We are getting ready to close the curtain on 2022, but before we do we have a couple more events on the docket. The last UFC pay per view event is on Saturday, with Jan Blachowicz facing Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title. UFC 282 also features Paddy Pimblett in the co-main event, he risks his undefeated UFC record versus Jared Gordon.
Outside of those fights there are plenty of intriguing match-ups. We’ve got Darren Till versus the rising Dricus Du Plessis and prospects Bryce Mitchell and Ilia Topuria squaring off. As always, our staffers have looked over the fights and have given their picks and thoughts below. Being that this is a pay-per-view, the staff picks will be split into separate posts with the title fight and the co-main getting their own articles.
So check below for all our picks, excluding those two bouts. Among the key takeaways you’ll notice is that, as a group, we’re pretty scared for Darren Till who seems to be on the downswing meeting a fighter very much going in the opposite direction. Check out what else we’re thinking and please add your own picks in the comment section below.
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono
Anton Tabuena: This should be really good and competitive normally — maybe even now — but it’s just hard to pick a guy coming in on extremely short notice. Santiago Ponzinibbio by TKO.
Victor Rodriguez: Morono has made such impressive improvements over time, yet I struggle to see how he deals with the range, pressure, speed and mixups that Santiago has. He can wade in and eat some shots to get the fight to the ground and probably weather that storm, or he can attempt to lull Ponzinibbio to fight at his pace. Doesn’t seem likely, though. Santiago Ponzinibbio by decision.
Tim Bissell: I think Alex Morono is licking his chops here. This is a no pressure match-up for him him that he can roll into and play the spoiler (something he’s done before). He won’t care that Ponzinibbio is higher than him in the rankings or was just a step or two away from title contention a few years ago. I see him going in there, surprising the Argentinian and possibly getting a finish. A big reason behind this pick is also Ponzinibbio’s age (36) and what he went through in 2019-2020. Back to back blood and bone infections almost cost him his career (or worse) and I think, sadly, those years that were taken from him have halted his upward trajectory in the sport. Alex Morono by TKO.
Zane Simon: I love that Morono got this fight. He doesn’t have the look of a top flight guy, but he’s made a habit of coming into every bout with a crafty gameplan. And the result is a lot more wins than fans would guess at first glance. Even against a somewhat faded Ponzinibbio here, if Morono can grab a big highlight victory on PPV, it could do a lot of good in getting him more high-profile bouts. There are a couple problems in his way, however. The first, as a crafty ‘gameplan’ fighter, short notice is probably not going to serve Morono well. The second, even on his best days, Morono just isn’t a great athlete, and his style tends to put him into the teeth of his opponent’s offense to get work done. Against stronger, slicker, faster fighters, that’s meant that even amid success, Morono is there to be controlled and/or finished. Ponzinibbio may have lost a step, but he’s shown he can still be a dedicated, aggressive power striker who gets better as the fight goes on. If Morono’s gonna be there to be hit, I think Ponzinibbio will hit him hard. Santiago Ponzinibbio via KO, round 3.
Staff picking Ponzinibbio: Anton, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Morono: Chris, Bissell, Stephie
Darren Till vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Anton Tabuena: I’m not sure what to expect with Till these days with his rough streak and recent injuries. For what it’s worth, he at least changed up his training and will get a needed break from facing top five contenders or former champions. That said, Du Plessis is still legit and very good though, so it’s still going to be a tough match up. Till has size and a style that can cause problems to anyone, but I’m just not confident in picking him now. Dricus Du Plessis by Decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Do you trust Darren Till? I don’t. Whether it’s inconsistent performances or time away from fighting due to legal reasons, I can’t see him having the formula to beat an aggressive striker with great accuracy and on a hot streak right now. Sure, Dricus has been knocked out. But that was against goddamned Robocop Soldic, and Darren Till is most certainly not that. No. Absolutely not. I refuse to accept that Till has the tools for this, and worse still, believe that he’s been figured out since the Masvidal fight. Seeing him fall behind against Whittaker and Brunson solidifies this belief for me. MMAMath™ be damned, I’ll take the fresher guy on a five win streak with explosive finishes against the clearly not in his prime striker that doesn’t have the size and reach advantages he had at welterweight right here. Dricus Du Plessis by TKO, round 2.
Tim Bissell: Many of us are asking ‘what’s wrong with Darren Till?’ However, we’ve seen this story too many times now. Fighters peak and they decline. Some do so at breakneck speeds in both directions. Anyone reading this can name a fighter who looked special and then, usually after a tough loss, just seemed to lose their mojo and keep getting beat — sometimes in worse and worse fashion. I think Till may be in that terriroty. And I think it’s very dangerous for him to take a fight with someone who certainly appears to be on the come up. That’s even more dangerous considering how vicious Du Plessis striking has looked at times in the Octagon. I don’t think this one ends well for the Englishman and, if I’m right, I struggle to see a path back to any kind of relevancy in the promotion. Dricus Du Plessis by TKO.
Zane Simon: Till doesn’t have to lose this fight. He really, really doesn’t. He’s a much cleaner striker than Du Plessis. Hell, he might even be a cleaner wrestler & grappler too (as hard as that is to believe). There’s no part of Du Plessis game that doesn’t come with huge defensive lapses and major mistakes in process and positioning. But my god the willpower to win is there driving him on for every second. Coupled with a whole lot of size and power, it makes the South African an only increasingly terrifying proposition to handle as the bout goes on. On the other side, the problem for Till is that so much of what he does successfully in the cage is bluff and bluster. He looks incredibly poised and dangerous on the counter, but most of his success comes when he’s moving forward and leading, which he only does in spots. If Du Plessis isn’t going to give Till time and space to work, is Till going to take the fight away from him? After lots of time off and injuries and rough losses, it’s hard for me to imagine. Dricus Du Plessis via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Till: Dayne
Staff picking Du Plessis: Anton, Chris, Bissell, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Stephie
Bryce Mitchell vs. Ilia Topuria
Anton Tabuena: I think Topuria adds yet another grappler to his resume here. He’ll be good enough to survive on the ground, and if he gets any space to work on the feet, he should be the superior striker. Mitchell is tough, but I think Topuria finds a way to get a finish. Ilia Topuria by TKO.
Victor Rodriguez: This could be Mitchell’s ceiling, because he’s not gonna be able to outmuscle Topuria and I frankly don’t think he can hang with him on the feet. But for as... not-smart as he is in other avenues in life, he’s at least a super smart grappler with excellent technique and formulates quick solutions on the fly. Topuria didn’t fall for any of Ryan Hall’s tricks in their brief fight, and Hall’s a much more decorated grappler. Granted, they don’t have the same kind of game with Mitchell having a more wrestling-oriented game overall, but Topuria is evolving and doing amazing work so far. Gonna go with the better athlete that knows when to disengage at the right points. Ilia Topuria by TKO.
Tim Bissell: Ilia Topuria is working on a resume that could one day put him in that all-violence division. Bryce Mitchell, horrific believes and statements aside, has shown he is a talented fighter and grappler, but Topuria has encountered those kinds of fighters before and has been able to find enough space to crack them open. Ilia Topuria by TKO.
Zane Simon: I already have some doubts about my Topuria pick, but seeing Kristen ride with Bryce Mitchell is really making me question things. Topuria is undoubtedly excellent, but he also fights with the kind of unwavering self-belief that means he’ll walk himself right into danger without hesitation over and over again. It’s what got him wins over guys like Ryan Hall and Damon Jackson, but it’s also what nearly got him KO’d by Jai Herbert. Mitchell isn’t any kind of knockout artist, but he is a very thoughtful, opportunistic fighter who tends to take whatever opponents give him and turn it into highly successful offense. If Topuria gives as much to Mitchell to work with as he did Herbert, he may not get a chance to rally back. That said, Topuria has proven to be triple tough so far, and looks like a masterful grappler on the mats. if he can survive there and work his body-head combos, I’ll trust him to find the strikes to turn the tables his way. Just don’t be surprised if he has to rally from adversity once again. Ilia Topuria via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Mitchell: Kristen, Stephie
Staff picking Topuria: Anton, Chris, Bissell, Victor, Zane, Dayne
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Chris Daukaus
Anton Tabuena: Big(i) boys will swing, and one of them will go down. I expect this to be very heavyweight either way, but I’m going with Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO.
Victor Rodriguez: I really hate this fight for Chris, because he’s on back to back knockout losses to Blaydes and Lewis. That’s probably the second and third hardest hitting heavyweights in a row, and now he faces a guy that’s arguably the fourth? Woof. Chris undeniably talented, but does he have the capacity to get things to the ground and outhustle Rozie? Possible, yes. But not likely. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO, round 3.
Tim Bissell: Both these guys have looked pretty average as of late, albeit against decent opposition. This feels like one of those which could end with a wild exchange in the first round or could drag on and become unwatchable on route to a decision. I kind of feel like we might see the latter on Saturday night. If that happens, I think Daukaus will be the one with the better gas tank and that this will earn him the rounds he needs for a decision. Chris Daukaus by decision.
Zane Simon: The big difference here is that Rozenstruik has a place he can go to, where this fight should be very comfortable for him. When he gets to be in open space and pick out counter shots, he’s an excellent technician and powerful puncher. For Daukaus, his best success has all been found wading in on the front foot and creating chaos. That’s hardly a point to stay and fight comfortably, and as he’s moved up the division it’s cost him badly. If he sits back and doesn’t pressure, he’s the less technical man. If he does rush in, that’s the fight that serves Rozenstruik best. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO, round 1.
Staff picking Rozenstruik: Anton, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Daukaus: Chris, Bissell
Jay Perrin vs. Raul Rosas Jr.
Anton Tabuena: Not sure why we need minors being signed to fight in the Contender Series and UFC, but here we are. Rosas seems like a good prospect, but I don’t see a generational talent or other worldly athleticism that the world’s biggest promotion just had to rush and get a special license for him to compete as a minor. Seems easy enough to just wait until he’s an adult and give even more time to develop, but maybe that’s just me. Oh well, at least he has already turned 18 for this fight I guess. UFC hasn’t been great historically at slowly building prospects up, so it’ll also be interesting to see how he gets matched up moving forward — if he wins this one, which I think he will. Raul Rosas Jr. by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: The nicest thing I can say about this is that at least they seem like they’re slow-walking the kid. Perrin’s good, and so was Mando Gutierrez, who Rosas beat on Contender Series. Not the same kind of fighter, but still susceptible to being swallowed by the kind of grappling vortex Rosas creates. The kid is for real, folks. Raul Rosas by submission.
Tim Bissell: I don’t think teenagers should be fighting in MMA. I’ve covered brain health extensively for Bloody Elbow. Something I’ve learned is that human brains aren’t fully developed until we are 25 years old. The time leading up to that, especially in teenage years, the brain is going through some wild changes and is extremely malleable. Because of that, blows to the head can have a far nastier ( and long lasting impact) against a young brain than one that is beyond adolescence. Of course, so far Rosas Jr. has shown he is good enough to avoid taking damage, but how long will that last? I think he’ll do what he pleases against Perrin, using his size and creativity, but I just don’t like the precedent that is being set here. Raul Rosas Jr. by submission.
Zane Simon: I’m not a big fan of teens going pro in MMA, and I’m definitely not a fan of them getting thrown into the talent thresher that is the UFC. Bantamweight seems especially like the worst place for it too. That said, Perrin’s a flat footed head-hunting puncher who really only finds his range toe-to-toe in the pocket, where he can get hit just as hard as he’s hitting. Should be a perfect setup for Rosas’ dynamic takedown entries into submission scrambles. Raul Rosas Jr. by Submission, round 1.
Staff picking Perrin: Dayne
Staff picking Rosas Jr.: Anton, Chris, Bissell, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Stephie
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
Victor Rodriguez: Look, I’ve poked a lot of fun at Glendale Fight Club over the years. I’ve also probably overdone it to a degree. But I regret nothing. Edmen was a bright prospect stuck with a hack coach that got hot-shotted to contender status and flamed out miserably when he met higher level competition. His last three fights? All losses, two of them finishes. I don’t think he’s done, and this could be the step back he needs to build up from and improve. I overall feel real bad for the guy. And not because he’s up against a top 10 or 15 guy, because he’s not. Dalcha is also on a really bad losing skid, but at least he has reliably harder striking and at least has a competent corner. Yes, he’s 2-4 in the UFC, with three straight losses. And yes, I still trust him more than despite Shahbazyan changing his environment and training in Vegas. Dalchia Lungiambula by TKO.
Tim Bissell: This is an interesting match-up and one that feels tailored to discovering where Edmen Shahbazyan is at. Was it too much too soon with opponents like Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson or was it proof that Shahbayzan’s ceiling as a fighter is the prelim card. I think he has a well-rounded enough game to get past Dalchia Lungiambula, but I don’t see a path back to the main event for him. Edmen Shahbazyan by decision.
Zane Simon: There are a lot of questions to be answered by Shahbazyan at this point. He got pushed up the division fast, and his fall back down to earth has been a devastating one. The time off and the camp switch both seem like good ideas. It remains to be seen if better coaching can add badly needed depth to his game though. Even with all that, I’m not sure Lungiambula can ask the right questions of Shahbazyan. The longtime Judoka has been trying to add aggression and pace to his game in the UFC. And while he looks like a more dangerous fighter for it, that also means he’s more available to be hit and hurt and finished. Given how tough Shahbazyan is and how great a fast starter he is, I think he can put Lungiambula away early. Edmen Shahbazyan via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Shahbazyan: Anton, Chris, Bissell, Kristen, Zane, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Lungiambula: Victor
Chris Curtis vs. Joaquin Buckley
Victor Rodriguez: I’m still tickled by how this got cobbled together. But I also love the action potential and hate that one of them has to lose here. Unless it’s a draw, I’d be fine with that. But I got a soft spot for Curtis blazing his way through a very solid run after having retired twice already. Chris Curtis by decision.
Zane Simon: This should be a fantastic fight. Both Curtis and Buckley are tough as nails and love to keep fights standing. Buckley chooses more targets than Curtis and fights at a higher pace, but also is incredibly predictable in his rhythms and movement. Better honed strikers can often gamble on exactly when Buckley is entering the pocket and meet him with huge shots. That’s great news for Curtis, who is an exceedingly skilled counterpuncher who stays composed deep into fights. If he can’t KO Buckley, it’s worth worrying about matching pace and winning rounds, but I think he’ll have enough big moments to win even despite that. Chris Curtis by decision.
Staff picking Curtis: Anton, Bissell, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Buckley: Chris
Billy Quarantillo vs. Alexander Hernandez
Tim Bissell: Picking Quarantillo here because I think he has more sting to his strikes and that he’ll be able to land enough to made Hernandez fade late in the fight. Billy Quarantillo by TKO.
Zane Simon: It’ll be interesting to see how Hernandez looks at featherweight. When he had the size and athletic advantage at lightweight he often looked like a near-unbeatable buzzsaw. Quarantillo isn’t exactly a physical phenom, so it could be that Hernandez shows up here like he did against Gruetzmacher. That said, Quarantillo is triple tough, and I love the jab he’s added to his offense lately. If he can catch Hernandez on his entries, he can likely start taking the confidence out of the ‘Great Ape’ (why do I hate that nickname so much?) in a hurry. Hernandez has struggled badly when fighters can adjust to his power and tempo, ever since that Cerrone loss. Billy Quarantillo by decision.
Staff picking Quarantillo: Anton, Bissell, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Hernandez: Chris
Erik Silva vs. TJ Brown
Zane Simon: Silva starts hot with takedowns and backtakes and submissions. Brown starts slow and even when he starts to pick things up can still be just out-muscled or out-maneuvered. Erik Silva via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Silva: Anton, Bissell, Kristen, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Brown: Chris, Victor, Dayne
Daniel de Silva vs. Vinicius Salvador
Zane Simon: This fight will be a 50/50 war for about 2-3 minutes, after which I have to bank on Salvardor’s non-stop intensity and drive. If de Silva could keep his gas tank going for longer, he’d have a real chance at taking this one, but I’m not banking on it after that last showing. Vinicius Salvador via KO, round 1.
Staff picking de Silva: Chris, Dayne
Staff picking Salvador: Anton, Bissell, Victor, Kristen, Zane, Stephie
Cameron Saaiman vs. Steven Koslow
Zane Simon: Maybe I shouldn’t pick the short notice guy, but I’m really not very impressed with Saaiman coming off his contender series win. A low paced bantamweight with a sharp kicking game but a serious aversion to takedown defense just doesn’t seem like a thriving recipe for success. Koslow has feasted on can crushing, but he’s an aggressive wrestler who immediately hunts submissions. Think he can pull something spectacular out early here. Steven Koslow via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Saaiman: Anton, Chris, Bissell, Victor, Kristen, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Koslow: Zane
Well, we did it. We cursed poor Kevin Holland by picking him unanimously against Stephen Thompson. However, Rafael dos Anjos, Matheus Nicolau, Yazmin Jauregui, Jonathan Pearce, Natan Levy were able to escape the BE curse — so maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. That being said, it was a rough one for the staffers. The only winning record came from yours truly (using a crude metric). I went 9-5, being the only person to pick Roman Dolidze and Phillip Rowe. Zane and Dayne both went 7-7, while both Kristen and Stephie had losing records for the first time since I start tracking this.
Leader board (as of Sept 3):
1. Dayne 85-45 (.654)
2. Zane 85-48 (.639)
3. Bissell 83-50 (.624)
4. Kristen 81-41 (.664)
5. Stephie 80-53 (.602)
6. Anton 40-22 (.645)
7. Victor 26-15 (.634)
8. Lewis 12-8 (.600)
9. Chris 11-14 (.440)
Leader board position is based on number of correct picks. Correct pick percentage acts as a tiebreaker.
This poll is closed
Dricus Du Plessis