UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal staff picks and predictions
Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal fight card.
The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for Saturday’s UFC London card, and only Victor Rodriguez is brave enough to go with Jorge Masvidal to defeat Darren Till in the main event. As for the co-main, opinion is split as to who will win between Gunnar Nelson and Leon Edwards. In the light heavyweight division, most of us are going with Dominick Reyes over Volkan Oezdemir.
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.
Darren Till vs. Jorge Masvidal
Mookie Alexander: This could be a bad fight. Masvidal is more than willing to just give rounds away at a level that would make Josh Thomson blush, and he absolutely can get suckered into Till’s low-volume counterstriking. He has the superior skillset -- a solid jab, a technical boxing game and the wrestling skills to test Darren -- but I’ve seen Masvidal in just way too many fights where he’s in good position to win right up until he isn’t. Add in that Till is a giant welterweight and Masvidal has toggled between lightweight and welterweight, and I feel that Till is going to just outpoint Masvidal at critical junctures of an otherwise slow-burning bout. Darren Till by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Till’s got great striking, but Jorge’s got more variety in his game, underrated wrestling, and he won’t be bullied around. Masvidal’s got underrated wrestling and something of a mean streak. Till brings sharp and accurate striking and also keeps a pretty active pace, which could light a fire under Masvidal to keep him from hanging back and allowing for lulls in his offense. That’s usually what ends up costing him in a lot of fights, and the fact that this is five rounds has me leaning towards Masvidal pulling out the veteran savvy, working the body and whipping out snappy boxing combinations and ultimately taking this one in the long run. Cuban George by decision.
Zane Simon: Masvidal definitely can win this fight. Frankly, he can win most fights against most fighters on the right day. But, the question for ‘Gamebred’ is always, will he. He has a bad, consistent habit of falling into whatever rhythm, range, and competitive arena his opponent is interested in offering. It’s especially notable when opponents want to hang back and not overpursue him. Give Masvidal someone high paced and aggressive and his technical skills really shine, give him someone looking to potshot from outside, and he’ll often let himself get out-worked. Till’s game isn’t very diverse, but it is dangerous, slow paced, and rangy. I get the feeling that will be just too easy for Masvidal to fall into matching on his way to a contentious split decision loss that he doesn’t understand. Darren Till by decision.
Staff picking Till: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Tim, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Masvidal: Victor
Gunnar Nelson vs. Leon Edwards
Mookie Alexander: I thought I’d enter this week picking Edwards. He’s proven he can fight at a five-round pace, he’s a quality striker without being an overwhelming offensive threat, and he has underrated grappling skills (ask Albert Tumenov). Nelson has tricky, karate-based striking and easily exploitable defense, but I don’t necessarily see Edwards as having the power to dissuade him from going for takedowns. And Edwards’ lack of finishing power has me skeptical that he can go the full 15 minutes keeping Nelson at bay, outstriking him from start to finish, and not getting into Gunni’s wheelhouse that is his submission grappling. It’s a really tough call, but I’m going with Gunnar Nelson by submission, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Nelson is a defined strike to submission finishing threat. He’s very fast, very focused, and almost totally lacking in round-winning process or defense. Leon Edwards is almost the opposite, in that he’s similarly well-rounded but far more process driven. In general, his gameplan selection for opponents has been excellent, and given a similarly dynamic strike to submission grappler in Vicente Luque he pressured him and shut him down quickly. Given how porous Nelson himself is in almost every area (includingly, concerningly, the ground against Alex Oliveira) he seems primed to get outworked. Edwards does tend to get tagged hard at least once in his fights, but it’s rarely early on, where Nelson tends to pick up most of his finishes. Leon Edwards by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Leon is the truth. Nelson has funky striking and tricky timing with an excellent submission game to pair it with. Unfortunately, the strength, athleticism and striking precision that Leon brings will give him fits. Unless Nelson lands a takedown first and chains things from there, this should be Leon’s to win or lose. Leon Edwards by TKO.
Zane Simon: This fight is definitely a chancy proposition for Nelson, who often banks on some combination of single power strikes and aggressive wrestling to overwhelm opponents who desperately want to avoid grappling with him. Edwards has the footwork and range tools and wrestling to potentially stay outside and stay upright, and make Nelson dive through open space time and again. But, Edwards is also not a comfortable middle distance striker and really seems to latch on to his wrestling as a core part of his fighting identity. I just don’t trust him to stay away from Gunni enough not to get suckered into a grappling match, either because he gets takedowns or gets taken down. And I think Nelson is just too dangerous on the ground to trust Edwards there over the distance, since (even with power in his single strikes) he’s not a great consistent finisher. Gunnar Nelson by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Nelson: Harry, Mookie, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Edwards: Nick, Phil, Victor, Shak, Stephie
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Dominick Reyes
Mookie Alexander: Reyes and Oezdemir are both fast starters, but Reyes showed against OSP he can pace himself and still be dangerous offensively and defensively responsible. Oezdemir’s gas tank is terrible, so I’m inclined to go with Dominick Reyes by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Aside from his forward volleys of offense, Volkan’s cardio has been really bad, and his game gets sloppy over time in a match that goes long. Reyes is good everywhere, and he can pack a punch while taking one as well. That and the lack of faith I have in Oezdemir’s grappling means I can only go with the prospect that’s shown to have more upside here. Dominick Reyes by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: Reyes looks like a young, athletic, and functionally skilled light heavyweight which means that fate has primed him to get embarrassingly booped into unconsciousness by Oezdemir. Should he manage to dodge the invisible furies which hover above every fight in this cursed division, he’s better pretty much everywhere, with clean footwork (he can pivot), straighter punches, and even a better gas tank. Dominick Reyes by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Parts of Oezdemir’s game have definitely been evolving, but there seems to be one massive gap in the middle of it. He came to the UFC as an uncomfortable boxer with a great clinch striking game and some good GnP from top control when he could force the fight there. Slowly, he’s become a much much more confident and capable pocket boxer, who can swarm opponents with long combinations. However, it seems to have come without any recognition for pacing or cardio. Notably, in his last two fights, Oezdemir’s hands have looked incredibly sharp... for about a round. Then he gasses out. Reyes isn’t the combination puncher that Oezdemir is, but he’s comfortable in every space; out at range, in the pocket, in the clinch, he has tools to hurt opposition and the confidence to let them go as needed. He’s maybe a little too willing to take a shot to land a shot inside, but so far he’s also been tough as hell. Oezdemir will likely make this a wild exchange early, but like Anthony Smith and Daniel Cormier, if Reyes rides out the storm, he’ll likely come out on top. Dominick Reyes by decision.
Staff picking Oezdemir: Harry, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Reyes: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Zane, Stephie
Nathaniel Wood vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez
Mookie Alexander: This should be a fun fight. I really like Nathaniel Wood’s upside as a prospect even in this stacked men’s bantamweight division. He’s a really well-rounded fighter who can finish the fight standing or on the mat. Quinonez is a good fighter but doesn’t seem to excel anywhere, and I think he’s physically outmatched by Wood. Nathaniel Wood by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Quinonez is my favorite kind of Mexican hipster, and he’s another guy that deserves a bit more credit than he gets. Unfortunately, this is a major step up from his previous opposition. Wood can be a terror, and his finishes are brutal. Quinonez will fall behind in the striking exchanges and won’t catch up, and that’s where it’ll fall apart for him. Sorry dude, but Wood is for real, and he’s coming for your lunch money. Nathaniel Wood by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be a ton of fun. Quinonez has been both a grinder and increasingly a high-volume gangle-striker. Wood is very much the next-gen protege of Brad Pickett, with a cleaner and more diverse striking game, but the same love for banging it out in the pocket and underrated wrestling and top game chops. The main differential here is sheer power: Wood can crack, and Quinonez has mostly relied on wearing people out with pace. I don’t think he can do that here. Nathaniel Wood by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Wood is a much more confident pressure fighter, whether he’s throwing combos to draw his opponent into exchanges, or just moving forward waiting on the counter. That matters a lot, since Quinonez is a decent range striker, but has a lot of trouble when he’s getting backed up. If Wood’s the one moving forward, Quinonez is likely to be the one getting hit. On the ground, both men are capable wrestlers and grapplers, but I trust Wood’s physicality a bit more. Nathaniel Wood via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Wood: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Zane, Tim, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Quinonez:
Danny Roberts vs. Claudio Silva
Mookie Alexander: Roberts is a more dangerous fighter but his game is such an unstructured mess at times that I just can’t trust him to win this one, and not against someone with superior grappling in Claudio Silva. Claudio Silva by submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Roberts is very good, but he’s not good at making adjustments as the fight goes on. Claudio is, and he’s got more than just his much-vaunted BJJ game to make things work. Claudio Silva by submission.
Zane Simon: This fight kinda runs as an interesting lower-tier parallel to the Nelson/Edwards fight above. A well rounded, powerful striker who uses an unexpectedly large amount of wrestling and grappling as a fundamental part of his game, against an aggressive pressure fighter who really wants nothing other than to take people down and submit them. Unfortunately for Roberts, where there’s a really clear path for a victory for Edwards, his own is much less easy to see. Roberts tends to plant his feet a lot, making him a prime target to get clinched up or taken down. And while he’s a good, competitive scrambler, Silva is the kind of crushing cling on to any body part at any cost grappler that’s only really beaten by just staying away. If Silva can get his hands on Roberts, he’ll probably make this a nightmare fight for him. Claudio Silva by submission, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Silva has had an incredibly bizarre, infrequent career which nonetheless is fairly impressive. Like his countryman Leo Santos he pops up once every blue moon to pick up a weird win, then disappears back into the shadows. Nordine Taleb may have finished Roberts in the standup, but he’s also a stronger wrestler and a more consistent round-to-round presence than Roberts, who can be a little capricious and fragile at times, and he couldn’t beat Silva. Given a consistent tank like Silva to contend with, I can’t be confident that he holds him off. Claudio Silva by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Roberts: Harry
Staff picking Silva: Nick, Fraser, Zane, Phil, Tim, Shak, Mookie, Stephie
Jack Marshman vs. John Phillips
Mookie Alexander: Marshman should win this on account of Phillips not being… well he’s not very good, is he? At least not good enough to justify staying in the UFC very long. I expect this to be a slobberknocker but for Marshman to have more tools in his stand-up to get the W. Jack Marshman by TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Weight shenanigans notwithstanding, there are certain SBGi guys I like but aren’t ready for a certain level of opponent. As good as Phillips is, I can’t pick him here. He’s got skills, but I don’t see him taking it here. Marshman’s got great timing and more varied striking with patient counters. Jack Marshman by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: There is really nothing particularly between these two men, as this is a mirror match of big punching Welsh brawlers with no ground games. Marshman perhaps has a bit more craft in his approach, but really it’s a coin toss which should be wondrous, hilarious fun to watch. Jack Marshman by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Marshman is definitely more skilled, but he may be less durable and less of a big puncher. So there’s about a 50/50 chance that either man just gets his clock totally cleaned in the first couple minutes. After that, however, Marshman’s better wrestling, grappling, and volume should swing the fight for him... just as long as he doesn’t get KO’d. Jack Marshman by decision.
Staff picking Marshman: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Zane, Tim, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Phillips:
Arnold Allen vs. Jordan Rinaldi
Victor Rodriguez: I feel like Rinaldi might actually play spoiler and use his wrestling to work a decision out of this one. Still can’t pick against Arnold, though. Does it make sense? Not completely. Whatever. Arnold Allen by decision.
Zane Simon: Rinaldi’s size and single-mindedness make him a bit of a wildcard at 145. He just wasn’t strong enough to implement his grinding wrestle-grappling game against lightweights, but at featherweight? It’s hard to tell outside of his debut success. Allen himself is pretty strong and well rounded, and absolutely pathologically aggressive at all times in all arenas. That should be enough to get him the win over an opponent who just isn’t that competitive a striker, but there’s a chance Rinaldi just hits reactive takedowns all fight and is too big to get swept. Arnold Allen by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Allen has been playing right on the edge for a while. He just about won the Amirkhani fight off cardio and activity, and was on his way to losing to Mads Burnell before picking up an (awesome) comeback submission. Rinaldi looked tremendous in his debut down at featherweight, and just given the way the triangle of Amirkhani-Knight-Allen played out, and how easily he beat Knight, I suspect that he can put Allen into the positions which Allen is used to scrambling out of, and keep him from escaping. Jordan Rinaldi by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Allen: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Victor, Zane, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Rinaldi: Phil, Fraser, Tim
Joseph Duffy vs. Marc Diakiese
Victor Rodriguez: Duffy has a better style for the long run and should be able to use his range and grappling more effectively. Diakiese is an exciting talent that I feel is getting rushed into bad style matchups. While he could win this one, it seems a more conservative style that doesn’t allow him the midrange against a fighter that doesn’t fall for spinning attack trickery won’t fare well for him. Irish Joe by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Duffy’s takedown defense is a major question mark here. While Diakiese isn’t the technical wrestler that Poirier, he is fond of hulking people to the floor and has a vast athleticism advantage over Duffy. Between his array of bizarre strikes and his grappling, Diakiese has a not inconsiderable chance of winning this. That being said, Duffy is a far more functional fighter and just a much better striker. This booking is still a puzzler, frankly. Joe Duffy by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Duffy is a very capable pressure fighter when he can find his way into the pocket. Vick made that prospect a nightmare for him, but Vick is a much more consistent rangy fighter than Diakiese who tends to fight in short offensive bursts, and otherwise share’s Vick’s habit of putting himself in terrible positions while backing up. Maybe Diakiese can find the KO shot, he’s got the power and we’ve seen Duffy’s chin get cracked. But, if he can’t, I’m not at all confident that he has the consistent volume to keep Duffy outside and keep his own back off the cage. Joe Duffy by decision.
Staff picking Duffy: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Zane, Tim, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Diakiese:
Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Saparbek Safarov
Victor Rodriguez: Nicu’s had some brutal finishes, but he’s also faced some turrible competition. That might be good for a confidence boost in regions with shallow talent pools. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna pick him against a guy that’s fought more legit guys and has a very consistent skillset despite not being the better athlete. Mi nah truss it. Saparbek Safarov by whatever.
Zane Simon: Negumereanu looks really raw and untested and like a fighter producing ugly wins with a super limited skill set against poor competition. But... Saparbek Safarov isn’t exactly a big step up. Safarov just doesn’t seem to have the physicality to be the wild man he wants to be at light heavyweight. Negumereanu doesn’t have much else, but that just may be enough. Negumereanu via TKO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: This is basically a “how much is UFC experience worth” fight. In the case of the big man divisions, it’s often quite a lot, simply because it often takes a fight or two to acclimate to the idea that you’re now fighting dudes that can stand up to one, two, or perhaps even three or more punches, and can fight for a full fifteen minutes. Negumereanu looks like a decent physical talent and Safarov is really just not very good, but don’t be surprised if Negumereanu gasses out and gets ground down. Nicolae Negumereanu by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Negumereanu: Nick, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Zane, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Safarov: Harry, Victor, Tim
Tom Breese vs. Ian Heinisch
Victor Rodriguez: I really want to pick Heinisch, because he’s apparently a great dude that’s been through a lot and his regional fights have had some true “holy shit” moments. I’m worried he might not handle a rangier striker with good hand and foot speed that isn’t a slow starter very well. Sorry, dude. Tom Breese by decision.
Zane Simon: Heinisch is tough as hell, has great cardio, and is clearly single minded in his offensive production. The question is, is that enough considering all the technical holes in his game. As a striker he really only throws and obvious right hand that’s pretty easy to time, especially for southpaws. He’s a good aggressive wrestler, but without diverse setups, a predictable one as well. And his habit of jumping for guillotines and pressing forward continuously, make him not all that difficult to take down himself. Still, he was able to break Cezar Ferreira with his toughness, pace and single-mindedness. I don’t think that’ll be enough against Breese, but it’s notable that Breese has had some outside the cage anxiety issues, things that Heinisch may test. Tom Breese via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This is a tough one. Heinisch’s performance against Ferreira had tinges of Hernandez-Dariush: a fight that he just shouldn’t have been ready for given his level of experience. In the end, I think Breese still has too much of a technical edge: too much of the Ferreira fight was Heinisch panicking Ferreira into shooting far too often and exhausting his gas tank. Breese should still just be much more of a patient, accurate range striker, assuming that he doesn’t get freaked out by Heinisch’s herky jerky movement. Tom Breese via unanimous decision.
Staff picking Breese: Harry, Mookie, Phil, Fraser, Victor, Zane, Tim, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Heinisch: Nick
Dan Ige vs. Danny Henry
Victor Rodriguez: Dan Ige is very good, but Henry’s the kind of cat that sees openings nobody else sees for his submission attempts. Danny Henry by submission.
Phil Mackenzie: Henry has already overperformed in the UFC, in part by being incredibly tough and opportunistic. It’s also a little hard to see just how good he is beyond that? Ige himself is absolutely rawhide tough. He packs less power but is a relentless wrestler, and I don’t trust Henry to be able to pull a comeback on him. Dan Ige by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Ige should be able to win this off his technical wrestling and grappling alone. Henry is a good scrambler and a tough as hell, busy boxer, but his wrestling is a major gap. However, Ige seems to have a bit of the Volkan Oezdemir problem. He fights like a house on fire right out of the gate, and then slows tremendously by the second round. Last time out, he rallied in the third, but if his gas tanks like that again this time, I think Henry will be right there to take over. Danny Henry via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Ige: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Fraser, Phil, Tim, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Henry: Victor, Zane
Molly McCann vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Victor Rodriguez: How goddamn dare you. Molly McCann by TKO.
Zane Simon: McCann doesn’t offer much beyond her reasonably slick pocket boxing, but Cachoeira doesn’t offer anything at all. If Cachoeira looked willing to pursue a takedown game or a range kicking game, I might pick her. But she loves chin up arms out brawling in the pocket and McCann just seems better at that. Molly McCann via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I think the UFC likes what they have with McCann, but have realized that it might be an issue if they book her against anyone with any semblance of a ground game. Cachoeira seemingly fits the bill. Molly McCann by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking McCann: Harry, Nick, Mookie, Fraser, Victor, Zane, Phil, Shak, Stephie
Staff picking Cachoeira: Tim
Mike Grundy vs. Nad Narimani
Victor Rodriguez: Grundy might pull out another amazing submission (his record is just chock full of them), but Narimani won’t go to the ground easily and can wear him down significantly while standing. Nad Narimani by decision.
Zane Simon: Narimani is a much better more consistent striker, even as a one-off power pot-shotter. However, his last loss came to someone who was just willing to aggressively pursue their own wrestle-grappling game. And Narimani doesn’t have the defensive footwork or perhaps even the willingness to avoid that kind of fight. Mike Grundy via decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This should be a really physical, fun fight. Mike Grundy has had the kind of world-travelling career you don’t necessarily expect of a regional British wrestler in this day and age, and has picked up some solid wins on the way. I largely echo Zane’s thoughts: Narimani is the better, more willing striker, but Grundy is just a better and more explosive technical wrestler. Mike Grundy by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Grundy: Mookie, Zane, Phil, Stephie
Staff picking Narimani: Harry, Nick, Fraser, Victor, Tim, Shak