UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Ngannou 2 staff picks and predictions

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The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC Beijing, and everyone except Tim Bissell and Harry Davies is going with Curtis Blaydes to even the score with Francis Ngannou, and win their rematch in Saturday’s main event. As for the co-main event, most are going with Alistair Overeem to spoil Sergey Pavlovich’s UFC debut.

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.

Curtis Blaydes vs. Francis Ngannou

Mookie Alexander: Blaydes has improved at a quicker pace than Ngannou, and really it’s not just the timidity he showed against Derrick Lewis that concerns me, it’s how easily he gassed out in a couple of minutes against Stipe Miocic. He’s not comfortable leading exchanges in the first place, and when he came out with his hair on fire against Stipe he was damn near spent. Ngannou still obviously has serious fight-ending, life-altering power in him that could catch Blaydes and knock him out, but Blaydes’ game has looked much more put together in recent times. Just the leap alone from the Daniel Omielanczuk win to the way he rallied from a slow start and two knockdowns to dominate Mark Hunt tells you how far he’s come along. Blaydes will land plenty of takedowns, tire Ngannou out, avoid the big power punches, and get the W. Curtis Blaydes by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Blaydes and Ngannou was the rare matchup of genuine heavyweight talents, but Blaydes’ relentless aggression put him directly in the path of Ngannou’s incredible physicality and knack for odd counterpunches. Since then, Ngannou has been exposed somewhat in that neither his wrestling nor striking game are particularly deep past the first layers and he looked shellshocked against Lewis. Meanwhile, Blaydes has shown steady improvement. In particular, tighter pressuring footwork, patience, feints and throwaway jabs should allow him to defuse some of Ngannou’s defenses. In the end, it’s still a risky, tough matchup for Blaydes where he’s going to walk into the fire more than Lewis or even Miocic, but I honestly just can’t trust Ngannou and suspected that his progression curve was flattening out even back in the Overeem fight. Strange, dumb booking. Either destroy Blaydes’ momentum or announce Ngannou as a bust. Curtis Blaydes by TKO, round 4.

Zane Simon: I don’t hate this fight, it should be good, but it’s a bit hard for me not to feel like what it may really tell us isn’t who is the better fighter so much as it’ll tell us just where Ngannou’s head is at. Ngannou has always been terribly hard to hold down, and (at least early on) against Stipe Miocic he was hard to get down. He also seems like a much more confident puncher when he’s got someone trying to grapple with him, when he’s already in body contact with his opponent. But, the fight he fought against Derrick Lewis would get him beat by literally anyone in the UFC. Which isn’t to say that Curtis Blaydes hasn’t improved since their first fight. He has, dramatically. His sense of distance and timing is better. He’s reintegrated his wrestling with an improved striking game, but he also gets hit hard closing opponents down and has still been stiff when committing to big strikes in open space. There will be counters available for Ngannou if he can hit them. Whether or not he will is another story. Curtis Blaydes by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Regardless of which Ngannou shows up, is his wrestling really up to snuff to not get handled by an improved Blaydes? I’m not sure in an trust that, chief. Francis might stave him off early and spark him like he did to others, but there’s a better chance he gets dragged in a longer engagement and loses a decision to a guy with more volume and a more well-rounded game. Curtis Blaydes by decision.

Staff picking Blaydes: Nick, Phil, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Victor
Staff picking Ngannou: Bissell, Harry

Alistair Overeem vs. Sergey Pavlovich

Mookie Alexander: Pavlovich does like to work with one shot at a time, but he is reasonably quick for his weight class, has a deadly right hand, and when he does have someone hurt he likes to throw combination punching and the odd knee to the body or head. This could still be too much, too soon for the Russian prospect, but I’ve suspected since the Werdum fight at UFC 213 that Overeem has significantly eroded physically, and he’s had chin problems through literally every phase of his career. That’s essentially why I can’t pick him to win. Sergey Pavlovich by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Overeem has obvious experience and breadth of skillset advantages, but he’s also clearly starting to slow badly. At some point, athletic and powerful fighters will just clip him and put him away. Pavlovich is that, but he’s also very much a pot-shotter, which to me indicates one thing more strongly than it does an actual result: this fight is going to suck. Do you remember Overeem leading much in recent bouts? Me neither. Get ready for a lot of feinting, and quite possibly a decision where a few body and oblique kicks from the Reem are balanced against some jabs from Pavlovich and prolly Overeem getting dropped once. Overeem has tended to win those decisions so I’ll take him with some major trepidation. Alistair Overeem via unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: This fight could be a very tense, if not terribly fast paced, back and forth fight. There’s always a chance Overeem gets KO’d, and Sergey has some good one-shot power. But it really is just one shot at a time. Whether he’s throwing a counter left hook or leaping right hand or a low kick, Pavlovich doesn’t really have the footwork to string combinations together. It makes most of his fights slow paced kickboxing bouts, right until he catches someone. But, a fighter as experienced and these days, cautious, as Overeem is going to be hard to catch with just one punch. And if Pavlovich can’t do that, I’m more willing to bet on Overeem edging out close rounds. Alistair Overeem by decision.

Staff picking Overeem: Nick, Phil, Harry, Dayne, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Pavlovich: Bissell, Stephie, Mookie

Song Yadong vs. Vince Morales

Phil Mackenzie: This fight should be a banger. Morales is a well-schooled boxer who returns fire in combination and is rawhide tough. Yadong tends to build his approach, so there’s a chance that Morales can shock him by overwhelming his defenses early, but he’s also just a more athletic, powerful and diverse striker with a nasty ground game. Song Yadong by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Morales has a really fun, right hand happy counter-punching game, built on long strikes that draw out exchanges. Against a lot of guys I’d give him a really solid chance of winning. Song Yadong is not one of them. Yadong is blazingly fast, and backs that up by being incredibly tight and technical with his combination striking in the pocket. He has a great knack for slipping shots with small movements and returning much bigger ones. All backed up by an aggressive power clinch, power wrestling, and power ground-n-pound game. Morales may catch Yadong with some early success in the pocket, but I doubt he can consistently account for all Yadong’s tools or change up his strikes enough to keep Yadong from adjusting to his game. Song Yadong via TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Song: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Harry, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Morales: Victor

Li Jingliang vs. David Zawada

Phil Mackenzie: Another fight that should be a lot of fun. Neither of these guys know how to take much of a backwards step. Jingliang is eternally condemned to get hit incredibly hard early in fights, and Zawada is fight-everywhere aggression, who showed some promise in a tough short-notice matchup against Danny Roberts. However, he’s not the kind of nuclear puncher who seems likely to take the Leech out with his first salvo, nor the kind of speedster or defensive wizard to get in and out of Jingliang’s wheelhouse, and if you can’t do that you’re in for a long, wearing fight of him slinging right hands and leg kicks at you. Li Jingliang by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: There is a really serious chance that David Zawada can TKO Li Jingliang early in round 1. Jingliang tends to start fast with simple versions of his offense to read what his opponent is bringing back at him, and it usually means he gets clubbed hard before he can adjust in rounds 2 & 3. Zawada will almost certainly win the first with his relentless aggression and go anywhere at anytime style. But, I just don’t think he’s physical enough to continuously overwhelm Jingliang as Jinliang adjusts. Li Jingliang via decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Zawada is a great pickup for the UFC, and yet this seems like a waste. He’s got a good chance of submitting Li early, but Jangle Leg has strong strikes and a punishing wrestling game that wears anyone out. Li Jingliang by decision.

Staff picking Jingliang: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Harry, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Victor
Staff picking Zawada:

Kenan Song vs. Alex Morono

Phil Mackenzie: Weird fight. Both guys are a bit more dangerous and three-dimensional than their limited athleticism makes them look at first glance. Cut-rate Niko Prices, basically. That being said, Song likely has the slightly higher ceiling and actually appears to have made some strides at Jackson-Wink, which isn’t something you can say about many fighters nowadays. Kenan Song by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I really want to pick Morono here, just for his relentlessness and pace. Kenan was getting out landed 2:1 against Hector Aldana before catching Aldana leaping into a shot to KO him. And Kenan has been stopped before, so neither guy is going in with an air of invincibility. However, Kenan is coming in with the air of being a finisher. And, at least at the UFC level, Morono really hasn’t been. I’ll go with the off chance that Kenan Song can find another remarkable KO, over the chance that Morono’s messy pressure gets him a sub, or keeps him safe enough to take a decision. Song Kenan by KO, round 2.

Staff picking Song: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Stephie, Zane, Mookie, Victor
Staff picking Morono: Harry, Dayne

Rashad Coulter vs. Hu Yaozong

Phil Mackenzie: “Who is an actual bottom-tier UFC heavyweight” is the question here, and I guess the answer is “Hu”…? The actual answer may well be “both of them” though. Rashad Coulter by TKO, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m still not impressed with Hu, but my inability to trust Coulter leads me to pick him. Coulter’s at a size and reach disadvantage and isn’t the athlete he could be. His saving grace is Homer Simpsoning his way to getting Hu gassed and then making a comeback via sloppy boxing. No thanks. Hu Yaozong by decision.

Zane Simon: There’s no good reason to pick either of these guys, however, unlike heavyweight where they’re both migrating away from, success at light heavyweight is predicated largely on one thing, speed and athleticism. Yaozong Hu just isn’t notable better than Rashad Coulter anywhere, but he is notably slower. Coulter’s ridiculously limited skillset and poor fight IQ could still lead him into another loss, but I haven’t seen anything out of Yaozong that suggests he couldn’t lead himself right back out of a win. Rashad Coulter via TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Coulter: Nick, Phil, Harry, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Yaozong: Bissell, Victor

Liu Pingyuan vs. Martin Day

Phil Mackenzie: Pingyuan impressed me against Damian Stasiak, who is a tough three-dimensional fighter who has given a hard time to beasts like Pedro Munhoz. Martin Day is a rangy striker, but I don’t think he has the depth to his grappling game that Stasiak has, and Pingyuan should be able to exploit him there. Liu Pingyuan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m not sure that there’s really anywhere that Pingyuan Liu is more technical than Day. But he looks stronger and he fights with a lot more natural aggression. Day has a habit of waiting in open space to set up exciting strikes or see what his opponent is going to come after him with, and that should just be poison against a pressure fighter like Pingyuan who constantly looks to back opponents down and work them over in every phase. Pingyuan Liu by decision.

Staff picking Pingyuan: Phil, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Day: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Dayne, Mookie

Kevin Holland vs. John Philips

Phil Mackenzie: Kevin Holland! Giant extra-weird Alex Caceres! The man with the greatest UFC debut since… ever! This should be one of the best dumb fights, as Philips is a real throwback no-grappling, all punching European fighter. So he might just donk Holland in the face while Holland noodles around doing weird stuff. That being said, Holland was also very durable against Santos and while he didn’t exactly demonstrate that he is “good” at grappling per se, he was able to do things. Kevin Holland by submission, round 2.

Victor Rodriguez: Kevin’s been fun to watch for years, but his recent performances that got him in the door to the UFC have shown growth and development. Phillips is a good striker, but Holland’s a more dynamic athlete with good handspeed and movement. He’s also got better timing off his shots. Kevin Holland by TKO.

Zane Simon: This fight is going to be something else. If Holland wrestled with any kind of consistency, he could pretty clearly take Philips down and toy with him on the mat. But, Holland really doesn’t wrestle if he can help it. Which means he’ll likely spend a lot of time standing and dealing with a one-punch power-brawler that rarely makes it out of the first round win or lose. Even in that fight, I’ll take Holland’s absurd length and creativity and toughness to see him through bad spots and eventually exploit one of the many gaping holes in Philips’ game. Kevin Holland by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Holland: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Victor, Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Philips: Harry

Louis Smolka vs. Sumudaerji Sumudaerji

Victor Rodriguez: No technical analysis here. Total fanboy rules mean I’m rolling with the Hawaiian over the unproven Chinese striker. Fight me on this. Louis Smolka by submission.

Phil Mackenzie: Kind of a mirror match here between two noodly bantamweights. While Smolka’s lack of grappler strength will hurt him even more at 135, I think he won’t be quite as slow and vulnerable to getting cracked, and in general he’s tremendously dangerous from top position and remember the matra: “pick experience to win mirror matches.” Louis Smolka by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Every bit of logic tells me I should pick Smolka over the Chinese striker who loses by submission to every step up he takes. But, I’m calling this a coming out party instead. Smolka’s fight with Kyle Estrada just looked terrible. He looked slow, underpowered, and got absolutely hammered for a large portion of it before the doctor stopped the fight between rounds. Sumudaerji may be limited, but he looks like a technical, experienced striker that knows how to maintain the pocket and throw power at distance. If he can back Smolka up early and keep from giving up an easy takedown, this could be a brutally one-sided striking match. Sumudaerji via TKO round 1.

Staff picking Smolka: Nick, Phil, Harry, Stephie, Dayne, Mookie
Staff picking Sumudaerji: Bissell, Zane

Lauren Mueller vs. Wu Yanan

Victor Rodriguez: This is a nice step up for Yanan, and Mueller fights smart, hard, and is very coachable. Her work with del Fierro and the Alliance crew have led to improvements over time. Yanan’s gonna struggle with the clinchwork and wrestling, but is going to be a problem at range. I worry that Mueller may not be able to get her game off, losing most striking exchanges before she’s able to establish control. She’ll have to do a ton of work while she’s implementing her grappling and ground strikes. I’m not 100% confident she can do it, but even with my mind saying Yanan, I’m going with Mueller.

Phil Mackenzie: Some questions about how Wu handles the cut- she gassed badly against Mazany, but was also significantly outsized and outgrappled. This should be a bit more of a comfortable style matchup for her (like many of the WMMA fighters on this card, it figures to be a range kickboxing match), but Mueller can maintain a higher pace and just figures to be a slightly better athlete. Lauren Mueller by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I really don’t like how much trouble Mueller had getting to and creating offense from the clinch against Dobson. It’s the backbone of her high-energy style. But nothing about Yanan Wu getting handled by Gina Mazany makes me think that she’s going to have an easy answer to Mueller’s pressure and consistency down at 125 lbs. Lauren Mueller by decision.

Staff picking Mueller: Nick, Phil, Bissell, Harry, Victor, Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Yanan:

Zhang Weili vs. Jessica Aguilar

Phil Mackenzie: Common theme: The Chinese fighters have followed on from their LatAm brethren and have suddenly started showing up looking way, way better and more consistent than they did in the past. So, it’s possible to see why Weili is a favourite over Aguilar after her impressive performance against Danielle Taylor, albeit not at quite the insane (-400ish) levels that she is over the former consensus best strawweight in the world. Aguilar was able to take down powerful athletes like Cortney Casey, and I guess I have to see that wrestling game from Weili before I believe in it. Jessica Aguilar by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: The thing with Aguilar is, for as alright a busy boxer as she can be and for as very good a lockdown grappler as she can be, she’s always had trouble finding the wrestling connection between the two. And it’s led to fights where she’s been forced to spend almost all her time standing and pressure striking into the cage to control rounds. Weili Zhang just seems like too capable a kickboxer for that. Too able to maintain range with footwork and match Aguilar (or even exceed her) for output. It’ll likely be a gritty fight, with neither woman finding a punch big enough to finish it, but with Aguilar pushing forward enough to keep Weili working hard. Provided Aguilar can’t find her takedowns, Weili Zhang by decision.

Staff picking Zhang: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Aguilar: Phil, Stephie, Mookie, Victor

Syuri Kondo vs. Yan Xiaonan

Victor Rodriguez: I’ve seen way better against tougher opposition out of Kondo than I have from Xiaonan, and Xiaonan’s defensive lapses will show heavily here with Kondo’s control and speed. Syuri Kondo by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Kondo is tough and game, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that she’s a mediocre, plodding athlete. I was reasonably impressed by Xiaonan’s win over Pereira, as she showed the kind of patient accurate outside striking game she’ll need here. Should be competitive if not particularly interesting? Yan Xiaonan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Much like the Aguilar fight (although much moreso) Syuri Kondo has volume and pressure, but very little in the way of firepower to put fear into a more high output, well trained striker. Xiaonan holds her chin up high and isn’t exactly a one-punch killer. But she throws with a lot of speed and consistency and is just that much better than Syuri standing. And I don’t see enough easy ways for Syuri to get this fight to the mat. Yan Xiaonan by decision.

Staff picking Kondo: Victor
Staff picking Xiaonan: Nick, Bissell, Harry, Phil, Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane

Poll

Who wins the UFC Beijing main event?

  • 43%
    Blaydes by stoppage

    (17 votes)

  • 30%
    Ngannou by stoppage

    (12 votes)

  • 17%
    Blaydes by decision

    (7 votes)

  • 5%
    Ngannou by decision

    (2 votes)

  • 2%
    Draw/NC/DQ

    (1 vote)

39 votes total Vote Now

Source : https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2018/11/23/18109135/ufc-fight-night-blaydes-vs-ngannou-2-staff-picks-predictions