Fight Picks – UFC 180

ufc180_580

This Saturday night, for the first time ever, the UFC will take the Octagon to sunny Mexico. Initially, Mexican star Cain Velasquez was due to headline the card but injury put pay to that (as well as Diego Sanchez vs. Norman Parke/Joe Lauzon) and an interim heavyweight title has been created to spice up the headliner. UFC 180 turned out to be a card badly hampered by pull outs but is still quality at the top end. Here are my predictions.

Fabrício Werdum vs. Mark Hunt

When Cain Velasquez pulled out of Saturday’s headliner the UFC sent out the call for a replacement to fight Fabricio Werdum; Mark Hunt answered. The New Zealand born Australian resident took the fight on just three weeks notice and, after weighing 300 pounds when the news came through, his whole camp was spent dropping down to meet the 265 lbs heavyweight limit. Nevertheless, Hunt will be confident and enters the bout after knocking out the granite chinned Roy Nelson in September following a career renaissance which has seen him put together a 5-1-1 record in the last three years. Werdum has also made quite the career re-up. After being cut by the UFC when knocked out by Junior Dos Santos, Werdum went on to win seven of his next eight fights, taking scalps like of Roy Nelson, Bigfoot Silva and Fedor Emelianenko along the way.

The match up here is one plucked straight from the early days of MMA. World champion grappler vs. World champion striker. Werdum, the grappler, will be highly favoured should it hit the deck. Hunt, the striker, will do everything he can go keep it vertical. As modern mixed martial artists, though, neither man is that one dimensional. Werdum in particular has developed a wonderful muay Thai game which he won’t be afraid to use; while Hunt’s new-found takedown defence has largely been to thank for his journey towards the top. It’s really difficult to predict how this fight will go. Werdum is the quicker, more athletic man with a larger amount of weapons but Hunt has the one weapon which equalises the rest – knockout power. In the Mexican altitude Hunt will need to land the blow early or he will undoubtedly end up tiring and losing. Werdum has been unflappable lately in his ability to beat opponents in all areas of the game – he will do the same against Hunt, almost. In MMA, it’s never wise to pick solely on someone’s ability to land one single KO punch. Wisdom was never my strong point.

Prediction – Hunt via KO

Jake Ellenberger vs. Kelvin Gastelum

In a fight between #8 ranked Jake Ellenberger and #11 ranked Kelvin Gastelum we can get a real indicator of who will go into 2015 with the possibility of making a run towards the title. Ellenberger has been amongst the 170 lbs top-10 for years but has yet to make a really breakthrough toward the top and is struggling to hold on to his ranking following consecutive losses to Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler. Gastelum, on the other hand, is still unbeaten in his nine fight career. The TUF champion has won all four fights since leaving the house, beating Uriah Hall, Brian Melancon, Rick Story and Nico Musoke. Ellenberger, though, will be the first big test of his career.

These two are pretty similar fighters physically. Both men are short, stout wrestlers who have the ability to crack on the feet. Where they do differ is in how they actually fight. Ellenberger is a quick starter who tends to have success from the start or not at all with questions over his mental toughness having still to be answered. Gastelum is the exact opposite. He loves a challenge and, as he showed against Rick Story, can recover from a tough start to take control of the fight. That said, it also means he is somewhat of a slow starter and if Ellenberger capitalizes on that he could get the finish early. For me, Gastelum will get through the early barrage, his opponent will wilt and he’ll take the next two rounds.

Prediction – Gastelum via decision

Ricardo Lamas vs. Dennis Bermudez

Fans of Conor McGregor will need to keep a keen eye on this battle between highly ranked featherweights. Dennis Bermudez, especially, will thrust himself right into the title picture with a win here following a seven fight winning streak. Lamas has been on a roll of late also winning five of his last six. The problem for him is that the one loss came against Jose Aldo in what was a lifeless effort to become the second ever 145 lbs champion. A win here for Lamas would kick-start his career.

Bermudez is a talented fighter in all areas. The former TUF finalist puts together solid wrestling with a wild, powerful striking game. Lamas is more of a grinding wrestler with a tight, but not that effective, technical striking game. Bermudez only really knows how to fight one way and that’s with a reckless abandon. Against Lamas, that isn’t a smart thing to do. I see Lamas pouncing on every overthrown shot and using his better wrestling to take it to the mat. Bermudez’ ability to stop that shot will be the winning and losing of the fight. I think we are in for a grinding fifteen minutes where fight IQ will be extra important. This is a real test for Bermudez and his ability control his game.

Prediction – Lamas via decision

SHORT PICKS

Edgar García vs. Héctor Urbina – Urbina via KO.
Jessica Eye vs. Leslie Smith – Smith via decision.
Gabriel Benítez vs. Humberto Brown – Benitez via KO.
Yair Rodríguez vs. Leonardo Morales – Rodriguez via decision.
Augusto Montaño vs. Chris Heatherly – Heatherly via decision.
Alejandro Pérez vs. José Alberto Quiñónez – Quiñónez via decision.
Enrique Briones vs. Guido Cannetti – Briones via KO.
Marco Beltrán vs. Marlon Vera – Vera via decision.

BONUS PICKS

Fight of the night – Ellenberger vs. Gastelum

Performance of the night – Hunt and Urbina

BET OF THE WEEK

My bet of the week is Lamas via decision which is bordering around 5/2 at the time of publication.

Lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Co-host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Tuesday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma