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UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s predictions for UFC 271.

The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC 271, and everyone except Victor Rodriguez is picking Israel Adesanya to win his middleweight title rematch over Robert Whittaker. Anton Tabuena is alone in picking Tai Tuivasa over Derrick Lewis in the co-main. 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.

Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker

Anton Tabuena: Whittaker really fought out of character the first time out and seemingly kept trying to rush in and get a quick KO. I assume it will be much different and a lot closer this time around, but I still think Adesanya will have the edge. Adesanya will likely have the edge from range, and I’m not sure if Whittaker can do much with clinch and takedown attempts. I don’t think it will be a blowout either way, but I’m going with Israel Adesanya by decision.

Mookie Alexander: I’d like to think Whittaker is going to do better than he did in the first fight, which is a low bar to clear but that did not look like the Whittaker we’ve come to expect. He’ll have to jab and low kick more and find other ways to draw favorable exchanges against the champ. We might even see Whittaker try and use his offensive wrestling and clinch just as a change of pace, even though Adesanya’s only serious problem with takedown defense in recent years was up at 205 lbs against Jan Blachowicz. Ultimately though I think Adesanya is just too smart, too sharp, too accurate, and the danger of trying to be aggressive on the feet against him is he’s seemingly one step ahead of his opponent virtually all the time. We’ve seen Whittaker hurt more than Adesanya historically, and I think Adesanya will put him away again but later in the fight. Israel Adesanya by TKO, round 4.

Zane Simon: I don’t know why, but I have the sneaking suspicion this will be an absolute war. My gut read is that Whittaker is going to come out with some adjustments that highlight a more cautious approach, and that Adesanya will use that to start picking him apart from distance, maybe even to the point of hurting him again. But, Whittaker has often been a very hard fighter to put away, and if he can see himself through a rough spot or two, he may just be able to bite down, fight through the offense and keep landing his own shots round after round, much like Kelvin Gastelum did. Gastelum still didn’t win that fight, and I don’t think Whittaker will either. But I wouldn’t be shocked if he came back and won a late round or two and maybe even hurt Adesanya a couple times himself. All told though, I gotta take the pendulum to swing the same way: Israel Adesanya by decision.

Staff picking Adesanya: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Lewis
Staff picking Whittaker: Victor

Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa

Anton Tabuena: Both hit hard and can end the fight at any point. Tuivasa should be faster and more technical. Lewis seems to have underrated timing and ability to set up those bombs though. Plus this is heavyweight, so who knows how it will end. I just hope it doesn’t take too long and look too heavyweight. Tai Tuivasa by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Tuivasa probably has more ways to hurt and knock Lewis out both at range and in the clinch, but does it really matter? These two are going to throw knockout shots at each other, one of them is going to fall and not get up. There is no need to attempt serious analysis for a fight that is perfectly designed for violence and nothing else. Derrick Lewis by KO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Tuivasa will probably get exactly the fight he wants out of this. Which is to say he’ll land a kick or two, decide he’s got Lewis on the ropes and then bull into him to trade massive kill-shot hooks inside the pocket. Which man comes out of that alive, however, remains to be seen. It very likely won’t be the fight Lewis would ideally like to have, but so few fights are for him (and yet he still wins most of those). Eventually, I just have more faith in Lewis finding his KO punches. If Tuivasa hurts him, I have more faith in Lewis finding a huge counter, and if he hurts Tuivasa I have more faith in him finding the followup shots. Mostly it’s just due to the immense amounts of patience and composure he’s built into his game over the years, which I think Tuivasa is still struggling to find. That said, if these men both land bombs in the pocket who can say for sure which of them ends up out on the floor. Derrick Lewis via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Lewis: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Victor, Lewis
Staff picking Tuivasa: Anton

Jared Cannonier vs. Derek Brunson

Anton Tabuena: I said I wouldn’t doubt Blonde Brunson anymore, but I’m somehow picking against him again now. Jared Cannonier by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Yeah this is probably a bad pick on my part because if Brunson cannot get his wrestling going, there’s a good chance Cannonier just steamrolls him with his straighter punching. Cannonier has been virtually impossible to take down and hold down at middleweight, but Brunson has also shown himself to be very capable of making his admittedly awkward striking work with his wrestling. I’m not gonna doubt Blonde Brunson. Derek Brunson by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: It seems very likely that we’ll know just how this fight plays out within the first couple minutes of round 1. Brunson will likely stand with Cannonier for a couple minutes, draw out some strikes, maybe get cracked a bit and then shoot in. If he can keep Cannonier down or keep taking him down from that point, it seems fairly certain he can break his cardio and get the win. But, if Cannonier can shuck the early takedown attempts and force Brunson to spend long stretches standing, I think the consistency he’s shown lately will lead to a likely TKO. I’ll take Jared Cannonier via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Cannonier: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Lewis
Staff picking Brunson: Mookie, Dayne, Victor

Alexander Hernandez vs. Renato Moicano

Mookie Alexander: See?! You’re on the main card now, Alex. With that said… Renato Moicano by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Flip a coin. At different points in their careers both men would have been easy and obvious favorites in this fight. The version of Renato Moicano that beat Calvin Kattar would likely glide past the version of Alexander Hernandez that squeaked by Francisco Trinaldo. And the version of Hernandez that crushed Dariush seems like a real problem for the version of Moicano who got put away fast by TKZ and Fiziev. At this point, both men seem like they’ve had a lot of caution pushed into their games by hard losses, and whoever wins could just be down to which one between them carries the least of that baggage into the ring on fight night. I’ll take Hernandez, just because although he can be easily pushed into inactivity, Moicano seems far too easy to hurt standing at this point. If Hernandez can ding him, I think that’ll give him the burst of confidence he needs to finish the job. Alexander Hernandez by TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Hernandez: Zane
Staff picking Moicano: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Dayne

Bobby Green vs. Nasrat Haqparast

Mookie Alexander: This should be a fun fight. It’s looking like Haqparast’s power does not actually hold up well against UFC-level competition. He came into the UFC with all of the knockouts but in the UFC he only has one. He’ll look to be aggressive against Green but Bobby is hard to hit cleanly and he has a great chin. I just sense that the way Haqparast fights will leave him open to tons of counters, and I wouldn’t rule out Green taking Nasrat down a few times just to change things up. Bobby Green by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Haqparast has all the raw tools to become an elite lightweight, but finding the depth behind those tools has been a real issue. Against fighters that can’t keep up with his remarkable speed, he can cruise to easy decisions. But at the top levels, fighters have been able to push back and break him with pressure. Green likely won’t start on the front foot, and he may even drop an early round as he finds his groove, but if he can respond to pressure with deep counter combos and pick up the pace all the way through, I think he can wear Haqparast out down the stretch. Bobby Green via decision.

Staff picking Green: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Victor
Staff picking Haqparast:

Andrei Arlovski vs. Jared Vanderaa

Mookie Alexander: This version of Andrei Arlovski will be winning these types of potentially very ugly fights until 2060. Amazingly, he’s won 4 out of 5. I assume he’ll beat Vanderaa, get fed to someone who will stop him, then we repeat the cycle! Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: At this point, when the UFC puts Arlovski in the ring with someone who is neither a better boxer, nor a bigger puncher than he is, I just chalk it up to an automatic decision win for the ‘Pitbull’. He’s too experienced and comfortable in a fight as limited as the one Vanderaa is likely to offer him for me to pick Vanderaa to change the tune. Andrei Arlovski by decision.

Staff picking Arlovski: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Victor
Staff picking Vanderaa: Anton

Roxanne Modafferi vs. Casey O’Neill

Anton Tabuena: I don’t care about any of your arguments, I’m definitely not picking against a WMMA pioneer, former BE colleague, and fellow nerd in her retirement fight. Roxy Modafferi by decision.

Mookie Alexander: O’Neill probably is going to win. She could have the physical advantage over Roxanne and she’s shown some serious ability to crush her opponents with her top control offense. But I’m going to be biased and pick Roxanne Modafferi to win her retirement fight because why wouldn’t I? She’s a pioneer for women’s MMA, a great story of perseverance just for her to be in the UFC and get a title shot, a former Bloody Elbow columnist, and she’s genuinely not that far removed from beating Andrea Lee and Maycre Barber. WAR ROXY! Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Casey O’Neill has the youth and the hype, but this really is a big step up for her. As a grappling-forward talent who doesn’t appear to be the world’s best athlete, it’s worth noting that she’s never really faced a decent grappler who can also match her for size. Modafferi knows her game, knows what fights he wants to have, and has the skills to compete with O’Neill everywhere. Here’s hoping Roxy has a victorious ride off into the sunset. Roxanne Modafferi by decision.

Staff picking Modafferi: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking O’Neill: Dayne

Kyler Phillips vs. Marcelo Rojo

Mookie Alexander: Phillips better pace himself a hell of a lot better than he did in his last fight against Raulian Paiva, or else this could be tricky. Kyler Phillips by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: It’s hard not to pick Phillips, just for all his obvious athletic gifts and slick skills. Is Rojo actually better than him anywhere? I tend to doubt it. But, that said, I also think this could be a bit of a trap fight for Phillips. Rojo is big and tough and aggressive and he only tends to lose by submission (a way Phillips very rarely wins). If Phillips gives Rojo time and space to work in order to set up his own flashy strikes, we could get a lot of 50/50 exchanges where both men crash the pocket looking to land something powerful. That said, Phillips can change this up with wrestling, or possibly break Rojo with pace. So I’ll take Kyler Phillips by decision. But I can see Rojo as a live dog.

Staff picking Phillips: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Rojo: Victor

Carlos Ulberg vs. Fabio Cherant

Zane Simon: Both men could have used a couple extra years of seasoning fighting regional opponents, but that especially seems true of Fabio Cherant. His low-output style puts him in incredibly difficult spots as he also tends to fight within his opponent’s striking range. He’s there to be hit and doesn’t offer nearly enough threats in return. The result has been two quick finish losses. This will probably be a third. Carlos Ulberg via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Ulberg: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Cherant:

William Knight vs. Maxim Grishin

Zane Simon: This is very, very likely to be a grim, ugly fight. Knight can’t help but be dangerous, but rarely gives himself clear opportunities to impose his physicality on opponents. Meanwhile Grishin is the epitome of a crafty, seasoned veteran who knows how to neutralize and control fights without necessarily delivering a lot of his own damaging offense. In that kind of battle, I think I’ll take Grishin to be just too stifling for Knight to get off his occasional wild shots. But it just might be that we’re picking between 3 minutes of control and one wild moment of offense each round. Maxim Grishin via decision.

Staff picking Knight: Mookie
Staff picking Grishin: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Dayne

Leomana Martinez vs. Ronnie Lawrence

Zane Simon: I really like Lawrence’s dedication to an aggressive, multi-layered wrestling game. His striking is still very much a work in progress, and I’m not sure he has the physicality to make the style work up at the higher levels of the bantamweight division. But I’m also not at all convinced that Martinez is that higher level. He’s got some nice, slick moves standing, but just seems like a lackluster athlete as well. If it comes down to two well trained, okay athletes with limited games, I’ll take the wrestler. Ronnie Lawrence via decision.

Staff picking Martinez: Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Lawrence: Anton, Dayne, Zane

A.J. Dobson vs. Jacob Malkoun

Zane Simon: I’m a little shocked to see all the picks for Dobson here. He’s pretty clearly a very raw fighter overwhelming opponents with sheer will and power early in his career. And while that absolutely could lead to an instant KO of Malkoun, much like his loss to Phil Hawes, we’ve also seen Malkoun beat a ferocious power threat in Abdul Razak Alhassan behind an exceptionally scrappy, clinging gameplan. If Malkoun can clinch Dobson up and just put him on the cage, is Dobson going to have an answer? I haven’t seen the evidence yet. Jacob Malkoun via decision.

Staff picking Dobson: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Malkoun: Zane

Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Sergey Morozov

Zane Simon: For Morozov, it feels like every UFC win he gets is going to have to come on the back of comprehensive performances. He doesn’t appear to be a great athlete, he’s not an incredibly deep technician anywhere, but he’s a consistent, clean striker, decent wrestler, and solid grappler. If he can’t impose his wrestling game, however, everything else starts to struggle. Notably his striking output just isn’t very high. And while Douglas D’Silva has been taken down a few times in his career, he’s the kind of physical force that’s very hard to dominate on the mats. I’ll take Douglas Silva de Andrade by decision. Too hard to control and the much more powerful force in the cage.

Staff picking Silva de Andrade: Mookie, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Morozov: Anton, Dayne

Jeremiah Wells vs. Mike Mathetha

Zane Simon: I’m entirely prepared to be surprised by Mathetha. City Kickboxing has built a strong reputation for turning good kickboxers into good MMA fighters, and I’ve regularly underestimated the ability of their new talent to compete at a high level. That said, the tape that’s out there on Mathetha really does not paint a portrait of a controlled or technical fighter. And while Wells isn’t a shining picture of that either, he appears to be the bigger, more powerful man, and he has a lot more experience pressing his physicality and aggression inside a cage. If Wells turns this into a brawl, there’s a perfectly reasonable chance he gets caught by something creative he didn’t see coming. But if he doesn’t get KO’d, I expect he’ll be able to hulk Mathetha to the mat and do some real damage. Jeremiah Wells via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Wells: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Mathetha:

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Israel Adesanya
    (375 votes)
  • 39%
    Robert Whittaker
    (241 votes)
616 votes total Vote Now