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UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway staff picks and predictions

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff picks and predictions for UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for Saturday’s UFC 212 pay-per-view, and to my surprise, the majority of us have Max Holloway going into enemy territory and knocking off the great Jose Aldo. It’s a different story for the co-main event, where only Nick Baldwin likes Karolina Kowalkiewicz to beat Claudia Gadelha.

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.

Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway

Mookie Alexander: I’ve been saying for awhile that Holloway beats Aldo, so I can’t really walk it back now, despite my urge to do so. There’s no way Holloway will actually bother to take Aldo down (and he won’t get them if he tries), but I very much see Aldo trying to implement his own wrestling to catch Holloway off-guard. We have the element of Holloway’s terrific body work which I think opponents have seldom used effectively on Jose. Then there’s Aldo’s dangerous leg kicks which could seriously hamper Holloway’s movement. Holloway throws with more volume and I think he can keep that pace up for the full 25 minutes, but Aldo also is so crisp with his striking that he may deter Max with countering … arrrrrghhhhhhh. This fight is SO DAMN GOOD. I don’t want either guy to lose, but I have to stick with my original pick of Max Holloway by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: I’m picking Holloway. My gut just tells me that’s the way to go here. The question I’ve been pondering this week is can I justify that as an actual logical pick and not just my own intuition. And yeah, I can. It’s a danger to read too much into such a short fight as Aldo vs. McGregor, but I do think it helps us to look at Aldo a bit more clearly. And what I see there is a fighter who in recent years has had his successes primarily against guys looking to avoid the striking game with him. He has a terrific takedown defense game, and he’s used that to shut down a string of wrestlers and then outstrike them. Conor was a different beast, as he came in to outstrike the striker. And he did, spectacularly. Holloway will likely have a similar approach. I’ve also felt for a few pre-Conor fights that Aldo has passed his absolute peak. Add all that up, and yep, I’ve got Holloway winning this by (gasp) outstriking the champ. Max Holloway, UD

Zane SImon: What Fraser said absolutely could happen. Especially given the volume edge that Holloway possesses and the fact that he’s likely the most complete range striker that Aldo has ever faced. The big question for me, however, is leg kicks. Without a really threatening takedown game, I expect Aldo to be able to hammer Holloway’s legs, something the challenger has never really shown a lot of interest in preventing. And as that happens, I feel like a lot of the structure in Holloway’s boxing (especially his defense) will break down. I also think that Max will rally from that and that he’d rather get KO’d than coast out a decision loss, but until I see him answer the questions Aldo will ask, I can’t assume he’s going to win this fight. Jose Aldo by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: After much hemming and hawing, there’s no way I can pick against Holloway here. His movement is so fluid and dynamic, his use of range is excellent and his ability to improvise or change tactics during a fight is sensational. I think Max will be able to not only pressure Aldo, but keep the volume and unpredictability at a level Aldo won’t be able to handle. Aldo will land leg kicks, but he’s going to have to wade in to land them and pay for that. I think the kid gets the job done and shocks the world in the later rounds, where Aldo is known to struggle and Max turns things up another notch. Max Holloway by TKO, round 5.

Eddie Mercado: Holloway must prove to me that he can keep up the pace in the championship rounds before I can pick him over someone like Aldo, who has been to deep waters, and succeeded 7 times. Jose Aldo by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Aldo: Bissell, Ram, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Holloway: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Stephie

Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Mookie Alexander: Gadelha is sort of the Joseph Benavidez of women’s strawweight to me. I think she beats everybody (Rose Namajunas included) except the champion. Kowalkiewicz is a good fighter but I think Gadelha wins enough striking exchanges and then takes her down in the latter stages to take a clear-cut decision. Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: For me this fight comes down entirely to the clinch and the power double. Gadelha is the better range striker, but KK is tough as nails and Gadelha has never been that interested in staying outside if her opponent doesn’t want to be there. So the questions are, is KK ready for someone who shoots as well from distance as Gadelha does? A skill few other women can replicate, and KK’s upright stance isn’t made to defend. Also, if Gadelha is happy to accept the clinch, can she stifle KK’s offense there. She did will to stifle Joanna inside for two rounds, but she doesn’t produce much offense in the clinch in return. Eventually, this seems set up for Gadelha to put on a good controlled performance for the first half of the fight with KK potentially finding a groove late, but probably not enough of one to win. Claudia Gadelha via decision.

Victor Rodriguez: For all of Karolina’s talents and ability to snipe from the outside, Gadelha should be able to negate most of it by keeping the fight close inside and working for damage in the clinch, but preferably against the cage. Then there’s the threat of the takedown from outside shots, which Kowalkiewicz should handle well at first. Long term? Claudia chips away at her and makes it her fight on the ground. Eventually, Gadelha does enough on the ground to get the nod. Claudia Gadelha by decision.

Staff picking Gadelha: Bissell, Mookie, Phil, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Eddie, Stephie
Staff picking Kowalkiewicz: Nick

Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt

Mookie Alexander: Nate Marquardt just utterly refuses to fight well against southpaws. Vitor is done but he’s not so done that he’ll start losing badly to unranked fighters who are also on the decline… although would it surprise anyone if Marquardt sparked him out? I mean, Marquardt would be in the middleweight rankings if he wins this fight. Anyway, Vitor Belfort by TKO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: This fight is just sad. Belfort has nothing left here. Looking at his last two performances alone shows he doesn’t even have his legendary blitz offense anymore. If he doesn’t have that, he’d at least have other weapons, right? Nope. He’s gunshy, snakebitten and has no counters that he can rely on. Nate was able to put Dolloway to sleep not long ago, and I see him doing it here. At least we can rest easy knowing Nate’s a real gentleman that won’t give Belfort more unnecessary brain trauma with follow-up shots. Nate Marquardt by knockout, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Very difficult to tell where both of these guys are at. I mean, apart from “down.” Belfort has been getting blown out slightly more dramatically, but has been fighting better competition. Two dynamic, frail finishers means a sure-fire finish, right? But… it’s also Nate Marquardt against a counterpunching southpaw, so I actually think we might get a terrible, terrible staring match between two veterans who don’t want to open up on each other. I’m actually going to pick Vitor to notch his first decision in 10 years. Pray to Cheezits that I am wrong. Vitor Belfort by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Ah yes, your classic example of “Who is the Least Shot?” aka, the Bellator Special. Marquardt is pretty shot, as he has seen a steady decline in not only his skills but also his fight IQ. Meanwhile, Belfort has won only once since the TRT ban, and that was against fellow WITLS contestant Dan Henderson. But the difference is, Marquardt is still capable of winning, where Belfort has looked simply terrible in his past few outings. Marquardt is the kind of guy Belfort has feasted on over the years, and his style actually plays right to Vitor’s strengths. So yes, this is a winnable fight for the Phenom. But I still think he’s just way too far gone – venturing into that dreaded BJ Penn territory. Nate Marquardt, KO, R1

Zane Simon: Belfort put on his best performance in recent years with a KO loss to Kelvin Gastelum. Not only did he start fast and throw with authority, but he rallied and kept throwing after getting hurt bad. His chin has never been nearly as much of a problem as his tendency to give up when cracked. Marquardt, on the other hand, just seems chinny and like he’s fighting to not get KO’d. If this becomes a staring match that drags on, it favors Marquardt much more, as his leap in for big power strikes carries well later into fights. But I’m taking Belfort to come out like a house on fire at home. Vitor Belfort via KO round 1.

Eddie Mercado: Vitor Belfort is my favorite fighter of all time. Period. He will be greatly missed. Vitor Belfort by the same 1st round 1,000 punch combo that he hit on Wanderlei Silva back at UFC 17.5 back in 1998, which was also the spark that ignited my passionate fandom for combat sports.

Staff picking Belfort: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Ram, Zane, Eddie, Stephie
Staff picking Marquardt: Bissell, Victor, Fraser

Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Oluwale Bamgbose

Mookie Alexander: The odds are way wider than they should be. These are two strikers who don’t get out of round 1 when they win. Borrachinha seems to be the faster, more powerful athlete, so I think he’ll get the knockout, but don’t rule out Bangbus pulling off the upset. Paulo Borrachinha by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be all huge muscles and overdone explosions, like the splash page of a ’90s Rob Liefeld comic called DeathBlood, just with a few dozen less belts. I was pretty impressed by Costa against McLellan. He blew him out of the water as I expected, but looked far more measured and technically put together than he did in past outings. The Bang Bus appears to be who he is at the moment- basically pure athleticism and little else. Unless he shows some developments, Paulo Henrique Costa by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: If this fight were decided by offense alone, Borrachinha should win, no question. His pressure kickboxing is worlds better than Bamgbose’s “Vitor 2.0” style. The thing is, being Vitor 2.0 still makes Bamgbose super dangerous and for both men their defensive work is bad. Expect Borrachinha to wade in looking masterful and measured. But if Bamgbose gets a chance to charge back at him with a flurry this fight is anyone’s for the taking. Paulo Borrachinha via TKO round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: As much as I like Bamgbose, I don’t trust his cardio. Costa’s also got the ability to exploit Bamgbose’s defensive lapses and really crack his chin. Paulo Borranchinha by TKO, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: An unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object. Both are qualified to end it early, but I’ve seen Bamgbose fight for at least 15 minutes. Oluwale Bamgbose by TKO in round 2 or 3.

Staff picking Borrachinha: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Bamgbose: Eddie

Yancy Medeiros vs. Erick Silva

Mookie Alexander: I can’t trust Silva anymore. Even in the Chagas win he got dropped twice and it’s primarily through Chagas’ refusal to fight smart that Silva was able to snatch a late submission. The credit I’ll give Silva is that he actually rallied to win, which erases my frontrunner beliefs about him. Medeiros hits hard and Silva’s chin is unreliable, so as long as this doesn’t go to the ground, I think Erick gets put away. Yancy Medeiros by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Heh. Y’all be trippin. I’m just sad we won’t have a live reaction from Joe Silva for this one. Yancy Medeiros by TKO, Capoiera or something. It’s whatever.

Phil Mackenzie: Silva has left King’s MMA to go train at his own gym. That kind of thing has worked out for some fighters in the past, but I have to say that I’m not optimistic of it being an amazing choice here. He’s looked pretty mediocre of late, picking up a win over Luan Chagas just because Chagas is even Erick Silva-ier than he is. Medeiros is no defensive mastermind, but he keeps a good pace and I don’t trust Silva to finish people early any more. Yancy Medeiros by TKO, round 3.

Zane Simon: Silva’s offense is less grappling murder-ball and more explosive tumbleweed these days. There’s still a chance that you get caught in the explosion, but there’s a lot less danger surrounding it than there used to be. Medeiros isn’t consistent at all moment to moment, but he puts a pace on people, is generally hard to hurt, and takes opportunities when he sees them. I expect Silva to give a lot of opportunities. Yancy Medeiros via TKO, Round 2.

Eddie Mercado: The chin of Silva, or lack thereof, will be the reason he gets slumped in this one. Silva will have his moments, but I expect Fancy Yancy to style on him. Yancy Medeiros by KO in round 2.

Staff picking Medeiros: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Silva: Bissell

Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

Mookie Alexander: This fight is Assuncao’s to lose if he can sucker Moraes into having a low-output, slow-paced battle where Marlon fails to convincingly win rounds and leaves himself open to be taken down. With Assuncao, he’s not really fought a lot of high-level strikers during his UFC bantamweight run. Dillashaw 2x is the most notable exception and he clearly lost the rematch after edging out the first fight, which was a full three years prior to the second bout. Moraes’ opposition in WSOF wasn’t the greatest but I think his skill level, or at least his striking, is legitimately among the best. I think he beats Assuncao’s legs up, keeps up a solid pace, and keeps the fight standing long enough to outstrike Raphael and win on points. Marlon Moraes by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m really intrigued and excited for this fight most of all, mostly due to the possible ramifications. I’ve been following Moraes since I started doing Vivisections with Zane almost three years ago, and he was an absolute joy to watch. Problem is, it was frustrating to watch a fighter blossom when he wasn’t fighting the best opposition and didn’t seem like he had a sense of urgency where he really had to turn things up to 100%. His stiffest test was his first fight against former TUF contestant Josh Hill in 2015, but Moraes blew the doors off him in their eventual rematch. Moraes chops dudes down with leg kicks, busts them up with boxing, but is entirely content with coasting from there on in and using opponents as target practice. And therein lies the bigger question – how will he fare if he takes his foot off the gas against the wrong guy? Assunçao has faced better opposition and has gotten waaaaay better with not only his striking, but his evasive movement as well. His ground game is excellent and his timing has gotten sharper. Moraes should probably be the favorite here, but Raphael has a really good chance to spoil the welcome party, and I like the probability on that. Raphael Assunçao by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: The best fight on the card outside of the main event for my money. Operating distance and power is a big question here: Assuncao likes to keep a close range and is an exceptional counterpuncher, but he relies on cracking his opponent rather than checking kicks, and he doesn’t quite hit hard enough for that to be a foolproof strategy. Moraes isn’t a great takedown defender, but he’s an absurdly vicious striker and I think he might chew Raph up in a pure kickboxing fight. The X-factor is whether Assuncao can use his takedowns. I’m going to say… yes. He’s been able to counter and take down wrestlers like Bryan Caraway, and while he hasn’t had the same success against fighters like TJ and Sterling, there’s a fairly obvious reason for that. Good chance that Moraes just chops him down, and even if he wins I expect it to be nip-tuck stuff, but Raphael Assuncao by split decision.

Zane Simon: Assuncao’s style seems like it’s kind of built around the idea of guys not being able to hurt him in exchanges, and it’s helped by him not having faced many of his division’s big punchers. He’s not unhittable with his low-output counter-punching. But he’s tough and a lot more consistent than many of the guys he’s faced. Moraes, however, is probably the hardest hitting striker that Assuncao has ever faced, and is wholly unlikely to spend a lot of time waiting on Assuncao and playing his range game. If Assuncao turns this into a wrestle-grappling match, he might have a clear path to victory, but I’ll pick Moraes to stay standing long enough and hit hard enough to get the win. Marlon Moraes by decision.

Staff picking Assuncao: Bissell, Victor, Ram, Fraser, Phil
Staff picking Moraes: Nick, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Eddie

Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely

Phil Mackenzie: I really like Spicely. He’s been a genuinely pleasant surprise, a nominally limited and unathletic grappler who has been winning fights he shouldn’t with smarts and moxie. He really, really shouldn’t win this one. Shoeface is bigger, more athletic, a better striker, a better grappler etc. The only caveat is that he has occasionally seemed to be a bit of a bully, and slightly mentally fragile. If Spicely comes through, he scores at least a 9/10 on the How Is This Guy Winning All These Fights Index, otherwise known as the Oezdemometer. Antonio Carlos Junior by submission, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Shoeface has been another under the radar TUF Brazil guy that has racked up a respectable UFC resume, but he looks like he’s already got a pretty established ceiling. Spicely will struggle with Antonio’s striking and athleticism, but neither of these guys are that fast. Carlos is a more dynamic athlete, but Spicely’s wrestling and top control will give Shoeface more trouble than he thinks. Even if Spicely make many positional changes while grappling, his ground strikes should be enough for him to set up more opportunities to do cumulative damage. Eric Spicely by decision.

Zane Simon: This would be an amazing win for Spicely. Phil pretty much laid it out. Unlike Spicely’s other successes in the division his only potential edge here is his toughness. And considering that his toughness is all about him getting guys into a grappling match, I don’t see that being a reliable X factor against a way more decorated grappler. Antonio Carlos Jr. by Submission.

Eddie Mercado: In an interview I saw Eric Spicely say that he doesn’t like the UFC’s #15 middleweight Dan Kelly. I’m not sure I can trust someone that doesn’t like Dan Kelly. On top of Spicely having zero clear paths to victory, Shoeface by Spicely getting smited by the MMA gods.

Staff picking Carlos Junior: Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Spicely: Nick, Victor, Stephie

Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez

Phil Mackenzie: Eduardo is the better kickboxer and harder hitter by some way, but I feel like he’s one of those guys who needs to be given time to get the timings on their counters down. Not sure that Lopez gives it- he’s largely a swarmer, and his grappling likely gets a bit more play than it has against rough style matchups in Yahya and Gagnon. Too much pace for Eduardo, I think. Matthew Lopez by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: If Eduardo shuts down Lopez’s wrestle/grappling altogether then he’s obviously got some big edges in technical striking. But this feels like a setup fight where the young kid who doesn’t seem ready is able to roll past the experienced vet with a somewhat limited game from yesteryear. Lopez’s swarming style, great athletic gifts, and complete confidence in what he does will keep him closing Eduardo down and I wouldn’t even be surprised if he got a couple standing back takes. Funky fight, but I’m taking Lopez by decision.

Staff picking Eduardo: Nick, Ram, Fraser
Staff picking Lopez: Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Victor, Stephie, Eddie

Iuri Alcantara vs. Brian Kelleher

Phil Mackenzie: Alcantara’s win over Luke Sanders was not encouraging. He won by finish, but he was getting absolutely manhandled beforehand, and had to delve into his sneaky bag of Vale Tudo streetfight tricks to get it done with a kneebar. Kelleher has had a bit of a career resurgence of late, but I tend to think that wacky strikes and submission grappling is just not a combination to beat Alcantara with unless you are very, very good, because that’s sort of his world…? Iuri Alcantara by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Even having lost a half step, Alcantara is still an amazingly tough, brutal finisher. He hits hard, scrambles and wrestles well, and has a great sub game. He relies too much on a fading athleticism and has never picked up finer technical nuances of striking or wrestling, but I don’t Kelleher’s unchecked aggression power wrestling style to be the solution to an incredibly tough vet who has a habit of picking people off who try to go wild against him. Iuri Alcantara by Submission, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Kelleher is a tough dude from a great circuit, but there’s wrinkle’s to Alcantara’s game that he won’t be used to. I expect Kelleher to have success early, but Alcantara will take over and control with better positions and grind him down to get a submission late in the second round. Iuri Alcantara by rear naked choke, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: Kellewho? Alcantara by submission in round 3.

Staff picking Alcantara: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Kelleher:

Jamie Moyle vs. Viviane Pereira

Phil Mackenzie: Think the tone of this one is going to be set early. Pereira wants to slow the pace down, Moyle is going to want to bull into her. I think Perieira’s physical strength will insulate her somewhat, and Moyle’s aggression will put her into counters. Viviane Pereira by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Pereira is a better athlete. Moyle isn’t terrible anywhere, but she’s not great anywhere either and squeaks out a lot of close fights against other women who are also not the most athletically imposing fighters. Pereira’s game is raw, but this pick feels straightforward. Viviane Pereira via decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Moyle is a little ball of awesome when it comes to keeping a consistent pace and output throughout a fight. As strong as Pereira is, she’s not as good with her movement and not as sharp with cutting angles. Plus, Moyle is better at striking as she’s getting out of an exchange with an opponent and better off her back. Jamie Moyle by decision.

Staff picking Moyle: Nick, Ram, Victor
Staff picking Pereira: Bissell, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Eddie

Luan Chagas vs. Jim Wallhead

Phil Mackenzie: I like Judo Jimmy, but he’s clearly showing a lot of wear. He hung tough against Ayari but really just struggled to put any meaningful offense together. In something of a theme for this card, Chagas is a one-round finisher. He’s still relatively young, and showed some promise against Silva, so I think he can win this one on physicality if nothing else. Luan Chagas by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: I have a sneaky suspicion that Wallhead pulls this one out. He’s a terribly inconsistent fighter from bout to bout, but I think Chagas will give him just the kind of fight he wants. Wallhead isn’t a very fast mover, but he’s got surprisingly accurate, powerful hands. Ayari was far too focused on keeping distance and fighting off his back foot to give Wallhead anything to work with, but Chagas will likely be more willing to sit down in front of Wallhead and engage. That could mean Wallhead gets slept early, but I think he’ll be the more likely guy to land clean in a brawling exchange. Jim Wallhead via KO, Round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m with Zane for the most part, because Wallhead should have some veteran savvy that can work to his advantage here. Wallhead’s grappling should give him the edge, though. It doesn’t seem to me that his striking will be the deciding factor for Jim if he just goes toe to toe standing. He’s going to have to employ more clinchwork and pressure to slow this fight down and keep it at a pace Chagas isn’t used to. Jim Wallhead by decision.

Staff picking Chagas: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Wallhead: Zane, Victor

Deiveson Alcantara vs. Marco Beltran

Phil Mackenzie: Should be a fun, fast-paced fight. I like Alcantara for the slight upset- I think his operating space is slightly closer than Beltran’s- he doesn’t blitz like many punchers but stays quite tight to the pocket. Thus, I think he can box Beltran up a bit and perhaps hit takedowns. Deiveson Alcantara by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Alcantara is way too hittable for my liking. He’s a patient counter-puncher, but patient to a fault and can get lit up baldy by more active opponents. I’m also not sure I trust his takedown/top control game off the Brazilian MMA circuit. Maybe it translates well, maybe not. Takedowns aren’t usually the way to win at flyweight anyhow. I think Beltran will stay elusive, move in and out, and pot shot Alcantara. He might get hit a few times doing it, but I think he’ll land better more consistently. Beltran by decision.

Staff picking Alcantara: Mookie, Ram, Fraser, Stephie
Staff picking Beltran: Bissell, Nick, Zane, Victor

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