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UFC Fight Night 37: B/R Staff Main Card Predictions

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

UFC Fight Night 37: B/R Staff Main Card Predictions

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    UFC Fight Night 37 marks the return of the UFC to London this weekend, a week after its return to China. Like that card, this event also takes place exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.

    In the main event, Swedish No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson takes on British banger Jimi Manuwa. The winner of this bout positions himself nicely in the crowded light heavyweight division with a title shot within grasp.

    UFC Fight Night 37 means another call to arms by the famous Bleacher Report predictions team. As usual, our insightful team consists of James "William Wallace" MacDonald, Sean "Just Another" Smith, Craig "Not So Famous" Amos, Scott "Scotty Hairs" Harris and me, Riley "Girly Wrists" Kontek.

    Let's get it on!

2014 Staff Records

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    Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

    The race is still tight, as no one has been a dominant picker. As it stands, Scotland's own James MacDonald owns a one-win lead over Craig Amos and me.

    Scott Harris is the caboose here, looking to work his way up to the front. He is not far out of reach, but he is going to need more accurate predictions going forward to shorten the gap.

    Here are the exact records going into UFC Fight Night 37: 

    James MacDonald: 27-6

    Riley Kontek: 26-7

    Craig Amos: 26-7

    Sean Smith: 24-9

    Scott Harris: 22-11

Gunnar Nelson vs. Omari Akhmedov

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    Kontek

    Gunnar Nelson does not fight nearly enough. I miss him like Ray Finkle missed that field goal in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. His jiu-jitsu is masterful, and his stand-up is underrated. Omari Akhmedov is dropping a weight class after a successful middleweight debut, where he knocked out Thiago Perpetuo after almost getting knocked out himself. Nelson has too many tools to lose here, though.

    Nelson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    More than one year after his win over Jorge Santiago, Nelson is being given a step down in competition. It looks like the UFC is trying to bring the young grappler along slowly, but Akhmedov could turn out to be an equally bright prospect, as he enters the Octagon with 11 straight wins. Still, Nelson should weather an early storm and finish the Russian on the ground.

    Nelson, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    Nelson is a big favorite here and with good reason; he may be one of the best grapplers in the UFC. But I've learned an interesting lesson of late: Do not sleep on the Russians. The 26-year-old Akhmedov can hang with Nelson on the ground and should have a decisive advantage on the feet. That's right: Sound the upset alarms.

    Akhmedov, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    MacDonald

    The big issue for Nelson here is the amount of time he’s had off. This will be his first fight in more than one year, so it’s hard to say how his body will react. Additionally, Akhmedov is a live dog. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Russian were to pull off the upset. That being said, I still have to give Nelson the edge.

    Nelson, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    The upset here is tempting, but I'm not going to bite. While Akhmedov is a legitimate challenge for Nelson, who is coming off a 13-month layoff, I have faith in "Gunni." Still, I do think this will be close and go the full 15 minutes.

    Nelson, Unanimous Decision

Brad Pickett vs. Neil Seery

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Kontek

    This fight depends on how the weight cut goes for Brad Pickett. Assuming all goes to plan, this fight should be a warm-up for bigger things. Sure, Neil Seery is a Cage Warriors champion and has had a career resurgence, but he hasn't beaten anybody near the caliber of Pickett. Seery's nickname is "2 Tap," which is something that will come in handy when Pickett grabs a choke.

    Pickett, Submission, Rd. 1

     

    Smith

    The only fighter other than Dominick Cruz to beat Demetrious Johnson, Pickett could become a real contender in the flyweight division. A UFC newcomer, Seery will be a nice warm-up for Pickett's debut at 125 pounds.

    Pickett, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    This is not a difficult call to make. Pickett is getting a can for his flyweight debut and his return to British soil. I get it. But at the same time, I don't have to pretend that it's going to be close. 

    Pickett, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    MacDonald

    I don’t expect this fight to be particularly competitive. The UFC wants to keep Pickett around and for good reason. I’ll be surprised if Seery survives all three rounds in the Brit’s backyard.

    Pickett, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    This kind of seems like a welcoming gift for Pickett, who drops from 135 to 125 for this bout. It's an easy one to call; the only thing I have to debate is the method of victory.

    Pickett, Submission, Rd. 1

Melvin Guillard vs. Michael Johnson

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Kontek

    Michael Johnson has run roughshod up the rankings lately. He has some big wins and has shown some great improvements. That being said, Melvin Guillard has natural power and strength that should be able to test Johnson's chin early and often. There is a chance Johnson can outwrestle Guillard, but my guess is that "The Young Assassin" will add another skull to his trophy case.

    Guillard, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Smith

    A younger version of Guillard, the equally inconsistent Johnson brings a little more finesse and a little less power, but he also prefers to stand. Because Guillard still seems to possess all the physical tools needed to be a contender in the lightweight division, I'm going with experience in this matchup.

    Guillard, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Harris

    Johnson is one of the hottest fighters in the company. That normally spells trouble for an inconsistent fighter in Guillard. He always has what they like to call the puncher's chance, but Johnson has the big takedowns and wrestling to stifle Guillard and pound on him until he doesn't want to be there anymore.

    Johnson, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    MacDonald

    Guillard could act as a bit of a spoiler here. On his best day, he is capable of beating anyone, and he’ll need to be at his best to get the better of the red-hot Johnson. Will “The Young Assassin” show up? Only time will tell. If he doesn’t, I anticipate Johnson putting in a dominant performance to solidify his contender status.

    Johnson, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    Picking against Johnson here seems like a fundamental challenge to the concept of momentum. But you know what? Johnson has looked superb of late, although I can't shake the hunch Guillard is going to tag him one too many times. Still, I will take Johnson.

    Johnson, Submission, Rd. 2

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Kontek

    I had my doubts on the road to a title shot for Alexander Gustafsson. I thought he was overrated. I was wrong. He is arguably the second best light heavyweight in the world right now, unless Daniel Cormier sneaks into that spot. Jimi Manuwa is a powerhouse with a puncher's chance, but he has been beating down guys near the bottom of the ladder so far. This is a huge step up for him. He will wilt under the lights, as Gustafsson is more experienced and well-rounded.

    Gustafsson, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Smith

    Having never been knocked out, Gustafsson has a solid chin. That is a good thing heading into a bout with Manuwa, but he might not need it. The Swedish fighter has the jab to stay outside the range of Manuwa's power strikes and, more importantly, the underrated ground game to take advantage of what would appear to be his opponent's biggest area of weakness. 

    Gustafsson, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    This is Gustafsson's fight to lose. He'll have the better grappling and footwork and more diverse striking. He'll have a better clinch game. He'll have the takedowns. He'll get this win and keep the momentum rolling. Too bad they had to put him on Fight Pass.

    Gustafsson, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald 

    In terms of his stock, Gustafsson has very little to gain here. Manuwa is a dangerous opponent who is capable of knocking anyone’s head into the front row, but no one gives him a realistic shot against the Swede. I expect Manuwa to have his moments, but ultimately Gustafsson’s technically superior striking will make the difference.

    Gustafsson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    Manuwa, who entered the UFC as a well-regarded fighter, has come to the promotion as advertised. But even the most optimistic supporters have to hesitate before picking him over Gustafsson. The Swede is too good and too experienced to not cash in on this glorious rebound opportunity.

    Gustafsson, Submission, Rd. 2

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