Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Friday’s UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux vs. Okami card in Japan.
The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux vs. Okami, and as you can tell, we are just absolutely eager for this card, which is on FS1 (or, in this case, FXX) pacing for 10 of 11 fights. Tim Bissell is the only one picking Yushin Okami to upset Ovince Saint Preux in the main event, while (surprisingly) only Ryan Davies fancies choosing Jessica Andrade to beat fellow Brazilian strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha.
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.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Yushin Okami
Mookie Alexander: There’s a part of me rooting for the chaos of recent welterweight Yushin Okami inexplicably returning on a few days notice to become a top-10 light heavyweight. It’d be the perfect summation of how bad this division is. That said, OSP is powerful and Okami’s chin hasn’t been good for awhile, so I’m expecting Ovince Saint Preux by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: OK, Okami beat some really good grapplers outside of the UFC. That doesn’t mean he’s a drastically different fighter. Sure, he’s got a more aggressive submission approach in his fights, but he’s still a very limited standup striker with a good jab and not much else behind it. OSP is also very limited, but he’s got a wider arsenal of strikes and will do a ton of damage with his herky-jerky movement and leg kicks. He’s also got a precise straight punches as soon as he slows his opponent down and there’s no way Okami takes him down. Ovince is gonna melt this dude worse than Branch did a while back, giving Okami flashbacks and credence to the notion that time is a flat circle. Trust. Ovince St Preux by knockout.
Zane Simon: Okami has only gotten slower and less durable since leaving the UFC. He’s still a functional controlling fighter, but up at a weight he’s never competed at against a huge, powerful athlete like OSP, I don’t have much confidence in his ability to put OSP on his back and keep him there. Otherwise Okami likes to lunge into the pocket behind single strikes with his head on-line. OSP via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking OSP: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Ryan, Phil
Staff picking Okami: Bissell
Jessica Andrade vs. Claudia Gadelha
Mookie Alexander: I’m really not confident picking Gadelha here. Actually it’s a bit surprising how lopsided it is in Gadelha’s favor. I suppose that, yes, Gadelha is a more technically refined fighter with a great ground game, but Andrade is still a whirlwind of violence on the feet and liable to hurt just about anyone with one of her power shots. I’m not sure Gadelha can effectively back off Andrade’s pressuring style with leg kicks or counters, because Jessica seems utterly fearless if nothing else. Where Andrade is surely overmatched is on the ground, and while it won’t be easy, if Gadelha takes her down, I don’t see Andrade being able to offer much from her back without letting Gadelha pass her guard. Best fight on the card by miles (even including the original Shogun-OSP nonsense main event), and I see Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Andrade’s had such a great run since dropping from bantamweight, but Gadelha’s got better wrestling and submission chops. Not only that, but she’s got better movement in her striking and a more complete striking game that implements kicks and knees more efficiently than Andrade. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be simple. Andrade will make this ugly, getting in close and using a gameplan similar to the one she used against Angela Hill. Lots of pressure, volume striking for some bits and a ton of clinchwork. Whether or not her cardio will hold up is another matter entirely, and Gadelha won’t roll over and let her do all this consequence-free. This should be fight of the night. Claudia Gadelha by decision.
Zane Simon: I’m actually particularly compelled by this matchup because Gadelha’s response to pressure tends to be to get a little wild and then clinch up. Andrade is also very hard to take down when she’s not physically overmatched. So if this becomes an extended kickboxing bout it could be a tight race. But, Gadelha excels at clinch breaks and has the kind of multi-level wrestling that most other fighters don’t. Andrade has also tended to jump on low percentage subs like guillotines when pushed, and could put herself on the mat. Once there I expect Gadelha to have a real advantage creating control positions and advancing to submissions. Claudia Gadelha via decision.
Staff picking Andrade: Ryan
Staff picking Gadelha: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Phil
Takanori Gomi vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Mookie Alexander: Why? I see no reason for the UFC to return to Japan with these progressively worse/depressing cards they’re putting in that country. Don’t believe me? Compare this to 2015 and 2014. Dong Hyun Kim by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: UFC, y’all a bunch of hoes for this. Dong Hyun Kim by Tiger Genocide.
Phil Mackenzie: Couldn’t even give him to a god damn sub grappler, could you? Dong Hyun Kim by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: This is so dumb. DHK by KO round 1.
Staff picking Gomi: Bissell, Ryan
Staff picking Kim: Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Phil, Zane, Fraser
Gokhan Saki vs. Henrique da Silva
Fraser Coffeen: Saki is a beast, maybe the best Light Heavyweight striker in combat sports today. He’s got killer body shots, gorgeous leg kicks, and combos that go on for days – all executed with perfection. But there are two big concerns here. First, he’s been out for over two years – that’s a long time. The bigger one of course is his lack of MMA experience. He says he’s been doing a lot of grappling and wrestling, but I worry that he’s one of those kickboxing ride or die types who thinks his striking alone will take him to the top. Here, it will – da Silva is the perfect opponent to be tooled on by Saki. So I see a huge, highlight reel welcome to the UFC here, then a significantly less impressive outing next time. Gokhan Saki, KO R1
Mookie Alexander: I don’t know what to make of Saki’s chances in this division, considering all the mileage he’s had as a kickboxer. The problem that Henrique da Silva faces is that he doesn’t appear to actually be… good? I think that’s the word I’m looking for. He’s lost three straight, doesn’t have a great gas tank, and Saki is obviously way better than him on the feet. So that leaves you with the hope that Henrique can grind out a win on the mat, and I’m not banking on it. Gokhan Saki by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: The most disappointing thing about this is the fact that Gokhan Saki is fighting on free (fine, cable) television and the UFC hasn’t made any effort to make this look like a big deal. The only thing they did right in promoting this was having Saki fight in Japan. That’s not anywhere near enough. Frankenstein’s a tough dude, but he’s clearly working uphill here after coming off a knockout loss in June. This is clearly a Gokhan showcase, and it won’t disappoint. If you don’t get why I’m excited, you need to correct that problem right now. Gokhan Saki by knockout, round 2.
Zane Simon: Against a lot of opponents, I’d guess that Saki doesn’t stand a chance. He has a tendency to off balance himself throwing with absurd power in kickboxing, and his upright stance is made to be taken down. He also doesn’t seem like he has the best hip flexibility on high kicks, despite all his kickboxing success. But, da Silva doesn’t like to shoot takedowns, and he tends to be a range kicker and poor boxer who jumps into the clinch looking for knees. If he can bring himself to shoot, he can sub Saki, but if he can’t. Gokhan Saki by KO round 1.
Staff picking Saki: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Zane, Ryan, Fraser, Phil
Staff picking Henrique:
Rolando Dy vs. Teruto Ishihara
Mookie Alexander: I’d like to think Ishihara will fight smarter this time around after the mindlessness of the Maynard loss, but I’m not counting on it. At least Dy isn’t Gray Maynard, so terrible strike selection shouldn’t result in insta-takedowns in this one. This really has no business being on the main card over Formiga-Sasaki, but I guess they’re banking on some Ishihara violence. Teruto Ishihara by KO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Ishihara’s done some good work over at Alpha Male, but has lost two straight decisions for being reckless and showing inexplicably bad fight IQ. This is a winnable fight, as Dy’s wrestling won’t be enough to stop Ishihara. Dy will not make this easy in the standup department, but Teruto should take this. Teruto Ishihara by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I really have not seen much improvement from Teruto Ishihara at TAM. Given the sheer magic they’ve wrought with both young fighters like Garbrandt and experienced ones like Elkins and Glenn, I have to think this is more likely to be a problem with him as an individual. Thus, I am going to be the Anton for these staff picks. Dy is a decent, functional kickboxer who I think is a much harder worker than Ishihara. Plus, I have rarely seen a more glaring example of someone putting far too much pressure on himself in his debut. Give me Dy on points as we all sadly realize that Ishihara is never going to be much more than a novelty. Rolando Dy by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m actually thinking that Ishihara has regressed lately. From the aggressive power kicker who mixed up strikes to open up his power left hand counter, into a guy who just stalks and waits for a chance to throw a very predictable left. He still has power, he still has the ability to be more unpredictable than Dy, but I like Dy’s basic power muay thai style with right body kicks and left hooks, and I think he’ll take rounds until he either gets dropped or wins a decision. Rolando Dy by decision.
Staff picking Dy: Phil, Zane
Staff picking Ishihara: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Ryan, Fraser
Mizuto Hirota vs. Charles Rosa
Mookie Alexander: Legitimate chance that the fight is cancelled after these predictions are published. The way Hirota looked at the weigh-ins was genuinely concerning. Rosa is going to take this comfortably. Charles Rosa by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Wanted to give Hirota more of a chance, but reconsidered after watching him weigh in. Rosa’s a more explosive athlete and not very predictable. Hirota will be a bit competitive if Rosa decides to box, but Rosa takes this any way he wants. Charles Rosa by whatever.
Phil Mackenzie: Hirota is a good, clever fighter but painfully footslow. I think Rosa’s new mobile outside striking style would be very hard for him, even if he hadn’t missed weight to a frankly terrifying degree, and looked like he was on the brink of death. Gomi fighting is now no longer the runaway worst thing about this card, so kudos to all involved. Charles Rosa by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I would have picked Hirota here if he hadn’t nearly fainted on the scale. Rosa’s back up and kick game is made for Hirota’s combo of pressure boxing and wrestling, along with his insane durability. Hirota could walk through punishment and take close rounds as Rosa looked for chances to escape and throw high kicks. But, if Hirota is still grappling with his weight cut, then I think Rosa’s pace will get him the win. Charles Rosa via decision.
Staff picking Hirota:
Staff picking Rosa: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Phil, Zane, Ryan, Fraser
Alex Morono vs. Keita Nakamura
Victor Rodriguez: Morono should win this by fitting the rugged, hard-nosed midwestern wrestleboxer archetype. He can take a hit, is a better overall athlete and can win rounds with his style. My problem is that I keep having visions of Nakamura pulling a rabbit out of a hat and submitting Morono out of nowhere. He did it after getting beat up by Li Jingliang, I don’t doubt that he can do something along those same lines here unless Morono knocks him out standing first. So don’t be surprised with a crazy upset, but smart money stays on Morono. Alex Morono by decision.
Zane SImon: As long as Morono can keep this standing he should be able to out strike Nakamura. Nakamura is an awkward and ungodly tough fighter standing, but Morono’s active footwork and punch selection make him a tough fighter to track down. And without Niko Price’s one-shot power, I don’t think he makes Morono pay for not being the best athlete. That said, if this goes to the ground, I think Morono’s active grappling style plays right into what Nakamura does best. If Nakamura gets Morono down, he likely gets the rear naked choke. If he doesn’t, he likely gets pieced up for 3 rounds. Alex Morono by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Nakamura’s striking has improved a lot. He trusts his chin and is willing to risk small slips to land a hard counter shot. He’s basically developed into a bit more of a Takeya Mizugaki over time. He’s also a pretty good wrestler. So, I think this is likely to be a close, scrappy fight where Nakamura lands shots and control early, and probably drops the third due to getting tired. Keita Nakamura by split decision.
Staff picking Morono: Victor, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Nakamura: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Ryan, Phil
Jussier Formiga vs. Ulka Sasaki
Mookie Alexander: Why is this on the prelims over half of those main card fights? Why? Anyway, we’ve rarely seen Formiga get outgrappled. We did see it a bit in the Ray Borg fight, and Sasaki has a tall frame for the weight class, so it may pose some problems for the Brazilians. Formiga has better functional kickboxing, even though it’s not particularly potent. Sasaki really got his ass kicked by Justin Scoggins before Scoggins did his usual thing and lost. Formiga is going to be a lot more disciplined and I think he can take this not too differently from how Wilson Reis was able to beat the Japanese fighter. I’m looking forward to the scrambles created by both men, and the pick is Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Even though all fights start standing and Formiga has a definite advantage there, I can’t pick against Sasaki. He’s a big flyweight with super-scrappy grappling and great control one he gets to a basic dominant position. His transitions are smooth, his timing is great and his submission game is lethal. Formiga may have a speed advantage, but he’s going to have difficulty with Ulka’s size and strength combined with technique. Yuta Sasaki by submission.
Zane Smon: Formiga’s striking and defense aren’t extra complicated, but they are tight and well honed. And he mixes it well with a good wrestling and excellent grappling game. Sasaki struggles with strikers he can’t out-grapple and more generally with fighters who can mix up their game and make him think about more than one thing at a time. That’s very much in Formiga’s ability. Jussier Formiga by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I really want to pick Sasaki. He’s improved in a lot of good ways. He was boxing well against Reis, and he was able to find a lethal moment of grappling offense against Scoggins. But… I’ve never seen him put it together yet, and Formiga doesn’t look to have declined much. He’s never been much of a shot wrestler (as opposed to, say, Reis), so it’s conceivable that Formiga gets trapped on the end of Sasaki’s reach, but I can’t be confident in him not closing into ranges where he’s the better boxer, the more consistent takedown threat and the better pure grappler as well. Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Formiga: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Fraser, Phil
Staff picking Sasaki: Victor, Ryan
Chan-Mi Jeon vs. Syuri Kondo
Victor Rodriguez: Jeon is young, but she’s crafty and already has a pretty well-rounded game. On the other hand, Kondo has a more aggressive style made to break her opponent down over time, with lots of knees from the clinch to the body and sneaky, vicious elbows standing. As good an athlete as Jeon is and as tough as she may be, Kondo’s got the kind of heavy pressure style she may not be ready for yet. Syuri Kondo by late submission.
Zane Simon: Kondo really only seems at her best when she can slow down and wear on an opponent. I don’t think Chan-Mi gives her the pace of fight she needs to be successful. Chan-Mi Jeon by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Two very raw fighters. I think Jeon has the higher ceiling, but I also think Kondo has beaten better competition and looks like a more finished product. Jeon flashed that nascent range kickboxing game against Aldrich, but she just didn’t have the defense to make it work. Kondo as of now has a better grasp of feints, angles etc. but I would think that both fighters coming in looking radically different is a distinct possibility. Syuri Kondo by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Jeon: Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Kondo: Bissell, Victor, Ryan, Phil
Shinsho Anzai vs. Luke Jumeau
Zane Simon: Anzai’s wrestling is pretty predictable and he’s forced to resort to ugly brawling when the wrestling doesn’t work. He may get Jumeau down, but I doubt he keeps him there. Eventually Jumeau will find a spot for his power right hand. Luke Jumeau by KO, Round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Yeah, Nakamura is someone who updated his game to find success in the modern UFC. Anzai just hasn’t. Jumeau just beat a better and more physical wrestler in Dominique Steele, I expect him to win pretty handily and if he improves from his debut this could get ugly fast. Luke Jumeau by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Anzai:
Staff picking Jumeau: Bissell, Nick, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Ryan, Fraser, Phil
Daichi Abe vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
Zane Simon: Abe is too inactive and stationary when he’s not being pressure and too hittable when he is. He’s got great counters and timing and could crack Ace, who is hittable all the time, but power is all on Hyun Gyu’s side and he’ll have a pretty easy target here. Hyun Gyu Lim via KO round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: This feels a lot like the Mike Perry fight did for Lim. Abe is a natural fighter with a ton of power and a gift for landing intercepting strikes, but who is sufficiently inexperienced that there’s not a good reason for picking him over Lim. If he knocks the ever-hittable Lim out, I won’t be surprised. Conversely, though Hyun Gyu Lim by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Abe: Bissell
Staff picking Lim: Nick, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Ryan, Fraser, Phil