*Betting Odds courtesy of MMA Mania
Heavyweight Championship: Cain Velasquez (-200) vs Junior Dos Santos (+170)
The greatest heavyweight trilogy of this generation; Cain Velasquez and Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos are the two most prominent heavyweight fighters today and both appear destined for Hall of Fame careers. JDS knocked Cain out the first time and Cain answered back with a five-round ass-whooping. Both fighters have immense knockout power (over 80% of their wins by KO) and their only losses in the octagon have come against each other. Who wins the rubber match?
Cain Wins: since he is cerebral. His striking is precise and on point and he’ll control the action with relentless takedowns and constant pressure. Overshadowed by his 10 KO wins is his NCAA Division I wrestling pedigree. This man outwrestled a much bigger Brock Lesnar. His cardio is the best in the division and if the fight goes the distance, odds are in his favour.
JDS Wins: if does not over train and if he can hit Cain in the right spot within the first few rounds. He’s done it before and he can do it again. JDS may be the heavyweight division’s best striker in terms of his power and versatility. If anyone can pull a knockout out of their ass it’s him. If he improves his cardio he’ll hang with Cain though he shouldn’t risk leaving it to the judges as Cain is the more efficient fighter.
My Pick: Cain’s calm calculating demeanour reminds me of the great Fedor Emelianenko; fighters like him dissect their opponents and JDS would know his best chance to win is by knocking Cain out quickly and not trying to “out technique” him. If it goes the distance I see Cain winning but I’ll go with the spectacular and pick a Junior Dos Santos Round 3 TKO to cap off one of the greatest heavyweight fights.
Daniel Cormier (-600) vs Roy Nelson (+450)
A battle of the heavyweight division’s premiere fat guys! Daniel Cormier is undefeated (12-0) in his short MMA career. He’s a decorated NCAA Division I and Olympic wrestler and a close training partner to Cain Velasquez. Roy “Big Country” Nelson is a Shaolin Kung Fu fighter with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. All of his UFC wins have come by knockout and he has never been finished. Ever. DC is expected to move to light heavyweight regardless of the outcome and Nelson is coming off a loss to Stipe Miocic. A big win here would still boost either fighter’s stock immensely.
Cormier Wins: if he keeps his distance and neutralizes Roy Nelson’s greatest advantage: his punching power. Cormier is a small heavyweight and is lighter on his feet. He has knockout power but prefers to wear his opponents out. Nelson showed in the Miocic fight, he can gas quickly. Cormier can either outwrestle Nelson or force him to overexert himself en route to a decision.
Roy Wins: if he catches Cormier with one of his punches. That’s right, just ONE PUNCH. His last 3 wins were all round 1 knockouts. He is no slouch in the ground either and other than having a BJJ background, he is over 25 lbs heavier than Cormier. Despite being a huge underdog, I like Roy’s chances of pulling off the upset.
My Pick: this fight is closer than people may expect. Cormier is the big favourite to win but Roy may be the strongest and toughest fighter he’s faced and has a BJJ background. I’ll fall in line and take the safe pick: Cormier will out-point Roy Nelson, keep away from him and take him to a snoozer unanimous decision win. Nah. Sign me up for a Roy Nelson surprise knockout in round 2.
Gilbert Melendez (-800) vs Diego Sanchez (+550)
A battle of Mexican stars pits former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Gilbert Melendez against The Ultimate Fighter original series winner, Diego “The Dream” Sanchez. On paper, this fight is a huge mismatch. Melendez is a top 5 lightweight in the world while Sanchez is barely scratching the top 20. His last fight, a controversial decision win over Takanori Gomi doesn’t help his case. Melendez is coming off a razor-thin split decision loss to former champ, Benson Henderson. As an additional storyline: both fighters were once sparring partners and have a storied history together. This match is ten years in the making.
Melendez wins: if he takes Diego to the ground and neutralizes him. Standing and counter-striking Diego seems like a good choice as he is more technical but Sanchez will just eat your punches to give his own and this is the danger Melendez faces. He doesn’t want to be on the wrong end of a decision. He can prevent Sanchez from scoring points by grinding him out and holding him down.
Diego wins: if he can prevent Melendez from controlling him on the ground or if he can avoid trying to “out-point” Melendez. Gil is a crafty fighter and manages to capitalize on any kind of opening. Sanchez needs to find the controlled aggression that has led to his previous wins. Melendez will get his shots but so long as Sanchez dictates the pace of the fight he should have a good chance at scoring an upset.
My Pick: Despite the difference in rank, this fight may be the most even in the main card. Not only does Diego have warrior spirit, a granite chin and a strong BJJ game, he has familiarity with Melendez. On top of that, he is a vet of close decision wins and seems to get the benefit of the doubt. Melendez is the better fighter but don’t underestimate the Dream in pulling off a colossal upset: Diego Sanchez via (controversial) split decision win.
Gabriel Gonzaga (+175) vs Shawn Jordan (-210)
A clash of two heavyweights looking to get in the top 10 of the division; Gabriel Gonzaga, long-time UFC vet has won 3 of his last 4 fights by stoppage since he returned from hiatus in 2011. Shawn “The Savage” Jordan has also won 3 of his last 4 fights by stoppage. A big win from either fighter would have them just outside the top 10.
Gonzaga wins: if he doesn’t stand and bang with Jordan and wears him out with constant pressure from his grappling. Gonzaga is the superior grappler. He has 11 wins by submission (2nd all-time next to Frank Mir) and has a 4th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Jordan wins: if he can outlast Gonzaga’s grappling and avoid his submission attempts. If he keeps the fight standing, he’s likely to knock him out. Jordan is the superior athlete and tough as nails. He took everything Mike Russow emptied on him and finished him in the second round.
My Pick: Safe choice is to give it to the more experienced Gonzaga to grind Jordan out en route to a (boo-fest) decision win. If his cardio holds up, the chances are even better. But Jordan’s a favourite for a reason. It’s hard to avoid a savage’s hands for all 15 minutes. A Jordan punch can floor Gonzaga at any time: Shawn Jordan by Round 1 KO.
John Dodson (-340) vs Darrell Montague (+280)
Flyweight contender John “The Magician” Dodson welcomes Darrell “The Mongoose” Montague to the UFC. Dodson’s only loss in the octagon came against champ, Demetrious Johnson in a fight that saw him floor the champion repeatedly. Montague on the other hand is an enigma and hasn’t fought any high-profile fighters outside Ian McCall. Dodson either gets himself back in title contention or Montague makes a titanic statement.
Dodson wins: if he keeps the fight standing and whips Montague with his arsenal of missiles. Dodson is looking like another Greg Jackson success story and there’s no real indication of him slowing down. His superior athleticism also makes you wonder just what else this kid can do.
Montague wins: if he grounds Dodson and keeps him from utilizing his greatest strength: his striking. Montague would have to live in a dark cellar in Laos not to be aware of Dodson’s power. He is also a relative unknown and hasn’t been in the spotlight long so he can use that to his advantage..
My Pick: It all depends if the striker can keep the fight standing or the wrestler can push the fight to the ground. Whoever does which will more likely win. I don’t know much about Montague but he could be the next big thing in the flyweight division. I’ll give him a lot of credit but for now, it feels like a John Dodson round 2 TKO.