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TUF 23 Finale: Jedrzejczyk vs. Gadelha staff picks and predictions

Check out who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking to win on the Friday, July 8th TUF 23 Finale: Jedrzejczyk vs. Gadelha card in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thankfully, The Ultimate Fighter 23 fight card doesn't have any major last-minute cancellations for us to deal with. The BE staff has submitted its predictions for this Friday night event, and we are mostly in agreement that Joanna Jedrzejczyk will remain UFC women's strawweight champion. Phil Mackenzie, Tim Bissell, and Tim Burke are the only ones picking Claudia Gadelha to win the rematch. Meanwhile, it's a clean sweep for Will Brooks over Ross Pearson, in what will be the former Bellator LW champion's UFC debut.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Tuesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he's going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Note 2: We omitted all of the TUF 23 related fights (Cooper/Suarez, Sanchez/Rountree, and Stansbury/Hendricks) due to the incredibly short turnaround from the final episode until the predictions deadline.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha

Mookie Alexander: Gadelha is still a very dangerous opponent who has a credible (but not necessarily a very strong) case for having won the first fight with Joanna. The interesting thing here is that Joanna has fought 3 times and has won comfortably every single time. We've seen Gadelha fight only 2 non-Joanna opponents in the UFC, of which neither Tina Lahdemaki nor Jessica Aguilar has had another UFC fight since then. Gadelha was really sharp in the first two rounds against Aguilar, but Aguilar had success with those leg kicks and Gadelha started to fade in the final round. I can see Gadelha scoring with some big shots, but not generating enough of a sustained attack either standing, clinching, or in pursuing the takedowns. When this goes into the later rounds, I think it favors Joanna heavily. Her footwork, volume, and diversity of strikes is just going to be too much, and she will once again demonstrate exemplary takedown defense. Joanna Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision.

Anton Tabuena: Both fighters seem to have improved a lot since their first bout, but I think Joanna should be able to take this one again. Joanna (remains) Champion by Decision.

Jed Meshew: Joanna is gonna win much more impressively this time. Both have improved but JJ has done so in a way that will more meaningfully affect the fight. Gadelha has improved her striking but prolonged exchanges on the feet don't favor her. Meanwhile, Joanna is a markedly better defensive wrestler and more importantly, she's become one of the best fighters in MMA at disincentivizing takedowns. Every time someone clinches with her or shoots on her, Joanna extracts a toll. Gadelha may have moments early but JJ will punish her for coming inside and take over as Gadelha begins to fade. Joanna Champion by 5th round TKO.

Staff picking Jedrzejczyk: Nick, Stephie, Anton, Mookie, Zane, Jed
Staff picking Gadelha: Bissell, Tim, Phil

Will Brooks vs. Ross Pearson

Mookie Alexander: Short of a KO that's similar to what Saad Awad achieved, this is just not the type of opponent Pearson ever does well against. Pearson's takedown defense is good, but not great. If Evan Dunham can take him down at will, so can Will Brooks (see what I did there?). From there, Brooks has great control on top, even though he's not exactly a dangerous finishing threat. I also think Brooks can outstrike Pearson too, but he'll more than likely grind Pearson out on his way to a decision. Will Brooks by unanimous decision.

Anton Tabuena: Expectations are high, but I think this will be a lot closer than what people think. That said, Brooks should still be able to outwrestle him en route to a possibly lackluster decision. Will Brooks by Decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I have some queries around how Brooks' patient, attritive game translates into fighting the elite in the UFC- being a lightweight he may struggle to get the 5-rounder main events which would really maximize his chances, and I think he gets more utilized to beef up Fox and PPV main cards. Also worth keeping an eye on how he performs when he's not comfortably the bigger man in the cage, as he was in Bellator. That being said, while Pearson provides some interesting and unique boxing threats, he's not a great defensive wrestler and Brooks should be able to duplicate what Evan Dunham did without a lot of issue. Will Brooks by unanimous decision.

Jed: I'm gonna pick Brooks because it makes sense but Ross Pearson is one of those fighters I can never seem to get a good read on and the track record of debuting stars in the UFC is checkered at best. Brooks by decision.

Staff picking Brooks: Nick, Bissell, Phil Stephie, Anton, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Jed
Staff picking Pearson:

Doo Ho Choi vs. Thiago Tavares

Mookie Alexander: Can't just discount Tavares here because he is quite dangerous on the ground and is at least competent on the feet, but he just gets hit way too much for me to trust him to take Choi's power early. Things may get interesting if Tavares puts Choi on his back and this drags out into the later rounds, but otherwise Korean Superboy is about to give Tavares a superwhooping. Doo Ho Choi via KO, round 1.

Anton Tabuena: This will be fun, but probably not exactly competitive. Doo Ho Choi by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: Tavares needs to nose his way into takedowns. While he's improved there, he's still a wooden and hittable phase-shifter who doesn't move his head much and tends to take damage. So, style-wise Choi should be able to win this, but this is admittedly a pretty massive step-up from Sicilia and Puig. Doo Ho Choi by TKO, round 2

Staff picking Choi: Nick, Bissell, Stephie, Anton, Mookie, Zane, Jed
Staff picking Tavares: Tim

Andrew Holbrook vs. Joaquim Silva

Phil Mackenzie: Close fight. More power and finishing ability for Silva, but he's one of those guys who loves overusing step knees and flying knees as takedown defense. I think Holbrook is a good enough grappler to not have to worry about the BJJ game, and a patient enough striker to be able to set up entries and not worry about the knees. Andrew Holbrook by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Holbrook: Bissell, Phil, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Mookie
Staff picking Silva: Nick, Zane

Fernando Bruno vs. Gray Maynard

Mookie Alexander: Maynard is a featherweight now, by the way. The hard way it is, Earnest. Gray Maynard by split decision.

Anton Tabuena: Pretty crazy how past rivals Maynard and Edgar are now both fighting in the same division, on the same weekend, but on completely different career archs. I'm not usually one to call for retirements, but if Maynard can't beat a guy like Bruno, that would be 6 losses in 7 bouts and he probably should hang it up. Gray Maynard by Decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I hate making picks like this. Bottom-rung UFC talent against a fighter who appears to be desperately trying to find something which isn't there any more. I guess a closer than expected, dreadful wrestling-based decision where everyone still wants Maynard to retire afterwards and he looks panicked while hitting takedowns is my expectation. If you'd said that the UFC could find a featherweight that I'd pick Maynard to beat, I would have likely called you a liar so... congratulations, I guess? Gray Maynard by split decision.

Staff picking Bruno: Nick, Stephie
Staff picking Maynard: Bissell, Phil, Anton, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Jed

Cezar Ferreira vs. Anthony Smith

Mookie Alexander: I cannot trust Cezar Mutante to not get rocked against just about anyone he ever fights. So with that in mind, I probably won't pick him to win most fights unless it's against the absolute bottom of the barrel. Smith is almost at that level, but I think he's just a bit above it and probably can do enough to somehow knock Ferreira out, too. Anthony Smith by KO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: The Rocky theme is heavily overused, but the fact that Mutante has starting coming out to it is great. The films would be absurdist masterpieces if Balboa had Mutante's chin. All the training and speeches and "Adriaaannn" kept intact, then Rocky gets flatlined with the first punch that Creed lands. Anyway, Mutante should win this, with the big and obvious caveat that he is who he is and is thus at risk of getting splattered by anyone at any time, and tends to underwhelm even when he doesn't get dusted. Cezar Ferreira by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Mutante: Bissell, Phil, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Smith: Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Zane

John Moraga vs. Matheus Nicolau

Phil Mackenzie: Flyweight is brutal right now. The Mouse needs challengers, but no-one cares about the division. Fighter development is very low on the agenda, so young and skilled fighters are getting tossed into the deep waters, with the implicit question being "are you one of the fastest developing fighters we've ever seen? If not then whatever." So, Nicolau: good power and physicality, excellent punching mechanics and a nose for submission grappling. But he's fighting 125's Ricardo Lamas: awkward but integrated, capable of grinding out rounds or capitalizing on errors. Too early. John Moraga by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Moraga: Nick, Phil, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Mookie, Zane, Jed
Staff picking Nicolau: Bissell

Kevin Lee vs. Jake Matthews

Mookie Alexander: Phil pretty much nails it for me. Lee and Matthews have shown their defensive liabilities in the past, but I think Matthews is more offensively potent and on a quicker learning curve at this stage in their respective careers. Jake Matthews by TKO, round 2.

Anton Tabuena: Matthews deserves the same marketing push as Northcutt, who is also fighting this weekend. They're both young, talented and good looking guys who fight at the same division, but Matthews seems by far the more promising prospect between the two. That said, I'm glad that they're not rushing the 21-year-old as this is a pretty good test that to show how much he has developed. Jake Matthews by Submission.

Phil Mackenzie: Lateral step for Matthews. Lee is bigger and more physical than Johnny Case, but much less offensively diverse and dangerous. Matthews is a freak, and his timing and distance control are rapidly starting to catch up with the rest of his game, including some murderous body shots. If Lee can hit takedowns easily this fight could change strongly in his favour, but overall I think that if Matthews gets the kind of fight that Efrain Escudero gave Lee then his sheer horsepower will pull him away. Jake Matthews by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Lee: Nick, Tim
Staff picking Matthews: Bissell, Phil, Stephie, Anton, Zane, Jed

Li Jingliang vs. Anton Zafir

Mookie Alexander: Anton sucks, and I'm not talking about Zafir. Li Jingliang by KO, round 1.

Anton Tabuena: I don't know what Mookie is talking about, because I heard Anton's are awesome... I mean this Anton is probably getting choked out by the Chinese star, but that in no way reflects badly on the other awesome Antons. Li Jingliang by Submission.

Phil Mackenzie: Jingliang lost his last fight to a magical teleporting backtake and choke, but he was kicking the shit out of Nakamura before then. He's a rugged, fearless combination boxer as well as being a smothering clinch grappler. Zafir is tough but profoundly unathletic and won't be able to deal with the pace and the pressure. Li Jingliang by TKO, round 2.

Tim Burke: Anton, via feeling the poo poo! Anton Zafir by submission.

Staff picking Jingliang: Nick, Stephie (Jangalang!), Bissell, Phil, Anton, Mookie, Zane, Jed
Staff picking Zafir: Tim

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