Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Lobov card in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Bloody Elbow staff unanimously agrees that Cub Swanson will beat Artem Lobov in the UFC Nashville main event on Saturday. Only Fraser Coffeen and Victor Rodriguez are backing Diego Sanchez to upset Al Iaquinta in the co-main event.
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.
Note 2: Phil Mackenzie has written something special for Sam Alvey versus Thales Leites. Enjoy!
Cub Swanson vs. Artem Lobov
Mookie Alexander: No. Just no. Short of Swanson aging 30 years after the Choi war (which … is kinda possible?) this is going to be Swanson showing why he’s still top-10 and why Lobov is not even in the top-30. Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez is three rounds while this fight is five. This is a genuine waste of a precious five-round spot. Cub hurts Lobov standing and then submits him. Cub Swanson by submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: In Lobov’s defense, he lost on TUF, got brought back and blazed through. His MMA record is no bueno, but that’s also due to taking a bunch of fights he shouldn’t have taken. He hits super hard and has better takedown defense than most people care to admit. He’s not a bad fighter, but he’s incredibly limited and probably shouldn’t be fighting someone as high up in the food chain as Swanson. Now that this part’s out of the way… come on, guy. Cub Swanson has a hot hand with three straight wins. They’re all decisions, but he is having the time of his life right now in each fight. Lobov hits a shot or two with a slick counter game, but Cub Swanson by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: As Victor said, Lobov is not BAD, he just gets a bit of a bum rap for various reasons. But “not bad” is no way to beat Cub Swanson. This is a ridiculous main event if ever there was one – which is a shame because it’s negatively coloring what is actually a pretty good card overall. Cub Swanson, KO, R1
Zane Simon: Swanson just beat a bigger, more athletic, harder punching, more diverse, (and maybe tougher) pressure fighter than Lobov, so… Cub Swanson by TKO, Round 3.
Ram Gilboa: Swanson will constantly, relentlessly punch Lobov into a stoppage. Cub Swanson by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Swanson: Nick, Victor, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Ram, Tim
Staff picking Lobov:
Diego Sanchez vs. Al Iaquinta
Mookie Alexander: Sanchez looked pretty damn good against Marcin Held, but in hindsight, guys who aren’t particularly dangerous striking threats and are willing to scramble and wrestle with him are favorable opponents. Iaquinta isn’t one of those guys. Cage rust possibilities aside, he’s going to piece up Sanchez with his boxing and win a decision that the crowd will smartly not boo. I don’t think my mind can process the thought of another Sanchez robbery, though. Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Sanchez is older, but keeps himself healthy enough to not be as shopworn as he probably should be at this point. Iaquinta has a four-fight win streak but hasn’t had a fight in two years. I’m gonna go with the wild upset again, because I have no clue what Iaquinta is gonna look like and Sanchez has cardio for days. Besides, you gotta nail Diego with a goddamn shovel to put him away, and his style is better suited for winning rounds. Picking the veteran on this one. Diego Sanchez by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I’m honestly torn on this one. Iaquinta is an easy and obvious pick simply because of how faded Diego has been in… well, years now. Al is also talking about how he doesn’t want a Fight of the Night brawl with Diego here, which is smart, as that is how Diego steals fights on the scorecards. But he’s also been out for two years and didn’t seem to be in a great mental place about MMA at times. Diego likes to still pull off the upset, and this is, amazingly, a winnable fight for him if he can stand at least a bit and look aggressive. The biggest pause for me, oddly enough, is that Diego is coming off a win over Marcin Held. Do I actually see Sanchez putting together his first back-to-back wins in SIX years? That feels highly unlikely, but the new season of TUF has me nostalgic for the old guard, so screw it… Diego Sanchez by fan-angering decision
Zane Simon: Sanchez is looking increasingly fragile when he takes punches these days. As long as Iaquinta doesn’t decide to wrestle him, he should beat him soundly on the feet. Al Iaquinta via KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Sanchez: Victor, Fraser
Staff picking Iaquinta: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Ram, Tim
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Mookie Alexander: Lima can’t seem to grasp making 205, and he’s got an awful gas tank. OSP is beyond frustrating to watch these days but I’d like to think he can at least dominate someone of the Brazilian’s caliber. Ovince Saint Preux by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: This fight has the potential to be absolutely hideous. OSP comes in on point and he uses his range and drops de Lima. If not… well, hope you guys like sweaty clinches and half-hearted submission attempts during periods of exhaustion. Ovince St Preux by hitting the other guy harder and tiring him out or something.
Phil Mackenzie: Good lord, this division. OSP was ranked in the top 5 not too long ago, and yet here we are. He was able to hit takedowns on Manuwa, even if Manuwa was able to stand up, so he has the baseline offensive wrestling to push de Lima over and is generally fairly dangerous from the top, as well as being a good counter-striker. On the other hand, he started slowly against Oezdemir, and de Lima is basically a dangerous one-round fighter. If this goes past the first round… yikes. I refer you to Victor above. Ovince St Preux by unanimous decision I guess.
Zane Simon: I hope Pezao wins this, because OSP seems done as a top competitor. De Lima would at least be something new. Does his terrible gas tank and panicked grappling last long enough to beat OSP’s terrible everything except toughness? Dunno. Pezao via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking OSP: Nick, Victor, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Lima: Zane, Stephie, Ram
John Dodson vs. Eddie Wineland
Mookie Alexander: The odds on this one are way too wide, and I’m picking Dodson by stoppage. Wineland still packs a punch and Dodson is prone to losing rounds through extended periods of no offense. With that said, Dodson has historically shown a quality chin. He is the much more athletic and faster fighter, and his speed could overcome the other physical disadvantages when dealing with Eddie. Cracking matchmaking and my personal favorite bout on the card. I’m going with John Dodson by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: How much is Wineland dependent on his reach? It’s the interesting question here- he’s had struggles of late, but against stocky fighters who try and blitz inside (Saenz, Pickett etc) he’s looked infinitely more comfortable. If he can snuff Dodson’s blitz in the same way, he can feasibly pick up a decision. However… I don’t think so. In general I think it’s a speed / athleticism function- Faber and Benavidez were able to break his shell. Dodson is coming off one of his best career performances in a Lawler-style robbery (lit: “Fighter A clearly won this fight but I’m going to pretend Fighter B deserved it because I like him better”) loss to John Lineker, and can approximately replicate what Benavidez did- kick, feint to keep Wineland off guard, blitz. John Dodson by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: The key ingredient in a successful Eddie Wineland performance is speed. He relies on it to slip punches, to land counters, and to make a pretty one-dimensional offensive game very potent. Tough to see that working for him against someone who is faster and more creative. John Dodson via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Dodson: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Victor, Tim
Staff picking Wineland: Stephie, Ram
Steven Ray vs. Joe Lauzon
Mookie Alexander: Every time it feels like it’s time to write Lauzon off, he ends up turning in a good performance. Stevie Ray is a good fighter with fundamentally sound range striking, but that Alan Patrick loss does give me pause here, and I think Lauzon is going to pressure him, get takedowns, and outgrapple him in a fun, back-and-forth matchup. Joe Lauzon by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: This is a sexy fight, right here. Lauzon is a super smart fighter that always finds a way to stay in the fight, but Ray is such a technical striker with great reflexes. Lauzon’s grappling is phenomenal, but I’m getting the feeling he’s not going to get much of a chance to use it. Ray’s got decent takedown defense and is smart enough to prevent Lauzon from getting too comfortable on the ground. Also, Lauzon’s takedowns aren’t world-class, and Ray’s takedown defense is pretty good. Going with Stevie Ray by TKO, round 2
Phil Mackenzie: This seems like a rough match for Lauzon, which represents a lot of the traditional stylistic problems he’s had in his career: distance striking and other southpaws. Lauzon has been a aggressive inside fighter, but he’s one of the few with a good jab which is actually more effective in open stance engagements. Ray’s last performance against Pearson was impressively disciplined and displayed exactly the kind of focused outside game he needs here. While Lauzon is always a dynamic finishing threat, Ray should be insulated a bit by his size and athleticism. Stevie Ray by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: This is really tough to call. Ray has the basics to beat Lauzon (an out-fighting southpaw) but he was a lost cause defending himself against pressure from Alan Patrick, and Lauzon can pressure a lot. Still, given Lauzon’s problems with lefties and his tendency to fade, I’ll lean Ray, but there’s every chance he gets backed to the fence, taken down and styled on on the mat. Stevie Ray by decision.
Staff picking Ray: Nick, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Ram, Victor
Staff picking Lauzon: Bissell, Dayne, Mookie, Tim
Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Perry
Mookie Alexander: The only reason I can surmise that the majority of the staff is picking Ellenberger over Perry, who is a rough stylistic matchup for this iteration of The Juggernaut, is that Mike Perry is … Mike Perry. This is perfectly acceptable reasoning. Jake Ellenberger by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Last time out, we saw Mike Perry get flustered with a more polished and experienced fighter that recognized his limitations. Ellenberger’s bread and butter is his wrestling, so I can absolutely see him putting Perry on his back and making him miserable as he tries to improve position and gets beat up no matter where he moves. As long as Jake can keep it where he wants it standing, the rest will come – but he’s gonna have to work for it. Jake Ellenberger by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: I like Ellenberger, he’s one of MMA’s good guys, but I don’t trust him. Perry is likely looking at an uphill climb in broad-brush technical terms, but he’s still better than advertised: an instinctively gifted pressure striker who is often mischaracterized as a brawler. He’s also absurdly tough and difficult to throw off his game, and Ellenberger just… isn’t. Jake has basically always been a front-runner and his struggles with confidence in recent years have been pronounced. Mike Perry by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: When you react to eating shots as poorly as Ellenberger does these days, not getting TKO’d is always a matter of luck. Matt Brown was on the way to doing it, Josh Koscheck put a scare in him, and everyone else lately has been pretty successful. Mike Perry is nobody’s idea of a technical wunderkind, but he hits really hard, has been very durable, and will likely continue improving. He might walk into a KO, but more likely, he hits Ellenberger, Ellenberger crumbles and Perry pours it on for a KO. Mike Perry via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Ellenberger: Nick, Bissell, Victor, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Perry: Dayne, Phil, Zane, Ram
Sam Alvey vs. Thales Leites
Mookie Alexander: Oh man, this could be an absolute stinker. Alvey’s takedown defense is normally pretty good, and you’d figure he has the edge in the striking, but he also just had to scrape out a win over what’s left of Nate Marquardt. There may be a lot of staring involved in this one, too. Can Thales implement his game enough to win two rounds? I think so. Thales Leites by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If Leites can’t push Alvey into the clinch regularly, he’s in big trouble. Even improved, Leites is not a safe or polished striker, and if he has to work at range for a while, Alvey’s counters will likely find him. But Alvey is really easy to put against the fence and he becomes totally inert there. Leites’ trip/drag takedowns are really solid and once on top I don’t have a lot of hope Alvey can do more than survive. Thales Leites via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: “Six fights within a year!” marvelled the promoter. “How d’ye do it, Sam?”Alvey smiled his strange, fixed smile. “‘Tis no great secret,” he said. “The trick is to not complicate o’ermuch. A man needs but a few things in life: The love of a good woman is one, and I have the finest in all of the world as my wife. The joy of a good fight…” He threw a punch at the air, “…and the feel of a right fist crashing home. This is given to me in abundance. What else does one need?”
‘”Tis true your contests are not overly varied,” admitted the promoter. “Is this the secret to your success? Simplicity and repetition? A few good things?”
The Smiler winked. “Sirrah, there is one other thing.” He leaned in closely. “Magic.”
The promoter’s eyes widened. “Sir, you jest.”
Alvey’s grin broadened. “I do not. You see this smile of mine?”
The promoter confessed that one could not help but avoid it.
“‘Tis not just an affectation. It is… a method of storage.” He walked around the straw-covered stage where he was to fight. “You see, one day when I was young I determined that there is a form of energy to the world. Both positive and negative. We draw these energies to us, like a metal rod draws the lightning, and we can also determine the way that these energies are distributed to those around us.”
He pointed to his face. “This smile both draws and creates a positive energy. However… when I so wish… I can switch suddenly to a terrifying, angry visage, and all that stored energy is released, like a thunderclap! My opponents are stunned, and I strike them down with my right hook!”
“Are you… sure that works?” said the promoter, a little dubious.
“Have I not won four fights, one after the other?” said Alvey. “Men think they are safe when they are away from my right hook, until I strike them with the deadly energy of my enraged face.” He looked over at the promoter, who was still looking skeptical. “I see you do not believe me. I could demonstrate to you, if you so wish. Be warned, though. Men have been rendered unconscious by its sheer power!”
The promoter nodded, and Alvey’s brows knitted. His lips pursed and his face darkened. He glared angrily. Then he relaxed, and smiled again. “I apologize sir, if you are feeling weak. This is but a taste of my ability to hurt an opponent if they fight from afar. I assure you, I can glare for minutes at a time.”
“Most certainly,” said the merchant. He thought privately of how he had laid some coin on the man in front of him, and was a little worried. Sam Alvey by unanimous decision
Staff picking Alvey: Dayne, Phil
Staff picking Leites: Nick, Bissell, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Ram, Tim
Brandon Moreno vs. Dustin Ortiz
Phil Mackenzie: This is the unforgiving nature of the modern flyweight division on display. Moreno is getting a huge step up in competition because there’s basically nowhere else for him to go, so a sink-or-swim prelim fight is on the cards against Dustin Ortiz; a tough, defined test in terms of pace, scrambling and wrestling ability. If he can keep Ortiz at a distance, Moreno’s improved kickboxing may tilt this in his favour, but his sprint-grappling ground game just doesn’t seem primed to hang with Ortiz’ rugged positional focus. Unless he’s stuffing the takedowns, I can’t really think Moreno can win on the ground where Makovsky and Borg couldn’t. Should be a lot of fun, though. Dustin Ortiz by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Moreno is improving, but he’s not great at maintaining range, often choosing to close the gap with dynamic, wild strikes into the clinch or into takedowns. He’s been a good scrambler there, but he’s also had a long habit of putting submission before position and depending on grit to get him through tough spots. Ortiz is a rote striker, but he’s incredibly tough and really hard to beat once he’s got you against the cage or on the mat. I think Moreno gives him both those positions way too often. Dustin Ortiz via Split Decision.
Victor Rodriguez: I made the mistake of underestimating Moreno in his last go-round, but Ortiz just has a far more functional and physical game that will allow him to outwrestle his opponent and piece him up with striking. Dustin Ortiz by decision.
Staff picking Moreno: Stephie, Ram
Staff picking Ortiz: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Victor, Tim
Michael McBride vs. Scott Holtzman
Phil Mackenzie: Holtzman reminds me of a more generic version of Paul Felder- a big, athletic protege of one of the WEC trio whose inexperience is in constant pitched battle with his natural talent. The Skateless Goon clearly wants to be technical, but is often unsure how to put that into practice. McBride is a noodly submission artist that Holtzman should just be able to throw around, but the MMA Native is a tricky style to build from scratch- remember when the commentators were talking about how Holtzman was impossible to take down in the gym, and all the while noted wrestler Drew Dober was hitting double legs on him from about ten feet away? Yeah. Scott Holtzman by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: McBride is one of the most wooden, awkward strikers I’ve seen in the UFC lately. Scott Holtzman via KO, Round 1.
Staff picking McBride:
Staff picking Holtzman: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Phil, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Ram, Victor, Tim
Jessica Penne vs. Danielle Taylor
Phil Mackenzie: Danielle Taylor is clearly going down the Tyron Woodley route of circling away and refusing to engage on anything which isn’t an opportunity for a counter right hand. Despite her obvious physical gifts, she’s still an atomweight and is just never going to knock people out in the way that Woodley can, so unless she develops significantly I think she’s going to have close, awful decisions with almost everyone she fights. Penne may be a winnable matchup though- she walks forward slowly, gets hit, then pumps shots or grabs the clinch. Think Taylor will hit her on the way in, then circle out. Her atrociously low volume will make this competitive, but Danielle Taylor by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I don’t think Taylor won her last fight, but this is going to be a prime test of Jessica Penne’s ability to fight against anyone who is both athletic and can punch. Penne’s striking is made to get her hit hard, but Taylor doesn’t throw a lot. As long as Penne can get through a couple shots to get into the clinch and make this fight a mess, I trust her more diverse game to win rounds. But if she gets stuck plodding after Taylor, she may be in trouble. Jessica Penne via decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Taylor hits hard, but she has to square herself and load up heavy to take those shots and land them. Penne is a seasoned veteran that has a much more complete game and is also faster than Taylor. Penne will have a hard time taking Taylor down, but once the fight ends up there it’s all Jessica, all day. Jessica Penne by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Penne: Nick, Bissell, Dayne, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Ram, Victor, Tim
Staff picking Taylor: Stephie, Phil
Alexis Davis vs. Cindy Dandois
Phil Mackenzie: Davis hasn’t seemed particularly with it lately, but her loss to Sara McMann seems a bit more acceptable now that it is clear that McMann is coming into her technical prime. Unless Davis on a huge slide or Dandois has greatly improved, this seems like Davis’ fight to lose. While powerful, Dandois is a woefully uncomfortable striker who backs her way into the cage repeatedly, looks profoundly upset by punches, and sells out for dangerous clinch throws. Alexis Davis by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Dandois has a habit of always showing up better than you expect, but other than shocking Marloes Coenen, has tended to have all her success over green athletes who don’t really have a handle on the full complement of MMA skills. That’s not Alexis Davis. Davis isn’t the best athlete in the world, but she’s less awkward than Dandois. She’s a better striker, likely harder to take down than most of Dandois recent wins, and a better grappler. Alexis Davis via Decision.
Victor Rodriguez: While I agree with Zane’s assessment of Dandois’ shortcomings and skills, she’s still a more aggressive grappler and a durable fighter that can soak up damage. Davis should easily be favored here, but I’m sticking with Cindy getting outstruck while dishing out some punishment of her own and then controlling on the ground en route to an armbar win. Cindy Dandois by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Davis: Nick, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Ram, Tim
Staff picking Dandois: Bissell, Stephie, Victor
Bryan Barberena vs. Joe Proctor
Phil Mackenzie: A near-guaranteed barnburner. Proctor has really minimal defense but has surprising clubbing power in his shots and a mean leg kick. Barberena… also has minimal defense, doesn’t hit as hard, but is a better grappler. Barberena’s size and gas tank should allow him to pull away down the stretch in a fun, bloody scrap. Bryan Barberena by submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: Proctor tends to be an opportunist. A fighter who is often on the losing end of rounds, until he finds a big enough opening to lock up a sub. Barberena is an amazingly tough out who doesn’t make many mistakes and gets better as he goes. Bryan Barberena via TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Barberena: Nick, Bissell, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Stephie, Ram, Victor, Tim
Staff picking Proctor:
Hector Sandoval vs. Matt Schnell
Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be great. These two are flying well under the radar, but are both quality pick-ups. Sandoval is very much classic Team Alpha Male, all squat aggression, power wrestling and scrambling. Schnell is huge for the class, and is quickly developing a nuanced combination striking game to go with his own scrambling and sub grappling. Sandoval’s wrestling is potentially a not inconsiderable advantage, but he doesn’t use it as much as he could, and I was very impressed by Schnell’s technical depth in his short-notice debut against Rob Font. Matt Schnell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Schnell is a craftier striker and more exciting grappler, but I have less faith in his chin, and he doesn’t have a great wrestling game. If Sandoval lands big, he can absolutely beat Schnell, but until he lands big, I expect he’ll be losing the fight. Matt Schnell via decision.
Staff picking Sandoval: Bissell, Fraser, Ram, Victor, Tim
Staff picking Schnell: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Stephie