The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions and today we’re doing things a little differently. We’re combining the main cards of Bellator 277 and UFC Vegas 51 into one post. On the Bellator side, we all believe A.J. McKee will win his rematch with Patricio Freire to remain featherweight champion. We’re also unanimous on Vadim Nemkov keeping his light heavyweight title and win the grand prix over UFC veteran Corey Anderson. On the UFC side, everyone except Victor Rodriguez is picking Vicente Luque to win Saturday night’s rematch against fellow welterweight contender Belal Muhammad. 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 Victor Rodriguez 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.
AJ McKee vs. Patricio Freire
Mookie Alexander: McKee has passed virtually every test with flying colors. We’ve rarely seen him in trouble in his career and when he reached the final boss he dominated Patricio Pitbull in ways we’ve never seen anyone else manage. McKee still must be wary of Freire’s power, speed, and ability to latch on wicked chokes just as McKee himself has done, but there’s such a clear physical and athletic advantage in AJ’s favor that while I think we’ll get a different fight than the first one, the ending will be the same. And if Patricio wins this then he should have a statue built outside of Bellator headquarters because winning the featherweight belt a third time would be amazing even by his standards. AJ McKee by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: There are a lot of opportunities for Freire’s patient opportunism to find gaps in McKee’s game. Even through all his success, McKee seems to have created a style that thrives on forcing a messy fight on opponents, and picking up the chances that that fight exposes. He’s great at throwing high power, surprising strikes while opponents are frozen up wondering when the shot is going to come, and then shooting behind them once they’re forced to acknowledge his striking. But even as he does that, it comes with lots of opportunities to counter for a fighter that’s prepared for everything the way Pitbull tends to be. Then again, we saw this fight once already, and Pitbull totally got caught out. The biggest thing in McKee’s favor, other than his absurd speed, is really his size. He can fire shots at a range Pitbull can’t easily counter, and if he gets takedowns, it seems likely he’ll keep control. The biggest question mark is really cardio. He was notably less light on his feet and dynamic in rounds 2 & 3 against Campos. If Pitbull survives early, his chances probably get a lot better. And of course all this comes with the caveat that Pitbull has been notably great in rematches when he’s got them in the past. I’ll take AJ McKee by decision, but this could become a pretty hairy fight by the last couple rounds.
Staff picking McKee: Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Pitbull:
Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson
Mookie Alexander: I won’t discount Anderson’s chances here. We saw Nemkov get clipped and flash dropped by Julius Anglickas, and Anderson has showcased his finishing abilities as of late in his last four wins. That overhand right could pose problems for the champ, but Nemkov is the more diverse striker who can also nullify a lot of Anderson’s wrestling and ability to win on the mat. The obvious issue for Anderson is he’s been rocked and knocked out more than a few times and Nemkov hits ridiculously hard, so the pick is Vadim Nemkov by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Anderson definitely can mix it up with people, but that kind of fight often has to be pressed on him. Otherwise, he has no trouble opting for the slow paced single shot medium distance exchanges that Nemkov really likes to have. Couple, of course, with lots of clinching and takedown attempts. If Nemkov can nullify the wrestling exchanges, and I’m looking at an ugly kickboxing bout, then he’s the one who’s never been KO’d before, so I kind of just have to go with him. Vadim Nemkov via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Nemkov: Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Anderson: Dayne
Aaron Pico vs. Adli Edwards
Mookie Alexander: Good luck, Adli. You’re gonna need it. Aaron Pico by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Adli Edwards is a somewhat reedy grappler and very awkward, hittable striker who really needs a wrestling advantage to make his game work. Seems like a recipe to getting trucked. Aaron Pico via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Pico: Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Edwards:
Timothy Johnson vs. Linton Vassell
Mookie Alexander: Johnson has power that could trouble Vassell but I don’t think he’ll be able to cope with the wrestling or grappling abilities of the Englishman. When is Bellator going to beef up this division? Linton Vassell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Fight really comes down to just who can end up on top. Most likely that’s Vassell, who is just a little more dynamic with his clinch and takedown entries. But neither man is a comfortable striker, and if they can’t find takedowns, this could be a real ugly standup battle. I’ll take Vassell just for his grappling and the slightly slicker takedown threat. Linton Vassell by decision.
Staff picking Johnson:
Staff picking Vassell: Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Dayne, Zane
This poll is closed
Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
Mookie Alexander: Luque’s tendency to put himself in dangerous positions whether on the feet or on the mat I think will always make him someone who shouldn’t be a 100% confident pick. I have questions about his cardio holding up in a five-rounder, which Muhammad has prepared for both in the UFC and in Titan FC despite never going to a fifth. I’ve got every reason to believe Muhammad’s cardio is great, but Luque is a little iffier. I still think the main problem for Muhammad in this matchup is that he’s not a consistent finishing threat who can hurt Luque standing like Thompson did or threaten a submission like Chiesa did. The offensive firepower is heavily in Luque’s favor and he’s already proven he can crack and KO Belal. If Muhammad wants to wrestle Luque then he’ll have to deal with Vicente’s opportunistic submission hunting and scrambling abilities. I don’t think it’ll be that easy this time around but the pick is Vicente Luque by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: They’ve had this fight before and Luque won it pretty easily, so it’s kinda hard to pick against him going into this fight. But, I will say, if I’m looking at the change from that last bout to now, Muhammad seems like the guy who has made the really dramatic improvements. Luque is still very much the dangerous power puncher he’s always been, coupled with some better wrestling defense, but the same willingness to trade hard shots inside. Muhammad, however, has regularly proved himself to be one of the best planning and preparing fighters in the game. He’s always in shape to fight the whole way through, and he tends to come in with just the right game plan and stick with it. It was kinda shocking (at least to me) to see him handle Thompson as well as he did. If he comes in with just the right plan here and finds success, I’m not entirely convinced that Luque will make the needed adjustments. That said, if I’m looking at who has the potential to end the fight in any moment over 5 rounds, that’s still Luque. Vicente Luque via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Luque: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Muhammad: Victor
Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev
Mookie Alexander: No seriously… this is the co-main event?! I’ll just go with whatever Zane wrote. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: We’ve got the low output Karate stylist who often depends on his wrestling, against the totally wrestling tuned Omargadzhiev, who also has a crafty sub grappling game. I’ve gotta take the wrestler in this kind of fight. Especially between two debuting talents in this small cage. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev via decision.
Staff picking Borralho: Dayne
Staff picking Omargadzhiev: Mookie, Stephie, Zane
Miguel Baeza vs. Andre Fialho
Mookie Alexander: The most fun fight on the main card. Baeza’s defensive deficiencies really have me not comfortable with his chances against Fialho, who’s hardly a defensive wizard himself but showed some impressive durability in his fight with Michel Pereira. Andre Fialho by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Seeing all of us picking Fialho has me a little rattled for my pick. The reality is that both of these guys have gaps in their games that the other can exploit. For Baeza, his defense off the back foot really is porous. And power punchers who can work inside past his longer shots, start lighting him up. For Fialho, there just seems to be a lot of indecision as to what path he should take at any one time. He’s got all the technical tools, it’s just about making the right reads. Fialho seems a lot more like the fighters that have beat Baeza lately, so I’ll take him. But if he gets in his own head, Baeza absolutely has the consistent range striking to pick him apart. Andre Fialho via KO round 2.
Staff picking Baeza:
Staff picking Fialho: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Wu Yanan
Mookie Alexander: I thought about picking Wu but realized she actually isn’t any good at his level and Silva has had good wins at flyweight. Mayra Bueno Silva by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I know it’s Silva moving up a division here, but I can’t help feeling that she’ll just be the much more powerful, stronger fighter everywhere. And if she can get this fight to the mat, she should have a big grappling advantage. Mayra Bueno Silva via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Silva: Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Wu:
Pat Sabatini vs. TJ Laramie
Mookie Alexander: Mirror match except one mirror is bigger than the other. Pat Sabatini by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: Two guys that love to wrestle, and Sabatini is the better grappler and more technical wrestler, who might also be bigger and stronger. Pat Sabatini via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Sabatini: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Laramie:
Mounir Lazzez vs. Ange Loosa
Mookie Alexander: There are Winnas and then there are Loosas. Mounir Lazzez by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Lazzez can’t keep letting himself get backed to the cage with just a high guard to protect him. But I’m not at all confident that Loosa has the kind of pressure to put him on the back foot regularly. And otherwise, Loosa just always seems to be fighting from a step behind his opponent. On short notice, I don’t think that’s gonna change here. Mounir Lazzez via decision.
Staff picking Lazzez: Mookie, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Loosa: Dayne
This poll is closed