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UFC 170: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

UFC 170: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Ronda Rousey, the queen of mixed martial arts, will once again grace the Octagon this Saturday night for UFC 170. This time, she'll meet a fellow Olympic medalist and undefeated mixed martial artist in the form of wrestling powerhouse Sara McMann.

    While McMann will look to solve the Rousey puzzle in the show's main attraction, UFC 170's co-main event is a peculiar one to say the least. Daniel Cormier, another Olympian (that makes a theme, and during the Winter Games no less), will welcome Patrick Cummins, a man who has all of four pro bouts to his name, to the fold. 

    Beyond the spectacle of the event's headliners, UFC 170 will feature an additional nine fights, running the total to 11. 

    The UFC's two most recent shows have been rather heavy on decisions. With a number of intriguing contests and the presence of several notable finishers, we'll see whether or not UFC 170 will buck the trend.

    In anticipation of Saturday night's action, Bleacher Report has assembled its finest prediction crew, which proudly present you with our official staff picks. 

    We've got Craig "A-Plus" Amos, "Rowdy" Riley Kontek, James "The Man" MacDonald, Sean "Slam Dunk" Smith and Scott "H-Bomb" Harris at your service.

2014 Staff Records

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    Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    After showing all of them at UFC Fight Night 36 with an unblemished ticket, yours truly jumped into sole possession of the top spot on our list. 

    Still, the lead is a precarious one, with the pack remaining well within striking distance. Here is how the staff's 2014 records stand entering Saturday's fights:

    Craig Amos: 20-4

    Riley Kontek: 19-5

    James MacDonald: 19-5

    Sean Smith: 17-7

    Scott Harris: 16-8

Stephen Thompson vs. Robert Whittaker

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Scott Harris

    I don't think "Wonderboy" belongs on a main card over Raphael Assuncao or Zach Makovsky. But hey, what do I know? I know enough to know they've spoon fed the kickboxing phenom another ground-deficient opponent in Whittaker, but I think Whittaker dirties it up enough to spoil the script.

    Whittaker, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Thompson still has a long way to go before he can be considered an elite mixed martial artist. As good as his kickboxing is, his grappling is still a major hole that needs to be filled. That being said, I think “Wonderboy” will have just enough to get by the talented Whittaker.

    Thompson, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    He has a handful of submission victories, but Whittaker has preferred to stand since joining the big show. It's a stylistic matchup that favors Thompson, who is one of the better strikers in the welterweight division. "Wonderboy" has also showed some improved wrestling since his loss to Matt Brown, scoring four takedowns in his past two fights while not allowing any. So, should Whittaker try to take this fight to the ground, Thompson isn't going down easy.

    Thompson, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    How this fight made the main card is baffling to me. That being said, it might be because of the potential for excitement. Both men are fun strikers, as Whittaker represents an explosive, athletic striker and Thompson is a traditional, technical kickboxer. Whoever has more tools wins this bout. I will take the upset, as the Aussie mixes clinch and takedowns to eek out a win.

    Whittaker, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Both fighters like to strike, and both have demonstrated improved takedown defense of late. The more impressive progression on that front has to be Whittaker's, who convincingly handled Colton Smith. Smith's wrestling chops far exceed either of Thompson's recent opponents.

    Whittaker, Unanimous decision 

     

Mike Pyle vs. T.J. Waldburger

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Pyle is finally on a pay-per-view card. After all that kvetching, here's hoping he does something with his chance. I think he will, blowing up Waldburger on the feet and avoiding that deadly submission game.

    Pyle, TKO, Rd. 2 

     

    James MacDonald

    Pyle appears to have all the tools to compete at the top, but his lack of consistency is cause for concern. Which Mike Pyle will show up on Saturday night? Who knows? Waldburger has a ton of talent, particularly on the ground. His success depends on getting Pyle on the floor. Unfortunately for him, I see the fight taking place mainly on the feet, where I expect the veteran to dominate.

    Pyle, TKO, Rd. 3 

     

    Sean Smith

    Things don’t go well for Waldburger when he meets opponents who are able to match him on the ground or deny him from even getting to the canvas. Pyle is one of those opponents. He's too experienced and well-rounded to make the mistake of getting into a submission battle with Waldburger.

    Pyle, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Riley Kontek

    What do you get when you cross two tough veterans with similar fight styles but vastly different hairdos? Mike Pyle vs. T.J. Waldburger of course! Waldburger is most effective when he is on the ground, but Pyle knows all the tricks of the trade and can keep this fight in the clinch and on the feet. It’ll be an ugly, grinding affair, but Pyle should be able to snag a close decision.

    Pyle, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Pyle's late-career resurgence faltered when he ran into to Matt Brown, but let's not mistake that for a complete drop-off. Expect this bout to be a good one—while it lasts anyway.

    Pyle, TKO, Rd. 1 

Demian Maia vs. Rory MacDonald

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Scott Harris

    I'm really "grappling" with this matchup. My body always tries to reject any attempt to pick against Maia and that jiu-jitsu, but after much struggle, I have found a way to override that rejection. It doesn't get much more defensive than Rory MacDonald, after all; he staves off the takedowns and points his way to a decision.

    MacDonald, Split decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This is a rough matchup for Maia. Despite having been on the scene for an age at this point, the Brazilian’s striking still leaves a lot to be desired. He isn’t winning a kickboxing match against MacDonald, nor do I expect him to be able to take the youngling down. No, I’m betting that my namesake will come with a more aggressive gameplan and finish the fight.

    MacDonald, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    If he gets his hands on MacDonald, Maia can dominate this fight on the ground. However, the Brazilian hasn’t shown the head movement needed to work inside MacDonald’s jabs. By utilizing the same plan he implemented against Jake Ellenberger and BJ Penn, MacDonald should get back into the win column this weekend.

    MacDonald, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    Rory MacDonald slipped up in his last fight against Robbie Lawler, but that guy has looked outstanding as of late. Rory represents a style that will be tough for Demian Maia to overcome. Maia will not be able to wrestle MacDonald down, nor will he be able to outstrike the Canadian. It will be a methodical fight and boring at times, but MacDonald should prevail.

    MacDonald, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    While it seems many people are ready to write MacDonald off as a future or current star, I think that his recent loss to Robbie Lawler might just be the wake-up call that acts as the catalyst to a great leap forward. I expect him to rebound over Maia in impressive fashion. 

    MacDonald, Unanimous decision

     

Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    I admire Cummins' attempt to add some heat to this last-minute matchup. But come on. We all know how this ends. Cormier, despite at least acting agitated toward Cummins, keeps it cool, plays it safe and coasts to an easy decision.

    Cormier, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    I must admit, I don’t know an awful lot about Cummins. Besides his athleticism, it’s hard to take anything away from his first few professional bouts. He has done a terrific job of generating interest in the fight, but I have a feeling Cormier will make him pay for breaking the “wrestling code” on Saturday night.

    Cormier, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    I think Cummins will end up being a solid addition to a light heavyweight division that is lacking depth. Before he can show what he’s really all about, though, Cummins will have to take his lumps from Cormier. This matchup might end up being a blessing in disguise for Cormier, who will now get to test himself at 205 pounds before meeting a contender like originally scheduled opponent Rashad Evans.

    Cormier, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    Listen, I really want to pick Pat Cummins here. I have had my eye on him for a while. However, Daniel Cormier is a pretty seasoned guy with more big-fight experience and the benefit of a full camp. Cummins will prove tough and Cormier’s emotions will get the best of him at times, but Cormier will secure a win.

    Cormier, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    There is an innate desire to go with the massive underdog here, but I just can't do it. Cormier is too talented, has too much high-level experience and seems motivated enough that he isn't counting his chickens before the fact. He'll win easily.

    Cormier, TKO, Rd. 2

Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann

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    Sara McMann
    Sara McMannGregory Payan/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Scott Harris

    It's a broken record with Rousey and her history of broken limbs. I'll say McMann escapes the first round, but that's as far as I'm willing to bend. I'll top Rousey for another win, and will keep doing so until further notice.

    Rousey, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    Yeah, I’m not sure how to break this one down. Intuitively, I feel that McMann will be able to keep the fight standing and turn this into a kickboxing match. In reality, there’s a good chance Rousey scores with an early throw and ends the fight before Bruce Buffer is even in his seat. McMann can score the upset here, but I just can’t bet against the champ.

    Rousey, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    Wrestling will be a key to dethroning Rousey, but if the challenger is to knock the champion off her perch, she will need the striking to match. Using wrestling offensively against Rousey is about as useful as not being able to defend the judoka’s throws. Over five rounds, McMann is eventually going to get caught if she takes the fight to the ground.

    Rousey, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Riley Kontek

    This truly is Ronda Rousey’s biggest threat to the title, so expect this to be a grappling masterpiece. McMann is a great wrestler, but the strength and throws of Rousey, as well as her slick grappling, make her too tough to beat on the ground. It will take a bit of time, but Rousey will secure a submission yet again.

    Rousey, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Craig Amos

    I believe McMann is the second-best female fighter on the UFC roster at this point. I think think there is a good chance for an upset here. However, her middling stand-up and average submission game means she'll have to be near-perfect with control for 25 minutes against a woman practiced in hurling her adversaries around a caged premises before wrenching their arms. I have to side with the champ.

    Rousey, Submission, Rd. 4

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