UFC on Fuel 7: Bleacher Report MMA Main Card Staff Predictions

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterFebruary 15, 2013

UFC on Fuel 7: Bleacher Report MMA Main Card Staff Predictions

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    The UFC is back in jolly old England, where Wembley Arena plays host to the first-ever championship fight on Fuel TV. Sure, Renan "Barao" Pedago is just the interim bantamweight champ, but who are we to quibble? A title fight is a title fight.

    Standing across the cage from the young Brazilian star, who won his title belt against fading pioneer Urijah Faber, is 22-year-old Michael McDonald.

    A teenage prodigy who started his professional career before he even graduated high school, McDonald has a powerful right hand he will use to try to put Barao to sleep.

    But the champion trains daily with featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. He's been through the fire many times and will be hard to impress.

    Although big names are scarce, the undercard is packed with young European prospects and fights that, if our experts are any judge, are too close to call. The picks are all over the map here, which usually indicates a good job of competitive matchmaking.

    Click on to see our picks. Disagree? Shout at us in the comments.

Che Mills vs. Matt Riddle

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    John Heinis: Mills has pretty underrated striking, but his grappling game is pretty poor, and Riddle is a wrestler with relentless pressure and an iron chin. Even if Mills tags Riddle on an occasion or two, he won't have any answers for his takedowns. To be honest, I'm shocked anyone can pick Mills here.

    Riddle, unanimous decision.

    Scott Harris: Riddle seems to be a people pleaser. In the cage, that can translate to recklessness, which would be a problem against Mills. Nonetheless, I think Riddle will prevail and down the Brit in front of what will presumably be a decidedly anti-Riddle crowd.

    Riddle, split decision.

    Sean Smith: If Riddle takes this fight to the ground, he'll have a good chance at continuing his run of victories. However, Riddle tends to stand too long with opponents who are more skilled on their feet than himself, and that would not end well against a finisher like Mills.

    Mills, TKO, Round 1.

    McKinley Noble: Riddle's definitely a tough nut to crack, but his main problem is that he thinks he's some kind of phenomenal striker, and he isn't. Mills is patiently going to land damaging shot after damaging shot over three rounds, putting Riddle on medical leave.  

    Mills, unanimous decision.

    Jonathan Snowden: I liked Matthew Lilliard in "Scream," but for some reason there's something about Riddle's face that rubs me the wrong way. Is that a good basis for picking a fight result? We're about to find out!

    Mills, KO. 

    B/R Predictions: Mills (three), Riddle (two).

James Te-Huna vs. Ryan Jimmo

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    McKinley Noble: Is Jimmo still a member of the Blackzilians? That can't be good. He looked impressive in his KO win over Anthony Perosh, but you can't win me over with anything that lasts seven seconds.  

    Te-Huna, TKO, Round 1.

    Sean Smith: Te-Huna and Jimmo are both riding impressive winning streaks and are looking to become light heavyweight contenders. The rising 205-pound fighters are also both heavy hitters and will likely look to stand and bang at UFC on Fuel TV 7.

    Since Te-Huna has never been knocked out, he has an edge should this bout turn into a brawl.

    Te-Huna, TKO, Round 1.

    Scott Harris: Jimmo had a spectacular UFC debut. He will come back to Earth—almost literally—against Te-Huna, though. The man has some heavy hands. 

    Te-Huna, TKO, Round 2.

    John Heinis: This has slugfest written all over it, so if it lasts more than five minutes, don't be surprised if this wins "Fight of the Night." These guys are pretty evenly matched, so I think it's really flipping a coin trying to predict who wins this one.

    Jimmo, KO, Round 2.

    Jonathan Snowden: Mark Pavelich should be near tears. All the guys expecting a "slugfest" and stand and bang fireworks obviously never watched Pavelich's Maximum Fighting Championship where Jimmo worked as a wet blanket for years before joining the UFC.  

    Jimmo, decision.

    B/R Predictions: Te-Huna (three), Jimmo (two).

Gunnar Nelson vs. Jorge Santiago

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    John Heinis: Nelson is undefeated while Santiago hasn't come close to winning inside the Octagon in years. 'Nuff said.  

    Nelson, submission, Round 3.

    Scott Harris: Everyone wants to make "Love and Affection" jokes but what about "After the Rain?" That's an overlooked gem. Also, Nelson displays that Nordic calm and stymies Santiago.

    Nelson, unanimous decision.

    Sean Smith: Nelson is coming off of an impressive submission win over DaMarques Johnson in his UFC debut, while Santiago has had trouble maintaining a spot on the UFC roster over the years.

    While Nelson has already had more success than Santiago at this level, Santiago has the ground game to test Nelson, having never been submitted. It will be tough for the Iceland native to finish this fight, but he should be able to score more points en route to a clear decision win.

    Nelson, unanimous decision.

    McKinley Noble: It's too bad that Santiago isn't fighting on the regionals or in Japan, because I would give him the benefit of the doubt otherwise. Unfortunately, he's in Europe on enemy territory against a young, hungry, versatile prospect.

    Chalk up another loss for the Blackzilians.  

    Nelson, unanimous Decision.

    Jonathan Snowden: Sengoku never die!

    Santiago, knockout.

    B/R MMA Picks: Nelson (four), Santiago (one).

Jimi Manuwa vs. Cyrille Diabate

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    McKinley Noble: Every time I doubt Diabate, he makes me look stupid. Hopefully, Manuwa slips inside that long reach and makes me look like a genius.

    If Diabate can avoid getting knocked out inside three rounds, I'll bet on him against just about anyone he faces next.

    Manuwa, KO, Round 2.

    Sean Smith: Manuwa is a dangerous fighter for any light heavyweight to stand with, but Diabate is an experienced kickboxer with a tough reach to deal with. Diabate has only been finished with strikes by Mauricio Rua, and that loss came via head stomps, something the Frenchman won't have to worry about in this bout.

    Against a slugger like Manuwa, Diabate has the ability to slow the pace of this fight down with his jab and turn the bout into a chess match.

    Diabate, unanimous decision.

    Scott Harris: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I think Manuwa will walk though whatever Diabate's planning.

    Manuwa, TKO, Round 1.

    John Heinis: A lot of people seem to believe Diabate has the better stand-up, but I'm really not so sure since Manuwa has 11 (T)KO's in 12 fights.

    Diabate is for sure the better kickboxer, but Manuwa's traditional boxing is very good and he will be unrelenting if the fight hits the ground. Bad news for Diabate considering his game off his back is rudimentary at best.

    Manuwa, TKO, Round 1.

    Jonathan Snowden: If this is MMA's Scopes Monkey trial, I'm siding against science and with the savages.  

    Manuwa, knockout.

    B/R Predictions: Manuwa (four), Diabate (one).

Cub Swanson vs. Dustin Poirier

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    John Heinis: Swanson went 3-0 in 2012, scoring knockouts over some pretty tough guys in the division in George Roop, Ross Pearson and Charles Oliveira. However, he is yet to beat a top-10 featherweight in 23 professional fights, and I don't think he breaks that streak here.

    Poirier is too hungry and too well rounded.

    Poirier, submission, Round 3.

    Scott Harris: Swanson's a valuable member of the featherweight division, but Poirier's a freak and he's just got too many tools.

    There are maybe three guys I'd definitively pick over Swanson in the whole division and Poirier is one of them.

    Poirier, unanimous decision.

    Sean Smith: Swanson has been on a roll and is nearing a rematch with Jose Aldo that previously seemed highly unlikely. However, Poirier will be his toughest test since joining the UFC roster.

    While Swanson has the ability to finish a fight with a single strike, he's also shown some holes in his submission defense in the past, and Poirier has forced some really solid grapplers to tap.

    Poirier, submission, Round 2.

    McKinley Noble: Poirier had a "Round of the Year" showing against Jonathan Brookins last December, but Brookins isn't exactly a one-punch threat. Still, I doubt that Swanson will keep his KO streak going here.

    Look for Poirier to avoid the highlight KO and hit a crafty submission somewhere late in the fight.  

    Poirier, submission, Round 2.

    Jonathan Snowden: I like Poirier, but he's never faced a monster like Cub Swanson.

    Cub, knockout.

    B/R Predictions: Poirier (four), Swanson (one).

Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald

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    McKinley Noble: Personally, I think both Barao and McDonald have been out of action for too long, but this fight won't be close. Barao is just way too fast and creative to get clipped by McDonald's knockout punches.

    With that in mind, I'm expecting a technical fight that bores bloodthirsty MMA fans to death.

    Barao, unanimous decision.

    Sean Smith: These two are going to be at the top of the 135-pound division for a long, long time. While McDonald may be a champion some day, he's been on the shelf for too long heading into a fight with an opponent like Barao and his most recent win over Miguel Torres has rapidly become less impressive in his absence.

    This will be a good experience for McDonald, but he's not quite ready to dethrone a champion who is coming off of a decisive win over Urijah Faber.

    Barao, unanimous decision.

    Scott Harris: The longer this goes, the more it favors Barao. He is more diverse in his attack and uses that diversity, along with his length, to keep his opponents at bay.

    But you know what? Michael McDonald is tough.

    He knows how to find chins and knows what to do when he finds them. Inexperience won't affect any of those things. McDonald knows how to get on the inside.

    Everyone seems to be picking Barao "unless McDonald can land a big right hand." Well, what if McDonald lands a big right hand? Maybe I'm nuts, but I'm sounding the upset alarms.  

    McDonald, TKO, Round 1.

    John Heinis: I know Barao beat a battle-worn Urijah Faber to capture the interim bantamweight title, but it wasn't even close and 28-fight unbeaten streaks are pretty much unheard of these days.

    McDonald deserves the opportunity and is a great talent, but Barao is just a little too good.  

    Barao, unanimous decision.

    Jonathan Snowden: McDonald was made to fight Barao. Not only does he do a great job countering leg kicks, he's also got that great counter-right uppercut he will use to punish Barao if he gets a little wild, as he is prone to do. I smell upset.

    McDonald, knockout. 

    B/R Predictions: Barao (three), McDonald (two).