The BE staff predictions are in for UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Browne in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Unsurprisingly, the majority of us are picking Derrick Lewis to beat Travis Browne in the main event, with only Nick Baldwin, Tim Burke, and Phil Mackenzie are going for Browne. Rather surprisingly, only Dayne Fox and Tim Burke are picking Johny Hendricks to beat Hector Lombard in the co-main event.
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: Browne has the tools to win this fight. I can’t shake free the way Shawn Jordan was able to knockout Derrick Lewis, and Browne is a better fighter than Jordan ever was. Travis can get some random front kick KO and all will be well at Glendale Fight Club. The problem is that Browne has legitimately looked no better than mediocre for going on three years. I can envision Lewis sledgehammering Browne on the ground or smashing him with an uppercut. Lewis’ game has its flaws that Stipe, JDS, Overeem, etc. should all easily exploit, but I don’t trust 2017 Travis Browne to be a part of that list. I’m just hoping this fight isn’t rotten, because it absolutely could be. Derrick Lewis by KO, round 3.
Ram Gilboa: There is a saying in Arabic – Yawm Asal, Yawm Basal. It means – One day is honey, One day is onions. Browne is like this. When he is honey, he’ll elbow whomever comes at him into the underground parking. When he’s onions, he’ll lose in an uninspired one rounded chin battle, or a one-sided decision. But if things go his way? Honey.
Derrick Lewis has recently made major advancements in the field of not getting hit. But still, we’re talking about two heavyweight big punchers, who have been knocked out themselves previously. This fight won’t complete five rounds unless they sign a peace agreement in the rest period before round 3.
This fight also might be first man to the takedown. Lewis and Browne’s ground and pound will make you think about your choice of profession. If I were Lewis, I’d shy away from giving Browne a chance to apply his knee/overhook-elbows combo – a takedown makes more sense for Browne. Otherwise, unfortunately more onions. Lewis just hits too hard and survives a bit too well for Browne. Derrick Lewis by KO, round 2.
Dayne Fox: Until Browne leaves the indomitable Edmond Tarverdyan, I don’t feel comfortable picking him against someone in the top ten. He no longer looks like he knows what he wants to do and just floats through the contest, something that will work against the likes of Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub. Not against Lewis. Lewis may have been at that level a year or two ago, but has made steady improvements to be a legitimate top ten heavyweight. Plus, Lewis has a plan. It may be a bit rudimentary in that he awaits openings to go for the finish while giving away rounds, but it suits his physical skills as few can survive his onslaught when he gets opponents where he wants them. It may take a while before he can do so much like it did against Shamil Abdurakhimov, but it will happen. Lewis via TKO of RD3.
Victor Rodriguez: This fight has a bunch of factors outside of the match itself that make it puzzling and a bit sad. Travis was only training about a day or so per week with Tarverdyan, spending the majority of his time at BlackHouse. Also, Edmond won’t be in his corner (so we don’t have to lament the lack of live corner audio on an FS1 show), and Browne will instead have Ray Sefo and Ricky Lundell to guide him during the fight. Is this necessarily a good thing? Consider that this arrangement appears to have been made fairly recently close to the fight. Will Sefo and Lundell (along with Browne’s other training partners) be able to clean up the bad defensive habits that Browne has fallen into since leaving both Alliance and Jackson/Winklejohn? Will it be enough for a former basketball player that fell into MMA to deal with some of the slicker boxing tendencies of a fighter that’s been boxing since his teen years? Will Browne try to wrestle Lewis to the ground? Because that hasn’t worked out great for too many guys that have fought Derrick so far, even Shamil Abdurakhimov in the main event rounds. I don’t mean to bash the guy or dump so much doubt on him, but let’s be real - Browne’s best wins were him eating a grotesque amount of damage before pulling a rabbit out of a hat or guys like Gonzaga and Barnett (his all-time biggest win) refusing to bail on takedown attempts before getting elbowed into a coma. Browne gets stung with a quick shot early and ends up snakebitten and gunshy, as per usual. Lewis will negate the range and push the pace to find an inevitable opening and shut this down. Derrick Lewis by KO, round 2.
Staff picking Lewis: Bissell, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Victor
Staff picking Browne: Nick, Phil, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Lombard’s durability is shot to pieces, his chin has been compromised in his last two fights, but he still hits pretty damn hard. He nearly KO’d Neil Magny twice and just about had Dan Henderson out on his feet before Hendo summoned up that old man magic. Hendricks … I don’t know what to make of him, but I do think that some of the flaws in his game are not down to terrible weight cuts. When he takes guys down, he does close to nothing offensively. It’s practically lay-and-pray, and while Lombard isn’t some sort of dangerous threat off of his back, that’s something that will just not work against better competition for Johny. Lombard is also immensely difficult to take down, so I’m thinking we’re in for a really dull kickboxing match in which both men throw with bad intentions but probably don’t hurt each other or sustain any offense. Hector Lombard by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: What happens to whoever wins this fight? Hendricks was a borderline-dwarfish welterweight. He's going to be comically tiny against actual non-Lombard middleweights. Anyway, Hendricks seems to have basically forgotten how to strike since... sometime in the 4th round of the Lawler fight? He remembered again in a brief stint in the 3rd vs Gastelum but other than that it's been shitkickings to him, and wrestlehumpings by him. On the other hand, Lombard's gas tank has been especially dire since he popped. Does either man look more enthused back up at this weight class? Who knows. Give me... Lombard in an underwhelming decision where Hendricks goes for a lot of takedowns and doesn't get them. Hector Lombard by unanimous decision.
Dayne Fox: I don’t want to pick either fighter. It may be a fun contest to watch, but both have gone over a cliff lately and no longer appear to be the overwhelming physical forces they once were. Lombard’s last finish came in October of 2013 over Nate Marquardt. It’s been even longer for Hendricks: November 2012 over Martin Kampmann. Both have lost more than they have won since that time and been finished as well, a horrible sign for guys once lauded for their durability. I’ll take Hendricks in that he is significantly younger and shows less signs of wear and tear. Hendricks via TKO of RD2
Victor Rodriguez: In a battle of guys I trust the least, maybe it’s the guy with the quicker hands and definite savage instinct that pulls it out. Lombard has good wrestling defense depending on his opponent’s wrestling style. Against Hendricks, he should do OK, but not sure either guy’s got the cardio to keep this competitive for all three rounds, even at middleweight. Lombard’s boxing has more wrinkles to it, and even if he gets reckless with his rushing attacks it’s still a bad stylistic matchup for Johny. Hendricks get shut down like his old steakhouse. Hector Lombard by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Hendricks: Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Lombard: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Victor
Mookie Alexander: Apart from Michael Chiesa’s impending return (and I do hope it’s soon, because he’s great), I feel like the wheels may be starting to come off of Sikjitsu. This interview with Rick Little somewhat underscores the limitations that several of the Sikjitsu fighters have as strikers. Sicilia got overrun by a more technically sound and more athletic Gabriel Benitez in his last fight, and Tucker looks like a really intriguing talent out of the Canadian regional scene. I expect a fun scrap and a good start to “The Newfoundland Terror’s” UFC career. Sicilia’s game just isn’t diverse enough and it’ll be exploited again. Gavin Tucker by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Came in ready to pick Sicilia - he's not easy to take down, is very powerful. That's generally a poor look for an aggressive debutant. However, Tucker has the look of an MMA native, and I'm not convinced that Sicilia can keep up if the fight starts to go past the first round and picks up pace. Gavin Tucker by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Sicilia: Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Tucker: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie
Mookie Alexander: I’m almost willing to trust Mutante to win on a consistent basis. Almost. Theodorou keeps a solid pace and while Mutante hits harder, he’s not as durable as Elias and is chinny as hell. The dynamics of this fight are dependent on whether or not Mutante can take this to the ground, where he has the grappling to give The Spartan serious problems. Sigh. Middleweight fights are a pain in the ass to pick. Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Time was, I would have easily picked this fight for Theodorou just based on durability, and that's still his main advantage in this one. If he can spend literally the whole fight in the clinch he can wear on Ferreira and maybe open him up to strikes. However, Theodorou has that common problem where he just does not like being in range for strikes without being able to feel where his opponent is, leaving him as either a kicker or a clinch grappler. Conversely, Ferreira has gotten puzzlingly good recently, boxing up a powerful and arguably more technical and Cheater Armed clinch fighter than Theodorou, in Jack Hermansson. Cezar Ferreira by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Theodorou: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Mutante: Bissell, Phil, Ram, Nick, Fraser
Mookie Alexander: Would’ve picked McMann over Carmouche had that fight stayed intact. The replacement fight is not likely to be competitive. Sara McMann by submission, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: What? No. McMann's approach and technical game is finally approaching her top-shelf physicality and wrestling base. Mazany is an aggressive but inexperienced bottom grappler. I would expect McMann to flex her striking for a round or two, then probably hit Mazany with some kind of power sub. Sara McMann by submission, round 2
Ram Gilboa: One of the constants you’d find in almost any pro fighter’s way of mind is that they will truly believe they can beat any other fighter in their division; at least with adequate training on a given night. I’m a certified graduate of nearly one class of high-school psychology, so I can tell you this conviction has different origins in different people; and that it’s actually a mechanism of essential value for those who embark in such career. Also a lot of the times it can border on delusionality.
How is McMann only a -450 favourite here? How can Mazany win anything here other than the odd moral victory en route to a loss? In a basketball equivalent, McMann should win this match by a 40 point difference. Now translate this into a beating.
The thing is in basketball, beatings don’t have much lasting effects – and you will still never see one of the best WNBA teams go against an unknown minor league team. Sure, that’s mostly because you don’t watch women’s basketball. But still, somehow in combat sports this is a norm. It’s prevalent in Boxing and Kickboxing, and now sadly it’s found its way more and more to MMA. Good luck though. Sara McMann by submission, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Mazany’s BJJ is very, very legit. I just don’t have as much faith in her countering McMann’s wrestling or focusing too much on it to defend against McMann’s hands. Sara can hit pretty hard, even if she’s not putting people to sleep. McMann should be able to use better controlling grappling and her physicality and athleticism to push the pace and win the rounds en route to a decision win. Sara McMann by decision.
Staff picking McMann: Bissell, Ram, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Victor, Tim
Staff picking Mazany:
Alessandro Ricci vs. Paul Felder
Mookie Alexander: Felder might be fighting for his job here. He’s 2-3 in his last 5 and he struggled in his wins over Cruickshank and Burkman. I think Felder will be able to outstrike Ricci and possibly hurt him a few times, but it’s not as if Felder has been demonstrably better on the feet against anyone he’s fought apart from erasing Danny Castillo. Ricci will definitely have to show a lot more urgency and volume in his Muay Thai attack on Sunday than he did in his Octagon debut. Even then, Felder is the more well-rounded fighter. Paul Felder by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: That spinning backfist he landed on Danny Castillo in an otherwise uneventful fight was one of the worst things that could have happened to Paul Felder's career, putting him in multiple fights that he just wasn't ready for and subsequently putting visible dents in his confidence. However, in a bit of a mirror match here, I think Felder can likely Alex Oliveira his way to a grappling win even if he can't win on the feet (which he probably can). Paul Felder by submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I keep hearing about how Ricci’s hands are stellar and how he can make a major splash in the UFC, but I’m not seeing it yet. He’s got a lot of potential, but Felder’s overall MMA game should get him ahead and allow him to outwork Ricci here. Paul Felder by decision.
Staff picking Ricci:
Staff picking Felder: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Victor, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Taleb is a good fighter who definitely impressed when he sparked out whatever is left of Erick Silva’s relevance. Ponzinibbio hits hard, has a great sense of timing, and is certainly one of those under-the-radar talents in the welterweight division. FOr my money, this is far and away the best fight on the card. I think we see a back-and-forth battle and a Ponzinibbio win via more damaging strikes. Santiago Ponzinibbio by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: The Ponz is quickly becoming one of the most gratifying under-the-radar action fighters at welterweight, showing tangible improvements from fight to fight and a similar grappler->pressure MT evolution that Rafael dos Anjos did. Taleb is a more crisp but less violent striker, so this should be a fun matchup between The Ponz trying to force Taleb to the cage and cut his legs out from under him, while Taleb tenderizes him with the jab. Probably the best fight on the card. Santiago Ponzinibbio by unanimous decision.
Ram Gilboa: Fun fact: Sergio Martinez is the only Argentinian fighter in combat sports history who wasn’t completely a brawler in substance (well, and of Italian origins, Nicolino Locche). Santiago Ponzinibbio sure is. Nordine Taleb is a lot more disciplined in nature, and it should be interesting to see if his kicking guns can ward off Ponzinibbio’s cavalry forward charge, smooth hard punches and crude low kicks ablazing. I’m kind of rooting for Taleb here, as Ponzinibbio is a much harder name to type, but his defence lines probably won’t hold. He’ll have to rely on his good clinch, but it won’t do for the duration. Santiago Ponzinibbio by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: This fight could be one of the best of the night. Nordine is good at making his opponent carry his weight against the cage, setting up good boxing combinations and punishing knees to the body. Ponzinibbio has that fabled great BJJ that we never really see in his MMA fights and his striking can be pretty scary when he’s on point. Both should be applauded for their progress since their respective stints on TUF, but Ponzinibbio’s style is more suited to finishing fights and cracking fighters like Taleb. Santiago Ponzinibbio by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Taleb:
Staff picking Ponzinibbio: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Tim
Mookie Alexander: Markos really doesn’t have much of a chance here. She’s way way below the elite of 115, and this will probably mark the end of her UFC career. Esparza takes her down plenty of times, controls her, outgrapples her, rinse and repeat, and then you get Carla Esparza by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Markos is someone who has not learned great takedown defense, relying on being the superior scrambler as the backboard to her (overly?) aggressive striking. Think that comes back to hurt her here as Esparza shoots under her strikes to win a control decision. Carla Esparza by unanimous decision.
Ram Gilboa: The bad blood will flow mostly from one fighter’s brow here, but they’ll both hug it out in the end. And a lot on the ground in the process. Carla Esparza by submission, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: Did some heavy scouting for this fight earlier in the week, and am still not sure who outwrestles who here. Randa’s style is grittier and involves more ground strikes, which should help her on scorecards. Markos’ only two submission losses were to Rose Namajunas on TUF and to Cortney Casey in the UFC. Esparza is more about control and wearing down an opponent before attacking with submissions. I smell this ending up in an ugly boxing match, though. Even though Markos is no longer at Tristar, I’m thinking it leans her way if that’s what happens. Randa Markos by decision.
Staff picking Esparza: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Markos: Victor
Phil Mackenzie: Tristar tends to put out fighters which have been honed to the point of over-specialization at beating generic or common archetypes. In this case Vieira is the aggressive, loopy punching submission grappler. Zahabi should be able to mark him up with the jab and stop the takedowns. Aiemann Zahabi by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: WAR FIRAS’ BROTHER!! Aiemann Zahabi by submission.
Staff picking Zahabi: Bissell, Ram, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Victor
Staff picking Vieira: Tim
Phil Mackenzie: What is up with Thiago Santos. I mean, I didn't expect him to beat the Moose, but he got obliterated in a slightly puzzling way. Then he got wrecked by Eric Spicely. I guess I'm going to go with my instinct, which is that he is an unevolved Edson Barboza, and that he can beat grinders or strikers, but the minute they mix it up he starts to struggle badly. Marshman can probably box him up up close but in a straightforward striking match I'm still not convinced. Don't bet this fight. Thiago Santos by TKO, round 1.
Ram Gilboa: How is a guy named Thiago Santos not a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt? doesn’t it come included with the name?
His profile also states green rope in Capoeira? Is that good? And a Black Belt in Muay Thai? What is that? like a Boxing black belt?
Well, Santos does kick his opponents like they did something bad to a close family member. But the Brazilian is another case of a kicker with underdeveloped hands – stance-wise and mentally involving your fists puts you in a different place; and it can be harder to find someone to hold mitts for you and fix your jab, than to find someone who can show you powerful roundhouse. Marshman’s quite the opposite. So as a general rule I like a kicks-informed-puncher, over a punches-informed-kicker. But Marshman’s like to keep things at a sustained brawl rate, and Santos should find opportunities there to give him a good hug and a knee or two. I don’t know. I’ll take Mackenzie’s general idea. Thiago Santos by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: I’ll answer Ram’s questions for this:
1) It’s a crime if the belt isn’t included,
2) Dunno if true,
3) Yeah, kinda. It’s the equivalent to black belt. Not that it does much for your MMA career.
4) Yes, that’s a thing.
5) It’s a westernized progression system that’s become increasingly common in Muay Thai.
6) It makes a surprising amount of sense for Muay Thai depending on who issues the belt/shorts
Santos is a heavy hitter with a great striking style and decent takedown defense that isn’t faring well against guys that are better at taking him down while not telegraphing it. He also eats it here. Marshman can deal with his range and avoid his big hands. Jack Marshman by decision.
Staff picking Marshman: Victor
Staff picking Santos: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Tim
Phil Mackenzie: Two ostensibly fringe-UFC level talents meet in the cage. However, I think Meerschaert is a fair amount of the way up the totem pole in comparison- a slightly better athlete and much more well-rounded fighter. Janes is a pathologically aggressive puncher, but Meerschaert's grappling should allow him to dominate the clinch and the mat in what should be a decent low-level scrap. Gerald Meerschaert by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Meerschaert: Nick, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Janes: Bissell