UFC on FOX 28: Emmett vs. Stephens staff picks and predictions

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The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 28 card in Orlando, Florida. Most of us believe Jeremy Stephens will get the job done against Josh Emmett in the main event. There’s a slight lean towards Jessica Andrade to beat Tecia Torresin the pivotal strawweight 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.

Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Stephens

Mookie Alexander: It would be the most Jeremy Stephens thing ever if there was finally reason to believe he might challenge for a title, then turn in a complete headscratcher vs. Josh Emmett, who has burst onto the featherweight scene with one massive KO of Ricardo Lamas. I just don’t see enough variety in Emmett’s offense to think that he can trouble Stephens in a way that most other contenders frustrate him. Add in that Stephens looks genuinely improved from a technical standpoint, and I think this fight stays standing, Emmett won’t get the takedowns if it comes to that, and he’ll get broken down and finished. Jeremy Stephens by TKO, round 3.

Fraser Coffeen: I love this fight as a test of Emmett. No one thought he had a chance against Lamas, and he smoked him. But as impressive as that win was, it’s also one of those fights that doesn’t really tell us all that much about him. He’s clearly skilled, clearly belongs in the top 10, but is he ready to take on someone who is notoriously hard to put down? That’s a tough question. To win, Emmett will almost surely have to dig deep and persevere, and we just don’t know his capacity for that. Call me a cynic, but I don’t see him as ready for this step. That said, if he blasts Stephens out of there, then we’ll know just how legit he is. Jeremy Stephens, KO, R4

Zane Simon: Until I see otherwise, my concerns for Emmett at the top of the division remain the same. He’s a one-speed, one-target, one-weapon fighter. To his credit, against Lamas he showed improvement in output and crispness of technique, but he’s still a guy that’s just looking to throw power hooks at his opponent’s head. He can do it going forwards and backwards, and he’s more or less maximized his offensive potency there with a high workrate. But, guys like Stephens who are willing to mix in jabs, leg kicks, and body work should be able to time him and pick him off. At the end of the day, looking to trade power with Stephens hasn’t been a winning proposition and I don’t think it will be here either. Jeremy Stephens via TKO, round 3.

Victor Rodriguez: I don’t want to say that Emmett got lucky the last time around, because he worked his ass off and got the win fair and square. I just don’t see what it is in his toolbox that Stephens won’t be ready for. Leg kicks will be a major factor and Stephens should be able to cancel out Emmett’s wrestling with his takedown defense as well as his striking game with level changes. That’s not to say that Emmett can’t win, but it seems Stephens has to do more than a few things wrong for him to do that. Can’t bank on that, so no. Jeremy Stephens by decision.

Staff picking Emmett: Bissell, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Stephens: Nick, Harry, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Victor

Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres

Mookie Alexander: I predicted Tecia Torres would win the UFC strawweight title this year, so I’m basically forced into picking her, but I don’t really want to. Andrade is more potent offensively, stupidly strong, and has elite ground-and-pound to go along with her high-intensity swarming striking. Mind you, Torres has steadily gotten better over the years, and perhaps she might lean on her wrestling to grind out a win here. I mean… that’s basically all I’ve got. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Torres is a strong wrestler and grappler and a capable, fast, flurrying kickboxer. But, she’s never been a very dangerous fighter. And, standing, she’s always needed to get in tight to make her striking work. It’s hard to imagine her jumping into the pocket to trade shots with Jessica Andrade over and over again and have her coming out the winner. And, if Andrade can muscle her to the ground a couple of times, her GnP has become ferocious. Jessica Andrade via decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Andrade was able to bullrush Angela Hill and Claudia Gadelha, so it seems really difficult for Tecia Torres to stick with a consistent plan against that kind of opponent. And this is Torres we’re talking about – she’s good at keeping her focus and maintaining a good pace. Cardio isn’t a concern, but the pure strength and athleticism advantages make it way too much for me to pick Tecia here. Jessica Andrade by decision.

Staff picking Andrade: Nick, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Torres: Bissell, Harry, Fraser, Mookie

What is Ovince Saint Preux? Ilir Latifi

Mookie Alexander: WHO ARE THESE FOOLS GOING AGAINST THE CHAMP?! Ilir Latifi by sledgehammering, round 1.

Fraser Coffeen: I see Latifi’s pure, rugged durability being an issue for OSP here. OSP is at his best when he can overwhelm his opponent, and while he will be more traditionally athletic than Latifi, Latifi is not the kind of guy who gets overwhelmed easily. I can see him staying in it and frustrating OSP, ultimately grinding out a scrappy decision. Ilir Latifi, Dec

Phil Mackenzie: As sad as this pick makes me, I’m not sure if Latifi has a solution to OSP just moving on the outside. Our Lord and Savior’s main distance closer is a huge dipping overhand or blast double, and I don’t think it plays well with OSP’s backstepping left hand / uppercut and his tendency to throw head and body kicks (reference: Bader’s godslayer knee, or Morales-Sterling). Latifi is the more coherent fighter who just makes more sense, and if he gets it down I can see OSP fading out of the fight as he tends to do. In the broad strokes, though, OSP is tougher, and has a significant reach advantage. I still remember how badly Latifi struggled to close down the open stance matchup against Blachowicz. Look for OSP to pick up a win and set up his shot against interim light heavyweight champion Alexander Gustafsson, or perhaps a title eliminator rematch against Shogun should Gustafsson decide to rest on his achievement. OSP by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: If Latifi were as strong a top control wrestler as he is a takedown artist, I’d be happy to pick him, but more often than not he’s a guy who has to get multiple takedowns to control the flow of a fight. And his striking, while powerful, is all single big shots with long breaks in-between. If this is a case of traded strikes from outside, I have a lot more faith in OSP’s chin and his length to stand up to Latifi and make his pot-shots more effective. Essentially, OSP doesn’t have to fight that much better a bout than Tyson Pedro to end up on the right side of the fight. Ovince St. Preux via KO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Ovince has gotten so much better at using his range and all, but his game is so much of a blah, blah, blah, yammer, yammer LATIFI DA GAWD, VIOLENCE. ALL DAY. TEST ME. Round 2.

Tim Burke: DA SLEDGEHAMMER, KO, round 1.

Staff picking OSP: Nick, Harry, Phil, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Latifi: Bissell, Dayne, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Victor

Mike Perry vs. Max Griffin

Mookie AlexanderMax Griffin is insanely tough, but Mike Perry hits a tad harder than Elizeu Zaleski, soooooo…. Mike Perry by KO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: This fight exists as both a hard and a very easy fight for Perry. As with any fight where two defensively suspect hitters go at it, perhaps the most likely outcome is that one guy smokes the other within a few exchanges. That’s likely to be Perry. He has wider and better strike selection, improved head movement (clearly in evidence in the Ponz fight, but simply not enough to overcome the massive skill and experience gap), and is more durable. Griffin is a slightly wooden jab-cross banger, but is a high-end athlete who hits very hard. While there isn’t much of a reason not to pick Perry, there is a chance he takes some serious damage in this fight. How badly hurt he was by that Ponz backfist would incline me towards giving him some time away from fighting an endless run of big-time punchers, but what do I know? Mike Perry by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Perry should win this, as Griffin has tended to just jump into the pocket over and over with the same couple of strikes in a way that makes him entirely predictable. But Perry’s fundamentals do break down pretty badly as fights go on. So, if Griffin can survive early, he may be able to turn it up late. Still, he has to survive. Mike Perry via KO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: I think it’s safe to start calling Mike Perry the Bionic Redneck. Jouban and Ponzinibbio were able to fight smart with an in and out game that Griffin won’t be able to recreate. Griffin’s going to try to wrestle a guy that’s probably the second strongest in the division behind Woodley (if not the strongest). Perry’s gonna stuff takedowns and once again snare another opponent into a dogfight. We know how those end when Perry’s part of the equation. Mike Perry by KO, round 2.

Staff picking Perry: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Griffin:

Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher

Mookie AlexanderRenan Barao should win this fight. I don’t trust Renan Barao anymore, even against a very submittable guy like Kelleher. He seems increasingly uncomfortable taking damage, and Kelleher has enough in his offensive skill set to get the win. Brian Kelleher by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: I’m done with Barao, who only has two wins in the last 4 years – and his most recent is over the super inconsistent Nover. I don’t see Kelleher as a massive world-beater, but I think he has enough for 2018 Barao. Brian Kelleher, Dec

Phil Mackenzie: Kelleher would fit almost exactly into the downwards trajectory that we’ve seen from Barao. He’s a tremendously aggressive pocket and clinch fighter who doesn’t necessarily have the defense or elite durability to back it up. While Barao has looked faded, he’s always had serious moments of effectiveness against high-end opposition (Stephens / Sterling), and I don’t think Kelleher belongs with those guys. Renan Barao by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: There’s a very very good chance that Barao wins this early, just because Kelleher makes himself so defensively open to produce offense. But, Barao hasn’t been an early finisher for a while now, and as fights go on, his confidence tends to break. If Kelleher doesn’t get club-n-subbed in round 1, I expect him to create enough chaos and crack Barao enough times, that the former champ starts to wilt under the pressure. Brian Kelleher by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Nah, son. I can’t trust Renan anymore. To me he’s the Artist Formerly Known as Mr Pegado. Oh, well. At least we still have this. Fun times. Brian Kelleher by decision.

Staff picking Barao: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Dayne, Phil, Tim
Staff picking Kelleher: Fraser, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Victor

Sara McMann vs. Marion Reneau

Mookie Alexander: McMann is liable to throw away a winnable fight at any given moment (see: Ketlen Vieira), but Reneau doesn’t have the takedown defense to stifle McMann, and that’s where the fight will be won. Sara McMann by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Hmm. McMann seems to check out badly whenever she can’t just massively outpower her opponent and Reneau is one of the few bantamweights who can compete with her physically. On the other hand, though, Reneau has mediocre takedown defense and a tendency to guard grapple. If Reneau can fight off her jab and kick without getting them caught, she can definitely rattle McMann, but the takedowns just seem to come too easily against her to really like her in this one. Sara McMann by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Marion Reneau is the opposite of a potent offensive threat. If opponents giftwrap a win for her, she can take it, sometimes. Otherwise, she tends to have way too much trouble pulling the trigger. McMann absolutely can giftwrap a win for Reneau, but I’ll take the fighter who has a reasonable chance of screwing up over the fighter who has a reasonable chance of just letting the fight drift away from her. Sara McMann by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Reneau has improved her striking from fight to fight more than McMann has, but I worry that her grappling game off her back won’t be much of a threat to McMann. Besides, it’s not like Reneau is going to threaten takedowns if she doesn’t have to. Sara McMann by decision.

Staff picking McMann: Nick, Harry, Dayne, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Reneau: Bissell

Angela Hill vs. Maryna Moroz

Victor Rodriguez: Moroz is a very good athlete and a good fighter, but she’s not a better athlete nor fighter than Hill. Hill’s timing and striking will prove to be a problem, and Moroz hasn’t fought anyone that hits that hard or that accurately. Hill may lay back a bit and gauge Moroz for a while. That could give Moroz some daylight in this, but not anywhere near enough to lead to anything that Hill can’t catch up and blow past. Angela Hill by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: I love Angie Hill… but this may be sort of terrible? She’s become more of a flighty out-striker who rarely sits down on her punches. Her insane toughness meant that this made for fun bouts against Andrade and Ansaroff, who relentlessly pressured her. But I don’t think Moroz is going to do that. Here are the stats from Moroz’s last win over Danielle Taylor(and H/T whoever posted these stats on twitter, I apologize for forgetting your name).

RD1: 5 of 93 – 5%

RD2: 4 of 76 – 5%

RD3: 8 of 82 – 9%

Six. Point. Eight. Percent. Overall. Striking. Accuracy. The air is likely to take an absolutely murderous beating in this fight. Angela Hill by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Hill’s style has some fundamental problems, mostly that she’s caught between two methods of fighting that don’t quite fit for her. She’s either bouncing on her toes, tiring herself out, and taking power off her strikes, or she’s flat footed, walking into the pocket and eating more than she’s dishing out to land offense. Still, she keeps a pace for 3 rounds and works to land shots, and stays on opponents. Moroz’s safety first shadow boxing style should let Hill get all the time she needs to pick her spots and land the cleaner strikes. Angela Hill by decision.

Staff picking Hill: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Victor, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Moroz:

Ben Saunders vs. Alan Jouban

Phil Mackenzie: Tons of kickboxing offense and shaky chins are the order of the day here. Jouban is on a worrying skid, having being knocked down and finished in both of his last two fights. Killa B is coming off a KO loss to noted non-finisher Peter Sobotta. Jouban has generally shown that there’s a baseline of athleticism and technique required to get to him, and it’s one which I’m not sure that Ben possesses nowadays. I’m always rooting for Killa B, but this seems like a rough one. Alan Jouban by TKO, round 1

Zane Simon: If Jouban can’t keep himself from walking into the clinch, or ends up staying way outside just to avoid that, Saunders can cause big problems for him. Neither guy is great moving backwards, so if this stays way outside, ‘Killa B’ can push forward with power kicks in bursts. However, Saunders isn’t much of a pressure fighter, and when needed Jouban can be. As long as Jouban pushes to maintain the pocket, he’s the faster, cleaner, more coordinated kickboxer. If that doesn’t happen, then all bets are off. Alan Jouban via KO, Round 1 (War Killa B)

Victor Rodriguez: Saunders’ standup will probably be a step behind Jouban’s, but his range and output will keep them a little more evenly matched as the fight goes on. It’s all Ben as soon as it hits the ground though. War Killa B. Let’s Mumblesumethings. Ben Saunders by submission.

Staff picking Saunders: Dayne, Fraser, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Jouban: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane

Sam Alvey vs. Marcin Prachnio

Phil Mackenzie: Sam Alvey has, in recent years, become perhaps the most boring fighter to watch in the UFC. Presumably he still has power in his right hand, but the book has been written so thoroughly that hardly anyone walks into it any more. Prachnio… might do that? He tends to blitz in with minimal defense behind karate-style rushes, but honestly Derek Brunsonshowed that even that can work effectively against Alvey, and Prachnio can kick, which Alvey has never defended well. Alvey also looked uncharacteristically awful (“awfuller”?) against Emeev. Not just limited but disinterested. The short notice or start of a decline? Marcin Prachnio by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Prachnio tends to assume that he can blow opposition out of the water just by being more powerful and more violent than they are. And maybe that’ll work for him here. It worked for Brunson, who’s no more technical standing. But, that’s about the only time it’s worked on Alvey. And given Prachnio’s position as a newcomer to the UFC, I just get the feeling he’s going to go out, try and put Alvey away, gas, and end up on the wrong side of either a TKO or a boring split decision loss. Sam Alvey via TKO round 1.

Staff picking Alvey: Mookie, Zane, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Prachnio: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Dayne, Fraser, Stephie

Rani Yahya vs. Russell Doane

Phil Mackenzie: This fight goes one of two ways. Either it stays on the feet and Doane absolutely buzzsaws Yahya, or Yahya gets him down and taps him out when Doane panics. Yahya is incredibly tough and knows exactly what he wants to do. Like Maia, he’ll exhaust himself in going after takedown after takedown, but there’s little risk that he’s not going to try to implement his gameplan. There’s a solid chance that Doane just strands him at range and carves him up, but his wrestling and grappling is just not trustworthy enough for me. Rani Yahya by submission, round 2

Zane Simon: I feel like Doane has become a more patient fighter lately. If that’s the case, he’s a good enough wrestler to stay upright, at least for a while. And if he can do that, he should have a big speed, power, and technique advantage standing. If he can’t, if he gets over-eager and tries to chase the KO, he could easily get taken down and subbed. But, I’ll bet on a smart fight from Doane. Russell Doane via TKO, Round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Yahya’s pace and style really frustrates some opponents, but it’s not like he can’t be figured out by someone more athletic than him. Doane is that, and he’s got enough kicks and feints in his arsenal to do the right kind of damage that judges favor. Russell Doane by decision.

Staff picking Yahya: Harry, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim
Staff picking Doane: Nick, Bissell, Fraser, Zane, Victor

Eric Shelton vs. Alex Perez

Phil Mackenzie: This should be a fun fight between the more well-rounded Perez and the more functionally athletic Shelton. Shelton’s boxing and counterpunching game has gradually blossomed under a rough schedule of competition, and his takedown defense has shored up. Perez is an interesting threat against that kind of development: a bit of a Lamas, with somewhat pedestrian boxing mixed up with the odd explosive finishing technique. Jump knees, wacky subs etc. Shelton seems like the slightly more high-percentage pick, but it’s a tough one. Eric Shelton by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: It’s going to be all about wrestling and submission defense for Shelton this fight. If he can scramble well enough to continually create space, he’s the more dynamic, fluid striker. If he can’t, then he’ll be pitted against someone whose technical ground game is likely just a step ahead of his. To date, I haven’t seen Shelton have enough success winning that type of fight to pick him here. Alex Perez by decision.

Staff picking Shelton: Harry, Dayne, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Victor
Staff picking Perez: Nick, Bissell, Fraser, Zane

Albert Morales vs. Manny Bermudez

Phil Mackenzie: There are some fighters where I want to shout stuff at the screen at them. With 90% of Blackzilians, I want to yell: “When you are losing it is not the end of the world. No-one who matters respects you less for it.” With Albert Morales I want him to stop getting mad at himself. Stop it! He is tough but lacks that crucial swagger that makes toughness scary. He eats shots and and returns fire with a slight air of desperation, and this inverse-Bendo dynamic has put him on the wrong end of some unfortunate decisions. Bermudez is a slick submission threat who knows exactly what he wants to do. Initially I favoured him in this fight, but there are a couple of factors which leave me shying away: his tendency to rely on defensive submissions in the scramble, and his shonky striking. I can’t do it though. I can’t pick Albert. He just gets too angry at himself. Manny Bermudez by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Morales is just entirely too willing to put himself in a terrible position trying to chase offense he doesn’t need. I don’t really know how well Bermudez’s game supports a long fight, but if Morales makes the kind of mistakes he has in the past, Bermudez has shown himself as very able to capitalize for quick submissions. Manny Bermudez via submission, round 1.

Staff picking Morales: Bissell
Staff picking Bermudez: Nick, Harry, Dayne, Fraser, Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Tim, Victor

Poll

Who wins the UFC on FOX 28 main and co-main events?

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