See who we are picking for UFC 285.
The UFC is delivering a stacked card this weekend with two title fights on tap. The main event is Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane for the vacant UFC heavyweight title. The co-main sees UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defend her title against Alexa Grasso.
The card also features a number of other mouth-watering match-ups including Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov and Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis.
Our staff picks for Jones and Gane will be in a dedicated post that drops soon after this one. But check below to see what we’re thinking on all the other fights on offer.
In the co-main, we’re all thinking Bruce Buffer is going to belt out “And Still!” as Shevchenko secures her eighth title defence. Now there is talk of a BE curse around these parts, but that didn’t seem to have that much effect last week. We did all pick Muniz, who then lost to Brendan Allen. But as a team we were all correct in picking Tatiana Suarez, Trevor Peek and Joe Solecki.
So we’ll see what fate befalls Shechenko and the other unanimous picks this week (Ian Machado Garry and Cameron Saaiman).
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso
Anton Tabuena: Shevchenko’s long and impressive reign will eventually end, as it is really hard to keep that title and keep evolving while everyone prepares for your style. That being said, I don’t think Grasso is the one to do it. Valentina Shevchenko by Decision.
Eddie Mercado: To me, this fight is going to be a lot closer in real life than what the betting odds are saying. I think the sooner that Shevchenko gets the fight to the ground, the easier her night will be. On the feet, Grasso is a confident boxer with a solid layer of polish, and uses her footwork rather well. If Valentina is going to be throwing a lot of kicks, and she will be, then I can see Alexa having ample opportunities to land hard counter punches. Can she stop the takedown, though? Maybe at first, but I think Shevchenko will eventually get her down in the later rounds, take the back, and ultimately sink a rear-naked choke. Valentina Shevchenko by submission (RNC) at 3:47 of round 5
Zane Simon: Grasso just doesn’t have the command of distance for me to feel like she can stay out of Shevchenko’s grasp. And I don’t think she has the strength to keep from getting hauled to the mat. In pocket boxing exchanges, she’s more likely to extend combinations and land something surprising, but that’s not at all true of her outside range game. That leaves a pretty narrow avenue of success against one of MMA’s greatest distance management fighters. Valentina Shevchenko via decision.
Tim Bissell: We saw Shevchenko tested last time out, but I think it’s stretch to say she was beaten and lucky to have come through the Santos fight with her hand raised. The problems Santos posed her on that night aren’t the same I see Grasso bringing to the table. Grasso doesn’t have the striking or size profile that allowed Santos to stifle Shevchenko at range. I also don’t think Grasso is risk adverse enough to prevent her from getting hit or taken down by the champion. Valentina Shevchenko via decision.
Staff picking Shevchenko: Lucas, Bissell, Chris, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Grasso:
Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Eddie Mercado: Rakhmonov just has too many weapons and too many ways to win. I like Neil a lot, and he’ll be tough, but I don’t see him matching the striking output of Shavkat. I also expect Geoff to get out-grappled of the match does hit the canvas. Shavkat Rakhmonov by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Zane Simon: Neal is a unique kind of dangerous for Rakhmonov to face. A devastatingly fast, hard puncher from southpaw. But… that’s kinda it. And when fighters have been able to take Neal out of his comfort zone, he hasn’t ever really shown another dependable wrinkle. Rakhmonov is great at creating and finding clinch entries, and Neal tends to rush himself there when he doesn’t have reach parity. Both of those seem like huge problems against a wrestler and grappler and dynamic finisher of Rakhmonov’s quality. Shavkat Rakhmonov via submission, round 2.
Tim Bissell: Rakhmonov just does everything well. Neal has power that can trouble Rakhmonov if he can land it. But I don’t he does. Rakhmonov will make this fight happen where he wants it and I think that will be on the feet to start, with him utilizing his reach advantage to feel things out and then on the ground after he’s measured the distance he needs to cover on his shot. Once this goes down to the mat it’s a wrap. Shavkat Rakhmonov via submission.
Staff picking Neal: Kristen
Staff picking Rakhmonov: Lucas, Chris, Bissell, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner
Zane Simon: Turner could be a huge challenge for Gamrot. He is, perhaps, the most singularly dangerous, moment-to-moment striker that the ‘Gamer’ has ever faced. Gamrot’s a terrific scrambler, but he often lets opponents escape his grappling with the idea that he can always reset and do it over again. Those resets will be hugely dangerous here. But, I can’t ignore the fact that Turner’s own offensive tendencies against wrestlers can get him easily taken down and controlled on the mat. Or that Gamrot is a big level above the other people that have tried beating Turner that way. Mateusz Gamrot via decision.
Tim Bissell: This is a big step up for Turner and I worry that his size advantage might be a bit of a hindrance, with his really long legs being a good target for takedowns. I am being romanced by that seven inch reach advantage, though, paired with a gaudy 6.48 strikes landed per minute (which puts him among the elite in that category). Jalin Turner via TKO
Staff picking Gamrot: Lucas, Eddie, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Turner: Chris, Bissell, Kristen, Stephie
Jamie Pickett vs. Bo Nickal
Anton Tabuena: This is an apt match up to properly bring along an uber prospect. It’s a decent step up, and can test more areas of Nickal’s game, but I think he’ll pass with flying colors. Bo Nickal by TKO.
Zane Simon: Honestly, Pickett is a nice step up from the DWCS dudes Nickal has faced so far in a very very young career. He’s also someone who tends to fold against superior athletes, no matter what game that athlete brings to the table. Hell even diet Daukaus horsed him around. Bo Nickal via TKO, round 1.
Chris Rini: Oof… but I abide by the coin.
Staff picking Pickett: Chris
Staff picking Nickal: Lucas, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones
Anton Tabuena: Cody has all the skills and the physical gifts to beat anyone, and this is also a step down in competition, but at this point, it’s hard to still have faith he’ll put it all together. A lot of his earlier losses were bad decision making rather than durability, but the damage he’s taken in this recent slump is very concerning as well. Trevin Jones by TKO.
Zane Simon: Does the 2023 version of Cody Garbrandt win fights that are very good for Cody Garbrandt? Jones is a dyed in the wool counter-puncher, with a solid chin and good shot selection, but he’s also terribly low output and will rarely ever fire first. If Garbrandt can just stay on his bike, stick-and-move and keep to safe range tools like jabs and low kicks and occasional 1-2s, the this fight is his for the taking. Unfortunately for ‘No Love’ whether he’s dominating or losing, all paths seem to lead to self destruction. A few good punches landed or eaten and the likelihood that he initiates a wild brawl increases exponentially. In this case, I think Jones’ inactivity will be a lure too tempting to resist, and sooner or later, he’ll eat the kind of counter shot that put Timur Valiev to sleep. Trevin Jones via KO, round 2.
Tim Bissell: I don’t think Garbrandt is completely washed, yet. But if he loses here, see ya in BKFC. Cody Garbrandt via TKo.
Staff picking Garbrandt: Bissell, Lucas, Eddie, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Jones: Chris, Kristen, Zane, Anton
Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Zane Simon: If Brunson is starting to lose a step and if his loss to Cannonier was a sign that he can’t maintain the same kind of wrestling and pressuring pace he used to, then this could be a terrible fight for him. I have almost no doubt, however, the Brunson will open the fight absolutely dominating a man that will literally throw himself into easy takedowns. And in the past, those are not fights that Brunson tends to lose. Given that Du Plessis isn’t half as technical a fighter, offensively or defensively as Cannonier, I’ll stick with Brunson for the win. That said, he is 39-years-old now, and time is nobody’s friend in this game. Derek Brunson by decision.
Tim Bissell: Du Plessis is making his moves for captain of the UFC all-cringe team. Even so, he’s shown to be a pretty dynamic talent in a shallow weight division. Brunson is the gatekeeper here so it will be interesting to see where DDP measures up against him. We know Brunson can be hit and ultimately, I think Du Plessis will get him, with volume and earn himself a main event in the near future. Dricuss Du Plessis via TKO.
Staff picking Brunson: Chris, Zane
Staff picking Du Plessis: Lucas, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Viviane Araujo vs. Amanda Ribas
Zane Simon: Should be a razor close fight. Ribas isn’t a clean technical striker or wrestler in any real way, but she is intensely aggressive and a masterful transition and chain attacker. She will keep pressure on, look for takedowns, and move straight to grappling attacks. The problem for her tends to be when she faces reasonable athletes that can consistently out-punch her. The grapplers Ribas has submitted to date are, frankly, bad. As are the strikers she’s beat standing. Araujo has had to learn to build consistency into her game after coming to the UFC as a pretty raw athlete, but she does better than ever maintaining her pace and her distance these days, I think that’ll be just enough to get the win here, even if the fight includes an early hip toss and a lost round on the mats. Viviane Araujo by decision.
Staff picking Araujo: Chris, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Ribas: Lucas, Bissell, Stephie, Anton
Julian Marquez vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
Zane Simon: I like the adjustments that Barriault has made to his style a lot more than those Marquez is trying on. For two pressure focused brawlers, seeing Barriault lean on enhancing his jab and sticking one-twos on people to go with his grinding clinch game feels like a much more reasonable adjustment than Marquez’s attempts to become a technical out-fighter who just doesn’t get in wars. That said, Barriault’s game is probably going to lead right into a war with Marquez, who—for my money—is still the far more dynamic and finish-focused athlete. Julian Marquez via submission, round 3.
Staff picking Marquez: Lucas, Chris, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Barriault: Dayne
Ian Machado Garry vs. Kenan Song
Zane Simon: Kinda forgot Song was still around. He’s got power, but this feels like something of a layup booking for Garry given how he handled a tough, high-output brawler like Gabe Green last time around. Ian Machado Garry via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Machado Garry: Lucas, Chris, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Song:
Mana Martinez vs. Cameron Saaiman
Zane Simon: I don’t like to see Martinez getting so overlooked here. If Du Plessis is kind of a formless wildman who thrives on his insane heart, cardio, and power, Saaiman seems like the less athletic and dynamic version of that guy. He’s not hard to take down, not hard to back up, and not hard to hit clean. But, he will scramble like hell and he will throw with power late into fights. On the flip side, Martinez strikes me as a very decently trained fighter who just isn’t very athletic. He knows how to land some nice lead hooks, throw some solid combos, and how to hit a decent double leg into top control, but faster-stronger fighters can make him look like he’s wading through mud to get it done. Will Saaiman’s formlessness let Martinez get to all the best positions first? Or will Martinez find himself getting swept from top control and cracked by big strikes as he starts to wear down? I’ll take Saaiman here for his pace, but I think this fight could easily be a rude awakening for him. Cameron Saaiman via decision.
Staff picking Martinez:
Staff picking Saaiman: Lucas, Chris, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Jessica Penne vs. Tabatha Ricci
Zane Simon: Kinda captivated by the potential for just how bad this fight could be. Ricci is 5’1” and fights like she’s a hulk. Penne is 5’5” and fights like a tiny scrapper. When Penne faced off against Danielle Taylor for a similar style clash, the results were a true disasterpiece of formless kickboxing. Ricci is a better grappler than Taylor, so chances are higher that she’ll take Penne down. But against Viana that just meant hanging out in guard for full rounds. Not a place many people survive against Penne. I’ll take Ricci, since she initiates action that’s more likely to score with judges, but I’m ready for 15 minutes of mutual nullification. Tabatha Ricci by decision.
Staff picking Penne: Chris
Staff picking Ricci: Lucas, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Farid Basharat vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
Zane Simon: Basharat didn’t look bad on the Contender Series, but I’m not terribly convinced he’s a talent to rival his brother. Notably, watching his other regional fights, his striking is ultra selective and sparse. Pretty much every bout he wins involves him being able to out-wrestle his opponent. Blackshear isn’t the hardest fighter in the world to take down, but he’s a very good offensive wrestler himself, and a great scrambler. He’s also almost entirely formless as a striker. If Basharat were more high-output, I might pick him, but I think he’s going to initiate Blackhsear’s game the same way that Yusuff Zalal did and find himself with a similarly hard to handle bout as a result. Da’Mon Blackshear by decision.
Staff picking Basharat: Lucas, Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Blackshear: Chris, Zane
Loik Radzhabov vs. Estaban Ribovics
Zane Simon: Ribovics looks like a really hard puncher who will absolutely put himself in danger to start a brawl. Radzhabov is nobody’s idea of a clean or confident consistent striker, but he’s never been KO’d and he’s an excellent clinch wrestler. If Ribovics is going to wade into the pocket over and over again to set up exchanges, I’ll trust Radzhabov’s chin to hold and his grappling to take over. Loik Radzhabov via decision.
Staff picking Radzhabov: Lucas, Kristen, Eddie, Zane, Stephie, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Ribovics: Chris, Bissell
Well it was a weird card last week and we have some weird results in the staff picks. All of us who participated got a 6-4 record, other than Lucas who was just behind with 5-5. That means there are no changes in the leader board. Still a tight race between Dayne and Eddie at the top.
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)