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UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Caceres staff picks and predictions

The Bloody Elbow staff makes its picks and predictions for Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Caceres fight card in Salt Lake City, Utah.

MMA: UFC 192-Rodriguez vs Hooker Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for tomorrow night’s (Saturday, August 6th) UFC Fight Night 92 in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a unanimous call for Yair Rodriguez to beat Alex Caceres in the main event. The co-main event really shocked me, as Rony Jason vs. Dennis Bermudez is split. I figured I’d be one of 2 people at most to go for the upset here, but I guess not.

Note 1: 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 Nick Baldwin entered all of his predictions on Wednesday 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: Please excuse Tim Burke’s loud noises for the Swanson vs. Kawajiri prediction.

Alex Caceres vs. Yair Rodriguez

Anton Tabuena: I think this match up has one guy that is severely underrated and the other that’s overrated. And call me crazy, but I really think Caceres has all the tools, and more importantly, the experience to win this one. He won’t freeze when thrown with crazy kicks, and he is more than capable to take advantage of the holes in Yair’s game. Bruce Leeroy by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: It’s not as if Caceres has no chance to win this, but even when he was kicking Cole Miller’s ass in his last fight, he still nearly managed to lose by armbar in the final round. This has plagued Caceres’ career long enough, which is to either start poorly or make a mistake that nearly or actually costs him the fight. Rodriguez is still a raw fighter but he’s so dynamic and powerful that I have to think he’ll tag Caceres hard and put him away at some point. This will be a thriller and we could see Caceres give Rodriguez problems on the ground, but I’m sticking with Yair. Yair Rodriguez by something cool, round 2.

Zane Simon: It’s really hard for me to see Caceres winning this. I didn’t think he’d beat Cole Miller, and he did, but only after flaming out brutally in round 3. Even in the midst of one of his best career performances, he just doesn’t have the round by round consistency to be trustable. Add to it that he’ll probably give Yair a lot of the range and time he wants to create dynamic offense and this has Yair Rodriguez via TKO, round 2 all over it.

Jed Meshew: Yair Rodriguez will eventually meet an abrupt and painful stop to his momentous rise, but this ain’t gonna be it. Caceres is kind of like Yair Rodriguez if you turned his levels down to “meh.” The kind of guy who is gonna beat Rodriguez is someone who can exploit his kick-only, fundamental-less striking game or ground him and work him over on top. Bruce Leeroy ain’t that dude. Maaaaaaybe Yair does one of those ridiculous rolling kicks and Caceres jumps on him and takes his back but I don’t see it. Rodriguez is going to pop off some violent, dope ish and build the highlight reel. Rodriguez by spinning jump knee KO, round 3.

Staff picking Caceres: Anton
Staff picking Rodriguez: Nick, Fraser, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Jed

Dennis Bermudez vs. Rony Jason

Anton Tabuena: Bermudez is just the more complete fighter. If he fights smart, this is his fight to lose. Dennis Bermudez by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: This is a fight Bermudez should win fairly easily, but that’s sort of the problem with Bermudez. The Kawajiri fight aside, he’s got a history of getting tagged hard and otherwise getting into bad positions that he has to get out of. Jason’s been gone for awhile with the diuretic ban, and is also a bit of a wild man himself. Bermudez is more skilled, but Jason has the unpredictable type of finishing ability both on the feet and on the ground where he can seize a small opportunity and make the most of it. I’m going with the upset here. It’s not that I think Bermudez isn’t a top 10 FW or that Rony Jason is one, it’s just the sort of matchup I’m not confident Bermudez can avoid not getting caught with something. Rony Jason by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Bermudez deserves to be the favorite here. He’s the more consistent performer (even if he makes some terrible moment-to-moment decisions), he’s a technically very well-rounded fighter, and he’s probably the better athlete, all while also being a great wrestler. Still, it’s those moment to moment problems and especially (as Connor put it) his troubles integrating offense and defense, that have me picking Rony Jason. Jason is a dynamic finisher with good power and a slick sub game. Bermudez will probably be winning right up until he loses, but Rony Jason via sub, Round 2.

Jed: Bermudez is one of those fighters that ends up being way better in the video game than he is in actuality. All the pieces are there - he is a good wrestler, technical striker, pushes a high pace - but somehow he ends up finding ways to lose. Maybe it’s just that he isn’t defensively minded and he’s not super durable, or maybe it’s just that his losses are dramatic and noteworthy and his wins less so. I don’t know. But it just feels like he should be further along in the division than he is. Rony Jason isn’t amazing but he’s the kind of guy who could absolutely launch some high octane offense at Bermudez which ends up sealing the deal. Still, on the aggregate I think Bermudez probably wins this fight more often than he loses, even if the times he loses it will be spectacular and violent. Bermudez by decision.

Staff picking Bermudez: Nick, Fraser, Phil, Jed, Anton
Staff picking Jason: Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Zane

Chris Camozzi vs. Thales Leites

Mookie Alexander: You’re here to read Phil Mackenzie’s prediction. Thales Leites by unanimous decision.

Victor: I heard that if Camozzi wins he gets to fight Jacare again. Leites seems to have really cleaned up his striking deficiencies and defense, and while he can’t seem to beat the elite group of his division he could certainly drop and finish Camozzi. Thales Leites by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: Leites looked into the steel-barred cell containing the creature that had once been his greatest secret weapon, and wondered where it had all gone wrong. When he had returned to the Great and Generic Land of Middleweight, he had been full of joy; full of new ideas to share. He would unite the BJJ Guys with Suspect Gas Tanks under his banner; he would defeat the Volume Punchers and the Scrappers, and indeed, for a while, it had all been going well. He had started educating his people in the value of finishes; proving to them how exciting BJJ Guys could be. He defeated the Scrapper King Boetsch, and set his eyes on Bisping.

That had been the moment, he realized. When he was turned away by Bisping, who had impossibly gone on to become the latest God King. The Lancastrian’s ascent had mirrored a slow fall from Leites. Sapo Natal had split away, announcing himself the king of his own traditionalist faction of the BJJ Guys. The Moose had defeated Leites easily. Down, down, deeper and down.

“Maaargh” said Carlos Jr in the cell. Leites sighed. It had seemed a good idea. His advisor Casey had suggested to him that he create a living weapon; a BJJ Guy artificially blended with Divine blood and that of his favourite actor, Gyllenhaal of California, in order to make an undefeatable generic middleweight. Leites had been desperate to consolidate power, and had reluctantly agreed. Yet… he had to admit that it hadn’t quite worked. Carlos Jr was indeed huge and terrifying, but visibly weird-looking, and had been defeated by the Kangaroo Sage. Leites suspected that Casey had, in fact, added his own blood to the mix. “Mahooo” said Carlos Jr, and Leites nodded glumly.

As his comeback fight, Leites had challenged the second ranked Powerless Volume Puncher, but Tavares was still unwilling to return to battle, and the new Volume Puncher King had taken the fight in his stead. The rival BJJ Guys faction had been overjoyed with the new match, and had pointed out how Sapo and his assistant Bruno had both defeated Camozzi; how it was clear that he had been elevated by Bisping through sheer favouritism; that this new upstart was no true Volume Puncher King. It would truly be an embarrassment were Leites to lose.

Leites was less sure. He had heard about what had happened to Riggs, and Luthor, and he had heard others whispering of Camozzi. “The Unbreakable” they called him, “Twice Devoured and Yet Returned.” Leites turned away from the cell, filled with a fresh resolution. He would not let his dream die here. Like Camozzi, he too had been driven from his homeland before, but he would not let it happen again. He would rise once more.

Chris Camozzi by unanimous decision.

Jed: Chris Camozzi got his doors blown off by Jacare Souza twice. Thales Leites is a homeless man’s version of Jacare. Is that enough to get it done? Probably. Still, I’m gonna side with Camozzi because Leites hasn’t looked great lately. I’m sure I’ll regret this pick almost instantly. Camozzi by decision.

Zane Simon: Whatever, read Phil’s much better thing, but I’ll take Camozzi via TKO in round 3 in this one.

Staff picking Camozzi: Phil, Jed, Zane
Staff picking Leites: Nick, Victor, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Stephie, Anton

Zak Cummings vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

Mookie Alexander: Oh yeah, it’s time for The Ponz! This is a real quality matchup between two guys who are just around that “gatekeeper to the top 15” level at welterweight. Ponzinibbio packs a punch and has great finishing instincts, with an improved overall game, but I think Cummings is a really underrated guy. He’s a capable striker but he’s better on the ground and I see him getting the takedowns and wearing The Ponz out in the later rounds. Zak Cummings by unanimous decision.

Victor: Exponentially improved TUF Brazil Brigade™ should roll ahead in full force here. Ponzinibbio is a better all around athlete with a so-so gas tank and far better striking, plus he hits even harder in the pocket if this turns into an ugly slugfest. Cummings is probably going to make it a close one with clinching against the cage to work takedowns, but he may not be able to overpower Santiago for too long there. Santiago Ponzinibbio by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: One of many sneaky near-guaranteed barnburners on this card. Zak Cummings should not be underestimated. He is welterweight’s Anglerfish, disguising himself as just a regular ol’ guy to lure people in so he can mess them up. He’s a surprisingly clean and technical counterpuncher, making good work of his size in close and to maximize his effective punching range at a distance. I still lean very slightly towards the Ponz, because Cummings can be put into the fence, where the Ponz does his best work, and because the Ponz is a more attritional striker with the body and leg kicks. It may just come down to what people value more so Santiago Ponzinibbio by split decision.

Tim Burke: Heyyyyyyyy. The Ponz, TKO, round 2.

Jed: Ponzi Scheme is gonna run into a big ol’ haymaker from Zak Attack. Cummings by KO round 2.

Zane Simon: Ponzinibbio is really open to being hit hard. He’s not as fast as he fights like he is, and he tends to attack at one pace with his chin up and on line. Court McGee tagged him a bunch early in their bout, before Ponz put the hurt on him. I don’t think Ponzinibbio can afford that against Cummings. Zak Cummings via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Cummings: Mookie, Jed, Zane
Staff picking Ponzinibbio: Nick, Victor, Fraser, Phil, Tim, Stephie, Anton

Joe Gigliotti vs. Trevor Smith

Mookie Alexander: Holy crap, Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith is 35? Also, Scott Holtzman is also nicknamed “Hot Sauce” so they need to differentiate their nicknames. If Smith loses then he downgrades himself to Tabasco Sauce. If he wins he may be Frank’s Hot Sauce but a long way out from Sriracha. This is superb fight analysis right here, folks. Joe Gigliotti by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Gigliotti comes to test himself against the gritty genericism of one of the UFC’s most generic middleweights. He should have this one sort of wrapped up, but has anyone noticed how underwhelming being short and physically powerful actually proves to be in the UFC? “Garcia and Erokhin are going to be great”, apart from no they weren’t. John Linekers are rare. Still, he’s fearless and aggressive enough that he should be able to blow through Smith…? Joe Gigliotti by submission, round 1…?

Jed: Gigliotti is a legit prospect and Trevor Smith is a UFC create-a-fighter. His last win was also a year ago over Dan Miller who honest-to-God I had no idea fought in the UFC more recently than 2012. Check out Smith’s record and you’ll see that he pretty much doesn’t beat people that are good and Gigliotti is trending towards being a good fighter. Gigli by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: I feel like there are two real possibilities here. Smith gets run over early (as he tends to do against good athletes), or he survives for a late split decision (as he does against everyone else). I want Gigliotti to be a new face in the middleweight division and start his career with a bang, so I’m taking him via KO, round 1. But there’s every chance this turns into a slow sloppy fight that Smith edges via a lot lot lot more high end experience. Joe Gigliotti via KO, Round 1.

Staff picking Gigliotti: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Jed, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Smith: Fraser, Tim

Maryna Moroz vs. Danielle Taylor

Victor: This is going to be an odd one, because Moroz has great scrambles and submissions, but Taylor is a frantic action fighter that loads up a monster right hand and can change a fight in an instant if she lands. She’s got a knack for shooting in for doubles during a striking exchange at just the right moment, and could very well put the hurt on Maryna in this one. I’m picking Taylor for the wild upset, because why not? Danielle Taylor by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: I’d consider picking Taylor were she in a different division. Moroz is active but notably quite wooden and hittable. Taylor is one of the few strawweights with real power but… she’s still a strawweight, in a division where it’s difficult to avoid scrambles and pace almost always outweighs impact. Her small size means she’ll have to wade through Moroz’ jab a bit too much. Maryna Moroz by unanimous decision.

Jed: Danielle Taylor is the tiniest of humans and that isn’t going to work out super well for her here. The UFC needs an atomweight division now so we can watch Taylor put those juicy mitts on people her own size. Moroz by decision.

Zane Simon: Moroz has a bit of that baby giraffe syndrome, where she’s so tall and thin that she’s kind of asking to be plunked by a short power striker. But other than that very real possibility, she’s the more technical boxer, works at a better pace, and has 7 inches of height on her opponent. Given that Taylor’s not actually great at anything other that clubbering people with big single shots, I’ve got to give this to Moroz. Maryna Moroz via decision.

Staff picking Moroz: Nick, Fraser, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Tim, Jed, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Taylor: Victor

Court McGee vs. Dominique Steele

Anton Tabuena: I think he’ll win this even if he has a porn star name. Dominique Steele by decision.

Victor: Both of these fighters really strong guys that can hit hard and can fight ugly. McGee has more accurate striking, decent wrestling defense and some good knees and elbows from the clinch. Steele is ridiculously strong and keeps that strength even in the later rounds of some of his fights. Steele could very well begin to work big takedowns and keep Court on his back, though. Dominique Steele by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be a wonderful amount of fun, and while these two have underwhelming recent records, I really hope that the loser doesn’t get cut. Steele is a wild man, throwing people around the cage with no disregard for life or limb. McGee is a nigh-unbreakable cardio machine who keeps throwing strikes. Steele will almost certainly exhaust himself if he can’t finish Court, but the question is does he win two rounds before he does? I’m going to say… yes. I flip-flopped here, but McGee’s never really won a fight when he wasn’t the better wrestler and I can’t get an image of him getting slammed out of my mind. Dominique Steele by unanimous decision

Jed: I’ve never much believed in Court McGee and his recent performances have done nothing to change my mind. Steele has the physical advantages here and that should be enough to get him by McGee. Steele by decision.

Zane Simon: I tried to go back and find the last really definitive, impressive Court McGee win, and long story short, it’s been so long that I don’t actually remember what any of those fights looked like. Otherwise, he’s edged out some really inferior competition, or gotten beat. Steele, on the flip side, seems to really be improving his boxing game in order to take advantage of his wealth of natural power. Given that McGee really isn’t a KO artist and is very willing to engage in a pocket brawl. Dom Steele, via KO, Round 1.

Staff picking McGee: Nick, Tim
Staff picking Steele: Victor, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Jed, Zane, Mookie, Anton

Viktor Pesta vs. Marcin Tybura

Phil Mackenzie: Another evenly matched heavyweight fight. Tybura is likely more technically skilled but no-one cares about technique at heavyweight. On the other hand... which guy’s bigger and takes a better punch? Pesta is very very slightly smaller, maybe… does he take a better punch? Hmmmm. I guess I’ll risk picking on near-useless secondary skillsets, like the ability to clinch good. Viktor Pesta by unanimous decision.

Jed: Pesta is the better wrestler and when considering meh fights, always side with the better wrestler. Pesta by decision.

Zane Simon: Who do you pick in a heavyweight grappling match. The better technical grappler, who is likely to start scrambles from guard, or the better athlete who is most likely to get the dominant positions early in rounds? I really want to believe in Tybura, but I’m tired of getting burned picking the mildly technical European heavyweight with a physically underwhelming game. Viktor Pesta via decision.

Staff picking Pesta: Phil, Tim, Jed, Zane
Staff picking Tybura: Nick, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Anton

Jason Novelli vs. David Teymur

Phil Mackenzie: Teymur has a nicely put together, compact speed kickboxing game. This is a slightly harder alteration of the style matchup he fought last time out, which asked him if he could navigate around the strikes of a much bigger opponent. As it turned out the answer was yes. David Teymur by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: In his last fight Teymur had massive athleticism and skill advantages that he just won’t have this time around. Novelli is a bit of a weird style mashup. A wrestler/boxer who integrated a Muay Thai base on top of that and has an over-aggressive grappling game with little focus on control. Still, he’s a good enough functional striker that I think a standup match between him and Teymur could stay relatively close, and he’s a much better wrestler and grappler, so I’ll give Novelli the edge in what I assume will be a back and forth action bout. Jason Novelli via decision.

Staff picking Novelli: Nick, Zane
Staff picking Teymur: Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Jed, Anton

Horacio Gutierrez vs. Teruto Ishihara

Anton Tabuena: Win a fight, get bitches, repeat. Teruto Ishihara by KO.

Mookie Alexander: Teruto Ishihara is already a Twitter Legend. Teruto Ishihara via KO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: What’s up my bitches? Ishihara is one of the few fighters out there who is genuinely worth following on twitter. He is legitimately hilarious. Yes he should win this, but primarily Gutierrez has struggled with his own (frankly dire) takedown defense more than strikers like Ishihara, and Ishihara has himself largely beaten up on grapplers. So the style matchup is far closer than it appears. Better training tilts towards Ishihara who can likely hit takedowns if necessary, but X-factors abound here Teruto Ishihara by TKO round 2

Jed: If you don’t pick Ishihara, we don’t respect you. Ishihara by social media KO before the fight even starts.

Zane Simon: Outside of my own fanboyish love of Ishihara, he’s got much much better natural timing on his strikes and the power to make them really count. Gutierrez could build into an effective fighter down the road, but with so little experience I don’t expect much of a functional game beyond a punchers chance and some heavy leg kicks right now. Teruto Ishihara via TKO, Round 1.

Staff picking Gutierrez:
Staff picking Ishihara: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Jed, Zane, Anton

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Cub Swanson

Anton Tabuena: I hope I’m wrong. Cub Swanson by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Tim Burke’s about to spiral into sadness again after Kawajiri gets worked over by Cub. He barely can get over Gomi getting mollywhopped by Jim Miller. Cub Swanson by whatever he wants.

Phil Mackenzie: With his career looking like it was on the line last time out, Swanson managed to put on a thrilling performance in which he beat a top 15 opponent while still looking like butt. Scooting around the cage and flailing random strikes is everything technically bad which people accuse Wink fighters of, and represented Cub at his most regressed... but a couple of those random strikes landed and allowed him to put two rounds in the bank. This fight seems like it’ll matter less if Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Cub is still in the driver’s seat, because he’s just so much faster than Kawajiri. I could see Kawajiri landing a big strike and / or a couple of takedowns but… probably not. Cub Swanson by TKO, round 2

Tim Burke: THE NUMBER 1 P4P FIGHTER IN THE WORLD WAS ROBBED IN HIS LAST FIGHT, EATING SHOT AFTER SHOT TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD. MY PROTEST LETTER TO THE COMMISSION WILL BE ADDRESSED SOON, I’M SURE OF IT. UNTIL THEN, THEY COULDN’T EVEN SEND A REAL BEAR AFTER CRUSHER? JUST THIS SMALL ONE WITH PALM TREES ON HIM? IS THIS SUPPOSED TO SCARE A MAN WHO HAS CRUSHED MORE PEOPLE THAN RUSEV?

GOMI AND KAWAJIRI HAVE NEVER LOST, AND THEY NEVER WILL. IBARAKI SON! Tatsuya Kawajiri by unanimous decision.

Jed: I want to believe in Kawajiri but I am, at heart, a coward. Kawajiri just ain’t that dude anymore and Cub should be able to sprawl and brawl him something fierce. Cub by KO, round 3.

Zane Simon: Kawajiri is just too willing to play around with a striking game. I think Cub can pick him off, maybe even finish him. Cub Swanson via KO, Round 2.

Staff picking Kawajiri: Tim (and everyone else with a brain)
Staff picking Swanson: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Jed, Zane, Anton

Justin Ledet vs. Chase Sherman

Phil Mackenzie: Ledet is likely cleaner on the feet, although it’s difficult to tell with minimal tape, and, of course, no-one cares about technique at heavyweight. He’s a LHW who’s likely giving up about 30lbs to Sherman. Who’s bigger and takes a better punch? We don’t know much about the second of these vital key factors. Based on the first Chase Sherman by TKO, round 2.

Jed: Ledet is a light heavyweight. Sherman is a true heavyweight. Despite the fact that he will be giving up a substantial size advantage, I generally assume that LHWs are better than most HWs. Sherman ain’t no Fedor, so give me Ledet by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I’m not at all sure about Sherman’s move to HW as he looked like a pretty fit LHW who has now packed on weight to make the climb. Sherman has been really tough in his career and I think he survives the striking to get a takedown and the TKO. Chase Sherman via TKO, Round 1.

Staff picking Ledet: Jed
Staff picking Sherman: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Anton