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UFC 243: Whittaker vs. Adesanya staff picks and predictions

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The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for Saturday’s UFC 243, and the majority of us are picking Israel Adesanya to become the new UFC middleweight champion over Robert Whittaker. As for the co-main event, it’s fairly split as to whom we think will win in the Dan Hooker vs. Al Iaquinta showdown.

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.

Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya

Anton Tabuena: Adesanya has more than enough tools to pick Whittaker apart, win the belt, and be the new breakout star for the UFC. For that to happen though, he likely has to remain disciplined for the entire fight, control range, and employ a kick-heavy game from the outside. Adesanya though, tends to have stretches wherein he tries to mostly just box with his opponent, and his defensive holes at that range nearly cost him on his last fight. Whittaker is a faster, more diverse, and far more dangerous striker than Gastelum, so Adesanya can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes. I can see Adesanya landing a big kick early on a rusty Whittaker, or him playing a perfect game and staying out of danger for 25 minutes. Do I trust Adesanya to do that without the talented (and durable) champion managing to capitalize on small openings and tendencies? I’m not quite sure. Tough pick, but I’m leaning slightly towards the guy I believe to be the more capable finisher. Robert Whittaker by late TKO.

Mookie Alexander: If you subtracted the illnesses and other ailments that have hindered Whittaker, I’d go with Bobby Knuckles. But he has had those illnesses and injuries, plus a ridiculous war with Yoel Romero that he arguably lost. Those have to be taking a toll on his body and I am skeptical that he’ll be in his best ever physical condition on Saturday. Whittaker is the better boxer, the more powerful puncher, the more well-rounded fighter, but he’s accrued quite a bit of damage through those two Romero fights and even dating back to some of his welterweight bouts. Adesanya is clearly someone who prefers to work at range, behind a jab and kicks, and he prefers precision and sharpness over full power. What may be a problem for him is when Whittaker does close the distance and can potentially expose Izzy’s rather lackadaisical defense, especially off the backfoot. Unlike Kelvin Gastelum, Whittaker has more tools in his striking. But like Zane says below, I think Adesanya presents a particular striking danger that Whittaker hasn’t really faced… ever? This is a highly technical matchup that has strong arguments to make for either man, and I feel like Adesanya is going to have more offense over the course of five rounds and that’ll be enough to win on the scorecards. I cannot trust Whittaker’s physical state until proven otherwise. Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m probably going to die on this hill, but I’m just not all that convinced that Whittaker’s style is made to keep the middleweight belt long term. He plays very narrow margins, both leaping in from range to land shots and countering as he steps back out of the pocket. Things made to very much take advantage of his speed and power in the moment. And things that got him caught hard by Yoel Romero (who, to Whittaker’s credit, catches everyone). Otherwise, Whittaker’s run at 185 has been notably absent of men who fight anything like Adesanya. There are gaps to Adesanya’s defense against consistent pressure. But, is Whittaker a consistent pressure fighter? I’m not convinced. And otherwise, Adesanya’s footwork, defensive movement and ability to cut angles out of the pocket to find counters is just much sharper and more consistent than anyone Whittaker has beat to date. That may all be moot, Whittaker’s speed and power may turn small openings into finishing shots and get him this win. But, if I don’t think Adesanya is going to get KO’d, then I do think that he can create enough offense with enough consistency to take a very tough decision. Israel Adesanya by decision.

Staff picking Whittaker: Ed, Phil, Anton, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Adesanya: Dayne, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Mookie

Al Iaquinta vs. Dan Hooker

Anton Tabuena: This should be fun either way, as both men will trade and they have both shown to have heart and durability to go with their entertaining offensive arsenal. I’m leaning towards Hooker riding this one out and getting paid a bonus. Dan Hooker by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Hooker’s move up to 155 has been hugely beneficial. He’ll have a significant size and reach advantage against Iaquinta, who may be the better pressure fighter but his defense is hardly impenetrable. The main x-factor I see here is Iaquinta pursuing takedowns, to which Hooker could counter with a guillotine choke but I don’t think Iaquinta is in that phase of his career anymore where he’s in danger of getting subbed. On the feet, Hooker is the more diverse striker and more willing to work in combination than Iaquinta, who relies heavily on his boxing. I don’t expect a finish because Iaquinta is just that damn tough, but I do believe Hooker is a bad matchup for him. Dan Hooker by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: We’ve seen Iaquinta suffer mightily trying to work his way past the jab from outside. And Hooker does have the length, and has flashed the jab that could trouble Iaquinta. But, I feel like those are more often just flashes. Hooker has a very tricky counter game that’s great at picking off predictable pressure, but whatever Iaquinta’s faults, his toughness has never been in question. And often, when Hooker isn’t finding those perfect counter shots, he’s been able to be boxed up and pushed back by pressure. I trust Iaquinta to find the consistency in his game just a bit more than I trust Hooker to find his, but a careful gameplan could see Hooker get this win. Al Iaquinta by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Iaquinta has never really shown the tools to deal with a concerted distance attack, and Hooker’s fight against Gilbert Burns showed a remarkable toolkit for dealing with short, powerful strikers: a short jab, right hand to the head and body, and calf kick, delivered from range while staying on top of his feet. I just don’t really know how Iaquinta deals with that, and has traditionally struggled with leg kicks and jabs specifically. Given that he came within inches of being finished by Cerrone, and that Hooker is perhaps an even better natural finisher than Cowboy, I think I’ll take Dan Hooker by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Iaquinta: Dayne, Zane, Stephie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Hooker: Ed, Phil, Anton, Nick, Mookie

Tai Tuivasa vs. Sergey Spivac

Mookie Alexander: Tuivasa needs a pick-me-up. Spivac is the pick-me-up. Tai Tuivasa by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Lol, nah. Not breaking this down. Tai Tuivasa by KO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: And with that, the good part of the card (the first two fights) is over. Tai Tuivasa by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Tuivasa: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Anton, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Spivac:

Luke Jumeau vs. Dhiego Lima

Mookie Alexander: This is a different looking Dhiego Lima we’ve seen as of late. Jumeau just seems too slow for welterweight and I am pretty confident that Lima is the more skilled fighter. Lima’s historical chin problems may re-appear given Jumeau throws some strikes with serious intent, but ultimately I am sticking with the Brazilian to get another W. Dhiego Lima by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Lima has suffered from so many weak spots in his defensive game over the years. His chin has been a problem, his defensive wrestling has been a problem, his footwork has been a problem. But, in his most recent fights, he’s seemed like a much more composed, confident fighter, and the result has been a Lima that possesses some dangerous power, and hasn’t been getting hurt the way he used to. Jumeau has a good chin and can throw some hammers, but his offense is very slow paced and predictable. If Lima really has improved the way it seems he has, he should just be too skilled and aggressive. If he hasn’t? He’s probably going to sleep. Dhiego Lima by decision.

Staff picking Jumeau: Anton, Tim
Staff picking Lima: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Shak

Justin Tafa vs. Yorgan de Castro

Mookie Alexander: UNRANKED HEAVYWEIGHTS BABYYYYYYYYYYYYY. Justin Tafa by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Tafa throws wild combos to the head and body with reckless aggression. De Castro looks for single kill shot counters and hard low kicks. Assuming Tafa is tough enough, his style of power brawling seems a lot more likely to get him a quick finish. If the fight goes more than 3-4 minutes, De Castro probably picks him off. Justin Tafa by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Tafa: Dayne, Anton, Zane, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking de Castro: Ed, Nick

Jake Matthews vs. Rosten Akman

Zane Simon: If Akman can stuff the shots from Matthews and keep his pressure high, Matthews’ tendency to only move in straight lines and to use his wrestling as a safety net for his defense could give Akman a clear path to victory. However, I feel like Akman is a little too confident in a game that just isn’t that technical or varied. Matthews has great speed and power and the ability to change levels on the fly. Jake Matthews by decision.

Staff picking Matthews: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Anton, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Akman:

Callan Potter vs. Maki Pitolo

Mookie Alexander: Potter is gonna get absolutely crushed unless Pitolo somehow decides to play around and go into Potter’s world of guard play and aggressive sub hunting. Maki Pitolo by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Potter just isn’t the kind of athlete he needs to be to compete at this level. Regionally he was able to wall-n-stall to drag energy out of opponents and find openings. At the UFC level, he likely just gets tossed around a bit and hammered. Maki Pitolo via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Potter: Ed
Staff picking Pitolo: Dayne, Anton, Nick, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Phil, Tim, Shak

Jamie Mullarkey vs. Brad Riddell

Zane Simon: Riddell is clearly the better athlete and far and away the more nuanced striker. But, at least to date, he doesn’t look like an MMA fighter. His first reaction to grappling and wrestling still appears to be panic. And while he can fight through some tough spots, Mullarkey seems like exactly the kind of great-at-nothing-but-willing-to-do-everything classic MMA fighter that hands strikers ugly losses on the regionals. Jamie Mullarkey by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Look, I respect the idea of booking people that are named like 1950s Batman villains. Jamie Mullarkey has presumably picked up strong regional wins over the likes of Billy Shenanigan and Fred Hijinks, and that’s probably enough for me. Jamie Mullarkey by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Mullarkey: Dayne, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Shak
Staff picking Riddell: Ed, Anton, Nick, Tim

Megan Anderson vs. Zairh Fairn dos Santos

Mookie Alexander: Squash match. Megan Anderson by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Anderson has her flaws, but fighting a low-power striker who so far has only feasted on blown up flyweights isn’t one of them. Megan Anderson via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Anderson: Ed, Dayne, Anton, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Fairn dos Santos:

Nadia Kassem vs. Ji Yeon Kim

Zane Simon: Kassem is pathologically aggressive, but her stand up is a complete mess, she’s never hit a takedown in the UFC, and even when she’s grappling, her game has a lot more try than skill to it. Ji Yeon Kim is a pretty one-note jab cross boxer, but she’s hard to take down and persistent with her offensive output at all times. It’s a basic test that I just don’t think Kassem can pass. Ji Yeon Kim via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Kassem: Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Kim: Ed, Anton, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Shak

Khalid Taha vs. Bruno Silva

Zane Simon: Both men are dangerous and willing to take the fight anywhere, but Taha seems like a much more process driven pocket boxer with great speed. Silva, is just kinda wild and willing to try everything with power. He might shock Taha once or twice, but I’ll take Khalid Taha to win rounds. Khalid Taha by decision.

Staff picking Taha: Dayne, Anton, Nick, Zane, Stephie, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Silva: Ed


Who do you think wins?

  • 75%

    Robert Whittaker

    (207 votes)

  • 24%

    Israel Adesanya

    (68 votes)

275 votes total

Vote Now

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