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UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje staff picks and predictions

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC 249 card in Jacksonville, FL.

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It’s been awhile, but staff picks are back! The BE team has made its predictions for UFC 249, and most of us are backing Justin Gaethje to win the UFC interim lightweight title over Tony Ferguson. As for the co-main event, we are tempting fate by unanimously picking Henry Cejudo over Dominick Cruz for the men’s bantamweight strap.

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.

Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje

Anton Tabuena: If this happened on April 18, I would’ve picked Ferguson, but with a few more weeks of conditioning, it becomes less of a short notice fight and their styles suddenly matter even more. Gaethje has been more measured and fights smarter recently, and I just think he’s a bad match up for Ferguson, especially early on, with hard leg kicks and power punches inside. I still wonder how the latter rounds would go without a full camp and proper training for the challenger, but I’m not sure if it reaches that long. Both men will trade, and both will get hit. Not only does Gaethje start faster and better, he also hits much harder. His leg kicks might add up too even if Ferguson survives getting bombed on early. Justin Gaethje by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: The fighters who have beaten Gaethje have matched his pace, aggressively gone after his body, and held up to the chaos that he presents. Tony Ferguson can 100% meet him at Chaos Mountain and manage to hurt and finish Gaethje as the fight progresses. His never-ending deluge of spinning shit and constant offense is so hard to solve, but we’ve also seen him start slowly and nearly pay the price. Gaethje, prone himself to getting into bad spots, is simultaneously not the guy you want hurting you at any point in a fight. Those leg kicks could hamper Tony’s movement, his boxing could break Ferguson down, and attempts to wrestle him seem futile. If Ferguson is to make this a grappling bout then it’ll have to be him pulling guard or creating some wild scramble off a standing choke. We also have to acknowledge that Gaethje has countered “getting hit way too often” by blasting people out in round one… what happens if that doesn’t work? He could revert to the Gaethje who did lose to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. I am picking Gaethje because I see him as a bad matchup for El Cucuy if he starts as quickly as I expect him to, but if Ferguson can survive the storm… watch out. Justin Gaethje by TKO, round 3.

Zane Simon: I’ll admit, the closer this fight gets to happening, the less sure I am of Gaethje’s chances. He’s got power, and he’s got a great early edge—in that he’s a fast starter who is sharp in the pocket, and Ferguson tends to step in aggressively from the opening bell without a lot of defense in place. Basically, Ferguson tends to get hit hard early and Gaethje tends to hit people hard early. But, Ferguson is also excellent at adjusting and Gaethje seems to stay pretty tracked in to whatever plan he came in with. If Gaethje doesn’t end this early, he definitely stays dangerous all fight, but Ferguson will make this a wild bout over the distance. Still, I’m taking the early finish. That dynamic just feels too likely as a gut read. Justin Gaethje via TKO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: I don’t like Tony’s chances. He can’t hang with Justin for long while standing, and he’s gonna struggle to take Gaethje down. Justin’s cardio is just as good, if not better. His takedown defense is excellent and his leg kicks have made the bodies of his opponents quit. I don’t see any avenue for Tony here, and he’s almost guaranteed to get hit with something. Problem is that Justin doesn’t give you too many chances to come back from those somethings. Justin Gaethje via TKO, round 3.

Ram Gilboa: A lot has already been said about this match by the knowledgeable commentators of this website and others - I just want to emphasize this: Ferguson cutting weight just a month ago, to a fight not happening - like an isolated Japanese soldier still carrying his orders long after the war was declared lost - is probably going to hurt him and even up the endurance scales should the fight go long. And, An almost a completely empty, completely silent arena, will also might play its role on the way these fighters - well accustomed to the crowd roars igniting and fueling them on - perform early and manage their adrenaline later on. And what I really want to say is, well: Shehecheyanu veymanu vehigi’anu lazman hazeh. Mazal tov. May it’ll get better from here on. Enjoy, godspeed, good luck. Almost forgot - maybe Justin Gaethje by TKO round 2.

Staff picking Ferguson: Harry, Lewis, Shak
Staff picking Gaethje: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Zane, Victor, Ram, Anton, Mookie

Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz

Anton Tabuena: Cejudo has been improving his striking on pretty much each and every fight. He also has a power and speed advantage, while Cruz, as tricky and talented as he is (was?), has been sidelined for more than 3 years. Cejudo definitely is the smart and easy pick here, but it will still be interesting to watch if Cruz can move and dodge his way without getting caught for 25 minutes. If he manages to pick apart the two-division champion, he’d (again) prove that ring rust doesn’t affect him, that his game has been way ahead of the curve, and that he isn’t just the bantamweight GOAT, but the current best as well. As a fan of styles and storylines, that would surely be a nice moment to witness, but logically, I’m expecting the opposite. Henry Cejudo by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I do not expect prime Dominick Cruz in the cage on Saturday. In fact we have no idea how he fits at the top of 135 in 2020 because of his injuries and subsequent lack of fights. His best asset is his wrestling but he’s facing an Olympic gold medalist. He’ll have a reach advantage against Cejudo but none of the power to deter Henry from throwing back. Cejudo is the cleaner boxer and faster fighter with some dangerous work in the clinch. It would be amazing if Cruz won this but I just cannot envision him having enough offensive success to win rounds against the King of Cringe. Thankfully there’s no post-fight interview after this or else I’d reach for the mute button. Henry Cejudo by TKO, round 4.

Zane Simon: My first thought was that this should be a lopsided victory for Cejudo. Not because he’s some kind of technical marvel standing, but just because he can likely negate what’s often the most dominant part of Cruz’s offense (his wrestling) and force Cruz to rely on his speed & movement based standup that can only be getting less dynamic with age and injury. Still, even in wins over Moraes and Pettis, Cejudo has shown that trickier strikers can really confound him out at range. He doesn’t seem to have developed great instincts for long range striking exchanges yet. It was really only once he decided to bite down and bully Moraes and wrestle Pettis, that Cejudo started getting anything done in those fights. Can he do that to someone who is not just bigger, but also a very very good wrestler in his own right? And if he can’t, can he get enough done out at range to win? I still can’t trust Dominick Cruz, but if he’s somehow still the fighter he once was, this could be a very weird bout. Henry Cejudo via TKO, round 3.

Victor Rodriguez: I’d love to see nothing more than Dominick Cruz leading the pace and playing cat and mouse, countering and darting in and out with combinations and not being where Cejudo expects him to be. I just don’t think that’s what we’ll see from a guy coming back from that long a layoff. Then again, he came back better than ever against Mizugaki. The odds of another performance showing that sort of exponential improvement? They ain’t good. Henry Cejudo by decision.

Staff picking Cejudo: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Zane, Ram, Lewis, Shak, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Cruz:

Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Anton Tabuena: Anything can happen at heavyweight, but Francis is the better striker here I believe. Francis Ngannou by KO.

Mookie Alexander: Phil hates Ngannou so it’s understandable that he’s picking Rozenstruik. This fight could be bad, or it could be bad with a KO, or someone leads unexpectedly early and someone falls down after getting hit hard in the face. Ngannou has the more proven track record and I don’t think anyone can argue Rozenstruik actually looked that great against Overeem before the KO. Francis Ngannou by KO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: There is every reason to assume that this fight will be atrocious. Ngannou has almost never initiated exchanges in his UFC career, and Rozenstruik has been a reasonably cautious fighter who tries not to get out past his feet. So we likely get a lot of pawing and waiting at range. Should that happen, Rozenstruik actually has a jab, he’s composed enough not to panic into wild swings like Overeem or JDS, and he can probably open exchanges by kicking Ngannou’s wide lead leg as well. Ngannou matches up better with many other fighters in the UFC than Bigi Boi does (I would pick Blaydes over Rozenstruik without a second thought) but this feels slightly reminiscent of Hunt vs Lewis, where it was revealed just how much the fear of Lewis’ power was necessary to make his opponents go off the rails: a straightforward, experienced kickboxer cracked his game open like an oyster. I think this will be more boring, obviously. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I can’t deny any of what Phil is saying, I think this fight is likely very ugly and then, hopefully, punctuated by something spectacular. My hope for the spectacular is mostly based around the idea that I think Rozenstruik is just a little too technical and prepared to use his tools to have the kind of stalemate that Lewis had with Ngannou. And while that could mean he just slowly picks Ngannou apart for three rounds, I think it’s more likely that his willingness to let even a few strikes go, compounded with a relatively flat-footed stance, leads him to tie up with Ngannou regularly. And if Ngannou can get a hand on you, he can usually hurt you. Francis Ngannou via KO, round 2.

Ram Gilboa: By now, everyone has smarten up enough to know not to be anywhere in the vicinity when Ngannou throws his hands. But, the problem is hardly anyone is technical and agile enough to avoid his 83 inch reach for long enough - or any longer than 2 minutes, really - to survive and win. I think Rozenstruik is a guy to do it. True, it’ll might get boring for awhile - but what else have you got to watch live, anyway? Jairzinho Rozenstruik by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Ngannou lands cleaner and has a better chin. Also, this fight has the potential to absolutely suck. I don’t make the rules. Francis Ngannou by decision.

Staff picking Ngannou: Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Zane, Lewis, Shak, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Rozenstruik: Ed, Phil, Ram

Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar

Anton Tabuena: Stephens will be a lightweight in there after widely missing weight. Jeremy Stephens by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: You can never count Stephens out, especially since his leg kicks could be the key to breaking Kattar down. Calvin is also willing to stand and trade and that may get him into trouble. However, he’s still the superior technical striker and if Stephens gets frustrated, then history shows his game unravels and he gets wild and desperate. I see Kattar being too slick over the course of three rounds and he’ll get the W. Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Despite riding a growing loss streak, and missing weight, it doesn’t feel like Jeremy Stephens has really lost much of a step physically. His last fight in particular ended up with him outlasting and putting a beating on Rodriguez, who typically has a great gas tank. As such, this feels like a fun match, where Kattar’s tendency to be heavy on the lead leg might open him up to Stephens punching into low kicks. Stephens needs to track Kattar down, though, and here his tendency to plod and sit on his strikes might leave him struggling to get past Kattar’s jab. Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Coming out of a self-isolation camp I have to think Stephens’ weight miss is less of a help to him than a hindrance. A sign that maybe camp didn’t go that well, and that he just gutted through it as best he could. Still, I’m a bit worried that for all the ways Stephens has been beaten over his career, it’s rarely by someone that’s willing to stand in and trade with him the way I think Kattar will off his back foot. It’s a real concern, that even if Kattar is more technical and slicker, that he’ll eat one to land two and get hurt for it. All that said, I’m still picking Kattar, he has the tools to stick and move and keep Stephens chasing him all fight, and Stephens has found too many ways to let fights slip away over the years. But, I expect Kattar will go through at least one big scare to pick up the win. Calvin Kattar by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: God, I just realized how long ago it’s been since we did one of these things. Huh. For an event that I’d rather be postponed even further, this card is just ridiculous. Look at this fight. It’s so good. It’s so goddamn good. Stephens’ tendency to turn things up late will have him at a disadvantage with the judges, but the real problem here is Kattar getting into close range and deploying his bombs with his boxing. Stephens can wrestle, and Kattar can answer him in that department. Going with the younger upstart here. Calvin Kattar by decision.

Staff picking Stephens: Lewis, Anton
Staff picking Kattar: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Zane, Ram, Shak, Victor

Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro

Anton Tabuena: This will be an ugly bout, and several bouts underneath deserve to be in the main card more. De Castro by DQ.

Mookie Alexander: Nope. Yorgan De Castro by decision.

Zane Simon: I’d really rather he didn’t win this fight, and he doesn’t have any particular one offensive tool that gives him a big edge, but Hardy’s also being matched up with a somewhat out-of-shape brawler whose best win is a guy that literally threw his chin onto his fist. Hardy probably just stays long behind a 1-2 and walks away with an ugly win here. Or pushes De Castro over and hammerfists him til the ref steps in. Greg Hardy by ugly decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Yorgan can box, but can he keep Hardy away and defend against the bumrush? I don’t see it. This fight is also likely to suck and it’s on the actual paid portion of the event. Good times! I ain’t gotta like it, but (Max Holloway voice) it is what it is. Greg Hardy by TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Hardy: Harry, Zane, Lewis, Shak, Victor
Staff picking De Castro: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Ram

Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis

Anton Tabuena: We’ve already seen this before, and we’ve already seen their strengths and — more importantly — the holes in their games. I don’t think Cerrone is going to beat up Pettis up by the fence and take him down. Anthony Pettis by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Pettis has simultaneously maintained his durability while looking more shopworn than Cerrone, the one who’s on a three-fight losing streak and getting hurt by any flush shot that’s coming his way. I don’t want to do a deep dive into the mental aspect of Cowboy’s career, but I will say that he’s only a year removed from looking great against Al Iaquinta. Pettis is still not a favorable matchup given his hard body kicks and underrated ground game, but even including the Wonderboy win, Pettis has really not looked particularly good over his past four fights. It actually serves Cerrone best to do the pressuring and not give Pettis that space he needs to get shots off, but I don’t know if he’s willing to do it. This is one of those rematches that had a decisive outcome but yet time has worn on and it’s hard to get a read on it. Uhhh… Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Cerrone has developed more both as a fighter and as a more appropriate welterweight than Pettis over the last few years. His ability to layer in some boxing and reintegrate his wrestling has made him better suited to fight the bigger men at 170lbs. Pettis, conversely, looks less confident and dynamic, and actually seems to be slipping into being a puncher. The sheer fact that this is contested at welterweight where both men can take a shot better should be a factor in Cerrone’s favour... but I’m not sure if it matters enough. Cerrone looked absolutely hideous last time out, Pettis still has a major physical durability edge (even if he doesn’t have a mental one) and Cerrone has an off switch located just under the right side of his ribs. Anthony Pettis by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I really don’t know what to expect out of this fight. Pettis still has his chin, but he’s mostly found better form lately by backing away from attempts to really improve his game. Instead he’s relying on his toughness to see him through exchanges where he still has the ability to surprise opponents with sharp single shots and creativity, and then he’s relying on his guard to let him out-grapple opponents when he gets taken down. The first part of that has led to him getting really tagged up in some one-sided striking exchanges. The second part of that has led to the first two submission losses of his career. Cerrone, on the other hand, really does seem to be a more technical, composed version of the fighter he’s always been. But that’s still a guy who meets pressure with pressure and can get hurt badly because of it. Pettis isn’t likely to pressure Cerrone a lot, necessarily, but Cerrone is also more likely than most of Pettis’ recent opponents to give ‘Showtime’ exactly the range and time he needs to get comfortable at distance. Which, given the chin dynamic, gives him the better shot of finding that single finishing moment. Or... just having something blow out all on its own and getting hurt. Anthony Pettis via TKO, round 2 (I guess???)

Victor Rodriguez: These two are so talented but so unreliable, that it makes it a real toss-up. I mean, who do you trust? They’ve both been figured out and they’ve both suffered some weird and bad losses. I guess I’m gonna go with Cerrone. Pettis could fold him with body kicks and Donald can outwork him in close, so yeah. Whatever. Donald Cerrone by submission.

Staff picking Cerrone: Stephie, Mookie, Lewis, Shak, Victor
Staff picking Pettis: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Harry, Zane, Ram

Aleksei Oleinik vs. Fabricio Werdum

Anton Tabuena: Werdum is better on the ground, and better on the feet. I just hope it doesn’t look very heavyweight. Fabricio Werdum by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Don’t mind me. I’m just here dreading the thought of this devolving into ugly, gassed out kickboxing. Fabricio Werdum by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Hoping for a hilarious meme Oleinik submission, but this looks like a dire matchup for him. Werdum still appears to have a good chin to stand up to Oleinik’s swings, and while his gas tank has gone down as his paunch has regrown, he still has a cardio edge, and once Oleinik gets put on his back, if he doesn’t immediately get the submission he’s basically a turtle. Werdum has been looking eroded enough that I think we get a sad, if relatively one-sided decision rather than a finish. Fabricio Werdum by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: This should feature all the grappling, since both Werdum and Oleinik are perfectly happy to pull guard and work off their backs in a fight. Whichever way that goes, however, I expect it to favor Werdum. He doesn’t have the cardio he used to, but neither does Oleinik, and otherwise I have a lot more faith in both his guard and top games. Oleinik’s advantage has always been his sneaky specialties: scarf holds, Ezekial chokes. The kinds of things where the opponent either doesn’t see it coming and gets insta-tapped, or fights it off and then beats him up for it. Werdum should be capable of fighting that off. I will say, however, that Oleinik is a deceivingly hard puncher. It’s often the way he convinces people they need to clinch up with him and take the fight down. If Werdum is especially faded, the ‘Boa Constrictor’ could have an avenue of success standing. Either way, I expect both men to be exhausted by the end of the first round. Fabricio Werdum by submission, round 2.

Ram Gilboa: Please be quiet now and let me watch two of the best, most experienced grapplers in MMA heavyweight realms disappoint me fighting a top to bottom striking match. Fabricio Werdum by decision

Victor Rodriguez: Fabricio’s more clever than people give him credit for, and he’s better with his range and leg kicks. What I really want to see is these two locking horns on the ground, and I’ll give Werdum an even bigger advantage there. Vai Cavalho by armbar.

Staff picking Oleinik: Stephie
Staff picking Werdum: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Harry, Ram, Lewis, Zane, Shak, Victor, Anton

UPDATE: CALLED OFF AFTER JACARE (AND HIS TEAM) TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

Jacare Souza vs. Uriah Hall

Mookie Alexander: Jacare has been doing crossfit stuff in lieu of a proper fight camp. He’s also looked awful in his last two fights. Uriah Hall might just win this by landing a huge shot against someone who is starting to look his age in the cage. Or this ends with Hall backing himself up against the fence, getting taken down, and treated like a grappling dummy. I’ll pick Jacare Souza by submission, round 2 but I’m not confident.

Zane Simon: On paper, this is a fight Uriah Hall just loses. And, that may be the call. Maybe he just goes out, gets taken down, and gets subbed. His tendency to be a slow starting backfoot counterpuncher pretty much sets him up perfectly to get taken down and out-grappled. Even in a win, Antonio Carlos Jr. got him down in every single round. But, I can’t help feeling that crossfit Jacare may just be the perfect moment for Hall to succeed where he usually struggles. He’s always been best when actually being pressured, and Jacare will very very likely pressure him. And lately he’s looked much much more composed about fighting behind his jab and taking advantage of the space and time he has in a fight, when he has it. If Jacare brings the fight to Hall and can’t tap him out? I think Hall just might win this. Uriah Hall via TKO, Round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Like many fights on this card, a lot of this is just an erosion gauge. Would Jacare in his prime be able to broadly replicate what Mousasi did, but better? Yes. Hall has never been able to avoid putting his back on the fence, and Jacare would just be able to mix up hooks, overhands and level changes into a takedown and gnp or submission finish. I guess I’ll still pick him to do that, but he is looking ragged and slow lately. Jacare Souza by submission, round 2.

Ram Gilboa: This is almost a binary fight - if Jacare tries to grapple, he should win, if he tries to stand, he should wang. Jacare Souza by submission, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Jacare is 40, not looking great, and a bit shopworn. It says a lot about Hall that I still can’t confidently pick him here. Sorry, still don’t trust the man. Souza could actually nail him with something standing and get the club n’ sub win. Jacare by submission.

Staff picking Jacare: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Harry, Ram, Lewis, Shak, Victor
Staff picking Hall: Stephie, Zane

Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson

Anton Tabuena: Waterson should be the more complete and dynamic MMA fighter between the two. Michelle Waterson by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Worst case scenario for Esparza is that this looks like round three of the Alexa Grasso fight. Best case is she is too strong for Waterson and just relentlessly pursues takedowns and grinds this out. Esparza’s striking has improved considerably but she’s still at a disadvantage vs. Waterson on the feet, and she has historically struggled when she can’t completely overpower her opponent. I’m leaning towards Michelle Waterson by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m pretty surprised to see all the picks for Waterson here, considering this is a fight that Carla Esparza has essentially never lost. I think it’s still a fascinating bout. Waterson’s boxing has cleaned up a ton in the last couple years and it’s meant improved footwork and better defensive performances as well. But, she still has trouble really getting away from people. In her fight against Cortney Casey she had to rely purely on out-wrestling Casey, just because she couldn’t circle out fast enough to keep the pressure off her. If Esparza comes in hell bent on getting after Waterson’s hips and taking her down, is Waterson going to be elusive enough to stop that? The flip side of this is that I’m really not loving Esparza’s cardio lately, so if she does gas late in the fight, Waterson could be right there, just the way Grasso was to really start running her over. Still though, Waterson’s not a striking finisher, and Esparza doesn’t drop fights to people that can’t bully her. Carla Esparza by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I guess I’m just not that convinced by Esparza’s ability to track people down, and Waterson likes a lot of that Jackson Wink lateral movement to dissuade shots. If this fight has significant portions on the feet, it’s one of the few ones where Waterson not only has a speed edge, but potentially a physical strength one as well. I do like Esparza’s game and would probably rather that she came out on top, but Michelle Waterson by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m glad that aside from being the most handsome rascals on the team, Zane and I also agree on fights like these. Waterson’s improved greatly, but Esparza is a little tank that fights smart. Over the length of a full fight, that adds up. Carla Esparza by decision.

Staff picking Esparza: Ed, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Waterson: Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Ram, Shak, Anton

Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price

Mookie Alexander: Price can finish a fight from anywhere but he also has a style that lends itself to getting frequently put in bad spots and sometimes finished outright. Luque has been in some grueling, chin-damaging battles as of late so that’s a concern, but he should still be the better fighter. Vicente Luque by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Not at all sure much has changed for either man since they fought last. Price is still a wild man who relies more on shocking power than anything else. And Luque is still a tight pocket counterpuncher who likes to pressure and stay composed in a fire fight. Last time, that was enough for a totally one-sided ass kicking from Luque. Vicente Luque via submission round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: There’s only one thing to really consider here, and it’s whether Luque has been badly damaged by the wars he’s been in lately. Other than that, he’s more diverse and attritional, hits about as hard as Price but has a way better chin, and his tight high guard will insulate him reasonably well from Price’s winging shots. Vicente Luque by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: This is the kind of fight that I love because of violence potential but hate because I don’t want to see either guy lose. Problem is that Price has taken so much damage and is prone to getting hit with something wild at some point. Luque’s got the better ground game and more offensive options standing. Oh god, we just activated the BE curse again, didn’t we? Welp. Vicente Luque by TKO, round 2

Staff picking Luque: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Ram, Zane, Shak, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Price:

Charles Rosa vs. Bryce Mitchell

Mookie Alexander: Can’t go against a guy who rebounds from self-sabotage of his testicles and then pulls off a twister submission. Bryce Mitchell by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Both men have a reputation as surprisingly aggressive, submission minded grapplers, and somewhat unorthodox strikers. For Rosa, that’s meant that he’s looked better than expected in some hard losses, and put up some nice surprising quick wins. For Mitchell, it’s meant he’s yet to run up against a challenge he couldn’t scrap his way through, outside of what appeared to be a brutally draining fight on TUF against Brad Katona. I have the suspicion that both men’s grappling will be enough to pass the first round, where they catch most of their finishes. And at that point, I think Mitchell is just more aggressive and consistent in his offense. A little less likely to fight off the back foot, or to give up a bad position on the mat. Bryce Mitchell by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Rosa is a good fighter who has only really been gotten to by quality pressure or dynamic offense. He’s just hard to track down, keeps a good pace, scrambles hard and throws all four limbs. However, I think there’s a lot to like about Mitchell. I think the main thing that makes his style surprisingly effective is good defensive instincts and an innate understanding of distance, which will make him a bit less likely to chase Rosa and get clipped. Should be close and competitive but Bryce Mitchell by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Mookie’s right, and it’s even funnier when you consider that Mitchell’s scrotum was twisted almost into a knot and then pulled off a Twister. I’m not making any of that up. I love Rosa, and maybe he can blast Mitchell with something while he’s attempting a takedown, but I can’t pick him here. Bryce Mitchell by decision.

Staff picking Rosa:
Staff picking Mitchell: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Ram, Zane, Shak, Victor, Anton

Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey

Mookie Alexander: Alvey looks like his durability is shot to pieces, so all we can hope for is that Spann doesn’t get suckered into that “three strikes per round” style of Sam’s or else the first fight on this card could be the worst one. Ryan Spann by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: A few years ago, this fight might have been right in Alvey’s wheelhouse. With Spann tending to step into the pocket on single shots and clinch up with a middling wrestling attack. Just the kind of opponent that would find themselves getting countered by a huge counter hook. But lately, more fighters have been able to just go out and bully him, or freeze him into complete inaction, or frustrate him with persistent offense. Ryan Spann by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Alvey used to be a tough fighter who was dangerous in one very clearly defined way. His durability and (already poor) speed have taken a hit, stripping him of that one approach and leaving him as “Ed Herman minus the craft and toughness”, which basically just makes him target practice. Ryan Spann by TKO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Spann is not about the okey-doke. He fights smart and won’t fall for the kind of traps that Alvey sets. That and he’s got way better handspeed and movement. Dude won’t be smiling after this one. Ryan Spann by decision.

Staff picking Spann: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Ram, Zane, Shak, Victor, Anton
Staff picking Alvey:

Poll

Who wins the UFC 249 title fights?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Gaethje and Cejudo
    (346 votes)
  • 21%
    Gaethje and Cruz
    (252 votes)
  • 28%
    Ferguson and Cejudo
    (341 votes)
  • 21%
    Ferguson and Cruz
    (260 votes)
1199 votes total Vote Now