The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC 278, and most of us (but not all!) are going with Kamaru Usman to defend his welterweight title against Leon Edwards. As for the co-main event, Victor Rodriguez is on his own as far as picking Luke Rockhold over Paulo Costa. Opinion also leans towards Jose Aldo to get the W over Merab Dvalishvili.
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 Zane Simon 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.
Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards
Anton Tabuena: Usman has been so great lately, and with him having significantly improved boxing and using his wrestling more in reverse these days, I don’t think the guy to beat him is a grappler or brawler hoping for one big shot. Usman doesn’t really dive for takedowns and employ a wrestling-heavy approach anymore — arguably due to injuries? — so to dethrone the dominant champion, I believe it has to be a guy who can really pick him apart on the feet where it’ll stay for the most part, and also be able to defend in the clinch and the occasional takedown. Is that Edwards? It’s still very tough to say, as Usman’s boxing and pace in the late rounds might give him issues, but I believe this is a far more interesting match up than any of his other title defenses. Can Edwards outpoint him from outside by showcasing his more dynamic kickboxing? It’s really hard to pick against Usman, but I think Edwards has the best chance out of all the welterweights right now. F—k it, I’m going with the upset. Leon Edwards by split decision.
Mookie Alexander: Leon Edwards is a very good fighter, but by not being a dynamic athlete, a serious finishing threat, or someone who can work a pace that forces Usman into some sloppy defense and punches I don’t see his path to victory. Edwards’ wrestling is underrated but Kamaru is a truly gifted wrestler with a punishing top game. Edwards might be the more technical striker than Usman and particularly at range, but he’s not very powerful and he’s also a lot more hurtable than Usman has ever shown. There’s also been a concerning habit of Edwards to struggle late in fights — Round 3 against Gunnar Nelson, Round 5 against Nate Diaz — that just isn’t going to fly against the champion. We’ve seen this matchup before and I don’t have much to see since then to dissuade him from picking Usman again. Kamaru Usman by decision.
Zane Simon: I’m not sure whether or not this fight will truly kick off and become something thrilling to watch, or just if it will stay at a low simmer the whole time, with both men testing and prodding for gaps in their opponent’s armor without opening themselves up to anything big in return. Either way, though, I’m not very confident of Edwards’ path to victory. Edwards has made his title run on the back of a crafty, sniping range striking game, heavy clinch strikes, and a shockingly rock solid takedown and counter-wrestling game to change things up. When he’s fighting at his best, he’s landing hard from outside, shifting into the clinch for a couple big knees or elbows, and then hitting a takedown to keep his opponent from getting any momentum. Because of his interest in takedowns, and because he often only throws one or two strikes at a time, his output is low and he rarely gets knockouts, even when he’s got a solid skill advantage. Against Usman, he’s meeting someone that will almost certainly not concede an inch in the wrestling game, and will use the clinch to push Edwards around and control him. At which point, Edwards’ best path lies through range striking, where he’s not a big KO threat and throws way, way less offense. If I assume Usman sees the final bell, then I gotta assume he’ll be busier all the way there. Kamaru Usman by decision.
Luke Rockhold vs. Paulo Costa
Anton Tabuena: Rockhold has to fight the perfect game here, land some shots on the outside and find a way to get him down to the mat. His highly underrated top game will surely lead to a finish from there, but can he even get a takedown before Costa can tough him up? Maybe, but the smart pick is still Costa since he really won’t need much to end this contest. Paulo Costa by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: This fight is dependent on how dumb Costa wants to fight and whether or not he will willingly engage in what Rockhold does best. Most likely Rockhold just crumbles once he gets hit really hard. That chin is cooked and Costa will catch him at some point. Paulo Costa by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Unless they got a new Luke Rockhold, this fight seems tailor made for Paulo Costa to go out and do something violent. Paulo Costa by KO, round 1.
Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Anton Tabuena: Why is Dillashaw getting a title shot off a highly disputed decision, a USADA suspension, and a KO loss, while Aldo is on a really impressive three fight winning streak? Someone please explain to me why a legend like Aldo needs four straight wins over younger killers before he gets his shot? Anyway, Dvalishvili is good, but I think if Father Time hasn’t caught up with Aldo and there’s no big drop off from his recent fights, this match up favors him. He’s the better striker, and this has been a style he typically feasts on. Hopefully he just gets the much deserved title shot after. Jose Aldo by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I’d give real thought to picking Dvalishvili over five rounds. Over three rounds I favor Aldo. I’m not really seeing too much of a drop in Aldo’s takedown defense at 135 compared to 145. He has seldom been controlled outside of when he was exhausted as hell fighting a grueling stand-up battle with Petr Yan. Dvalishvili is not exceptional at maintaining top position and unless he really just relentlessly spams the wrestling to great effect, Aldo is going to tag him. Merab’s a better striker than I think he’s given credit for but he still is ripe for a classic Aldo counter or two, and I can see him having some serious problems early when Jose is at his sharpest. Jose Aldo by decision.
Zane Simon: There’s a lot to like for both men going into this fight. For Aldo, the fact that Dvalishvili still doesn’t have much of a range game, but has been feeling himself more and more as a puncher lately is a huge opportunity. If Dvalishvili is going to try and feel out most of a round against Aldo, on the feet, entering the pocket with power hooks and uppercuts, Aldo has all the tools to make his reads and counter every bit as hard as Marlon Moraes did. On the flip side, Aldo’s takedown defense and wrestling in general seems to be missing a beat since his drop down to 135. And more concerning, when Aldo does get taken down, it often seems like the results are pretty draining for him. If Dvalishvili force Aldo to scramble right out of the gate, that feels a lot like a fight where he can just motor non-stop for 3 rounds and win. I’ll take that as the more likely outcome, but I expect we’ll know a lot more about how this fight is gonna go after the first minute or so. Merab Dvalishvili by decision.
Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova
Mookie Alexander: This is now on the main card for some reason. Why? Wu Lucie Pudilova by decision.
Zane Simon: Given that Pudilova doesn’t fight with the same unchecked aggression that she used to, and that Wu Yanan can’t help but have a brawl, there’s a good chance this fight gets a lot closer than it should. But, Pudilova has been adding some power and some craft to her game, and that should be enough to see her through a scrappy reintroduction to the UFC. Lucie Pudilova by decision.
Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker
Mookie Alexander: Pedro looked alright after not fighting for four years, whereas Hunsucker… isn’t good and gets stopped quickly at heavyweight. What’s he going to do at 205? Tyson Pedro by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: The only thing that feels less likely to succeed than a longtime light heavyweight moving up to heavyweight is a longtime heavyweight moving down to light heavyweight. Guys at 205 are too fast, too dynamic, and hit too damn hard. Tyson Pedro via KO, round 1.
Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov
Mookie Alexander: Tybura can often be a terrible starter and he’s managed to fight his way through that and get some comeback wins. If he starts slowly against Romanov he will not recover. Alexandr Romanov by hulk smash, round 2.
Zane Simon: More often than not, the first and only question that needs asking for a Marcin Tybura fight is ‘Can Marcin Tybura out-wrestle this dude?’ If the answer is no, then he’s probably not going to win. And it’s hard to think of a more obvious and clear cut bad matchup than someone like Alexander Romanov. Alexander Romanov by TKO round 2.
Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon
Mookie Alexander: Santos is 95 years old and he probably can’t keep a pace with Gordon. Jared Gordon by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Two or three years ago, I’d be picking Leo Santos here every day and twice on Sundays. His combination of snappy range power striking and lethal counter wrestling submissions seems like it’d be perfect to chew up a guy who has to have the pocket to get his kind of fight, like Gordon. Even still, I won’t be at all surprised if round 1 is absolutely brutal for ‘Flash’, after all he’s already been KO’d twice in round 1 by Brazilian grapplers with a surprising willingness to throw hands. But, at this point it seems time has fully reduced Santos to a one-round gas-tank fighter. At that point, I just can’t bank solely on him getting a quick KO. Jared Gordon via TKO, round 3.
Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana
Zane Simon: Two high volume featherweights. One who likes to kick a lot and one who likes to punch a lot. Could make for a really entertaining scrap. More than Saldana, however, Woodson seems to really love a fast-paced constantly trading battle of wills, and his technique holds up a lot better in those kinds of conditions. If Woodson can turn up the heat on Saldana, I think he’ll find a whole lot of openings to land clean punches. Sean Woodson via decision.
A.J. Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa
Zane Simon: This should be a slobberknocker. Both dudes are bricked up, both throw heavy shots, both have great chins, and neither man is blessed with a huge amount of striking defense. For Fletcher, he’s working on a pretty crafty wrestling & sub game to supplement his hands, but for as long as he’s at welterweight he’ll always be dealing with a significant reach disadvantage among his peers. Loosa, on the other hand, is taking the long slow road of a Hooft disciple, learning lots of good fundamentals, but with a game that still isn’t quite snapped into place. Expect Fletcher to start fast, but if he can’t get the finish, it could be Loosa pouring on all the offense in the third round. I’ll take Ange Loosa by decision.
Staff picking Fletcher: Anton, Mookie
Staff picking Loosa: Zane, Dayne, Connor, Stephie
Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo
Zane Simon: Even coming off that super slick kneebar, it’s hard to know just how Figueiredo is going to show up each time he hits the Octagon. He doesn’t have his brother’s brutal combination of strength and speed, and without those factors, his slow paced punching game is a lot chancier at 125. On the flip side, Albazi loves to work behind his jab and create a busy wall of strikes as he walks down opponents. Given his ability to keep his calm in the cage, I don’t expect he’ll throw himself into too many dangerous spots early. And if that’s the case, I expect he’ll be doing most of the round-winning. Amir Albazi by decision.
Staff picking Albazi: Zane, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Connor, Stephie
Staff picking Figueiredo:
Aoriqileng vs. Jay Perrin
Zane Simon: Given Aoriqileng’s love of wild violence and Jay Perrin’s heavy handed boxing, there’s certainly an opportunity for Perrin to pull out the win here. But despite his penchant for power punching, his limited style makes him a pretty predictable opponent, and hasn’t lead to a lot of KO wins, even on the regional scene. If Perrin can’t knock Aoriqileng out, it’s hard to see him keeping up with the Fight Ready talent’s variety and insane will to inflict damage. Aoriqileng by decision.
Staff picking Aoriqileng: Zane, Anton, Dayne, Mookie, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Perrin:
Daniel Lacerda vs. Victor Altamirano
Zane Simon: A tossup to see if Lacerda can tap Altamirano out before he wears himself out by putting every ounce of energy into every move he does. I’ll pick Lacerda to get the sub, but if he doesn’t, Altamirano is tough enough to make this fight really hard on him. Daniel Lacerda by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Lacerda: Zane
Staff picking Altamirano: Anton, Dayne, Connor, Mookie, Stephie