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 smoked all the weed and entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he’ll have no idea if he’s going to be the only one picking that god damn bum Colby Covington, nor have any idea why like all the fighters can’t just all get along and be friends man(?).
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Liz Carmouche
Mookie Alexander: I don’t want to come out here and say Carmouche has no chance. In fact, she has a better chance than Jessica Eye ever did by virtue of being a much higher level fighter for a longer period of time. That said, her best path to victory appears to be takedowns and making this fight a complete grind. I don’t see how that works against 2019 Shevchenko. The skill gap is just too wide between these fighters at this point. Shevchenko can keep it standing and counterstrike Carmouche to pieces, or even outgrapple Carmouche on the ground if she desires. Valentina Shevchenko by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Essentially the only really big chance this fight feels like it has to be interesting is if Carmouche shoots for takedowns from range. And even that seems unlikely, since Shevchenko is a safety first counterpuncher who rarely leaves opportunities to get hit with the reactive double. So Carmouche would either have to strike into a takedown or shoot from way outside with no setup. Otherwise, Shevchenko is probably one of the few flyweights that can match Carmouche for physicality, and has the more technical clinch game to fall back on. And she’s the better striker. Chances are, Carmouche won’t want to lead with strikes and won’t get easy takedown chances, and will just get slowly picked off with kicks and counter punches whenever she steps inside. Valentina Shevchenko by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Carmouche has limitations, and that’s what bothers me. She’s got great smash-mouth wrestling for controlling portions of the fight, but it’s not going to be easy for her to do that against a strong athlete like Valentina. Shevchenko’s striking and grappling defense will serve her more than what Carmouche brings, but Liz isn’t going to make it easy. This should be gritty, ugly and an up-close mugging affair, and the fighter that does the most in the clinch will take over. If this is what indeed happens, I gotta push all my chips on the champ. God, we’re gonna have another BE curse situation, aren’t we? Valentina Shevchenko by decision.
Staff picking Shevchenko: Shak, Ed, Phil, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Carmouche:
Vicente Luque vs. Mike Perry
Mookie Alexander: Perry has a real shot at victory. He hits stupidly hard and is stupidly tough to put away. That said, what areas of MMA is Perry demonstrably and consistently better than Luque? I do have concerns about Luque’s chin against Perry’s power, but beyond that he is the better striker, better grappler, and more defensively responsible. It should be fun for however long it lasts, and I suspect Perry might do something stupid like try and grapple Luque and cost himself any shot at victory. Vicente Luque by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: There is one reason to pick against Luque, barring the puncher’s chance: his forearm guard is, as adequately demonstrated by Barberena, somewhat vulnerable to people punching into it and then pulling away his arms and thumping him. Perry can do that! He’s genuinely good at that kind of stuff! However, he’s also defensively porous, plodding, and Luque will strangle him if it hits the mat. Vicente Luque by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: As Phil noted, as far as punchers chances go, Perry has an exceptionally good one. He’s unfathomably durable, and extremely mentally tough in fights. If you take a war to Mike Perry, he’s unlikely to be the first guy to take a step backwards. But, we’ve also seen fighters stay on the back foot all fight and counter him for decisive wins. And we’ve seen fighters pressure and pick him off with cautious entries for decisive wins. And we’ve also seen him submitted off his own reckless grappling offense. Luque has a good front headlock series, excellent counterpunching, and good pressure footwork. He’s great at staying composed, and has been similarly incredibly tough to break. As long as he minds himself at all times, he can probably pick Perry off in the same few ways all fight. Vicente Luque via submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Not sure what Perry can do here other than eat a lot of damage in the hopes that Luque gets sloppy or tires out. That’s not a viable gameplan for anyone. Luque’s got varied strikes, good cardio, and he can also really wreck most fighters in his division on the ground. Perry doesn’t do as well with volume and striking while moving back, and Luque’s going to look for opportunities to exploit that standing and then hunt for chokes when the fight reaches the ground. Vicente Luque by submission.
Staff picking Luque: Shak, Ed, Phil, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Perry: Dayne
Luiz Garagorri vs. Humberto Bandanay
Mookie Alexander: What on earth is this doing on the main card? Humberto Bandanay by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Garagorri looks like a can crusher and Bandanay lost decisively to Austin Arnett. This is one of the worst main card fights I can think of in recent memory, made entirely because Garagorri was born in Uruguay (but lives in Brazil). Luiz Garagorri by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: What Phil said. Garagorri’s record and power kickboxing style doesn’t give a ton of faith, but Bandanay’s loss to Arnett seems like a decisive indictment that he’s just not good enough to compete at this level. I don’t know that for sure about Garagorri yet. Luiz Garagorri by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Y’all wildin’. Anyone that puts money on this fight needs that gambling hotline with the quickness. (Flips coin) yeah, Humberto Bandenay by whatever.
Staff picking Garagorri: Nick, Phil, Zane, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Bandanay: Ed, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Victor
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Ilir Latifi
Mookie Alexander: I deserve every bad thing that happens to me for picking Oezdemir, but I just think he’s a bad matchup for DA GAWD. Volkan Oezdemir by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This is really a question of how much Oezdemir’s TDD holds up. Latifi is a woefully limited standup fighter. He hits hard, but it’s really just left hook or right overhand, at a glacial pace. Oezdemir should carve him up in the standup, but it’s notable how much Oezdemir (and most of the rest of Imperial Athletics / The Blackzilians / Combat Club / Hard Knocks 365 / Team Evil / whatever they’re called now) has tended to completely implode when put on his back. Volkan Oezdemir by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I honestly think most of Oezdemir’s tendencies to self destruct have been about energy management and his self-stated desire to start fast. More than they’ve been about panic on the ground. By the time Smith and Cormier got him down, he had pushed a pace that left him totally exhausted. He managed that better against Reyes, although possibly to a fault. I just don’t think Latifi is capable of pushing a pace anywhere that gets Oezdemir exhausted and out of this fight. And I generally feel like Oezdemir is a much more dangerous clinch striker, with a notable more deft boxing game at distance. Add in that most of Latifi’s decisive wins have come against really poor competition, and I’ll take Volkan Oezdemir via KO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Ancient Sumerians often wrote poems and carved sculptures in anticipation of the One. The man that would create famine in one breath and restore life with a wave of his hand. A being that is not quite human but somewhat godlike, empowering those around him and spreading blessings where he walks. Some may think that this is merely legend, and that the Sumerians were deluded fools. But I’m here to tell you two things: 1- the Sumerians invented glue, 2- Latifi will channel the spirit of Misawa himself and elbow the hell out of that big Swiss dude whose head is shaped like a toe. Bask in the radiance of the hard-swinging fire hydrant that is Latifi. Ilir Latifi by KO (Ox Baker Heart Punch).
Staff picking Oezdemir: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Latifi: Shak, Tim, Victor
Rodolfo Vieira vs. Oskar Piechota
Mookie Alexander: Vieira is good at the grappling. Rodolfi Vieira by submission, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: As referenced in Tommy Elliott’s excellent piece, Vieira has a grappling game which should, in the broad strokes, work well in MMA, being focused on takedown shots and closing distance. He’s also somewhat raw and lacks the incredible physicality and toughness of a Jacare. Piechota is powerful and reasonably well-rounded, but if he got tapped by Meerschaert it seems likely that the same thing happens here. Rodolfo Vieira by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: If Piechota can push Vieira into the 2nd and 3rd round, this fight could get weird. Or if he can just stuff takedowns. Vieira’s striking is raw at best, and a liability at worst. But, Piechota tends to go with a safety-first counterpunching game standing, and almost always relies on his grappling to clean up rounds when his opponents get wild. I don’t think he can do that here. But he just might try. And if he does, I expect Vieira to catch him. Rodolfo Vieira via submission, Round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Hodolfo will use-ee dee Zhoo-Zhitsoo. Rodolfo Vieira by submission.
Staff picking Vieira: Ed, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Shak, Victor
Staff picking Piechota:
Enrique Barzola vs. Bobby Moffett
Mookie Alexander: Moffett recently lost to a man who nearly power-drilled his testicles into complete extinction. Barzola pushes a better pace and I think he can hold up in a fast-action fight better than Moffett can. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be great fun, one of those ones like Simon-Dvashvili where both men are absolutely tireless and aggressive. As such it should be razor close- Moffett is probably the slightly better grappler, and Barzola is the superior (or at least the more confident and active) striker. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m a little concerned with Barzola’s seeming desire to show off a more complete striking game. I think he tried to lean on it heavily early against Aguilar and it got him chewed up and exposed some disconnect between his boxing and his wrestling. However, he pushes a relentless pace, and is tough as nails. If he comes out and just looks to force Moffett to scramble with him non-stop? Moffett’s fight with Bryce Mitchell suggested pretty clearly that Moffett can be worn down by that kind of fight. Enrique Barzola by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Barzola’s got better wrestling than he gets credit for and he can take a hell of a lot of punishment. Moffett’s probably going to get away with picking him apart at mid-range, staying in stalemates off well-defended takedowns and a lot of laying around. I’m working strictly off a very strong hunch here, so take it with a grain of salt. Bobby Moffett by decision.
Staff picking Barzola: Ed, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Moffett: Victor
Gilbert Burns vs. Alexey Kunchenko
Phil Mackenzie: Kunchenko has modestly overperformed in his UFC fights, notching wins over Alves and Okami, and in the process proving that he can win fights over crafty veterans in both the wrestling and striking phases. Burns seems like a step too far for his medium-pace, slightly neutralizing game: too aggressive, too dangerous on the mat, but I’m actually curious about this one, particularly at welterweight where Burns may struggle to muscle Kunchenko around. Gilbert Burns by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Kunchenko is a very difficult fighter to enjoy, or draw a bead on as a top talent. Unbeaten across his career, it feels like he’s always either over-performing or under-performing, based on your expectations from his record and/or style. He seems like a superb athlete, and I honestly think he may be one of the fastest welterweights around. But, he’s also incredibly risk averse. And while he pressures a lot, it often feels like he only pulls the trigger half as often as he could. Sooner or later that seems like it has to crack. He’ll meet a big enough puncher or a good enough wrestler, and they’ll take advantage of his willingness to just be in front of them. But, I’m not convinced Burns is that guy. Up a division, on short notice, and with a striking style that often seems like he’s picking his combo and winging it out, without any mind for distance, timing, or what might come back at him. It just feels to me too much like Kunchenko will be able to time his entries and be faster. And be too big to easily take down and out-grapple. Yushin Okami couldn’t do it on 14 attempts. Alexey Kunchenko by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Oh, hell no. I’m not picking against that guy. Gilbert Burns by submission.
Staff picking Burns: Shak, Ed, Phil, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Kunchenko: Dayne, Zane
Ciryl Gane vs. Raphael Pessoa Nunes
Phil Mackenzie: Gane is a kickboxer and training partner of Ngannou, who comes with a modicum of hype. He’s also a year(!) and three fights into his pro MMA career, so there is no reason to assume he is actually particularly good. Limited tape on Nunes reveals an aggressive grappler and little else. Ciryl Gane by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Gane looks faster and more technical, and just generally like a more fluid, natural athlete. Of course, he’s also incredibly inexperienced--and heavyweight has a way of making toughness count for more than anything at times. So, I wouldn’t get too confident. But, Ciryl Gane via TKO, Round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Big French kickboxers are one of the archetypes I tend to be most skeptical of. This dude seems to be a real one, so I’m not gonna question his badass credentials. Also, Pessoa hits hard but I’m not sold on him here. Ciryl Gané by TKO.
Staff picking Gane: Ed, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Shak, Victor
Staff picking Nunes:
Tecia Torres vs. Marina Rodriguez
Phil Mackenzie: Hm. Rodriguez is large and aggressive and managed to force a (slightly weird) draw against Randa Markos just by staying on her. That makes this a bit concerning for Torres, who has been struggling when she can’t find any significant control of late, and whose squat frame is becoming somewhat of a liability. I guess I’ll still take Torres for her ability to be a much better shot takedown artist and just a more focused technician than Markos, but this is a tricky one. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This could be another tale of size disparity for Torres, but most of her fights are and she’s won plenty of them. To her credit, Rodriguez seems like a very solid, persistent striker--who improves over rounds as she picks up her opponent’s timing. I’m just not sure she has the raw physical gifts to hang with Torres in wrestling and grappling tie-ups or keep up with her in scrambles. If she does? Then Torres is rarely ever an incredibly decisive winner standing, but she’s still very good and very hard to beat. Tecia Torres by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I’m concerned Tecia won’t be able to play keep-away and target Marina (no relation) from the outside and that Marina’s gonna work a mean clinch and bully Tecia around. Sure, Torres has a slick ground game and underappreciated submission skills. I’m just smelling a reckless underdog upset on this one. Marina Rodriguez by decision.
Staff picking Torres: Shak, Ed, Phil , Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Rodriguez: Victor Rodriguez
Rogerio Bonterin vs. Raulian Paiva
Zane Simon: I’m a little surprised to see so many people picking Paiva. I feel like he’s a pet favorite of mine for reasons that wouldn’t necessarily be all that appealing to most fans (his willingness to throw counter-combos and his ability to reverse takedowns being chief among them). He’s definitely big for flyweight, but has a very low-power volume style that may leave him out-gunned for power against most opponents. Bontorin will almost certainly be the stronger man here. And he’s willing to create offense at pretty much all times. But, it’s almost always slightly wild, and seems to make him more tired than I’m comfortable seeing a flyweight get at the UFC level. Wouldn’t be surprised if Bontorin shows up big early, landing hard strikes. And then fades over the stretch for a close Rualian Paiva by decision
Victor Rodriguez: Paiva is great, but I like Bontorin’s finishing instinct and penchant for latching on to any hanging limb or neck out of nowhere. Those moments of getting a little too loose and wild that Zane mentioned might end up costing Paiva, and Bontorin is exactly the kind of guy to exploit that. Rogério Bontorin by submission.
Staff picking Bonterin: Phil, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Paiva: Ed, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Shak
Geraldo de Freitas vs. Chris Gutierrez
Zane Simon: de Freitas is wily, and he’s not incapable anywhere. But it also seems like he has a pretty low athletic ceiling. The kind of fighter who is great at picking off green prospects like Felipe Colares. But will generally struggle against higher level competition. Gutierrez doesn’t have a style made to thrill (all back foot counters, range kicks, and takedown defense), but it is a style made for general UFC success. He’s a neutralizer, and I think it will largely take a higher level of athlete than de Freitas to break down his defense to out-work him. Chris Gutierrez by decision.
Staff picking Freitas: Nick, Tim
Staff picking Gutierrez: Ed, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Phil, Zane, Shak, Victor
Rodrigo Vargas vs. Alex Da Silva
Zane Simon: Da Silva just seems like he plays a more confident, more aggressive version of Vargas’ game. He’s got that Astra Fight Team style. All power Muay Thai into physically dominating tie-ups. The kind of game built around can crushing, but also decent fundamentals. Of course, as we’ve seen with Taila Santos and Darren Till, that style has its flaws when met with someone who doesn’t crumble the way their past opposition has. But, I’m not convinced Vargas is that guy. He likes to box his way into takedowns and work from top control. But most of that is based around having been one of the few willing wrestlers in the Mexican regional circuit. Not a great technical wrestler, just a willing one. Da Silva seems like he can match that game, but just with a bit more energy and technique. Alex Da Silva by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Kazula Vargas is one of the coolest fighters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and I’m so happy he’s finally in the UFC. I don’t care, I’m going with the homer (or would it be “homie” in this case?) pick. I mean, don’t just watch -- listen to this. Come on, son. Rodrigo Vargas by TKO.
Staff picking Vargas: Victor
Staff picking Da Silva: Ed, Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Phil, Zane, Tim, Shak
Veronica Macedo vs. Polyana Viana
Zane Simon: There’s not much reason to be confident in either of these women’s games right now. Viana seems to have constructed a style based around scaring opponents off with wild swinging strikes, and then pulling guard and initiating scrambles to find submissions. When she can’t get the fight down, she’s been picked off by much smaller, less dynamic opponents. But, on the other side, Macedo has largely been working on the task of getting herself into the kind of shape necessary to fight at a UFC level. She came into the promotion as a 5’ 3” bantamweight and has looked to be doing some serious work on her physique since. She’s the much more technical striker here, but also has a bad habit of being a willing grappler who ALWAYS seems to make exactly the wrong move on the ground. That could be exactly enough for Viana to win. But I like the fact that it seems like Macedo has been taking steps to improve her game each time out. I don’t get that feeling from Viana. So, I’ll bank on Macedo being improved here. If not, she may just look good until she dives right into an armbar. Veronica Macedo by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I’d much rather watch either one of these fighters face anyone else but each other. Stylistically this is poison, and it’ll be a weird slog. Whatever. Veronica Macedo by decision.
Staff picking Macedo: Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Phil, Zane, Tim, Shak, Victor
Staff picking Viana: Ed, Phil