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UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 pay-per-view in Buffalo, New York.

MMA: UFC 192-Cormier vs Gustafsson Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for UFC 210, and only Tim Bissell, Tim Burke, and myself are picking Daniel Cormier to successfully defend his title against Anthony Johnson. The majority of us are picking Chris Weidman to beat Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event. We’re just glad that this card is still intact (for now).

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.

Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson

Anton Tabuena: I was already leaning ever so slightly towards Rumble here, but seeing that tough weight cut from DC just made the pick a little bit easier for me. Like their first bout, if this reaches the latter rounds, it will benefit Cormier. He got taken down after he gassed, but I think Rumble will be smarter with his shots and pace this time around. Rumble will be faster and better on the feet against the 38-year-old, and I expect him to keep it there long enough to secure the victory. Anthony Johnson by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I picked Cormier before the weigh-in mess, I’ll still pick Cormier, but I don’t feel good about it anymore. He did not look good on Friday and that’s cause for some concern. Also, he suffered two injuries last year, he’s 38 years old and has been in combat sports for a looooong time, his fights against Rumble and Gustafsson saw him get rocked pretty badly, so you have to wonder when his game just falls off a cliff. The key for Rumble is to not get too wild if he tags Cormier. I think he should stay patient and try and systematically break Cormier down, as opposed to going for the early KO. What I fear is that he’ll just try to repeat what he did in the first fight, which admittedly almost worked, but left him drained and exposed for takedowns. Even a really drawn out Cormier is worlds better on the ground than Rumble. Daniel Cormier by submission, round 4.

Ram Gilboa: Who wins this fight is like what happens after we die. Your guess is as good as any. Anthony Johnson by TKO, round 5 is mine.

Eddie Mercado: DC is getting slower. It’s biology. It happens. It’s the circle of life. Simply put, I cannot trust DC to remain safe against a Rumble in his prime for a second time. DC got that first one, no doubt, but I just don’t see him being able to duplicate the performance. I love DC, but I think Rumble will get the finish here. And new… Rumble Johnson by KO in round 1.

Zane Simon: I don’t want to do this, but I’m picking Johnson. Cormier likely wins 6, maybe 7 fights out of 10. But his style of wading into the pocket, along with his wooden posture and strike delivery mean that he practically has to walk through Johnson’s shots to create offense. He did it in the first fight, but he also got hurt badly three times in the space of seven minutes. A couple years later and potential a little more worn down and I’m willing to bank on the idea that one of those shots puts DC to sleep this time. Anthony Johnson via KO, Round 1.

Staff picking Cormier: Bissell, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Johnson: Nick, Ram, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Anton, Fraser

Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman

Anton Tabuena: I think this mostly boils down to the takedowns. If Weidman can put Mousasi on his back over and over, this could be an easy win for him. If he struggles to keep it on the ground, it will be a close fight on the feet, where I think Mousasi will have the slight advantage. Weidman, on paper, seems like he has multiple avenues to victory, as he can also mix things up to keep Gegard honest. But I just don’t trust him to pull it off against Mousasi, who is faster, more diverse on the feet, and less predictable. Gegard Mousasi by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: I hate the timing of a fight I love so so much. If Weidman loses, he’s even further back in the title picture, all whilst Mousasi may be leaving the UFC on a five-fight winning streak. If Mousasi loses but re-signs with the UFC anyway, his rise towards a title shot comes to a crashing halt against an opponent who was on a two-fight skid. Argghhhhh. Okay. Mousasi hasn’t really fought any dangerous takedown threats during his winning streak. Weidman is quite clearly a better wrestler and grappler than Thales Leites. Mousasi’s takedown defense has improved but I can’t take my mind off of him just getting schooled by Jacare. On the feet, I give the edge to Mousasi, especially if he can keep Weidman at bay with his lethal jab, but I think Weidman will be able to outwork Gegard and secure enough takedowns, get in some good ground-and-pound, and win enough scrambles to get a decision win. Chris Weidman by unanimous decision.

Eddie Mercado: It’s hard for me to trust Weidman following back-to-back KO’s. I mean really hard. On the same token, it’s hard for me to trust Mousasi to show up when it counts the most. Neither man is to be trusted here, so I will be picking Mousasi just because I’ve been a fan of his for a longer period of time, and would love to see him get a shot at UFC gold. Bias pick. Also, Gegard Mousasi is the Tracy McGrady of MMA. Gegard Mousasi by some sort of decision.

Ram Gilboa: Chris Weidman was one of the better naturals walking into this sport – better than Mousasi, if you ask me. Watch Weidman in 2009, the year he began his MMA career, as a BJJ purple belt, giving real fits to grappling great Andre Galvao in ADCC in Barcelona. Four years later he’s unbeaten in MMA, and dethrones arguably the sport’s greatest ever, the UFC’s longest reigning champion to date. And then something happens. All of a sudden he looks too small for current big and strong middleweights. And a bit faded. It’s contrasted against the sport’s most dangerous peak; the Four Kings of MMA’s middleweight: Romero, Rockhold, Souza, and the champ. Weidman started wrestling very early, maybe that’s as far as drive will go. Maybe he can restart it. Chris Weidman by decision.

Zane Simon: Mousasi’s recent string of success has come against a series of fighters who not only don’t fight well under pressure, but tend to crumble under it. It’s meant that his slow momentum building style has been able to kick into overdrive early as his immediate success quickly translates into opponents giving him every opportunity he needs to open up. Weidman does not fight well under pressure, but he does not crumble under it. He can have a little trouble creating space and re-setting, but he does create space and re-set and re-start his aggression. Given Mousasi’s tendency to finish early or not at all, I think Weidman’s resilience will put Mousasi into coast mode and get Weidman the decision win. Chris Weidman via decision.

Staff picking Mousasi: Bissell, Nick, Eddie, Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Weidman: Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Ram, Zane, Stephie, Tim

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Pearl Gonzalez

Mookie Alexander: Fight is back on after it was originally called off. We didn’t write any analysis because of the cancellation news, and then NYSAC reversed course just before our deadline. Sorry, everyone. Blame New York. Trust me, I live here. It’s a pain in the ass to get government-related things done. Cynthia Calvillo by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Jumping on this one late- no real surprises. Gonzalez the better striker, but has never really had her defensive wrestling tested, and just from looking at her stance I'll be surprised if she has good enough takedown defense to defend against someone as quick and natural with them as Calvillo. Could win a nip-tuck decision, or rack up a submission. I'll take the latter. Cynthia Calvillo by submission, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: Save the ta-tas!

Staff picking Calvillo: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Phil, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Gonzalez: Dayne, Eddie

Thiago Alves vs. Patrick Cote

Anton Tabuena: I just think Cote has more in the tank between these two veterans. Patrick Cote by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: I don’t know how to properly pick this. Cote hits harder, but Alves still has some pop in his striking, which is more multi-layered. I’m giving Alves the speed advantage but I do wonder about his durability, especially with his documented weight cutting problems. Ahhh screw it, Thiago Alves by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Old people fight! Man, I don't know about Thiago Alves any more. I think an underrated element of his loss to Jim Miller was simply the vast physical difference that lightweight meant to him- if someone's always been fighting people who are far taller than him it's not a given that he's suddenly going to be great at fighting people who are shorter, who can get under to hit his hips for takedowns like Miller did. Still, he's definitely physically declined after a long and injury-ravaged career, more than Cote has. He still seems very tough, though, and even a diminished Alves has a pronounced technical edge here. Maybe this is a fanboy/heart pick. Looking back on it, it kind of reads like one. Welp. Thiago Alves by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Thiago Alves has been so hot and cold lately. For minutes of a fight he’ll look totally dialed in and dangerous, and then he’ll look fragile and vulnerable. Cote looks like he’s getting slower, but he’s still stupidly tough, and big, and reasonably consistent. I can easily see Alves coming out looking great, getting stung by a big shot and then getting TKO’d, or just wrestled/cage mauled. Patrick Cote via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Alves: Ram, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Cote: Bissell, Nick, Eddie, Zane, Anton, Fraser

Will Brooks vs. Charles Oliveira

Anton Tabuena: This should be a matchup that favors Brooks, but I haven’t really been impressed with his performances in the UFC so far. I’m picking another upset here. Charles Oliveira by Submission.

Mookie Alexander: Brooks really needs to adapt his game better to three-round fights. Slow starts will cost him dearly down the line. Oliveira can always lock up a guillotine after Brooks shoots on him, but apart from that I’d be surprised if Oliveira was able to get the win. Brooks will outwrestle him, wear him out and if he doesn’t get a late TKO, he’ll at least get a dominant decision. Will Brooks by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Charles Oliveira is almost totally reliant on the clinch. He can kick from the outside, but always in order to march into the plumm, where he is both a surprisingly effective takedown artist and a vicious offensive threat with knees and elbows. Unfortunately for him, Brooks is an excellent clinch striker with phenomenal takedown defense- he's good everywhere, but the clinch is undeniably where he's best. He's also bigger, more durable, and more consistent round-to-round once he gets going. His tendency to start slow is concerning against the pathologically aggressive Do Bronx, but even if he drops early rounds, he rarely gets hurt or badly in them. Will Brooks by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m still not convinced that Brooks has the size to implement his physical dominance game at lightweight in the UFC, where the margins of his success can be so thin, but Oliveira is going to give him a perfect fight to make that game work. Oliveira will close Brooks down, will give him the clinch and will give him takedowns in pursuit of grappling scrambles. As long as Brooks and protect his neck (and he has done so very well to date) then he should be able to push Oliveira into technical mistakes and break him. Will Brooks via decision.

Staff picking Brooks: Nick, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Fraser
Staff picking Oliveira: Bissell, Anton, Tim

Myles Jury vs. Mike De La Torre

Phil Mackenzie: The inaptly named Myles "The Fury" Jury is in fact an extremely defined counter fighter. He did make strides in his ability to lead against Charles Oliveira, but his continued reliance on countering with takedowns as well as punches meant that he dove into a guillotine. De La Torre is a great, gritty spoiler, but his style seems tailor-made for Jury- aggressive, forward moving, defensively porous, and without a threatening submission game. Myles Jury by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: MDLT’s style makes for great low level action brawls, but his reliance on a chin that is only okay, and a striking arsenal that is more wild than technical means that climbing the featherweight division probably won’t happen. Jury’s slick sniper striking and top wrestling may not be enough to make him a top 10 fighter, but it makes him a great gatekeeper. Myles Jury via TKO, Round 1.

Staff picking Jury: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking De La Torre:

Kamaru Usman vs. Sean Strickland

Anton Tabuena: Usman has impressed in some of his recent bouts, but I think this is a much tougher matchup for him than people predict. I think Strickland will be more than happy to stay defensive and just slowly pick him apart from the outside en route to victory. Sean Strickland by Decision.

Phil Mackenzie: One of the very best fights on the card. Strickland can be a bit difficult to get a bead on- a somewhat formless MMA native, he's defensively sound, with a powerful top game and slick, layered outside boxing. Usman is a more defined pressure fighter, who forces opponents back to the cage with punches into takedowns. His game reminds me of Jacare, albeit executed at a much higher pace, which I suppose makes Strickland the Mousasi in this matchup. Given that Strickland's loss came against the similarly tireless forward pressure of The Ponz, I have to favour Usman. However, this is a close fight and Strickland has continued to impress me with his developing technique and intelligence in the cage. Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I really like Usman, and I want him to win, but this is a really tough test of his style at welterweight. His technical wrestling and pressure boxing both tend to get better as fights go, but early, he’s hittable and can get stuck at a much less effective long range. Strickland is massive, very tough to wrestle, and very very defensive. He keeps a sharp jab going and can intimidate fighters off of pressuring him with his size. He also gets better as fights go on. If Usman can’t find a way to control him in the clinch or get him down, he could just end up getting jabbed to death. I’m taking Usman, because I trust the striking skills he’s building and his pressure offense/technical wrestling, but Strickland is a very tough fighter for him to crack. Kamaru Usman by decision.

Staff picking Usman: Nick, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Fraser
Staff picking Strickland: Bissell, Anton, Tim

Shane Burgos vs. Charles Rosa

Phil Mackenzie: Rosa is a good-everywhere, great-nowhere kick-grappler, and an excellent test for the developing Burgos. Burgos is huge, aggressive and difficult to scare off, and I think his striking game functions at a distance which will make it hard for Rosa to set up his kicking offense. Unless Rosa's takedown game has developed enough for him to control that mid-range with it, Shane "Bob's" Burgos by unanimous decision.

Eddie Mercado: Click HERE for my UFC 210 interview with Charles Rosa...I really like the pressure boxing of Burgos, but I have some questions regarding his clinch tactics. He allowed Tiago Trator to hold him against the fence at moments in his debut, and just sort of looked to the referee for separation. If he allows Rosa to find a similar position, then there’s a good chance of the fight turning into a giant scramble. Rosa lives for the scramble. I’m picking Rosa by Submission (RNC) in round 3.

Zane Simon: Rosa’s lack of a wrestling game or effective boxing game make him a real oddity in the UFC. Kick heavy guard grappling is just a strange skill set. Given his reliance on Burgos either not closing him down, or deciding to take him down (neither of which seem likely) I have to pick Burgos here. Shane Burgos via KO, Round 2.

Staff picking Burgos: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Zane, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Rosa: Bissell, Ram, Mookie, Eddie

Jan Blachowicz vs. Patrick Cummins

Mookie Alexander: Blachowicz looked really good (by his standards) in a losing effort vs. Alexander Gustafsson. He showed some solid striking skills that had Gustafsson a little flustered, but his repeated problems with takedown defense meant he wasn’t ever close to winning. Cummins’ game is woefully incomplete, but he’s a powerful wrestler and I think he can exploit Jan’s weaknesses repeatedly. I am weary of Cummins’ terrible striking defense, but I don’t see Blachowicz as powerful enough to hurt him. Cummins has brutal ground-and-pound when he can actually maintain top control, but he has had issues with that in the past. I’m going with Patrick Cummins by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: In terms of essential dynamics, this is the thrift shop version of the main event. BE commenter King's Gambit best described Patrick Cummins as the modern incarnation of Mark Coleman. Zero ancillary skillset, just strength and wrestling and GnP. Whether that's enough against Blachowicz is a bit of an open question, given the Poles' spotty gas tank and inconsistent takedown defense. However, Blachowicz's coming-out party was against Latifi, when he was able to effectively keep distance. People who have been able to deny Cummins his initial shot have been able to carve him up (even a decrepit Lil' Nog). Also feel like King's was a better fit for him than Blackzilians- their core competency is technical outside striking, which I feel relatively confident in saying that he's never ever going to be good at. Jan Blachowicz by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I really liked what I saw against Gustafsson from Blachowicz, even if he still got wrestled to a loss. He was more active and showed better cardio than ever before in the UFC. On the flip side, I don’t like much of anything going on with Cummins game. He’s a great power wrestler, but doesn’t tend to be great at keeping top control, usually because he immediately tries to open up heavy ground and pound. He looks like he has some striking mechanics down, but gets hit so unbelievably hard standing that every fight feels like he’s a blown takedown or two from getting KO’d. Blachowicz is tough and if Cummins lets him up often enough and Blachowicz fights like he did against Gus, I have to pick Blachowicz to win. Jan Blachowicz via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Blachowicz: Bissell, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Cummins: Nick, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Fraser

Gregor Gillespie vs. Andrew Holbrook

Phil Mackenzie: Interesting fight. Holbrook impressed me with his consistent aggression and workrate against Jake Matthews. Fight perhaps seemed a bit influenced by Matthews hurting his foot(?) but Holbrook still made me pay attention. Despite his ability to fight anywhere, I'm still not convinced by his takedown defense at all, though, and Gillespie is a pretty impressive takedown artist. Gregor Gillespie by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Much like Will Brooks above, every lightweight fight will test Gillespie’s ability to be a real lightweight. He’s an amazing technical wrestler with a tireless work ethic in the cage and some decent offensive striking. I think that will get him past Holbrook who is a wild brawler and scrambling grappler with very few connecting pieces. But, if Gillespie is too small to control Holbrook on the ground, he could end up fighting off constant sub attempts, any one of which might end the fight. Gregor Gillespie via decision.

Staff picking Gillespie: Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Holbrook: Bissell, Nick, Tim, Fraser

Josh Emmett vs. Desmond Green

Phil Mackenzie: Desmond Green reminds me a bit of a lightweight Ryan Jimmo (RIP), in that he can function on the outside as a low pace kickboxer but thrives in grinding clinch engagements. Similarly, his decent athleticism sometimes manifests itself in quick KOs, but it's not something you should expect. Emmett is strong and aggressive, super tough, should be able to handle himself in the grappling exchanges, and throws a lot more volume. Josh Emmett by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Emmett is a fireplug that’s hard to take down and control and a pretty active, diverse boxer standing. He’s got fast hands and packs real power. Green has been getting his wins through slow, crushing, physical dominance and top control. But I don’t think he’s physical enough or controlling enough to win that way often in the UFC. Josh Emmett via decision.

Staff picking Emmett: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Green:

Irene Aldana vs. Katlyn Chookagian

Phil Mackenzie: Should be a fun kickboxing fight. Chookagian is a bit cleaner, Aldana is likely a bit more athletic. Carmouche beat Chookagian by just bulling straight into the clinch, but I think Aldana is more likely to hang out at range, where Chookagian's long, crafty jab can dictate the pace. Katlyn Chookagian by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I don’t trust Chookagian’s high output/low power/low accuracy style. Aldana had a lot of trouble fighting through an opponent willing to just sit down and trade and who could eat her best shots. But I think Chookagian trying to work for output will let Aldana wade in with harder shots a lot more and maybe even hurt Chookagian. Irene Aldana by decision.

Staff picking Aldana: Bissell, Mookie, Eddie, Stephie, Zane, Anton, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Chookagian: Nick, Ram, Dayne, Phil

Magomed Bibulatov vs. Jenel Lausa

Anton Tabuena: Lausa will have better and more powerful striking, but facing a high caliber grappler like Bibulatov is a tough tough matchup for him at this point. He is Filipino, so this is admittedly more of me just hoping -- and not predicting -- that he keeps it standing. Jenel Lausa by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: Lausa is powerful for a flyweight but doesn't throw all that much- like a technically cleaner Ryan Benoit. Maggy Bibs is an extraordinarily impressive prospect who can take the fight everywhere. Expect him to mix up a heavy kicking game with takedowns. Magomed Bibulatov by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Lausa is a powerful situational boxer who was a good enough wrestler and grappler for the circuit he was on. But other than his punching translate, I don’t think a lot of his game will hold up in the UFC. Bibulatov is a whirlwind of next level athleticism, wrestling, grappling, and spin kicks. Magomed Bibulatov via submission, Round 1.

Staff picking Bibulatov: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Eddie, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Lausa: Anton