The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC 242, and much to my surprise this is mostly a Dustin Poirier crowd, as we’re predominantly siding with Poirier to unseat Khabib Nurmagomedov as the undisputed UFC lightweight champion. As for the co-main event between Edson Barboza and Paul Felder, opinion is evenly split.
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.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
Anton Tabuena: Poirier has the tools to win, and he can definitely cause a lot more problems than McGregor or Iaquinta — particularly if he can take advantage if Khabib decides to take it slow again on one of the middle rounds. That being said, Khabib is likely to get a takedown, and his smothering game has really made talented fighters look absolutely helpless under him. I’ve had a feeling that we’re bound for an upset on this fight for a while, but until I see it happen, it’s just not really logical to pick against Khabib at this point. Khabib Nurmagomedov by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: I am shocked at how many people are picking Poirier. I thought I was being cool and different going the other way. We know Khabib has a pretty clear path to victory and he usually gets the fight he wants… but his overall lack of fights against the top-tier of lightweights mean that we still have some stylistic matchups we’ve not seen him face yet. Poirier is one of those fighters, and he’s arguably the most well-rounded striker that he’s ever faced. I can see Poirier aggressively looking for body shots and ways to… I won’t say tire Khabib out, but slow him in ways we’ve not seen other fighters slow him down. He is capable of fighting off of his back foot, he’s an excellent counterstriker, and he mixes his strike selection up beautifully. Khabib is not nearly as effective a fighter in open space as he is towards the fence, so if Poirier can keep away from there, he has a great chance to win. Poirier has the cardio to match Khabib and he’s hardly some hopeless fighter on the ground if he does get taken down… but I sure as hell wouldn’t want the fight to happen there. There’s an aura of invincibility that Khabib has that I’ve never really agreed with, and while he’s an outstanding fighter with a great resume, I don’t think Poirier has any singular defined weakness that he can exploit like he’s done with McGregor, Iaquinta, RDA, etc. I’m going for the upset! Dustin Poirier by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I can’t not pick Khabib. I just can’t. Poirier has a great mix of skills to face him. He boxes well off his back foot, he’s comfortable scrambling hard, and he has solid fight-ending power. But all varieties and levels of wrestler have been able to get him to the mat over his career. In his recent rematch against Eddie Alvarez, Alvarez wasn’t even credited with a takedown, because Poirier jumped guard for the guillotine twice when Alvarez shot. I just can’t see giving up those kinds of moments of control to someone as powerful and smothering as Khabib and then rallying back to win the fight. Add to that, that Khabib is still one of the fastest strongest lightweights in the world, and I can’t even feel too secure that Poirier will absolutely dominate him standing. Poirier is capable of fighting the perfect fight here and taking the win. But it feels like he has to be perfect. Khabib just has to be Khabib. Khabib Nurmagomedov by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I’ve kept picking against Poirier, and I’ve felt stupid about it. I’m done. Dustin Poirier, TKO, R4
Staff picking Khabib: Zane, Dayne, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Poirier: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Lewis, Nick, Fraser
Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
Anton Tabuena: This should be fun either way, and I expect both fighters to have their moments, but if that’s really the case, I don’t have much faith in Barboza as he has taken an insane amount of damage recently. Paul Felder by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: If Barboza has this fight out of at no closer than mid-range for the majority of the contest, then it’s going to be another win because Felder is neither faster nor is he going to withstand those Barboza kicks on a consistent basis. It boils down to Felder working on improving his strategy such that he can effectively and smartly pressure Barboza, at which point Barboza’s game just completely falls apart. Another thing to consider: Barboza has taken some SERIOUS damage over the past couple of years. He’s absorbed 360+ significant strikes and at least 310 were head shots. That damage doesn’t get undone in an instant. I have to think that catches up with Barboza at some point, and perhaps that time is now. Paul Felder by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Both Barboza and Felder have improved since their last meeting. But, they’ve largely improved along the tracks of what they were already good at. Felder, to his credit, may be developing a better eye for gameplanning, but we really only have the Vick fight as evidence of that. He still very much went to war with Mike Perry and let Perry dictate the fight he wanted to have. Barboza is always becoming a slightly more difficult to break or track down version of the fighter that is absolutely allergic to pressure, but will light opponents up with speed and volume the moment they take a step back. Can Felder put together a dominant pressure gameplan? Does he have the footspeed or footwork? Or even the volume? I don’t think he does. My feeling is, much like the first time, Barboza will just be too fast and throw too much for Felder to take the win. Edson Barboza by decision.
Staff picking Barboza: Phil, Zane, Lewis, Nick, Fraser
Staff picking Felder: Ed, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Tim, Anton
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
Mookie Alexander: Not an easy fight for Makhachev because of Ramos’ grappling chops. That said, Ramos’ cardio is a question mark and I don’t think his power-shot heavy striking game will work against a more technical, composed fighter who’s also stronger and more athletic. Islam Makhachev by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Davi Ramos is a fantastic grappler. There’s no doubt about that. But how scary he is as an MMA fighter is still very much up for debate. He’s lost ugly, ugly fights to the decent competition he’s faced. And against a tough and game, but severely out-classed, Austin Hubbard he faded late and could never find the positions or strikes to put his opponent away. Makhachev is also tough, and also game, and shouldn’t be out-classed at all. If Makhachev puts the grind on Ramos, does Ramos find a sub? Does his cardio hold? Does he repeat Adriano Martins’ one-punch success? He’d have to prove it, because so far his record hasn’t. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Ramos fought a smaller, less athletic grinder than Makhachev last time out and did... OK? Makhachev has looked increasingly polished of late, and has made it through some brutally high-paced and physical fights, and while it’s possible that Ramos rushes him down and outpaces him in a Ferreira-Khabilov type situation, or even picks up an opportunistic sub, I just don’t trust Ramos to not wear down. Islam Makhachev by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Makhachev: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Ramos: Tim
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Mookie Alexander: Blaydes is hittable and Abdurakhimov has shown himself to be better than that piss-awful Derrick Lewis fight made things look. But Blaydes’ strongpoint is his wrestling, and while Abdurakhimov is good there, Blaydes is great and has the top control and ground-and-pound to make this a miserable night for Shamil. He’s yet to show much off of his back. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Abdurakhimov tends to win when he can either get to his wrestling first, or get an opponent that chases him recklessly standing. Blaydes has had a few moments of doing the latter in his career, but he’s incredibly unlikely to let Abdurakhimov do the former. Add to it that Abdurakhimov has looked pretty lost off his back when he’s been put there, and it seems like Blaydes can probably go out and get his takedown game going early and often for a wrestle-heavy win. Curtis Blaydes by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Abdurakhimov has quietly announced himself as an actually fairly decent heavyweight. He can counterpunch, pressure, wrestle and catch kicks. That makes him a deceptively tough fight for Blaydes, who hasn’t always looked comfortable when setting up his takedowns or striking, or indeed at any point when he’s not able to just physically dominate his opponents. I think he can pick up the key takedowns, but it’ll be ugly and grinding, in the early going at least. Curtis Blaydes by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Blaydes: Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Tim, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Abdurakhimov: Ed
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Mookie Alexander: Ferreira is aggressive to a fault. That basically is suicide against Mairbek Taisumov. Mairbek Taisumov by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Ferreira is a ton of fun, with a throwback “I dare you to take me down” striking style. He pursues opponents hard, with long combinations, and even has a little pop in his hands. To back that up, he’s also an incredibly high level, aggressive jiu-jitsu grappler, who can attack from all positions. However, fighters who are just better strikers than he is - who don’t want to take him down - they’re the ones that beat him. Taisumov is just a better striker than Ferreira. And is an especially devastating counter-puncher; a huge problem for a guy who likes to wade in on his opponents with both hands throwing. Mairbek Taisumov via KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Not much to add to Zane- CDF has been great fun of late, but he tends to rely on people being scared off by his aggression. If they’re not then he’s often just walking into a big counter. Mairbek Taisumov by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Taisumov: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Ferreira: Tim
Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee
Mookie Alexander: Weird matchmaking. Lee is on the rise and Calderwood basically forfeited any sort of offense in the last minute of her fight with Katlyn Chookagian because she surely thought she was ahead. It should be a good-paced striking match, but Lee has better counters and her improved wrestling and grappling spell bad news for JoJo. Andrea Lee by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Lee seems like she’s been sharpening up her combination kickboxing technique. Great to see, since she’s got some sharp fundamentals to work with. She’s also a sneakily decent wrestler and top-position grappler. And just kind of a big, strong force at 125 lbs. For Calderwood, her technical wrestling and grappling games have both stepped up a lot lately. But there’s still a sense that anyone with the physical edge on her can just kind of beat her up. She’s especially got problems with her striking defense and sense of range. If she can’t get Lee down and control her, I don’t think she’ll be the one landing the bigger, better punches. Andrea Lee by decision.
Staff picking Calderwood: Ed, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Lee: Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Nick, Fraser
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy
Anton Tabuena: Remember when Dana said this guy would never fight in the UFC again? Anyway, Zubaira Tukhugov by decision.
Zane Simon: Murphy looks like a fun prospect. A powerful, one-shot counterpunching sniper with some offensive wrestling and GnP tools to fall back on. But, he’s also been almost exclusively a can crusher to date; fighting other strikers who either have less power or no wrestling chops at all. Tukhugov is kind of a mess, but it’s a whirling, violent mess that can compete everywhere. He almost always drops from way outside into the pocket with wild, power strikes (ones that can get him countered hard), but he’s extremely fast and pretty strong in his own right, and can’t be easily out-wrestled or out-grappled. For a fighter like Murphy, who’s never really had an opponent that could fight back everywhere, I expect Tukhugov to be a wakeup call. Zubaira Tukhugov by decision.
Staff picking Tukhugov: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Tim, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Murphy:
Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras
Zane Simon: Jojua has fought 5 rounds and can drive through on a double leg. That may not actually be enough; Moras is a very fast starter, who has shown some good technical improvement at times. But, I think the basic athletic mismatch here is just going to be too much... again. Moras has been fading quickly in fights. And she has trouble with hitting great takedown entries that she can’t finish and ends up pulling guard from her knees. Jojua may just chase her to the mat and end up in a submission. But, if that doesn’t happen? Liana Jojua by decision.
Staff picking Jojua: Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Moras: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Teemu Packalen vs. Ottman Azaitar
Zane Simon: Azaitar seems like the definition of a can crusher. A fighter without the basic skills to really compete at a meaningful level internationally. But, fed a steady diet of guys who showed up to lose. I’m still picking him here. Packalen has flashes of technique as a striker and wrestler, but they seem like incredibly uncomfortable flashes. He’s mostly been a grappler that gets by in the scramble against other willing grapplers. And in the case of Mickael Lebout, even that wasn’t enough. I just don’t see enough wrestling or striking in his game to make me trust that he easily gets but someone who only wants to swing haymakers at him. But it’s also been a couple years, so maybe that’s all changed. Ottman Azaitar via TKO, round 1
Staff picking Packalen: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Azaitar: Zane, Dayne, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato
Mookie Alexander: *Fort Minor music plays* Remember the Name by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Sato has some good, slick counterpunching. And he can even lead a bit to draw out offense. But, it’s still not an entirely active style. And it’s not one that seems to have many other levels beyond headhunting. Muhammad has been out-slicked and out-gunned by a faster counterpuncher in Geoff Neal just recently. But, I’d be pretty surprised if Sato can pull out the same game to the same effect. More likely that Muhammad gets his jab going and stays tough and active enough to win rounds as Sato tries to pick him off. Or, maybe he even mixes in enough successful takedowns to just take away the competitive aspect entirely. Belal Muhammad by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Sato picked up a nice win over Saunders, but I’m not sure that I see a coherent fighter there, more an opportunist with some decent countering skills. Belal Remember The Name Muhammed is still skilled enough in the standup to beat Tim Means, and he’s a decent and relentless wrestler. Belal Remember The Name Muhammad by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Muhammad: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Tim, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Sato:
Nordine Taleb vs. Muslim Salikhov
Zane Simon: Either Taleb gets KO’d or he’s gonna win a decision. Salikhov is absolutely dangerous enough to end Taleb’s night quickly if Taleb makes any bad mistakes like he did against Strickland or Silva. But, Taleb also looked perfectly composed in his last outing, against Kyle Prepolec. And Salikhov really just doesn’t throw very much at all. He’s all about pushing forward and trying to draw out an error so he can land that one perfect kill shot. But, against a very seasoned veteran capable of keeping range and keeping his strikes long? Feels like Taleb can avoid the KO and just out-work Salikhov for the decision win. Nordine Taleb by decision
Staff picking Taleb: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Tim, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Salikhov: Dayne
Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings
Zane Simon: A couple years ago, I think I would have picked Cummings every time in this fight. Whether he was finishing bouts or not, his wins tended to feel much more decisive. A fighter capable of putting together some power combinations in the pocket, and slick submissions on the ground, all while generally being incredibly tough to beat. But, whether the Prazeres fight just exposed a hole in his game that other fighters are leaning on, or whether age is creeping in on him, lately his performances have been flat. Most notably, he just doesn’t have many range tools. He’s either trading in the pocket, or getting plugged from outside. For Akhmedov, trading in the pocket and following up with some competitive (but not dominating wrestling) used to be all he did. But against Tim Boetsch, he showed a much more composed, consistent kickboxing game. Working multiple levels, using combinations, even throwing a jab! If he can do that, I think he can take this win. Omari Akhmedov by decision.
Staff picking Akhmedov: Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Phil, Anton
Staff picking Cummings: Ed, Dayne, Tim, Nick, Fraser
Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam
Zane Simon: Ziam is a tricky clinch fighter with some decent counters and a willingness to hit takedowns from the bodylock. But, I don’t think he has the speed or the power to keep up with Madge, especially not if he can’t control clinch exchanges. Madge has big problems with getting put on his back, but he seems to know how to fight his way up from there, and has a ton of composure. Ziam seems like he’s still trying to figure out just exactly what he wants to do in the cage, and if he’s got any indecision, Madge will probably take advantage. Don Madge by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Madge: Ed, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Tim, Nick, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Ziam:
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