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UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum staff picks and predictions

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UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum card in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The Bloody Elbow staff unanimously agrees that Kelvin Gastelum will beat Vitor Belfort in Saturday night’s UFC Fortaleza main event. Only Ram Gilboa and Zane Simon are picking Gian Villante over Mauricio Rua in the co-main event. Phil Mackenzie, Stephie Haynes, and Tim Burke all like Beneil Dariush to best Edson Barboza in the other big feature fight on this quality FS1 card.

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.

Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Mookie Alexander: Vitor has about three minutes to win this fight. If he doesn’t KO Gastelum in those three minutes, then the rest of the fight is a formality. I know why this fight is the main event (Vitor is still a big draw), but Barboza-Dariush is a five-round caliber bout that ends up being three because of 2017 Vitor Belfort. Gastelum pieces Belfort up and then Vitor probably pulls guard and gets smashed from top position. Kelvin Gastelum via TKO (strikes), round 2.

Ram Gilboa: Belfort is a true celebrity in his homeland, like GSP in Canada or Demetrious Johnson in Madisonville, Kentucky. So a lot of Brazilian fans aren’t going to be very happy late Saturday night, but they’re usually a calm and quiet bunch so no worries there. Let’s be honest, whatever the reasons, his last truly impressive win was Luke Rockhold almost 4 years ago; and before that, now in hindsight, against Bisping and Anthony Johnson. Ever since Bisping, he only has those two on Dan Henderson; and catching good old Henderson is very different than cutting the Octagon on a very dynamic Kelvin Gastelum. The 25-year-old Gastelum employs enough movements to frustrate a housefly, so forget about a turning 40 Vitor Belfort. Gastelum’s a boxer/wrestler fella who can intercept a kick into a butt-drop, and as a grappler, he shouldn’t get dragged into too deep waters for his comfort. When Belfort was Gastelum’s age, he was beating Heath Herring at heavy, and losing to Chuck Liddell at Light-heavy, relying foremostly on his natural gifts, and those have expiration dates – just ask Chuck Liddell and many others. In my mind Belfort is always going to be fighting Tank Abbott this one night in 1997 in St. Louis. Now it looks like Belfort wants to move on to something of the sorts of a ‘League of Legends.’ If final, unfortunately he’ll end this part, like so many others, with a loss. Kelvin Gastelum by KO/TKO, round 3.

Victor Rodriguez: At first glance, this is a very winnable fight for Belfort. He’s still got great striking chops and amazing bursts that allow him to turn the tide quickly in any fight. Gastelum is young and comparatively inexperienced, but a phenom in his own right with a lot of raw potential that has really only had major shortcomings at welterweight due to weight cutting problems (which largely appear to have stemmed mostly from not staying closer to his target weight out of competition). Without the concern of a heavy cut, we saw him absolutely brutalize established veteran Tim Kennedy last time out. You can make the case that Kennedy hadn’t fought in a long time and was also getting long in the tooth – it doesn’t change the fact that Gastelum showed improved striking and excellent control of space and range. Belfort could catch him standing, but that’s it. I have no faith in him doing any better than he did in the Weidman fight (where he tried to throw straight punches off his back from under mount) or the Jacare fight where he would have had his face turned to Vietnamese plum sauce if the ref didn’t stop it. There’s no reason to believe that he’ll fare well when – not if, but when – he is inevitably taken down. As soon as the pressure becomes too much, Belfort will break and the fight will end soon. So yeah, this is Kelvin’s fight to win unless he dawdles a bit while standing, and even there he’s likely to outshine Belfort. Kelvin Gastelum by TKO (ground strikes), round 2.

Zane Simon: Gastelum is hard to hurt and has never been finished. Belfort loses almost every fight that he doesn’t win inside the first few minutes of round 1. Kelvin Gastelum via TKO, Round 2.

Nick Baldwin: Kelvin Gastelum is very good at everything. Super well rounded. Superb boxing and wrestling. Gastelum can beat the aging and declining Vitor Belfort wherever the fight goes. Gastelum is really, really durable, and should be able to take all of the Brazilian’s shots. If Belfort surges forward early, there’s a slim chance he might be able to take this. It is Vitor Belfort, after all. But I can’t trust non-TRT Belfort in 2017, so give me Gastelum with a heavy youth advantage to win inside the distance. Kelvin Gastelum via TKO, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: I really want to pick Vitor here. Every once in awhile, he turns back the clock and delivers the kind of performance we think is no longer there for The Phenom. And if he’s got one more of those in the tank, this seems like the fight where it gets uncorked. Trouble is, as much as I want to go there, I just can’t rationally see it, as he has looked pretty dreadful in his past couple outings. Experience says we have, at long last, truly seen the end of the line for the “old” Vitor, replaced forever simply by old Vitor. Kelvin Gastelum, TKO, R1

Staff picking Belfort:
Staff picking Gastelum: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Ram, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser

Mauricio Rua vs. Gian Villante

Mookie Alexander: Shogun’s gas tank is awful. Villante is a willing striker with a questionable gas tank and unquestionably bad defense. This could be a really fun one-round fight for a piss-awful three-round fight. Rua probably has enough left to KO Villante and then get pointlessly slaughtered by an actual top LHW. Mauricio Rua by KO, round 1.

Ram Gilboa: And Shogun is going to get stopped tomorrow night too? Oh man. Gian Villante by KO/TKO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Before anyone comes in chiming “PRIDE NEVER DIE”, I’d like to politely remind you all that PRIDE is dead, and it needs to stay dead. After the OSP loss, I thought Shogun was done, but there’s so many IQ lapses in Villante’s game that make it possible for Shogun to pull out another big finish. Not that Villante can shut his lights off, but it’s a matter of who you can trust the least, and the odd man out is gonna be Gian. Sorry dude. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by KO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: If Shogun wins this, it’s his longest win streak ever in the UFC! And he probably goes into the top 5 because there’s nowhere else to go! It might make you happy to hear those things, but it really shouldn’t. Shogun Rua by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: There’s no reason to think that Shogun will win this fight, other than even in 2017 Shogun will still be far and away the best win of Villante’s career. That spells doom for Villante but I’ll roll with him anyway. It’s either that or trust 2017 Shogun. Gian Villante via KO, Round 1.

Nick Baldwin: This is such a weird fight. Rua is almost top five at light heavyweight, which is not exactly good, considering it’s 2017. Villante has the power shot to take the former champ out, but I’m not a fan of the New York native’s chin and cardio. I actually like Shogun here, but that’s more of a fade on Villante than anything. Mauricio Rua via unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: I just wrote about how my gut says Vitor but I can’t get my brain to agree no matter what. So I’m letting the gut have this one as a consolation prize. Shogun Rua by KO, R1

Staff picking Shogun: Bissell, Nick, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Villante: Ram, Zane

Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush

Mookie Alexander: Barboza struggles with pressure fighters and anyone with the power to dent his chin. Dariush possesses both things, has terrific jiu-jitsu, and Barboza is prone to getting submitted. That said, for as much as Dariush has made serious strides on the feet, Barboza has improved his takedown defense considerably, his boxing looks better than ever, and he is a more advanced striker than Dariush is. The longer this fight stays on the outside, where Barboza can fire off those absurdly quick and powerful leg kicks, the worse it gets for Dariush. I love this stylistic clash and am a fan of both fighters, but I have to favor Barboza here based on how well he’s performed in his last few fights. Edson Barboza by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Sweet gods of combat, we have a great one on our hands here. Dariush is a real threat, and the potential for violence and technique is absolutely beautiful. Barboza should have the advantages standing, negating Dariush’s range and disrupting his timing as he did against Anthony Pettis, but Darius won’t let himself get picked apart easily. Trust that the Cordeiro tutelage will help him prepare for some of Barboza’s tendencies and figure out how to close the distance. Also, Dariush is going to have to be extra crafty to get inside and actually get the takedown, since Barboza is no slouch when it comes to preventing takedowns or springing back to his feet. It’s going to be good and pretty close, but Barboza’s style is more suited to win rounds for this kind of matchup, so I have to go with him. Edson Barboza by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: This is a glorious fight, easily the best on what is a pretty fantastic card, from the bottom to the top almost the top. This should be a fun open stance jabbing matchup, with Dariush closing off combinations with the left body kick or straight, and Barboza countering with that trademark left hook. I’d like to see Barboza win- I just really enjoy his game, and watching him painstakingly build it has honestly been an absolute pleasure. However, a few things give me pause: namely, the ability of opponents to limit his game by throwing takedowns into the mix, and Barboza’s lack of offense in the clinch. These two things combine to mean that I think the outfighting, counter-heavy game he wants to play can be eaten up by cage time, and that Dariush will have several near risk-free opportunities to work for takedowns. Hope I’m wrong, but Beneil Dariush by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: The biggest thing I see here is speed. Both guys can be chinny, both guys are very confident in their ability to strike. But, Barboza is way way faster. If Dariush can work a pressure game that ties Barboza up inside and gets him a takedown or two, he could win, but I think Barboza will stay mobile outside and keep his hands fast and his defense sharp. Edson Barboza via TKO, Round 3.

Staff picking Barboza: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Victor, Mookie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Dariush: Phil, Stephie, Tim

Ray Borg vs. Jussier Formiga

Mookie Alexander: Formiga hasn’t really declined anywhere, so this is all about Ray Borg. Perhaps his win over Smolka was partially due to Smolka himself being overrated, but Borg made tangible improvements in his stand-up and looked leagues faster on the feet and on the mat. This is a fight where I cannot imagine Borg consistently outgrapples Formiga, so Borg’s best chance to win is to outstrike him and at least break even when (and I do mean when) this fight hits the mat. Even then, Formiga is a functionally good kickboxer without being great. If only partially because I want a new flyweight contender in a division, I think Borg gets the upset. Ray Borg by split decision.

Ram Gilboa: This is a great match-up because these two are serious grapplers, and you know they’re coming in to grapple – which is now rarer, and therefore more intriguing, than a comparable strikers fight. At least we know for sure that Borg will push for the ground, being the kind of a sticky grappler; it’s very hard to get him off of you. And if the other guy preempts the attack Borg has nice reversals. What might spoil this match-up or at least postpone its peak, is that both Borg and Formiga carry much better takedown defence statswise than takedown offence. We might be looking at a lot of struggle next to the cage wall.

Standing up, Formiga has reach on Borg, but Borg cuts distance like a rubber band. Interesting meet, and I’m going with Ray Borg by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Another great bout, and the approach both fighters take will be interesting to see. Formiga seems to hit harder, but Borg seems like such a wily and unpredictable enough fighter to pull something crazy off, even if it doesn’t do that much damage. Formiga’s got great BJJ skills, but Borg has the wrestling to take him down and keep him there for a bit. I’m hoping for a bunch of fun scrambles, but we’ll probably end up with a decent standup bout with some clinchwork. I’m feeling Formiga uses his experience and pacing to earn a decision. Jussier Forgmiga by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Borg is probably an athletic level or two above Formiga. However, I haven’t seen anything to make me think that Formiga’s on the downside, or that actively grappling with him is the way to beat him, and he’s a much better boxer than Borg. Unless Borg has dramatically improved his functional kickboxing (and for short-term improvements you don’t get much better than Jackson-Wink), he’s just going to have to win on power and speed while in Formiga’s wheelhouse, and his high-speed scrambling game seems primed to give his back up at some point (see: Formiga vs Makovsky). Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Can Borg get his top game going? Because if he can’t this is Formiga’s fight to lose. Borg is getting better as a striker, but he still has a lot of improving to do. And as we saw in the Scoggins fight, he can be out-worked and out maneuvered on the mat. Formiga tends to lose to really elite athletes that can keep him standing and box him up. That doesn’t feel like Borg just yet. Jussier Formiga via decision.

Staff picking Borg: Nick, Ram, Mookie, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Formiga: Bissell, Phil, Victor, Zane, Fraser

Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau

Mookie Alexander: I picked Reneau over Correia on this week’s Three Amigos Podcast … it’s time to hedge my bets! Reneau isn’t active enough to consistently win fights, while Correia isn’t athletic or powerful enough to convincingly win fights. Correia has the edge in volume, which should make up for her lack of athleticism, and I predict she wins by just doing more on the feet and stopping Reneau from taking her down. Bethe Correia by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Close fight. Bethe Correia is pretty rad. As with Kevin Lee below, I enjoy how utterly unfiltered and fearless she is. While being dismissed as a punchline, she’s gradually developed into a technical volume boxer and swarmer, one who was able to hang with dark horse Raquel Pennington for two extremely close rounds. What happened in the third is the concerning part from Correia’s end: Pennington realized that she was much stronger than Correia, gave up on going technique for technique, and just bullied her. Reneau is old, but she’s a better athlete than Pennington and a long way beyond Correia. So, Correia has to walk the line between hitting tons of volume while not getting into lock-ups with the bigger, more powerful woman. I think she can do that, but I also worry that her aggression feeds into Reneau’s counter game. Close, fun fight, but I’ll go with Bethe Correia by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Reneau is a hell of an athlete and an underrated grappler, but she may be in danger of losing this fight due to Correia’s ability to suffocate opponents with volume and pressure. Reneau can’t get too comfortable with the counter game, but she might be able to get to the clinch and punish Bethe against the cage. Reneau could also make good use of knees from the clinch to the body and legs to wear Correia down, but this one’s gonna be a rough slugfest. Bethe should be able to outpoint Reneau and be more active, leading to better scorecards. Bethe Correia by decision.

Zane Simon: Reneau has major problems delivering volume… or really any meaningful offense at all. She’s a way better athlete than Correia, but that doesn’t mean anything if she’s going to be sitting on her heels doing nothing. Correia has a big edge in volume and I expect it to win her rounds as long as she stays out of Reneau’s guard. Bethe Correia via decision.

Staff picking Correia: Ram, Phil, Victor, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser, Mookie
Staff picking Reneau: Bissell, Nick

Tim Means vs. Alex Oliveira

Mookie Alexander: I picked Oliveira the first time around but it’s so evident that his game is heavily dependent on being physically overwhelming. He essentially needs to get big moments of offense (similar to the spinning back kick in the first Means fight) to have a chance here. Otherwise, Means gets the win by being the smoother, more crafty, and more technical fighter. Tim Means via TKO (punches), round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: This one seems pretty straightforward. Means is a much better technical fighter than Oliveira, so the question in their last fight was whether Oliveira’s sheer physical power would be able to overwhelm him. The answer was looking like a pronounced: “nope”, as Oliveira’s best chance was to blow Means away early, and instead he got the snot beaten out of him before Means landed those ill-advised knees. Short of a low-variance early finish or sudden and surprising technical improvements from Oliveira, Tim Means by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Despite the brevity of their first fight, I’m not sure how Oliveira does much better this time around other than getting beat up less. Means is a more measured fighter, and I’m rocking with Phil on this one. Tim Means by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: The finer points of this matchup all favor Means. He’s a much cleaner, faster striker, every bit as good a clinch fighter, and has turned into a much better wrestler over the years. Add in that he’s bigger and almost impossible to finish and this is a tough one for Oliveira. He could catch Means with something huge, he’s dynamic and capable everywhere, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Tim Means via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Means: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Oliveira:

Kevin Lee vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Mookie Alexander: I picked Magomed Mustafaev to beat Lee. That was a poor misjudgment. Tempted to pick Massuranduba here. His striking is better, he packs a punch, and can stuff takedowns better than Mustafaev can. With that said, Lee is a better pure wrestler than anyone else Trinaldo has faced during his winning streak, and he’s a really good grappler who can wear you down. I see Trinaldo taking the opening round before Lee starts timing Francisco better, getting his takedowns, and getting the decision win through his ground game. Kevin Lee by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: I really like Kevin Lee. Stuff happens and then he’s all like: “that guy sucks! What a bum!” He’s so consistently abrasive, and I respect that. That said, I also like Massuranduba a lot. Essentially, I think the willingness of opponents to grapple with Lee has had a sizable effect on how successful he’s been of late, but Tibau Two is likely to keep more distance in the open-stance matchup and strike, where he is just much better than Lee. His deeper takedown defense is something of a question mark, especially considering the Chiesa loss. As such, this would probably be a slightly easier stylistic fight for Tibau Prime than it is for Massuranduba. Still, gotta pick him to get vengeance for Trator, and Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I feel like Trinaldo has done a much much better job lately of managing just where he wants his fights to be. And while his takedown defense hasn’t been great, it’s not as bad as Magomed Mustafaev, who just let Lee have whatever takedowns he wanted. I don’t think Lee will be able to get Trinaldo down and just keep him there. On the flip side, Lee’s striking is still a problem. He has power and speed, but he’s far too wooden in his approach and can be KO’d. Trinaldo’s kickboxing has taken a big step up, so I’m taking Trinaldo via TKO, Round 3.

Victor Rodriguez: Kevin Lee is a talented powerhouse wrestler that can hit hard and has great boxing basics, but Trinaldo is very durable and so good at doing the little things. Trinaldo’s winning streak isn’t a fluke, and that win over Ross Pearson opened a lot of eyes and showed that he wasn’t just a boxer that outmuscled his way out of submission attempts on the ground. As much respect as I have for Lee, Trinaldo should be strong and sharp enough to negate the takedowns and hurt him standing. Let’s also not forget Trinaldo’s gas tank has gotten a lot better, so there’s another concern. Massaranduba takes this late. Francisco Trinaldo by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Lee: Ram, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Trinaldo: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Victor

Sergio Moraes vs. Davi Ramos

Ram Gilboa: I choose Moraes in the face of this. Sergio Moraes by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Sergio Moraes is still undefeated at welterweight in the UFC, which is… kind of boggling? He hasn’t fought the greatest competition, but still. Janky striking, a suspect gas tank(tm), and a general lackadaisical approach to winning rounds have been saved by decent basic athleticism, good instincts and one of those styles which just picks up close decisions for whatever reason. Ramos’ better athleticism and wrestling advantage is concerning, but I think that Moraes’ veteran guile allows him to survive an early scare and take over late in a decision where both guys are absolutely spent by the end of it. Sergio Moraes by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Ramos is an absolutely sensational grappler, and we could get an amazing grappling match between the two. Either that, or we get the sloppy kickboxing bout that we often get when two elite grapplers refuse to actually grapple in an MMA fight. Moraes should have a striking advantage, and should also make the most of the opportunities on the ground with mixing up ground strikes with positional transitions and submission attempts, but it seems unlikely either party finishes the other. Sergio Moraes by decision.

Zane Simon: Sergio Moraes has been cutting it really close against some sub standard competition lately, and I think this is where it really costs him. Moraes has been able to lull a lot of people into a funky striking match because they absolutely do not want to grapple with him. But, I don’t think Ramos will have any fear of Moraes’ ground game at all, and may even be able to beat him there. Otherwise Ramos keeps a good jab and hard kicks going, and should keep the striking relatively close. Davi Ramos via decision.

Staff picking Moraes: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Phil, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Ramos: Zane

Joe Soto vs. Rani Yahya

Phil Mackenzie: As above, should be a great grappling matchup. Soto is the far better striker, but he’s not the kind of guy to work a sprawl’n’brawl gameplan. Instead, look for him to engage in a scrambling battle with Yahya. While MMAth isn’t the greatest metric, it’s easy to see their respective matchups with Tanaka and see the consistent advantages Yahya holds in that phase. Both are vets and unlikely to show significant evolution between fights. Rani Yahya by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Welp. Yahya is tough to watch sometimes. Not because he’s not good – he really is – but his striking hasn’t developed much and he seems content to do more controlling than actual submission attempts. It’s frustrating to watch, because it often feels like he’s not doing as much as he could to win some fights. Against Soto, he’ll have an opponent that can punish him for spamming low kicks and could actually put him away while staying out of trouble in the submission department. Joe Soto by decision.

Zane Simon: Would love to see Soto win this, but the more I think about it, the more I see it being a series of scrambles where Yahya keeps getting control positions and making Soto work too hard to escape them. Rani Yahya via decision.

Staff picking Soto: Nick, Victor, Fraser
Staff picking Yahya: Bissell, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Stephie, Tim

Josh Burkman vs. Michel Prazeres

Mookie Alexander: I do not understand how Josh Burkman is still on the UFC roster. Prazeres will likely take care of that. Michel Prazeres by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: The second of the two Tibaus on this card (hooray!) really impressed last time out against Gilbert Burns, where he largely dismantled the BJJ ace with a far more developed and cohesive Muay Thai game than he’d ever shown in the past. Burkman is still just a mess- broadly skilled, but constantly allowing his opponent to dictate exactly the phase they’d like the fight in. He’s tricky and a good finishing threat and Trator the Tertiary Tibau has never been uncrackable. Still. Michel Prazeres by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Nope. Not falling for that one this time. I picked Burkman against Ottow, and regretted it once Burkman ate one leg kick after another and kept lurching forward. Burkman couldn’t keep Lombard from taking him down, and it doesn’t look like Prazeres can’t bully Burkman as well. Unless Burkman ditches the wild Kung-Fu stance and actually uses his range, well… Michel Prazeres by decision.

Zane Simon: I wouldn’t pick Josh Burkman to beat most of the lightweight division, let alone a guy on a run like Prazeres who actually knows how to take rounds against good fighters. Michel Prazeres via Decision.

Staff picking Burkman:
Staff picking Prazeres: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Tim, Zane, Fraser

Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Kennedy

Phil Mackenzie: I’ve never really been impressed with Jason’s physicality. He’s a classic crafty finisher, but I think I put his success down to commitment rather than brute physical power. In longer grappling battles he’s struggled, and is generally something of a glass cannon (win early or don’t win). Debatably his not-great physicality has been fading recently, and Kennedy is the bigger fighter and should be able to hit takedowns- being able to fight back off bottom is a hard thing to do against a power and youth advantage. Jeremy Kennedy by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I really have my doubts about Kennedy in the UFC. His record is largely built on the lowest level of talent, and his wrestle-grappling style turned really quickly to “cling to control positions” once he got to the UFC. Maybe that’s all down to size, but Jason is a very dangerous finisher, with a solid enough kickboxing base and a lot of speed on the mat. I don’t see Kennedy matching it. That said, I think the biggest knock on Jason may be work ethic. He doesn’t always look like he’s in great shape. So if this just becomes a cardio battle, Kennedy might wear him out. Rony Jason by submission round 1.

Staff picking Jason: Bissell, Tim, Ram, Victor, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Kennedy: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Stephie

Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Garreth McLellan

Phil Mackenzie: I really enjoy the essential aggressive Muay Thai shape of McLellan’s game and his obvious heart and work ethic. I just wish he had better attributes, because he’s just not quite technically or athletically gifted enough to make it work. As it stands, he relies on pressure, but his wrestling and striking defense makes it unsustainable, and he can’t rely on his toughness because he gets too tired. Costa is athletic and dangerous in multiple phases. His crappy gas tank is a question mark, but even if he can’t find McLellan’s chin early (which is there for the taking), McLellan has struggled to stop takedowns even from exhausted opponents. Paulo Henrique Costa by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: McLellan is a good intro to the UFC for a young fighter on a roll who may have cardio/defensive issues. McLellan will come after him and challenge him, without generally being dangerous enough to win (unless Costa isn’t ready to fight at this level). Costa has some fantastic offensive kickboxing and looks to be a super powerful athlete. Paulo Henrique Costa via TKO in round 2.

Staff picking Costa: Nick, Ram, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Victor, Fraser
Staff picking McLellan: Bissell


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