It’s the first UFC PPV of the year and the first UFC event of any kind in Brazil since March 2020. The Brazilian fans are being treated to two title fights featuring their countrymen and plenty of other opportunities to scream ‘Uh vai morrer’.
Beyond the title fights there are lots of intriguing match-ups. Some have divisional relevance (see Gilbert Burns vs. Neil Magny), whereas others are just plain fun (see anything involving Gregory Rodrigues). We also have the ‘Shogun’ Rua retirement fight headlining the prelims.
The BE staffers have poured over the match-ups, stats and footage (or have flipped a coin) to pick who they think will win at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio on Saturday night. You can see the picks below, minus the title fights, which are befitting of their very own article.
The staff is near unanimous in their thinking that Burns will rebound from his loss to Khamzat Chimaev to ruin Magny’s trip to Brazil. When it comes to Shogun, we’re split with half the staff thinking he’ll go out on top and the other fearing that his retirement may have come one fight too late.
Check out the other picks below and don’t forget to add yours in the comment!
Gilbert Burns vs. Neil Magny
Anton Tabuena: Burns has made massive strides to his game that it’s hard to imagine he ever started with a (world class) BJJ base, but he still gets way too wild and lacks a bit of composure on the feet at times. That can spell bad news if Burns can’t hurt and finish him early, as I can see the very underrated Magny taking advantage of openings with his veteran poise — and reach. I think this could be a lot closer than how oddsmakers have it now, but since it’s a bout that can conceivably go either way, I’m going with the more potent finisher. Gilbert Burns by TKO.
Zane Simon: These are just the kinds of fights that Neil Magny doesn’t win. Sluggers, wrestlers, and lockdown BJJ grapplers have all given Magny fits at times, and Burns is all three. Gilbert Burns via submission, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: I don’t like Magny, I love the guy. He’s quirky and annoys opponents, and there’s just something great about watching other guys get flustered dealing with him. But Burns closes distance effectively, lands bombs up close, wrestles effectively and has a truly elite grappling game. And Magny might be crazy enough to pull something from his bag of tricks to get the win, but I just can’t envision what that would be. Will he have the opportunity to even get to top position on the ground, or to secure the clinch to punish Gilbert inside? Looks iffy, and I can’t trust iffy against Gilbert Burns. Gilbert Burns by TKO.
Staff picking Burns: Eddie, Bissell, Lewis, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Magny: Chris
Jessica Andrade vs, Lauren Murphy
Anton Tabuena: Murphy is 39 and not exactly the fastest fighter, and I think Andrade just overwhelms her completely with her physicality. Jessica Andrade by TKO.
Zane Simon: If Murphy can stop Andrade from taking her down, I could see her having something like Angela Hill’s fight with Murphy, where being tough and rugged in prolonged exchanges makes this fight surprisingly close. If she can’t stop Andrade from taking her down, then bad things seem likely. Either way, though, I don’t trust Murphy to push enough of a pace against this level of powerful athlete. Jessica Andrade by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Murphy’s done so much to improve her technique and her athleticism, but it ultimately may not be enough here. She hustled hard against Miesha Tate to shut down her wrestling and outworked Joanne Wood in the striking department. True, neither of them was in their prime, but it was the way she did it. Will that be enough against a wrecking ball that can fight smart, take damage and push a punishing pace? Probably not. Gotta go with the fresher harder hitter with the speed advantage and industrial-strength grappling. Jessica Andrade by submission.
Staff picking Andrade: Bissell, Eddie, Chris, Lewis, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Murphy:
Paul Craig vs. Johnny Walker
Anton Tabuena: If Walker can’t land big very early, he’s getting outworked and Craig will make him look bad. I doubt the former happens with his more reserved — or should I say restricted — style lately too. Paul Craig by Submission.
Zane Simon: Really should be Walker’s fight to take on pure size and power, but it seems like destiny that he’ll make at least one absurdly wrong move. Just the kind of thing that Craig has created a career out of pouncing on. My one real fear here is that Walker might just be too big for Craig to submit off his back. He really is a giant LHW. But I’ll still go with the guy who I trust to show up with a set plan in mind. Paul Craig via submission, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: God, what an ugly mess. These two love to get sloppy, although Walker — and I really have to give SBGi a ton of credit here — has shown a fair amount of growth and sorely-needed restraint. Craig can only have so many performances where he takes a ton of hits before his opponent wears himself out or he turns the tables with a Hail Mary, and this newer (and perhaps less fan-friendly) version of Walker might have the necessary tools and gameplan to shut him down. While it’s true we haven’t seen a whole lot of Walker’s grappling and Craig is a submission threat from everywhere, meh. I’m going with the rangier and more patient guy. Johnny Walker by decision.
Staff picking Craig: Chris, Bissell, Lewis, Anton, Kristen, Zane
Staff picking Walker: Eddie, Dayne, Stephie, Victor
Mauricio Rua vs. Ihor Poteria
Anton Tabuena: I will probably be wrong, because MMA is depressing and there are no happy endings, but I won’t pick against Shogun in his retirement fight. He’s a shell of himself, especially with his speed and mobility, but power is the last to go, and hopefully he somehow finds a way to counter and land big. Shogun Rua by brutal KO.
Zane Simon: Shogun hasn’t been the man he was early in his career for what feels like a decade now, but lately it feels like he’s really missing any of the dynamic hand speed that continued making him a threat these past few years. Without that, and against a young, big, durable LHW with everything to prove, I can’t pick Rua. Not even for sentimentality’s sake. Ihor Poteria via TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Shogun announced his intent to retire, but the UFC insists on killing guys off on their way out for no reason. Was there no other more competitive match for them? Do they have to do this “young slaughter the old“ gimmick every time? Nate Diaz caught a lucky break and ended up facing Tony Ferguson to ride off into the sunset with a win. Shogun won’t have that luck. But much like Nate, I hope he pulls the win off as something of a middle finger for booking this morally atrocious bout. Sentimental old guy pick incoming: Shogun Rua by knockout for old times’ sake.
Staff picking Rua: Chris, Lewis, Anton, Kristen, Victor
Staff picking Poteria: Bissell, Eddie, Dayne, Stephie, Zane
Gregory Rodrigues vs. Brunno Ferreira
Zane Simon: Ferreira clearly has a puncher’s chance. Rodrigues won’t avoid a fire fight with him, and he’s got the confidence and powerful physique to make some things happen if Rodrigues isn’t careful. But he’s also giving up 5 inches of height, a bunch of reach, and technical acumen everywhere. Gregory Rodrigues via KO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Aside from the current champ, Gregory is the only middleweight I’ve truly been super excited to see move up in the UFC. Brunno’s tough, but his boxing doesn’t have the same polish and he’s not as patient on the ground. Violent Obama by KO.
Staff picking Rodrigues: Eddie, Chris, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Ferreira: Bissell
Thiago Moises vs. Melquizael Costa
Zane Simon: Honestly, this feels like a bit of a trap fight for Moises, who is all too happy and willing to let opponents dictate range and pace and pressure to him. Costa is a nicely experienced action fighter, with great snap in his kicks and the ability to compete everywhere. If he can just stay at distance and put out volume, he might just chew Moises up. But, last time Costa fought on short notice, he went with a clinch-heavy stalling style and lost out on wrestling and takedowns. That’s a game Moises can repeat, along with some sharp counters along the way. Thiago Moises via decision, but he’ll need to mind himself all the way through.
Victor Rodriguez: (Flips a coin, stares at it, takes another swig of whiskey) Sure, why the hell not? Thiago Moises by whatever.
Staff picking Moises: Eddie, Chris, Bissell, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Costa:
Gabriel Bonfim vs. Mounir Lazzez
Zane Simon: I guess I’m a little confused about what the big upside here on Bonfim is. He’s got a decently well-rounded style, but the biggest component of his DWCS victory seemed to be his opponent jumping guillotine on him after tagging him up regularly in standup exchanges. Lazzez has his faults, but is a really well composed, sniping striker. I’m prepared to be surprised by Bonfim, he’s young and undefeated. But if he can’t take Lazzez down early and often, it seems like he’s gonna get picked apart here. Mounir Lazzez via decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Strong agree with Zane here, Lazzez just has more signs of being the better developed talent at this stage of their careers. Plus, he can do a lot from pretty much anywhere. Can’t pick against that. Mounir Lazzez by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Bonfim: Eddie, Bissell, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie
Staff picking Lazzez: Chris, Zane, Victor
Jailton Almeida vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Zane Simon: Seems like Abdurakhimov’s durability has taken a hit lately, along with what footspeed he used to have. That leaves him in a pretty bad position against a wrestle-grappler like Almeida who can land some big overhands too. Jailton Almeida via TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Waitwaitwaitwaitwait… Shamil’s still in the UFC? After three straight losses, all finishes, all due to strikes? And he’s up against (checks notes) a guy with a ton of finishes and most of them being rear naked chokes? Oh, the guy is also (squints hard) one of the most promising heavyweights and perhaps the best submission specialist in that weight class since Werdum or Big Nog? Fam… if there’s a hell — a real and totally not metaphorical one — somebody’s going straight to hell for booking this shit, I swear. Just send Shamil to a monastery in Cochabamba, it’s much more humane than this. Jailton Almeida by (what else?) rear naked choke (duh).
Staff picking Almeida: Eddie, Chris, Bissell, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Abdurakhimov:
Terrance McKinney vs. Ismael Bonfim
Zane Simon: Unlike his bigger, younger brother, there’s a lot more technically going on that I like about Ismael Bonfim. He’s a really sharp puncher, with some decent power and a great chin. He has one submission loss to his career, nearly a decade ago to Renato Moicano, but otherwise has never been stopped. McKinney is unquestionably faster and almost certainly a better wrestler, but even Sean Woodson was able to knock him out just by making it to the second round after McKinney burned through his gas tank. Has McKinney really changed or grown since? So far he’s still a guy who wins in the first few minutes or falls to pieces. I’ll take Ismael Bonfim to survive and pick up the third round TKO. Ismael Bonfim via TKO, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: McKinney still has a knack for sensational finishes and Bonfim isn’t immune to what he does well. Terrance McKinney by submission.
Staff picking McKinney: Eddie, Chris, Anton, Kristen, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Bonfim: Bissell, Dayne, Zane
Warlley Alves vs. Nicholas Dalby
Zane Simon: I’d love to see Dalby win this, and if he doesn’t get finished, I think he’ll very likely win the third round. The trouble will likely come early on, since Alves is a brutally powerful fighter, especially early in bouts and Dalby just… isn’t. Could easily be the kind of fight where Alves wins round 1, Dalby round 3, and round 2 is a tossup. I’ll take Alves to win that fight since I think he’ll be doing the most damage. Warlley Alves by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Dalby isn’t just a slow starter, he seems to stutter offensively and run out of options against more varied strikers. Alves has a ton of power, a bit more polish on his boxing, and squeezed the decency out of Colby Covington’s neck. Dude has options, and I have to respect that. Warlley Alves by TKO.
Staff picking Alves: Eddie, Bissell, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane, Victor
Staff picking Dalby: Chris
Josiane Nunes vs. Zarah Fairn
Zane Simon: What the hell, she’s 6 inches taller, with 6 inches of reach, and Nunes couldn’t put Ramona Pasucal away. Zarah Fairn by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Rough. Neither is a particularly bad fighter, but neither is ready for primetime. At all. You want a featherweight division made in a rush? Congratulations, this is what you end up with. I’m so glad I don’t watch any of this live, how do you people live with yourselves? Josiane Nunes by decision, I guess?
Staff picking Nunes: Eddie, Chris, Bissell, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Nunes
Staff picking Fairn: Zane
Luan Lacerda vs. Cody Stamann
Zane Simon: Feels like a pretty disrespectful booking for Stamann who has been a clear top 20ish fighter in the UFC for a few years now. Lacerda has some legit skills, powerful kicks, and a strong sub game, but Stamann is a big step up and a very tough fighter to damage, much less finish. Cody Stamann by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: So Stamann… I mean, what is this booking? Doesn’t seem last minute, they just sort of cobbled this together? Who did Lacerda piss off to get here? Whatever. Cody Stamann by decision.
Staff picking Larceda: Chris
Staff picking Stamann: Eddie, Bissell, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane
Daniel Marcos vs. Saimon Oliveira
Zane Simon: Oliveira seems like he does a lot of the same stuff Marcos does, but with better technique and more aggression. Saimon Oliveira via submission, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Don’t even remember seeing either guy in the UFC. That’s even funnier or more tragic when you realize I did the Contender Series preview scouting for both of these guys. Hell of an operation they’re running. Daniel Marcos by decision.
Staff picking Marcos: Chris, Bissell, Victor
Staff picking Oliveira: Eddie, Anton, Dayne, Kristen, Stephie, Zane
165 votes total
Week 2 Standings
|Week 1 Record
|Week 1 Record
Dayne Fox ran the table last week going a perfect 11-0 and putting himself first place in the standings. Let’s all celebrate that and ignore my awful showing in week one. Chomping at Dayne’s heels are last year’s champ Zane, along with Stephie and Eddie who went 9-2. Eddie is one of a few staffers who are joining in the fun this year to make this the most competitive staff picks season to date!
About the author: Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. (full bio)