Good afternoon, evening, whenever you’re reading, comrades, and welcome to some top 16 predictions. I know, it feels like just yesterday when the regular season was kicking off, the excitement was only just dawning on us that we were still getting a new season of BattleBots despite everything going on in the world, the fascination surrounding Rusty still a new, warm, comforting feeling. Now, here we find ourselves, at the penultimate episode of the season, the best of the best about to slug it out for the Giant Nut. Emotions are running high, the fans can hardly contain themselves, and us humble predictors are at a loss over like half the fights we have coming up. Can’t wait.
Last week saw me come out with another solid 6-2 record, the losses coming courtesy of Shatter ‘roiding itself up to hammer its way through to the top 16 to face Mammoth, which itself inexplicably beat the third seeds Copperhead in a decision that could be considered controversial, but, to be honest, ultimately wasn’t. That’s one fight I never thought I’d be sat here predicting, but that just the magic of fighting robots, isn’t it?
Anyhow, I think it’s time to get some possible scores on doors.
Hydra (1) vs Gigabyte (17)
There’s nothing like kicking things off with some proper sh*thousery, is there? Jake Ewert, you’re the devil.
If you have the mental strength to cast your mind back to episode five (I think), when Hydra equipped themselves with a “bike rack” to prevent themselves getting damage from HUGE and subsequently treating us to the most boring fight of the whole series. For those of you hoping we’d never see said bike rack again, well, I’m sorry to say that it’s back, and in full-on Ghost Raptor form. Taking a page out of Chuck Pitzer’s book on how to beat Icewave, published c.2015, Hydra comes into this fight rocking a massive Gigabyte catcher attached to it, hoping to keep John Mladenik’s bot well at bay in the hopes it will end up destroying itself. Whether or not this method will work is anyone’s guess. Either it will work and Gigabyte will flip itself over and die spectacularly in the corner, or the catcher is going to be ripped clean off by the full-body spinner, before it moves in for the kill on a helpless Hydra. Bear in mind the support for the catcher looks flimsy at best. It’s a true 50/50 call, as you would probably expect from a top 16 clash.
… Is what I wish I could say about this clash. Sadly, Jake Ewert has gone and got us good with the cocktease of the century. We won’t be seeing a revamped bike rack of some kind, just some boring old wedges attached to Hydra’s front. I’ve never been so relieved and disappointed at the same time. Regardless of how betrayed I feel, my gut instinct is to go with Hydra, and I would have said them regardless of whether or not they used an attachment. I have a premonition that the front wedges will to their job and slow Gigabyte down enough to get some good flips in, before Gigabyte dos something to self-combust, and hand Hydra a passage to the last 8. Even if they don’t use their flipper. Again. Wonderful. True top seed material.
Whiplash (8) vs Valkyrie (9)
Deja vu, anyone? I thought episode 10 had already aired.
It has, of course, but two weeks later and here we are, the final qualifying fight has now turned into a top 16 fight as well. Whiplash overcame another rematch against HUGE in the top 32, with Valkyrie tearing up SubZero, and both looking like bots to beat this season. The question is, though, after such a dominant performance from Whiplash in this match-up a couple of weeks ago, can Valkyrie do anything to swing the outcome in their favour?
Sadly, I don’t think so. I think it will probably be a rinse-and-repeat case of the last fight, Whiplash chonking themselves up, box rushing Valkyrie, and slamming them all around the arena. I’m not sure the Valkyrie team will have had the time to come up with an alternative strategy for this fight, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t think they’d have to fight the Vasquez clan again this season. But they do, and I’m not really sure there’s anything to change the outcome of the last fight. It’s Whiplash against Hydra for me.
Uppercut (4) vs Ribbot (20)
Ever seen someone punch a frog before? Well, there’s a first time for everything.
It’s been a pretty good run from Ribbot, slowly finding their footing this season after a bit of a shaky start. Dominant wins over Axolotl and Beta have sparked them into life, so it’s a shame that their momentum now carries them into a fight against one of the most powerful spinners in the whole competition. Uppercut has been near-unstoppable so far this season, its big yeeting device destroying almost all that come before it. And I think this battle of MIT vs WPI will see the big Mass boys come out on top.
Ribbot could easily get some good hits in on Uppercut if they find the right angle, but something tells me we’ll be seeing some flying frog in the first thirty seconds of this fight. I’m sure it’ll go down swinging, but Uppercut has too much power for it to not go through here, at least that’s how I see it. Another win for the higher seed. Whoopee.
Black Dragon (5) vs Tombstone (21)
One of the fights of the night for sure, Tombstone’s slightly dodgy regular season means we’re being treated to some mental ties this tournament, and it now finds itself against Brazilian beasts Black Dragon in the last 16.
Two of the most elite bots in the field, both have had pretty indifferent seasons, but while Black Dragon has looked slightly off-pace consistently this season (though it still has a 3-1 overall record), Tombstone comes into this fight after a big win over Mad Catter. This really is a fight which, any other season, we’d be seeing much deeper into the competition. It’s a tight one to call, two powerful spinners and two great drivers, two pretty unpredictable machines. Hold a gun to my head and ask me who I’m going for? Black Dragon. Just about.
This is mainly based on the fact that Black Dragon is, on paper, set up to beat Tombstone. It’s fast, well-controlled, durable, has a strong front wedge, and has an awesome spinning weapon on it to boot. Yes, you could say all those things about Tombstone’s last opponents, Mad Catter, but whilst that they’re a comparatively new team still perfecting their bot, the guys at Uiarrior have been doing this for years, are seasoned vets, and, as previously mentioned, their bot is set up to beat Tombstone. They have everything at their disposal, and now they need to up their game and deliver. Do Ray Billings and Tombstone have a shot? Yes, they absolutely do. Knowing them, anything is possible, even when they look down and out they can find a way to pull it back. But I have a decision to make, and logic is telling me to go for Black Dragon.
WINNER: BLACK DRAGON
Bloodsport (2) vs Tantrum (18)
Hopping over to the more interesting side of the bracket, after a sad predictions sheet that sees four higher-ranked seeds going through, I really wish I could say something different about this 2 vs 18 tie, but, I’ll admit, it would be a bit of a struggle for me to do so.
Don’t get me wrong, Tantrum has had a phenomenal season so far, and to be in the top16 after being written off by many is a mighty achievement for the little orange nuisance. They managed to grind out a win over Fusion by making it literally explode, but Bloodsport this season is a whole other challenge. Yes, they had a close call against Gruff, but if we discount the factor of their weapon for this fight snapping off and being sent into the Shadow Realm, if it gets the right shots in, it’s not much of a contest for me. Both are very well driven, and Tantrum is really durable, but Bloodsport’s weapon is a beast on its day. Whether or not Aren Hill & co. have enough firepower to be able to negate the power of said weapon remains to be seen, and I’m sure if they land a couple of good pops with the puncher it could be a completely different story.
Despite this possibility, I’d be surprised if this isn’t a victory for Bloodsport.
SawBlaze (7) vs Witch Doctor (23)
Another one we would’ve expected to see much deeper into the tournament – quite literally, since this was a quarter-final tie in 2019 – the low seedings for the big guns throw us another awesome tie in the guise of SawBlaze against Witch Doctor.
Now, when I first saw this match-up as a possibility, I thought “ah, because SawBlaze’s front forks hindered it when these two fought last year, they’ll probably switch to a more effective dustpan configuration to scoop up Witch Doctor and carry it about the box”. To me, someone yet to even start building a beetle let alone finish it, that strat makes sense. So imagine my chagrin, then, when I see that SawBlaze is doing the exact same thing as last time. On paper at least.
By that logic, I’m obliged to believe it’ll be a pretty similar case as last time, especially since Witch Doctor seems back to its brilliant best thanks to the newly-welded spinner. Whether Go & co. are putting Einstein’s definition of insanity to the test or whether this is the only setup they came to filming with, I would expect SawBlaze to keep tilting itself backwards and letting Witch Doctor get some solid pops at it, with some good shots to the wheels for good measure. Normally I wouldn’t go against my gut feeling, but SawBlaze’s setup has made me switch allegiance to the voodoo side.
WINNER: WITCH DOCTOR
Mammoth (30) vs Shatter (19)
Probably the fight I’m looking forward to the most, and probably the most outlandish as well. Not least because it’s the two underdogs who have made it through to face each other, but also because the one and only Mammoth has only gone and made it to the top 16. I can’t quite believe it.
And you know what? I think it can go one better. I think it’ll win this fight! Call me crazy, delusional, a fanboy, whatever you like, but this seems like the ideal match-up for it. Given it’s essentially made of scaffolding with hardly any surface area to actually hit, Shatter is going to have to rely on getting itself around the back of Ricky Willems’ behemoth, which seems unlikely, or just go hell for leather and start wailing with the axe wherever it goes, which leaves it vulnerable to being launched into the air when it bounces up from the force of the hammer swing. Whatever Shatter can throw at Mammoth, it seems to be well set up to deal with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love both of these bots and I think this will be a fantastic fight. But I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are going to be writing Mammoth off here – much like against Copperhead. But I’m keeping faith with a bot that’s not ready to go extinct just yet.
End Game (6) vs Rotator (22)
The final fight of the night, and the third fight which sees an elite bot giving us a ludicrously OP match-up that we should be seeing in the quarters at least, it’s the nutty New Zealanders and End Game, on a roll of a lifetime right now, against Rotator, which looks like its just about breaking into its stride this season.
Even though Rotator’s record doesn’t reflect its ability or status, if there’s one thing it’s proven this season, it’s that it just keeps going? Three minutes of being shunted into the wall by Beta? Keeps going. Three minutes in a brutal slug-fest against Valkyrie? Keeps going. Takes some massive shots from Jackpot? Keeps. F*cking. Going. Its weapon especially is something to be feared, since it can catch other drivers out by hitting all the right places, and just keeps on working regardless of how much is thrown its way.
End Game, on the other hand, is notorious for doing the exact opposite. It’s true that it’s looked a lot more reliable this season, its front wedge looking much more robust, and has been much more ruthless in its approach, with the exception of its loss against Bloodsport. The thing is with its wins though, is that they’ve all been very quick victories, all KO’s in under a minute. You can pretty much guarantee that Rotator won’t be knocked out in under a minute, barring a spectacular shot that sends it careening over the wall and into submission. Taking that variable out of the equation, my expectation would be for the two to exchange some powerful hits with one another, with End Game being the one to feel the effects of them more. From there, it’s Rotator’s to lose, and will probably send the guys packing their bags back down under.
It’s been a great run for End Game, finally showing their full potential, but sadly, I think this is where it ends.
And that just about does it for this edition of the BattleBots predictions game. Whilst I’m yet to have a full clean sweep this season, I still feel it’s been a pretty impressive showing from yours truly, and I’m hoping for a full set of correct predictions in these last couple of weeks. Maybe I shouldn’t have put all my faith in Mammoth then, but whenever I don’t it wins, and when I do it loses. It’s really frustrating.
To recap, my pick for the top 8 next week goes:
Hydra (1) vs Whiplash (8)
Uppercut (4) vs Black Dragon (5)
Bloodsport (2) vs Witch Doctor (23)
Mammoth (30) vs Rotator (22)
I know, such an intriguing line-up, and probably better than the one we’ll actually get. Look at all those top ten seeds making it through, who’d have thought putting them against weaker bots would see this happen?
Anyway, I’ll sign off before I start going off on one. Thanks for reading, folks, and I hope I’ll see you again very soon.