The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC Fort Lauderdale, and unsurprisingly it’s a clean sweep for Ronaldo Souza over Jack Hermansson in the main event. If the curse is real and Hermansson wins, then I don’t know what to say. Meanwhile, the majority of us are picking Dimitrii Smoliakov over Greg Hardy, because why not?
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.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Jack Hermansson
Mookie Alexander: It’d be amazing if Hermansson won this, it’s just hard to see how it happens. He has fought back from adversity (see: Thales Leites fight) and has beaten ground specialists like David Branch and Gerald Meerschaert by choking them out. Jacare is a different beast altogether. Not only can Souza win this on the feet with his improved and legitimately dangerous power-based kickboxing, you know that he’s going to be insanely hard to outgrapple. Props to Hermanssson for stepping up, but Jacare should be able to get this done and get his damn title shot. Ronaldo Souza by submission, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: The closer we get to this fight, the more I feel that Hermansson has that gleam in his eye of the underdogs of days past that knew something we didn’t. People like Holm before Rousey, or Werdum before Fedor. He should get some great strikes in, but he sure as hell ain’t submitting a guy that gutted it out with a broken arm against Roger Gracie. I worry a bit about Jacaré’s striking defense, but can’t pick against him here. Ronaldo Souza by submission.
Staff picking Jacare: Phil, Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Hermansson:
Greg Hardy vs. Dmitrii Smoliakov
Mookie Alexander: Because I can. Dimitrii Smoliakov by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Do people deserve second chances? Yes. Do they deserve those second chances when they’ve shown no remorse, when corporate and media institutions go out of their way to gloss over the whole thing? On a more blunt competitive level, do visibly terrible MMA heavyweights who are a combined 0-3 in the UFC deserve co-main events? Everything about this fight blows so I will root for the only outcome that makes it not awful. Get ‘em, Lifeguard. Dimitrii Smoliakov by KO, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: We all remember Hardy’s last fight, right? Because it absolutely sucked, but the UFC’s treating them shoving Hardy into another co-main event slot like it’s some kind of primo quality bout that you definitely can’t miss. I’ll say it again — Hardy’s done absolutely nothing to deserve this platform and position. If Allan Crowder — a fighter that is by all indications seems to be a nice guy that loves what he does but has no business being in the upper ranks of the sport — can wait for Hardy to gas out after two minutes of action to rally back and style on him, it’s not unreasonable to think Smoliakov can do the same by fighting smart and actually having an overall decent MMA game to make it work. But we live in the stupid timeline, where the dumb, greedy and evil are not only in control, but they get their way at every turn. Hardy might truck Smoliakov early, but you can put the kids’ college fund on the Russian if this goes past the two minute mark. Dmitrii Smoliakov by combination of fatigue and Fingerpoke of Doom, late in round 1.
Staff picking Hardy: Nick, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Smoliakov: Phil, Shak, Mookie, Fraser, Victor
Alex Oliveira vs. Mike Perry
Mookie Alexander: Oh this is going to be outstanding violence. These are two very reckless fighters who can end each other’s nights early. If this becomes a full-on brawl, I trust Perry over Oliveira, but with the warning that the amount of damage he’s taken in his UFC career is a bit concerning. It really doesn’t seem like Perry is capable of fighting smartly. Oliveira is the more well-rounded fighter and as Phil writes below, the range kicking game could be vital in him getting the victory. I can’t wait to see this one go down. Alex Oliveira by TKO, round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: This is a matchup of pure messy violent athleticism. Both men have very good instincts but not a tremendous amount of structure, but Oliveira has in most cases shown the more effective grasp of “how” to fight. He can counter, pressure, wrestle, fight from range etc. Perry mostly just plods into range and hopes he can either clock the other dude or find himself in the clinch, where he is genuinely quite skilled. It’s conceivable that Perry’s pure toughness could overwhelm Oliveira (as in the Medeiros fight), but Oliveira seems to have too many potential solutions: he’s a decent counter puncher, and a surprisingly adept range kicker, both of which seem likely to play well. Alex Oliveira by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Biggest thing for me is exactly what I’ve thought of Perry’s last few opponents: you can’t let him snare you into a brawl. Oliveira should know this, and his striking is much more varied with leg and body kicks to put the screws to him. I just worry that at some point this goes into a contest of who’s got the bigger balls and Oliveira decides to oblige. He’s got more advantages here, but he may not be able to finish a man who’s damn near bionic in Perry. Yet the more I think about it, the more I see Oliveira getting to top of half guard and elbowing the hell out of perry. God, I just let out a heavy heave thinking about the violence here. Blessings on blessings. Brazilian Cowboy by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Oliveira: Phil, Shak, Nick, Mookie, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Perry: Dayne, Fraser
Glover Teixeira vs. Ion Cutelaba
Mookie Alexander: This comes down to Cutelaba’s takedown defense and Teixeira’s waning durability. If Cutelaba gets taken down then he has close to no chance of surviving Teixeira’s top game, but he’s fast and powerful and Teixeira is getting easier to hurt with each fight. I’m going with Ion Cutelaba by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Cutelaba isn’t quick on his feet and doesn’t have great takedown defense. However, he’s infinitely less shopworn than Teixeira. Should be be able to scramble out of early takedown attempts, or even be able to stop them outright, this is his fight to win. I can’t trust him to do that quite yet, as Glover remains a quality wrestler and nightmarish top position player. I think Cutelaba has learned enough to survive, if not quite win. Glover Teixeira by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Other than raw athleticism and strength, Cutelaba doesn’t have the sort of things I expect to ruin Glover here. His wrestling isn’t that great, and in fact he could be the one that ends up on his back here. Glover’s handspeed is still good, his boxing is slick, and Cutelaba’s gonna have to surprise him with an uppercut or some wild body shots to make it work. Still going with the cagey veteran on this one. Glover Teixeira by decision.
Staff picking Teixeira: Phil, Shak, Nick, Fraser, Victor
Staff picking Cutelaba: Dayne, Tim, Mookie
John Lineker vs. Cory Sandhagen
Mookie Alexander: John Lineker only has a two-inch reach disadvantage but an eight-inch height disadvantage, which is hilarious. Sandhagen is cool but he’s never met a lunatic like Lineker who may like trying to hit someone in the face, but his lack of height puts him in perfect position to attack Cory’s liver and ribs. Sandhagen’s aggression will be used against him, and since Lineker’s takedown defense has improved plus he doesn’t seem to feel pain in fights, you damn well know the pick is John Lineker by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: VIOLENCE TIME. Cory Sandhagen is a very interesting prospect in the division, pumping out scrambling, kicking, combination punching violence at a pace which brings to mind no-one so much as Carlos Condit, but I think his defense (like many tall fighters) is too focused on big movement and keeping distance. When aggressive fighters have wanted to push him into the cage, they’ve been able to do that, and he’s been awful hittable when that happens. John Lineker by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I dig Sandhagen, but much like Mookie mentioned, those body shots are gonna add up. You have to remember Lineker isn’t just content to headhunt, he’s good for punishing dudes inside. Not sure Sandhagen’s ready for this particular step up. John Lineker dos Santos de Paula by Wing Chun to the midsection.
Staff picking Lineker: Phil, Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Sandhagen:
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Thomas Gifford
Mookie Alexander: These are good fighters whose names do not match “combat sports fighter.” This sounds like it should be a snooker battle or something. Roosevelt Roberts by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Despite sounding like a historical battle between two Supreme Court Justices, this one should also be good fun. Both are long, rangy guys who tend to prefer submission and clinch battles over striking. Roberts has a short but high-quality career, and seems like the more dynamic pick. Roosevelt Roberts by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Roberts: Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Gifford:
Ben Saunders vs. Takashi Sato
Mookie Alexander: WAR KILLA B! Ben Saunders by KO (knees), round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Killa B’s durability is a concern against Sato, who is a patient, powerful counterpuncher. However, given time and space to operate Saunders has a fairly overwhelming offensive game, whether he’s kicking from the outside or (more likely) locking up in the clinch. Ben Saunders by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Yeah, Sato seems like a nice cat, but I have no ties to him and thus no reason for this to be a difficult pick. Yes, Sato’s got some hard striking in his arsenal, but our boy Benjamin’s got the elite ground game for any fool that dares to test him. Y’all know what it is. LETS MUTHERFUKERS. Ben Saunders by whatever the hell he wants, round 1.
Staff picking Saunders: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Sato: Shak, Dayne
Andrei Arlovski vs. Augusto Sakai
Phil Mackenzie: The power and speed is mostly gone, so what Arlovski survives by nowadays is more technique and craft than he showed at pretty much any stage in his career. Sakai looks like a genuinely decent heavyweight prospect (by the standards of the division), who can move and jab and defend the odd strike. This will likely be razor thin and not particularly fun to watch, because it’s an Andrei Arlovski fight. Augusto Sakai by split decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Guh. I feel like this one’s gonna look like that Arlovski/Tuivasa fight. Remember that? Yeah. Might get up and make a sandwich for that one. Sakai got that Big Chungus energy, but he’s more plodding without less positional awareness than Tuivasa. Arlovski should win it in a close stinker or stagger Sakai in the second and then turn up the heat for a finish. The more exciting result is the least likely. Andrei Arlovski by decision.
Staff picking Arlovski: Shak, Nick, Fraser, Victor
Staff picking Sakai: Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Tim
Carla Esparza vs. Virna Jandiroba
Phil Mackenzie: Jandiroba has similar strengths (wrestling, submissions) and weaknesses (physicality) to Esparza. In this kind of mirror matchup, Esparza has typically done fairly well, in part because she’s made herself into an awkward but functional striker. Carla Esparza by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Esparza’s wrestling is really, really great. That said, Jandiroba’s BJJ chops aren’t getting enough respect. Carla’s gonna have to use her jab and work some controlled striking to edge it out, but I can’t count out Virna’s chances to sweep or submit off her back. Still gonna trust the better and stronger athlete with a more controlling game.
Staff picking Esparza: Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Janidroba:
Gilbert Burns vs. Mike Davis
Phil Mackenzie: Davis is another solid prospect: big, powerful and able to give some serious trouble to featherweight uber-prospect Sodiq Yusuff. However, big and powerful has some caveats, due to it being featherweight. Burns is just too aggressive, too powerful, too threatening on the feet or the mat for opponents with this level of experience. Gilbert Burns by submission, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Yeah, I’m not picking against Durinho. Davis is a good athlete, but not as complete an athlete or fighter to give Gilbert fits. Gilbert Burns by TKO.
Staff picking Burns: Phil, Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Davis:
Jim Miller vs. Jason Gonzalez
Phil Mackenzie: Gonzalez is absolutely massive and fairly dynamic. If Miller runs into some of his old problems in closing distance he might well find himself being clobbered from the outside. However, Gonzalez is a defensive sieve and Miller is still about as tough and dangerous as he ever has been. It still takes more than physical attributes to get him out of there, and he proved against Alex White that he can snuff out fighters who can’t match him technically. Jim Miller by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Miller: Phil, Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Tim
Staff picking Gonzalez: Fraser, Victor
Angela Hill vs. Jodie Esquibel
Phil Mackenzie: Time to start figuring that Hill simply can’t hang anywhere near the top of the division. She’ll always find herself trapped between low power and a spotty gas tank. She should be able to beat Esquibel, who has similar problems but is just less diverse, but the future trajectory doesn’t look great. Angela Hill by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Esquibel has a strong and solid wrestling base, but Hill should be able to use her striking and distance to keep her off. Wakanda Forever, indeed. Angela Hill by TKO.
Staff picking Hill: Phil, Shak, Nick, Mookie, Dayne, Fraser, Victor
Staff picking Esquibel: Tim
Court McGee vs. Dhiego Lima
Phil Mackenzie: Dhiego Lima is probably a better striker and a better athlete than Court McGee. Is McGee a good wrestler, then? No, he’s probably not. But he is ferociously consistent and tenacious. He’ll blow takedowns for entire rounds in order to stress an opponent out, and if an opponent just stays on Lima and pushes him for the whole fight, he’s tended to fade out of it fairly badly. That’s McGee’s MO. Court McGee by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Dhiego sometimes starts a bit slow, but he knows violence and how to get ahead on the scorecard, leaving McGee hobbling around and running out of steam. Dhiego Lima by decision.
Staff picking McGee: Phil, Shak, Dayne, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Lima: Nick, Mookie, Fraser