The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for Saturday’s UFC Vegas 54 event, and we’re pretty even on the main event between Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic. As for the co-main we’re leaning towards Ion Cutelaba over Ryan Spann.
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 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.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Mookie Alexander: This is a well-matched fight that’s difficult to call. It could be a bit slow paced with a lot of single shots thrown by both men, neither of them content to lead. Blachowicz hits a little bit harder and has better boxing. Rakic has dangerous kicks but he’ll have to contend with Big Jan’s body kicks and Blachowicz isn’t easy to kick to pieces. I do worry about Jan’s neck problems and Rakic being a little quicker than him, but in terms of just a pure numbers game I suspect that Blachowicz will have more convincing round-winning offense than Rakic. I don’t expect this one to go to the ground too much, but if it does I favor Jan… and even that’s tough because Rakic has seldom been taken down or held down. Jan Blachowicz by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I won’t lie, I’m worried that Jan is going to just get swamped by Rakic’s size and willingness to grind for five rounds. But, for now, I’m gonna hold out hope that that’s not what happens and instead they have the kind of slow, cautious kickboxing bout that Rakic largely had with Thiago Santos. A fight Santos really could have won if he hadn’t become quite so risk averse in these last couple years. Blachowicz isn’t so risk averse quite yet. And he’s also a masterful kick defender. If Blachowicz can stymie Rakic’s kicking game, I think he can do enough to win kickboxing exchanges and take rounds. But no matter what, this fight will likely be slow. Jan Blachowicz via decision.
Staff picking Blachowicz: Mookie, Zane, Connor
Staff picking Rakic: Stephie, Dayne
Ryan Spann vs. Ion Cutelaba
Mookie Alexander: I don’t feel comfortable picking this fight. Cutelaba has actually been daring to go the distance lately, but the general idea with Ion is that he’s a fast starter. Spann can be a fast starter in his own right, and both men are also prone to getting stopped early. The longer this fight goes the more likely this fight favors Spann. Cutelaba has the edge in power and I think if he gets Spann to engage with him it’ll put Ryan in a world of trouble. I’ll bank on that but it’s distinctly possible Cutelaba tires, gets put on his back and submitted. Ion Cutelaba by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Both men have gaps the other can exploit in just about every area of their game. Most notably, if Spann can hit takedowns on Cutelaba, he can probably take real advantage of the ‘Hulk’’s lackluster sub defense. But, unfortunately for Spann, he’s not a very accurate takedown artist. I think that’s largely down to his discomfort trading in the pocket and the fact that he has to start most of his takedown attempts either form way outside, or once he’s already in the clinch along the cage. Cutelaba may not be the most defensive boxer on the planet, but if he can stay in Spann’s face, I think he can take real advantage of Spann’s discomfort there. Ion Cutelaba via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Spann: Stephie
Staff picking Cutelaba: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Connor
Davey Grant vs. Louis Smolka
Mookie Alexander: Since coming back to the UFC, Smolka has become the rare lighter weight class fighter who now gets finished in losses and gets finishes in wins. He’s always had a high finish rate, but now he’s gone from dropping decisions at flyweight to getting dusted quickly at bantamweight. Davey Grant is a crafty, aggressive grappler (like Smolka) but he’s got a pronounced advantage on the feet and the power to put Smolka away. Davey Grant by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I like Louis Smolka a lot, and if he can make this a real scrambling, wrestle-grappling fight, who knows? Maybe he can pull out a submission. Much more likely though, that he gets slept by a huge hook coming from a weird angle standing. Davey Grant via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Grant: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Connor
Staff picking Smolka:
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas
Mookie Alexander: HUT HUT HUT. HUT HUT. HUT!!!!!! HUT!!!!! Katlyn Chookagian by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I really just don’t think that Ribas has the size to take Chookagian off her game easily. Either to fight her from range, or hit easy takedowns, or hold her down once she’s on the mat. It’s far too easy for me to see Chookagian surviving a couple early clinch takedown attempts and turning this into a volume footrace to the final bell where Ribas can’t keep up. Katlyn Chookagian by decision.
Staff picking Chookagian: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Ribas: Connor
Frank Camacho vs. Manuel Torres
Mookie Alexander: Would love for Camacho to win after suffering that scary car accident awhile back that’s kept him out of action, but he’s been on a bad run even pre-accident and I feel like the upstart Torres may be catching him at the right time. Manuel Torres by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: I love Frank Camacho, and the longer he makes this fight go, the better chance that he absolutely schools Torres. But, I’m gonna hedge that the young guy with a knack for quick finishes finds one against the slow starter notorious for getting finished quickly. Manuel Torres via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Camacho: Stephie, Dayne, Connor
Staff picking Torres: Zane, Mookie
Jake Hadley vs. Allan Nascimento
Mookie Alexander: Unranked flyweights on the main card?! What is this sorcery?! Jake Hadley by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Should be a very fun, very equally matched fight. Both men love to grapple, both are willing to throw with speed and power standing without fear of the takedown because they love to grapple. Nascimento might be the more creative, attacking submission artist between the two of them, but he’s also the more willing to play a guard game off his back. It’s lost him a few fights before, I’ll pick it to be the difference here as well. Jake Hadley via decision.
Staff picking Hadley: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Hadley
Staff picking Nascimento: Dayne
Ranked fights on the prelims
Viviane Araujo vs. Andrea Lee
Mookie Alexander: If you made this fight two years ago I’d pick Araujo without much hesitation. At this point, knowing Araujo’s questionable cardio and Lee’s more consistent offensive output, I feel like Araujo will start out strongly but Lee is gonna pull away late. Andrea Lee by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Araujo will likely make this a very fun, close fight, at least for a round, maybe two. But if Lee’s recent form is anything to judge by, she’s found a serious groove as a high output striker in a way that she never quite used to be able to manage. Lee tends to be tough to submit, even if Araujo can hit takedowns. At which point, I’ll take Lee to keep upping the pace and pressure until Araujo starts to fade. Andrea Lee by decision.
Staff picking Araujo:
Staff picking Lee: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Connor
Virna Jandiroba vs. Angela Hill
Mookie Alexander: Hill is very clearly the better striker but it’s way too hard to ignore that even with her improved overall game the frequency in which she gets overpowered and outgrappled. Jandiroba is a terrible matchup for her because if Hill wants to work the clinch, Jandiroba is well positioned to get her to the mat. If it’s at range she might get more than a few strikes off but Jandiroba is more than capable of taking her down off a level change. Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Too much of Hill’s successful offense runs either through dominating the clinch or getting takedowns. Against fighters who can wrestle even a bit, that means she pretty much always ends up getting taken down, even when her opponent isn’t way more physical than she is. Virna Jandiroba via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Jandiroba: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Connor
Staff picking Hill:
110 votes total