The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Hunt, and surprisingly only Dayne Fox and Tim Burke are picking Hunt to get the win in Auckland, New Zealand. In the co-main event, everyone is on board with Derek Brunson beating Daniel Kelly.
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: I have a bad feeling Hunt is going to get a walkoff KO and head straight into a total nonsense booking that leaves him knocked out again. And he absolutely can win this, because Lewis has been knocked out twice before by inferior strikers. Hunt still has the power to hurt elite heavyweights. His chin has also eroded enough that a Lewis haymaker could probably end his night. I think Lewis is best served taking Hunt down and destroying him from mount, but Lewis is not one to aggressively seek takedowns. Whatever. We’re going to get something absolutely crazy happening in this fight. Derrick Lewis by TKO, round 2.
Dayne Fox: Lewis reacted very badly to the body kicks Travis Browne laid in on him in his last contest. Now he’s facing one of the only fighters on the roster who you could say hits harder than him. Some may say Lewis took some hard shots from Roy Nelson, but Nelson doesn’t seem to have the same power he once did. Though it is fair to question if Hunt’s head is in the game due to his issues with the UFC, I think he has enough in him to get a big win. Hunt via KO of RD1
Zane Simon: From a pure technical analysis standpoint, this is a wash for Hunt. He’s far, far more technical than Lewis, has tons of power, probably still an equivalent chin, and has spent a career fighting bigger opposition. Still, heavyweight has a way of nullifying that. And Lewis has one big thing in his favor right now, and that’s dynamic speed. Hunt’s chin isn’t the brick wall it once was, and his edge as a sneaky fast bowling ball with fists has become more just a bowling ball with fists. That still might win him this fight, he’s an infinitely cleaner puncher with better setups. But, my gut is telling me that Lewis uses his dynamic unpredictability to keep rolling. Derrick Lewis via KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Lewis: Nick, Bissell, Mookie, Ram, Zane, Stephie, Fraser, Phil
Staff picking Hunt: Dayne, Tim
Derek Brunson vs. Daniel Kelly
Mookie Alexander: There’s every bit the chance that Kelly drags this into the later rounds and pulls off another incredible win, but it’s more likely that Brunson just blitzes Kelly out of there in the same way that Sam Alvey did. I love Judo Dan, but the speed and power of Brunson is not favorable for him. Derek Brunson by TKO, round 1.
Dayne Fox: Kelly has to be hitting his ceiling at some point… right? I admit it’s fun to continually be proven wrong the definitive dad-bod in the UFC today, his incredible run has to be coming to an end sooner or later. Basically, I’m gonna keep picking against Kelly until it actually happens. I hate myself for saying that….Brunson via TKO of RD1
Zane Simon: I would love to see Kelly win this, and Brunson is exactly the right elite-ish guy for him to go up against. Brunson has always found himself a bit at sea in terms of sticking with a particular style. For a while he was either all offense or all defense moment to moment in a fight, now he seems to be all offense or all defense from fight to fight instead. If he goes all offense and can’t put Kelly away, Kelly may be the fresher round winner as the fight goes on. If he goes all defense, he resigns himself to a bad kickboxing match... which Kelly has a habit of winning. Still he’s way faster, and should be more powerful, and should be able to overwhelm Kelly early. If not... then things could get interesting. Derek Brunson via TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Brunson: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Zane, Stephie, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Kelly:
Mookie Alexander: Pearson is very much on the downside of his career but I can’t help but pick him. He’s not nearly the moderately dangerous boxing threat that he was a few years ago, but there are still enough offensive tools in his game for him to squeak past Hooker, although I do not say that with any confidence. Hooker has been inconsistent but he’s still a very capable fighter. Ross Pearson by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: You'd have to go back to Pearson's split decision win over Paul Felder in 2015 to find a fight which I actually thought he won. To be fair to him, he's been fighting a very high level of competition, but it also feels like the book has been written on him, somewhat, which is essentially the anti-Diaz play. Back up, kick, circle, don't get drawn into a firefight. Hooker can probably do that? Dan Hooker by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: After seeing Hooker’s fight with Hick Diaz, I’m really not confident that Hooker can do what Phil laid out. The book on Pearson is written, moving away from him and picking him off with rangy kicks and counters is the way to go, but Pearson’s also slowly gotten a little better about producing offense to counter that. His losses are almost always close, and to very good fighters. Hooker is caught in this middle ground, where he started as a clinch fighter with a surprising grappling game, but found he wasn’t strong enough to work it in the UFC. Since then he’s tried various formulas to limited success, in part due to a lack of connecting fundamentals like footwork and combinations and wrestling. Pearson will probably make it tough on himself, but I think he’ll squeak out this win. Ross Pearson by decision.
Staff picking Hooker: Bissell, Dayne, Ram, Stephie, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Pearson: Nick, Mookie, Zane
Phil Mackenzie: This card isn't "good" by any real metric, but it does have some fights which are going to be quality sloppy violent fun. Ion Cutelaba has to be favoured here for his simply insane levels of toughness and his ability to keep a pace, and the fact that I expect him to improve from fight to fight. Frank Waisten on the other hand is who he is. I don't think Cutelaba is going to wrestle him, so this should just be a bit of a barnburner on the feet. Ion Cutelaba by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: If Cutelaba didn’t have such a strong clinch game, I’d give Frankenstein a shot. But he does have a strong clinch game, and a better chin, and better boxing. Ion Cutelaba by TKO round 2.
Staff picking Cutelaba: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Stephie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Henrique: Tim
Mookie Alexander: Elliott is the good kind of crazy-ass fighter and I think he dominates Nguyen. Tim Elliott by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Nguyen's technical wrestling defense is largely based on athleticism and movement, and if someone gets past that layer he's in serious trouble, as evinced by the way that Smolka mauled him. Elliott is less quick and dynamic than Smolka so he may conceivably have issues tracking Nguyen down, but he's a better wrestler and incredibly tough. Tim Elliott by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If Elliott fades before Nguyen does then we could have a seriously fun fight late, in the meantime I expect Elliott to pick up the first two rounds and the decision off his balls-out wrestling game. Tim Elliott by decision.
Staff picking Elliott: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Stephie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Nguyen: Bissell, Tim
Phil Mackenzie: Mirror matches are a bit of the tale of this card. In this case, both are aggressive, barrel chested power fighters. Hirota is more of a striker, and Volkanovski is more of a grappler, but both can do a bit of everything. Volkanovski should be able to match Hirota for sheer power, and is a touch more dynamic, as well as being just a lot younger, with less wear. Alex Volkanovski by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Volkanovski is a seriously impressive wrestler, with a great gas tank, mauling ground and pound, and a striking style that feeds right into his takedowns. Hirota can match him skill for skill in most places, but I don’t think he can match his athleticism, or has the durability to take a beating like he used to. Alex Volkanovski by TKO, Round 2
Staff picking Volkanovski: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Hirota: Ram
Phil Mackenzie: Two relatively straightforward bangers in the Joe Proctor mould- fairly generic but with just a bit more in the way of violent powers than you'd expect. Brown is a touch higher on the totem pole for me- fighting Jon Tuck is a referendum on your baseline athleticism, and he passed that test relatively clearly. He also starts faster. Damien Brown by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Pichel is faster and more dynamic on his feet, and probably just a more powerful, better athlete, but he’s a much worse striker and he’s not a controlling force on the mat. Brown has surprising power and speed in his hands, and a gritty, stay tough in the fight style that should let him scramble through Pichel’s takedowns. Add a 3-year layoff and I’m going Damien Brown via decision.
Staff picking Brown: Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Pichel: Nick, Ram, Tim
John Moraga vs. Askhan Mokhtarian
Phil Mackenzie: Mokhtarian seems well put-together, big and powerful with a high-octane wrestling style. As a prospect with limited tape fighting out of a not-great regional scene, I'm a bit higher on him than I am Jeon (below). But he's also fighting a former title challenger, even if Moraga looked dismal last time out in a very concerning "I just don't want to be here" way... but I just don't trust Mokhtarian not to put his head into something at some point. John Moraga by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Seeing Mokhtarian get taken down and put in all sorts of trouble by some random dude in the Chinese MMA scene gives me no confidence. He also got touched up fighting with his hands down chin up, striking style. He seems like an ultra confident can crusher who hasn’t had to face enough real competition to build a functional MMA game. If Moraga wrestles him it should be one-sided. John Moraga via submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Moraga: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Mokhtarian: Bissell
Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be hilarious fun. Dominique Steele lives up to his Non-stop Action Packed nickname, just winging huge and terrifying shots into aggressive slam takedowns. He can't quite keep his own pace, but it tails off less than you might think. Jumeau is also violent and aggressive, which means that someone may go to sleep early in this one. While Jumeau doesn't have much defense, he's much calmer than Steele, so may be able to find that big shot... but his takedown defense is also abysmal. Dominique Steele by unanimous (FOTN) decision
Zane SImon: Jumeau is cut from the same big-strong power brawler mold as Steele, just without the variety or well rounded game. If Steele just hangs out and trades punches with him, he still probably wins through variety, but if he goes for takedowns and mixes things up, he should coast. Dominique Steele via TKO, Round 3
Staff picking Jumeau: Tim
Staff picking Steele: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Mookie, Ram, Stephie, Fraser, Zane
Mookie Alexander: This is a really bad card. The only thing to hope for is that the fights are entertaining, even if they’re not high-level. Zak Ottow by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Bleh. As far as weird sub grapplers who win fights which they shouldn't, Zak Ottow has already fought the higher level version of Kunimoto in Sergio Moraes, and I have to feel that if he can survive Moraes' top game then he can handle what Kunimoto throws at him. Other than that he's younger, bigger, a better striker, and keeps a better pace. Kunimoto has been pretty good at surviving, though, so Zak Ottow by unanimous decision.
Zane SImon: Kunimoto’s only real chance is to tie Ottow up into a draining cage grinding fight, where his surprising strength can pay off. Even there, though, Ottow might be stronger. Zak Ottow by decision.
Staff picking Kunimoto: Stephie
Staff picking Ottow: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Phil Mackenzie: Jeon has some talent, but is also just incredibly raw. Even her potential may be overplayed because she's pretty and fighting against some competition which is not... good. She's about what you'd expect: aggressive loopy punching, head'n'arm throws, repeated positional errors, etc, but she doesn't have the jump-off-the-page athleticism of a PVZ. She'll be a big strawweight, but I honestly think that the UFC is (at least) one step too far at this stage. She missed weight, too. JJ Aldrich by submission, round 1
Zane Simon: I’m really not sure what the upside of bringing Chan-Mi Jeon into the UFC right now is other than giving someone like Aldrich a win. She’s aggressive as hell, but has only fought the most under-prepared opponents, and even then doesn’t look like a physically dominating force. I expect her to throw herself at Aldrich, gas out, and get picked apart. JJ Aldrich via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Aldrich: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Jeon: Stephie
Phil Mackenzie: 3 fights and 3 stoppage losses look bad for Goatee, but I can't help but feel like he's underperformed a bit. Despite being defensively lazy after throwing, he's not bad offensively. Has also started training at Jackson-Wink of late. In general, I think the fighters that he's lost to have a level of technique that Mini-DHK... doesn't? Maestro is perhaps a bit tougher, but the fact that Gouti has one level of defense and DHK has zero leans me towards him slightly. Thibault "The Beard" Gouti by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: If Maestro comes out looking for takedowns again, he should have an easy path to victory. If he doesn’t, then I have more faith in his chin and his variety, than I do in a guy who mostly just boxes and doesn’t move his head much or have a great chin when he does. Maestro is an all-offense/no-defense wild man, but Gouti is a little to predictable and too fragile to win many fights at this level. Dong Hyun Kim via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Gouti: Phil
Staff picking Kim: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Mookie, Ram, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Tim