Moped, KC SportsNation’s UFC expert
There are several good fights tonight that start on Facebook and then roll over to FX and eventually PPV. The weigh-in was uneventful as far as fighters missing weight. There were some things to be noted from it and are reflected below.
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos – this is a fight that has a lot of intrigue around it. JDS won the first fight on Fox with a 1st round TKO. Immediately after the fight, there was speculation that Velasquez had a knee injury. That is certainly true and it is widely believed that it hampered his ability to take down JDS. However, JDS also had a knee injury (torn meniscus) and had surgery after the fight.
The betting line on this fight has bounced around a lot. It started around -155 for JDS and climbed to -220. It has since settled in at -190. Most experts have JDS winning and very few see it going the distance. The experts picking Velasquez have it going the distance. There is wide agreement that Velasquez has to take him down and ground and pound (he has no submissions yet). If the fight remains standing, then JDS is a prohibitive favorite.
There are several problems I see with Velasquez winning the belt. First, he has not fought the level of competition that JDS has. His best wins are Lesnar (who battled serious health issues and has since retired), a Nogueira brother and Bigfoot Silva. JDS has beat Frank Mir (good wrestling and BJJ), Roy Nelson (another good wrestler with heavy hands), Shane Carwin (heavy hands) and, yes, Velasquez. Secondly, Velasquez admits he will not try to trade with JDS. JDS is three inches taller and hits like a mule kick. However, most fighters have had that plan against JDS. He has a great jab and decent kicks, which prevents wrestlers getting close enough to take him down. Further bad news, JDS is Brazilian and just earned his black belt in BJJ. Taller fighters tend to be able to cover up ground and pounders because they have the legs to control the body of the guy on top. Some people believe he can wear out JDS with his great cardio. When has JDS ever been tired in a fight? I really do not believe that Velasquez can take JDS down, keep him down (long fighters will post their arm and crawl up the cage) or finish him on the ground (JDS presumably has better BJJ). Velasquez will have to take the center of the octagon and force JDS against the cage where his avenues of escape will be few. That is not easy to do with a great striker who has the reach on you. JDS has never been rocked with a strike, while Velasquez has been touched. If you are looking for value, take JDS inside the distance, which is -140. There have been only two fighters in the UFC who have gone the distance with JDS and both had pizza faces after the fight. And, remember, those fights only went three rounds. Taking the punishment for five rounds from JDS is almost unimaginable. Take JDS to win.
Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller – this is the co-main event and it will be a good fight. Miller is -215 and has fought elite competition. He is an outstanding wrestler who will gradually look for an opening to submit his opponent. His striking is certainly solid, but he is just a very tough guy who has many of his fights go to the cards. Lauzon is the polar opposite. He goes for broke. In his last eight fights, he has either received the bonus for Fight of the Night or Submission of the Night. Even his losses are dramatic. He has a little bit of a reach advantage and has good striking, but he wants to get Miller on the ground and submit him. He has never won a decision (cardio issues related to his pace) and he has 18 submissions in his 22 fights. Lauzon has been maturing as a fighter and trying to pace himself more, but eventually this is going to the ground and something has to give. This is a fight to stay away from even though Miller is an overwhelming pick by the experts. Lauzon is very dangerous. I would recommend the prop bet of inside the distance, which is -175.
Costa Philippou vs. Tim Boetsch – this is not a fight that moves the needle much. Philippou is known for being a good boxer, but his fights usually go to the judges. Boetsch has seen his stock rise, but he is a pretty boring fighter as well. Boetsch is barely favored which is hard to understand. He has clearly fought the better competition, albeit unimpressively. He is the stronger fighter. Experts are favoring him heavily. He was supposed to fight Chris Weidman – who got injured – so he should be in very good shape because Weidman would have ended his time on Earth. Boetsch is a good value at -120. The other good bet here is -190 for this fight going to the judges. (The best way to judge those props is to look at their most recent history, because it shows the better competition they have faced. Philippou has gone the distance in five of the last six fights and Boetsch has had 4 of the last 6 [no stoppages in the first round].)
Alan Belcher vs. Yushin Okami – this is probably my favorite fight of the night. The line has fluctuated a little bit, but Okami has been a slight favorite for the most part. The experts also generally believe Okami is going to win. I just don’t get it. Belcher has been on a roll lately and finishing fights quickly. He has good hands and is extremely underrated on the ground. When he fought Palhares, it seemed almost intentional that Belcher went to the ground to prove he could escape Palhares’ heel hook. Palhares collects legs in the octagon better than anyone and Belcher repeatedly escaped it. Joe Rogan almost had a miscarriage watching this happen. Belcher remained calm and then pummeled him with strikes. Belcher fought Okami back in 2006 at UFC 62. That is how long ago it was. Belcher was a raw fighter who was fighting in the UFC at the age of 22 and it was his first fight there. He has battled injuries, but he is widely respected. Some believe he should be on the short list for Anderson Silva to fight. When you look at world rankings, he is listed anywhere between 4–8, while Okami is at the bottom of the Top 10 or has low as 16. Experts believe Okami wins a decision. I don’t see this going the distance. Okami has lost his last two to KO (Silva and Boetsch); Belcher has improved more since the last fight; and Belcher looks to be in tremendous condition. I love him to win the fight and look for it to go inside the distance. Belcher is +201 inside the distance. If not, take him to win the fight at -105.
Derek Brunson vs. Chris Leben – this is a tough fight and it is probably wise to stay away. This is your classic newbie versus salty veteran. Leben is a warrior and really brings it. He used to have a great chin and would just weather the storm, so he could take down the fighter to submit him. While he looked great at the weigh-in, his brain scan would be different. Brunson is new to the UFC coming over from Strikeforce. He has lost his last two fights, but was a D2 All-American wrestler. If you take anything, take inside the distance as Leben is a crowd pleaser and it will end one way or another with someone going night night (-165).
Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland – this is where I get a little sketchy on the fighters. I’ve seen Pickett fight and he brings it. Great power (he comes from England’s bare knuckle history) and very entertaining. Wineland has a similar reputation. Experts really like Wineland, they all agree it will be close. Most see a decision, but I will be going with the inside the distance prop (-115). If you want to pick a fun prop bet, take this for the Fight of the Night at +400.
Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodworth – no opinion on this one. Experts like Perez a lot in this fight. Perez is -465. Bloodworth has only fought once in the UFC and lost a decision to Mike Easton. Perez is 2–0.
Jamie Varner vs. Melvin Guillard – this fight was supposed to happen three weeks ago, but Varner was vomiting so much the Nevada Fight Commission stopped the fight from happening. These guys cut so much weight that their bodies just shut down sometimes. This will be a very entertaining fight. I liked Guillard last time, but he was too pumped up at the weigh-in. I am not sure whom to pick now, but it ain’t going to the judges (-300).
Myles Jury vs. Michael Johnson – these are two veterans of the Ultimate Fighter (TUF). However, Johnson was on the show in 2010 and Jury was this year’s edition. Those two years of growth are huge. Johnson has looked good lately and should be the superior fighter here. Experts love Johnson, too. Take him at -230.
Phil De Fries vs. Todd Duffee – not a lot on these fighters from watching them, but there is a very enticing prop bet. Combined, these two fighters have fought about 20 times. One has gone to the cards. This is very common for heavyweights. Duffee has only seen the 3rd round once in nine fights with seven being in the first round. Even at -400, you have to love inside the distance.
Leonard Garcia vs. Max Holloway – Garcia is a very entertaining punching bag. He will fight like the drunk in the parking lot. However, he is just not very good. Holloway is a polished fighter with lots of reach. I just don’t see how Garcia can win here. Take Holloway at -400.
John Moraga vs. Chris Cariaso – no personal knowledge of either guy. Cariaso seems go the distance all the time. However, that is -230 so there isn’t a lot there.