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UFC 228: Tyron Woodley vs. Darren Till staff picks and predictions

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The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC 228, and the majority of us are going with Tyron Woodley to successfully defend his welterweight title against Darren Till. No one was picking Nicco Montano to defend her flyweight belt vs. Valentina Shevchenko in the co-main, but the fight is cancelled, so it’s wiped from our predictions post. The new co-main is Jessica Andrade and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and only Tim Bissell and Tim Burke are backing Kowalkiewicz for the win.

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.

Tyron Woodley vs. Darren Till

Anton Tabuena: Till is bigger and younger, but I’m not quite sure what other advantages he has here. Maybe he’s able to fluster Woodley with that reach and hurt him early, or maybe Woodley’s other tools leads to another title defense. He has more power, speed, and probably better boxing and wrestling too. Perhaps more importantly, he has more experience against all these high caliber opponents. They have different styles, but I’m sure going 50 mins with Wonderboy also helps prepare him for someone who controls reach and distance well too. I expect them to be patient and throw with low volume at least on the early rounds, and unless Till picks him apart and lands big early, I think Woodley eventually takes this. I think they’ll try to counter each other early, and when Till opens up more, Woodley lands that bomb that turns the tide. Tyron Woodley by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Woodley should win this, unless Till recreates Rory MacDonald’s performance against Woodley. He may not show it every fight, but Tyron has far more tools in his game than Till has. If things get uncomfortable with the striking, Woodley could easily take Till down and land some ground-and-pound. He can also knock Till out with his vaunted power, seeing as Till was very close to being finished by Nicolas Dalby not too long ago. This is new-generation welterweight though, and I can’t shake the feeling that our analysis will be for naught, and we will once again be treated to a tepid display of feints, counters that mostly miss, and the odd kick here and there. The difference in significant strikes will be minimal, and ultimate it might come down to the wild card that is Texas judging, and how they may view Woodley’s willingness to be back up against the fence. Screw it, Darren Till by split decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I get the comparisons to Wonderboy, but Till’s a different animal. His use of range is different, his implementation of leg kicks is better and his combinations feature far more mixups to keep guys guessing. Sure, he got his weight under control, but I worry that he’s still too green. Woodley’s able to keep his back to the cage to invite offense and keep the takedown threat at the ready for the entirety of the fight, and at some point, Till’s gonna run out of answers. Unless he busts up Woodley’s legs early or lands a Tiger Genocide knee to counter a takedown, Woodley’s slowly going to be able to open up and attack the body, landing a big left hand somewhere late in the fight. Tyron Woodley by TKO, round 4.

Zane SImon: I get the feeling that Till is going to be a bit froze up with indecision, between leading and opening himself up or waiting to counter and missing opportunities. And Woodley, well, he just isn’t going to throw anything other than counters because that’s what he does these days. This could easily come down to sub Till/Thompson strikes per round numbers. But, given Till’s defensive stiffness and the x-factor of Woodley’s wrestling, I’ve gotta pick the champ to retain. Tyron Woodley via decision.

Staff picking Woodley: Bissell, Harry, Nick, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Till: Mookie, Phil, Tim

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Andrade

Anton Tabuena: Kowalkiewicz should be the far more technical striker here, but there’s been some exchanges in the past where she gets somewhat overwhelmed by more physical opponents. Against a tank like Andrade, that could spell trouble. Jessica Andrade by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Kowalkiewicz is the better striker, can land some good shots in the clinch, but she lacks power, finishing ability, and that just means Andrade will walk through shots to get her takedowns and just hulk smash. She’s just too physically strong for most of the division, and she has so much in the gas tank that she’ll remain aggressive and throwing full power from the opening round to the last round. Jessica Andrade by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Both of these women make their way with physical strength, pure toughness and cardio, but where Kowalkiewicz tends to surprise people with her strength in tie-ups, Andrade tends to absolutely shock them. Karolina tends to get her feet frozen in brawls or blitz into the inside without much care for defense, neither tendency seems like it’ll serve her well over three rounds against Andrade’s freakishly relentless physicality. Jessica Andrade by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Seeing how Andrade was able to bully and bulldoze Claudia Gadelha the way she did, she should be able to work her way inside and brutalize Karolina in phone booth exchanges. Not sure Karolina can stop that rush, either. She should be able to have some success at the long and mid-range stages, but won’t have many answers off her back when the fight gets there. Jessica Andrade by decision.

Zane Simon: If Kowalkiewicz can somehow own the clinch without getting taken down, she has a real chance to win this fight. But that’s a huge if against someone strong enough to just pick her up and slam her whenever needed. Andrade can get predictable, but if Kowalkiewicz can’t put her away, then she likely can’t win either. Jessica Andrade via decision.

Staff picking Andrade: Harry, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Anton, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Kowalkiewicz: Bissell, Tim

Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Brandon Davis

Anton Tabuena: I just hope we see more ninja shit. Zabit Magomedsharipov by some crazy TKO

Mookie Alexander: Davis is going to get styled on. I’m still steamed they didn’t do the John Lineker fight. Zabit Magomedsharipov by submission, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Kyle Bochniak showed that it is possible to get to Zabit with pure toughness and staying in his face, something which Davis does like to do. However, Bochniak has far better footspeed and is a much better wrestler than Davis. Even if he doesn’t just pick up counter shots from the outside, Magomedsharipov can insulate himself from Davis with reactive takedowns, who throws a lot of volume but has to set down on his feet in order to do it. Zabit Magomedsharipov by submission, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: I’mma keep it real wit’chu, chief – Brandon’s got a better chance of hurting Zabit than people think. Does that mean I think he’ll win? No, but there’s a potential for serious violence on both ends, and I’m really looking forward to this. Zabit Magomedsharipov by TKO, round 3.

Zane Simon: Davis is too hittable from outside, and too reliant on fighters choosing to brawl with him inside to likely get much work done against Zabit. Add to that his passive wrestling defense and it seems likely that whatever fight he pushes, he’s going to be on the wrong end of it. Zabit Magomedsharipov via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Magomedsharipov: Bissell, Harry, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Davis:

Niko Price vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan

Mookie Alexander: It really either ends with Alhassan smashing Price to pieces with one of his frighteningly powerful haymakers, or Price weathers the storm and Alhassan gasses out, opening the door for Price to take him down and submit him. Alhassan is dangerous, but Price is more well-rounded. This should be a barnburner. Niko Price by submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Seems like it should be the most purely silly fight on the card, and all the more fun for that. Price doesn’t appear to be a great athlete but has a weird ability to finish people off with nonsense. ARA is a great athlete who throws hooks until the other dude falls over or he gets very tired. His takedown defense is not as good as it should be given his judo background, but Price isn’t much of a takedown threat. In general, Price is an overperformer given his physical ceiling and Alhassan is an underperformer. ARA will give him a lot of openings, and Price seems well-positioned to capitalize. Niko Price by submission, round 2

Victor Rodriguez: Starting to think every division should have a hardcore title or something, because these two should be fighting for that. Price keeps finding ways to win or at least put on a hell of a show in each fight, but Alhassan’s power might be enough to put him down and keep him there. Problem is, can he find that button? Price has defensive lapses that a guy with Alhassan’s handspeed and strength can capitalize on, and I think Alhassan hits the jackpot on this one. Abdul Razak Alhassan by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: This fight is going to be some wild nonsense. Alhassan is a much smoother, quicker, more natural, more coordinated athlete. But, Price has funky power at the end of his arms and a grappling game that Alhassan likely can’t match. Either guy could easily get KO’d inside the first couple minutes, but I’ll pick Price to ride out some rough spots and eventually take the fight to the ground. Niko Price by submission, Round 1.

Staff picking Alhassan: Dayne, Anton, Victor
Staff picking Price: Bissell, Harry, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Zane

Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson

Mookie Alexander: Dodson just won’t do enough offensively, and unless his speed and power troubles Rivera’s chin early, I think Rivera wins this rather comfortably. Jimmie Rivera by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Hm. Rivera has something of a vulnerability to left-side strikes and is not a particularly quick or long bantamweight. How does he close distance on a Dodson who just wants to zip in and out and throw the left hand and a periodic left kick or knee? I think this is another medium-paced, competitive John Dodson fight. I’ll take Rivera just because he’s a little more functional and I think Dodson’s preternatural speed and power is waning. If Rivera just times the left hook counter every time Dodson enters in he can win out or balance out exchanges, and is a more willing kicker from the outside. Jimmie Rivera by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Jimmy – that name reminds me of how I got (mildly) roasted in the Bloody Elbow group chat for not knowing that people called Drake’s character Wheelchair Jimmy on Degrassi. I never watched that shit, OK? I’m trying here. Like did anyone call him that to his face? Canadians are supposed to be better than that. Wait… (holds earpiece in place)… oh, that’s what fans called him? And why can’t he pick an accent and stick with it? Who the hell is Keke? Well, how did Mookie know about Degrassi when he’s only 12? That show was on damn near 20 years ago! Is it required on every Canadian curriculum? I guess I should talk about this fight. Yeay, I just can’t shake the feeling that Rivera’s gonna get tripped up with trying to set up kicks with Dodson’s movement. Not to mention Dodson’s a quick dude with serious firepower. That said, Rivera’s one of the smarter fighters in the division, and he may have Dodson figured out. Gonna go with Bearded Jimmy over here. Jimmy Rivera by decision.

Zane Simon: Lately, when opponents can even come kinda close to matching Dodson for speed they’ve been able to beat him. Even with his athletic gifts, Dodson’s striking arsenal just isn’t that diverse. Opponents can see him coming, know what he’s going to do, and meet him with counters or lead with shots of their own. I think Rivera is fast enough to do that, and has the power to make it count when he does. He may put himself in danger if he tries to swarm Dodson, but I’ve got him pulling out a close but consistent win. Jimmie Rivera by decision.

Staff picking Rivera: Bissell, Harry, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Dodson:

Carla Esparza vs. Tatiana Suarez

Mookie Alexander: Esparza had a case for beating Gadelha, and I think she’s way too big an underdog here. Her striking has gotten better and she looks a lot less likely to fall apart in there when things aren’t going away. That said, Suarez is an excellent wrestler and Esparza is hardly difficult to takedown, and that may be the key difference here. I hope we get a lot of fun scrambles out of this, and that Suarez gets a stern test to see what her ceiling is within the division. Tatiana Suarez by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: This feels very reminiscent of Calvillo vs Esparza, and so I am somewhat tempted to pick Esparza to once more hold it down against the next generation of power wrestlers. However, Suarez is bigger, more athletically gifted, and younger than Calvillo, and really looks like she might be something quite special in the division. Tatiana Suarez by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I love Tatiana’s wrestling game, and she’s adapted it very well for MMA in a short period of time. This should be a very fun wrestling duel between two dynamic grapplers with a hard-nosed approach, but Esparza’s more experienced and has a better overall MMA game. It’s a tall order for Suarez, and if she were two years further in her career I’d jump on the call for her to win on this, but I’m sticking with Carla. Carla Esparza by decision.

Zane Simon: I’m really tempted to pick Esparza on the off chance that she can force Suarez to work hard early and take over late standing, when Suarez is too tired to get her down. But, I haven’t really seen Suarez gas yet, and size is always a problem for Esparza, even in wrestling exchanges. Tatiana Suarez via decision.

Staff picking Esparza: Bissell, Tim, Victor

Staff picking Suarez: Harry, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Zane

Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Stamann

Mookie Alexander: Phil nails it for me. It’s basically the Johns fight again, and Sterling showed more comfort in his willingness to box in the pocket and sit down on his punches vs. Johns than in previous bouts. Stamann is a really good fighter but I think he lacks that dynamic aspect of his game to make me pick him against better athletes like Sterling. I also don’t rule out Sterling pushing for takedowns and unleashing the Human Jansport mode on Cody. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Seems like an upgraded version of the Brett Johns matchup for Sterling. Stamann is a better athlete and a better wrestler than Johns, but the basic style matchup still seems like it favours Sterling: He’s pretty hard to hit from the outside, is an adept kicker and an improving boxer, and can redirect and control the wrestling exchanges. Stamann will consistently have to push him into two, three strike series to wear down his defense, and while I think he can do that I’m not sure that he can do it for minutes on end. In the end, I think Stamann needs his wrestling to function for his game to work. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Stamann just doesn’t do enough from distance to make me think he can take this fight. He’s gone a long way by being a hard-to-wrestle brick house with a surprising counterpunching game. But Sterling loves to sit out at range and pick away with kicks and long punches before mixing in the occasional takedown. Even if Stamann can stay upright, his habit of jumping into the pocket to close distance is more likely to let Sterling escape on an angle and reset than it is to catch Al-Jo flat footed. Aljamain Sterling by decision.

Staff picking Sterling: Bissell, Harry, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Anton, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Stamann: Nick,. Tim

Charles Byrd vs. Darren Stewart

Phil Mackenzie: Both men impressed me a bit in their last fights. Byrd showcased that he was more than capable of running a wrestling and submission clinic on someone who just wanted to box, and Stewart finally figured out how to make his approach work, albeit against a crafty but bottom-rung athlete in Spicely. I think he’s still a pretty good athlete, with a growing knack for combination boxing and a better grasp of how to insulate himself from clinch and takedown situations. Darren Stewart by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Stewart can win this if Byrd decides to test his striking. But if Byrd comes out and takes him down, Stewart seems likely to panic and gas himself out, and give up a submission. Charles Byrd by submission, Round 1.

Staff picking Byrd: Bissell, Harry, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Stewart: Nick, Phil, Tim, Victor

Frank Camacho vs. Geoff Neal

Phil Mackenzie: The only real competitor with Alhassan vs Price for guaranteed good silly violent fun. Neal is a better athlete and a faster starter, but has rarely had to test himself against the kind of incredible toughness that Camacho brings to the table, and I’m just not sure how well he does past the first. Perhaps something of a heart pick. Frank Camacho by TKO, round 3

Zane Simon: Neal has some decent power boxing and some head movement, but the rest of his game seems largely absent at the moment. Camacho has been caught early a few times in his career, but he’s very hard to put away as fights go on, and remarkable comfortable in the pocket in prolonged striking exchanges. Add in that Camacho is a sneakily decent wrestler and Neal would have to either get a quick KO or show a whole new level of depth to his game that has thus far been absent. Frank Camacho by TKO round 3.

Staff picking Camacho: Bissell, Harry, Phil, Tim, Anton, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Neal: Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie

Diego Sanchez vs. Craig White

Anton Tabuena: This will probably look very sad. White by KO.

Phil Mackenzie: White did not win his UFC debut, but Diego, at this stage of his career, is not Neil Magny. Not even close. White is a huge, fairly dynamic welterweight. The old method of losing to Diego (beat him up and then tire yourself out) is definitely a possibility, but that insane durability is just not there any more. Craig White by TKO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Worst thing about this fight is that Diego probably won’t even get knocked out. He’ll just get battered, eat the punishment and laugh about it, wondering why everyone else is upset like GG Allin at the infamous VFW hall or whatever. Craig White by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Craig White is absolutely tailor made to lose to Sanchez in 2018, but let’s be real. Craig White via KO round 1.

Staff picking Sanchez: Harry
Staff picking White: Bissell, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Victor, Zane

Jim Miller vs. Alex White

Anton Tabuena: This will probably look very sad too. White by KO.

Phil Mackenzie: I’m not sure how much better Alex White has gotten, but it looks like Miller is starting to fade out. Admittedly, his level of competition has been consistently ridiculous, and White is exactly the kind of guy that he used to get out of there with wacky subs, but like Stewart above, if White’s wrestling hasn’t become particularly great, he has at least figured out how to fight at a range which is troublesome for someone like Miller. Alex White by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m holding out hope that Miller pulls off a fun and creative submission here. Not gonna bet on that happening, though. Alex White by decision.

Zane Simon: God I so want to pick Miller here. He absolutely can out-wrestle Alex White, who still struggles with chain attacks. But, even when he’s succeeding, Miller seems to tire earlier and earlier in fights. White has become a dangerous, power punching threat standing, and once Miller is tired, he’ll likely still be fresh enough to make that count. Alex White via KO, round 2.

Staff picking Miller: Harry, Nick, Tim
Staff picking White: Bissell, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Anton, Victor, Zane

Irene Aldana vs. Lucie Pudilova

Phil Mackenzie: Lucie Pudilova is one of those fighters who gets past on sheer leafblower volume and toughness. Aldana has been struggling to find her footing, to the extent that it wouldn’t be too surprising to see her just get pushed back by how relentless Pudilova is. Actually, screw it. Give me Pudilova to do just that. Lucie Pudilova by split decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Nah, son. Aldana’s slick striking and work off her back make her suited for an opponent like Pudilova. Irene Aldana by TKO, round 3.

Zane Simon: Pudilova can easily win this if she just stays on Aldana and keeps her volume up for 15 minutes. But, she’s not a fantastic athlete, not a great technical striker, and not exactly defensively sound. Aldana has a habit of pulling away from a fire fight and is defensively wide open herself, but she’s also big and powerful. And while she can get discouraged, she doesn’t quit. It just seems too likely that while Pudilova will have great moments of success, it’ll be her getting hurt when push comes to shove. Irene Aldana by decision.

Staff picking Aldana: Bissell, Harry, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Tim, Anton, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Pudilova: Stephie, Phil

Jarred Brooks vs. Roberto Sanchez

Phil Mackenzie: The fact that he has a 1 in 10 chance of knocking himself out immediately makes any Brooks pick a slightly troubling one, but his Sonnen-esque habits of self-sabotage don’t point to a non-functional game. Like Covington diving into the Alves guillotine, I don’t think crazy amounts of aggression and confidence are necessarily bad things. That being said, he’s also a natural strawweight pushing a grappling game. Sanchez’ size, submissions his own top game are all elements which can give Brooks issues, but I think he takes it just on activity. Jared Brooks by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Brooks has the tools and the skill to win this. But on short notice, against a crafty wrestle-grappler like Sanchez? I just get the feeling Sanchez is going to pull out an embarrassing win, where Brooks thinks he’s on his way to dominating before falling into an armbar or something similar. Roberto Sanchez by decision, round 2.

Staff picking Brooks: Bissell, Nick, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Anton, Victor
Staff picking Sanchez: Harry, Zane


Who wins the UFC 229 main event?

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    Woodley by stoppage

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    Till by stoppage

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    Woodley by decision

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    Till by decision

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    Kamaru Usman

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