The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for Saturday night’s UFC 213 card in Las Vegas. Much to my surprise, there’s overwhelming support for Valentina Shevchenko to even the score with Amanda Nunes and unseat her atop the UFC women’s bantamweight throne. As for the interim middleweight title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker, opinion is as divided as can be.
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.
Anton Tabuena: This could boil down with how the opening rounds go. Nunes will be the bigger and more powerful fighter, but Shevchenko would be the more technical and precise striker on the feet and in the clinch. We know what Nunes can do if she lands big, and if she dominates early, she can build a lead or even get a finish. On the other hand, if Shevchenko can keep it close and not get overwhelmed early, she can very well pick Nunes apart and eventually take over as Nunes slows down in the championship rounds. Shevchenko’s improvements on the ground could help her achieve this, but it could also be unfair to automatically assume Nunes will still gas, especially if she’s handily winning and hurting the challenger. Tough to pick now, but I have a feeling it will be very easy to predict how this turns out after the first few minutes have passed. I guess I’ll go with the challenger to handle herself well enough on times this goes to the ground and eventually pick her apart standing. Valentina Shevchenko by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Wow. I’m stunned at the lopsided belief that Shevchenko will win. She was decidedly the vastly inferior fighter after two rounds before Nunes gassed. Shevchenko has to make way more adjustments in this rematch than Nunes does. Who’s to say Nunes can’t find a way to conserve her energy and be much more methodical so she can win the later rounds for the first time in her career? I suppose we’ll find out if those problems are permanently ingrained or can be coached out. There’s also the concern I have with Shevchenko not being able to compete with Nunes on the ground when she was put on her back, and Nunes has a dangerous top game. Size, power, and boxing advantage go to Nunes, whereas the overall technical skills go to Shevchenko. I’m looking forward to this fight again and think that Nunes silences the remaining doubters with another surgical performance. Amanda Nunes by TKO, round 2.
Dayne Fox: I’m not completely sold on Nunes having made massive strides since she met Shevchenko the first time. Let’s stop and think about who Nunes fought since then. Miesha Tate, who had checked out mentally on being a fighter after accomplishing her dream of becoming champion and not properly preparing for Nunes. Then it was Ronda Rousey. The same Rousey who refused to change things up after her embarrassing loss to Holly Holm which wrote the book on how to beat the formerly impenetrable champion. Not to mention that Rousey had been shattered mentally.
Make no mistake, this is a very close contest that can go either way. If Nunes pulls this off, I’m ready to declare her as the next dominant champion as I don’t see anyone on the horizon who will take the belt from her. But I’ve been impressed with Shevchenko’s ability to make in-fight adjustments. She’ll have to survive the early storm from Nunes as that is what this fight boils down to. It isn’t a guarantee she will, but I think she does. Shevchenko via decision
Fraser Coffeen: For a few years, the path to beating Nunes was crystal clear - survive the early aggression, let her gas out, then use her relative deficit in wrestling to take her down and control the action. That’s how Alexis Davis beat her, and that’s how Cat Zingano beat her. After the Zingano fight she changed camps and it clearly had a positive impact - she’s undefeated at ATT. But I’m not positive it had enough of an impact - against Zingano, Nunes gassed after 1 round and Cat was able to finish her off in the 3rd. Against Shevchenko in her new ATT guise, she gassed out after 2 rounds, which was enough to get the win in a 3 rounder. Had that fight gone 5, it seems clear Shevchenko would have won, and now, here we are. I have a tough time seeing Nunes take 3 rounds out of 5 here. While I fully expect Shevchenko to lose the opening round, Nunes is going to tire, and when she does, Shevchenko can pick her apart on the feet, take her down and pound her, control the clinch… basically win the fight everywhere. At Nunes’ best, I see her dragging this to a close decision where it is decided on a relatively even round or two. At her worst, I see her tiring and getting subbed late. I’ll go with option A. Valentina Shevchenko by decision
Staff picking Nunes: Phil, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Shevchenko: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Tim, Fraser, Anton
Anton Tabuena: Romero has insane fight ending power that can come at anytime, even when he’s tired and has been losing. I’m still picking Whittaker because he good takedown defense, footwork, and is far superior with his technical ability on the feet. I kinda said the same thing about many of Romero’s past opponents, so he can very well prove me wrong again, but I’m not sure how long a guy past 40 can keep relying on athleticism and power at the highest level. Robert Whittaker by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: If Yoel Romero wins it’s obviously going to be in round 3, where he becomes an unstoppable wrecking machine. Whittaker’s boxing and overall technical striking is smoother and superior to that of Romero’s. The real test will be how he copes with Romero’s wrestling. If he stops the takedowns or can prevent Romero from holding him down (which is what doomed Jacare), his chances of winning increase. While Romero is more likely to just have random fight-ending violence, Whittaker can chip away at Romero’s shaky defense and rock him and stop him. That’s what I’m going with. Bobby Knuckles by TKO, round 2.
Dayne Fox: Don’t ask me why I’m picking Romero. All I know at this point is that he continues to find ways to win and usually in a manner that makes your jaw hit the floor. Whittaker is perhaps his most dangerous test given the Aussie’s speed and boxing, but few have been able to find and exploit tendencies the same way Romero has. Plus, I’m very interested to hear his post-fight speech. Don’t tell me y’all aren’t curious what he might say to Michael Bisping this time around…. Romero via TKO of RD2
Eddie Mercado: Yoel Romero is the missing link between man and animal. If you told me that he was created in a lab out of test tubes that were full of the most alpha strains of DNA in existence, then I would probably agree with you without doing any sort of fact checking. The fact that he is old af and still more athletic than anything ever, has me picking him over everyone else at 185. Nobody f-cks with the Jesus! (Big Lebowski reference). Yoel Romero by Divine Intervention in round 3.
Staff picking Romero: Nick, Ram, Dayne, Tim, Fraser, Eddie
Staff picking Whittaker: Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Anton, Stephie
Mookie Alexander: Blaydes is an exciting prospect with great wrestling, vicious ground-and-pound, punishing leg kicks, and higher-end athleticism. Omielanczuk is uh … he doesn’t have any of those things. He’s just tough and stubborn to put away. Blaydes will put an end to that. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Omielanczuk is a guy, who is there. He can do stuff, sort of, so against heavyweights who cannot do stuff consistently, he can win. Curtis Blaydes can really do stuff. Primarily, he can wrestle really well and is a monstrous ground and pound artist. Also, his head is enormous. I respect that. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Blaydes: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Tim, Eddie, Anton, Stephie
Staff picking Omielanczuk: Bissell, Ram, Fraser
Anton Tabuena: I think age is slowly catching up on Werdum. While he has shown tremendous growth in his kickboxing, Werdum seems to have regressed in a lot of physical capabilities -- which affects his striking, especially at heavyweight -- since his reign as champion. Overeem is no spring chicken either, and his problems remain, but I expect this to remain on the feet and he will by far be the more athletic and powerful of the two in this contest. This is heavyweight of course, so anything can happen and things can change with one mistake, but that’s why I’m leaning towards Overeem winning the rematch. Alistair Overeem by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I just hope this fight is better than the shitfest that was their previous encounter. Werdum has fought like an absolute dork in his last two bouts. It cost him the Miocic fight and then of course Travis Browne isn’t good enough to punish him whatsoever. Overeem may irritate everyone with his full-on sprinting away from strikes, but his offense is still potent, and I think he’s going to pick apart Werdum at key points and win on points. Alistair Overeem by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Although I didn't used to feel this way, I've grown to like Overeem a good deal more than Werdum. I enjoy his absurd smugness and insecure technical improvements over Werdum's faux-jovial bullying of smaller men and tendency to spam nonsense attacks. That said, If Werdum just sticks on Overeem consistently, the Dutchman's tendency to shell and crumble is still very much present. The potential deterioration of Werdum's once-stellar chin is a significant X-factor here, especially combined with his tendency to simply disregard his opponent as an offensive threat. Fabricio Werdum by TKO, round 2
Fraser Coffeen: Fascinating fight here as their last fight was dreadful, it’s entirely possible this one is too, and yet I am really looking forward to it. I doubt we’ll see much of a ground battle here, and on the feet, while I find Werdum historically somewhat underrated as a striker (this is my chance to remind all that I picked him to KO Mark Hunt, thank you), and Reem somewhat hard to pin down as an MMA striker, at this stage in both men’s careers, this should favor Reem. I look for this to be a point fighting MMA striking contest, and that should allow Overeem to land enough to take the rounds. Alistair Overeem, decision
Staff picking Overeem: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Eddie, Anton, Stephie
Staff picking Werdum: Ram, Phil, Tim
Anton Tabuena: The UFC seems desperate to get Pettis back on the winning track here. I’m a Miller fan, but he is clearly past his prime and has only picked up wins against fellow vets who are more over the hill than him. Pettis’ holes in his game (and Holloway just being a complete monster) have led to him losing quite a few bouts in recent years, but I’m not sure Miller can capitalize on those while having significant disadvantages in speed, athleticism and striking ability. I think Pettis should take this handily. If not, he will have a lot of thinking to do. Anthony Pettis by decision.
Mookie Alexander: The gap in athleticism and striking is probably going to swing things in Pettis’ favor, but I sense an upset. Miller has the type of pressuring style that Pettis absolutely hates dealing with, and if he takes him down he’s a savvy enough grappler to avoid getting caught by Pettis throwing up an armbar or triangle from his back. I think Pettis’ injuries have quietly chipped away at his overall game, and while I still believe he’s going to be competitive against the top lightweights, this is not the type of fight he’s ever been comfortable in. His best chance of victory would be to sap Miller’s cardio with powerful body kicks, but if Miller can close the distance and take away the spacing he prefers, it’ll be a tough one for “Showtime” again. Jim Miller by split decision.
Dayne Fox: Anyone else notice Pettis hasn’t secured a KO/TKO win since Donald Cerrone in January 2013? Isn’t he known for his highlight reel finishes? I’m still picking the former champion. He hasn’t slipped so far as to lose to Miller… right? Pettis via submission of RD2
Phil Mackenzie: Jim Miller has made two improvements in his late run: better reactive takedowns (Alves) and a pretty brutal leg kick (Poirier). Given how iffy Pettis has looked, it's reasonable to think that the resurgent Miller could put the nail in him competing at the top level. However, like JDS-Rothwell, I think that the basic style matchup is just not right for Miller, regardless of which direction the fighters are trending. His general MO has been that he's a vicious ginger honey badger if you try and contest the pocket with him, but that if you fight him on the outside his range weapons are just too limited- reference how Diaz and Cowboy carved him up. He's not really a natural pressure fighter, either, so I think Pettis gets room to do Pettis things, and then we can all talk about how Showtime is back, baby (although he won't be). Anthony Pettis by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Miller: Ram, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Pettis: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Dayne, Tim, Fraser, Eddie, Anton
Anton Tabuena: A lot of people don’t seem to think much of Browne these days, but the guy is still very dangerous and I think he poses a lot of trouble for Oliynyk. He’s been incredibly inconsistent, but I also expect him to be somewhat better now that he’s been working with a kickboxing coach in Sefo instead of just having a (pretty bad) boxing coach in Tarverdyan. Travis Browne by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: It’d be the funniest thing if Browne got choked out while in full mount, but I’m not banking on that. Oliynyk’s style working this long in the UFC is incredible and also unsustainable. Travis Browne by TKO (standing elbows), round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: I used to get kind of mad at how obviously overrated Travis Browne was, but I think the pendulum has now gone too far in the other direction. I suspect there might be a good fighter somewhere in there, struggling to get out from under weird confidence issues and crappy training- when I rewatched his second fight with Werdum with Zane and Connor, we were all genuinely surprised when at the end of the fight he started to look... good? On a similar note, his loss against Derrick Lewis was a bit of a fluke. Oliynyk is asking the same question as Lewis, albeit a bit more softly: can Browne be consistent? Oliynyk's crafty run has been fun to watch, but he looks like his age is catching up to him. Travis Browne by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Browne: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Tim, Fraser, Anton, Stephie
Staff picking Oliynyk: Bissell, Ram
Phil Mackenzie: Laprise isn't much of a physical force at welterweight, but then again I sort of doubt that Camozzi is either? Camozzi is more well-rounded and offensively capable than his brother, but also doesn't have his brother's ridiculous physical durability. Laprise has nega-judging appeal (Pearson fight, Aubin-Mercier as a completely baffling split) but despite being undersized he should be able to slice up the inside in much the same way that Makdessi does at lightweight. Chad Laprise by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Camozzi: Bissell, Ram, Dayne, Fraser
Staff picking Laprise: Phil, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Stephie, Nick
Phil Mackenzie: One of the really tricky ones on the card. Santos is much more physically gifted, but it's hard to figure out just where his ceiling is: can he replicate performances like his one against Theodorou, which was clean and consistent, or is he forever going to be a kill-or-die glass cannon? How much was the Spicely loss down to a freak injury? I was picking Santos because I like his game and would like to see him progress in the same way as Edson Barboza... but on reflection (and after reading Dayne's preview cough) I think Meerschaert is perhaps exactly the kind of teak-tough (never been stopped by strikes, notably) tricky submission grappler who will give him fits. Gerald Meerschaert by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Meerschaert: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Dayne, Phil, Stephie
Staff picking Santos: Mookie, Tim, Fraser, Anton
Anton Tabuena: Even if he has all the tools to operate at a very high level, I’m not sure what to expect with Mein these days. He’s only 27, but he’s a lot older in MMA years as he has had a lot of mileage on him. I mein, the guy has had 40 pro fights in the last 11 years, plus a bunch of amateur fights since he was 14. I’m sure he meins well, but there’s probably a good reason he “retired” late last year, and how much will have changed in that short amount of time? Belal Muhammad is also a mein dude, and a dangerous fellow. He’s definitely not the best person to come back against half-heartedly, you know what I mein? Belal Muhammad by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: I have a suspicion that Jordan Mein does not like fighting a whole lot, despite being naturally talented, and has instead been pulled into doing what his Dad expects him to (see also: Northcutt, Sage). Belal Remember The Name Muhammad is absolutely not the kind of guy to be anything less than 100% motivated against: he keeps a ferocious pace, and has zero quit in him. Mein has one of the most pretty jab and hook games at welterweight, which I think would (and perhaps can) cause real problems for Belal Remember The Name Muhammad's high guard and parry in a vacuum, but I reckon Belal Remember The Name Muhammad simply ignores any success Mein has and breaks him down the stretch. Belal Remember The Name Muhammad by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Mein: Ram, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Muhammad: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Anton, Stephie
Phil Mackenzie: I enjoy Rob Font's game a lot. He's something of a Poirier for bantamweight, just a collection of spiky nasty finishing weapons with good athleticism and fundamentals layered on top. De Andrade is a tough fight- he's a good, high-pace, aggressive striker who has taken a visibly step up in offensive capabilities. I think this one is close, but I favour Font's long, probing jab and slightly higher physical ceiling. Rob Font by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Font: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Tim, Fraser, Anton, Stephie
Staff picking Andrade: Ram
Phil Mackenzie: Not a huge amount to go on here, but I think that Ware shows a lower ceiling but far more consistency. Stamann doesn't seem to have figured out whether he wants to be an aggressive combination puncher, or an outside burst fighter. Ware is largely doggedly indifferent to what his opponent throws at him, and simply maintains the edge of the pocket and throws medium power strikes over and over. He can be pushed back, at which point he shells, so if Stamann can compel him to do that he can cycle through his favoured short combinations. However, Ware has fought on bigger stages, against bigger names, and I think his steady style and his experience are likely to wear down the less battle-tested fighter over time. Terrion Ware by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Stamann: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Tim, Anton, Stephie
Staff picking Ware: Bissell, Ram, Phil, Fraser
Phil Mackenzie: Giles is the deserved favourite here: he's a better athlete and has more avenues to victory. However, he's also utterly fearless on the feet and on the ground, despite not having airtight defense basically anywhere. This sort of seems like a recipe for a loss against a determined sub specialist...? Still, he's good at scrambling, recovers well, and packs a ton of power. But play with caution. Trevin Giles by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Bochnovic:
Staff picking Giles: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Phil, Dayne, Tim, Fraser, Mookie, Anton, Stephie