The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC Vegas 35, and only Stephie Haynes is going with Giga Chikadze to beat Edson Barboza in what is undoubtedly a firefight of a main event. We also lean towards Kevin Lee over Daniel Rodriguez in a fight that may be a bit trickier to predict than you might think.
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.
Edson Barboza vs. Giga Chikadze
David Castillo: I can see how the end result of this fight could be a validation of one or the other’s respective styles with Barboza’s forward-moving leg pressure getting it done over the course of the fight, or Giga’s more conservative scalpel approach finding opportunistic openings getting it done in moments. I favor Giga just because I don’t think Barboza is terribly durable. I think his overall skillset is better in the aggregate, but Barboza is exactly the kind of dude to randomly get iced by a stylistic weirdo’s signature move. Would anyone be shocked if Barboza lost to Kikuno at some point in his career, for example? Maybe. Not I. And yes, I miss Kikuno. Maybe Barboza just ruins Giga’s lead leg right out the gate, which then affects Chikadze’s ability to counter and return fire. I’m not really sure, which makes this a fun one. Edson Barboza by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I’ve been happy to see Giga go from one-time cautionary tale in WSOF to can-crusher in SoCal to legit contender in the UFC. Being one of the few prospects to have any actual development whatsoever without being rushed to the top has been refreshing and I only wish it could happen with more guys. But Barboza’s striking is much more complete with body shots and sniping at range, and his experience will keep him on par with anything Giga throws at him. I worry Giga’s striking hasn’t adapted as well to the overall MMA game as Barboza’s, and Edson isn’t as slow a starter in his fights as Giga has been. Edson can be cracked, but will Giga have the same power in his hands to put him in trouble like that? I’m not sure, because most of his damage comes from his kicks. Despite his coaching and recent surge in the ranks, I have to go with Edson. Also, the guys Edson loses to are much better than the guys Giga has won against, and that principle is one of the few semi-constant things in this sport. Edson Barboza by TKO.
Zane Simon: The part of me that likes to make chancier picks can easily see Barboza and Chikadze having a bunch of 50/50 exchanges that Barboza generally wins, but which give Chikadze a whole bunch of chances to find that one kill shot that puts Braboza away. Just given Barboza’s high output consistency, he’s never been an impossible striker to hit clean and hard. All that said, a technical mid-range striking bout has also rarely ever actually been the way to beat him all on its own. Even the fighters who have managed to do it, Paul Felder and Dan Ige, very arguably lost those bouts. Could this be another razor thin decision where Barboza gets robbed? Sure, but I’ll bet on the Brazilian to pull this out on pace and volume. Edson Barboza via decision.
Staff picking Barboza: Victor, David, Mookie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Chikadze: Stephie
Bryan Battle vs. Gilbert Urbina – TUF 29 Middleweight tournament final
Victor Rodriguez: While Urbina is the more reliable and consistent fighter of the two, I can’t help but think that Battle might pull a rabbit out of a hat and get the sub off his back or something. Urbina’s strong and shifts positions well on the ground, and has a smoother striking game while Battle doesn’t transition as well from striking to grappling, and vice versa. I wanted to go with the reckless underdog pick and go with Battle, but I can’t. Gilbert Urbina by decision.
Zane Simon: If Battle were a more consistent finisher standing, or even just a more confidently consistent fighter standing, I’d probably pick him here. But he tends to fight behind a creative, high out-put kicking game followed by lots of brawling and clinching. Most of his finishes have been by submission. That seems ideally suited for Urbina’s game, entirely built off of creating scrambles and getting back control. If Urbina gets stranded on his feet, he’ll almost certainly lose, I’m just not convinced Battle has the control to make that happen. Gilbert Urbina via RNC, round 2.
Staff picking Battle: Stephie, David, Mookie, Dayne
Staff picking Urbina: Victor, Zane
Ricky Turcios vs. Brady Hiestand – TUF 29 Bantamweight tournament final
Victor Rodriguez: Turcios is a wily dude with a scrappier ground striking and submission game, which he’ll use to his advantage. Hiestand might struggle with Turcios getting in his face and keeping it in the phone booth, especially against the cage. Ricky Turcios by decision.
Zane Simon: This is one of those fights where most of the value is gained by looking at what these fighters were doing outside of TUF. Turcios has taken a reasonably strong prospect path through winning competition to create a scrappy, lead hand heavy style built off his own toughness and tenacity. Histand has crushed absolute cans, and got TKO’d against the first fighter he faced with any kind of ability at all. Hiestand seems like a decent athlete, but I’m just not convinced there’s much to his game past physically hulking people around. Turcios can tough that out, after which I think he’ll get the TKO. Ricky Turcios via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Turcios: Stephie, Victor, David, Mookie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Hiestand:
Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez: Lee has improved his standup game and is still a great athlete, but I’m going with Daniel based off farm strength, reach, and ability to exploit gaps in striking defense. I’m most likely biased and wrong, but you should know by now that I do not have a single care. Daniel Rodriguez wins.
David Castillo: I’ll never feel comfortable picking Lee, but I am picking him. For all of his flaws, he’s still a young fighter with potential to really bloom with a move up in weight that might fix some of his durability issues. The other thing is that Rodriguez has that journeyman musk. He’s a solid fighter with an effortless glide to his combinations, but he’s not a premier athlete, which makes me think Lee can kind of just outhustle him amidst the exchanges. Kevin Lee by RNC.
Zane Simon: The pure consistency and power Rodriguez has give him a great chance to turn this fight around the deeper it goes. But, I can’t help thinking, just on the surface, that he doesn’t have a deep enough game to win this one. Lee pretty much always wins the first two rounds of his fights. And given how little trouble Mike Perry had holding Rodriguez down in the first round of their fight, I think Lee will get the same opportunities, to much greater effect. Beyond that, if the bulk of what Rodriguez has to turn the tide is a power boxing game, I think that’s something Lee can avoid, even if his cardio and confidence desert him late. Kevin Lee by submission.
Staff picking Lee: Stephie, David, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Rodriguez: Victor, Dayne
Andre Petroski vs. Micheal Gillmore
Victor Rodriguez: Petroski is one of the most complete prospects on the regional scene and should not have even had to go on the show, but I’m glad he’s here. He can wrestle well, clinch and use his boxing effectively. Gillmore is less consistent with his offense and might fade late. Andre Petroski by decision.
Zane Simon: As a scrappy, fast handed striker without a lot of imposing athleticism, it really feels like Gillmore could have used a lot more time before getting even to this level. He’s routinely had trouble getting out-grappled early in his career. And his lone TUF appearance involved him getting instantly wrapped up and subbed by Urbina. Petroski is a bit one-note himself, but as a powerful, athletic top control wrestler, that note is a lot more baseline functional. Andre Petroski via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Petroski: Stephie, Victor, David, Mookie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Gillmore:
Makhmud Muradov vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Victor Rodriguez: I like Gerald, but I can’t trust Gerald or his body when it comes to keeping it together long enough or not falling apart with cardio problems. Muradov hits hard, and Gerald’s defense is spotty at best. Unless he gets it to the ground first - which is not the strongest part of Gerald’s grappling - Muradov takes this. Makhmud Muradov by Sonic Blast Man punch.
Zane Simon: Speed kills. Makhmud Muradov via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Muradov: Stephie, Victor, David, Mookie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Meerschaert:
This poll is closed