harder. Rivera’s likely to have a strength advantage and possesses really good takedown defense. Goyito seems to need a bit of control and time to set up his submissions, and Rivera’s gas tank and tenacity won’t allow for that to happen. Cisco Rivera by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: After some transitory early career hype, Perez has slid into the background a little. I think this is partially due to his fighting style- you know those pictures you see sometimes where someone will make a composite of "the typical American" or "the typical Dutch person"? Perez is the typical UFC fighter. That said, he has some genuine skills, particularly in phase-shifting and effective aggression. Rivera hits harder, but often strikes me as a little… down on himself in the way he fights? Hard to put it. Rivera has often struggled with people who cycle through punches kicks and takedowns, including his fight against the fading Pickett, where even if he got ripped off, I expected him to do better than he did. Erik Perez by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Perez: Phil, Mookie, Iain
Staff picking Rivera: Nick, Victor, Fraser, Bissell, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Eddie

Ryan Benoit vs. Fredy Serrano

Mookie Alexander: Hey, I remember Benoit! He’s that guy who knocked out Sergio Pettis and then kicked him for no good reason at the end of the fight. I also remember Fredy Serrano as the guy who slept that Dr. Bolivia dude and then won his next fight with a sub-minute broken arm. This probably will be a fun fight but I’ll trust Benoit’s experience and current skillset over the very raw Serrano. Ryan Benoit by unanimous decision.

Victor: Another fight with the potential to be absolutely bonkers. Both guys are very solid wrestlers, and Serrano’s natural athleticism is very impressive. Problem is, Benoit’s pressure game and striking are going to give Serrano all manner of problems. Serrano’s striking defense isn’t where it needs to be, so unless he’s got some surprises, he’s going to struggle on his feet and constantly shoot for takedowns that Benoit can stuff. Ryan Benoit by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Benoit hits harder, is the better striker, is younger but simultaneously has way more experience, and Serrano’s wrestling pedigree is less likely to be effective down at this weight class. So… where does this cold fear come from? This unreasonable bone-chilling terror when I think about picking Benoit? There is a shadow over this fight and it is called "TUF LatAm 1 Fighters Overperform All The Time For No God Damn Reason." Fine. Fine. I’m going to pick with "logic." But logic means nothing to TUF LatAm 1. Ryan Benoit by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Benoit: Nick, Victor, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Iain, Eddie
Staff picking Serrano: Bissell, Anton

Ed Herman vs. Nikita Krylov

Mookie Alexander: UFC couldn’t make GSP vs. Silva, or Jones vs. Silva, or Rousey vs. Cyborg. It’s either shit or get off the pot when it comes to Krylov vs. Latifi. Strike while the iron is hot! Nikita Krylov, before the walkouts

Victor: Is this a serious question? Because this is remarkably unfair, because when Nikita Ruby Weapon Personified Krylov (DA GAWD) decides he’s going to draw blood, the Red Cross starts to dish out overtime slips like they’re government cheese. His use of range is good, he hits hard and has great athleticism. No disrespect to Herman, but while Krylov is still susceptible to being dominated on the ground, Herman won’t be the guy to exploit those deficiencies. Nikita Krylov via Hammer Of The Gods.

Phil Mackenzie: This is a beautifully terrible fight; the essence of the tortoise and the hare. Kingslayer Herman is very, very tough and a genuinely well-rounded fighter. He’s got functionally stable standup, a dangerous clinch and a profoundly underrated grappling game. He’s also extraordinarily slow. Krylov fights at an absurd pace, so the question is whether he does something silly enough to get himself tapped or hurt early, or tires himself out enough to lose late. I think he puts enough pace on Herman early to survive what may become an ugly fight. If he wins, I agree with Mookie: shit while the iron is hot. Nikita Krylov by unanimous decision.

Staff picking incorrectly Herman:
Staff picking Krylov: Nick (pressured into this), Victor (sacrificed a bunny to Krylov on Monday), Phil, Fraser, Bissell, Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Iain, Eddie

Jorge Masvidal vs. Ross Pearson

Mookie Alexander: One of these split decisions will go Jorge Masvidal’s way eventually, right? Because if not (as this is totally going to a split decision) then Pearson’s absurd win-loss-win-loss-win-etc-etc pattern stays intact. It’s a great fight and I think Masvidal will edge it by outlanding Pearson and making the most of his size advantage. Jorge Masvidal by split decision.

Victor: Two fighters that love to drop everything else in MMA and put on what essentially a loose boxing match that resembles a Japanese pro-wrestling match in a display of which guy has more balls than the other. Masvidal likes the smooth counter game and has some slick combinations and better timing. Pearson’s done some excellent work at Alliance, but he’s got a speed and range disadvantage he may not be able to overcome. Jorge Masvidal by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Striking-based, action gatekeepers. The difference is that Pearson has kept the gate which lets upper-mid level fighters through, and Masvidal’s gate is closer to the throne. Only the elite are allowed to pass. This should be a fantastically fun scrap where both fighters have their moments, but Masvidal just has too many advantages: speed, durability, size, offensive grappling. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Masvidal: Nick, Victor, Phil, Fraser, Bissell, Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, iain, Eddie
Staff picking Pearson:

Damian Grabowski vs. Anthony Hamilton

Anton Tabuena: Who lands the first big punch? *Tosses coin* Hamilton by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Oh no not a lower-level heavyweight fight. Damian Grabowski by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: My original pick was mean and disrespectful; these are two hardworking, tough heavies. But they are not… good. Grabowski appears a little more functional; Hamilton is bigger, stronger and at a better camp. Anthony Hamilton by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Grabowski: Nick, Fraser, Bissell, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Hamilton: Phil, Anton, Stephie, Iain

Wilson Reis vs. Hector Sandoval

Mookie Alexander: Poor Wilson Reis. He’s probably going to win in dominant fashion instead of get dominated by Demetrious Johnson, but the point is that Reis went from a PPV co-headliner to bottom of the FS2 preliminary card. That’s rough. Wilson Reis by submission, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Reis has never been all that great when faced with pace and aggression. With that said, Sandoval is undersized and has so MUCH aggression that it’s hard to see him not just walking into a counter double leg from Reis and getting stuck in Reis’ murderous top game. Not as confident in the pick as some but Wilson Reis by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Reis: Nick, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Iain, Eddie
Staff picking Sandoval:

Michael Graves vs. Bojan Velickovic

Mookie Alexander: Two decent prospects working their way up, but Graves will grind this one out in the later rounds. Michael Graves by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Velickovic is bigger and far more well-rounded, but showed some problems with pace in his last fight, one which I’m not really sure that he deserved to win? He’s a bit of a burst fighter- potshot, wrestle, scramble, reset. Graves is the kind of relentless grappler who hits a big, unbreakable ceiling at some point, but tends to give people fits on the way up. Michael Graves by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Graves: Nick, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Iain
Staff picking Velickovic:

Cezar Arzamendia vs. Damien Brown

Mookie Alexander: I don’t know how Phil and Zane and Connor manage to effectively analyze fights that are completely obscure as this one. Cezar Arzamendia by KO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Arzamendia is an Alex White / Lucas Martins type bolt-upright banger. While Cezar’s massive hittability is a concern, Damien Brown is a regional-level grappler who I think will get beaten up pretty badly looking for the takedowns. If this goes late Arzamendia’s crap gas tank is a big concern but Cezar Arzamendia by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Arzamendia: Nick, Fraser, Mookie, Bissell, Anton, Phil, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Brown: Zane, Iain

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