The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC Denver, and we’re leaning towards Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie” to defeat short notice replacement Yair Rodriguez in the main event. Likewise for the co-main event, with Mike Perry getting the edge over Donald Cerrone.
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.
Chan Sung Jung vs. Yair Rodríguez
Mookie Alexander: Jung had injury + military time off for the Bermudez fight and he was able to viciously knock him out. Can he still be durable/not rusty after another lengthy layoff? That remains to be seen. Rodriguez is the better athlete and will set one hell of a pace, plus he can take serious punishment. The flashy kicks and wild striking could catch TKZ off guard and perhaps goad him back into his old brawling ways. If TKZ just walks through it in typical Zombie fashion, then I believe he’s the much more technical fighter and he’ll be able to steadily break Rodriguez down with his power. Should be exciting! The Korean Zombie by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: I think I don’t trust Jung’s time off and durability as much as I once would have. That’s really all this comes down to. I do think there’s a solid chance that Yair’s complete lack of a mid-range game and middling footwork will doom him against a variety of high pressure opponents. But I’m not sure that the Korean Zombie’s flat-footed, head-on-line stalking is the right version of that style. KZ got buzzed badly by Dennis Bermudez, and if Yair can do the same then he probably has a better shot of finishing KZ off. If he can’t then there’s a good chance that KZ mugs him. But Yair has been double tough and has cardio for days. Yair Rodriguez by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking TKZ: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Harry, Dayne
Staff picking Rodriguez: Bissell, Zane
Donald Cerrone vs. Mike Perry
Mookie Alexander: Perry’s defense is bad and Cerrone can potentially exploit it. Unfortunately for Cowboy, he’s not in his prime anymore and Perry both can take a punch and deliver a punch. I’d love for Cerrone to get the W, but I cannot see how he avoids Perry just cracking him with power shots to the head and body and making him fold. Mike Perry by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: On the other hand, this does feel a little too much like Mike Perry is just enough of a pressure fighter to expose Donald Cerrone’s consistent problems with pressure. Especially early on, and against fighters who swing hard out of the gate. Cerrone’s recent performances, even his Medeiros win, have just seemed flat. And it’s hard for me to remember many times when Cerrone has successfully taken a fight just by circling away and picking off single strikes. He tends to like to step in and make things dirty. Perry’s chin will crack someday, but until it does, I’m betting that his pressure gets Cerrone to the fence where that right hand will end up landing. Mike Perry via TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Cerrone: Phil, Bissell, Tim
Staff picking Perry: Nick, Zane, Harry, Mookie, Dayne
Raquel Pennington vs. Germaine de Randamie
Mookie Alexander: De Randamie hasn’t fought in awhile, so picking her does give me pause. Ultimately though Pennington just lacks the athleticism and physicality to overwhelm GdR, and Pennington relies heavily on being able to outmuscle her opponents. De Randamie is the better striker and her takedown defense is more than respectable at this point. Not expecting a barnburner (we might see a ton of Pennington leaning on her against the fence), but I do believe the Dutchwoman will prevail. Germaine de Randamie by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Pennington is a better wrestler and grappler, but I’m not sure if she’s a good enough one to actually get de Randamie down. A lot of her grappling game is head control and snap-downs, aka something built around other people shooting on you rather than vice-versa. She’s a tough boxer with a good jab, and de Randamie is both pretty old and reasonably low pace. GdR’s age is the big X-factor, considering that she may come in looking heavily declined after a long layoff, but her baseline athleticism is way higher than Pennington’s, she’s more skilled and powerful as a boxer, and she should win a competitive, not particularly interesting striking match. Germaine de Randamie by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: GDR’s got real problems with pace and control. Fighters that can stand in with her and make bouts messy, or just grind on her (either from top control or on the cage) can take rounds off her. But, Pennington is just so clunky. Her footwork is slow, her boxing is rigid, she doesn’t have a kicking game to speak of and isn’t a fantastic wrestler. And it was really really notable just how overwhelmed she looked out of the gate against a much better athlete in Amanda Nunes. GDR is a much better athlete. She’s not nearly as consistently dangerous as Nunes, but I think it’ll be enough to take close rounds. GDR by decision.
Staff picking Pennington: Bissell
Staff picking de Randamie: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Harry, Dayne
Beneil Dariush vs. Thiago Moises
Phil Mackenzie: Dariush is unfortunately settling in as the David Branch of his division: smart, skilled, but without quite the durability or the athleticism to pull it off. After fighting Hernandez, a tough prospect with a high athletic ceiling, Dariush now gets Moises, a tough prospect with a high athletic ceiling. That being said, Moises doesn’t look quite like Hernandez- he doesn’t have the blistering speed or visible athleticism, and he’s tended to be more patient as a boxer. Dariush’s leg kicks, consistent pressure and top game are all major issues for a relatively inexperienced fighter to deal with. Beneil Dariush by submission, round 2.
Zane SImon: I like that David Branch comparison a lot, especially in light of Branch getting lit up by Jared Cannonier. It’s a perfect encapsulation of a fighter that’s both very talented, and just not quite talented enough to keep from getting upset by technically limited clubbing. Moises might have that in him, but he’s never been a great early finisher, which is when Dariush tends to get caught. And he doesn’t pressure, which seems more likely to give Dariush just what he needs to really come on strong early. Beneil Dariush by decision.
Staff picking Dariush: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Harry, Dayne
Staff picking Moises:
Maycee Barber vs. Hannah Cifers
Phil Mackenzie: Cifers is a powerful puncher, and Maycee, the future barber, is a reasonably well-rounded tactician. Cifers appears to be the better athlete, but I suspect both are still at the level where avoiding grappling exchanges is difficult and the more focused takedown threat is the better pick. Maycee Barber by unanimous decision.
Zane SImon: There are too many things I’m not sure of in this fight. First and foremost, how good a wrestler is Maycee Barber? Second? What’s Cifers takedown defense really like? Both have done well against pretty overwhelmed competition. But, if this fight stays standing (and I kind of think it will), then the biggest concern to me is that Barber really doesn’t seem like she likes to punch, at all. Cifers hits hard and throws consistently. If she can stay off her back, as she’s done in the past, then I’ll take Hannah Cifers by decision.
Staff picking Barber: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Mookie, Dayne
Staff picking Cifers: Tim, Zane, Harry
Mike Trizano vs. Luis Pena
Phil Mackenzie: Violent Bob Ross is back, and he’s looking to paint a friendly picture… in blood. This is a redo of the TUF 27 finale which never happened, and while it’s notable that “grinder vs dynamic finisher” in TUF tends to bring a lot of hype for the dynamic fighter, the grinder tends to win out in the end. That being said, in this case Trizano is patient and functional, and Pena is huge and violent. His grappling game and size should insulate him, so Luis Pena by TKO, round 2
Zane Simon: Both Pena and Trizano have a major flaw that makes this fight hard to predict. Most notably, terrible takedown defense. Pena seems to see scrambling as a mode of defense, and will pull guard and initiate un-advantageous scrambles with the intention of working through them into dominant positions. Trizano just seems like he’s a bad defensive wrestler, who is good at scrambling off his back once he’s been taken down. Either way, they’re both styles that tend to get shut down hard in the UFC, where everyone’s a good enough top position wrestler to stop a scramble. That leaves the grappling a bit of mystery in this fight. But, standing up, Pena is just a much smoother, faster, and more accurate, dangerous striker. Luis Pena via TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Trizano:
Staff picking Pena: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Harry, Dayne
Ashley Yoder vs. Amanda Cooper
Phil Mackenzie: Both of these women have been fed to up-and-comers, and neither has really shown anything to show why they shouldn’t be. Both are fairly similar in that they are raw, unstructured but fairly aggressive. Cooper is likely the better wrestler, which would normally have me favouring her, but her ability to stay consistent is too much of a red flag. Yoder has at least hung tough in her fights with bigger, more powerful women but ABC has mostly just gotten blown out of the water. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If this stays standing, then Cooper has a good shot of winning via a much more consistently high output kickboxing game. But, Cooper has been notably bad at controlling where her fights go (unless she’s fighting Angela Magana) and her grappling game is pretty porous. Yoder tends to be a safety-first defensive fighter, but she’s a good scrambling back-taker. That may be just enough of a technical edge here. Ashley Yoder via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Yoder: Nick, Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Phil
Staff picking Cooper: Bissell, Tim, Harry
Chas Skelly vs. Bobby Moffett
Phil Mackenzie: Moffett is a strong, technical regional grappler who is being thrown at an absolute wild man. Skelly’s game honestly looks like it might be working against him now: that Knight loss looks a lot worse in retrospect, and he’s always been at the ragged edge of his own unstructured brawl’n’grappling game. He consistently gets tired, gets hurt and works through it, but he’s also not a young or new fighter. Deterioration will be swift and significant. Beyond that, though, this is not a style of matchup that he’s really struggled with in the past. Chas Skelly by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Moffett is a good, dedicated wrestler and top-control grappler. But he’s not tireless, and he’s not a technical or physical phenom the likes of which MMA has rarely seen. He’s just a solid grinder with good positional control and the physicality to use it. Skelly is a bit more wild standing, for better and worse, and just a harder-nosed, more experienced version of Moffett’s same skill set. Tough out for Moffett, but this feels a lot like what Skelly ran into against Elkins. Chas Skelly by decision.
Staff picking Skelly: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Moffett:
Devonte Smith vs. Julian Erosa
Phil Mackenzie: Erosa is tall and gangly and very game, but like many tall extremely tall fighters he’s defensively porous and not the most durable fighter in the world. Think George Roop, for example. Smith is a big puncher who lacks experience. So the question is: does he wipe Erosa out, or does he get worn down with jabs and clinch work? I think probably the first one. Devonte Smith by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: If this goes more than a round, Erosa has a high possibility of overwhelming Smith with variety and workrate. But Erosa’s slick counter-boxing style tends to have severe limitations against opponents with a speed advantage. Basically, if you can track him down, he’s right there to be hit hard. Just like he was by Teruto Ishihara and Artem Lobov. Devonte Smith is fast and hits hard. If Erosa were a more consistent wrestler, he’s got a clear path through Smith’s mediocre takedown defense and grappling. But Erose likes to brawl and likes to try and out-slick people. Devonte Smith via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Smith: Nick, Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Harry
Staff picking Erosa: Tim, Dayne
Davi Ramos vs. John Gunther
Phil Mackenzie: John Gunther is tireless and clinchy and grindy. Ramos is a better striker, a far better athlete, a better functional wrestler and is a galaxy away as a submission wrestler. There’s some conceivably reality where Gunther just somehow absorbs whatever Ramos dishes out and tires him out down the stretch but it doesn’t seem like a likely one. Davi Ramos by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: This may not be the biggest athletic mismatch in UFC history, but it’s somewhere near the top of the list. Ramos is a world class grappler with powerful boxing and a strong offensive wrestling game. Gunther is just kind of a guy. Gunther’s been tough enough to make that work for him so far. And Ramos’ cardio problems will always be a concern. But, anything other than Davi Ramos by submission, round 1, would be a surprise.
Staff picking Ramos: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Tim, Zane, Harry, Dayne
Staff picking Gunther: Bissell
Joseph Morales vs. Eric Shelton
Phil Mackenzie: I like Eric Shelton. He’s athletic and talented, and in another division he wouldn’t be in this place, but at flyweight you need to be either an absolute physical monster or you need exceptional wrestling and scrambling skills. He doesn’t quite have the depth in either of those areas, nor is he a diverse and active enough standup fighter. Morales got absolutely pantsed by Deiveson Figueredo who showed what a nuclear-powered version of the Shelton archetype could do, but I suspect Shelton’s inability to decisively take scrambling-heavy fast-paced rounds may come back to bite him again here. Joseph Morales by split decision.
Zane Simon: Shelton is a good athlete that just doesn’t have any real technical depth anywhere. He’s an okay striker, an okay wrestler, and an okay grappler. Morales, is a decent, dangerous grappler, with a bit of pop in his hands. But, he doesn’t seem to be a very good athlete. And at flyweight especially, being a good athlete tends to trump all things. Also, for all his lack of depth, Shelton’s never been submitted. He might get a couple scares put in him, but I just see Shelton being too fast all fight for Morales. Eric Shelton by decision.
Staff picking Morales: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Shelton: Bissell, Zane, Harry, Dayne
Mark De La Rosa vs. Joby Sanchez
Zane Simon: Speaking of needing to be a good athlete to survive at flyweight, that appears to be the problem Joby Sanchez is constantly running up against. He’s a fun, high volume kickboxer, but he tends to walk himself into the clinch consistently. The clinch leads to scrambles and, even in wins, it’s hard to find a fight where Sanchez didn’t get his back taken early on by the faster opponent. De La Rosa tends to fight in flurries of offense and his wrestling is more power than technique, so if he can’t get Sanchez down, he might just get out-worked. But, he’s a good grappler with a speed advantage and sooner or later that means he’ll probably be on Joby’s back. Mark De La Rosa via RNC in round 1.
Staff picking De La Rosa: Nick, Bissell, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Harry, Dayne
Staff picking Sanchez: Tim
Who wins the UFC Denver main event?
Korean Zombie by stoppage
Rodriguez by stoppage
Korean Zombie by decision
Rodriguez by decision
9 votes total