The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC 244, and the majority of us are going with Jorge Masvidal to beat Nate Diaz in tomorrow’s main event. Likewise for Kelvin Gastelum over Darren Till in the co-main. This is such a well-matched card that only Shane Burgos vs. Makwan Amirkhani merited a unanimous agreement.
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.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz
Anton Tabuena: Both fighters rely on good boxing and good chins, with Diaz throwing with more volume and Masvidal likely having the edge in power. Diaz can wear him down by the fence, but Masvidal might just be quicker and has a more diverse striking game, so I expect him to do better at distance -- especially early on. Honestly, this is a close fight that could go either way, but my head is leaning towards Masvidal, thinking he can fight smart and avoid fighting Diaz’s game. I’m picking with my heart though, with Masvidal getting suckered into a Diaz style fight and losing another heartache of a decision. Nate Diaz by Split Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I have to go with Masvidal. Despite the aura of Diaz, I think this is a fight that favors Masvidal nearly everywhere. Who’s the more technical striker? Masvidal. Who’s the more powerful striker? Masvidal. Who’s the better counter-fighter? Masvidal. Who’s the better wrestler? Masvidal. Diaz may be the better submission specialist but Masvidal has shown himself to be a supremely underrated grappler. Where Masvidal often struggles is keeping his own offense at a pace that doesn’t cost him rounds, and he is prone to getting dropped early in fights. I can’t discount Diaz because… he’s Nate Diaz, but even though he should land a good amount of leather on Jorge, Masvidal is more likely going to win rounds and do more considerable damage. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Diaz’s win over Pettis was great, but it was also a fight tailor made for him to chip away toward victory. And he still didn’t look that good doing it in the process. Diaz seemed to get exhausted early, relied on hitting a takedown to change momentum, and then was able to find his groove in the clinch as the fight wore on. But out in open space, he was very hittable on the counter. If he can’t physically control Masvidal, and I don’t really think he can, do I still trust him to be a high-output cardio machine? Anything less and Masvidal’s counter punching, durability, and solid wrestling should be enough to push him to victory. Maybe even become the third stoppage loss on Nate Diaz’s record. Jorge Masvidal by decision.
Ram Gilboa: The way Diaz wins, he uses volume and constant pressure to break people down. He’s almost impossible to hurt, and he pulls you in trading a big shot of yours for 2-3-4 of those punch-slaps – but before you know it, you’re drained and drowning under these combinations, heavier and heavier. Only this time, Masvidal, chin and soul, is just too game to break down like that – the wrestler who famously cut school to go scrap in backyards. Like Diaz, the rougher the tumble the further he thrives. Diaz can win rounds here, but he isn’t pitter-pattering Masvidal into a panicky mistake – and Diaz won’t be hitting a surprise double here either. Masvidal’s offense on the other hand – the diversity, power – can cause Diaz problems early and late. Also, I don’t think Diaz fights regularly enough to currently pull this off. Jorge Masvidal by TKO, round 3
Victor Rodriguez: Masvidal has finally entered his prime, but can he actually put Nate away? He’s got good wrestling and uses leg kicks effectively with slick boxing, but Nate’s takedown defense has improved and he’s been checking leg kicks effectively for some time. Plus, Nate’s got a hell of a chin and endless cardio with a predilection for body shots. And that’s where I think it lies, he just might crumple Masvidal with body shots and wear him down. I’m banking on that and Nate’s stellar ground game to be the biggest factors in this fight. Nate Diaz because 209 all day, homie - by TKO.
Staff picking Masvidal: Nick, Ed, Stephie, Phil, Dayne, Ram, Zane
Staff picking Diaz: Shak, Anton, Victor, Lewis
Darren Till vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Anton Tabuena: Till has the tools to win, but I don’t think he will. Gastelum won’t have a size/reach advantage again, but he is good at sneaking big shots in and I expect him to hurt and possibly stop Till. I would be more confident in this pick if it was five rounds, but I’m still going with Kelvin Gastelum by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Till can win this. He’s a fast starter and a sharp puncher, but he has gotten laced up in his last two fights and he’s not a particularly good finisher against UFC-level competition. Gastelum is more durable, faster, and more willing to throw in volume. Till loves to counterpunch and at the same time it feels like he’s not that good at it. Kelvin’s striking depth isn’t that impressive but it works extremely well for him, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he clocks Till with hard head shots and that results in a KO win. Kelvin Gastelum by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Outside of height and reach, is there anything Till does that Gastelum doesn’t do better? Gastelum has become more proficient with his lead hand, lands his left with power, goes to the body well, is fast, has great cardio, and is one of the most durable fighters in the game. His biggest problem has been his willingness to rely on a small number of tools (mostly just his left hand) and his lack of urgency defending wrestling and grappling attacks. But Till isn’t exactly a high output machine known for his great cardio. As his fights go on, he tends to notably flag. And pretty much every fighter that has been willing to step forward and throw at him has hit him hard. If he can’t put Gastelum away early, I just don’t see him winning this fight. Kelvin Gastelum via KO, round 2.
Ram Gilboa: Darren Till can probably fight the smart fight here, use his jabs and straights, teep and generally kick a lot - Gastelum isn’t hunting for a takedown - grab a little, and get the rounds. I think he’ll get the first 2. Darren Till by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Even without the weight cut, I can’t trust a guy that can be blasted by a rangy boxer with long arms and farm strength that can wrestle. Woodley found that chin and controlled with grappling, I can totally see that happening with Gastelum. Not even the Brits are picking Till. You can smell it. Kelvin Gastelum by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Till: Ed, Ram
Staff picking Gastelum: Anton, Shak, Nick, Stephie, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Victor, Lewis
Stephen Thompson vs. Vicente Luque
Anton Tabuena: It’s either Thompson picks him apart en route to a decision, or he gets clipped before the final bell. I think Thompson will win the early exchanges, but his lack of finishing power and degrading durability could cost the 36-year-old again. I’ve flipped flopped on this bout, but a three rounder makes me lean towards Wonderboy winning this. Stephen Thompson by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I’m basically going with Luque because of Thompson’s fading durability and Luque’s sharpness and power. Wonderboy could just stay on the outside, kick frequently, and make life frustrating for Vicente on the counter. I mean, he was getting the better of Anthony Pettis before getting KO’d, but that’s the problem; we’ve reached the point where any hard shot is hurting Thompson, and now he finally got knocked out. Vicente Luque by KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: On the one hand, the Pettis fight basically looked like Thompson dominating Pettis en-route to a weird semi-fluke KO, leg kicks aside. On the other, Thompson has gotten dropped by almost everyone he’s fought lately, and he’s been competing for basically his entire life, fighting at the highest level of kickboxing before moving onto the UFC. His game is movement-heavy and athleticism dependent and when he falls off, he will fall off hard. That being said, the Masvidal fight wasn’t that long ago, and Masvidal is a defensively stronger, craftier (albeit less dynamic and aggressive) version of Luque. Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: There’s a real chance that Luque finds that one big shot he needs and puts Thompson away. I think ‘Wonderboy’s past durability is probably more a result of great footwork and distance management than it is having one of MMA’s great chins. So as he slows a bit, fighters may find him that much easier. But, even saying that, opponents have had to burst through distance to catch him in pretty ridiculous, wild ways in the past. And it’s something that I’m just not convinced Luque has the footspeed or reach to do. If he’s just going to try and pressure and trap Thompson on the cage, I think Thompson will pick him off all night. Stephen Thompson by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: You know, I’m starting to have my doubts of Luque pulling it off considering Thompson’s evasiveness and cardio, but I still have to go with the guy that can kick a Karate dude’s legs out from under him to hinder his mobility and ruin his opportunities to play keep-away effectively. But Wonderboy’s been stagnant lately and I don’t trust his ability to take out most guys in the top ten. Vicente Luque by TKO.
Staff picking Thompson: Shak, Phil, Anton, Ram, Zane, Lewis
Staff picking Luque: Nick, Ed, Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Victor
Derrick Lewis vs. Blagoi Ivanov
Anton Tabuena: This has the makings of a really terrible zombie plodding heavyweight fight. Happy Halloween, I guess. Derrick Lewis by weird, last second, come from behind TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Ivanov is going to win an overwhelming majority of this bout. Derrick Lewis by KO, 4:59 of round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: Ivanov is super duper ultra mega tough. Derrick Lewis doesn’t do a whole lot if you don’t give him something. Ivanov is a counter puncher. This fight is going to be dire. Blagoi Ivanov by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I can’t pick Lewis against any heavyweight that’s durable and has a functional offensive game. I just can’t. He’s too open to getting hurt, too inactive, and too wild with his technique. That said, he usually wins. And he wins because he hits like a truck, and knows how to conserve his energy for late in fights when opponents have let their guard down. Could easily happen to Ivanov, but all the way up until it does, I’m pretty sure he’ll be winning. Blagoi Ivanov by decision.
Ram Gilboa: My pick is either this fight is going to be bananas or it’ll be a melon. As for the winner, if I’d bet on heavyweight fights, I’d go with Blagoi Ivanov.
Victor Rodriguez: Blagoi is a smaller heavyweight, he’s strong as hell. But if Shamil Abdurakhimov couldn’t get his game off against Lewis, I doubt Ivanov can. Not because Blagoi isn’t better than Shamil, because he is by leaps and bounds. The problem is Ivanov has more success inside with clinch boxing and pressing against the cage. Good luck doing that against a guy that could probably bench-press a Buick during Purim. Derrick Lewis by knockout.
Staff picking Lewis: Shak, Nick, Ed, Anton, Dayne, Mookie
Staff picking Ivanov: Stephie, Phil, Ram, Zane, Victor
Gregor Gillespie vs. Kevin Lee
Anton Tabuena: Maybe the switch to Tristar finally makes Lee fulfill his potential. Gillespie is pretty damn good. As always, Lee will still have more than enough skills to win, but until I see him actually put it all together, I’m not going to be confident in picking him. Gregor Gillespie by late TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I don’t feel good about it, but I think Lee wins this. Perhaps Firas Zahabi can “fix” what is ailing Lee, and that Kevin will develop a better jab and feel more comfortable with his striking. Gillespie has the look of someone who is comfortable with the fight on the feet in ways that Lee just never has been. If this goes to the ground, I favor Lee. Gillespie is a great wrestler and grappler but he is undersized, and Lee for all his faults is historically not easy to outgrapple. This fight comes down to cardio and answering a lot of unknowns concerning Gillespie’s game that we haven’t really learned out of him beating Jordan Rinaldi and Andrew Holbrook. It wouldn’t shock me if Lee fades out and Gillespie really puts it to him with his pace, but I think Lee at his best is too much for Gregor. Kevin Lee by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I’m still a Kevin Lee fan, and it is notable that the grappling scalps he’s picked up outclass those on the (actually much older!) Gillespie’s resume. Michel Prazeres? Michael Chiesa? These are good grapplers to beat. Lee is bigger, more immediately damaging and even presents a nasty back-take and RnC threat. That being said, I can’t quite trust Lee to have his confidence together, or to be able to absorb the 155 cut, and he’s always looked a bit panicked if he can’t outwrestle his opponents. Gregor Gillespie by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: The fewer of us that pick Lee the more uncomfortable I am about picking Gillespie. Gillespie’s insane cardio, confidence, and high octane wrestle-boxing game should be enough to wear Lee out and take a win. But, at 5’ 7” Gillespie wouldn’t even be a big featherweight. And wrestling is a skill that really tends to thrive on size advantage. Lee has rarely ever been just straight up out-worked on the mats, at least not while his cardio is still going. If he’s strong enough, will Gillespie be able to wear him out? I dunno. I’ll pick Gillespie, but a lot of that is just banking on Lee’s recent troubles to continue. Gregor Gillespie by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I had the itch to pick Gregor here, but Lee has adapted his wrestling to MMA better and has the slick hands and a more composed overall game. The switch to Tristar gives me faith, enough to offset the concerns I’ve had about him dropping back down to lightweight. Now we gotta get Lee to play Mario Odyssey instead of that sham of a fighting game he playing in that Tesla. THAT’S NOT HOW THE AUTO-PILOT THING IS SUPPOSED TO WORK, KEVIN. Kevin Lee by decision.
Staff picking Gillespie: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Ram, Zane
Staff picking Lee: Shak, Ed, Mookie, Victor, Lewis
Johnny Walker vs. Corey Anderson
Anton Tabuena: Walker does weird Walker things, and while it will be harder to do so with this step up in competition, I think he finds a way to land something crazy. Johnny Walker by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Either Anderson finishes Walker early or he gets knocked out within the 15-minute timeframe. His chin + Walker’s power is a bad combination for someone who’s clearly more skilled but has a staggering ability to get randomly KO’d. Johnny Walker by KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: No. I refuse. Until Johnny Walker wins in a proper way, he’s not getting picked. Even if he’s exactly the kind of person that tends to dust Corey Anderson. Get beasted. Corey Anderson by unanimous decision.
Ram Gilboa: Like so many who bravely partied with Johnny Walker on Saturday night, Corey Anderson is going to wake up with a nasty hangover on Sunday morning. Johnny Walker by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Light heavyweight just isn’t a division where you pick the dude with a history of getting KO’d who has an otherwise fairly complete MMA game. At least, not when he’s facing an all-power wildman who can sleep people in seconds. Anderson will likely be winning every second of this fight, right up until he’s not. Johnny Walker via KO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: I can’t pick against a guy that fights like he’s in Killer Instinct’s practice mode until he fights someone with a bread and butter skillset that’s consistent. Corey’s got the first part, but his brain farts got me picking against him. Johnny Walker by something absurd that shouldn’t work, but totally like, does.
Staff picking Walker: Shak, Nick, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Ram, Zane, Victor, Lewis
Staff picking Anderson: Ed, Phil
Shane Burgos vs. Makwan Amirkhani
Phil Mackenzie: This is a good test fight for Burgos: his TDD hasn’t looked amazing in his fights thus far, but Amirkhani is such a defined and singular threat that Burgos should be well-prepared. The only real issue is that while Amirkhani is a terrible boxer, he still likes to sell out for big stupid flying strikes and Burgos leaves his head way out in front. I guess he still has good eyes, and if you can dodge a wrench Godofredo Pepey flying knee you can dodge an Amirkhani one. Shane Burgos by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Amirkhani is a talented wrestle-grappler, but he seems to be cursed with the rare affliction of getting tired even while implementing his own successful offense. That, and it seems like his recent boxing-heavy striking work has left him even more stranded out at range than before. Burgos’ tendency to be overly relaxed in takedown defense is a major worry, but his pressure, straight strikes, and counter combos should all be a nightmare for Amirkhani. Shane Burgos via decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Makwan has such a great Greco background, but I don’t think that for all the work that the guys at SBGi do they can prep him for a dynamo like Burgos. Shane’s got movement, speed, power and underappreciated boxing technique to go with his wrestling game. I love Makwan, but this isn’t the matchup for him. He’ll run out of offensive options and gets sparked by a surging prospect. Shane Burgos by TKO.
Staff picking Burgos: Shak, Nick, Ed, Stephie, Anton, Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Ram, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Amirkhani:
Brad Tavares vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Phil Mackenzie: This is the make-or-break point for Shahbazyan- he’s looked fairly stellar against not-great competition, and as this is middleweight the jump up in competition is quite stark. Shahbazyan has been aggressive and hyper-tough everywhere, but there’s an outstanding question of whether he’s a skilled enough striker or grappler to enforce one against a skilled generalist like Tavares. I’m going to say yes: Tavares developed some power of late, but he’s also just not someone who tends to give a lot of different looks and Shahbazyan could just outpace and out-variety him. Edmen Shahbazyan by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: There’s a real chance here that sheer tenacity and youthful exuberance push Shahbazyan past Tavares. As one of MMA’s true neutralizers, Tavares thrives not on what he’s able to do to opponents, but what he stops them from doing. Great takedown defense, good distance management, nice use of kicks, a strong clinch game. All these things make it hard to beat Tavares if you’re not just a better technical kickboxer than he is (or can’t catch him totally cold). Shahbazyan will likely start like a house on fire, but I’m not convinced he can keep up his offense if he can’t get an early stoppage. If he can keep it going, he might snag a huge win. But I need to see it to believe it. Brad Tavares by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: No. Absolutely no. No goddamn way I’m picking a Tarverdyan guy that’s mostly beaten cans against a dude that’s a tank wrestler with a legit boxing game and can see through the okey-doke. Edmen’s benefitted by fighting lesser opposition in the SoCal scene to boost his confidence and sharpen his tools, but I can’t pick him here. Good for him if he pulls it off, because this is a big feather in his cap, but this sturdy Hawaiian cat gives him a reality check in my book. Brad Tavares by decision.
Staff picking Tavares: Shak, Ed, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Shahbazyan: Nick, Phil, Ram
Andrei Arlovski vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Anton Tabuena: I am not sure why I’m picking a 40-year-old to beat a(nother) hard hitting big man, but this is heavyweight after all. Andrei Arlovski by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Arlovski looked quite good in the opening round against Ben Rothwell. His cardio isn’t holding up that well anymore and Rozenstruik is both not old and quite powerful. Perhaps this is where Arlovski’s spirited run of excruciatingly difficult to watch decisions comes to an end. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by TKO, round 1.
Ram Gilboa: So, Arlovski’s chin went the full circle and is solid again? And so we put him in with this Surinamese fellow named Bigi Boy, who flattened 87.5% of his opponents inside 2 rounds? Oh and the last one was in the UFC and lasted 10 seconds. This all makes perfect sense. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Arlovski’s chin apparently is fine. And, at least against Ben Rothwell, his technical boxing seems to have stepped up a level. But, he’s still had trouble controlling pace and not taking damage against almost everyone he’s fought lately. Rozenstruik is pretty one-note as a power kickboxer. But he’s good enough to hang and young enough to push the pace. I don’t trust Arlovski to out hustle him, even if he can stick with him all fight. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Hey, look at this. And this. You think I’m gonna pick a chnny Arlovski over a guy that doesn’t start slow and can take what Andrei dishes out? Fam, it’s gonna be ugly. I’d even wager Jairzinho retires Arlovski, off top. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by something like this, I dunno.
Staff picking Arlovski: Ed, Anton
Staff picking Rozenstruik: Shak, Nick, Stephie, Phil, Dayne, Ram, Zane, Mookie, Victor
Jennifer Maia vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Mookie Alexander: HUT HUT HUT vs. Can’t Make Weight. Feel the excitement of this division! Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This fight feels more or less like a tossup, especially as Chookagian now has a few wins on her record that seem to be more a product of the strikes she doesn’t land than the ones she does. But, it’s also worth noting that, in her last couple bouts, she’s gotten a lot more invested in sitting down on strikes and getting in range. The result may have been a slight uptick in accuracy, but it’s also been a big uptick in the amount she gets hit. Maia may rely mostly on boxing, but she’s a decent, patient counterpuncher who can keep a hard pace for 15 minutes. If Chookagian is going to try and sit in front of her and trade more often, I think Maia can win it. Jennifer Maia via decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Like her or not (and I do), Chookagian can do everything well in the standup department and defend takedowns reliably for most of the fight. Maia’s not going to get a judges’ nod with lesser output and getting outworked while spamming takedowns that won’t land. Maia’s great and I’m a fan, but this isn’t a good matchup for her. Katlyn Chookagian by decision.
Staff picking Maia: Shak, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Chookagian: Nick, Ed, Stephie, Anton, Ram
Lyman Good vs. Chance Rencountre
Zane Simon: Rencountre is big, tough, and willing to push a mean wrestling pace if he can keep a scramble going. But, his striking is kind of woeful, and I’m not at all convinced that a lot of the success he had against Naurdiev didn’t come just because Naurdiev thought he could let the fight hit the mat and win scrambles. Good hasn’t had the wrestling to compete with the very elite, but he’s got size, strength, and a functional first layer of defense. If he can use that to keep Rencountre standing, I think his much more technical striking can pick him off all fight. Lyman Good by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Despite his limitations back then, I used to love Lyman Good in Bellator. Now he’s so much better, being a strong striker that can defend takedowns and really make people pay for slacking while disengaging from clinches and off failed takedowns. Chance is good, but Good is great. Ugh. I hate that I wrote that, but that’s how I feel. Lyman Good by TKO.
Staff picking Good: Nick, Ed, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Victor
Staff picking Rencountre: Shak, Stephie, Ram
Julio Arce vs. Hakeem Dawodu
Zane Simon: Damn this is a hard fight to pick. Two high output strikes with diverse arsenals who tend to rely on good technique to see them through volume wars. Dawodu is the more willing kicker and perhaps a bit better about working to all levels, while Arce is the better defensively with a more nuanced boxing game. I think Arce’s defense is going to be the difference here. If neither man is poised to get a quick stoppage, I think he’ll be the one slipping more shots. Julio Arce by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I hate this fight. Straight up. These guys are great strikers and I don’t want either to lose. I was leaning Arce, but my heart’s with Dawodu. I won’t be convinced otherwise. Mean Hakeem by TKO.
Staff picking Arce: Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Dawodu: Shak, Ed, Phil, Anton, Ram, Mookie
Who is crowned the BMF King at UFC 244?
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