Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Gaethje fight card in Vancouver.
The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC Vancouver, and only Zane Simon is going with the gutsy pick of Donald Cerrone to beat Justin Gaethje in the main event. It’s pretty one-sided for the co-main event too, as only Tim Burke and Ed Gallo like Nikita Krylov to get the better of Glover Teixeira.
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.
Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje
Mookie Alexander: I give Cerrone a chance on the basis of his dangerous body shots — a clear vulnerability Gaethje showed in the Eddie Alvarez fight — and that Cerrone’s more than capable of landing countershots and vicious head kicks. The story we know is that Cerrone has historically fared poorly against dangerous pressure fighters, and going strike for strike with Tony Ferguson just a few months ago proved to be a battle that he could not sustain. I don’t see how that works against Gaethje either, who’s also demonstrated one-punch power in his last two fights to add to his ridiculous arsenal of offense. Justin Gaethje by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: I have this sneaking suspicion that Donald Cerrone is going to make us all look foolish. Justin Gaethje is A LOT like the people that have beat Cerrone over the years. But, there’s also a chance that he’s a touch less durable (compared, at least, to Nate and T-Ferg, and Masvidal almost everyone is), and a touch less nuanced in his striking. He’s a fighter with large defensive gaps and predictable offensive attacks. It’s not so much a question of guess what Gaethje is going to do, but trying to stop him from doing it. And as we’ve seen from Cerrone, lately, he’s still extremely tough, and if you give him a point of weakness, he’s very capable of hitting it over and over and turning the fight around because of it. Since I want to break the BE curse, and because I’ve spent all this time hedging that way anyway, I’ll take Donald Cerrone by 4th Round TKO. Even if my gut reaction is to say Justin Gaethje puts him away in round 2.
Staff picking Cerrone: Zane
Staff picking Gaethje: Ed, Shak, Phil, Nick, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Stephie
Glover Teixeira vs. Nikita Krylov
Mookie Alexander: Either Krylov quickly knocks Teixeira out or Glover gets this fight to the ground (or Krylov stupidly does it on his own freewill) and this ends in Teixeira getting full mount and eventually choking Krylov out cold. I side with the latter. Glover Teixeira by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Teixeira has looked awfully shaky lately, especially early in fights where he tends to get clipped up. But, he also hasn’t been actually getting KO’d. And Krylov, for all his fun and excitement standing actually relies on his wrestling and grappling a lot in bouts. End of the day, even if he has early success, Krylov very well may shoot in and try to out-grapple Glover. And if he doesn’t, Krylov has just never been very hard to take down. And while his boxing game may be showing some wear, Glover’s ground game is still rock solid. Glover Teixeira by submission, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: This is a terrible matchup for Krylov in which he should get mopped but… kind of so was OSP? Saint-Preux might not be good, but he’s always been a decent offensive wrestler and Krylov…. well he didn’t do well exactly what with the whole “getting mounted” thing but he came back and tapped out a knackered OSP. I guess none of us would be surprised if Glover got old overnight Glover Teixeira by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Teixeira: Shak, Nick, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Staff picking Krylov: Ed, Tim
Todd Duffee vs. Jeff Hughes
Mookie Alexander: TODDDUFFEE. Todd Duffee by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: If Jeff Hughes had been easier to KO in the past, I’d pick him here, no problem. Duffee is pretty clearly the superior athlete, and fights with a much greater sense of aggression and finishing instinct. But, he’s also only won one fight outside the first round. It hasn’t even taken amazing power punchers like Alistair Overeem to do the job either, as his infamous loss to Mike Russow showed. Is there a good chance Duffee has improved technically in the last few years of sitting on the sidelines? Totally. But, I’m not going to bet on it until I see it. So as long as Jeff Hughes can see the second, I think he can win. Jeff Hughes via TKO, round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: Hughes is a tough grinder with an ugly style who I think the UFC will not enjoy having around much, and I suspect he goes the Rosholt route. Duffee has historically been incredibly unreliable so Jeff Hughes by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Duffee: Ed, Dayne, Tim, Mookie
Staff picking Hughes: Shak, Nick, Zane, Stephie
Uriah Hall vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
Mookie Alexander: I picked Hall on the Level Change Podcast but I gotta pull a 180 here. One of the things my dad says about Uriah Hall is that he’s a good martial artist who doesn’t seem to actually like fighting. And yet, when he wins, usually it’s because someone forces him into a fight he doesn’t want, so he readies himself to land some life-altering KO shot. He can do this against ACJ, whose cardio has gone to hell in the opening round on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, thinking this over, he’s a super slow starter and that means Shoeface might style on him early and go all-out to just end things with ground-and-pound. Antonio Carlos Junior by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Uriah Hall always has a chance against anyone. The potential that his years of quiet rage will burst forth into some high flying ultra-violence. But, he also has the chance of losing to just about anyone. Especially if they drag him into a gritty controlling fight and don’t give him a ton of time and space at range. Carlos Junior has his faults, and can clearly get exhausted in prolonged grappling battles. But, I just don’t think Hall has the confident aggression to fight him off enough to make him tired. Antonio Carlos Junior by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Hall tends to fight awfully until he’s panicked into throwing back. Carlos Junior tends to fight well until someone pushes back at him. In many ways, they match up absolutely perfectly with one another. In others, though, Carlos Junior is a decent offensive wrestler and Hall isn’t particularly skilled in any area of defense. I genuinely hope that we get a perfectly representative fight where Shoeface whoops up on him for a couple of rounds before Hall screams in terror and wipes him out with one flurry. Antonio Carlos Junior by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Hall:
Staff picking ACJ: Ed, Shak, Nick, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Michel Pereira vs. Tristan Connelly
Mookie Alexander: Pretty crappy that Pereira missed weight, but at least Connelly gets some extra money for the beating he’s about to take. Michel Pereira by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: What tiny bits of footage there are out there on Connelly suggest he’s about to get entirely stomped. Even if he wasn’t fighting a weight class up on short notice against a huge dynamic monster of a man. Michel Pereira via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Pereira: Ed, Nick, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Staff picking Connelly: Shak
Misha Cirkunov vs. Jimmy Crute
Mookie Alexander: Cirkunov’s chin may be a major problem and Crute has shown power in his hands. Crute is at a significant disadvantage on the ground if Cirkunov opts to wrestle and gets takedowns. This is really iffy for me to trust Cirkunov against anyone with the capability of shutting his lights out, but I’ll pull for him to get the W here. Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: Crute is not good at defending takedowns, and Misha Cirkunov is a fantastic top position grappler. Should be an easy fight to pick. But, LHW has a tendency to reward great finishers much more than it does good gameplans. And, unfortunately for Cirkunov, he’s gained something of a reputation for getting finished in ways that don’t have much to do with the overall flow of the fight. I’m still going to pick Cirkunov, I guess, because I like the feeling that a natural order to things can still apply. But, how shocked would anyone be if Crute just nailed him with a perfect punch to turn out the lights? Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Crute is aggressive, fearless and tough. That… might be enough? This is a weird mirror of the Teixeira fight above, where the X-factor isn’t age but chin. Crute took the incredibly weird route against Paul Craig of getting outwrestled by him, but outscrambling him on the ground. That’s the wrong way around! Craig is a good scrambler and a bad wrestler! Anyway, when he can impose his game Cirkunov looks like a genuinely decent fighter, able to pressure behind a jab, link together striking and takedowns, and is a very dangerous submission threat. Misha Cirkunov by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Cirkunov: Ed, Shak, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Crute: Nick, Tim, Stephie
Marcin Tybura vs. Augusto Sakai
Mookie Alexander: BLECH. Marvin Tybura by split decision.
Zane Simon: Tybura is more willing to wrestle and has a nice back take game, but I’m not actually sure he’s a good enough wrestler to just make that what turns this fight. Standing, Sakai is more dedicated to pressure and to throwing punches in combination. Neither guy has a ton of power, but they both have great chins. Should come down to something of an ugly, close decision. But, I’ll lean toward the guy more likely to throw volume and stay on his opponent. Augusto Sakai by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Tybura’s game of being a reasonably high-paced kick-grappler just… isn’t working. Something is getting exposed almost every time out, be it his cardio, basic toughness or his boxing. None of them are terrible by heavyweight standards, but none of them represent a weapon either. Sakai actually looks like he has an ok level of craft for a heavyweight and I’m giving his win over Arlovski more credit than I did at the time. Tybura also beat Andrei, but he almost got finished and ended up in an absolutely dire slog. Sakai seems to be trending in the other direction. Augusto Sakai by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Tybura: Ed, Shak, Nick, Dayne, Tim, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Sakai: Zane, Phil
Cole Smith vs. Miles Johns
Zane Simon: Cole Smith is HUGE for 135. And as long as he’s going to stay there, that’ll always be a major factor in his fights. It could mean that his size just negates a lot of Johns’ power wrestling game. And if that’s the case, then Johns has some solid boxing, but I’m not sure he can out-work Smith over three rounds. However, I’m not going to bet on Johns not being able to wrestle until I see it. And as long as his wrestling is working, he’s the sharper, more powerful puncher too. Smith has a chance to keep him away and fill space with kicks and make this fight something of a track meet. But, more likely, he looks to clinch up a lot, and finds himself on his back for it. Miles Johns by decision.
Staff picking Smith: Shak
Staff picking Johns: Ed, Nick, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Hunter Azure vs. Brad Katona
Zane Simon: Katona’s takedown defense is not great, and with him training at SBG, I’m not all that confident it gets way better anytime soon. And, unfortunately for him, his UFC career so far has been a steady diet of takedown-oriented opponents. Azure is no different. A scrappy, high energy wrestler with a raw striking game but a consistent willingness to get the fight to the ground. Fortunately for Katona here, I’d say Azure is a lot closer to Matthew Lopez than Merab Dvalishvili. More prone to pushing himself toward exhaustion than tirelessly working an opponent over, round after round. And, to his credit, Katona is a good scrambler and does a decent job striking both off his front and back foot. He’ll probably hit the mat early, but as long as he can stay tough and keep the fight moving, I think he’ll be able to turn this one around. Brad Katona by decision.
Staff picking Azure: Dayne
Staff picking Katona: Ed, Nick, Shak, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Jordan Griffin vs. Chas Skelly
Zane Simon: Griffin just doesn’t stand out anywhere. He’s tough and he can do a bit of everything. But, he’s also entirely capable of getting blown out in any part of the fight by more technical opponents. Skelly is probably more aggressive than technical, but he is an absolutely dogged wrestler and grappler (and probably didn’t deserve that sub loss to Bobby Moffett). If Skelly can set the tone here, get on Griffin early, and look to work his grappling game from advantageous positions, I think he should be able to take this one. Chas Skelly by decision.
Staff picking Griffin: Ed, Nick, Shak
Staff picking Skelly: Dayne, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Ryan MacDonald vs. Louis Smolka
Zane Simon: I’m extremely worried about how fragile Smolka looks in striking exchanges. But, MacDonald just doesn’t seem like he has the physicality or depth of skill to fight at this level. If Smolka drops this fight… that would easily be the worst loss of his career. Louis Smolka by submission, round 2.
Staff picking MacDonald:
Staff picking Smolka: Ed, Nick, Shak, Dayne, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Kyle Prepolec vs. Austin Hubbard
Zane Simon: I like Prepolec’s dedication to staying aggressive and throwing power. He seems like he’s extremely tough and has a strong gas tank to keep pushing his fight even in late rounds. Hubbard is a bit more technical, but also a bit more wary. And as we’ve seen in his brief UFC career (and against Eric Wisely regionally) if opponents can crack him consistently with counters, he kind of loses the thread offensively and can drift through rounds he’s losing. I get the feeling Prepolec can force that fight out of Hubbard. Kyle Prepolec by decision.
Staff picking Prepolec: Ed, Shak, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Stephie, Phil
Staff picking Hubbard: Nick, Dayne