The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for tomorrow night's UFC on FOX event in Vancouver. Most of us are going with Carlos Condit to beat Demian Maia in the main event, although I'd love to know how many would've picked Maia had this been 3 rounds instead of 5. There's a similar split of people picking Anthony Pettis over Charles Oliveira, although yours truly has got Oliveira for the upset. Phil Mackenzie is picking Sam Alvey over Kevin Casey, which is only significant in that his analysis of it is so beautiful.
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 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.
Note 2: Adam Hunter vs. Ryan Janes is now scrapped after Hunter was flagged by USADA, so that's been removed from this predictions piece.
Mookie Alexander: Maia’s gotta win this within two rounds. I’d be very surprised if his cardio held up against someone like Condit for up to 25 minutes. I can’t stress enough how much this being 5 rounds instead of 3 benefits Carlos. Chances are we’ll see Maia take Condit down straight away and do his work on the mat. Condit is active off of his back and is a lot more difficult to just hold down than people think. If Condit can weather the storm and avoid getting submitted over the first 10-12 minutes, then stuff Maia’s takedowns (or at least make him work for it), it’ll be all Condit on the feet. My mind says pick Maia by submission but dammit I can’t do it. Heart is going with Carlos Condit by TKO, round 4.
Eddie Mercado: I am such a fan of both guys yet for polar opposite reasons. I have always enjoyed how Condit is well rounded with cardio for days and has been one of those guys who actively works off of his back, be it to stand back up or look for a sub. Maia on the other hand is the personification of street Jiu-Jitsu. His top control is second to none and his FIQ, at least on the ground, is through the frickin’ roof. Maia’s drop to welterweight has proved to be a wise move as Maia has yet to taste defeat in the division. I can see this fight playing out a number of different ways but this will be the time that Condit’s squirmy-ness off his back will be his downfall. Demian Maia by Submission, Round 1.
Zane Simon: I should pick Maia. Condit is not only plagued by terrible takedown defense, but he’s aggressive enough on the mats that he’s very likely to expose himself to a submission. When guys try to really fight Maia’s grappling, that’s when he tends to sink something in. It’s when guys just try and survive and let him have position that he rides out rounds and becomes a grinder. But, I just can’t get that feeling that Maia’s actual fight finishing threat is just not consistent enough, and in a five round fight sooner or later this will be about cardio. And if it becomes a battle of cardio, that’s a battle that Condit will win. Eventually, Condit either gets a knockout, or he’s very likely to lose, no real other options. But as foolish as it feels, I’ll pick the knockout. Carlos Condit via TKO, Round 3.
Jed Meshew: Maia’s ground game is other worldly but let’s not act like he is an anthropomorphic bolt of lightning that you can’t touch without dying. Ryan LaFlare went 5 rounds with him. Maia will have success early and then Carlos Condit, the true welterweight champion (fight me), will show why he doesn’t lose 5 round fights. Condit, TKO, round 4.
Dayne Fox: I really want to pick Maia here as I’ve been a mark for him for as long as I can remember. The reason I can’t is Condit has some of the best cardio in the sport and isn’t easy to submit. The last time he was submitted? Over 10 years ago. I don’t think Maia has the gas tank to pull out a five round decision over Condit. Remember how bad he faded against Ryan LaFlare in round five? Condit would finish Maia if he ends up that gassed again. If it was three rounds that would be different. But it ain’t. Condit via TKO of RD4
Staff picking Condit: Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Zane, Fraser, Condit, Lewis, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Maia: Nick, Eddie, Bissell
Mookie Alexander: I suppose Pettis is supposed to win this, right? Big advantage with his range striking just on power alone, which poses huge problems for someone as iffy as Oliveira when it comes to getting hit flush. That said, Oliveira has made major strides since his early days when it looked like he was going to be a bit of a busted prospect. His takedowns are underrated and while Pettis has a dangerous submission game, I think Oliveira would win the grappling exchanges. This really comes down to Pettis’ mindset. He’s more or less been found out as a flashy but very fundamentally flawed striker. Is Oliveira the guy to exploit Pettis’ fundamental flaws? Maybe? Oliveira makes this a clinch battle and outmuscles Pettis on the ground to get the win. Charles Oliveira by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: From being the future of lightweight to stacking up losses, expanding to Jackson’s and now dropping to featherweight - I struggle to think what Pettis can do differently in a lower weight class? He still suffers from the same deficiencies as a fighter and unless he’s cleaned up some habits and developed new ones, can still be figured out and beaten. Oliveira is a tremendous talent, but he may be playing catch-up here with Pettis’ dynamic striking. Seeing as both of them rely on distance striking, I don’t see Charles mugging Anthony with infighting to make it dirty, nor do I see him dealing well with Pettis’ level changes and attacks to the body. Pettis should be able to pick him apart at a distance with Oliveira catching him with some good occasional offense. Anthony Pettis by decision.
Eddie: I still have a box of Wheaties with Anthony Pettis on the cover, maybe because I just don’t care for that particular brand of cereal too much, but at the time Pettis was the all the rage. Showtime kicks and slick submissions! Fast forward a few years and wowsers, has the landscape of modern MMA changed. From the sale of the UFC to the banning of intravenous rehydration. From Reebok deals to USADA sessions. Anthony Pettis has now dropped three straight bouts and I can’t help but wonder… wtf happened? Granted those losses came to top flight competition in Barboza, Alvarez, and RDA but a fourth consecutive loss could spell the UFC exit for the Roufusport product. Now with that being said, Pettis is hella-durable. Of his five losses, none have been by way of finish. I cannot say the same for his opponent Charles Oliveira, who out of his five losses has been finished four times. Honestly, I have never picked against Anthony Pettis and am not going to start with Charles Oliveira. Anthony Pettis by TKO (Injury), Round 1.
Zane Simon: If Pettis has gotten in his own head, if he doesn’t come in with the right approach, he could lose. Oliveira is a fantastic action fighter and a brutally tricky grappler. If Pettis lets himself get drawn into a grappling battle, he could get subbed. But, Oliveira is also something of a flat footed plodder when it comes to his range striking and footwork. He’s just not dynamic enough standing to chase Pettis down and really control him like he’d need to. Add in that he approaches in straight lines with his head on line and that feels like a recipe for Anthony Pettis’ success. Anthony Pettis via KO, Round 1.
Jed: Anthony Pettis got jobbed to lose to the current lightweight champion. His other losses are to RDA, a top 10 lightweight ever and bad style matchup, and Edson Barboza who is the worst style matchup for him. Pretty Tony Pettis can still do the damn thing better than most. Pettis, KO, round 2.
Dayne Fox: Oliveira has never done well against skilled strikers. Donald Cerrone and Cub Swanson disposed of him easily, though that was a long time ago. I think he has improved and he did beat Jeremy Stephens… but are you really going to compare Anthony Pettis to Stephens? No comparison. If Pettis’ power doesn’t translate in the drop to 145, I favor Oliveira. Until I know how that plays out, I’m picking Pettis to stop him. Pettis via KO of RD1
Staff picking Pettis: Victor, Eddie, Bissell, Zane, Fraser, Jed, Lewis, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Oliveira: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Mookie
Mookie Alexander: Tougher call than expected. Rawlings is at Alliance MMA, where she can really improve her skills and get back into the rankings. PVZ was tough almost to a fault, but she was completely overmatched vs. Namajunas. I do think though that her workrate and athleticism can win her fights against most of the UFC’s strawweight division. Rawlings can exploit PVZ’s rawness, per se, if she can snag a submission if PVZ is too careless on the ground. Beyond that, I expect a competitive fight but VanZant takes firm control in rounds 2 and 3. Paige VanZant by unanimous decision.
Victor: Bec is relentlessly tough, with striking that’s better than average, mostly due to her use of range and straight-up mom strength (it’s real, and you don’t want to know how I found out). Her cardio isn’t that bad, either, and her game outside of that is relatively basic and mostly reliant on physicality and athleticism. Paige appears to be a better all-around athlete with decent wrestling, plenty of level changes and better movement during striking exchanges. Paige won’t back up in a straight line, nor will she have the chain-grappling/submission defense disadvantage she had against Namajunas. It’s gonna be tough for Paige to deal with an opponent that isn’t that much taller but carries a lot more weight during fight night, but she takes it by running a more frenetic pace. Paige VanZant by decision.
Eddie: A Muay Thai instructor once told me that dance lessons can drastically improve your footwork. I wonder if PVZ’s time on Dancing With The Stars has been at all beneficial to her development as a fighter. Excuse the pun, but I see Page dancing circles around Rawlings and achieving a late finish. PVZ vs. Michelle Waterson? Paige VanZant by Late Finish, Round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: PVZ is still super duper raw and I don’t honestly expect her to look all that much better than she did last time out. I think the fight will take place largely in the clinch, which she wants, but without a reliable takedown game and with terrible striking there’s no reason for her to be a massive favourite. I still think she’ll just flail Rawlings to a decision, though. PVZ by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Rawlings has improved. She’s more dynamic and more consistent in her striking than ever. But she still tends to fade badly as fights go on, and she’s still too willing to let her opponent dictate where the fight takes place. Given PVZ’s tendency to bully, that could mean that Rawlings really gives her a lot to work with. Throw in that VanZant is the better athlete and has great cardio and I’m taking PVZ by decision.
Jed: PVZ has the bones of what I want in a fighter: she’s tough as a coffin nail and relentlessly aggressive. Unfortunately, that is just about all there is to her game. Fortunately for her, that is probably enough to get past Rawlings. I hope PVZ gets with another camp because at this point my faith in TAM is very low and PVZ has upside, but I’m sure that’s wishful thinking. PVZ, decision.
Staff picking Rawlings: Stephie, Bissell
Staff picking VanZant: Nick, Victor, Eddie, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Jed, Lewis, Dayne, Tim
Mookie Alexander: A bit of an odd thing that I’m picking Lauzon based on his durability, which was every reason NOT to pick him several years ago, but he’s a shade more durable than Miller is over three rounds these days. This is going to be another grueling fight and a war of attrition, but I think Lauzon’s striking, which looked phenomenal in his split decision loss to Diego Sanchez, will see him even the score with Miller in the rematch. Joe Lauzon by unanimous decision.
Victor: See, thing about this matchup is that I wish it were a best of five grappling match instead of an MMA fight. Either way, Lauzon’s got more deceptive striking setups and can really put it on Miller, who is tougher than a $2 steak but can still be knocked out. It pains me to have to pick against Miller, but Joe Lauzon by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: Lauzon has improved his 1-round gas tank to a 2-round gas tank over the years. Conversely Miller’s 2-round gas tank has deteriorated to a 1-round gas tank. Lauzon’s clinch work has improved dramatically which should prevent him from getting blown out so badly in the first round, and he may even win it, but Miller’s cardio is just absolutely horrendous these days, so I’m picking Joe "only won one decision in his entire career" Lauzon to decision him, lord help me. Joe Lauzon by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: So apparently Miller was battling untreated Lyme disease over the past couple years. If that was really a major factor in his decline, he could be back in form suddenly. But, maybe it’s because I already picked Lauzon before I knew that, or maybe it’s because I believe that picking fighters to improve due to x-factor like changes is largely bunk, but I’m sticking with Lauzon. The Miller I saw in his fight with Diego Sanchez just looked to worn out, and didn’t even have a potential gastank advantage to work with that would make me pick him to take over against Lauzon late. That said, Lauzon does always struggle with lefties and Miller is a lefty. But Miller seems about the least crafty lefty that Lauzon could hope for and if he’s lost a step, I think Lauzon solves him for a TKO. Joe Lauzon via submission, round 2.
Jed: No love for Jim Miller?! Joe Lauzon is dope but he still can’t fight much more than 6 minutes. Jim Miller may look a little washed but he is a better historical fighter than Lauzon and I can’t in good conscience pick against him. Call it a nostalgia pick but Miller, decision.
Staff picking Lauzon: Nick, Victor, Eddie, Mookie, Stephie, Bissell, Zane, Fraser, Lewis, Dayne
Staff picking Miller: Jed, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Ohhhhh this is a generic middleweight fight. This is my excuse to not analyze the fight at all and let Phil do the talking. Sam Alvey by unanimous decision.
Victor: Damn, son. Casey’s got a steep uphill climb, because while Alvey is somewhat stationary with his striking, that’s how he baits guys and generates some scary power with his counters. Casey’s boxing is good, but he’s gonna get caught and get slept in the process. As good as Kevin’s ground game is, good luck getting it there. Alvey by KO.
Phil Mackenzie: Thales Leites walked through his castle with a spring in his step. The BJJ Guys With Suspect Gas Tanks were ascending, he had defeated the new Volume Puncher king with ease, and now one of his finest was preparing to battle Sam the Smiler.
He opened the door to the training room, and looked around in puzzlement. The weights swung loose, the sparring ring was empty. He spotted a figure slumped in the corner.
"Kevin! Kevin! Wake up!" He grabbed Casey and shook him.
Casey struggled. "... don’t want to… so tired."
"You have to train! You have a fight!"
"I’ll… never give up," murmured Casey, without opening his eyes. "Never ever."
Leites looked around for something to wake his lieutenant, and not for the first time he had the quiet and traitorous thought that perhaps there were limits to how suspect a BJJ Guy’s gas tank should be.
In a small Scrapper town, a crowd of children had gathered to watch the stranger training. A grinning, amiable fellow, he had asked them to fetch him a scarecrow. "Any tattered old field guard you have. I like to train with something that resembles a man before a fight."
The children had scuttled off in excitement, and returned bearing a mouldering straw man on their shoulders. A king could not have been carried by his funeral retinue with more care.
Now Sam the Smiler struck at the head of the scarecrow, his hand a-blur. Right hook, right hook, right hook. The children looked on in awe.
One grubby-faced boy, braver than the others, piped up. "But sir… wot if he fights from afar, where you can’t hit him wiv the hook?"
"Right smart you are, my lad," said Alvey. "A credit to your mother you must be. Now just watch this."
Alvey stepped away, then fixed his eyes on the scarecrow. His grin faded, and his face twisted into a ferocious scowl. He glared at the scarecrow for several long minutes, before turning to face the children and smiling. "See?"
"Looking at things and making faces like you’re cross?" said the boy doubtfully.
"That’s right!" cried Alvey. "Gurning! The best way to fight from afar there is!"
The children muttered among themselves.
Sam Alvey by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Following these things is like trying to follow Michelangelo with a paint roller. Sam Alvey via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Alvey: Nick, Victor, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Bissell, Zane, Fraser, Jed, Lewis, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Casey:
Phil Mackenzie: Bochniak is a tank, a solidly well-rounded mix of striking and grappling. Barzola is a weird mix of kooky, unorthodox striking and improved wrestling. Bochniak the safe pick, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Barzola win, just so I can bust out the poorly photoshopped "in a fight between people you can’t remember… always pick TUF Latin America" Passenger 57 picture. Kyle Bochniak by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Would really like to see Barzola win here, just for his crazy wrestling and GnP, but Bochniak is the prototypical MMA prospect. He’s big, he’s tough, he’s athletic, he hits hard, and he’s not actually bad at anything. I think as long as he can keep Barzola from taking him down, he’ll be able to walk through him standing up. Kyle Bochniak via decision.
Jed: Serious question, what is Barzola good at? Besides being tougher than a $2 steak, I can’t figure it out. Bochniak is overly reliant on his right hand but he’s the cleaner striker and a good enough defensive wrestler to keep it on the feet. Bochniak, decision.
Staff picking Barzola: Bissell, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Bochniak: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Zane, Fraser, Jed
Phil Mackenzie: These guys both pleasantly surprised by overperforming in their last bouts: McLellan by outworking Bubba Bush, Di Chirico by doing better against Bojan Velickovic than expected. That said, McLellan is fairly woeful at range, and if Di Chirico has been working on his grappling as he should have, he should have this wrapped up. Alessio Di Chirico by TKO, round 2
Zane Simon: Di Chirico is more athletic, more structured in his approach, and more well rounded. McLellan is at his best as a top position GnP artist, but without much wrestling or a consistent striking game, he’s kind of at odds for how to get there or keep the fight there once he has it. That just leaves too many avenues for a sneakily powerful Di Chirico who is rapidly improving as he gets more experience to fill in the minor technical gaps in his game. Alessio Di Chirico via Submission, Round 2.
Jed: Di Chirico is good and McLellan is tough. That’s the fight in a nutshell. Di Chirico, TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Di Chirico: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Bissell, Zane, Fraser, Jed, Dayne. Tim
Staff picking McLellan:
Phil Mackenzie: Campbell is one of those dudes who could hang out as a mid or even upper-mid tier fighter in one of the weaker divisions, but is in danger of drowning at 155. Campbell’s defensively sound enough that his problems have largely been around more technical strikers (Koch, Makdessi) or skilled sub grapplers (Krause, Koch again). Silva is neither of these, instead a bit of a brawler. It’s worth thinking that Campbell may just be, as Zane has alluded to, just not the necessary level of athlete. Sort of a Mac Danzig-type. Shane Campbell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Campbell should win this based on raw grit and a technical striking edge, but frankly his baseline lack of athleticism is a real long term problem. He’s just not winning a lot of fights in the UFC. Silva is somewhat one-dimensional, but that dimension isn’t bad. If this is just a striking bout, I could easily see it being a coinflip. I’ll pick Campbell just because I think he’s the better wrestler, grappler, and scrambler, but I won’t be surprised if Silva KO’s him. Shane Campbell via split decision.
Staff picking Campbell: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Bissell, Zane, Fraser, Dayne
Staff picking Silva: Tim
Phil Mackenzie: Goaty is a bit of a live dog here: although he hasn’t shown much in his previous UFC appearances, he’s tough, got good instincts, physically strong, aggressive. I still don’t think it plays well with Laprise’s precise kickboxing, but I can see Gouti clipping and overwhelming Laprise, who is the classic "technical but slightly frail" Tristar product. Chad Laprise by unanimous decision.
Tim Bissell: I always thought this fight was a lot closer than the oddsmakers suggested, mostly because I feel Gouti has shown as much as Laprise has on the regional scene. Seeing Laprise on the scales (he weighed 159lbs) makes me side - slightly - with Gouti. Thibault Gouti by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Gouti’s hands are a bit slower, his feet are a bit slower, his defense is a bit more open. He hits harder, but staying defensively sound is sort of the cornerstone to Laprise’s game. Add in that Laprise has shown the ability to wrestle a bit too and I think he’ll just edge out most of the exchanges all fight. Chad Laprise via decision.
Jed: If he hadn’t missed weight, I would feel bulletproof on Laprise. Now I’m second guessing this but Gouti is worse in every area. Laprise, submission, round 3.
Staff picking Gouti: Bissell
Staff picking Laprise: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Jed, Dayne, Tim
Phil Mackenzie: Kicking off this absolute trash fire of a preliminary card is a coin flip. Avoid. Kennedy is more aggressive, but Ricci has fought better competition, and is probably a bit better on the feet. The main question in these fights is generally "who gasses out first", so… Ricci? Seriously though, who the hell knows. Jeremy Kennedy by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Ricci just doesn’t impress. He’s a muay thai fighter who hasn’t KO’d anyone in years. Mostly that’s because he’s a safety first striker who has a bad habit of watching his opponent work. That means he eats some big punches he shouldn’t and rarely lands the big strikes he should. He’s in shape and technical enough that he could take this if Kennedy falls into a pure counter boxing game. But Kennedy seems like a well rounded aggressive wrestler and grappler as well so I figure he’ll find a way past Ricci. Jeremy Kennedy via decision.
Jed: Kennedy is young with upside and Ricci is not those things. That’s enough to get the nod. Kennedy, submission, round 2.
Staff picking Kennedy: Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Jed, Tim
Staff picking Ricci: Stephie, Bissell, Dayne