The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC on ESPN 7, and the majority of us are siding with Alistair Overeem to beat Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event. As for the co-feature, most agree that Marina Rodriguez will hand Cynthia Calvillo her second professional loss.
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.
Note 2: We are looking at a new predictions format, and that means only having descriptions on our picks for the top 4-7 fights on smaller UFC events such as this one. On the plus side, we’ve embedded both Vivisections if you want in-depth breakdowns of the whole card!
Alistair Overeem vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Mookie Alexander: It is really easy to just dive head-first into picking Rozenstruik. Why wouldn’t you? He hits insanely hard and Overeem has an insanely long list of spectacularly violent knockout losses. But Rozenstruik’s best win is still whatever is left of Andrei Arlovski, and these quick KOs still leave considerable question marks about his overall skill level as an MMA fighter. I would not be surprised if we get Wrestlereem and this turns into something like the Sergey Pavlovich fight. Overeem’s also still got pop in his punches and those Uberknees remain a significant threat. I’ve not got great confidence in picking these types of fights, but I’m riding it out one more time with The Reem. Alistair Overeem by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: There’s a clear case to be made that Rozenstruik both has the power and necessary kickboxing acumen to put Overeem away early. Especially given that Overeem is still willing to shell and look to survive flurries against the cage when he’s caught clean. Still, I feel like even for as often as Overeem has been KO’d in his career, those KOs tend to come with at least one or two momentum swings. The kind of highlight that Francis Ngannou put on him is rare. Rozenstruik could be that kind of a killer, but I’d need more proof than what I’ve seen so far. Instead, he seems like a striker just aggressive enough and wild enough to land a couple good shots and get caught up in the clinch where Overeem can take him down and pound him out. Alistair Overeem via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Overeem: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Badar, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Rozenstruik: Shak, Dayne
Marina Rodriguez vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Mookie Alexander: Calvillo is just way too willing to be a striker when she’s conclusively not very good at it (at least not yet). Rodriguez works at a faster pace and showed off excellent takedown defense against Tecia Torres. If this goes to the ground, Calvillo has the advantage and has devastatingly quick back-takes that usually lead to rear-naked chokes. Otherwise, Rodriguez has impressed me considerably in her recent bouts and I’m not sold on Calvillo’s upside just yet. Marina Rodriguez by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Both women fought approximate analogues of the other in their last fights and looked excellent while doing so. Calvillo fought a smart fight of blitzing into space, throwing clinch offense and disengaging against her Large Violence Machine opponent, while Marina Rodriguez stalked and beat up her Small Blitzing Wrestleboxer. In general I favour Large Violence Machine: while Calvillo is more offensive in the clinch than Torres, she’s a weaker wrestler and a less seasoned striker, and if this turns into a scrappy brawl Rodriguez just puts out too much offense. Marina Rodriguez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I absolutely think there’s a recipe in there somewhere for Cynthia Calvillo to beat Marina Rodriguez, but I’m not at all convinced that Calvillo knows what it is. Over her UFC tenure, she’s increasingly become a rangy boxer with a reasonably developing striking game that has, nonetheless, still been outhustled by Carla Esparza--simply because Esparza was willing to stay busy all fight. Rodriguez isn’t going to wow anyone with her sneaky creativity. But she is a high output kickboxing machine. And one that’s hard to take down, even if that’s something Calvillo was interested in doing. I think Calvillo is more deft and working to be more technical with her hands, but if she can’t change the range of this fight, I think she’ll lose control of the pace. Marina Rodriguez by decision.
Staff picking Rodriguez: Phil, Mookie, Shak, Badar, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Calvillo: Ed, Dayne
Stefan Struve vs. Ben Rothwell
Mookie Alexander: I’ll just pick Struve for the hell of it because Rothwell was truly, worryingly awful against Arlovski. Stefan Struve by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Oh god why. I’m not even going to pick a finish. Rothwell’s dynamism seems to have disintegrated. Ben Rothwell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Struve gets hurt too easily. And Rothwell is more likely than most to actually control him on the ground and stay relatively safe. Ben Rothwell by decision.
Staff picking Struve: Badar, Mookie
Staff picking Rothwell: Ed, Phil, Shak, Dayne, Zane, Stephie
Aspen Ladd vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Mookie Alexander: Ladd is too physical for Kunitskaya and Yana isn’t nearly the striking threat that Germaine de Randamie is. And if Ladd puts Kunitskaya in bad spots on the ground, Aspen’s ground-and-pound is terrifying. Aspen Ladd by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: There really doesn’t seem to be much to say. Both women are large, aggressive and unstructured. Ladd is more physically powerful, but Kunitskaya is a little more unorthodox. Aspen Ladd by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If Kunitskaya were willing to just stick and move constantly at range and live behind her jab, she could definitely win this fight. But she seems far too easy to get off balance in exchanges, and relies heavily on her size and strength as a clinch safety net. Sooner or later she’s going to let Ladd tie up with her, and if she’s willing to be put on her back to grapple, Ladd will probably beat her solidly from on top. Aspen Ladd by decision.
Staff picking Ladd: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Shak, Badar, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Kunitskaya: Dayne
Cody Stamann vs. Song Yadong
Mookie Alexander: Stamann is one of those meat’n’potatoes fighters who is a tough out for just about anyone in the division. He is not flashy, dynamic, or a particularly threatening finisher, but he is consistent and can win this matchup with his leg kicks and wrestling. Essentially, this boils down to whether Yadong can keep it standing and outstrike Cody. If he can, he’ll win, but if he can’t then Stamann will drown him on the ground. I lean with Zane’s line of thinking on this one but sans the finish. Song Yadong by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: With all due respect to Rodriguez-Calvillo and Font-Simon, this is the best fight on the card. Stamann has been an exceptional wrestler at bantamweight, even outwrestling Aljamain Sterling before eventually succumbing to AlJo’s improved pace and terrifying scrambling ability. Yadong has been a shockingly high-quality prospect, with composure, power and what appears to be a well-engineered game in all phases. I don’t have a strong read on this one: Stamann is a far, far better wrestler than anyone Yadong has fought in the UFC (Arantes? Bharat Khandare?) but everything about makes it look like the Chinese prospect is well prepared. Both men have had some issues in keeping a high pace, but I was actually somewhat taken aback by how well Stamann was able to effectively wrestle Sterling. That, together with his kicking game, should give Stamann enough of a lead to insulate himself down the stretch, but this is a tough, tough call. Cody Stamann by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Stamann is definitely a well-rounded problem for Yadong. And, if his wrestling is good enough to just absolutely swamp Yadong on the ground, then he could have a clear path to an ugly win. But, Stamann isn’t a great controlling fighter and he’s not much of a finisher. He doesn’t put together long combos, he doesn’t have a go-to submission threat, and he isn’t a fantastic GnP artist. He’s a good, functional kickboxer with decent power going forward and backward. And he’s got a rock solid chain takedown game. But if he’s not going to finish Yadong, and he’s not going to hold him down, then he’s going to give Yadong a lot of chances to be the faster, more powerful, slicker striker standing. Song Yadong via KO, round 2.
Staff picking Stamann: Ed, Phil, Shak, Badar, Dayne
Staff picking Yadong: Mookie, Zane, Stephie
Ricky Simon vs. Rob Font
Mookie Alexander: Simon’s aggression is simultaneously his best asset and a major fight-losing trait that can be exploited. Old Man Faber did just that a few months ago, and while Font has had issues dealing with guys who can fight at a fast pace, he is the more well-rounded fighter of the two with a vast array of fight-finishing moves. Font’s work off the counter is going to pose serious problems for Ricky, and the only way I can see Simon winning this is if he outscrambles Font on the mat. That is distinctly possible but something I am not counting on. Rob Font by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This is a bit of an “I like Rob Font pick”, not gonna lie. If there’s one thing that he’s struggled with it’s pure relentlessness, whether that be Pedro Munhoz or John Lineker. That is also Ricky Simon, who is basically featherweight Clay Guida, all the way down to having silly hair. Font has tons of nasty finishing tools (long jab, step knee, snap down and choke series) which he can use on a phase-shifter and Simon getting finished (“finished”) by Faber does indicate that he’s not invincibly durable. Font has large hands! but Montel Jackson has even larger hands and Simon beat him. My revolutionary new way of ranking fighters via hand size may be dead on arrival. Rob Font by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Man, this is a tough one for me. Simon is just a wildman standing. Which is to say that he has very little striking structure or technique, but is highly willing to get aggressive and stay aggressive. And that could lead him right into a series of Rob Font punches that keep Simon off-rhythm and unable to get takedowns. But, Font hasn’t shown himself to be at his best under heavy pressure. And he’s been taken down before. By almost everyone he’s ever faced in the UFC, in fact. If he can’t push Simon onto the back foot, and can’t stuff shots, that seems like exactly the type of fight where Simon’s raw aggression and relentless wrestling will get him the win. Ricky Simon by decision.
Staff picking Simon: Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Font: Ed, Phil, Shak, Mookie, Stephie
Thiago Alves vs. Tim Means
Mookie Alexander: Alves doesn’t have a ton left in the tank and Means is a horrible style matchup for him at this point. Means can beat him just about anywhere and Alves’ durability is waning. Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Thinking about this style matchup, I cannot stop remembering Alves getting absolutely carved up by Jordan Mein’s jab and left hook (before punting Mein’s solar plexus out through his back). As he ages out those kind of dynamic finishes are less and less available to Alves, and he is just historically a short-armed striker against someone who has typically feasted on squat opponents who have to blitz in the range. Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: The combination of reach and pace, along with clean technique and a historically tough chin (which, to be fair, has been cracked) make Tim Means feel like an especially bad matchup for Alves right now. Alves is just too reliant on being able to re-set the tone of the fight with his counterpunching. If Means isn’t going to back off and let him do that, I don’t think Alves can keep up with him. Tim Means via KO, round 2.
Staff picking Alves: Ed, Badar
Staff picking Means: Phil, Shak, Dayne, Zane, Stephie, Mookie
Billy Quarantillo vs. Jacob Kilburn
Staff picking Quarantillo: Ed, Shak, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Kilburn:
Bryce Mitchell vs. Matt Sayles
Staff picking Mitchell: Ed, Shak, Phil, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Sayles: Dayne
Joseph Solecki vs. Matt Wiman
Staff picking Solecki: Ed, Phil, Shak, Dayne, Mookie
Staff picking Wiman:
Virna Jandiroba vs. Mallory Martin
Staff picking Jandiroba: Ed, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Martin: Phil
Makhmud Muradov vs. Trevor Smith
Staff picking Muradov: Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Smith: Ed, Shak
This poll is closed
Stipe tapped, Alistair felt it