UFC 230 Live Fight: 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.
Mookie Alexander: Lewis has a puncher’s chance and if he knocks Cormier out cold my jaw will hit the floor and I will bow to his awesomeness. He has a lifetime supply of free Popeye’s chicken, so he’s basically a winner already. The actual fight, though? Cormier can dominate Lewis on the ground since he actually knows how to own people from top without losing position. He can also hurt Lewis with his striking and stop him early, or pick him apart and stop him late when Lewis is totally exhausted. There’s not much more to analyze here. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: No offense DC, but I’m totally rooting for Lewis here. I mean, how can you not? I really want to pick him too, and it’s not a completely insane pick. But I just can’t bring myself to do it, as I have this nagging feeling that Cormier is going to not only win the wrestling battle (obviously) but also win the striking battle. Sorry. Daniel Cormier, TKO, R2
Dayne Fox: I agree wholeheartedly with Fraser. There is nothing that would be more delightful than Lewis flying the flag of UFC heavyweight champion. It just seems too damned unlikely. Cormier via TKO of RD2
Zane Simon: It’s not that I don’t think Cormier will be dominant, he likely will. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis doesn’t get beat up too badly either. I’m betting, especially with the short notice, DC will be going for minimum risk and maximum efficiency. Given Lewis’ habit of just standing out of stuff on the ground, I could easily see him getting taken down and giving up his back in a hurry. Daniel Cormier via RNC, Round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Jacare might have the power to end this early. Weidman is hardly a defensive wizard and he’s been badly hurt in four straight fights. As great a grappler as Jacare is, Weidman is more than capable of hanging with him on the mat, and as Jacare inevitably fades as the fight progresses, just about everything else favors Weidman. I see Jacare trying to start strong, losing steam quickly, and Weidman catching him with a big shot to put him out. Chris Weidman by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Jacare is a very live dog in this if he can either hurt Weidman early and force him to gas trying to recover, or just stay dangerous enough in scrambles and initiate enough of them to tax Weidman’s gas tank grappling. If this stays a straight, standup affair, however, then Jacare has the timing and the counters, but I don’t think he can match Weidman’s pace. Chris Weidman by decision.
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Phil Mackenzie: Cannonier has dropped two weight classes over his time in the UFC, but basic technical issues have plagued him more than physical ones. He’s a functional and tough boxer, but can get stranded at range or outwrestled. Branch is at least a comparable boxer and a far more effective grappler. The only real advantage Cannonier has is durability, as Branch is not historically that hard to hurt. David Branch by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Cannonier is bad at takedown defense, David Branch is good at takedowns. Branch is also safety minded enough and tough enough that I don’t see him easily getting caught and blasted out early in the fight. Most likely he picks his moment, working behind that jab, and ducks into the clinch where he can out-wrestle Cannonier all day. David Branch by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Cezar Ferreira proved to be a bad matchup for Roberson, who’s still very green as an MMA fighter and looked utterly lost on the ground, but this is more favorable stylistically. It’s by no means an easy fight, as Marshman possesses a good amount of power, but I think Roberson will prevail with superior, more accurate striking. Karl Roberson by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: As above with Cannonier, Marshman’s game just doesn’t function in enough areas. A plodding but powerful pocket boxer, he can be outwrestled or he can be sniped from the outside. Roberson can possibly do either one of these things: while Ferreira exposed his defensive grappling he’s aggressive and opportunistic on offense. He’s also a dangerous range kickboxer who can probably draw Marshman into a headkick. Karl Roberson by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: This fight is a bit of a mystery after the first round, honestly. Roberson is far faster and slicker as a striker, but he’s ridiculously untested – having only been outside round 1 in his pro debut. Marshman has been KO’d before and isn’t so slickly well rounded that I think he can easily overwhelm Roberson with wrestling or grappling. But, if he can survive the early exchanges, I wouldn’t be shocked if Marshman is the much busier more effective fighter down the stretch. Still, Marshman’s struggles against athletic power punchers have me seeing Karl Roberson via KO, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Brunson is powerful and more athletic than Brad Tavares. He has terrifying ground-and-pound when he gets you down, and we’ve still seen very little of what Adesanya can manage from his back. Buuuuuuut he loses all form when forced into striking exchanges, often gets reckless charging forward for takedowns or throwing wild punches, and I don’t think he has the footwork necessary to ward off Adesanya’s pressure. Brunson is a live dog here but Adesanya is just too crafty and sharp as a striker for Brunson to withstand. Israel Adesanya by TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: I suspect this is somewhat of a “Rotten Tomatoes” pick where we’re all/mostly picking one person without a whole lot of confidence, then if it goes south we’ll get at least one person bleating about how we all bought into the hype or whatever. Bloody Elbow is not a hive mind. Anyway. Brunson’s main issue in this fight is how to close distance. Does he bumrush Adesanya, or does he try to play a more patient game? Whittaker KO notwithstanding, it might honestly better for him to just blitz Adesanya. Brunson’s primary weapon at range is leg kicks, and while Adesanya is not a devastating counterpuncher, he’s good at shutting them down. On the other hand, Adesanya is a relatively undersized middleweight with clear grappling deficiencies past his first layer takedown defence. That being said, I just can’t trust Brunson to stay consistent- ever since leaving Jackson Wink he’s oscillated between absurd sprinting assaults and doing nothing. Israel Adesanya by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: This is almost more of a prove it fight for Derek Brunson than Adesanya, weirdly enough. You want to be a title contender? Prove you can fight effectively and smart and not just go crazy for 2 minutes and either get a KO or get KO’d. Brunson should have the size, power, and wrestling ability to make this fight his. But I think the last takedown he hit may have been against Lorenz Larkin in 2014. If wrestling just isn’t a big part of his game anymore, then I’m not picking him to win. Israel Adesanya via TKO, Round 3.
Mookie Alexander: Rinaldi’s really not athletic enough to hang with even mid-level UFC talent, whether at lightweight or featherweight. Knight arguably won the Amirkhani fight and I suspect that his pace and scrambling abilities will be too much for Rinaldi in the long stretch. Jason Knight by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Jason Knight has not looked particularly great in his last few losses. Stylistically this is basically the Amirkhani fight again, but softer. Rinaldi was a slightly undersized lightweight, so as a grappler it makes sense for him to be moving down. That said, he’s still just not the kind of fast-twitch athlete that Amirkhani is, and even then that fight was razor thin. Knight may have moments of getting outwrestled, and Rinaldi is a tricky submission threat, but overall the pace and reach of Knight should be able to wear Rinaldi down. Jason Knight by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Knight really should be a level faster and more powerful than Jordan Rinaldi. Rinaldi hasn’t been much of a striking threat in the UFC, and tends to set up his takedowns poorly, nullifying a lot of what could be a decent ground game. Knight doesn’t have much defense anywhere, but has a lot of very violent offense. Assuming he brings that to bear with pressure early, Jason Knight via TKO, Round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Welp. Fraser was half-right on Eubanks’ weight. She should still win, though. Ideally she doesn’t get a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, just as punishment. Sijara Eubanks by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I tend to feel like some women’s fights just favor raw athleticism, particularly when you get that older guard of the WMMA scene in there. And that is Roxy to a T. I’ve really appreciated her late career renaissance, but Eubanks is just too big and strong. It’s certainly possible her green-ness means she gets caught, and it would be a glorious moment if she does (nothing against Eubanks there, but come on, Modafferi winning would be a great moment). But I just think Sijara is too much. Unless she misses weight and the entire fight is scrapped. Which is entirely possible. Sijara Eubanks, TKO, R1
Phil Mackenzie: What Fraser said. Eubanks is likely a long way off being able to compete with Shevchenko, but she’s aggressive, durable and physically gifted. Modafferi’s striking style can be best described as whipping the other woman to death with noodles, and I think Eubanks marches her down. Sijara Eubanks by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Modafferi is still a live dog in this, just for her workrate, but like in their TUF meeting, Eubanks is likely just too strong. For every two punches Modafferi can land, Eubanks can land 1 that looks like it does 3x as much damage. When they meet in the clinch, Eubanks’ strength and coordination wins out. If Modafferi can stay upright and stay busy, she can make this close, but she’ll likely be out-gunned the whole way through. Sijara Eubanks via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Moraes is one of those fighters like Hacran Dias who should be better than he is. He’s a powerful, accurate striker with feet, knees and hands. He’s a willing wrestler and a capable submission grappler. But he’s also defensively slightly lackluster, and lacks depth in basically all of those areas. Arce is a Tough Bearded Tiger Schulmann Aggressive Counterpuncher, and while the team’s defense against kicks leaves something to be desired he’s a higher pace, more nuanced boxer who can make his way through a tough first round and then pick Moraes apart on pace and angles. Julio Arce by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I like Moraes a lot more than most in this fight for a couple reasons. I definitely see the Dias comparison, but Sheymon pushes a better pace with a lot more variety than Dias did at the height of his game. And he also works multiple targets regularly. Moraes is great at punching to the body to set up head strikes and kicks at all targets. It makes him a hard fighter to predict. And, on the other side, Arce is double tough and technical, and consistent as they come, but he doesn’t pack much power. I get the feeling this will be a fight of two halves, with Moraes’ power getting the better of the early fight and Arce’s gas tank serving him late. But I’ll lean with the power to make the bigger impression. Sheymon Moraes via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Fight should be great fun for as long as it lasts. Lyman Good is the largest(?) of the Tough Bearded Tiger Schulmann Aggressive Counterpunchers. While he’s had some issues staying focused in fights (reference: “I don’t want to get knocked out” against Zaleski dos Santos) he’s freakishly durable and an accurate hitter, and I’m not sure how Saunders can actually beat him aside from landing the head kick or clinch knee of his life. Lyman Good by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: War Killa B!… I’d love to see him win. But, he’s the definition of a kill-or-be-killed fighter and Good has never been stopped in the cage. Good isn’t a great range striker and isn’t a fantastic wrestler, so there are chances for Saunders to either catch him from guard or pick him off at distance, or even to land something big inside. But for as tall as Saunders stands and as polished as Good is in the pocket (and as good as Good’s chin is) I gotta take Lyman Good. Lyman Good by TKO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Frevola’s aggressive wrestleboxing game makes sense, but Polo Reyes was able to exploit a lack of depth in his boxing, and Vannata is likely going to expose some athletic deficiencies. Leaving Jackson-Wink is somewhat concerning for Vannata (from a tactical fight-to-fight and composure perspective moreso than a long-term development and technical one) but he remains a blazingly quick starter who messes everyone he fights up pretty badly for the first round. Lando Vannata by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Frevola just doesn’t seem experienced to fight at this level. He pushes relentless aggression without a great sense of tactical awareness, throwing power combos and rushing headlong at opponents, no matter what’s coming back at him. With a deeper technical base that’d be really good. And someday it might serve him well. But against opponents who have more depth and nuance to their game and aren’t a big step behind him athletically, Frevola is wide open to getting picked off. Lando Vannata via KO, Round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: This should be an absolute banger. Holobaugh has no concept of how to not come forward throwing combinations, and Burgos is, of course, a promising TBTSAC. Meeting in the center of the cage seems like a poor way to handle Burgos, who was out-crafted by Kattar but is still a more subtle and defensively sound fighter than Holobaugh, while retaining a ridiculous chin and nasty power. Like Zane, this is a confidence pick for Burgos: he’s already very technically skilled despite being relatively young in his career, and has all the marks (tape junkie etc) of someone who will learn from his losses. Shane Burgos by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Man I’m excited for this fight. Burgos has a fun as hell style to watch, but it’s got some gaping holes in it that, until recently, he’d never had to bother closing. The Kattar fight should have changed that. If it did, Burgos should be too diverse, too slick, and maybe too fast for Holobaugh. If Burgos didn’t, then Holobaugh’s relentless consistency, strong jab, and power combo game could make this a brutal war where the best chin wins. In those kinds of fights, Holobaugh has rarely been found wanting. I’ll take Burgos, but it’s under the optimism that the Kattar loss will push him forward and not set him back. Shane Burgos by decision.
Zane Simon: Kelleher is just a more polished, better striking, more veteran savvy version of the guy that Montel Jackson JUST lost to. I love Jackson as a prospect, he’s got a terrific sniping style and great composure to use it. But without the necessary technical depth, variety, pace, and takedown defense, it’s really hard to see him beating Kelleher’s wrestling game. Of course, if Kelleher can’t get him down, then all this could change. But I’m taking Brian Kelleher by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I was tremendously impressed by Jackson against Simon, and thought that fight was closer than it had any right to be. He got worn down over time, but Simon is a more committed wrestler than Kelleher (and perhaps than anyone in this division apart from maybe… Merab Dvalashvili?). I’m not sure that Kelleher can’t stop himself from kickboxing with Simon, and if that’s the case than Simon is huge, powerful and accurate. Montel Jackson by TKO, round 1
Staff picking Kelleher: Bissell, Harry, Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Dayne, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Jackson: Nick, Stephie
Zane Simon: Lima is a killer for about a round before he seems to shut down and give up to whatever offense his opponent is mounting. Wieczorek is a bop-it doll for about two rounds before his opponent gasses and he hits a takedown for top control. Seems like a perfect recipe for Lima to lose the way he tends to lose and for Wieczorek to win the way he tends to win. Adam Wieczorek via TKO, round 3.