Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for the UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones 2 preliminary card.
When you have an event as massive as Saturday’s UFC 214, you can’t just have one predictions post. Instead, we’ve broken it down into three sections: Preliminary card/Main card/Main event. Here, you’ll get a breakdown of our prelims picks, including the feature FXX bout between Jason Knight and Ricardo Lamas. The only bouts in which we’re in unanimous agreement are Drew Dober over Josh Burkman and Andre Fili over newcomer Calvin Kattar.
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.
Jason Knight vs. Ricardo Lamas
Mookie Alexander: I have no f–king idea how to pick this fight. Lamas has really only lost to the absolute elite of 145, but he’s also had close calls against (the admittedly overweight) Charles Oliveira, Hatsu Hioki, and wasn’t really that impressive to me against Hacran Dias. Knight has shown serious improvements to his game since losing to Tatsuya Kawajiri, and the Chas Skelly win has me sold that he’s no worse than a top-10 fighter right now. His grappling is extremely fun to watch and his striking has steadily come along into at least being more than passable. With that said, I believe Lamas is capable of shutting down Knight’s active guard and beating Knight up from top position, and has a more diverse skill set to see him through in a close matchup. Wouldn’t be surprised though if Knight just took his back and sunk in a rear-naked choke at some point, though. Ricardo Lamas by split decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I feel like Lamas doesn’t get enough respect as a guy who consistently steps up and takes tough fights without complaint. He’s fought Mendes, Holloway, Aldo, Swanson, Bermudez, Oliveira, Hioki… multiple generations of top 145ers. As such, he’s a tough ask for Knight. However, I always remember his fight against Hacran Dias, where he got stranded at distance and largely outworked. I think that comes into play here. Hick Diaz has the traditional Diaz weaknesses to leg kicks and grappling, and the traditional Cerrone weakness to ATVs, but I think he spends long enough at kickboxing range to just pull away from Lamas down the stretch. Jason Knight by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I just don’t think Jason Knight is safety minded enough to beat Ricardo Lamas. The Dias fight was bad for Lamas, but Dias has typically been exactly the kind of safety first fighter that doesn’t give Lamas a whole lot to work with and forces him to try and create opportunities (something he’s not great at). Whereas Knight is basically a 145 lb walking dare. “I dare you to hit me while I’m hitting you. I dare you to wrestle me while I’m grappling you.” Generally, if you give Lamas those kinds of windows to go through, he’ll take all he can get. Ricardo Lamas via Submission, Round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Knight’s done some impressive work in his UFC run, and it’s great for him that he’s gotten this far to get this fight. That said, Lamas looked sensational against Oliveira and ended up submitting one of the best submission fighters in his division. I can’t pick against a guy that hits harder, has better wrestling and better finishing instinct with an underrated submission game. Lamas drags Knight into deep water, seals it late. Ricardo Lamas by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Knight: Nick, Stephie, Dayne, Phil, Ram
Staff picking Lamas: Bissell, Fraser, Anton, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Victor
Renan Barao vs. Aljamain Sterling
Anton Tabuena: Barao doesn’t seem to be BARAO anymore, but stylewise, he is still hard to takedown and he should still be the superior striker here. Renan Barao by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight is an interesting measurement of where both guys are in their respective careers. Barao is flat out not at his peak anymore, but I don’t think he’s shot to pieces. It’s going to be incredibly hard for Sterling to take down one of the greatest takedown defense specialists of all-time, so can Sterling and his improved striking win a straight kickboxing match? I have my doubts. Suppose Barao actually initiates grappling exchanges, is Sterling capable of scrambling his way to the Human Jansport position on someone as good as Renan? Not sure. This is a tough matchup for Aljamain and I’d be very happy if he passed it, but I think stylistically this favors Barao. Renan Barao by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I really enjoyed what I saw from Sterling last time out. The body jab which he flashed was the building tool which he has needed to center his striking game around. However, Barao is a very tough ask for him, with iron-clad TDD, a sharp jab and probably a bit of a pure physicality advantage. I think I still slightly favour Sterling, though: Barao works best when countering rushes or cracking from the outside with kicks, and footspeed has always been an issue for him. Oddly enough, I think Sterling’s biggest issue may come from Barao’s wrestling, which is highly underrated, while Sterling tends to have a little more faith in his own defensive grappling than it perhaps merits. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m With Phil on this one. The big thing for me is that I don’t think Barao has the faith in his durability anymore to fight like the striker that he used to be, and his transition into something new isn’t all that complete or comfortable yet. And that leaves me feeling there’s a good chance that he needs to take Sterling down to beat him (or that he feels he needs to) and he’ll end up getting edged out of rounds behind Sterling’s increasing faith in his boxing and willingness to use it, while looking to create multi-layered offense that just isn’t as effective as it was a few years ago in his prime. Aljamain Sterling by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: See, I worry about how Sterling does with Renan’s striking and how many shots he’s going to have to eat to earn a takedown. Then again Barao’s soul is still on a shelf in Dillashaw’s gardening shed (second from the top, left side). Sterling’s creative kicking game will be useful to make the biggest difference in throwing Barao off his game to work his wrestling and punishing from top position. After that, I see a choke in Renan’s future. Go ahead, pick a choke. Any choke. Aljamain Sterling by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Barao: Nick, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Sterling: Bissell, Fraser, Phil, Zane, Ram, Victor
Brian Ortega vs. Renato Moicano
Mookie Alexander: I have no idea what to make of Ortega. Zane and Connor noted in the Vivisection that throughout his UFC career, he typically finishes fights but doesn’t actually win entire rounds. Ortega is a brutally slow starter but damn if he isn’t a crafty guard player who can chain submissions together. Moicano feels like a more methodical, process-driven fighter who can frustrate Ortega with good footwork and patient striking. Ortega is the better finishing threat and more fun to watch, but I think the way he tends to win is totally unsustainable as far as being an actual contender. Renato Moicano by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Two very talented fighters trying to get some purchase in the new 145. This pick is mostly fuelled by personal bias: if you give me one fighter who wins over a vet despite himself, by being a complete crazy wildman, and one who wins by being crafty and boring, I’ll go for the second one every time. Ortega is violent, but his defense everywhere is terrible and I am consistently surprised by what a slick veteran Moicano looks like. Renato Moicano by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Ortega has likely never won a round in the UFC where he didn’t finish his opponent in that round. Moicano is part of the new breed of prospects who have learned they can win tough fights just by having reasonable defensive footwork and a reliance on a few strong functional range striking tools. That should be enough against a very hittable (especially when coming forward) Brian Ortega. Renato Moicano by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I have full faith in Ortega on the ground, but wonder what he’s going to resort to if the fight doesn’t get to the ground. Moicano’s striking is so much better suited for winning rounds, and Ortega’s inactivity will be a problem. Renato Moicano by decision.
Staff picking Ortega: Bissell, Nick, Fraser, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Moicano: Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Ram, Victor
Calvin Kattar vs. Andre Fili
Phil Mackenzie: Limited tape study seems to indicate that Kattar is a not dissimilar fighter to Fili, but appears to be less athletic, less well-trained, less well-conditioned. He’s also on short notice. Fili can likely blockade Kattar with pure athleticism and wait for his supplies of gas to run out. Andre Fili by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I honestly think this could be a really close scrap for Fili. Something that looks a lot worse for him than the odds would imply. Kattar is big, durable, and a reasonably well schooled, hard hitting, active striker. I’m giving Fili the edge because I think his footwork is way better and can keep him out of trouble and let him potshot a little more, but if it doesn’t then he may be reliant on his spotty wrestling and grappling to see him through to victory. Andre Fili by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: When this fight was announced, I thought it was Chris Kattan from SNL. Ugh. Kattar is likely to fall for some of the veteran traps that Fili can set, with feints and footwork, as well as a craftier ground game. Also, Corky Romano was an atrocious film, but it really picked up in the last 20 minutes. Seriously, it ends up being pretty funny in the end. Don’t look at me like that. Andre Fili by decision.
Staff picking Kattar:
Staff picking Fili: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Ram, Victor
Kailin Curran vs. Alexandra Albu
Phil Mackenzie: I mean, I guess? These are painfully nascent fighters, at least a step or two below PVZ in the “hot and athletic but not close to a finished product” stakes, and I have no idea what either one of them is going to look like. I’ll take Curran for more experience, but I have zero confidence. Kailin Curran by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m really surprised to see so many people picking Curran alongside me, as both my Sherdog Roundtable partners, and Connor on the Vivi all went for Albu. Albu is the better athlete, and cleaner striker, but I just haven’t seen enough from her (especially in terms of output) to put faith in me that she beats even a pseudo-UFC level fighter. Curran struggles with wrestling and with physicality inside, but if Albu just sits at range and tries to win a kickboxing match, I think Curran out-works here. Kailin Curran by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: This should be the fight where Curran gets her fight IQ in order and uses her wrestling and top control to win rounds and get the decision win. Albu’s submission game is something to really look out for, but Curran should get it done. Kailin Curran by decision.
Staff picking Curran: Bissell, Nick, Fraser, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Phil, Zane, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Albu: Tim, Ram
Eric Shelton vs. Jarred Brooks
Phil Mackenzie: There is something of a clock on Shelton as to whether he can make something of his superb athleticism, particularly given that he’s fighting at 125, so that he’ll be shown the door quickly if he falters. However, this should once again be a very fun matchup. Brooks pushes a blazing pace behind strikes and takedowns, and while Shelton is moment-to-moment a far more explosive athlete, I’m still not sure that I can pick him to beat someone like Brooks until he can show me that he can keep it up for more than a round and a half. Jarred Brooks by unanimous decision
Zane Simon: I have two questions this fight will answer. 1: Can Shelton make the necessary technical leaps quickly enough, needed to compete in a division as stacked with well-rounded elite athletes as Flyweight? 2: Is Jarred Brooks too small to be a scrambling wrestle-grappler in the UFC lightweight division. My bet on both of those is “No.” Which means that Brooks out-works Shelton for the decision and Shelton is left to do his development as a prospect out on the regional scene. Jarred Brooks by decision.
Staff picking Brooks: Nick, Fraser, Anton, Mookie, Phil, Tim, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Shelton: Bissell, Dayne, Ram, Victor
Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober
Mookie Alexander: Nope. Drew Dober by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: With Gray Maynard picking up a win, Josh Burkman may be the most depressing fighter on roster to preview (before you ask: I’ve grown to find BJ’s beatings increasingly blackly funny. Sue me). His only win in the last seven fights was a dismal bout against KJ Noons. Dober is a hard worker who keeps a good pace and he’ll do that while Burkman does whatever. Drew Dober by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Dober may not be dangerous enough to finish a still durable Burkman, but Burkman doesn’t seem like he’s trying to fight anymore and the moment he faced someone who knew it they dusted him in a couple of minutes. Drew Dober by decision.
Staff picking Burkman:
Staff picking Dober: Bissell, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Tim, Ram, Zane, Victor