The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for Saturday’s UFC Ottawa card and uh... uh oh. I didn’t realize everyone was actually picking Al Iaquinta over Donald Cerrone in the main event. Honestly I thought more would be picking Cerrone than “Raging” Al, or at least the picks would be split. If history is a guide, Cowboy is going to KO Iaquinta and we’ll have egg on our faces again.
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.
Donald Cerrone vs. Al Iaquinta
Mookie Alexander: Wait are we seriously all going with Iaquinta? Have we learned nothing about going unanimously towards one fighter in main events? It’s been a complete mess as of late and it feels in this particular instance like an unfair representation of how genuinely close this fight is. Now to get this out of the way, I don’t expect Iaquinta to be in serious trouble on the ground despite Cerrone’s outstanding sub game, as the Khabib and Kevin Lee fights sold me on the idea that he’s gotten that much better from when he was getting choked out by Mitch Clarke. Cerrone is the more varied striker of the two and it’s not as if Iaquinta hasn’t been hurt before, he’s just really tough to finish. But Iaquinta has dangerous pocket boxing and he will be told by Ray Longo to go the body often, and we know Cerrone’s history of dealing with body shots. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he was willing to use his wrestling and take Cowboy down. Cerrone’s path to victory is quite clear given he throws in combination more than Al does, unleashes some serious offense in the clinch, and his kicks could be a major x-factor here. That said, I gotta go with Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Cerrone is still an intensely dangerous, proven finisher, so the chances of him getting a win aren’t nearly as lopsided as the straight up picks might suggest. But, Iaquinta is incredibly tough, and hasn’t been submitted for quite some time now, even against excellent wrestlers and grapplers. So outside of Cerrone pulling out some miracle sub, the question is, can he stay elusive enough to keep Iaquinta from just walking him down, or can he consistently come out on top in pocket exchanges. I’m just not confident of either of those things. Iaquinta isn’t the most diverse striker, but he’s become a better and better pocket boxer with good eyes for incoming strikes and an ability to both counter and pressure as needed. Maybe Cerrone can just pop a jab and stay on his back foot like Khabib did, but I’m not sure he has the raw speed for it. Al Iaquinta by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Cerrone:
Staff picking Iaquinta: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Shak
Derek Brunson vs. Elias Theodorou
Mookie Alexander: My god. How am I supposed to top Phil’s analysis? Derek Brunson by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This fight is amazing. One guy is going to go wbllaaarrrrrgghhh and the other is going to gallop around the cage trying to dislocate his own arm throwing jabs. wbllaaarrrrgghhh has actually been pretty decent at fighting movement-heavy opponents (Machida, Larkin, Hall) who aren’t all that defensively nuanced beyond their footspeed, because he will just sell out in order to get his hands on the opponent, and even though he lost the Anderson fight it genuinely was something of a robbery. Theodorou’s safety zone of the clinch can be taken away from him by more aggressive, powerful clinch fighters and better technical wrestlers (Santos, Tavares) and wbllaaarrrrgghhh is both. This actually seems a pretty tough matchup for Theodorou, although I would not be at all surprised to see his opponent get trapped into some deadly middle ground between utter passivity and being a complete loon because... well. Theodorou’s pure toughness remains absolutely ridiculous so Derek Brunson by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I just do not have any trust or faith in Brunson over multiple rounds. His big bursts of offense are wild and can be punishing, but when he doesn’t finish a fight in the first couple minutes, he doesn’t tend to carry his aggression all that consistently and he doesn’t tend to win. Just on raw physicality and skill this seems like it should be a Brunson pick, but I can’t shake this feeling that Theodorou can just be tough and active and make that enough to win this fight. Elias Theodorou by decision.
Staff picking Brunson: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Fraser
Staff picking Theodorou: Zane, Shak
Cub Swanson vs. Shane Burgos
Mookie Alexander: I would’ve picked Swanson to win this two years ago, but I feel like this is the moment in time where he starts losing to guys who aren’t in the top-five. Shane Burgos is one of my favorites to watch. Burgos has excellent body attacks and is willing to bite down on his mouthpiece and fire off some seriously powerful shots. This may, in theory, be ill-advised against Swanson, who still should have some level of offensive potency, and it’s not like we didn’t see Burgos pieced up late by Calvin Kattar last year. But I feel like Swanson’s durability may be waning and he’s certainly not in his athletic prime anymore. I’m going with Shane Burgos by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Like the main event, a big part of this seems to be “how much do you trust this aging action fighter” and based on the picks which are coming in, the results are “not that much”? Swanson just doesn’t appear to have a style which would age that well (huge explosions, shocking movements, general unpredictability). His big performance of recent years was against Doo Ho Choi, where he endlessly forced Choi backwards with blitzing offense, but Burgos simply isn’t the defensive void that Choi is. Instead his problem is closer to the other end of the spectrum: he gets so caught up in how slick he can be that he can get tricked. Burgos is clearly not unhurtable, and similarly Swanson’s power has clearly not completely left him... but it’s worth noting that his last finish was Dennis Siver, so do I trust him to be in there with a huge, skilled, diverse and youthful power puncher for 3 rounds? Shane Burgos by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: There are certain style matchups that I feel fairly certain a late-stage Cub Swanson just won’t win. Put him in with a big, dangerous grappler? Sooner or later he’ll get himself in trouble. A high energy wrestle-boxer? He’s never been so defensively sound against either punches or takedowns for me to feel like he can defend against both continuously. But, a high volume power striker who just wants to go in and bang it out? I’m not at all convinced that’s the recipe to beat Swanson yet, and Burgos’ resume doesn’t exactly inspire the absolute confidence that he has the pure tools to do it. Burgos is a fun pressure oriented power striker who lovies to rely on his chin to create prolonged exchanges (even when he’s shown he can have deft defensive movement). It brought him up through the regionals, but it’s meant his UFC bouts have all been tougher than it feels like they should be. If Burgos is just going to go out there and get into the pocket and see who can throw more strikes and last longer, I’m still taking Cub Swanson to win that fight. Cub Swanson by decision.
Staff picking Swanson: Dayne, Fraser, Zane, Shak
Staff picking Burgos: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Brad Katona vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Mookie Alexander: Low-key one of the better fights on the card. Dvalishvili is an aggressive wrestler but he has a huge problem keeping guys down and doing enough to convincingly win rounds on the scorecards. And unfortunately he suffered a somewhat controversial last-second loss to Ricky Simon. Katona will be scrambling with him aplenty and I think he’s the better striker. This is going to be fast-paced and crazy, and it’s hard to pick a winner. I’m backing Brad “M-m-m-my” Katona by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: All the main card fights thus far should be pretty rad, for varying reasons. This one should be that variety of high paced, wrestle grappling aggression which often populates the lower weight classes. Dvalishvili has been fairly unfortunate in his UFC career thus far, with a debatable loss to Saenz and a last-second (even more debatable) sub to Simon, but he’s an dervish of activity. Despite his wrestling background, Katona has not shown bulletproof TDD, but has instead been able to scramble back to his feet adeptly and still put out offense, and he remains the cleaner striker. However, his pace slowed notably against Lopez, who is not the machine that Dvalishvili is. Merab Dvalishvili by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is a damn tough fight to pick. Dvalishvili is a crazy aggressive wrestler and takedown artist. But, he hasn’t quite made himself a devastatingly damaging fighter. So much so that even with three fairly successful wrestling-heavy performances, he still lost two fights. I’m not so sure that being able to hold Terrion Ware down for a decision suddenly makes Dvalishvili more potent. Katona doesn’t have the best takedown defense, but he’s good at scrambling up. He punches moving forward and backwards, he’s tough, and I think he’s strong enough to make Dvalishvili work. I do think Dvalishvili will have lots of time to successfully wrestle, but I’m not yet convinced that means an automatic win. Brad Katona by split decision.
Staff picking Katona: Nick, Dayne, Zane, Shak, Mookie
Staff picking Dvalishvili: Stephie, Phil, Fraser
Walt Harris vs. Sergey Spivak
Mookie Alexander: This fight seems completely out of place on the main card, especially since the original plan was Harris vs. Oleinik. Anyway, Spivak looks like someone who can actually have some lower-level success in the UFC based on what he’s done on the regional scene, but Harris is probably a step too far for him. Harris is the better athlete and a powerful hitter who is capable of putting on some good performances (the Arlovski fight obviously has been wiped out of my memory). Walt Harris by TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Aaaand here’s where the main card somewhat predictably takes a dive which the card itself probably won’t recover from (taken in reverse chronological order anyway). Harris hasn’t really lost a fight in years apart from his ill-fated and utterly predictable submission loss to Werdum. He’s still a reasonably composed, powerful, and admittedly shallow southpaw sniper. Spivak is honestly, like... fine? He’s a decent-by-heavyweight-standards boxer who is a nascent 24 years old, and has the requisite Travis Fulton and Tony Lopez wins on his resume. He’s probably not going to win because he’s likely never faced a good kicker, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Walt Harris by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Spivak is aggressive. But, by heavyweight standards he doesn’t seem like a terrifically powerful puncher, and I’m not so sure that if his competition wasn’t better, his aggression wouldn’t turn into wild panic. Harris has real problems putting together offense in a low paced bout, but when he’s got unpolished heavyweights trying to put the screws to him, he almost always wins big. Walt Harris via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Harris: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Shak
Staff picking Spivak:
Marc-Andre Berriault vs. Andrew Sanchez
Mookie Alexander: Are we sure Marc-Andre Berriault isn’t a third-line forward for an ECHL team or something? Andrew Sanchez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: The possible ace up Berriault’s sleeve is that he likely doesn’t get himself as tired while putting together successful offense as Andrew Sanchez has tended to. Sanchez’s win of Perez showed real development in pacing and shot selection, so I have hopes that he’s solved his gassing problems, but that will likely always linger in the background as a possibility. Otherwise, Sanchez is just better at all the same things Berriault does. He’s a better striker, a better wrestler, and plays a similar punch into the clinch and work for takedowns from there kind of game. There’s no reason Sanchez shouldn’t win this, unless he starts fighting like he can’t possibly get tired and then gets really tired. Andrew Sanchez by decision.
Staff picking Berriault: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Shak
Staff picking Sanchez: Dayne, Phil, Zane
Sarah Moras vs. Macy Chiasson
Mookie Alexander: I just don’t see Moras as being remotely competitive enough to deal with the physicality of Chiasson. Keep in mind how she got ragdolled by (the admittedly strong) Jessica Andrade. At bantamweight. Chiasson is a former featherweight whose well-rounded game appears to be taking shape nicely. Short of some submission off of her back, I think Moras is in for a rough night. Macy Chiasson by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Chiasson is a decent prospect in a division crying out for young blood: aggressive, physical and reasonably well-rounded. Moras just doesn’t have the power to keep Chiasson off her and while it’s not impossible that Moras snags a wacky sub due to over-aggression, Chiasson should have this one well in hand as long as she has done her homework. Macy Chiasson by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Chiasson is big and athletic and powerful and seems to be putting together a reasonably functional game around her strong clinch offense. Moras has been dragging her kickboxing into shape behind her aggressive grappling, but she’s still not a consistent threat standing and is rarely strong or fast enough to get the fight to the mat in ways that can really serve her well. Maybe Chiasson dives into the guard and gets armbarred, but otherwise, Macy Chiasson via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Moras: Shak
Staff picking Chiasson: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Zane
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Vince Morales
Phil Mackenzie: Morales is pretty tough, and is a reasonably skilled boxer who returns fire in combination. This seems fairly key against Zahabi, who is unsurprisingly prototypical of the style which his brother has built, being a skilled if somewhat physically underwhelming range jabber who dislikes being drawn into dogfights. If Morales just starts to crash the pocket behind a left hook and combinations I think he can overwhelm Zahabi. Vince Morales by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Another brutally close fight. Morales is absolutely the more technical boxer, with a surprisingly deft pocket punching game and some reasonable, if inconsistent, defensive movement. He’s also a fighter with some clear gaps in his style. The speed and ease with which he gave up the sub on his DWTNCS fight is a real concern, as are his defensive lapses when jumping into the pocket to strike. Zahabi is clearly very tough (that Ramos KO was a shot that would have taken anyone out), and while not a superb athlete, reasonably aggressively capable everywhere. I can absolutely see Morales tagging Zahabi up as Zahabi rushes to close distance, but I’m just too worried that sooner or later Zahabi forces him to scramble and gets him to give up a bad submission position. Aiemann Zahabi by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Zahabi: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Shak
Staff picking Morales: Phil
Nordine Taleb vs. Kyle Prepolec
Phil Mackenzie: Prepolec is a natural lightweight with a decently well-rounded offensive game and not a ton of dynamism. Thus this fight is reminiscent of Taleb’s fight with Oliver Encamp, where even if Taleb’s more dangerous striking game can’t get rolling, he can likely just overpower and outwrestle Prepolec on the mat. Nordine Taleb by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Taleb should absolutely be able to win this fight. Prepolec is a fairly unstructured striker who has won a lot of fights by still being the more technical, composed man in the cage. When he’s not that? He tends to lose. Taleb has made a whole career out of being a composed, tough veteran striker. But, his recent bouts have been more clearly marked by some serious breakdowns in form and attention. Mistakes that have cost Taleb some bad losses. If Prepolec can just stay tough and stay aggressive and stay in the fight, I feel like sooner or later he’s going to catch Taleb out for a big debut win. Kyle Prepolec via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Taleb: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Fraser, Shak
Staff picking Prepolec: Zane
Kyle Nelson vs. Matt Sayles
Phil Mackenzie: Relatively fun and a tricky fight to call, as both men were given nigh-unwinnable debut fights (Nelson vs Carlos Diego Ferreira, Sayles vs Sheymon Moraes) and acquitted themselves quite well, with Nelson winning the first round and Sayles winning the last. Sayles seems a bit more functional and crafty, and Nelson seems more dynamic and dangerous. I guess I trust Sayles a bit more- while I’m willing to give Nelson the benefit of the doubt that Octagon jitters caused him to gas after hurting CDF, I also feel that if Sayles can dodge a wrench pressure in to get past Sheymon Moraes’ kicks, then he can also get in on Nelson. Matt Sayles by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I like Sayles’ style a lot more in this fight, and feel like he has a better chance of carrying his high output boxing style into late rounds effectively. But the size difference gives me real pause. Nelson wasn’t a huge lightweight, but he’ll be a pretty big featherweight. And Sayles is a pretty small one. Add Nelson’s aggressive power-wrestle-boxing game into the mix, and I get the feeling that if he can start fast, he can probably pick up at least the first two rounds, before Sayles’ pace starts to wear on him. Kyle Nelson by decision.
Staff picking Nelson: Dayne, Fraser, Zane
Staff picking Sayles: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Shak, Stephie
Juan Adams vs. Arjan Bhullar
Phil Mackenzie: Bhullar is increasingly looking like one of those Rosholtian wrestling crossovers who are tough and determined and hardworking and have almost no natural feel for MMA, and so are forced to woodenly pull their opponents into the area where they feel happy. Adams looks ok. He’s big and reasonably fluid and dangerous, and has a wrestling background, although I have a sneaking suspicion that his problem lies in the other direction: like early career Yoel Romero, he’s neglected his wrestling because he doesn’t think he needs to practice it. I don’t have strong feelings about this, but Adams’ size advantage is so pronounced that I guess he can hurt Bhullar a couple of times over the course of a dreadful, grinding fight where neither man looks good at the end of it. Juan Adams by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I don’t trust Adams to be as damaging a striker as he is just big at this point. He’s huge and tough, but he also wants to fight at a high pace, and gassed pretty badly last time doing it. He also almost exclusively throws arm-punches with his chin up. Ones that don’t take any advantage of the power transfer he should be getting out of his massive frame. Bhullar isn’t the biggest or best athlete at heavyweight, but he’s tough, he’s a decent wrestler, and he’s a more functional boxer. Arjan Bhullar by decision.
Staff picking Adams: Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Fraser
Staff picking Bhullar: Zane, Shak
Mitch Gagnon vs. Cole Smith
Phil Mackenzie: What does Mitch Gagnon look like now? He was once voted BE’s most underrated fighter, a fun, aggressive ball of muscle and choke submissions. He last fought over two and a half years ago, and he did not look great, losing against Matthew Lopez, who has himself been stuttering. There’s just so little out there on Smith though. Mitch Gagnon by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I don’t have any clue what Gagnon will look like in the cage this time out. But having seen the tiny amount of footage available on Smith, I also don’t see anything so amazing in it that I’d easily pick him to win a big step up in competition. He likes to grind and wrestle, but has ended up on his back a few times. And doesn’t seem like he’s a really dangerous finishing threat. At least not in a way I’d expect to translate easily to better competition... if Gagnon is still even that. End of the day, I’ll pick Gagnon, just because I know what he CAN do in fights like this. For Smith it’s entirely a show-me kind of opportunity. Mitch Gagnon via sub, round 1.
Staff picking Gagnon: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Shak
Staff picking Smith: Nick, Dayne, Fraser
Who wins the UFC Ottawa main event?
This poll is closed
Iaquinta by stoppage
Cerrone by stoppage
Iaquinta by decision
Cerrone by decision