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UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor staff picks and predictions for pay-per-view main card

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The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor, and because this is a major show, we’ve divided these posts to main event, main card, and preliminary card. This one is dedicated to the pay-per-view card, up until the co-main event between Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis. Anton Tabuena is among those who’s actually picking Pettis to get the upset win over “El Cucuy.” Elsewhere, opinion is split on Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes, the majority are siding with Alexander Volkov over Derrick Lewis, and ditto Felice Herrig over Michelle Waterson.

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.

Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis

Anton Tabuena: I think I’m going with the underdog here. Pettis will have some problems with a lot of the top level lightweights, but this would be a stylistic match up that plays to his strengths. Ferguson will strike with him, and will be willing to drop down and aggressively go sub-for-sub with Pettis instead of just controlling him. Ferguson obviously has the power and the offense to win this, but his defense is lacking and Pettis should be able to find some spots for those hard body kicks that he loves. If Pettis manages to get Ferguson’s respect early and not get overwhelmed with his high volume offense, he should have a very real chance of capitalizing on those small gaps and pulling off the upset. Anthony Pettis by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Really the key things here would be Ferguson’s mobility coming off surgery, and whether he can just beat up Pettis with fundamental striking and heavy pressuring. Actually I’ll also add him outgrappling Pettis on the mat, as Pettis is still a dangerous fighter to scramble with. My prediction? Ferguson hurts Pettis with something crazy, overwhelms him and latches on a D’arce choke. Tony Ferguson by submission, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: I think there’s a great chance that Tony Ferguson is making his return from injury a little bit too soon, which is going to allow for Tony Pettis to capitalize on the moment and climb back up the rankings. Pretty Tony by TKO (Leg Kicks) in round 1

Victor Rodriguez: I’ve said this so many times, but Pettis has been mostly figured out. Ferguson’s such a great athlete and knows how to make the best out of chaos and scrambles. His submission game is lethal as well, and Pettis can easily be drowned by a guy that can pressure him and change levels. I say all of this despite Tony’s brain farts. Besides, Ferguson might be a lot bigger by fight night. That’s not gonna go well for Pettis. Tony Ferguson by submission, round 3.

Staff picking Ferguson: Bissell, Nick, Harry, Mookie, Phil, Ram, Stephie, Dayne, Tim, Lewis, Victor
Staff picking Pettis: Anton, Fraser, Eddie

Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes

Mookie Alexander: Reyes hasn’t beaten anyone on OSP’s level… but OSP also is so horribly inconsistent even in his wins that I can easily see this fight looking like the Tyson Pedro one, except Reyes won’t be silly and go wrestle him. We’ve seen that when he has someone hurt he just hurts them some more until they go to sleep. I just want a new LHW prospect worth watching, and Reyes fits the bill. He’s powerful, sharp, and even with all of his first-round finishes, is showing more and more composure with each fight. Dominick Reyes by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Reyes looks good. He can strike, he can grapple, he’s powerful and athletic, and his defense is better than it has any right to be at this early stage in his career. This fight will therefore be an interesting referendum on just how bad range kickboxing is in at 205: OSP is comfortably one of the best strikers in this division (note: OSP is not a good striker), and if Reyes just tunes him up, then his ceiling is really pretty high. On the other hand, why trust LHW prospects not to have gaping holes in their game? If he can’t put OSP away, if he doesn’t mind his Ps and Qs in getting stuck in the clinch, if he gets taken down? I’m just not trusting any prospects to do that until I see them do that. Ovince Saint Preux by submission, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: This might be a case of too much too soon, but in a division where athleticism counts for a lot, it really doesn’t take much to catapult yourself up the rankings, especially when you can throw your hands the way that Reyes can. I’m still going to pick the veteran here to find a way to get it done. Ovince Saint Preux by submission (Von Flue), round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: OSP is just so unreliable, man. I’m thinking Reyes can do some damage early, but he’s gonna eat a lot of leg kicks and run out of gas. I hate the idea, but I just have to go with the guy that’s been there against tougher competition and hits harder. Ovince St Preux by TKO.

Staff picking OSP: Bissell, Harry, Phil, Anton, Tim, Lewis, Eddie, Victor
Staff picking Reyes: Nick, Mookie, Ram, Stephie, Dayne, Fraser

Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov

Anton Tabuena: I’m actually surprised that Volkov is the underdog here. This is heavyweight and Lewis has power, but Volkov should be faster and way more technical just about everywhere. Alexander Volkov by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Well let’s see… Volkov has terrible takedown defense, but his opponent literally said in July “I don’t know how to do takedowns.” Volkov also relies on his chin because his defense isn’t great… that’s a problem against Lewis. However, everything else favors Volkov. His volume striking, jab, accuracy, pace, and the fact that Lewis doesn’t have the greatest of chins and is easy to hurt to the body. I love Derrick Lewis but this is a bad matchup for him. Alexander Volkov by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Nelson vs Volkov was basically a matchup of Volkov poking Nelson from a distance with jabs and body kicks. Is there any reason why he can’t do that to Lewis, who is functionally even slower than Nelson? Maybe Lewis lands a big punch on Volkov, who is defensively dismal, or blunders his way into a takedown for some swangin’ GnP, but even then Volkov is teak tough and has a great gas tank. He’s also unlikely to tire himself out by initiating grappling exchanges, which is how a lot of people lose to Lewis. Alexander Volkov by TKO, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: After his last performance, Derrick Lewis has some redeeming to do in my own warped and twisted mind. Volkov can be tagged up as we’ve seen him eat a few bolos over the course of his career, but can Lewis deal with that range? I don’t think he will be able to and he might end up getting picked apart from the outside. Alexander Volkov by TKO (Teep to the gut), round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Lewis is a lovable goof and a good fighter, and he’s also very limited. He’s gonna run out of answers before Volkov does and get outjabbed. Alexander Volkov by decision.

Staff picking Lewis: Harry, Ram, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Volkov: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Lewis, Eddie, Victor

Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig

Anton Tabuena: Like the bout above, I’m surprised that the far better fighter is the underdog here. Herrig has a chance to use that size and physicality to bully her, but I just don’t think she has the skills to actually stifle Waterson’s game for 15 minutes. Michelle Waterson by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Waterson is the more technically skilled fighter, I reckon. The problem I see here is she’s undersized for strawweight — and has admitted she hates cutting to atomweight, so she’s staying at 115 — and Herrig has genuinely gotten better both with her technical abilities and in-fight decision making. Add in that Herrig is likely to physically overpower her and have better takedown defense than Cortney Casey and I have to pick Herrig here. Felice Herrig by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Is Waterson actually a better technical fighter than Herrig? I think she was once, but honestly I don’t really think her game has evolved much. She’s still a bit of a Jackson-Wink mess of arm punches, weird kicks and low-percentage takedowns, albeit with tremendous finishing instincts and good baseline athleticism. Herrig is a lesser athlete, but as mentioned she is larger and just more functional. Jab, hook, double leg, right hand. It’s meat and potatoes, but it’s meat and potatoes for a reason. Felice Herrig by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Herrig’s turned a major corner in her career, getting her training regimen and nutrition on point. After working on her grappling and improving her timing, she’s the best she’s ever been and could easily get a title shot with another win after this fight. Waterson’s wrestling and takedowns are immensely underrated, plus she’s got a speed advantage. I just think she’ll be spending more time on her back than the judges would like. Felice Herrig by decision.

Staff picking Waterson: Nick, Anton, Tim, Lewis, Eddie
Staff picking Herrig: Bissell, Harry, Mookie, Phil, Ram, Stephie, Dayne, Fraser, Victor


Who wins the UFC 229 co-main event?

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    Ferguson by stoppage

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    Pettis by stoppage

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    Ferguson by decision

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    Pettis by decision

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