The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC Minneapolis, and there’s a slight edge for Francis Ngannou over Junior dos Santos in the main event. As for the co-main, most of us are picking Joseph Benavidez to make it 2-0 against Jussier Formiga.
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. Francis Ngannou
Mookie Alexander: Really glad we didn’t get unanimous choices on this one or else we’d have a serious problem on our hands. My gut feeling is that dos Santos can leg kick and jab his way into building a lead against Ngannou, who is extremely powerful but doesn’t have nearly the technical depth that JDS has. Unfortunately, and it really sounds simplistic to just pick Ngannou for this reason, having stupid amounts of power can erase everything in an instant. Ngannou may be a counter-striker by trade but if there’s even one moment where dos Santos’ backed up against the fence then this is going to be his doom. As Phil Mackenzie notes, dos Santos has never been unhittable, and… well… Francis is almost certainly going to have opportunities to hit him really hard. Francis Ngannou by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: On the surface, this seems like another fight JDS should be able to carefully pick his way through. A heavy-handed power-puncher with limited depth to his game. But, there are a few factors that make this a much more dangerous fight for JDS than his battles against Tuivasa, Ivanov, and Lewis. Notably, unlike Lewis and Ivanov, Ngannou is a difficult fighter to put on his back foot with strikes alone. And unlike Tuivasa and Lewis, Ngannou is a more natural counter-striker. He’s never more dangerous than when his opponent is coming after him. Given that JDS has never prided himself on any kind of persistent wrestling game, and has his own problems with getting backed to the cage and letting his guard down, there are just a few too many chances for Ngannou to land the exact punch he needs to change this fight. JDS may very well be winning comfortably right up until he loses, but I get the feeling that loss is coming. Francis Ngannou via KO, round 2.
Staff picking JDS: Phil, Tim, Ed
Staff picking Ngannou: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Zane
Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez
Mookie Alexander: Formiga’s striking has gotten significantly better, and of course he’s as dangerous as ever on the ground. But he’s still not represented the type of fighter that Benavidez has lost to. Benavidez has declined a bit and he’s not as quick as he used to be, so I expect a closer fight than in 2013, but he should still have what it takes to shut down Formiga’s grappling game and win a fairly competitive kickboxing match. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: A few things have changed since these two first fought, most notably the dissolve of the flyweight division around them. But, Formiga is also a more technical, considered striker than he was in their first meeting. And much more comfortable working in the ranges Joe-B had so much success. Benavidez, for his part, may be a touch slower on the feet (although that’s hard to put too much stock into with some recent performances looking a bit flat and others looking just as dynamic as ever). But, the simple fact remains, it’s pretty much always taken more than a controlling grappling game to beat Benavidez. And while Formiga is a more comfortable striker and wrestler, he’s still not an especially dangerous one. This fight will likely be much closer, and I won’t be surprised to see it go all 3 rounds. But I think Benavidez will likely just be landing the bigger, harder shots all the way through. Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Staff picking Formiga: Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Benavidez: Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Ed
Demian Maia vs. Anthony Rocco Martin
Mookie Alexander: The Lyman Good fight really confirmed that I shouldn’t really be going against Maia against unranked fighters until he actually starts losing or looking very vulnerable against unranked fighters. Anthony Rocco Martin is significantly improved and he might be able to win this with range kickboxing, but otherwise every other sign points to a Maia takedown and submission. Demian Maia by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: Martin still has problems getting taken down by aggressive chain wrestlers. His footwork has improved a lot to limit those opportunities, but Maia’s closing footwork is also massively underrated. If Maia can’t chase Martin down early and consistently, he very well may get stuck at range and picked apart. But even in his losses, most fighters have ended up fighting off his single legs over and over and over and over again. I don’t trust Martin to be able to do that. Demian Maia by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Maia: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed
Staff picking Martin:
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Vinc Pichel
Mookie Alexander: Tight call. Not really sold on Roberts’ striking and Pichel does possess power, but Roberts is more consistent offensively and should have the key physical advantages that may swing the difference here. Roosevelt Roberts by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: A real step up for Roberts, who has a lot of flashy fascinating tools in his kit, but has yet to meet a fighter he couldn’t bully or out-maneuver along the way. Pichel has become a much better counter-puncher to go with his meat-n-potatoes grimey wrestling, but his striking tends to work in fits and starts. And when he’s getting his own pace, it doesn’t seem to be the fastest one. If Roberts can’t control the clinch or take Pichel down, this fight could be razor thin out at range. But, Pichel has struggled with aggressive takedown games in the past, and I think Roberts can stay busy enough everywhere to edge out points. Roosevelt Roberts by decision.
Staff picking Roberts: Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Zane
Staff picking Pichel: Dayne, Tim, Ed
Drew Dober vs. Marco Polo Reyes
Mookie Alexander: Dober has shown some power in his game recently and he has been willing to throw down in the pocket, which is perhaps ill-advised against Reyes, but Dober has the better chin and he’s also the better wrestler. This seems like all the advantages are in Dober’s favor. Drew Dober by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Reyes may have the advantage when it comes to brawling in the pocket, just for comfort and consistency. But, Dober has added a lot of power to his hands lately, by sitting down on more of his strikes, and has backstopped that with a functional wrestling game. Reyes is still just too dependent on sitting down in the pocket and trading. It sets him up to be taken down too easily. And Dober’s classically fantastic chin should be enough to ride out rough spots and take over this fight on the mats. Drew Dober by decision.
Staff picking Dober: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Reyes: Ed
Alonzo Menifield vs. Paul Craig
Mookie Alexander: As long as Menifield doesn’t just willingly dive right into Craig’s dangerous guard then he’s going to beat up Paul badly. Alonzo Menifield by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I don’t know that I’ll ever pick Craig to win a UFC fight, at least not against an opponent with a clear athletic advantage over him. His combination of range kicking, clinch aggression, and guard grappling, sets him up to get hurt way too many ways. However, there’s also no reason he can’t win this fight. Menifield is an incredibly raw, limited talent with some big power and some speed, and not much else. If he doesn’t KO Craig quick, he could easily dive into guard and get himself armbarred. Still, until that happens, he’ll likely be putting a beating on Craig. Alonzo Menifield via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Menifield: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed
Staff picking Craig:
Journey Newson vs. Ricardo Ramos
Zane Simon: Newson has a lot of size going against him in a fight with a creative range kicker like Ramos. He has good hands and if he can get into the pocket consistently, he may very well crack Ramos there. But, outside, I expect him to get frustrated by Ramos’ range. And I’m not at all convinced that he can win grappling scrambles if he can force the fight to the mat. A tough debut against a long, tall bantamweight. Ricardo Ramos via decision.
Staff picking Newson:
Staff picking Ramos: Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed, Mookie
Eryk Anders vs. Vinicius Moreira
Zane Simon: If Moreira just circled away from Anders and threw front kicks at him, he might just win this. Anders’ reliance on a long left hand, coupled with poor footwork and a lack of counter punching, leave him uniquely limited as a power striker. But, Moreira probably doesn’t have the footwork to stay away, and is insanely stiff when striking. He’s also unlikely to get someone as strong as Anders down easily. Eryk Anders via KO round 1.
Staff picking Anders: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed
Staff picking Moreira:
Jared Gordon vs. Dan Moret
Zane Simon: Moret has a little pop in his hands and is a super aggressive grappler, but if this is going to be a battle of consistent aggression, I trust Gordon’s gas tank and striking game a lot more. Gordon’s shown that he can walk through a lot of damage to push a hellacious pace, and Moret’s inability to implement his takedown game against Alex White for a win asks a lot of questions about his ability to compete at 155. Jared Gordon via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Gordon: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed
Staff picking Moret:
Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Dequan Townsend
Zane Simon: Okay, there’s really no good reason to pick either way here. Both Lungiambula and Townsend are super under-developed grapplers. Lungiambula is likely the more powerful, dynamic athlete, but he also operates at about half the pace that Townsend does, and is a 5’ 10” light heavyweight. Flip side of that, of course, is that Townsend himself is a former welterweight, even if he’s 5” taller. I’ll take Lungiambula, just because I think he’s got the physicality to lose most of this fight and put Townsend out with one flurry. But in reality? No clue. Dalcha Lungiambula via KO, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: The UFC made these names up. Dalcha Lungiambula by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Lungiambula: Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed
Staff picking Townsend:
Emily Whitmire vs. Amanda Ribas
Zane Simon: Ribas is wildly aggressive, and if Whitmire can’t control her on the mat, she may lose just based on willingness to stand in the pocket and trade strikes. However, Whitmire’s boxing and wrestling look like they’ve improved a ton since her time on TUF. And if she can hit good takedowns into control positions, that’s a lot more consistency than Ribas has ever shown in her fights. Emily Whitmire by decision.
Staff picking Whitmire: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Ed
Staff picking Ribas:
Maurice Greene vs. Junior Albini
Mookie Alexander: This card doesn’t get you hyped? Two Brazilian heavyweights named Junior! Okay, one is way more exciting and accomplished than the other… but still! Maurice Greene by decision.
Zane Simon: Albini is probably more likely to get tired while winning, but Greene’s strike selection is so funky that I’m not sure he can take over this fight, even if Albini is gassed. I just trust Albini more to stick to basics, and plug away for an ugly win. But he might also fall on top of Greene and instantly get triangled, so who knows? Junior Albini, by decision.
Staff picking Greene: Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Ed
Staff picking Albini: Dayne, Tim, Zane
Who wins the UFC Minneapolis main event?
This poll is closed
JDS by stoppage
Ngannou by stoppage
JDS by decision
Ngannou by decision