The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for Saturday’s UFC 274 pay-per-view in Phoenix, and the lean is towards Charles Oliveira to defeat Justin Gaethje in the main event even with the controversial weight miss that saw him stripped of his lightweight title. As for the co-main, most of us believe Rose Namajunas will remain strawweight champion in her rematch with Carla Esparza.
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 Zane Simon 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.
Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje
Anton Tabuena: Oliveira will probably stand with him for long stretches, so Gaethje will have a good chance of pulling this off. Oliveira has more avenues to victory though, so it’s just the more logical pick for me. On the feet it should be very competitive, but if it actually goes to the mat, Oliveira’s submission game should be on a completely different level. I’m still pretty worried he’ll stand with him too long and not really attempt enough takedowns, but if Oliveira mixes things up well, he should take this. Charles Oliveira by submission.
Mookie Alexander: I probably should pick Gaethje. There’s almost a near certainty that Oliveira is going to get hurt at some point and Gaethje tends not to let people off the hook. All logic points to Gaethje because unlike Dustin Poirier he really is a terrific defensive wrestler and he’s not going to willingly grapple with Do Bronx. And yet… well Oliveira just missed weight. I was going to pick Oliveira, but being weight drained against Justin Gaethje just made me change my pick. Justin Gaethje by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I realistically should be picking Justin considering he’s likely still at his peak and I don’t know how well Charles can handle the type of onslaught that Justin delivered on Khabib. But a flypaper grappler that can also crack with counters and is also at the height of his power? Yeah, I guess I gotta go with the guy that doesn’t get ahead of himself when things get heated. Besides, both guys have had their chins cracked, and they both pack a punch. Plus they’ve both got amazing cardio. It’s tough to choose, but I’ll roll the dice on the champ keeping the strap. Charles Oliveira by submission.
Zane Simon: The longer this fight goes, the more avenues Charles Oliveira has to win it. His high-variety pressure style is great at forcing fighters to guess what he’s about to hit them with, and the more momentum he builds the more likely they are to start guessing wrong. Add in his clinch offense, clinch wrestling, back take game both standing and on the mat, and there’s just a whole lot of spots that Oliveira is dangerous. Then again, Justin Gaethje isn’t the kind of fighter who does a whole lot of guessing at any point. As we saw in his bout against Tony Ferguson, ‘El Cucuy’ brought all the funk to Gaethje, only to find himself getting smashed by the same few huge countershots over and over again. Gaethje isn’t half so worried about what you’re going to do to him when you get into range to do it as he is focused on what he’s gonna do to you. Pretty much without question, Oliveira is going to get immediately hurt and dropped in this fight. It’s happened to him in most of his recent bouts and Gaethje’s not the kind of guy to miss those opportunities. And while Oliveira has been doing a great job rebounding and finding his chances (and has a serious one here with Gaethje’s over-enthusiastic sprawl game), I’m gonna pick this to be the time that it finally costs him. Justin Gaethje via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Oliveira: Stephie, Victor, Anton, Dayne, Lewis
Staff picking Gaethje: Mookie, Zane
Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
Anton Tabuena: They’ve both improved significantly since the first contest, Namajunas especially, but I guess this still all boils down to how hard or how easy it is for Esparza to consistently land those takedowns. Esparza definitely has a chance to smother and nullify her offense, but I’m less confident she can do that for five rounds without getting cracked and having the tide turn. Rose Namajunas by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I’m pretty confident that Namajunas is the better fighter all these years later, but I won’t rule out an Esparza upset. She’s improved her striking and her wrestling could absolutely give Namajunas fits given Rose’s historical struggles. I just believe that Namajunas’ dynamic striking and ability to land big shots at range against someone who doesn’t pose a power threat will create a magical moment for the champ. Rose Namajunas by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I must be the only believer in Carla Esparza as a high-level competitor for some reason. Her work at Team Oyama has led to improvements in her striking, especially as her main tool to close the distance and work her chain takedown attempts and outwork opponents on the ground. While Rose is no slouch on her back, she’s more of a submission threat in transitions and Carla’s not going to be easy to catch on that. Nor will she be easy to knock out since she knows Rose’s use of range can be effective if you let her get comfortable. I still believe in Carla, I don’t care. Gotta go with the fighter that’s most likely to control where the fight takes place, and Esparza can’t be bullied easily. Carla Esparza by late TKO.
Zane Simon: I really want to pick Esparza here. The simple truth is that through time and tide Rose Namajunas still isn’t a great takedown defender. Weili Zhang had little trouble getting the champ down in almost every round of their bout, through one avenue or another. And while Zhang is unquestionably bigger and stronger and more explosive than Esparza, she’s also not half as technical a wrestler. I have to think Esparza is going to succeed in getting this fight to the mat. And if she does, things could get pretty hairy for ‘Thug Rose’. But, Namajunas is also a much, much more patient, calm fighter than she used to be. And her first bout with Esparza wasn’t so noted for Esparza’s positional dominance over her, as it was for the fact that Namajunas fought like a wild woman for a round and a half and then gassed horribly. If she can stay calm and collected, Esparza’s had more trouble keeping her cardio up for three full rounds these days, and I think Namajunas can do enough to fight her off and flip the script as she tires. Rose Namajunas via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Namajunas: Stephie, Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Lewis, Zane
Staff picking Esparza: Victor
Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson
Anton Tabuena: I still wish politics didn’t come into play and they put on Diaz vs El Cucuy instead. Because this is such a terrible match up for the 2022 version of Ferguson, and it will probably be very sad to watch. Michael Chandler by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I’m pretty worried about Chandler’s cardio beyond the opening round, but it’s been a long time since Ferguson has looked fresh and dangerous in the later rounds. El Cucuy has been losing to the elite of the elite but he’s also looking shopworn independent of opposition. Chandler’s gonna get him with that heat-seeking missile of a right hand at some point and put him away quickly. Michael Chandler by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Can Tony Ferguson be trusted? Because let’s be real here, it’s uncomfortable to think of a guy that’s taken a ton of brain damage rolling the dice against one of lightweight’s heaviest hitters. Add the time he’s had on the shelf and the mental health episodes, and I’m really not even convinced this is a thing that should be happening at all. But if this is what we’re going to get, I’d expect the harder striker with comparable if not better wrestling to have the advantage here. I kind of want to be wrong, but I don’t trust what I don’t trust. Michael Chandler by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: The fascinating part of this fight is that Tony Ferguson has still never been truly KO’d and has only been finished inside three rounds once. Couple that with Michael Chandler’s problems keeping his cardio up over multiple rounds and you have a recipe for a brutal first round for Ferguson, with a big chance for him to rally late. Unfortunately, even if Ferguson’s fights haven’t been marked by a huge drop in durability, they have been notable for how much he’s seemed to get hurt. Hurt to the point that his famous ability to rally is becoming harder and harder to find. And Michael Chandler is someone who hurts people really bad. I don’t know that Chandler gets the early KO, but if he can plonk Ferguson with huge shots even just for two rounds, I can’t pick Ferguson to fight his way back to victory. Michael Chandler via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Chandler: Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Dayne, Lewis, Zane
Staff picking Ferguson:
Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince Saint Preux
Anton Tabuena: My mind is telling me this could be pretty boring and uneventful until the sad ending, but I will not make a logical pick here. Shogun by brutal KO.
Mookie Alexander: Security better watch out for any rogue skateboards. Ovince Saint Preux by Von Flue choke, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: I really hated how the first fight went, really hate how boring their fights can be, and really hate that this rematch actually makes a lot of sense from a divisional standpoint. Shogun isn’t the violence demigod he once was, and that’s fine. He’s firmly in that savvy veteran status that has him winning a lot in fights you can’t remember by outsmarting and outlasting others. OSP remains unpredictable but way less consistent, and maybe this time around Shogun avenges his loss by being a little more cerebral. Shogun Rua by decision.
Zane Simon: I never really needed to see this fight again, but somehow at this late juncture with both men pushing toward 40, I’m strangely okay with it. If you’re gonna keep booking Shogun, this is the kind of fight you should be booking him in. OSP doesn’t seem like he’s lost his physical tools, but he’s having more and more trouble finding those big single moments of offense that used to turn his fights from a slow plodding loss into a sudden victory. Meanwhile Shogun has put a lot of work into his hands, becoming a more consistent and craftier boxer over the years, but he’s lost enough speed and durability at this point that he pretty much always gets rocked and fades early in his fights. I’ll take OSP, just because he seems more like the guy he’s always been, but Shogun may have a really strong first round. OSP via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Rua: Victor, Anton, Dayne
Staff picking OSP: Stephie, Mookie, Lewis, Zane
Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon
Anton Tabuena: They’re both past their prime, but Lauzon still starts strong, while Cerrone has been starting even slower these days. Joe Lauzon by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Cerrone is clearly more comfortable at 155 than at 170. I was going to go with Lauzon because it feels like Cerrone gets hurt the moment he gets hit hard these days, but he’s also very likely to be outstruck by Cerrone and I think Cowboy may even be served trying to go to the ground with J-Lau. No doubt that Lauzon is a terrific submission specialist but Cerrone’s underrated on that front and he may look to offset his recent beatdowns on the feet with a little change of pace. Donald Cerrone by submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Christ, this is just not necessary. This doesn’t have to happen, right? Fine, whatever. Donald Cerrone by who cares.
Zane Simon: I don’t think I’d have picked Lauzon to win this fight at any point up until about 2019. But I’m gonna pick him now. Much like the OSP/Shogun fight, Lauzon still seems a lot like the fighter he’s always been. A brutally aggressive finisher for one round, who then fades fast. Cerrone is one of MMA’s OG slow starters who builds momentum over time, but lately that momentum has gotten harder and harder to find. Since I can guarantee that Lauzon will still have his aggressive, punishing start, I’ll pick him to win. Just because I can’t guarantee that Cerrone will find his momentum the way he used to. Joe Lauzon via TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Cerrone: Stephie, Victor, Mookie
Staff picking Lauzon: Anton, Dayne, Lewis, Zane
Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams
Mookie Alexander: I predict chaos in this fight, but for Khaos to lose. Randy Brown by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Oh, hell yes. Randy Brown is lethal and has more weapons. Williams is good and exciting talent, but he’s not equipped with the same array of weapons. Randy Brown by submission.
Zane Simon: Williams definitely has the power and consistency to take a hard fight to Brown. But Williams also struggled hard to work with the dynamic range of Michel Pereira when they fought. Brown may not be quite the wildcard that Pereira is, but he’s a very fast, slick distance striker with a good clinch game and some underrated grappling skill. I think he can keep Williams convinced that he’s too dangerous to be easily pursued. Randy Brown via decision.
Staff picking Brown: Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Williams: Anton, Dayne
Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont
Victor Rodriguez: Chiasson going back to featherweight is a good move for her long-term. Norma Dumont isn’t the most versatile athlete, but she’s consistent with her output and is heavy in the clinch, making opponents carry her weight. Macy should be able to outbox Norma and mix it up with leg kicks and phone booth body shots. Macy Chiasson by decision.
Zane Simon: Chiasson can probably create some solid chaos if she takes the fight to Dumont early and pushes the pace. But I just think there’s too many ways to get Chiasson off her game, even as she’s finding success. Fighters that are tough and durable enough to hang in with her can start using her aggression against her. Given Dumont’s quality counterpunching, I think she’s find her moments more and more often as the fight goes on. Norma Dumont via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Chiasson: Stephie, Mookie, Victor
Staff picking Dumont: Anton, Dayne, Zane
Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell
Mookie Alexander: Royval fights like a mad man and I’ve concluded that only absolutely elite guys like Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja can handle that. Schnell doesn’t fit that upper echelon category but this fight’s gonna be fun for however long it lasts. Brandon Royval by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I really want to pick Schnell because of his savvy grappling and can’t pull the trigger on it. Royval’s too nasty with his strikes and transitions. Brandon Royval by decision.
Zane Simon: There’s a good opportunity here for Schnell to force Royval into a wild grappling scramble where he might pick up a crafty sub. But, Schnell just isn’t all that great at pushing a winning fight on opponents. Something that Royval does very very well. If Royval pressures Schnell and makes things unpredictable, I think that’s just a fight he’s much more comfortable surviving. Brandon Royval via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Royval: Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Schnell:
Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Victor Rodriguez: I was a big believer in Blagoy when he came over from WSOF but it seems like he’s just getting bullied by some of the bigger dudes somehow. Marcos de Lima by decision.
Zane Simon: The big adaptation to Lima’s game at heavyweight has been his ability to wrestle guys that can’t wrestle. Ivanov is actually really very hard to take down and keep down. Seems like a recipe for Lima to gas and for Ivanov to take over. Blagoy Ivanov via decision.
Staff picking Ivanov: Stephie, Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking de Lima: Victor
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Danny Roberts
Victor Rodriguez: I got a soft spot for tough old dudes, so you know I gotta go with fittyleven-year-old prospect Trinaldo over here. Francisco Trinaldo by decision.
Zane Simon: I can’t believe I’m really picking Trinaldo here, but he’s proven himself to be incredibly difficult to take off his game in a way that Roberts continually hasn’t been. Roberts is faster and can probably compete everywhere, but he seems to regularly work himself into situations that make his fights harder on him than they need to be. Whether it’s getting caught watching on the feet, or assenting to a scrambling grappling match against a great grappler, he finds ways to let opponents have big opportunities. Could easily be the kind of fight where Trinaldo gets out-landed by a sizeable margin and still comes out with his hand raised just for looking like he landed the bigger, better strikes. Francisco Trinaldo by decision.
Staff picking Trinaldo: Mookie, Victor, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Roberts: Stephie, Dayne
Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp
Mookie Alexander: Cameron VanCamp sounds like a place where RVs are sold. Andre Fialho by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Vancamp is a brawl-first grappler with a very messy wrestling game. Seems like a bad combo against a fighter like Fialho, who can compete everywhere, but packs really big power standing. Andre Fialho via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Fialho: Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking VanCamp:
Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
Victor Rodriguez: Tracy’s pretty good, Melissa fights with greater urgency, focus and great finishing instinct. Tracy might get flustered with volume and variety of attacks coming her way. Melissa Gatto by TKO.
Zane Simon: I like a lot of the game Gatto is developing, but it’s hard to watch her get taken down and pushed around by Sijara Eubanks and not think that Cortez can do the same thing for a sizeable chunk of time. Could Gatto still storm back to get the win like she did last time around? Sure, but I’m not banking on it. Tracy Cortez via decision.
Staff picking Cortez: Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Gatto: Mookie, Anton, Dayne
Kleydson Rodrigues vs. C.J. Vergara
Victor Rodriguez: That Kleydson guy is pretty good. That’s the extent of pro analysis you’re getting out of me this week, pal. Take it or leave it. Kleydson Rodrigues by TKO.
Zane Simon: Rodrigues has the look of an exceptional athlete, even in a division like flyweight, noted for it’s great speed and dynamic fighters. Unfortunately for Vergara, he seems like a fairly unathletic flyweight who gets by on grit and toughness. Seems like a recipe for disaster. Kleydson Rodrigues via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Rodrigues: Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Vergara:
Ariane Carnelossi vs. Loopy Godinez
Victor Rodriguez: Carnelossi got farm strength, but I’m leaning Godinez due to her smarter wrestling and plucky boxing game with volume. I’ll probably regret it, but if you’ve been around here long enough you’ll realize I have very little capacity for shame anymore when it comes to this stuff. Loopy Godinez by decision.
Zane Simon: I have serious concerns for Godinez against any opponent who can potential stop even just one part of her MMA game. Godinez isn’t a bad puncher, is a good wrestler, and is a fine top position grappler, but if any one of those stops working, she doesn’t really know how to win a fight with just one or two tools at her disposal. Is Carnelossi strong enough to stop Godinez from holding her down? If so, she might grit out a win. But I’ll take Loopy Godinez via decision.
Staff picking Carnelossi: Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Godinez: Victor, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Journey Newson vs. Fernie Garcia
Victor Rodriguez: Dude, I straight forgot either guy was on the roster. Fernie sounds like a mechanic on a 70s sitcom. Like a Mexican Chico and the Man. Is he Mexican? Look, I’m not gonna check. Let it go. Fernie Garcia by whatever.
Zane Simon: Garcia’s striking game is ugly as hell. He puts himself in lots of bad positions, is wide open to getting cracked, and has trouble turning offense into finishes. But Newson is an exceptionally non-durable BW. Flip a coin, but I’ll take Newson to grit out the win. Journey Newson via decision.
Staff picking Newson: Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Garcia: Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Anton
This poll is closed
Oliveira and Namajunas
Oliveira and Esparza
Gaethje and Namajunas
Gaethje and Esparza