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UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2 staff picks and predictions for preliminary card

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Check out who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking to win on the preliminary card of UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2. As you can gather, this is a pretty big pay-per-view event, so big that we've had to split the predictions posts into preliminary card and main card. Here are the preliminary card predictions, which sees us unanimously pick Cody Garbrandt over Takeya Mizugaki, while Lorenz Larkin vs. Neil Magny is considerably more divided.

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.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Takeya Mizugaki

Anton Tabuena: Can I brag a bit and say that I was the first and only one here to pick Garbrandt to beat Almeida? I’ve always been high on his MMA boxing, and I think that’s what is going to lead him to victory here again. I believe a grinding vet like Mizugaki is the perfect test for Cody at this stage of his career, but I think he will pass with flying colors. Cody Garbrandt by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I’d talk shit about Anton’s bragging over one of the rare correct fight predictions he has, but basically once the Cavs beat the Warriors he can now hold all of my "Eastern Conference NBA is a joke" tweets over my head for all eternity. It was worth it to see LeBron get a 3rd ring. Anyway, that aside, Mizugaki is good everywhere and not great at any one thing. He’s hard to knockdown, let alone knockout, but Garbrandt seems to be a real top talent as a striker, and I’m going with the prospect over the veteran. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: I seriously doubted Garbrandt last time around, but won’t make that mistake again. Cody not only hits hard, but is smart about using his range and timing his shots. Mizugaki can be put out, and despite his grappling may lack the physicality to take Cody down and break him down.

Fraser Coffeen: Mizugaki is amazing - he’s been THE premier bantamweight gatekeeper since his very first fight on American soil, and literally for the entire time the UFC division has even existed. Seven years of top level gatekeeping may not make you a champion, but it’s impressive. Garbrandt? He’s the exact kind of guy that gets past the gate. Cody Garbrandt, KO, round 1

Phil Mackenzie: I’ve said this elsewhere, but Mizugaki has not traditionally struggled with pure boxers much. Instead he’s a bit like a Diaz brother with the dials turned down - physically underwhelming-looking, a "soft" jab and hook, pace, double underhooks, body shots etc - and it’s normally been kicking and wrestling which has troubled him. Garbrandt is as pure a boxer as you get, but Mizu has a boggling amount of experience hanging out in the pocket, and I can probably think of at least one fight where a tatted up explosive puncher got drawn into draining exchanges with a canny veteran. I’m not going to pick Mizugaki, obviously, but Garbrandt could easily find himself in trouble if he just goes in there trying to take Mizugaki’s head off and can’t. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 1.

Eddie Mercado: Attention shoppers! Will Cody G. please report to the top 5; your party is waiting. Cody Garbrandt by statement, Round 1.

Jed Meshew: Garbrandt should win this but Mizugaki has the tricky, veteran game to make him work for it. I have real concerns about Garbrandt’s ability to develop further at TAM but he shouldn’t need to improve to pick up the win here. Garbrandt by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Garbrandt: Nick, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Eddie, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
Staff picking Mizugaki:

Raquel Pennington vs. Elizabeth Phillips

Mookie Alexander: I don’t really get the matchmaking here. Phillips is a capable fighter but she also tired badly against Jessamyn Duke and dropped the final round. Pennington is physically stronger, and while her style of fighting has never really led to dominant performances, she’s got the better striking and can wear Phillips out in the clinch. I think we see a breakout performance from Rocky. Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision.

Victor: Hope you like gritty fights. Phillips keeps her striking functional to work into takedowns in most of her wins, but Pennington’s got country strength and won’t be taken down easily. Rocky can hurt Phillips in what I expect to be a wild slugfest punctuated by hugging. Raquel Pennington via decision.

Fraser: A lot of WMMA fights are still dictated by sheer physicality, and by that metric, this one’s an easy pick. Raquel Pennington, dec

Phil Mackenzie: I really like Pennington. She just has a high-percentage, reliable game which works well against a variety of skillsets, and that is just not common at all at this weight class. Her problem is that she isn’t really that dynamic, but she’s pretty good at picking up on people who duck into things with front headlock and choke subs, and she should be the more powerful and consistent boxer as well. Raquel Pennington by submission, round 2.

Stephie Haynes: Elizabeth Phillips is a tough fighter, but lacks what it takes to find any real success at the UFC level. She is 1-2 in the promotion, with her only win being over Jessamyn Duke. She trains in Spokane Washington at SikJitsu with Julianna Pena, Mike Chiesa and Sam Sicilia, but hasn’t been able to get her UFC tenure on track as her teammates have.

Raquel Pennington is a seasoned vet with a ton of amateur, exhibition and pro fights under her belt. She holds impressive wins over Sarah Moras, Jessamyn Duke, Roxanne Modafferi, Ashlee Evans-Smith, Jessica Andrade, Bethe Correia and current Invicta bantamweight champ, Tonya Evinger. She’s strong as hell, gritty, durable and is an opportunist that makes the most of every opening. You could close your eyes, throw a dart and land on any facet of her skillset and call it a key to victory. Pennington by R3 submission

Staff picking Pennington: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Eddie, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
Staff picking Phillips:

Chris Avila vs. Artem Lobov

Anton Tabuena: Avila has good potential, but Lobov may be too much too soon for his young career. Artem Lobov by TKO.

Victor: Avila’s an interesting case, because he trains with the Diaz brothers and even has the same body type. He’s also got five wins with four finishes, including this little number here from March. He has an odd stance similar to that of the the Diaz brothers, but it’s not as effective. He doesn’t use his range the same way, and his tendency to get into dogfights end up with him taking unnecessary punishment. Lobov has his faults as a fighter, but he tore through that TUF house with knockouts and can do the very same thing here due to Avila’s inexperience, having only nine fights as an amateur and professional combined. Artem puts him down late. Artem Lobov via KO, round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: This fight is an irrelevance, an SBG vs Skrap Pack gimmick. Avila might be something in future, or come in looking a ton better, but the featherweight division doesn’t need these guys. Bring back Kevin Souza, he’d probably kill both of them inside a round. Hell, bring back Alan Omer, he would too. Artem Lobov by TKO, round 2

Jed: Shame on everyone picking Artem Lobov. You do know he’s Artem Lobov right? Chris Avila is no world beater but he’s a young kid with some potential and fighting out of a much better camp. That alone should make him the consensus pick here. Lobov is tough and will be there until the end but the pick is Avila by decision.

Staff picking Avila: Nick, Mookie, Bissell, Tim, Dayne, Jed
Staff picking Lobov: Victor, Anton, Fraser, Phil, Stephie

Cortney Casey vs. Randa Markos

Victor: Another potentially fun fight that’s going under the radar. Both have wrestling backgrounds and Casey not only has a slight size and reach advantage over Markos, she can hit very hard. Markos may not make up for the size difference in the striking department and can get flustered the further the fight goes on. Markos will have a harder time taking down Cortney, but it can happen, especially late in the second round as well as the third. Cortney should still be able to capitalize with the striking and outwork Randa. Cortney Casey by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Markos isn’t demonstrating the uber-coachability of someone like Thug Rose, but she is getting better. Her footwork, lead hand, power and timing are gradually catching up to her considerable athleticism, just in a herky-jerk way. Casey could theoretically play spoiler by putting out more volume, but I think Markos is just a tier above athletically and doesn’t even have the experience deficit she often battles against. Randa Markos by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Casey: Mookie, Victor, Anton, Bissell, Stephie
Staff picking Markos: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Dayne, Jed

Lorenz Larkin vs. Neil Magny

Mookie Alexander: This fight rules. It’ll be seen in front of maybe 45 people in the arena but I guess that’s offset by being on Fight Pass, right? Right?! Time for me to do the Zane Cheater Hedge (Phil coined this term) and pick Larkin, even though I picked Magny earlier in the week on Three Amigos Podcast. Magny probably wins this if Larkin’s takedown defense isn’t on point, primarily because Magny’s a really underrated wrestler and has a dangerous top game. If it stays standing, though? Larkin will have to contend with Magny’s long reach, but The Monsoon will chop away at Magny’s legs and test Neil’s chin with his power punches. We’ve seen Magny get knocked down 4 times in his last 2 fights, as well as wobbled by Hyun Gyu Lim, and KO’d on TUF by Mike Ricci. Larkin’s power translates better at 170 and I think he’ll keep it standing and outstrike Magny for the biggest win of his UFC career. Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision.

Victor: This fight is so dope. When Larkin’s kickboxing game is on point, he looks remarkable. His constant improvement in MMA may not be reflected in his record, but he’s worked very hard to make strides and become more complete. Magny came in off of TUF as a raw and unfinished product that was more of a generalist, and now his athleticism combined with his coachability have made him simply deadly against anyone. Highly doubtful that Magny tries to take this to the ground, and we should have a barnburner on our hands that sees Magny come out on top as the more durable fighter. Neil Magny by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Close, fantastic fight. I suspect Magny may have some Jones issues, namely that his enormous frame papers over some sizable flaws as an outfighter. Basically, opponents are always moving in on him, and so he gets the clinch a lot. Larkin is not going to move in, and instead he’s going to try to outfight, counterpunch and leg kick. Magny’s path to victory is likely to smother Larkin in jab volume and push him into the fence where his enormous advantages in clinch fighting and top position grappling can get play. I’m going to pick Larkin- I think he can run, leg kick, run, and back off or hurt Magny with hard punches if Magny closes. Magny keeps a murderous pace and is an underrated finisher, so if Larkin can’t badly slow him he may be in trouble come round 3. Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision.

Eddie: Excited for this one! Magny personifies flying under the radar having won 10 of his last 11 fights. All of said fights have been amassed since February of 2014 so Magny has been hyperactive to say the least. That’s just insane. Magny pushes the pace and can work off the jab to get to the clinch. Larkin on the other hand is a venomous striker who knows how to set up his strikes. It’s tough for me to pick Larkin after seeing Magny get through Lombard. My head says Neil, my gut says Larkin. Larkin by Split Decision.

Stephie Haynes: I HATE that this fight is on the FP prelims. Hate it, hate it! Larkin via R2 TKO

Check out our interview with Larkin HERE

Jed: This is a first for me; not only will I predict the winner and round, I will also predict the precise method of the finish. Lorenz Larkin has sneaky wonderful striking and Neil Magny gets hit early and often. Larkin has a saucy lead, rear right hand that he throws stepping in off a shift (not all the time but often). He’s going to land that punch, rock Magny, and put him away in the first. Larkin by TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Larkin: Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Jed
Staff picking Magny: Nick, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Bissell, Tim, Dayne

Colby Covington vs. Max Griffin

Phil Mackenzie: Nothing too outlandish here. Griffin has a lot of power but that in itself is probably going to be a millstone against a fighter who’s just going to be bulling forward to take him down. Covington hasn’t made the big improvements that some might have hoped for, but Colby Covington by submission, round 2.

Eddie: Go check out my interviews with both Colby and Max on Bloody Elbow. Majority Draw.

Jed: Colby Covington is a legit prospect. Max Griffin has big time power but also, he isn’t a great finisher once he has you hurt and has shown the baffling ability to hurt someone and then allow them to take his back right after. That won’t play well against Covington’s high level grappling chops. Covington by submission, round 3.

Staff picking Covington: Mookie, Anton, Phil, Fraser, Bissell, Eddie, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
Staff picking Griffin: Nick, Eddie

Alberto Uda vs. Marvin Vettori

Phil Mackenzie: Brazilian Scott Askham, noooo. Why did Uda go down to welterweight? I don’t think this is going to solve his problems, which is that he only really has a front kick and a nice clinch and grappling game. Being bigger will make his strengths (namely "strength") better but it’ll exacerbate problems with being hittable. Vettori is no technical masterwork, but he has a big, solid left and I’m assuming Cordeiro is just teaching him to wail on the bigger fighter with it a la Dariush-Vick. First round will tell us a lot: if Vettori gets locked up more than a couple times, he’s probably going to lose. That said: Marvin Vettori by TKO, round 1.

Stephie Haynes: As the resident Italian, I must go with Vettori here. Since Sakara is gone, I have no Italian warrior to root for. WAR VETTORI!! (TKO R1)

Jed: Uda works well in the clinch and on top and that’s honestly about it. He also only works well for about 6 minutes. Vettori is raw but he’s the better striker and probably has enough salt to outlast Uda. Vettori by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Uda: Fraser
Staff picking Vettori: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Bissell, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed