The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for the main card of Bellator 172 in San Jose, California. We’re leaning towards Matt Mitrione to walk away victorious against Fedor Emelianenko on February 18th, but Ram Gilboa, Eddie Mercado, and Fraser Coffeen are going with The Last Emperor. Eddie is abstaining from picking Josh Koscheck vs. Mauricio Alonso on the basis that neither fighter is trustworthy. Hey, he correctly predicted that Ian McCall vs. Jarred Brooks would get cancelled, so maybe this fight will end in a draw.
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 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.
Mookie Alexander: Mitrione hits hard, Fedor is increasingly hittable and was just about KO’d by the undersized Fabio Maldonado, so I see bad things happening to an MMA hero. It’s not to say Fedor has no chance, as that’s silly. Mitrione was nearly KO’d by Carl Seumanutafa in his Bellator debut and is still lacking in the grappling department. Still, I have to favor Mitrione here. Your heroes get old. Matt Mitrione by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Was it really all the way back in 2009 that we first saw Matt Mitrione? I guess he's one of those guys that'll always seem like a prospect to me. His development in MMA was super weird, even by the standards of heavyweight- he turned into a better and better striker, but his grappling remained determinedly terrible. Maybe he can't take all the blame, though, as this was a pretty common flaw at the Blackzilians. A shock submission loss to Ben Rothwell and an egregious eye-poke TKO from Travis Browne and Mitrione was off to the greener pastures of Bellator. Anyway, while he had much more problems than might be expected with Oli Thompson, it looks like this Russian guy he's fighting *checks fight finder*... almost lost to Fabio Maldonado? Yowch. Matt Mitrione by TKO, round 1.
Ram Gilboa: Really world? The Last Emperor vs. Meathead, and Fedor Emelianenko is an underdog to Matt Mitrione now?
Man. Ok, so this is the most depressing match up I can recall since Whitney Houston – Bobby Brown. Fedor should be forever fighting gods of war, or the occasional carnival performer in Japan. Nothing in between. I don’t care if it’s 2017, and Anderson Silva looks human, B.J. Penn can’t compete, Bernard Hopkins got literally cast off from the ring, by a guy whose name I can’t remember. This is Fedor Emelianenko. The Heavyweight to end all heavyweights. I realize the last emperor has long been dethroned, and hasn’t come close to regain his laurel wreath. Yes, I’ve seen the Maldonado fight. I also know that in his career Emelianenko has already fought some guys much worse than Mitrione – who can move and can punch, he’s a modern fighter, and is big and is athletic. And I like Mitrione just as much as the next guy – but the day I will pick Matt Meathead Mitrione over Fedor the Last Emperor Emelianenko is the day something dies inside of me, and damn it, I’m too young. I still believe. Fedor Emelianenko by KO/TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Like Anderson Silva before him, Fedor is a guy I just can’t bring myself to pick against. So, knowing I’m picking him no matter what, let’s see if I can justify this as an actual rational pick. While Fedor is not the iron chinned sweater wearing cyborg he once was, he’s still not an easy man to KO. Only Hendo has really done it, and the H-Bomb KO’s anyone in the sport. Both Maldonado and Bigfoot put serious beatings on him, but didn’t truly stop him. Mitrione probably has the power to stop him, but I’m not positive there. Mitrione is also a guy who makes stupid mistakes, and Fedor knows how to deal with stupid mistakes. I’ll go with the same rout as some of my colleagues here - Mitrione gets stupid, Fedor makes him pay. Fedor Emelianenko by sub, round 1
Eddie Mercado: Matt Mitrione is obviously the fresher of the two fighters. Fedor is coming off a losing win that involved him eating a bunch of knuckle sammies from Fabio Maldonado, of all people. Matt Mitrione vs. Derrick Lewis is the type of fight that comes to mind when I think about how Mitrione could likely get the win. Outside of that though? Uhhh… The problem for me is that Mitrione is a habitual mistake maker. Even in his Bellator showings, he provided opportunities for his opposition to tag him before coming up with the win. Also, Mitrione shot in on Ben Rothwell, for no logical reason at all, and got strangled for it. So, a mistake prone Mitrione will present the same openings that he has given to a lot of his past opponents, resulting in Fedor Emelianenko by KO/Sub in round 1.
Staff picking Fedor: Ram, Eddie, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Mitrione: Phil, Nick, Bissell, Stephie, Mookie
Mookie Alexander: This card is hard to pick (but thankfully doesn’t count towards the BE staff standings). In theory, Thomson should win this. He’s consistently been at least competitive if not outright beaten high-level lightweights for years, but his body is also really beat up and is almost 40 years old. Lightweight is not a division that’s kind to aging fighters. Patricky isn’t quite at the upper level of 155ers, and is coming off a devastating loss to Michael Chandler, but he has sharp, powerful hands that could trouble Thomson. Combine that with Josh’s historic tendency to lose by doing enough to win rounds and I think Pitbull gets the upset. Patricky Pitbull by split decision.
Eddie Mercado: I like Thomson here. Patricky is known to be a slow starter who is often caught spectating, in hopes of recognizing the perfect counter punch. Coming off of an atrocious KO at the hands of Michael Chandler, I expect Pitbull to mind his manners early, giving Thomson the room to find his rhythm, and get ahead on the scorecards. Thomson’s high mileage and inactivity is a major cause for concern as he is approaching the end of his longtime career, but he just might have enough left in the tank to pick up another win. Josh Thomson by Unanimous Decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Thomson is tricky to nail down due to vacillating between fighting absolutely elite competition, and people who are well below his pay grade. He's deteriorated, but how much? In the end, Patricky is a fine action fighter who will smash Thomson if he takes his eye of the ball, but Thomson's array of tricks just put him at a much higher level than anyone Patricky has beaten. Josh Thomson by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Thomson: Nick, Eddie, Fraser, Stephie, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Pitbull: Ram, Bissell, Mookie
Mookie Alexander: Oli Thompson will neither win this fight nor will he ever have the ability to produce offspring. Cheick Kongo by submission (hammerfists to the thigh), round 2.
Ram Gilboa: For me this is the most interesting Kongo match-up since his UFC days. Kongo’s a strong guy who likes the clinch these days and to slow things down; but I can’t imagine him being stronger than Thompson, who worked at being strong. Thompson reminds me of a less polished yet even bigger James McSweeney (it might be just that they’re both massive Englishmen of similar age who fight in cages). Thompson likes to move a little and brawl a lot. He should enjoy better stamina than he did going up on short notice against Mitrione in the summer and losing in the second.
It looks that if Kongo can do his thing and take Thompson down, the story is done – and pretty boring; Kongo will then shut him down for the duration. But not only that Kongo’s battle plans are pretty much exposed by now, him and Thompson actually trained together in the past. They should know each other strengths, and how to bypass them. I don’t think Thompson will allow Kongo to get a hold of him for enough time to do something with it; some panicky movement, or crudely deadlift push him off in peril. Thing is, this should force Kongo to stand and trade with him, and then Kongo will probably win most of the exchanges here - on counterpunching if nothing else. I’m thinking Thompson will might go for early smartly timed takedowns himself, to try to take the sting out of the Frenchman's own game, but I doubt he’ll get a meaningful one. So I say it’s the most interesting Kongo fight since his UFC days. Which is somewhat interesting. Cheick Kongo by decision.
Eddie Mercado: This is not a matter if Kongo will win, but how. The vet has shown that he can still stand with the young bucks, as he did against Vinicius Spartan, and he showed that he has developed a solid grappling game that can grind out the grinders, like he did with Tony Johnson. I’ve really only seen Oli Thompson lose, so why should I expect anything different? Kongo by Submission (RNC) in round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: Thompson got stuck in the clinch a lot against Matt Mitrione, and even invited it. Given half a chance, Kongo is never happier than when he's holding someone up against the cage by their shorts and kneeing them in the balls in a terrible grinding fight. Cheick Kongo by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Kongo: Ram, Nick, Bissell, Eddie, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Thompson:
Ram Gilboa: Yes, the fight that we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. The reason that Mayweather-McGregor wasn’t yet announced is obviously not to get lost in the shadow of a true all time classic. O-and-O Brooke Mayo meets wait let me check for a second – right, two-and-one Veta Arteaga. TV main card spectacular.
Ah, I do know Arteaga. Tough girl. Last time she fought she lost in Bellator to heavily favored and heavily vested upon Anastasia Yankova; so badly that Yankova had to take time off the sport, scratched the plans for her next fight, and hasn’t fought since then. Arteaga has a right hand like any flyweight woman fighter you’d find. She is small even for 125, but looks strong, and can wrestle some. She really should be three-and-O.
I had a look at Brooke Mayo fighting amateur matches. Her stand-up probably won’t put the fear of the almighty into your heart. Mayo is dangerous once in the clinch, and she should be able to out-wrestle Arteaga to the ground, where she is also a threat.
As long as Arteaga moves and sticks, Mayo won’t like it at all. Arteaga’s challenge is that in order to really punch the gravy out of Mayo she will need to get close to her, without getting sucked into a clinch. People have completed similar feats before. Arteaga by decision.
Eddie Mercado: Arteaga hits hard! She had Anastasia Yankova on skates multiple times in their fight. A lot of people even say that Arteaga won that fight. Mayo being 0-0, has had 10 amateur fights and has shown a desire to let her hands go in order to set up her kicks. There are some holes in Mayo’s standup that will present some opportunities for Arteaga to connect. It’s hard for me to pick against Arteaga here. Arteaga by TKO in round 3.
Staff picking Arteaga: Ram, Eddie, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Mayo: Bissell
Mookie Alexander: If you consider that Koscheck’s win over Mike Pierce was a garbage decision marred by eye pokes, the last fight Koscheck clearly won was a KO of Matt Hughes. In 2011. I suppose the plus for Koscheck, even though he’s not fought in two years, is that Mauricio Alonso isn’t on the same level as the five fighters who have beaten Josh during his losing run. The logic behind picking Koscheck is based upon Alonso not having a decent win on his record, and Koscheck not being so shot that he starts losing to journeyman from the regional MMA scene. I’d rather Koscheck not fight anymore, but alas … Josh Koscheck by unanimous decision, and his right eye will puff up again.
Ram Gilboa: Alonso is regional MMA. Granted, regional MMA in Brazil is pretty good – but Alonso was somewhat of a journeyman there; before rebasing himself in the bay area, and becoming somewhat of a journeyman over there. He has gotten his original Bellator ticket in 2015 coming off a loss in the ‘Dragon House’ promotion, to a fighter who was also coming off a loss. Alonso doesn’t have a Wikipedia page as of yet.
Koscheck only fought twice outside the UFC in a 27 fight career. The last time that has happened was in April of 2004, in ‘Ring of Combat’, a win against Luke Cummo – a guy who actually does have a Wikipedia page. Koscheck is now 39 years old and lost five in a row, but three of those were to former or eventual UFC champions, and all were to world level fighters. Alonso is physically so far from that level that those losses, and Koscheck’s two years off, basically mean nothing here. I know styles make fights and MMA math is a pseudoscience; but I will easily pick Koscheck over any of the seven guys who beat Alonso previously, perhaps with the exception of a Korean who weighs 265 pounds.
Alonso has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black-belt, and OK looking Muay Thai. He’s two in the green, has never been knocked out, and was submitted only once, and that took four rounds to do. His height, long legs and apparent reach advantage could prove a bit of a hassle whether standing up or on the ground. But the disparity in strength and wrestling just has Koscheck written all over this. I don’t like predicting rusty fighters, but come on. Koscheck’s the much better boxer too, and probably the overall more dangerous grappler, on account of power if nothing else. So I’m unsure whether Kos will choose to stand with or take Alonso down – but he’ll get to be the one who decides, and I can’t see him losing either where. Koscheck by KO/TKO, round 2.
Eddie Mercado: The Kos is not to be trusted, but neither is Alonso. No Pick!
Fraser Coffeen: The question here is a simple one - just how shot is Koscheck? He hasn’t fought in 2 years, he’s 39, he’s on a 5 fight losing streak, 4 of which were stoppages, and he hasn’t won a fight in 5 years. When Royce Gracie holds a more recent win than you, you have a real problem. I have no reason to think that Alonso is particularly good, but I have even less reason to think that Koscheck is capable of anything at this point. Mauricio Alonso, KO, R1
Staff picking Koscheck: Ram, Nick, Bissell, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Alonso: Fraser
Staff picking no winner: Eddie