The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for Saturday’s UFC 269 pay-per-view in Las Vegas, and we’re almost unanimously picking Dustin Poirier winning the lightweight title over Charles Oliveira to give us one last “...and new!” for 2021. As for the co-main event, everyone is picking Amanda Nunes to remain women’s bantamweight champ in her fight with Julianna Pena .To see the latest betting lines for these fights, head over to DraftKings Sportsbook.
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.
Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier
Anton Tabuena: This is really an intriguing fight, but as a fan, I kinda don’t want to see either guy lose as it’s been a treat to witness their career resurgence after moving to 155 lbs full time. Both are potent finishers, but it’s such a good style match up that I’m personally hoping it lasts long enough for us to see how a lot of these exchanges play out both on the feet and on the mat. I think Oliveira is cleaner and sharper both with his kickboxing and jiujitsu, but I’m still leaning towards Poirier here, because I think he has the intangibles to overcome those slight technical deficiencies. He has power, heart, grit and insane composure regardless of how bad things get, which only comes with years of experience fighting killer after killer. I can see it going both ways, but I’m kinda going with Dustin Poirier by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I cannot believe these two have never fought each other given how long they’ve been in the UFC and how long they’ve both been at 145 and 155. This is such a difficult fight to pick because you can genuinely see either man winning by knockout, submission, or decision. Oliveira is such an improved offensive striker and someone who can turn his striking into submissions in a blink, plus he showed a lot of survival skills against Michael Chandler such that he didn’t instantly fold as we’ve seen all too often in years past. But Poirier has been extraordinarily hard to flummox in recent years and he is both the more defensively responsible striker and better boxer. If it gets to a point where Poirier has Oliveira’s timing down it’ll be hard for Charles to get the fight to the mat, and if Oliveira gets hurt I don’t think Poirier will let him off the hook. Oliveira has paths to victory but I reckon they predominantly involve him winning early, whereas Poirier can win in virtually any round. Selfishly I’d like to see Poirier win just to be a coronation of a wonderful career. Dustin Poirier by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: My gut says I should be picking Dustin Poirier here. After all, he’s proven time and time again that if an opponent lets him stay in the fight early, he will find wider and wider avenues to get the win in later rounds. He’s excellent at capturing the momentum of exchanges and slowly turning that into stealing the momentum of a fight. That said, there are two things that give me a lot of pause here. The lesser of those is Poirier’s loss to Khabib, in which some of his more aggressive grappling habits bit him badly. Oliveira may not be the same fighter Khabib is, but he’s honestly probably the 2nd best wrestler Poirier’s ever faced. The second, and more meaningful thing is Poirier’s fight with Dan Hooker. There’s no two ways to put it, the ‘Diamond’ struggled hard with Hooker early, finding trouble fighting his way past Hooker’s reach, and giving up several takedowns in the process when Hooker tried to change tempo. If Poirier doesn’t get subbed in the first three rounds, he’ll very likely win. But, I get the feeling that Oliveira’s length and still underrated wrestling game could be a massive problem. Charles Oliveira via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Oliveira: Zane
Staff picking Poirier: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena
Anton Tabuena: Perhaps I’m underestimating Pena, but I’m honestly more curious where Nunes goes from here, because there are not many opponents left if she gets another dominant win here. Amanda Nunes by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Pena isn’t going to outstrike Nunes so she’ll have to rely on her wrestling and grappling, and uh… yeah good luck with that. Amanda Nunes by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: We really aren’t that far from Pena getting out-struck, out-wrestled, and out-grappled by Germaine de Randamie. Nunes can do all that even better, especially the wrestling and grappling. Amanda Nunes via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Nunes: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Pena:
Geoff Neal vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Mookie Alexander: There is functionally no way to make a confident pick when both fighters have been severely compromised healthwise. Neal looked really bad against Magny and yet I’m picking him anyway over Ponzinibbio. I’ve seen Ponzinibbio get hurt more frequently than Neal and Geoff hits harder, so… Geoff Neal by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Ponzinibbio throws a few more low kicks, and is a bit more dedicated to throwing hooks in combination, but this is still largely a battle of two head-hunting power strikers that like to work behind the 1-2. At the highest point of his career, Ponzinibbio was probably the better of the two men, if for no other reason than his staunch dedication to space and maintaining the pocket. At this point though? I have a lot more questions about the Argentinian than I do Neal. Li Jingliang is great, but he doesn’t spark many people in round 1. And if it hadn’t been for Miguel Baeza’s predictability and porous defense, Ponzinibbio looked dead in the water early in that fight as well. Geoff Neal is too fast and hits too hard and is too tough for me to pick against him here. Geoff Neal by KO, round 1.
Staff picking Neal: Zane, Mookie, Connor
Staff picking Ponzinibbio: Anton, Stephie, Dayne
Kai Kara-France vs. Cody Garbrandt
Anton Tabuena: If you thought Garbrandt had durability issues at 135, those might just be more amplified with him coming in really dehydrated at flyweight. To be fair, I personally think those losses were more about defense and composure, but the cut is still worrying. Garbrandt should still have the power to end the fight at any point regardless, but Kara-France is kinda underrated and I’m really not confident in picking Garbrandt until I see how he performs at 125 lbs. Kai Kara-France by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Garbrandt might do well in this fight up until he doesn’t. Old habits die hard and I just can’t get out of my head the idea that he could hurt Kara-France with a big shot and end up flat on his back seconds later. And given he’s not iron-chinned and is moving down a weight class where his speed advantage is negated, I think Kara-France has what it takes to put him out. Kai Kara-France by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I’ll admit, Kai Kara-France doesn’t really feel like the kind of fighter that should really break Garbrandt. He hasn’t been a big KO threat in the UFC, and he doesn’t have any kind of size or reach to force Garbrandt to reckon with him outside the pocket. But I also have no faith at all in Garbrandt’s cut down to 125. Or really, where his head is at in the cage. When things started going wrong against Rob Font, Garbrandt seemed to take himself out of the fight as much as Font put him on the defensive. Even if Kara-France can’t stop him, if he can just stay durable and in Garbrandt’s face, will ‘No Love’ match his output? I’ll take Kai Kara-France, but I’m not really sure how. If neither man gets the KO, this could be an incredibly close one.
Staff picking Kara-France: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Garbrandt:
Raulian Paiva vs. Sean O’Malley
Anton Tabuena: Sean O’Malley should be good enough to get a win here. He probably will not look that great again though, but his fans won’t care anyway. Sean O’Malley by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight pretty much depends on whether or not O’Malley’s legs and ankles won’t collapse from underneath him. Otherwise just imagine the opening round of Paiva-Phillips but Paiva actually gets knocked out instead. Sean O’Malley by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I’ve been chairperson of the Raulian Paiva fan club for a minute now, but I won’t lie, this is a brutal fight for him. Am I thrilled that Paiva got the decision over Kyler Phillips? Yes. But he also almost get KO’d 3 times in that fight. And where Phillips has a habit of throwing himself into his opponent, and negating the advantages of his range and speed, O’Malley is the picture of consistent range composure. If O’Malley stays on the back foot and keeps his jab and kicks constant, Paiva will almost definitely walk himself onto huge counter shots time and time again. Sean O’Malley via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Paiva:
Staff picking O’Malley: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Josh Emmett vs. Dan Ige
Zane Simon: Dan Ige is the more varied puncher and has a much nastier submission game, but he also has a lot more trouble dictating the pace and position of the fight. On the other hand, Emmett is the personification of picking just a few tools and maximizing their effectiveness. Largely a head hunting power-puncher, Emmett has been slowly adding off speed strikes, and even some kicks and body work. The fact that he can maintain a consistent tempo both on the front foot and back foot for 15 minutes, all the while throwing with devastating power means that even when opponents know what’s coming, he can be an incredibly difficult fighter to stop. To his credit, Ige has looked like he’s adding some real layers and depth to his offense lately, but he still just hasn’t been a consistent enough performer at the highest level. With Emmett being terribly hard to take down and control, I gotta pick this fight to mostly happen on the feet. And if that’s the case, I’ll take Emmett to win it. Josh Emmett via KO, round 2.
Staff picking Emmett: Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Ige: Anton
Dominick Cruz vs. Pedro Munhoz
Anton Tabuena: I think Cruz should be slick enough to avoid a lot of shots like he normally does, especially early on. Munhoz likely won’t really be in real danger at any point though, so he will probably land big soon after adjusting and not putting as much respect on Cruz’s power and offense anymore – if that makes sense. I guess it will then depend on durability and how clean those big shots are, and if Cruz can build up a lead while Munhoz is still making his early reads. Anyway, this is probably just a nostalgia pick. Dominick Cruz by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Cruz in theory should have the wrestling edge but Munhoz has been historically hard to both takedown and control for extended periods of time. Munhoz is somewhat plodding on the feet but his leg kicks can be dangerous and I think they can give Cruz serious issues. Power edge is in Pedro’s favor and if it comes down to damage, I think it’s more likely that he’ll have the more damaging strikes than Cruz. This fight is a nice litmus test to see how relevant Cruz is as a bantamweight contender. Pedro Munhoz by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Pedro Munhoz’s low kicking game could be an absolute lynchpin in this fight. Cruz has always been susceptible to low kick attacks, and Munhoz does that more consistently than just about anyone Cruz has fought before. That said, Munhoz has also struggled heavily against veteran fighters that can get down his fairly predictable timing and footwork. Even a pretty chinny Frankie Edgar was able to go five rounds with the ‘Young Punisher’ for the win. And while Cruz may not be the most high output or heavy handed striker in the world, he’s made a long career out of flummoxing opponents with timing and footwork. This just feels too close to a fight I’ve already seen Munhoz lose. Dominick Cruz by decision.
Staff picking Cruz: Anton, Zane, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Munhoz: Mookie, Connor
Augusto Sakai vs. Tai Tuivasa
Mookie Alexander: C’mon, Tai! Free us from having to watch more Augusto Sakai fights! Tai Tuivasa by KO and shoey, round 1.
Zane Simon: A year or two ago, I would have picked Sakai without hesitation. He may not be the hardest punching heavyweight, nor much of a wrestler or grappler, but he had built a reputation for consistent strong output and an unbreakable chin. Now that chin has been broken. Not once, but twice. If Sakai isn’t going to be a huge KO threat, and he’s not going to have a lot of variation to his game, he has to be super durable. And if that’s gone, then I gotta take the huge puncher, even if he’s much more likely to gas. Tai Tuivasa via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Sakai: Dayne
Staff picking Tuivasa: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Connor
Jordan Wright vs. Bruno Silva
Zane Simon: Jordan Wright against an iron chinned power-puncher? Bruno Silva via KO, round 2.
Staff picking Wright:
Staff picking Silva: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Andre Muniz vs. Eryk Anders
Zane Simon: If Muniz can go out and hit the body lock takedown on Anders early, he has a chance to really blow this fight up. But, even if Anders isn’t any kind of surefire dominating striker, Muniz’s standup is raw in the extreme. If he can’t get Anders down? The path to victory seems incredibly unlikely. Eryk Anders by decision.
Staff picking Muniz: Mookie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Anders: Anton, Zane, Stephie
Erin Blanchfield vs. Miranda Maverick
Zane Simon: I’m really really split on this fight. On the one hand, I feel like Blanchfield has a much better handle on the kind of fighter she wants to be in the cage. She’s high output standing, and a lockdown grappler when things hit the mat. On the other side, Maverick looks a lot more like the class of physical athlete that could really be a top contender in this division some day. I’ll take Maverick to make her power count and to dissuade Blanchfield’s aggression, but if she lets Blanchfield get her to the mat a couple times, this fight could slip out of her grasp in a hurry. Miranda Maverick by decision.
Staff picking Blanchfield: Dayne
Staff picking Maverick: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Connor
Ryan Hall vs. Darrick Minner
Anton Tabuena: It would be sad to see a repeat of Hall’s last fight, because it’s truly been fun to see an older and less athletic guy try to game this brutal sport with mostly just spin kicks to guard flops and imanari rolls to leg locks. Ryan Hall by heel hook.
Zane Simon: The odds for this fight not being in the -500 range for Hall make me really wonder if people understand just how remarkable Ilia Topuria’s success was (and also how much it may have benefitted from Hall breaking his hand). Minner is almost certainly going to play exactly into Hall’s hands, and while he’s not a bad offensive grappler, his aggression has carried him to 11 sub losses over the years as well. It’s an easy choice, Ryan Hall via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Hall: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Minner:
Randy Costa vs. Tony Kelley
Zane Simon: Costa’s output management and cardio are major things to watch for every fight he has. Dude threw 120 strikes in round 1 of his last fight. Half that would be a really decent number. He’s got to reign things in if he’s gonna keep his cardio intact for even just the second round. That said, he’s also a way more powerful and dangerous striker than Tony Kelley, who tends to need to adjust to opponents after slow starts. Randy Costa via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Costa: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Kelley: Connor
Gillian Robertson vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Zane Simon: Robertson better win this. Gillian Robertson via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Robertson: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Cachoeira:
This poll is closed
Oliveira and Nunes
Oliveira and Pena
Poirier and Nunes
Poirier and Pena