The UFC is in Florida this weekend with their latest Fight Night event: UFC Orlando. The main event has a South Carolinian versus a Californian who trains out of Texas. Go figure. Despite clearly not playing to the hometown audience with this one, the UFC is actually giving us a decent non-PPV card for once.
Outside of Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland, the card includes some very watchable match-ups including Rafael dos Anjos vs. Bryan Barberena, Matheus Nicolau vs. Matt Schnell and Jack Hermansson vs. Roman Dolidze. There’s also some popular vets on the card with Clay Guida and Darren Elkins on the prelims.
When it comes to the main event, the BE staff is unanimous in picking Holland (sorry Kevin!). We’ll have to wait and see if this curses Trailblazer, leading to a win for Wonderboy. We’re also doing our best to curse dos Anjos, picking him unanimously to avoid being legend-killed by Barberena. To see who else we might be cursing with our picks, read on below.
Don’t forget to add your own picks in the comments below!
Zane Simon: I hate picking fights like these because you don’t have to rewind the clock that far to get to a point where I’d feel very confident picking Thompson here. Holland has fantastic size and range for welterweight, and when his footwork is better than his opponent’s then he can sit down on his strikes and be a pretty sharp puncher from range. But, when it’s worse (and just down at welterweight in general), he tends to get a lot more wild and chancy on the feet, wading in with hooks, looking to create equal trades and depending on power. That’s the kind of thing that Thompson has handled with ease. Even as recently as his fight with Geoff Neal. My guess here is that Thompson looks pretty great early, but at some point Holland succeeds enough in making things messy that he gets to crack Thompson or clinch him up and force him into a scramble, where his lightening submission skills finish the job. Kevin Holland by submission, round 3.
Tim Bissell: The metric I am testing out is picking Holland here and I find it hard to disagree with that. Thompson has always been a fun fighter to watch, but he’s not shown the diversity of skill or killer instinct consistently enough to prove himself a threat to the top talent of the division. Holland is not the most widely rounded fighter, either, but I think he has enough to not get caught on the feet while doing enough things which aren’t distance striking to win this on the judges’ scorecards. I would have made this assessment a few years ago, but I’m even more confident with it now that ‘Wonderboy’ is closing in on the big 4-0. In his last two bouts we’ve seen him struggle to handle younger and stronger fighters who know his scouting report and are able to physically control him around the cage. I think there is a chance Holland does something strange in this fight, maybe by trying to out point the point fighter. But even so, Holland’s unpredictability aside, it’s hard for me not to imagine ‘Trailblazer’ getting his hand raised here. Kevin Holland by decision.
Staff picking Thompson:
Staff picking Holland: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Bryan Barberena
Tim Bissell: I personally like Barberena to continue his ‘legend killer’ streak here, by weathering the storm against RDA and cracking him with a haymaker — just like he did to Robbie Lawler last time out. However, Dos Anjos’ pedigree in the UFC means the metric is going to stick with him over Barberena, who has been more up and down over the entirety of his Octagon tenure. That being said, the stat I’m using is very close between them (just 0.025 advantage to the Brazilian). If Dos Anjos is going to get the win here, he needs to fight to his strengths, which is the exact opposite of what he did in his last fight (a KO loss to Rafael Fiziev). If he commits to wrestling and grappling he’s got a fantastic chance of stopping Barberena or at least smothering him for the lion’s share of three rounds. ‘Bam Bam’ has never been submitted in the UFC, though he’s also never fought someone with BJJ at RDA’s level. Whether Dos Anjos’ shows that is anyone’s guess, though. Rafael dos Anjos by decision.
Zane Simon: Can Barberena continue his tour of beating up on yesterday’s elite? He’s got a chance if he can make his size count against RDA’s wrestling, and keep the pressure on so that the Brazilian is forced to do most of his fighting off his back foot. But the thing with Barberena is, he’s pretty willing to give up pressure for pace if that’s the trade his opponent wants to make. Lawler had little trouble putting his back on the cage and landing shots, it was the tempo that started to wear him out. Dos Anjos shouldn’t have that problem. Most notably because, if he does get to pressure he’s a fantastic wrestler off the front foot, a great kicker, and a solid clinch fighter too. He gives himself a lot to work with and a lot of paths to follow when he’s getting the fight he wants, and that seems too much like a fight Barberena will give. Rafael dos Anjos by decision.
Staff picking dos Anjos: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Barberena
Matheus Nicolau vs. Matt Schnell
Tim Bissell: This should be fun. The metric is picking Nicolau, who has just one loss in the UFC. But how can you count out Matt Schnell, especially after his thrilling comeback win over Sumudaerji earlier this year. That fight showed that Schnell is there to be hit, but Nicolau hasn’t shown much stopping power in his strikes in his career. He is an accurate striker, though, landing 52% of his significant strikes (Schnell only lands 39% of them). Nicolau also has above average significant striking defense at 67% (the highest in the division). Nicolau’s gaudy takedown defence of 93% also suggests that the fight will happen where Nicolau wants it too. I think that all adds up to a decision win for the Brazilian, with few dramatics (the kind Schnell needs to seize upon to grab a win). Matheus Nicolau by decision.
Zane Simon: Should be a terrifically fun fight. Nicolau is all about playing off his opponent’s pressure, circling out, and landing huge counters. Schnell is pretty dexterous in terms of what fight he’ll take. But, with a retreating opponent, he’s almost always prone to pushing the pace and the action with pressure. That seems like a great way for him to get nailed with exactly the kind of consistency to put him away. Matheus Nicolau via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Nicolau: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Schnell:
Tai Tuivasa vs. Sergei Pavlovich
Tim Bissell: The metric is on Sergei Pavlovich this time, siding against the live by the sword, die by the sword style of Tai Tuivasa. And I agree. I think Pavlovich’s athleticism and range will cause lots of problem for Tuivasa and may ware him down as the fight goes on. In his five UFC contests Pavlovich has racked up a knockdown avg. of 4.76 per 15 minutes, which leads the heavyweight division. Tuivasa’s is 1.4, though admittedly against tougher competition. Pavlovich also ranks high in strikes landed per minute and striking differential. Put all that together and I think the Russian is capable of keeping Tuivasa at range, while muscling him away when he gets too close, until he’s able to land something that hurts. Sergei Pavlovich by TKO.
Zane Simon: As long as someone goes to sleep out there, I’ll feel like this fight went entirely according to plan. Pavlovich isn’t exactly a striking master, but he’s got massive arms and a great sense of timing and shot selection that makes him a shockingly effective KO artist. On the flip side, Tuivasa is a much cleaner puncher, but with a lot less reach and a lot less patience. If Tuivasa comes charging in, will he get rocked? If Tuivasa gets rocked will Pavlovich be ready for the huge counter shot that will likely immediately follow? I’ve seen Tuivasa in these kinds of fights enough to make me feel like he can ride out some trouble and land a few bombs. If he does, I’m not sure Pavlovich will be able to find his way back into the bout. Not saying he can’t, just haven’t seen him do it yet. Tai Tuivasa via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Tuivasa: Kristen, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Pavlovich: Bissell, Dayne
Jack Hermansson vs. Roman Dolidze
Tim Bissell: I’m excited to see Dolidze get a step up in competition here. The metric is picking him, thanks to his performance against the unranked middleweights of the division. I’m siding with that, but only just. Hermansson has faltered lately, but against guys who are either challenging for a title or one win away from challenging. Hermansson is crafty and may outfox Dolidze, but Dolidze looks to have that violence factor which would give the Swede a very thin margin for error. The fact that Dolidze is an extremely accomplished wrestler also makes it more difficult for the Joker to find a way to victory here. My prediction is we are going to start with a wrestling match here, but after losing those exchanges Hermansson will spend too much time on his feet before getting caught. Roman Dolidze by KO.
Zane Simon: It was just the other day, against Chris Curtis, that Jack Hermansson proved what a big step up he truly can be for the middleweight division. His combination of durable, high-volume striking, crafty wrestling, and rock solid grappling make him an exceptionally tough nut to crack, especially for a fighter who works best as an opportunist. Hermansson just doesn’t give that many opportunities to capitalize on. Dolidze does seem to be coming into better form lately. But mostly as a massive, powerful, creative force who jumps on openings when they arise. That feels like just the kind of fight where a steady jab and a diet of kicks will keep things firmly in control. And considering the top-shelf grapplers he’s beat, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the ‘Joker’ can take over on the floor if that’s where the bout ends up. Jack Hermansson by decision.
Staff picking Hermansson: Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Dolidze: Bissell
Eryk Anders vs. Kyle Daukaus
Tim Bissell: Both Anders and Daukaus have struggled to get wins on the board in the UFC. Daukaus is a .500 fighter where Anders has a losing record. I don’t think Anders has the discipline to avoid what Daukaus is best at. Kyle Daukaus by submission.
Zane Simon: The dynamics of this fight are funky as hell. On the one side, you’ve got a fighter that struggles massively with pace and output in Eryk Anders, and on the other you’ve got a fighter that struggles massively with power and athleticism in Kyle Daukaus. Daukaus definitely has the ability to take a busy decision here, but he loves to throw every aspect of his game at his opponent, including clinching and wrestling and grappling. When it’s guys like Pickett & Stoltzfus, he can look like world beater. But Anders is a tough guy to bully if that’s what Daukaus feels like he has to do. I’ll take Anders’ physicality to win out, but expect a very ugly fight along the way. Eryk Anders via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Anders: Zane
Staff picking Daukaus: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne
Niko Price vs. Philip Rowe
Tim Bissell: Price will make this fun, but I think that will be to his own detriment. I see plenty of wild exchanges coming here, with Rowe—aided by his superior reach—landing the last shot. Philip Rowe by TKO.
Zane Simon: It’s not that Philip Rowe can’t beat Niko Price—Price is a wildman who rarely has clear, round-winning form—but I haven’t really seen him thrive in a fight like this yet. Rowe has regularly struggled early in bouts, especially with takedown defense. He’s got all the range in the world to work with, but people don’t have much trouble closing him down. Once opponents start to fade or get predictable, he can definitely take over. But even then, he tends to have to plant his feet right in front of his opposition and force exchanges. That’s the kind of thing where I feel like Price’s power and creativity can cause constant problems. Maybe Rowe overcomes them, or shows a great command of distance to become the sniper he could be. But for now I gotta pick Niko Price via decision.
Staff picking Price: Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Rowe: Bissell
Angela Hill vs. Emily Ducote:
Tim Bissell: Hill has every right to come into this one with lots of emotion. Last time out Ducote beat one of her best friends (Jessica Penne). I honestly don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Too often we’ve seen Hill seemingly fight within herself and not really pull the trigger. Maybe that motivation will lead to more aggressiveness. Or maybe it will make her rash and inattentive. I think Ducote (whom the metric is picking) is going to try and put this fight in a phone booth, which will really frustrate the range-fighter Hill. I think that spells a decision win for Ducote against her fellow former Invicta champ. Emily Ducote by decision.
Zane Simon: When faced with a good athlete who can stay calm and consistent within their skill set, Hill tends to struggle. She’s gotten better at controlling pace and tempo as time has gone on, but she still gets hit a lot, or controlled a lot if grappling is the route her opponent wants to go. I expect at some point in this fight, Hill will find a groove and pick up a solid round, out-working Ducote on the feet. But I’d still bank on Ducote’s power and consistency to grab the other two rounds. Emily Ducote via mildly controversial split decision.
Staff picking Hill: Kristen
Staff picking Ducote: Bissell, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Clay Guida vs. Scott Holtzman
Tim Bissell: We are finally seeing Guida’s decline. Holtzman isn’t much younger than him in human years, but in cage years he’s a spring chicken by comparison. Scott Holtzman by decision
Zane Simon: Holtzman is absolutely prone to get controlled by Guida’s wrestling game, as takedown defense has never been his forte. But Holtzman also isn’t the kind of fighter who gets easily deterred or run off his game, and Guida’s ability to push the pace tirelessly is not nearly the force of nature it once was. Won’t be surprised if Guida controls a lot of the fight early, but it seems likely that Holtzman will find too many chances to land big shots in each round to make something happen. Scott Holtzman via KO, round 3.
Staff picking Guida: Dayne
Staff picking Holtzman: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Zane
Michael Johnson vs. Marc Diakiese
Tim Bissell: I just think Johnson has been hit too many times to prosper in a match-up like this. Marc Diakiese by TKO.
Zane Simon: Hopefully the booth will be less surprised this time, when Marc Diakiese comes out and wrestles Michael Johnson through the floor for 15 minutes straight. Diakiese via decision.
Staff picking Johnson:
Staff picking Diakiese: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Darren Elkins vs. Jonathan Pearce
Tim Bissell: I basically have the same take here as the Guida vs. Holtzman match-up; only in this one Pearce has a significant age and athleticism advantage. Elkins has shown that things like that can be overcome with grit in the past, but how long can he keep doing that? Jonathan Pearce by TKO.
Zane Simon: Much like Thompson vs. Holland above, not so long ago, I’d have picked Elkins to win this with reasonable confidence. Grappling is Pearce’s A-game and the ‘Damage’ is rarely one to be out-worked in a series of scrambles on the mat. But, the margin for error for Elkins has only become more and more thin lately. And unlike Minner and Connelly, ‘JSP’ is huge for the division, and seems fairly tireless. This time around, that just feels like it spells too much bad news for a guy who ran the tread off his tires down to the rims and has been hanging on through pure grit and toughness for a while now. Jonathan Pearce via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Elkins:
Staff picking Pearce: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Natan Levy vs. Genaro Valdez
Zane Simon: Valdez will almost certainly start this match bullish, on the front foot, pushing Levy to the cage with wild exchanges where he’ll clinch up and look for takedowns. I’m just not sure that he has the physicality to make that kind of brute force style work at this level. Levy will give him a lot of chances, but he’s shown that he’s incredibly durable so far, and that he’s got plenty of speed and dynamic striking ability to steal back momentum. I think he’ll get once chance too many here. Natan Levy via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Levy: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Valdez:
Francis Marshall vs. Marcelo Rojo
Zane Simon: I think Marshall has probably gotten to the UFC too early in his career. He’s got a decent, busy striking style, but there are a lot of defensive gaps and he could probably use a lot more seasoning. That said, he’s young, durable, and can change things up with takedowns and back takes. Rojo is a fun brawler, when that’s all he has to do, but that game is pretty limited and it’s not married to a ton of natural athleticism. Marshall might get tested a few times standing, but can likely survive to turn the tables. Francis Marshall via submission, round 3.
Staff picking Marshall: Bissell
Staff picking Rojo: Kristen, Stephie, Dayne
Yazmin Jauregui vs. Istela Nunes
Tim Bissell: Jauregui has looked great, both in her UFC debut and time in Combate. I feel like she’s a fighter the UFC are itching to push and that this match-up has been made to not detract from that. I think she’ll oblige and put herself in a great position to get some promotional shine down the road. Yazmin Jauregui by TKO.
Zane Simon: Istela Nunes is a hell of a lot of fun for a solid round or so. But once the spring goes out of her step, her strikes lose a lot of steam and she loses a lot of her defense, which is mostly based on maintaining range. Jauregui is an incredibly consistent pocket puncher with strong technique both offensively and defensively. Nunes might put an early scare into her, but I think it’s likely Jauregui picks up more and more momentum as she goes. Yazmin Jauregui via decision.
Staff picking Jauregui: Bissell, Kristen, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Nunes:
Kristen went 10-1 last week, with her only miss being picking Maryna Moroz to beat Jennifer Maia. Kristen was also the only staffer to pick Natalia Silva over the undefeated Tereza Bleda. That puts her into first place on the leader board, jumping over both Dayne and Zane (who both went 6-5 at the last event). My crude metric, along with Stephie and Victor went 8-3. Chris and his coin flipping went 4-7.
Leader board (as of Sept 3):
1. Kristen 75-33 .694
2. Dayne 78-38 .672
3. Zane 78-41 .666
4. Anton 40-22 .645
5. Stephie 75-44 .630
6. Victor 26-15 .634
7. Bissell 74-45 .622
8. Lewis 12-8 .600
9. Chris 11-14 .440
This poll is closed