BattleBots 2020: Predictions for Episode 11

Good afternoon, comrades, and welcome to the top 32. I know, it feels like just yesterday that we’d been shown the full field of bots, the excitement of a surprise new season amid a global pandemic was still fresh, and any vague semblances of controversy were but a distant headache in the back of our minds. And now, here we are, about to start the knockout phase and still complaining that P1 didn’t make it in. What a wild ten weeks it’s been.

Sadly this means the end of power rankings and all the fun guess-work that came with it, but the fun/thrill/annoyance of predictions still reigns supreme. We still have enough content to do the rounds, enough fights for us to take a crack at, enough television to make our eyes go square. It’s all part of the fun of being an avid BattleBots fan, judging and critiquing people who are way smarter than us and then claiming that we could do better then them. Let’s just sit tight while me, with my arts degree, finishes my beetle. 

Anyhow, tonight sees the left-hand side of the bracket in action, as we learn which eight bots will make it into the top 16, and which eight will fall at the first knockout hurdle. And we’ve got some cracking match-ups to have a look at. A rematch between HUGE and Whiplash, the battle of questionable seedings in the guise of Mad Catter and Tombstone, and Hypershock look to justify their place in the top 32 against the team trying to justify their number one ranking, Hydra.

It sure does look like some juicy biz we’re in for. Without much further ado, let’s dive straight into it.

Hydra (1) vs Hypershock (32)

Going from top to bottom, we start with the aforementioned battle of, well, top to bottom. Hydra, the questionable top seeds in the eyes of some, ready up their flipper against Will Bales and Hypershock, a team plenty feel shouldn’t even be in the bracket. Regardless of what you may think, this is where we find ourselves, and it promises to be a corking affair. 

Even I, someone who hates this whole 1 vs 32 and work inwards format due to the stupidly mismatched fights it produces (anyone else remember Tombstone vs Escape Velocity?), the amount of top bots struggling this season combined with the number of unexpected performers we’ve seen means we’ve actually got a fight on our hands. The two actually met last year in an exhibition fight, in which Hypershock managed to drive up Hydra’s front and yeet itself over the wall. This is anotherfightthat I think Hydra will win, but it’ll be a much tougher test this time around.

I think the main issue here is that, as we’ve learned this season, Hydra is stupidly low to the ground, and Hypershock has plenty of welcoming areas for Jake Ewert and co. to get their flipper in underneath, and send the luminous RC car flying ten feet into the air. Of course, Hypershock could easily cause an upset, and it looks like they’re going with their flat front ends to perhaps get up on top of Hydra to cause damage. Whether it’ll work or not is a whole other question, and personally, I think this fight belongs to the Whyachi clan.

WINNER: HYDRA

Malice (16) vs Gigabyte (17) 

The one fight from the top 32 that my own rankings have gotten spot on, it’s a fight between two big f*ck off spinners which may cause a small supernova inside the Battlebox. It’s the loveable Malice against Gigabyte, who definitely isn’t going through a phase.

I think this fight will come down, as it so often does, to who survives the big hits. Both bots will be going weapon-to-weapon (since it’s almost impossible for Gigabyte to not do that) aiming to break the others’ spinner and move in for the kill. In terms of who I think will pull it off, my money’s on Gigabyte. Take nothing away from Malice and the team, but we’ve already see their weapon belt sheared by Shatter this season, and Gigabyte have looked so improved since their humbling at the hands of Copperhead. That spinner looks deadly.

It’s going to be a classic that’s probably going to be over much quicker than we’d like. As usual, it’s another one that could go either way, but my money would be on Gigabyte for this one.

WINNER: GIGABYTE 

Whiplash (8) vs HUGE (25)

A rematch of a highly-contested, much-debated fight from the 2019 season, and one of the standout ties of the top 32. The awesome driving skills of Matt Vasquez are back on display barely a week after we saw them dismantle Valkyrie, whilst HUGE look to build on the momentum they gathered after their victory over Kraken.

Now, I for one am in the club that firmly believes HUGE beat Whiplash last season. To me, HUGE caused more damage, and was moderately more aggressive throughout the fight. Even if Whiplash would have won the control points, I don’t think it did anything of note to win the fight. Given that damage is weighted heavier than it was last season, I think if we’re to see a repeat of last season, I think that’s where the fight will be won in HUGE’s favour. And from the promo image of the fight that’s been released, I think Jonathan Schultz and co. will have the definite advantage with their longer bar against Whiplash’s flat front end. I’m not sure about using the regular wheels against a bot that could use them to control the tempo of the fight, but I’m more confident about HUGE pulling off a win.

As a disclaimer, I think if Whiplash wins, as it very well could, I think it’s going to go on to win the Giant Nut. Until that day comes, I’m going for my beloved HUGE to get revenge.

HUGE is still too big to fit into frame, classic HUGE

WINNER: HUGE 

Valkyrie (9) vs SubZero (24) 

While I have a couple of question marks about both these bots’ ranking this season, there’s no doubt this an intriguing tie that’s been thrown our way. In one square is Valkyrie, which gave us one of the fights of the season against Rotator, and in the other is SubZero, finally being tested against one of the seasoned vets of BattleBots.

Don’t get me wrong, even though SubZero looks much improved this season, it wasn’t exactly given much of a challenge against Grabot and Sporkinok. Even against Jackpot, despite dominating the fight, it managed to break itself and fall to a loss. Up against one of the most lethal weapons in the competition, I’m not sure what Logan Davis and the gang can do to counteract Valkyrie’s spinner. The below photo suggests they’ve gone full Donald Hutson mode by attaching a flat block of metal to the back of their bot, looking to kill the weapon before going hell for leather with the flipper. 

Sadly, I’m not sure it’s going to work. SubZero isn’t the uber-durable metal monster it once was, and has struggled against powerful spinners in the past, and has shown one or two reliability issues this season. I’ve got a sad feeling that Leanne Cushing and co. are going to fully exploit these issues, and get a few good pops at the wheels that will leave SubZero broken and immobile. Maybe Valkyrie will be the one that breaks down, who knows. But for the sake of getting an answer down in writing, let’s say that won’t happen.

WINNER: VALKYRIE 

Uppercut (4) vs HiJinx (29) 

Moving onto the fourth quadrant of the bracket, and our second of the night, it’s the lean, mean yeeting machine of Uppercut, against the superb owl that is the colourful undercutter HiJinx. 

Now, I’ve gotten quite attached to HiJinx this season, not least because of their awesome performance against the monstrous Chomp. Their team also seem like a pretty wholesome bunch, and that always counts for something in my eyes. Whether that means they have a bot capable of beating Uppercut is a whole other matter in and of itself, and sadly, I think the answer to that is no. Whilst we know that Uppercut has been having issues with its weapon motors in light of its fight against Hydra, I can see the fight being over after a couple of hits to HiJinx’s sides. Admittedly I think the undercutter will make it difficult for Alex Hattori, and Uppercut won’t escape unscathed, but I think this might be the end of the road for the mighty owl.

I’ll be supporting it all the way through the fight, but my gut is telling me this one’s going to the gang from MIT.

WINNER: UPPERCUT

Beta (13) vs Ribbot (20) 

Fighting for the right to play either one of the above two bots are a couple of teams we’ve been itching to see more of this season. Now’s the time to see more big hits from Beta’s hammer, and more insane antics from the spinner of Ribbot. 

I’ve seen a lot of mixed opinions on how this one will go, but to me I can’t see any outcome other than a Beta win. Famous last words, I know, but it just looks to me like Ribbot is the ideal bait for John Reid’s bot. Unless they go in with a nifty lil’ attachment to negate Beta’s front armour, I think the spinner will get stopped by the great big wad of metal that Beta has attached to its front, before landing a couple of blows with the hammer. It’d be nice to see the team be a bit less conservative with their weaponry, since we’re now into the business end of the season where a mistake or lack of active weaponry could cost them. Yes, it’s still an experimental design, but I think it’s time we start seeing more of the “mental”. 

Time to see some good hits.

Admittedly that armour set-up doesn’t fill me with confidence but I’ve already written the post soooooooo

WINNER: BETA 

Black Dragon (5) vs SlamMow (28)

I really do hate this “work our way inwards from the outside” approach to making tournament brackets, because it leaves us with such massively mismatched match-ups (try saying that three times fast). Case in point, the penultimate fight of the night sees Brazilian beast Black Dragon looking to avoid being slain by Craig Danby’s SlamMow.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said before that I think Black Dragon shouldn’t be seeded as high as fifth, but whilst I think that’s the case, I also think that it’s still one of the best bots in the whole competition, and no matter how much suplexing Craig Danby and co. are able to inflict on it, it’ll still come away with an impressive victory. I’m really not sure what SlamMow can do that will be either enough to KO their opponents entirely, or negate the egg beater’s impact for long enough to hold out for a JD. I’m assuming that SlamMow is going to go flying through the air, maybe missing a wheel or two en route to either being left to rot on the screws or in the corner.

My condolences to Craig Danby, but this is where the run comes to an end.

WINNER: BLACK DRAGON 

Mad Catter (12) vs Tombstone (21)

To finish off the night, we’ve got a battle of two bots that I don’t believe have been ranked fairly – the 3-0 Mad Catter and the 1-2 Tombstone – Mad Catter too low and Tombstone a bit too high. Who’d have thought those would be their records heading into the season? Regardless, it’s given us a thrilling fight to close things out with.

Whilst Mad Catter have a strong case to being the most improved team in the whole tournament this season, I think this is where their run prematurely ends. Yes, they’ve got a bot with a chonky wedge that’ll cause Tombstone problems, and yes, they’ve got a brilliant driver, weapons op, team captain, a great team all around. And whilst Tombstone hasn’t had the best regular season, I think it’ll be coming into this fight with a point to prove, and will go all hell for leather over the cat. I also don’t know how well Mad Catter’s front will be able to hold up against a spinning bar as powerful as that as Tombstone’s, and even though Ray Billings may break his bot before he breaks Martin Mason’s, which is very much a possibility, one good shot to the sides of Mad Catter will basically be game over for it. 

Mad Catter is going to give this a proper good go, I’m sure of it. And whatever happens it’ll be a fight for the ages. I’ll be rooting for the cat, but my head says Tombstone will be the winner.

WINNER: TOMBSTONE

And that just about wraps things up for the latest set of nonsensical predictions. It’s pretty terrific that we’re into the business stage of the season, as the “win or the bin” mentality starts to set in, the stakes become increasingly higher, and the pressure on us internet predictors becomes astronomical. It’s not our fault we can’t get everything right, neither did Nostradamus after all. Either way, I’m sure we’ll all have a great time at home watching the carnage unfold, as the excitement of discovering whether we’ll be getting eight full fights or seven with a highlights package begins to set in. 

If, much like Depeche Mode, you just can’t get enough of this spicy content that I just love producing, then be sure to tune in on Sunday for the review of this episode. It promises to be a corker. In the meantime, follow the site’s Twitter @robosocks14, or e-mail at therobotsoccerleague@gmail.com. I promise I’m very nice to talk to.

Thanks for reading, comrades, and see you again soon.

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