The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for the final UFC’s final event on big FOX, and we are almost unanimously going with Kevin Lee to even the score with Al Iaquinta and take the rematch in the main event. As for the co-main event, most of us are picking Edson Barboza to stop the hot streak of Dan Hooker.
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.
Al Iaquinta vs. Kevin Lee
Mookie Alexander: Iaquinta is still a powerful puncher who can certainly connect on Lee’s shaky chin, but at this point, Lee has proven himself against higher-end competition, whereas Iaquinta, as much as I like him and his personality, is essentially riding off of the close win vs. Jorge Masvidal and a mauling of a faded Diego Sanchez. He should be credited for going the distance with Khabib at the last-minute, but he also got smoked for all but a handful of minutes. Lee has beaten better competition, he’s been more active, he’s improved tremendously since their first fight. I suspect we’ll see Lee go for takedowns early and be a lot more aggressive with his ground-and-pound than Khabib was, and he’s shown himself to be a dangerous grappler. Even on the feet, Iaquinta has a seven-inch reach disadvantage, and Lee has developed a much more educated jab than in his early days. Iaquinta is capable of KOing Lee, but Lee has the advantages everywhere else. Kevin Lee by submission, round 4.
Zane Simon: Going back and watching their first fight, it’s easy to see how possible it is that Lee has eclipsed Iaquinta in the time since. Lee looked totally uncomfortable with and unready for the kind of striking situations Iaquinta was able to put him in at the time, especially Iaquinta’s ability to cover distance and land with precision. Lee still gets caught cold sometimes out in open space, trying to judge between when to lunge into the pocket and when to work his range tools, but he’s also much more confident in that aspect and better able to see strikes coming and eat them and push forward. Otherwise, even back then, Lee got the better of Iaquinta on the ground and in takedown situations. He’s just too good a scrambler, too powerful a top position wrestler, and too strong a takedown artist. As long as he can stay alive in the pocket he should be able to do everything else well enough to win. Kevin Lee by decision.
Staff picking Iaquinta: Stephie
Staff picking Lee: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser
Edson Barboza vs. Dan Hooker
Mookie Alexander: Hmm… Hooker has been on a roll, but Barboza might be too much of a leap. It’s a very good test, mind you, but Hooker’s winning streak consists of faded Ross Pearson and Jim Miller, seemingly busted prospect Marc Diakiese, and then the Gilbert Burns win was very impressive. Barboza is prone to being pressured and his whole game falls apart, so that’s got to be Hooker’s Plan A, B, and C. However, Barboza is also the best striker Hooker has faced, and the longer this fight is at mid-range, the more Hooker is in danger of getting his legs kicked off. Barboza also is faster and while he’s not got a ridiculously high KO rate, he’s just as capable as Hooker as turning a fight on its head with an abrupt counter-knee or ridiculous kick to get a KO. Looking forward to this one, and I hope Barboza doesn’t start slowing down after multiple beatdowns in less than a year. Edson Barboza by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I know this is a good matchup for Barboza and potentially a bad matchup for Hooker, but I feel like riding the hot hand. Barboza’s problems with pressure are beyond well known at this point. Push him back consistently and he’ll tire himself out and walk himself into hard strikes. Hooker can be that kind of pressure fighter, but he can also be pushed back himself. If Hooker just stands out in open space and trades combos with Barboza, he’ll almost certainly lose. But, I’ll trust him to keep the pressure high, and continue to show his uncanny ability to find the right counter strike at just the right moment. Dan Hooker via KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Am I underplaying Hooker yet again? It does feel like a lot of his recent success has been built off of a comparative speed advantage at featherweight allowing him to pick opponents off with surprisingly accurate counter shots. But Edson Barboza is very, very quick. Hooker does not really have the forward pressure or the volume necessary to replicate the Leemagomedov or Michael “El Menace” Ferguson gameplans, so is he really going to pick Barboza off with single perfect counter shots? I think he may find himself allowing Barboza his beloved mid-range, where his jab, body shots and eventually leg kicks can live. Edson Barboza by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Barboza: Nick, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking Hooker: Bissell, Zane
Rob Font vs. Sergio Pettis
Mookie Alexander: Font has the power to hurt Pettis, but I suspect Pettis’ chin issues have somewhat gone away. Beyond that, Pettis usually has problems against guys who can outwrestle him and just shut all of his offense down. Even at 135, he’s just not dynamic enough in the way that his brother is to wield fight-changing moments. That said, Pettis is the more technical striker and I think he can outpoint Font in a well-paced contest. Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: What a confusing fight. Font’s problem has typically been a lack of depth- while he has a functional game built off the jab, front kick, right hand and step knee, he’s been able to be gotten to with either pure pressure (Lineker, Munhoz) or craft (Assuncao). Pettis on the other hand has developed a lot of craft himself, including notably tight pressure footwork, but is still not a great athlete who can be overpowered. Either Font strands Pettis at distance and murders and/or just outwrestles him, or Pettis’ depth in close keeps Font on the back foot. Despite feeling very unsure about this, I think I’ll take Pettis, although this is exactly the kind of fight where you might see his chin issues resurface. Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m really torn here. Pettis is a more technical striker than Font, and he’s talked about how big he can get between flyweight bouts. So moving to 135 isn’t outlandish, but I’m also not sure his skill will actually translate well. At 125 he was a slightly less explosive, but very patient, technical striker with some exciting grappling moves he could pull out as needed. At 135, where suddenly you’re not looking at general lack of KO power - but instead a lot of guys who hit hard - how much does leaning hard on a technical kickboxing game get you? It doesn’t help that Pettis seems like he can start cold and coast late, both things that make him prone to close fights. Font isn’t as smooth standing, but he’s a bigger, stronger, harder hitting fighter and I’m going to trust that to ride him through an otherwise close fight. Rob Font by decision.
Staff picking Font: Nick, Dayne, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Pettis: Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Fraser
Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
Mookie Alexander: I was so high on Oliveira back in 2010 that I picked him over Miller, which has led to frequent (deserved but good-natured) mocking over the years by one particular person. Why not double down and do it again? I was super happy to see Jim Miller beat up Alex White, but Oliveira is theoretically in the prime of his career, and while he’s still prone to just drifting out of fights, he’s still a better fighter now than he was in 2010, and Miller is physically not the same anymore. Charles Oliveira by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Back when Oliveira was raw and Miller was in his prime, this was still a tough matchup for Miller, who pulled out the win with a sensational kneebar. Now Oliveira is in his prime and Miller is old. Oliveira is far rangier and can probably pressure behind long strikes, but is also an incredibly effective MMA wrestler. Part of that is his complete lack of fear in initiating and committing to takedowns, which has led him into troubles against opportunists like Pettis and Lamas. It remains possible to see him jumping into something silly, but his last fight demonstrated a measure of maturity. Charles Oliveira by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: I really like the corner Oliveira seems to have turned in the last year. Often a reckless fighter who has thrown himself into danger over and over until it cost him, he now seems much more patient, calculated, and willing to wait for just the right opportunity. Miller’s win over White looked great, but he’s still not a fighter I trust defensively moving forward or backward, and he’s been through enough wars that it seems foolish to think he’s going to keep putting it all together in tough bouts. Sooner or later, I think Oliveira finds the counter or catches him moving backwards, hurts Miller, forces the shot, and this time gets the sub. Charles Oliveira by Submission, round 2.
Staff picking Miller:
Staff picking Oliveira: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Zak Ottow vs. Dwight Grant
Phil Mackenzie: Ottow is functional but glacially slow. Grant doesn’t have much experience, but it’s mostly against solid competition and decent orgs. The AKA background should insulate him from grappling exchanges and he’s just so much faster on the feet. Dwight Grant by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Ottow is almost certainly a more technical, more complete fighter right now. But, even in fights he should win easily, his minuscule output damns him to razor thin points wins (except Mike Pyle). Grant is raw. His footwork is questionable, his defense is mediocre, and I’m not sold on his combination punching. But he’s aggressive and consistent where Ottow isn’t. If he can keep Ottow from getting takedowns, that’s enough for me to pick him. Dwight Grant by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Ottow: Bissell, Harry
Staff picking Grant: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Bobby Green vs. Drakkar Klose
Phil Mackenzie: Bobby Green takes on everyone’s favourite intergalactic bounty hunter in a fight likely to be defined by taunting and salt. Should be close and competitive, but Klose’s ability to keep much of the fight in short range and spend the rest of the time booting Green in the ankle, combined with his inhuman toughness, should give him the edge. Drakkar Klose by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I just don’t trust Green enough to think he can out-slick Klose consistently at range. Green’s boxing seems to work in flashes. At one moment, a bobbing, weaving, counter-punching joy to watch. At other moments, just getting caught cold by whatever his opponent throws out at him. He tends to then use his very decent clinch game as a safety valve. But, Klose is so strong there. That is the backbone of Klose’s game. And out at distance, while his striking can be a bit simple at times, he sticks to some solid basics and trusts being rugged as hell to make them work. All that has me thinking he’ll edge out Green, likely in a fight Green will feel he’s won. Drakkar Klose by decision.
Staff picking Green: Harry, Dayne
Staff picking Klose: Nick, Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Jared Gordon vs. Joaquim Silva
Phil Mackenzie: Gordon is just absolutely relentless, and while he lacks the power of Vinc Pichel, he makes up for it in sheer volume. Like many huge, bricked-up guys Silva seems to profoundly dislike being pushed beyond a tepid pace, and if he can’t get Gordon out of there early with strikes or subs, it seems likely that Gordon will just stay in his face and wear him out. Jared Gordon by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: There’s a distinct possibility that Silva catches Gordon rushing the pocket, throwing both hands at once, and knocks him senseless. But, at the UFC level that’s not actually something Silva has done all that well. He’s too much of a one-shot power striker to surprise most opponents consistently at this level to finish them, or to create the kind of wall of offense to stop pressure. And if that’s the case, Gordon’s absolutely relentless pace, determination, and general toughness should see him through to a decision win. Jared Gordon by decision.
Staff picking Gordon: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking Silva:
Dan Ige vs. Jordan Griffin
Phil Mackenzie: Jordan Griffin is big, athletic and dynamic. Ige is undersized and not very athletic at all. But. I’m still not sure I can pick a relatively inexperienced Roufusport product who very clearly likes to fight at a potshotting pace to beat a relentless, tough, come-forward wrestler. Ige is likely to take a beating whatever happens, but Dan Ige by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Griffin seems like a guy who has made a lot work with a little over the years. He’s a wild striker when on the front foot, and depends mostly on timing and experience to counter moving backwards. Otherwise he tends to shoot poorly from way outside, and find submissions in scrambles with an aggressive grappling game. Against good, tough wrestlers, he’s just been out-wrestled, simple as that. That seems exactly like something Ige can do. Be aggressive, stay in Griffins face, hit takedowns, and stuff attempts to scramble. Dan Ige by decision.
Staff picking Ige: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking Griffin: Bissell, Harry
Gerald Meerschaert vs. Jack Hermansson
Phil Mackenzie: Hermansson is settling into his role as middleweight’s GangleCrusher, and while he can be gotten to by better athletes and more focused gameplans (see: welterweight’s GC Magny), his ability to sling long power punches in from top position and squish people is fairly unsurpassed. Meerschaert is tough and game everywhere, but he is neither athletic or focused, so is just at a firepower disadvantage Jack Hermansson by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Meerschaert is tremendously tough and dangerous to the under-athletic or under-experienced fighters that populate 185. But, his own lack of striking technique (outside a brutal body kick), coupled with a lack of speed and a lack of technical wrestling depth has tended to mean that fighters further up the ladder can really shut him down. I expect that’s Hermansson as well. Maybe not an elite athlete at 185, but big and strong and fast enough to stifle Meerschaert’s scrambles, and pick him off with a stiff jab out at range. Jack Hermansson via decision.
Staff picking Meerschaert: Nick, Bissell
Staff picking Hermansson: Harry, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Adam Milstead vs. Mike Rodriguez
Phil Mackenzie: Low level light heavies, hooray. Milstead likes to just wade in and throw bombs. Neither man has proven particularly skilled at defending takedowns and Milstead is nominally the better wrestler, but Rodriguez is more accurate and a more dangerous finisher. If this is a brawl he probably clunks Milstead pretty bad. Mike Rodriguez by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: There’s a very good chance that Rodriguez uses his range and sniping striking style to pick off Milstead in a hurry. But, if he doesn’t, I trust Milstead’s fitness and brawling way more down the stretch than I do Rodriguez, who seemed to gas far too quickly last time out. Maybe that’ll have changed and Rodriguez will a lot more prepared. But, if not, Adam Milstead by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Milstead: Nick, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Rodriguez: Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie
Zak Cummings vs. Trevor Smith
Phil Mackenzie: Zak Cummings, despite looking and fighting like one of the world’s middleweightiest middleweight, had a long run at welter. Now, finally, he is back home where he belongs. He’s fighting Trevor Smith and one thing is for sure: IT. WILL. BE. MIDDLEWEIGHT. Smith is a tough wrestler, and Cummings (surprisingly) hasn’t fought a great amount of them, but this is another fight where all the actual offensive dynamism belongs to one fighter, primarily Cumming’s counter hook and his choke series. Zak Cummings by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: Cummings is a better boxer, and likely every bit as decent a wrestler and grappler as Smith. The size could be a worry if Smith can force Cummings to lose faith in his ability to hang in the pocket. But, Smith rarely has that effect on opponents. Zak Cummings via decision.
Staff picking Cummings: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking Smith: Dayne
Juan Adams vs. Chris de la Rocha
Mookie Alexander: Juan Adams NEEDED THE TOWEL to make heavyweight. That’s insane. Anyway, Juan Adams by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Adams looks like a solid pickup for heavyweight. He’s big, tough, and reasonably athletic. De la Rocha is a gritty dude, but is also a distinctly bottom-tier UFC heavyweight without any real strengths to his game outside of mental toughness. Juan Adams by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I’m not yet sold on Adams beyond the fact that he’s an absolute mammoth of a man. He doesn’t yet have any real technique behind his game beyond being frighteningly large and powerful. That’s probably enough to win this fight. Juan Adams via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Adams: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking de la Rocha:
Who wins the UFC on FOX 31 main event?
This poll is closed
Lee by stoppage
Iaquinta by stoppage
Lee by decision
Iaquinta by decision