The Bloody Elbow team has made its picks for UFC Nashville, and surprisingly it’s a clean sweep for Stephen Thompson over Anthony Pettis in the main event. Likewise for Curtis Blaydes over Justin Willis in the co-main event.
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.
Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis
Mookie Alexander: This fight could be fun and largely meaningless, or not fun and still largely meaningless. We could see a lot of flashy techniques and not a whole lot in the way of seriously damaging, fight-changing strikes. What would be pretty cool is if this fight somehow gets to the ground and we see Pettis’ historically underrated but great submission game really test Wonderboy. Outside of that, Pettis’ best chance on the feet is through kicks, kicks, and more kicks. Thompson seemed particularly bothered by Darren Till’s leg kicks last year. The other advantages seem to be in Thompson’s favor, with the x-factor of Thompson’s chin clearly being shakier than Pettis. Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Both Pettis and Thompson are going to get the fight they want, but it feels most likely that Thompson is just a little better at that fight. Pettis got “his fight” against Edson Barboza as well, but his lack of footwork or a consistent jab and defensive tools meant he just got out-worked. Thompson doesn’t have Barboza’s work rate, which means he’ll likely be a bit more susceptible to Pettis’ big bursts of dynamic offense, or to Pettis’ power low-kick game. But, he should get ample counter punching opportunities too, and has the reach advantage. Pettis still has a great chin and I don’t know that Thompson pushes a pace to break him physically, so... Stephen Thompson by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I can’t shake the feeling that this one’s gonna be mostly a stinker with bursts of exciting sequences, and not enough for it to be what it could be in terms of action. Pettis has a steep uphill battle here to close the distance and not play the midrange game, and may get passive to the point where the judges hold it against him. I’m thinking Wonderboy will be cautious but effective enough with precision striking to stay ahead on the scorecards but end up winning a close decision. Stephen Thompson by a meh decision.
Staff picking Thompson: Harry, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Pettis:
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis
Mookie Alexander: This seems like a pretty easy fight to pick. Willis is not a very powerful puncher even at heavyweight, and while Blaydes’ striking defense is still a liability, he’s an outstanding wrestler with devastating top control. I’m not sold Willis’ wrestling is good enough to stop Blaydes’ takedowns and he’s not a powerful enough striker to trouble Blaydes on the feet. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Willis is a medium pace outside striker who fancies himself a slickster. He’s also a spoiler- hard to take down, composed, tough and reasonably technical. So this is a question about whether Blaydes can line up entries on someone who circles away and looks to counter. Willis is far less dangerous than Ngannou and so I suspect that while Blaydes might have some issues tracking him down at first, he should be able to figure out how to cut Willis’ movement down with kicks and keep him standing still for the level change as the fight goes on. Curtis Blaydes by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m not at all sure how good a defensive wrestler Willis is, since he’s never had to face a good offensive wrestler. And, his flat-footed counter-punching game means he’ll likely allow Blaydes every chance to get in on his hips. However, Blaydes still doesn’t set his shots up perfectly, and as we just saw, can be countered hard overreaching into the clinch. That depends a lot on Willis getting lucky on one-punch, however, something he has not at all been able to do in his UFC career thus far. Curtis Blaydes by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Both are really good wrestlers, but Blaydes is a faster and more dynamic athlete that can hit hard and has better striking overall. Can’t trust Willis to capitalize on Blaydes’ deficiencies. Hope you guys like sweaty dudes hugging against the fence. Curtis Blaydes by decision.
Staff picking Blaydes: Harry, Nick, Phil, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Willis:
John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo
Mookie Alexander: Weird short notice fight that should favor Makdessi pretty comfortably. John Makdessi by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: The only real question here is whether Makdessi is still athletically intact after a long career of being an undersized lightweight technician. If not he’s just infinitely more clean and defensively sound than Pinedo, who is a less dynamic and frankly less skilled version of a fighter which Makdessi has fought multiple times before (Campbell, Medeiros etc). John Makdessi by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Pinedo is big, and throws a lot of kicks, and may be reasonably tough (kinda impossible to tell from his debut). But otherwise, Makdessi should have big skill advantages everywhere, as well as being faster. Only question is, does he get stuck outside in an unnecessarily close kickboxing bout. John Makdessi by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Makdessi: Harry, Nick, Phil, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Pinedo: Tim
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Jussier Formiga
Mookie Alexander: This fight rules and it’s a shame there’s a chance the loser ends up getting cut because the UFC hates flyweights. Formiga’s striking has come along over the years so that it’s more than functional. His grappling of course is as dangerous as ever and if Figueiredo can’t scramble with him, Deiveson is screwed. But I’m going with Figueiredo anyway because not only is he a complete maniac in the cage, but he is a vicious finisher with serious athleticism and power that can turn the fight drastically in his favor. I expect Figueiredo to put on a pace that will wear Formiga out and get the W. Deiveson Figueiredo by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: One of the toughest to call and most interesting fights on the card. Figueiredo is the most athletically gifted flyweight since Cejudo, and leverages that athleticism in visibly more impressive ways. Formiga is a classy technician who has nonetheless struggled with pure physicality in all of his UFC losses. The question here is whether Figueiredo is smart enough to consistently try and stay out of grappling situations, or whether he does the ol’ Cowboy Oliveira and assume that because he is much stronger than other people that he should physically overpower them, regardless of how advisable this actually is. I think he can stay safe, although watching him bull his way into getting his back taken for 2/3 rounds wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. Deiveson Figueiredo by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Formiga has had consistent trouble with powerful, athletic fighters who can’t be easily out-grappled. Figueiredo has a few holes in his game, and I’m not sure he’s super technically deep anywhere, but he seems like exactly the kind of superbly powerful athlete that has give Formiga fits time and time again. If Formiga can’t get to Figueiredo’s back in a hurry, I expect him to get stuck in a kickboxing match where he has the speed to compete, but not the power or the defense. Deiveson Figueiredo by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Deiveson doesn’t have the same mileage, and he’s got competent submission defense and good setups for his strikes. Formiga’s a threat, but it seems to me like he’ll be vulnerable here and we’ll see a guy with a hot hand coming in and stepping up big. I’m tempted to pick him by TKO for some reason, but Formiga’s too durable right now for that. Still, Deiveson Figueiredo by decision.
Staff picking Figueiredo: Harry, Nick, Phil, Shak, Mookie, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Formiga: Dayne, Tim
Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson
Mookie Alexander: Well… Pena missed weight and looked terrible on the scale. I’ll still pick him anyway because I don’t think Peterson is very good and Pena has higher upside. Luis Pena by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Peterson is a brawler and Pena is a big, powerful grappler and ground’n’pounder who has seemed to hit the UFC physicality wall. Pena’s move to featherweight is a concern (especially as he missed weight), as it could make him easier to hit and less durable. But, he’s also going to be absolutely gigantic and Peterson is likely going to wade right into the clinch. Luis Pena by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: There’s a very very good chance that Pena gasses within a round and Peterson just roughs him up for the remaining two. But given that Peterson can’t really keep himself out of the clinch, it seems like he’s primed to let Pena’s size advantage do the most work it can. And as a former bantamweight and a not very athletic featherweight, I just can’t trust Peterson to take out a much bigger, better athlete on grit alone. Luis Pena by TKO.
Victor Rodriguez: Peña missed weight, but I can’t not pick him here. Peterson’s got a few things he does really well, and it’s hard to tell where these two really excel against each other since they’re both really raw. Peña’s still the better all-around athlete and his striking is unconventional enough to fluster a guy like Peterson. Luis Peña by decision.
Staff picking Pena: Harry, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Peterson: Stephie
J.J. Aldrich vs. Maycee Barber
Mookie Alexander: Fun fight between two prospects. Aldrich might be the more technical fighter at this point, but she’s not an overwhelming athlete compared to Barber. “The Future” is still raw but she’s got impressive physical strength, solid clinchwork, and frightening ground-and-pound. I feel like Barber’s threat to finish is what separates the two women in what should be a fun encounter. Maycee Barber by TKO, round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: This should be fun. Aldrich has proven that she’s a far more crafty and functional pocket boxer than I gave her credit for. With that being said, Maycee- the future barber is incredibly well-rounded and poses a lot of the same issues that Juliana Lima did, with the caveat that she is far more threatening from top position. Maycee- the future barber by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I really like Aldrich, and I want her to win this, just because she’s a very patient, technical fighter who has clearly been improving and getting almost no love for it. However, she’s not a finisher and she’s not a dynamic athlete. And those are two skills that Barber seems to have down. For Aldrich to win, she’d need to put on a comprehensive, controlling performance. For Barber to win, she likely just needs to get on top and bust Aldrich up, or land some snapping kicks at range, or hard elbows in the clinch. Maycee Barber by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I had forgotten how far back Aldrich has been fighting - her amateur career started in 2011. The experience she brings and her crafty, aggressive style should be a benefit here. I’m thinking Barber puts in some great work but Aldrich uses clinch work and better positioning and getting ahead in striking exchanges to outpoint Barber, especially while disengaging from clinches. Barber’s looking like she has the brighter future, but Aldrich is the more complete fighter right now. JJ Aldrich by decision.
Staff picking Aldrich: Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Barber: Harry, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Phil, Zane, Stephie
Bryce Mitchell vs. Bobby Moffett
Mookie Alexander: Bryce Mitchell’s balls almost got power-drilled out of existence and lived to tell the tale and have healed up testicles. He’s a winner in my book. Bryce Mitchell by DQ (repeated groin strikes), round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Moffett impressed me with his win over Chas Skelly, who is a similarly aggressive power grappler and sub hunter. Mitchell is a more accurate, powerful striker but he’s also too willing to concede position and Moffet should be able to win more exchanges in a fun fight. Bobby Moffett by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Mitchell is pretty high energy, but seems to lack control or any real depth of technique anywhere. Moffett looks like a guy who can match Mitchell’s pace, but is calmer and more well schooled all the way through. Bobby Moffett by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: This might be the fight where Bobby gets yet another D’Arce choke (he’s got six as a pro so far). He’s just so damn good at it, and his other submissions are too good for me to pick against him here. Bobby Moffett by submission.
Staff picking Mitchell: Harry, Shak, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Moffett: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Frankie Saenz vs. Marlon Vera
Phil Mackenzie: Both guys have traditionally lost to top-level fighters, and have done pretty well against the mid tier. In general, while Vera is the far more dangerous offensive threat, I don’t think he works too well against consistent pressure coming back his way, with the bizarre exception of his fight against John Lineker, where he did better than pretty much everyone else. I guess I just don’t trust how he struggled so badly with Canneti and Buren before turning it back up. Frankie Saenz by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I trust Saenz to have a great first round, but his dependence on linear, predictable power boxing, and Vera’s ability to adjust and make reads have me feeling a lot more confident that Vera finishes his 38-year-old opponent than it does that Saenz gets to his technical wrestling over and over safely. Marlon Vera via KO, round 3.
Staff picking Saenz: Phil, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Vera: Harry, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Alexis Davis vs. Jennifer Maia
Phil Mackenzie: Alexis Davis has gotten a lot better at not getting overpowered and outgrappled, so she should be able to win a not-particularly-interesting kickboxing match against Maia, who is still somewhat raw. Alexis Davis by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Davis struggles when she’s in against much faster opponents who can keep away from her pressure (or superbly better athletes). Maia struggles when she’s in against anyone who can push a pace or isn’t at a massive technical advantage to her. This feels a lot more like a fight that Maia will have trouble winning than one Davis will. Alexis Davis by decision.
Staff picking Davis: Nick, Shak, Mookie, Phil, Zane, Tim, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Maia: Harry, Dayne, Fraser
Angela Hill vs. Randa Markos
Phil Mackenzie: This is likely to be very close. Hill is a better striker, but lacks pop and can’t stop herself from getting into wars. Markos has a pronounced advantage on the ground, but isn’t much of an offensive wrestler. However, her willingness to be aggressive and keep a high pace likely keeps her constantly in the fight, as she trades her harder punches for Hill’s more numerous ones. Angela Hill by split decision.
Zane Simon: Both women have a lot of holes in their games where their opponent excels. Hill’s takedown defense is still poor and Markos’ boxing tends to be stuck in a few repetitive combos that she throws over and over while leaping into the pocket. If Markos can get to cage grind or just take Hill down over and over she has a path to winning. But, Hill has been tough to keep down and beat just by controlling her (Markos hasn’t been much of a sub threat in her career either). Eventually, I know exactly what Hill is going to try and do and how that should work. Markos is always a bit of an unpredictable mystery as to what part of her game she’ll lean on from one fight, or even one round, to the next. Angela Hill by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: As good as Markos is with her wrestling, Hill is way better with striking accuracy and should be able to fend off takedown attempts with offense as well as sprawls. Angela Hill by decision.
Staff picking Hill: Harry, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Markos: Fraser, Tim
Chris Gutierrez vs. Ryan MacDonald
Phil Mackenzie: Gutierrez looks like a perfectly acceptable wrestle boxer who was predictably blown out of the water by Raoni Barcelos. MacDonald looks like a regional sub hunter who has picked up some wacky finishes over sub-par competition. Chris Gutierrez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: MacDonald really doesn’t look very good. A high volume, low power striker who has survived a lot of poor decision making and defensive lapses against a lot of competition that aren’t really there to win. Gutierrez gets beat by hyper aggressive, hyper technical wrestlers. He’s otherwise a very functional kick-heavy counter-puncher. Gutierrez doesn’t always push a mean pace, but I get the feeling that if MacDonald tries to put volume on him with his chin in the air, Gutierrez will have no trouble finding it. Chris Gutierrez via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Gutierrez: Harry, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking MacDonald: Tim
Jordan Espinosa vs. Eric Shelton
Phil Mackenzie: Shelton has had problems building a coherent game while still leveraging his impressive physical gifts. He can do a bit of everything, but lacks depth almost everywhere and hasn’t developed reliable finishing tools. Espinosa is an interesting challenge: more diverse on the feet, a submission and scrambling threat on the floor. I’m going to guess that American Top Team (alongside Horiguchi et al) is a good fit for Shelton, but this should be a good one. Eric Shelton by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Espinosa is more dangerous, but he’s also more wild and defensively wide open. Neither man appears to have a deep technical skill set that they can really lean on, but Shelton has let experience give him a measure of caution and defense in his approach. Espinosa is happy to leap after opponents and see who’s tougher. In this case, I think that’ll be Shelton. Eric Shelton via decision.
Staff picking Espinosa: Tim
Staff picking Shelton: Harry, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Who wins the UFC Nashville main event?
This poll is closed
Thompson by stoppage
Pettis by stoppage
Thompson by decision
Pettis by decision