Who’s winning the Super Bowl on Sunday, the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons? That’s not the Bloody Elbow staff’s job to analyze. We have submitted our predictions for the other major event in Houston, Texas, which is UFC Fight Night: Bermudez vs. Korean Zombie. Tim Bissell, Tim Burke, Case Harts, and Fraser Coffeen have picked Chan Sung Jung over Dennis Bermudez in the main event, but they’re in the minority. Ram Gilboa, Stephie Haynes, and Victor Rodriguez are backing Felice Herrig to upset Alexa Grasso 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.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Chan Sung Jung
Mookie Alexander: I really really really wish TKZ had gotten a tune-up fight instead of being thrown into a top-10 matchup in his first fight since 2013. The featherweight division has gotten even stronger since his time away from the sport, and two of his three wins in the UFC are extremely dated now. I suppose stylistically, Bermudez’s tendency to just get caught in bad spots is a really bad thing against someone like Jung, but beyond that, I’m going with Bermudez to lock down TKZ and win this on points. If not, I should’ve listened to Dallas Winston. Dennis Bermudez by unanimous decision.
Ram Gilboa: The Korean Zombie is back from the dead. That’s nice. Only he’s the Zombie, not the Time Machine. Have you ever seen a zombie 4 years later? He’ll be lucky to have all of his limbs. So while I would have easily picked a 4 years ago TKZ to beat a present day Bermudez, I doubt that guy will show up now. Even before this three years seven months hiatus, TKZ fought only once in 2013, dislocating his shoulder against Aldo in the summer, and before that only once in 2012, in May. (and twice in both 11’ and 10’). Usually, I don’t like trying to pick in an otherwise competitive match-up, in which one or both of the fighters return from a long lay-off. There’s just too many variables: Do we know if TKZ took care of, or rather aggravated his injuries while saving the world from Kim Jong Un with the secret South Korean Zombies Unit? We don’t. Do we really know how much time and motivation he had to train in the army? Do we know what’s his mentality is like now? (actually we do, dauntless and hungry). I don’t like trying to pick these kind of fights, but 4 years out makes it easier. Bermudez chief concern will obviously be cutting the 7 inch reach difference, but he should move fast enough and confusingly enough to do that, he’ll get his takedowns and get it done. To kill a zombie you need to chop off his head, like George Roop did. The other, admittedly less glorified way of getting a zombie is by decision. Dennis Bermudez by Decision.
Dayne Fox: I enjoy watching The Korean Zombie as much as anyone else, but we’re talking a layoff of about 42 months. 42 MONTHS! GSP had yet to go on his hiatus the last time Zombie stepped in the cage! I’m going to liken Zombie to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s return in the sense that the Russian was so rusty that he had to feel fortunate that he was fighting Darrell Horcher and not Tony Ferguson. Bermudez isn’t an elite level fighter, but he is a lot better than the Darrell Horchers of the world. Regardless of the outcome, I expect it to be a fun contest. Bermudez via decision.
Zane Simon: I would really really love to see TKZ pick up a win here. But I’ve just seen Bermudez do a great job against two strong grappling/sub threats. And while kickboxing has been the classic mainstay of TKZ it’s always been backed up by a dangerous grappling game. If Bermudez won’t strike with him and just elects to wrestle, Bermudez is a fantastic, tireless wrestler who knows how to stay out of danger. Dennis Bermudez by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Going 100% on emotion, 0% on logic. Chan Sung Jung, KO, R1
Case Harts: Chan Sung Jung has all the tools to beat Bermudez if he is the same man he was. He has power, a dynamic grappling game and a good fight IQ. But is he the same? Bermudez has been active and has a great record in the division. I will go with Chan Sung Jung catching his Chin at some point. Chan Sung Jung, TKO round 2
Staff picking Bermudez: Stephie, Ram, Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Phil
Staff picking TKZ: Bissell, Fraser, Case, Tim
Alexa Grasso vs. Felice Herrig
Mookie Alexander: I’m really high on Grasso as a potential title challenger, and Herrig really just feels like a gatekeeper to me. Grasso’s the better athlete in the cage, and I do not see any American Ninja Warrior courses in the arena, so I’m expecting Grasso to win essentially by outpointing Herrig from start to finish. Her boxing is great to watch and she’s got lovely combinations to her game. Alexa Grasso by unanimous decision.
Ram Gilboa: Grasso is an athlete and has good hands and great instincts, but she still kind of looks like someone who started training not so long ago. This is still a period in which a pro like Herrig could figure her out a bit and find just enough openings to force her own game and squeak by. It won’t be pretty – well, you’ve probably seen an uglier couple of fighters in your life – but Herrig will kick and hold and push and trip and hold some more and grind out an upset. Felice Herrig by decision.
Dayne Fox: Herrig looked revitalized in her last appearance against Kailin Curran… but it was just Kailin Curran that we’re talking about. Grasso not only can exceed Curran in terms of physical skills, she actually has a good grasp of how to use them too. Herrig is a fantastic measuring stick for the young Mexican prospect and fully capable of stealing away the victory. Being capable and doing it are two totally different things. I’ve been impressed with Grasso’s progress. She should be able to control the fight on the feet and avoid enough of Herrig’s takedown attempts to walk out with the win. Grasso via decision.
Victor Rodriguez: As much as it would please me to just instinctively pick Grasso and walk away, it’s tough to pick this one. Herrig’s striking is underrated, and she’s also in great shape. On top of that she appears to have found a new sense of focus. Her offensive ground game has shown signs of progress as well. Still, Grasso’s boxing is very slick, and despite being a bit undersized has an easier time shifting between grappling and striking. Herrig’s expertise should play a major part here, so I’m going with Felice on this one. Felice Herrig by decision.
Zane Simon: One of the major hurdles in Herrig’s career has been that she’s just not the best athlete out there. She’s not faster, or stronger, or more powerful than other elite talents. And this means that even though she’s competitive everywhere (and surprisingly good as a wrestle-grappler) better athletes generally tend to beat her in competitive battles. She absolutely could catch Grasso out, here and sub her, or maybe even just pressure her all fight for a decision. But I think Grasso is too fast and hits too hard for Herrig to win the points battle. Alexa Grasso via decision.
Case Harts: I think Grasso will be more physically imposing and get the decision. I think she will move her around much like Van Zant did. Alexa Grasso via Decision
Staff picking Grasso: Bissell, Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Case, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Herrig: Ram, Victor, Stephie
Mookie Alexander: Let’s hope James Vick has stopped his awful habit of poking people in the eye. Trujillo’s not necessarily the more skilled fighter, and he’s a bit of a frontrunner, but I think he’s got the power to put Vick away and get a stoppage. Abel Trujillo by KO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Trujillo’s wrestling chops and explosive attacks served him well in his wins, but he’s reckless and will have trouble closing the distance against a range striker like Vick. Not only that, Vick’s cardio is good, while Trujillo’s has been questionable at best in most of his outings. Vick should be able to rebound from his loss and keep the pace and distance where he wants it for the win here. James Vick by decision.
Zane Simon: I don’t trust that Trujillo is in the right place mentally to take on a big strong pressure fighter like Vick. Trujillo seems like he’s gotten more tentative and lost his mean edge lately. James Vick via decision.
Case Harts: I have a feeling at some point they are going to brawl for a bit and I think Abel will come out the winner. Abel Trujillo by KO
Phil Mackenzie: Vick doesn't have great defense and tends to drop the first round, but he's exceptionally tough and tireless, as well as being absolutely enormous. The three options seem to be Trujillo knocking him out in the first, Trujillo getting guillotined in the first, or Vick just outworking a mentally fading Trujillo down the stretch. James Vick by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Vick: Stephie, Bissell, Victor, Zane, Fraser, Phil
Staff picking Trujillo: Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Case, Tim
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Mookie Alexander: So this is what it’s come to? Ovince Saint Preux is now fighting a literal Volkswagen? Okay okay, bad joke. I’ll jetta outta here. Ovince Saint Preux by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: When this fight was announced, I wondered what it would take to see a prime Volk Han in the UFC. It certainly wouldn’t look like this. Oezdemir had a very underwhelming performance against former TUF competitor Kelly Anundson in Bellator, and this was despite Anundson being at a size disadvantage. Ovince will be able to bully Oezdemir at will and won’t be fazed by Volkan’s offense even at his most accurate. OSP’s funky movement, power and wrestling should be more than enough for him to get another win under his belt here. This will probably be a violent ending with elbows on the ground. Ovince Saint Preux by KO/TKO, round 2.
Ram Gilboa: Volkan is such a stronger name than Ovince. St. Preux is really lucky here this isn’t a trial by combat in Game of Thrones. And wait, Volkan’s nickname is Cousin? Wow, now it’s really a shame he’s going to lose.
Cousin – Cousin! – is from small town Switzerland, the first one from that country to fight in the UFC. He’s getting some sorts of Octagon jitters for sure. OSP is a veteran on a two-fight losing streak and he’s on the hunt to stay alive on the UFC main cards. OSP has been tested with Krylov, Bader, Shogun Rua, Teixeira, Cavalcante, Jon Jones, Manuwa – beat a good bunch of them too. Cousin has been tested with a bunch of people whose name will tell you absolutely nothing (Paco Estevez, anyone?). He did beat Big Country in 2013, but that was Big Country Josh Lanier, not Roy Nelson. Volkan Cousin Oezdemir is an offensive fighter, but he lacks movement and accuracy, he’s fighting a very tricky opponent on a few weeks notice, and he’s just a bit out of his league. Great name though. Ovince Saint Preux by KO/TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Oezdemir isn’t a terribly big LHW and has kind of a funky game. Huge step up on short notice. OSP via KO round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: As below with the Fortuna fight, this seems like a bit of a mismatch. Oezdemir is reasonably well-rounded, but doesn't have a whole lot in the way of defense anywhere. OSP looked like he might be losing a step against Manuwa, and he's never been the most technical fighter, but he's still really dynamic with his offense. OSP by KO, round 1.
Staff picking OSP: Bissell, Victor, Ram, Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Case, Stephie, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Oezdemir:
Anthony Hamilton vs. Marcel Fortuna
Mookie Alexander: Sooooo Fortuna weighed in at 210.5 today, and his past fights were at light heavyweight and middleweight. Good luck with that. Anthony Hamilton by KO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Hamilton is stronger than he looks, and really shines when he’s able to get his opponent down and work strikes from there. While it’s more than likely he’ll score takedowns in this fight, it won’t be easy against Fortuna. Fortuna’s got a good striking setup, but his BJJ is his bread and butter, and a heavy wrestler with a pressure game can end up stifling him up against the cage. Unless Hamilton ends up with a lapse in judgment at some point and gets caught in a Hail Mary submission, he should be able to win this with control and a smothering game. Anthony Hamilton by decision.
Zane Simon: Not sure what the UFC is seeing in Fortuna, a former middleweight, to put him in a heavyweight bout. Anthony Hamilton via TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Weird fight. Fortuna is undersized and hasn't fought for well over a year. On the plus side he has a flavour of BJJ that just doesn't plain exist at heavyweight, and Hamilton is probably going to grapple with him. Still. Anthony Hamilton by TKO, round 1
Staff picking Hamilton: Bissell, Dayne, Victor, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Stephie, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Fortuna: Ram
Jessica Andrade vs. Angela Hill
Mookie Alexander: I really don’t want either of these two to lose. Hill has looked so much better since going to Invicta FC, but she’s coming back against a really tough opponent. Andrade hits hard, is very aggressive, and has also steadily improved her game (coupled with the much-needed drop down in weight). I’ve been burned too many times picking against Andrade, so let me take the "safe" pick, however extraordinarily wide I find the current betting odds. Jessica Andrade by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Despite not being the most aesthetically pleasing style, I love watching Andrade fight. She’s gritty, tough, hits hard and will use controlling grappling to methodically break down her opponent when possible. She fights smart and hard. Still gotta go with Hill here. Her recent Invicta run has shown a degree of patience and accuracy that she lacked in the UFC, and she’s gotten so much better at controlling distance and negating takedowns. Even when clinched with an opponent, she finds a way to make her opponent pay. The time with the staff and training partners at Alliance has paid off in a big way, and it’s going to show here. Angela Hill by knockout, round 2.
Ram Gilboa: Andrade could theoretically be kept at bay by a very strong outside puncher, but those are hard to come by at women’s strawweight. Otherwise, you can out-wrestle Andrade on the inside (like Carmouche did at Bantam), or you can try and catch her from the bottom (Reneau did, others got close). Unfortunately for Hill this match-up sees her coming up short on all three. Jessica Andrade by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: I’d be a bit surprised if Andrade submitted Hill, but for as good as Hill has looked, I don’t think her footwork and striking are clean enough to evade Andrade’s pressure boxing. Eventually Andrade will track her down and probably hurt her. Jessica Andrade via TKO, Round 3.
Case Harts: I think Andrade might be the next champ in this weight class. I don’t see Hill being able to exploit any of Andrades weaknesses. Andrade TKO Round 2
Phil Mackenzie: Another brutal matchup for Angie Hill. Like the Namajunas fight, it feels like one which Hill could win a little bit down the road, maybe even on Saturday if she's improved enough. A mobile outside game is probably necessary for beating Andrade, but Hill's problem is that when she attacks, it's often stepping blitzes rather than, say, a stiff jab. So she can be hit with counter takedowns or shots on the way in. She also doesn't have all that much power, so will have to enormously outland Andrade to take a decision. Jessica Andrade by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Andrade: Stephie, Ram, Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Case, Phil, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Hill: Bissell, Victor
Adam Milstead vs. Curtis Blaydes
Victor Rodriguez: Milstead’s a strong fighter, but Blaydes’ has a very solid wrestling pedigree and brutal ground strikes. Not only that, but he can close the distance pretty quickly and make this fight as ugly as possible to win rounds. Curtis Blaydes by decision.
Zane Simon: Milstead’s style of squaring up and throwing bombs leaves him wide open for a power double leg. He could crack Blaydes, maybe, but the Ngannou fight showed Blayeds is tough as hell. Curtis Blaydes via TKO, Round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: How clearly talented Blaydes is has been somewhat overshadowed by the freakishness of Ngannou, but I think he's still a rare breed of heavyweight. Quick on his feet, enormous head, good cardio, a really big head, incredibly physically tough, picking up on striking and phase-shifting relatively quickly, and most importantly, his head is ridiculously huge. Milstead is also surprisingly talented, but he's just not a particularly good wrestler. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 2
Staff picking Milstead: Ram, Nick, Tim
Staff picking Blaydes: Bissell, Dayne, Victor, Zane, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Mookie
Chas Skelly vs. Chris Gruetzemacher
Zane Simon: Skelly is just a way way better athlete. Faster, stronger, and a better wrestler and grappler to boot. Chas Skelly via submission, Round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Skelly's problems are going to be primarily against top-shelf wrestlers who can stuff him or really powerful strikers who melt him for his sloppy defense. Gruetzemacher is neither of these, being a plodding punch-grinder that Skelly should be able to sweatily, raggedly outwork. Chas Skelly by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Skelly: Bissell, Ram, Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Gruetzemacher:
Ricardo Ramos vs. Michinori Tanaka
Zane Simon: Two elite athletes in a prospect battle... except that Tanaka is less and less a prospect and more and more just a fighter with holes in his game. Tanaka can match Ramos for speed and dynamism, but wherever he takes the fight he leaves openings. I think Tanaka is going to spend way too much time grappling and scrambling with Ramos and lose because of it. Ricardo Ramos via Submission, Round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: Most prospects lose when they go out of their comfort zones: they fight someone who forces them to contend in a completely different way. The problem with Tanaka is that he's fought people who have given him pretty much exactly the kind of grappling, scrambling bout that he wants... and he's still lost, fighting his A-game. This is that matchup again, and I'm just not sold that he can pull it off against a comparable athlete. Should be close and very fun I think, similar to the Kyung Ho Kang fight, but Ricardo Ramos by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Ramos: Bissell, Zane, Phil
Staff picking Tanaka: Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Tim
Victor Rodriguez: Nice matchup here, and one that should have some interesting action. For this one, I’d use the Torres fight against Felice Herrig ~3 years ago. She was able to disrupt Felice’s pace and stifle her output by threading her way in and out while taking minimal damage herself. Rawlings can hit pretty hard, but Torres is fast and crafty. Gotta go with the more clever fighter with a more diverse striking arsenal and better defense. Tecia Torres by decision.
Zane Simon: Torres is the better athlete, the better conditioned fighter, the more well rounded talent and has better fight IQ. Also, she’s won this fight before. Tecia Torres via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: What Zane said. Rawlings has improved but not in ways which would allow her to beat Torres. Most pertinently, she's still very footslow. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Torres: Bissell, Victor, Ram, Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Rawlings:
Zane Simon: Morono is sloppy, but he’s got the baseline x-factors that can make a surprising underdog threat. He pressures constantly, he’s tough, and he does a decent job adjusting to opposition. I think that’s enough to beat Niko Price, who seems a bit over confident in his standup skills. Alex Morono via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I think Price enjoys fighting; not just winning but fighting, and that's probably enough to stop him from getting discomforted too badly by Morono, who has Boxcar Homered his way to some weird-ass wins purely by being tough and by using an odd hopping jab into comically huge swings. Price is technically better at all facets of MMA but Morono jab-windmilling him to death is a possibility. Niko Price by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Morono: Bissell, Zane
Staff picking Price: Dayne, Nick, Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Tim
Daniel Jolly vs. Khalil Rountree
Ram Gilboa: The War Horse or the Werewolf of Texas sounds like my wife and I arriving to the cinema counter at the last minute, and much the same, there’s a good chance we will never see the loser after that. Both Warhorse Rountree and Werewolf Jolly are fun strikers to watch though: Rountree a southpaw that throws his punches and kicks like he really hates you; Jolly a passionate fellow with very nice kicks.
Powerful southpaws are some of the worst southpaws. Especially for a guy like Jolly whose striking offence is nice and solid, but his defence seems to be experiencing occasional hitches, and he’s also not a good enough grappler to make it count here. Rountree is bound to connect some, and soon one too much. Khalil Rountree by KO/TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Jolly plays too much of a points game for LHW. Neither guy wants to wrestle or grapple, which means Rountree should finally get the pure striking scrap he needs and against someone who doesn’t hit as hard. Khalil Rountree via KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Rountree is starting to look like a massive bust. Wonder if we see attempts at a more measured approach from him a la Erick Silva (which it's worth noting didn't really work at all for Silva). Still, as said above he's just the far bigger hitter, and Jolly isn't a defensive wizard. I have a sneaking feeling that Jolly is better than we're giving him credit for though. He's shown identifiable talent in every phase and seems decently athletic. Still. I guess Khalil Rountree by KO, round 1
Staff picking Jolly: Nick, Tim
Staff picking Rountree: Bissell, Ram, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Phil, Stephie