The Bloody Elbow team has made its picks for UFC Wichita, and everyone except Shakiel Mahjouri has Junior dos Santos winning Saturday’s main event against Derrick Lewis. Opinion is much more divided for the co-main between Elizeu Zaleski and Curtis Millender.
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.
Junior dos Santos vs. Derrick Lewis
Mookie Alexander: There’s really only one way for Derrick Lewis to win, and that’s to whack JDS with a power shot from hell. And he’s capable of doing that! But aside from that, he’s not in JDS’ league as far as striking. JDS can piece him up with his jab, he can hurt Lewis to the body, outkick him, etc. Lewis also doesn’t seem like one who can make JDS uncomfortable by walking him down and effectively cutting off the cage. This seems poised for JDS to carefully -- as much as he can -- pick Lewis apart and win a clear-cut decision. Or he could get KO’d after dominating most of the fight. It’s heavyweight, after all. Junior dos Santos by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’ve essentially already seen JDS win this fight and I’ve seen Lewis lose it. Mark Hunt isn’t exactly a perfect analog for dos Santos, but his gameplan of picking Lewis off slowly with simple consistent combination boxing was exactly the kind of thing that JDS can follow and that Lewis has continually struggled against. Opponents who don’t put themselves in the way of his punches tend to be able to piece him up. And against Tuivasa and Ivanov, JDS showed a very patient, jab heavy game plan against dangerous power punchers who only throw one strike at a time. Lewis doesn’t like to pressure and without pressure, JDS is just much much slicker than he is from distance. JDS by TKO, round 4.
Staff picking JDS: Nick, Stephie, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, Dayne, Zane, Harry
Staff picking Lewis: Shak
Curtis Millender vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Mookie Alexander: This fight rules. Two very talented strikers with finishing capabilities, albeit through different routes. Millender I’d say is the more composed of the two and picks his shots better for maximum accuracy, but Zaleski can just melt people with anything. I’d say Zaleski has more firepower whereas Millender is the more consistent minute-to-minute fighter, and more defensively responsible. That said, Zaleski sets a ridiculous pace and might even have the wrestling to potentially trouble Millender. I’m looking forward to this one, and the pick is Elizeu Zaleski by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Easily the best fight on the card. Millender is a devastating sniper who has occasional lapses under concerted pressure, and ZdS is a somewhat defensively liable fighter who keeps a tremendous pace. Both have rock solid chins, both have clear options to getting to the other guy. Millender is almost certainly going to tag ZdS early, and may well hurt him badly, but I’m not entirely sure that I trust him to be able to stand up under dos Santos’ insanity for the duration of the fight. In addition, his wrestling defense is occasionally a little suspect. I’d more strongly favour Brazilian Condit over 5 rounds, but I think he can just about pull out a barn-burner over 3. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If Zaleski can get his wrestling going, then he could absolutely create enough confusion to keep Millender off balance all fight and win a decision. Or, he may just be able to crack Millender hard enough to put him away... maybe. But, if this is going to be a range kickboxing affair, and I think it is, Millender’s tools there are much more consistent and practical. Millender has been turning himself into a functional, sprawling sniper who works well behind long straight punches and devastating kicks, and has improved his counter game a ton. Zaleski tends to counter when hit, his defense is wide open, and fight in short blitzes by jumping through open space. If he can’t get the big single moments he needs to put Millender in danger, I think Millender can out-point him and possible KO him as well. Both men have a lot of natural power, but have been very hard to finish with strikes. Curtis Millender by decision.
Staff picking Millender: Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Harry
Staff picking Zaleski: Nick, Tim, Phil, Mookie, Shak, Fraser
Niko Price vs. Tim Means
Mookie Alexander: Niko Price is the more dangerous single-moment offensive fighter. Out of nowhere he can KO you from your back. However, he’s reckless defensively and Means seems poised to exploit that. This has high potential to be very exciting. I’m going with Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: There’s one reason to pick against Tim Means and that’s because he’s 35 and has been fighting for 15 years, and Price is still pretty young. Price is aggressive and fearless, and it’s not like Means hasn’t wilted under pressure before. That being said, Price is also defensively nonexistent and an opportunistic power striker of the sort that Means tends to carve up handily. In the end Price is neither the takedown threat nor the striking technician to throw Means off his game. Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Means is just a much much better moment-to-moment fighter than Price. Price has been a dangerous offensive, porous defensive fighter for his UFC tenure, and largely succeeded due to wild singular points of offensive potency. Means can get stuck fighting down to competition, or out-hustled in continuous exchanges, but he’s generally a much more technical, crafty fighter everywhere than Price. As Means has never been KO’d it’d be down to Price to catch him in a surprise submission. That seems like to wild a bet. Tim Means by decision.
Staff picking Price: Nick, Stephie, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Means: Phil, Shak, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Harry
Ben Rothwell vs. Blagoy Ivanov
Mookie Alexander: This is going to be an ugly fight and you will not like it. Ben Rothwell by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I think this fight will be sort of terrible? Both like to counter, but Rothwell is a bit more likely to do so off pressure and forward movement, and is a more willing combination puncher. He’s also just a lot bigger, and his handsy, parry and return style seems like it would play fairly well with Ivanov’s short man overhands. Rothwell’s never been the greatest defensive wrestler, but Ivanov struggled to outwrestle Alexander Volkov and I doubt he could keep Rothwell down anyway. Ben Rothwell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Ben Rothwell is bigger, and busier, and both men are intensely tough. Ivanov isn’t a bad heavyweight, but to date his career is entirely built off trucking severely under-skilled competition. Rothwell’s high output, aggressive style seems much more made to win elite level fights than Ivanov’s hope of landing big kill shots or scaring off opponents into inactivity. Ben Rothwell by decision.
Staff picking Rothwell: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Shak, Dayne, Fraser, Harry, Zane
Staff picking Ivanov: Tim
Beneil Dariush vs. Drew Dober
Mookie Alexander: Dariush should win this fight, but his cardio is both not good and his durability is a huge liability. If he can take Dober down then he’ll style on him on the mat, but while he’s a good offensive striker with power, Dariush is there to be hit and Dober is capable of stringing together enough volume that could fluster Beneil. I don’t know… I’m feeling an upset here. Drew Dober by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: In the same way that Dariush’s style hit a bit of a wall at the top of the division, Dober’s style seems likely to hit a similar one against Dariush. Dober is well rounded but lacks a singular area he can challenge in: he’s a decent kickboxer, but Dariush is more powerful and aggressive. He’s an underrated wrestler, but Dariush is both a better takedown threat and a far better pure grappler. The only real advantage Dober has is durability, so perhaps he can force exchanges and pull Dariush into a big hook, but that’s the only path to victory for him. Beneil Dariush by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Dober has quietly rounded himself into a very competitive talent everywhere, but I don’t see any signs that he’s a dominant fighter anywhere or a fighter looking to impose a specific game on opposition. He hit the UFC as a tough, high volume, low power striker, but that’s a hard style to make work in weight classes where most fighters have reasonably technical kickboxing and the ability to take fights to other skills. He’s become more powerful, and a better wrestler, but against Dariush’s pressure boxing and wrestle-grappling, I think Dober would have to really bite down and take the fight to Dariush in a way that I don’t think he has the technique or defense to easily maintain. More likely Dariush pushes him to the cage and either slows him down, or even takes him down and gets a chance to out-grapple him. Beneil Dariush by decision.
Staff picking Dariush: Nick, Stephie, Phil. Shak, Dayne, Fraser, Zane
Staff picking Dober: Tim, Mookie, Harry
Omari Akhmedov vs. Tim Boetsch
Mookie Alexander: This is extremely middleweight. Tim Boetsch by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Winning a couple of huge upsets has left Boetsch facing wildly disparate levels of competition, which makes it a bit tricky to figure out exactly how well he does against a ham’n’egger like Akhmedov. While Akhmedov has figured out a functional leg kicks and right hands game over his time in the UFC, his tendency to fade over time hasn’t gone away. Boetsch is still a decent counterpuncher and if he has a strength advantage over the opponent he remains quite happy to bully them. Tim Boetsch by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Without a consistent range tool or the kind of high athleticism grappling game that has always given Boetsch fits, it’s tough to see exactly where Akhmedov can excel. Just trading power shots with Boetsch has always been an intensely chancy proposition. It’s worked for Hendo and Ed Herman, but Akhemdov is predictable to the point that he’s rarely every a KO threat. I expect Boetsch sneaky range kicking game will give Akhmedov fits trying to get inside and there he’ll have to deal with Boetsch’s clinch power punching. Tim Boetsch by KO, round 2.
Staff picking Akhmedov: Nick, Tim, Shak, Fraser
Staff picking Boetsch: Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Zane
Sergio Moraes vs. Anthony Rocco Martin
Phil Mackenzie: In some alternative world, Sergio Moraes just relentlessly works a body lock on Tony Martin and takes him down, and potentially submits him. That’s a world where Moraes bothers to grapple. As it is, he’s going to come at Martin winging huge, weird overhands and Martin will pick him off. Moraes remains incredibly tough and crafty so it may be close. Anthony Rocco Martin by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Partially, I’m just kind of a mark for Moraes, but I also think he may provide two key problems for Martin here. One, he’s fairly fearless. And two, he’s a much much better grappler. Martin has tended to thrive less on his defensive wrestling and more on a surprisingly crafty sub game over the years. The LaFlare fight showed that he may just be able to shut that threat down with footwork, but if Moraes is willing to stay relentless like he was against Means and Saunders, I think he’ll find the openings he needs. I’ll pick Moraes to get the takedowns and find the subs, but if he can’t Martin has the counter-punching to play hell with Moraes’ wild striking entries. Sergio Moraes by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Moraes: Tim, Zane
Staff picking Martin: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Shak, Dayne, Fraser, Harry
Marion Reneau vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Phil Mackenzie: There’s a real chance that Reneau just gets outworked here. Kunitskaya is a far lesser athlete, but she’s also much younger and more active, and Reneau often tends to take what the fight gives her. That being said, she’s also extremely tough and can generally summon up at a few bursts of dynamic, round-or-fight-winning offense. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Reneau is a better athlete, better grappler, better striker, and maybe even a better wrestler. But she also tries infinitely less hard to win fights. There’s a reason her fight with Bethe Correia was a draw, mostly because Reneau couldn’t put her foot on the gas at all until round 3. Kunitskaya is less able to pressure than Correia was, but she’s also much bigger and a better athlete. That was enough for Ashlee Evans-Smith. Yana Kunitskaya via decision.
Staff picking Reneau: Nick, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Shak, Dayne, Fraser, Harry
Staff picking Kunitskaya: Tim, Zane
Julian Erosa vs. Grant Dawson
Phil Mackenzie: Something of a flyer here, but I feel like Erosa is a Roopinator at heart, who can elbow and knee grapplers to his heart’s content but who kind of sucks against any kind of dynamic striker. Dawson has remained a wrestler and sub hunter so I think Erosa can strand and outwork him. Julian Erosa by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Erosa is an extremely crafty vet with a style made to flummox less athletic or less skilled competition. That could be Dawson. Dawson’s striking is still pretty raw. But he seems like a big, reasonably powerful, grinding wrestler with a relentless style. And Erosa has been as beatable against better athletes as he is difficult to beat against poor ones. I get the feeling Dawson pushes through the bad spots standing to get his takedowns. Grant Dawson by decision.
Staff picking Erosa: Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Shak, Fraser, Harry
Staff picking Dawson: Nick, Tim, Dayne, Zane
Jeff Hughes vs. Maurice Greene
Mookie Alexander: I can’t go against the former fastest man in the world. Maurice Greene in 9.86 seconds.
Phil Mackenzie: Maurice Greene is a reasonably dynamic heavyweight pickup who got ground out by a big tough guy prior to joining the UFC. The big tough guy was, uh, Jeff Hughes...? Weird. Jeff Hughes by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Greene caught a shocking sub off his back last time out. But he was also instantly pressured into an easy takedown by a much less athletic heavyweight. That seems like it plays right into Hughes’ game, and I trust Greene to get taken down a lot more than I trust him to find sneaky subs. Jeff Hughes by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Hughes: Nick, Tim, Stephie, Shak, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Greene: Mookie, Fraser, Harry
Louis Smolka vs. Matt Schnell
Phil Mackenzie: Should this go to the mat, it’ll be a hell of a lot of fun. That being said, Smolka isn’t a powerful wrestler and is just kind of a bad striker. I was impressed with Schnell when he beat Inoue with a disciplined out-fighting performance, and I think Smolka is frankly a step down and the same strategy should work even more effectively. Matt Schnell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I just don’t trust anything about where Smolka is at right now. His post UFC run was built all against the lowest end of competition, and in the win that got him back in the promotion he looked like kind of a mess. Schnell is most competitive as a scrambling grappler, where Smolka will look to push the fight, and seems like a faster, more technical kickboxer. Schnell may be easier to finish, but Smolka isn’t any kind of puncher. Matt Schnell by decision.
Staff picking Smolka: Nick, Tim, Dayne, Fraser, Harry
Staff picking Schnell: Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Shak, Zane
Zak Ottow vs. Alex Morono
Phil Mackenzie: Good lord this might be the most middleweight fight ever to be fought at 170. Ottow is a slightly better athlete in that he has at least some advantageous physical
attributes (he is quite strong and hits reasonably hard). Morono pushes a much better pace than the glacial Ottow, but this has to be one of the rare fights where Ottow actually has a genuine hand and footspeed advantage. Cripes. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Zak Ottow by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Much like Reneau, Ottow is likely the better wrestler, striker, athlete, and maybe even grappler than Morono... but he just doesn’t work very hard to win. His strikes landed per minute is a pretty abysmal 2.6 and he really didn’t deserve that last win over Dwight Grant. Morono is more hurtable and wild everywhere, but he’s also much more likely to push for the win each and every round. Alex Morono by decision.
Staff picking Ottow: Nick, Tim, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Shak, Fraser, Harry
Staff picking Morono: Dayne, Zane
Alex White vs. Dan Moret
Phil Mackenzie: I guess the question here is: has Alex White learned to stop people just bumrushing him and taking him down? And the answer is, like: probably not? Dan Moret by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: White likely holds a big power punching advantage in the pocket. But, he’s not any kind of consistent range fighter and has otherwise been ground out on the floor by everyone who could get him there. Moret tends to leap through distance to throw busy combinations that put himself in danger, so he could easily get cracked. But he’s also a reasonably aggressive wrestle grappler. In the end, I’ve just seen White find too many ways to lose to pick him to win. Dan Moret by decision.
Staff picking White: Nick, Tim, Dayne, Harry
Staff picking Moret: Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Shak, Fraser, Zane
Who wins the UFC Wichita main event?
This poll is closed
JDS by stoppage
Lewis by stoppage
JDS by decision
Lewis by decision