Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Raleigh card.
The BE team has made its picks for UFC Raleigh, and only Dayne Fox is going with Junior dos Santos to upset Curtis Blaydes in Saturday’s main event. The co-main event is a clean sweep, as we all think Rafael dos Anjos will beat Michael Chiesa.
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.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior dos Santos
Mookie Alexander: Dos Santos is the better boxer and Blaydes is still largely a wooden striker. Curtis also can pressure, he’s quite relentless with his takedowns, and he’s stupidly strong. There are red flags about JDS’ health after the bacterial infection. Hard shots are hurting him consistently and his willingness to get backed up against the fence is death against someone of Blaydes’ wrestling caliber. It’s an intriguing matchup in the sense that JDS has a clear path to victory, but I feel like Blaydes’ wrestling and terrifying ground-and-pound is good enough to see this fight potentially turn into a steady beatdown. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: This feels like one of those fights where we’re going to know exactly how the whole thing will look within the first minute. Does Blaydes successfully close JDS down and get a quick takedown and start dominating with top control? Or does he get lit up on the way in by one of heavyweight’s few men capable of stuffing a shot? If Blaydes has to spend significant time out at range against JDS, odds are, he’ll get lit up there. But if JDS can’t keep off the fence, and off his back, then odds are equally good that he’ll get busted up. In general, JDS’s bad habit of fighting off the cage has meant even when he wins, fighters who try to wrestle him tend to make him look a lot less dangerous. So, I’ll take Blaydes here. But I think this is a good test to see just how many potential bad stylistic fights there are for him at the top of the division other than Ngannou. Curtis Blaydes by decision.
Staff picking Blaydes: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking JDS: Dayne
Michael Chiesa vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Mookie Alexander: Chiesa’s gonna have to win by outgrappling RDA and that’s not going to be easy. There’s also the whole “RDA likes body kicks and Chiesa is vulnerable to body shots” angle. Chiesa isn’t easy to just bulldoze, but I think RDA is the better fighter and he’ll be able to avoid getting controlled on the mat by Chiesa and then outstrike him at range and in the clinch. Rafael dos Anjos by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: This seems like a horror matchup for Chiesa. He’s a typically enthusiastic and willing striker, albeit one who could not knock out Diego Sanchez in the Year Of Our Lord 2019, and one who did not seem comfortable enough to try. He has the body and leg defense of a Rick Little protege and basically comes into this fight looking to leverage a similar approach to Kevin Lee (clinch up and outwork RDA), albeit having to make that work as a worse striker and an inferior offensive wrestler to the Motown Phenom. Chiesa is tough and gritty and has one of the best RNCs in the game, but RDA by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Off all the Sikjitsu guys, Chiesa may have the most functional striking game. But, it’s still not great. If he can’t get RDA down, then he’s going to get busted up standing. And he probably will get RDA down at least once. But getting him down and holding/controlling him on the mat are two different things. Even Covington had trouble actually keeping RDA on his back. And Covington is a much much more relentless striker. I just don’t think Chiesa is capable of exerting the pressure necessary to crack RDA, or staying safe enough out at range to just out-work him. Rafael Dos Anjos by decision.
Staff picking Chiesa:
Staff picking RDA: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Zane
Arnold Allen vs. Nik Lentz
Mookie Alexander: Yeahhhhhh I don’t think this will work out very well for Lentz, especially not returning to 145. Allen may lack truly devastating power or overall finishing abilities, and Lentz is still very hard to finish, but he’s much more technical than Nik and if his wrestling defense holds up than Nik may end up gassing himself out trying to push the pace early. Allen should be able to outjab Lentz and have the more meaningful offense. Arnold Allen by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I am profoundly untrusting of Lentz’ ability to make 145 at this stage of his career. Said career modestly took off when he went down to featherweight, but he last hit 145 about five years ago now and has ballooned with Florida Muscle at lightweight since. He mostly works as a willing clinch and pocket brawler who is just too dogged to go away, but Allen has been practicing against similar style archetypes for his last few fights and seems to be getting increasingly good at handling them. Southpaw vs southpaw favours his active lead hand, combined with a clear handspeed and defense advantage. He occasionally bursts out into lovely little cannonades of boxing combinations and I’d like to see more of that. Arnold Allen by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: There’s a good chance that Lentz looks pretty decent early. He’s worked a lot on his boxing and has been packing some good power lately. But he’s also been marked by more cardio woes as he’s packed on muscle. Of course that was at lightweight, but it’s hard to think that cutting back to 145 is going to help anything. More than anything, Allen has been known as a cardio machine, who will push hard through the third round to take the win. He’s also finally really starting to show the technical striking prowess that he’s always been lauded for. Looking much more crafty lately, fighting long behind his jab. If/when Lentz gets tired, it’s hard not to see Allen just picking him apart. Arnold Allen by decision.
Staff picking Allen: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Lentz:
Lina Lansberg vs. Sara McMann
Mookie Alexander: I’ve just seen McMann throw away too many fights for me to confidently pick her. Lina Lansberg by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I just don’t know with Sara McMann. She seems incredibly uncomfortable as a fighter, yet has great athleticism and a decent skillset for the sport which means she occasionally picks up surprising wins. Lansberg is flawed and not a great grappler, but I generally expect her to hang around being big and tough and putting out offense until McMann gets too upset to win. Lina Lansberg by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: McMann has a really troubling history of just kind of willing herself into dramatic technical mistakes. But, most of those have come against fighters who are good enough grapplers to really trap her and make her pay for her errors. Lansberg has impressed lately with an improved wrestling game. But I can’t think she’s going to out-wrestle McMann. And if she’s not gonna pull off a sneaky sub? Sara McMann by decision.
Staff picking Lansberg: Dayne, Mookie, Phil
Staff picking McMann: Ed, Zane
Jordan Espinosa vs. Alex Perez
Phil Mackenzie: Alex Perez is big and mean and violent for the weight class, albeit a bit clunky in his approach and reliant on being the physical bully. Espinosa’s game was dismantled somewhat by Matt Schnell who defused his entries by slicing him up at range, and Perez should be able to broadly replicate that by sticking on top of Espinosa and trying to bulldoze him. Alex Perez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m a little worried that Perez gets a bit gunshy against elite-level flyweight athletes who can stun him with their speed. And Espinosa is definitely that. But, Espinosa’s game just isn’t very deep or deft. He relies a ton on being able to close distance quickly and dramatically to drop single shots. Fighters who can time his entries tend to find him wide open for counters. Perez has some heavy hands, and a strong wrestling/top game. Assuming he doesn’t just get flummoxed by Espinosa’s quickness, he’ll probably be able to push him backwards, and hit reactive takedowns. Alex Perez by decision.
Staff picking Espinosa:
Staff picking Perez: Ed, Dayne, Mookie, Phil
Hannah Cifers vs. Angela Hill
Zane Simon: Hill has a bad habit of letting any willing striker she faces hang around and eventually look pretty competitive with her. Most of that just seems down to footwork and cardio, and the fact that she starts fast and always gets more flat footed as the fight wears on. So, to that end, I don’t expect Cifers to get blown out here. But, Cifers is still too one-note in her offense and not powerful enough in that note, for me to feel like she can out-gun Hill for three rounds. Angela Hill by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Angela Hill is pretty much guaranteed to be a fun fight: she puts out a ton of strikes without the power to finish or the defence to stay safe, and so her bouts are typically a referendum on whether her opponent can just put out more horsepower in their strikes or grappling. In this case, the answer seems to be no. Angela Hill by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Cifers:
Staff picking Hill: Ed, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Phil
Rest of the Card
Jamahal Hill vs. Darko Stosic
Staff picking Hill: Dayne, Zane, Phil
Staff picking Stosic: Ed, Mookie
Justine Kish vs. Lucie Pudilova
Staff picking Kish:
Staff picking Pudilova: Ed, Dayne, Zane, Phil, Mookie
Bevon Lewis vs. Dequan Townsend
Staff picking Lewis: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Phil, Mookie
Staff picking Townsend:
Montel Jackson vs. Felipe Colares
Staff picking Jackson: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Colares:
Tony Gravely vs. Brett Johns
Staff picking Gravely: Ed
Staff picking Johns: Dayne, Zane, Phil, Mookie
Herbert Burns vs. Nate Landwehr
Staff picking Burns: Zane, Phil, Mookie
Staff picking Landwehr: Ed, Dayne