UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Gane staff picks and predictions

    The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for Saturday’s UFC 270 pay-per-view in Anaheim, CA, and we’re almost unanimously picking Francis Ngannou over Ciryl Gane in the heavyweight title main event. Only yours truly believes we’ll see a new champion right away. As for the co-main event, everyone except Victor Rodriguez is backing Brandon Moreno to take the trilogy over Deivson Figueiredo and remain men’s flyweight champion. To see the latest betting lines for these fights, head over to DraftKings SportsBook.

    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.

    Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane

    Anton Tabuena: This is such an intriguing fight. They have contrasting styles, but it’s also more interesting that they’re familiar with each other from their time training and sparring together. Gane should be the more technical fighter between the two, and has also shown movement and consistency in his game, even in the later rounds. He’s also extremely patient and not afraid to be in a low-output affair that fans don’t like, as long as he keeps winning rounds. This will be key to competing against Ngannou, as he not only has to remain patient, he pretty much has to be almost perfect early on. I can see Gane sticking to his game plan and slowly chipping away at Ngannou until he wears him out in the later rounds. If this was a similar match up at any other weight class, I’d pick that style any day, but at heavyweight I’m not so sure. I have a feeling that Gane will have his moments where he displays that footwork and slick striking that can make Ngannou look silly at times. But unless he truly dominates and hurts him, I’m guessing Ngannou will pressure and eventually find that one big shot that ends it. That familiarity between them likely favors Ngannou as well, as Gane typically relies on having a long early stretch where people will still need to figure out his tricks and adjust to his unique (for heavyweight) movement and distance management. I can see very realistic paths for both, but I’m going with Francis Ngannou by KO.

    Mookie Alexander: Alright, I’ll be the dissenting voice here. I don’t know what’s weirder: I’m the only one picking Gane or that Gane is currently the betting favorite. The smart pick is probably Ngannou because the improvements he displayed against Miocic suggest he absolutely did learn from that loss in ways we couldn’t actually conclude out of the rapid-fire KOs he’d been getting leading up to winning the title. We saw a more poised Ngannou who wasn’t firing off wild punches, and he showcased a jab as well as his defensive and offensive wrestling against Stipe. He’s comically strong and powerful and at heavyweight he can basically remain relevant for as long as he wants off of that. And yet… Gane is a totally different challenge, it feels like. He’s calm, accurate, works extremely well at range with a strong kicking game and seems to be able to dictate the pace of his fights on a consistent basis. I can see a scenario where Ngannou does get a bit impatient and eats some hard counters that put him in trouble. There’s also the possibility this fight just… isn’t good? It’s heavyweight, and it’s not like the Ngannou vs. Lewis or Gane vs. Rozenstruik fights didn’t happen. Ah well. I’m torn. Ngannou is more than capable of just shutting Gane’s brain off with one shot, but this might be one where Gane controls the terms of the contest and survives Francis’ best shots while doing enough to win rounds. Also, while largely irrelevant to the actual matchup, all of Ngannou’s talk about boxing Tyson Fury feels like tempting fate. Ciryl Gane by unanimous decision.

    Zane Simon: For me, this fight all comes down to a measure of Ngannou’s persistence and if what he showed against Miocic was a real measured improvement, or just a measure of his increased comfort with that specific opponent. If it’s the latter, and this bout really does become a battle between Gane’s range and footwork, and calm consistency against the possibility of a single Ngannou shot connecting well enough to KO him? That feels a lot more like a fight Gane can win. Even if he doesn’t freeze Ngannou into the kind of motionlessness that Derrick Lewis did, Gane has shown he can stay collected enough to peck away at an inconsistent puncher over multiple rounds. Still, I’m going to bank on the last Miocic fight being a real sign of a new layer in Ngannou’s game. The emergence of a jab, and even a little pressure footwork, some kicking—for a man with the unholy power that Ngannou has, just a semblance of these tools are a game changer. And Gane, for as deft and technical as he has been, hasn’t been immune to getting hit if his opponent is set of trading strikes. His win over Alexander Volkov felt like an easy coasting victory, but Volkov also landed 115 sig. strikes in that fight. Derrick Lewis threw almost nothing, but he landed 43%, Rozenstruik 40%. If Ngannou can put out 2/3rds the offense of Gane and land 40% of it? That feels a lot more like a fight where he lands the power shots to put Gane away. Francis Ngannou via KO, round 2.

    Staff picking Ngannou: Anton, Dayne, Zane, Victor, Stephie, Connor
    Staff picking Gane: Mookie

    Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo

    Anton Tabuena: This is obviously not a striker vs grappler match up as both are very well rounded, but I think either Figueiredo hurts him badly and just flat out stops him, or Moreno outgrapples him. Figueiredo relies too much on explosiveness and athleticism to scramble and escape bad situations on the mat, and as seen on the second fight, that’s a very dangerous game to play against Moreno. Figueiredo can (and has) landed several big shots in both fights, but he needs to be far more disciplined this time around. Not only on with his wrestling and jiujitsu, but by also being more patient on the feet where he doesn’t rush for knockouts as Moreno has shown that insane durability. Has his team drilled down all the small but crucial adjustments he needs in just a few months? I guess it’s possible, especially training with Cejudo and others now, but I’m not confident in picking him just yet until I actually see it. Brandon Moreno by Submission.

    Mookie Alexander: Figueiredo is always dangerous, but it’s surely discouraging for him to have thrown his best stuff at Moreno and Brandon withstood all of it. Moreno is less reckless, he’s got the power to hurt Figueiredo and his grappling and ability to win in scrambles has truly become outstanding. Above all else, Moreno’s strength was a real eye-opener and if Figueiredo doesn’t have the physical advantage, I think he struggles. Brandon Moreno by unanimous decision.

    Zane Simon: Brandon Moreno’s second fight with Deiveson Figueiredo was something of a revelation for me, in that it caused me to entirely reassess their first bout and the dynamic that ended up being the core narrative of that fight. My initial read was that Moreno/Figueiredo 1 showed that Figgy could hang with Moreno’s tempo for five hard-fought rounds, all while landing the bigger, harder shots. To my mind, if his cardio could hold up like that and he could push that much of a pace, the power made all the difference, this was a fight he would regularly be able to win. Instead, what the second fight proved was that Brandon Moreno’s ability to eat those shots, push forward, and remain undeterred was much more valuable than Figueiredo’s ability to deliver them. And when they met the second time, Moreno did well to fight behind his jab, making Figueiredo’s power counter style more difficult. And, when he initiated prolonged exchanges, it was his trust in his durability and scrambling that would eventually see him come out having either landed the better shots, or on top of his opponent on the mat. Figueiredo struggled hard to fight off an opponent he couldn’t deter with his power and strength. Could he adjust and win this 3rd fight? Yeah, definitely. There’s room to improve. But Figueiredo has always been able to rely on that strength and power, if Moreno can still take that from him, then I’ve got to come away feeling Moreno’s the more technical fighter just about everywhere. Brandon Moreno via submission, round 4.

    Staff picking Moreno: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Stephie, Connor
    Staff picking Figueiredo: Victor

    Michel Pereira vs. Andre Fialho

    Mookie Alexander: Wild shit is going to be thrown and Pereira is either going to win violently or gas and conceivably get stopped. Michel Pereira by KO, round 1.

    Zane Simon: As a pressure-infighting power-puncher Andre Fialho could, reasonably pick up a shocking short notice KO victory here. Pereira’s been beat many times before, even knocked out once, and has very clearly overlooked a few opponents in the past. But, the version of Pereira we’ve seen lately seems like a much more calm and controlled fighter. A man willing to work behind rangy jabs to set up his massive counter shots, and who will take any and every opportunity to dump his opponent on the mat where he can pound away at them without much fear of reprisal. Fialho has other tricks beyond power striking in his bag, but they all tend to come after opponents have already figured out that part of his game and how to beat him at it, at which point they’re also usually a lot less effective than they might otherwise have been. I think Pereira can solve that puzzle. Michel Pereira via TKO, round 2.

    Staff picking Pereira: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Victor, Zane, Stephie, Connor
    Staff picking Fialho:

    Cody Stamann vs. Said Nurmagomedov

    Mookie Alexander: Stamann is a real good fighter but he just doesn’t have the type of potent offense to trouble Nurmagomedov, who is the more creative striker and the faster of the two. If Stamann can’t get his wrestling going then it’s Said’s fight to lose. Said Nurmagomedov by unanimous decision.

    Zane Simon: This really is a very, very tough fight to call. I want to echo a lot of what Mookie has already said, namely that Stamann just doesn’t pack enough venom anywhere to truly put his stamp on a fight if he can’t totally control it, but he also did absolutely hang in nip-tuck with Song Yadong for a draw. The kind of performance that also means he can rarely be counted out of a fight either. And while Stamann has lost his bids to jump up into the top 10 at BW, I’m still not totally sure that Said Nurmagomedov has the physicality or consistency to be a top-10 guy himself. After all, Raoni Barcelos was able to out-brawl and out-wrestle him for a victory with tools Stamann could conceivably bring to the table. But ‘conceivable’ is doing a lot of work there, because Barcelos may have had his own setback in the UFC, but he has proven over the years to be a more powerful, punishing fighter than Stamann. And Nurmagomedov gave him hell all the way through. I’ve yet to be convinced that, against a fighter with a creative, dynamic game, Stamann can really command the cage. Said Nurmagomedov by decision.

    Staff picking Stamann: Stephie
    Staff picking Nurmagomedov: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Victor, Connor, Zane

    Trevin Giles vs. Michael Morales

    Zane Simon: I’m not even a little bit confident in Giles dropping to the welterweight division. I think his lax defense and low output will absolutely get him chewed up there in ways that MW mostly doesn’t deliver. But, I also don’t at all think Morales is the guy to do that. He looks like a good athlete with natural gifts for MMA, and he also looks totally unready for a big step up. He was very, very uncomfortable striking on the Contender Series, and reverted to a controlling top game that Giles is very likely capable of shutting down. Trevin Giles via decision.

    Staff picking Giles: Anton, Dayne, Connor, Zane
    Staff picking Morales: Mookie

    Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry

    Zane Simon: First, Barcelos deserved the win in his last fight. Second, he should be fighting in the bantamweight top 10 right now, top 15 at worst. Beyond that, Henry seems like a fun striker who might have a big moment or two, but should be in well over his head here. Raoni Barcelos via submission, round 3.

    Staff picking Barcelos: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Connor, Zane
    Staff picking Henry:

    Jack Della Maddalena vs. Pete Rodriguez

    Zane Simon: Much like Michael Morales, I really doubt Pete Rodriguez is seriously ready for a big step up in competition. His amateur career is a credit to him, but his pro fights so far have been against opponents all too obviously unready to deal with any kind of serious physical athlete in front of them. The first shots he landed in his fights were enough to crumple opponents. On the flip side, Della Maddalena looks like a rugged brawler coming into his element. He’s got a nice, body-head combination punching game, a good chin, and a bullying pressure style with lots of physicality to it. I expect he’ll put on a show here. Jack Della Maddalena via TKO, round 1.

    Staff picking Maddalena: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Connor, Zane
    Staff picking Rodriguez:

    Tony Gravely vs. Saimon Oliveira

    Zane Simon: Oliveira is a fun, steady-output power striker in the Thomas Almeida mold. If he can keep this standing against Tony Gravely, then Gravely’s lack of depth and willingness to put himself in danger could open up great opportunities for Oliveira as the fight goes on. That said, I don’t think Oliveira can keep this on the feet. Tony Gravely via decision.

    Staff picking Gravely: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Connor, Zane
    Staff picking Oliveira:

    Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez

    Zane Simon: There’s no really great reason to pick either woman here. Demopoulos has the look of a big power threat, and certainly can hit hard, but she also fights with the stiffness and tension of a person who isn’t all that comfortable in the cage. And, unfortunately for her, she also seems to have a guard grappling game baked into her style that means if a takedown doesn’t go her way, she’s willing to hang out on her back for extended stretches. Gomez Juarez is sort of an exact opposite, in that she seems like a very natural, fairly well schooled fighter, who just doesn’t have much natural physicality at all. Loopy Godinez was knocking her around the cage with every shot she landed. Demopoulos could do the same. But I think consistency will make all the difference in the end. Expect a fast start from Demopoulos, but if she can weather that, I’ll take Silvana Gomez Juarez by decision.

    Staff picking Demopoulos: Anton, Dayne
    Staff picking Juarez: Mookie, Connor, Zane

    Matt Frevola vs. Genaro Valdez

    Zane Simon: Valdez loves to push a frenetic wrestle-grappling game from the first second of his fights, and has a lot of wins catching people off guard doing just that. And Frevola has certainly been caught off guard before, with two notable first round (practically first strike) KOs. But those are both at the hands of big punchers. And I’m not convinced Valdez is that. Once those first moments of the fight are over, Frevola has been a notably durable, hard scrambling, rugged fighter in the UFC. He tends to thrive in the kinds of bouts that Valdez likes to have. Think this will be good for him. Matt Frevola via TKO, round 3.

    Staff picking Frevola: Mookie, Anton, Connor, Zane
    Staff picking Valdez: Dayne

    Kay Hansen vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius

    Zane Simon: Kay Hansen really does have a great deal of skill and athleticism. The bearing, aggression, and well rounded game of a real prospect. But, standing just 5’ 2” (5’ 3” by some sources) flyweight is going to be a real challenge if she can’t find ways to consistently assert herself technically over her opponents. I don’t think she lost her bout to Cory McKenna at all, but it does say something that she ended up giving up so many good positions to McKenna on the mat (and trading 1-for-1 standing) despite looking like the stronger, faster woman in the cage. If she’s going to take on fighters like Miranda Maverick, Maycee Barber, Erin Blanchfield, Casey O’Neill, or Manon Fiorot she’s going to have to be able to control at least one aspect of the fight consistently. That makes a battle against 5’ 7” scrappy GnP artist Jasmine Jasudavicius really interesting. If Hansen can get in first, hit takedowns and wind up on top, I think she can do enough to win the rounds. But if she lets Jasudavicius get bodylocks and find her own takedowns? She could easily end up trapped on her back for extended stretches. I’ll take Kay Hansen by decision, but this doesn’t feel like an easy fight for her.

    Staff picking Hansen: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Zane
    Staff picking Jasudavicius: Connor


    Who wins?

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      Ngannou and Moreno

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      Ngannou and Figueiredo

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      Gane and Moreno

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      Gane and Figueiredo

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    0 votes total

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