There is no shortage of opportunities to cash monster underdog tickets for Saturday’s UFC 160 card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In the main event, Cain Velasquez will defend his heavyweight title against Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva as an enormous -700 favorite (risk $700 to win $100).
As of Friday afternoon, gamblers could take Silva for a lucrative +500 payout (risk $100 to win $500). The ‘over/under’ is 1.5 rounds (-120 ‘over,’ -110 ‘under’).
Velasquez (11-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) is coming off the most impressive performance of his career, regaining the heavyweight belt by destroying Junior dos Santos at UFC 155 on Dec. 29. Velasquez dominated JDS for 25 minutes en route to a unanimous-decision victory (50-45, 50-44 and 50-43).
Unlike the first meeting when JDS caught Velasquez with a big right hand and followed it up with ground-and-pound punishment to win the belt, Velasquez came out applying pressure. Dos Santos had never been taken down in nine previous Octagon appearances, but the former Arizona St. wrestler scored a takedown in the first minute of action.
Velasquez floored Dos Santos with an overhand right moments later and then went to work in ground-and-pound fashion. By the end of the first stanza, JDS was a swollen and bloody mess.
The fight was never competitive. Velasquez’s relentless attack kept JDS backing up, preventing him from letting his hands go. To his credit, though, Dos Santos somehow hung in there and took the beating like a warrior.
Unlike his last reign as champ when Velasquez took the belt from Brock Lesnar but lost in his first title defense to Dos Santos, he is looking to remain The Baddest Man on the Planet in another rematch situation.
Following Cain’s loss to JDS at UFC on Fox 1 on Nov. 12 of 2011, he returned to the Octagon and smashed ‘Bigfoot’ Silva by first-round knockout. As the two men met in the center of the cage, Sliva threw a legkick that Velasquez caught before executing a takedown.
Working from Sliva’s half guard, Velasquez landed a big elbow right between Bigfoot’s eyes to open a massive cut that instantly began pouring blood. From there, Silva’s vision was shot and Velasquez finished him quickly.
Silva (18-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC) bounced back from his miserable UFC debut to blast previously-undefeated Travis Browne by first-round knockout. In Browne’s defense, he did suffer a hamstring injury early in the first round and was basically fighting on one leg.
Nevertheless, Silva took full advantage and finished the KO at the 3:27 mark of Round 1. Next, Silva was installed as an underdog in the +350/+400 range versus Alistair Overeem.
Overeem controlled the first two rounds, winning most of the standing exchanges and also scoring a few takedowns. However, Overeem wasn’t dealing out lots of damage and he wasn’t giving ‘Bigfoot’ enough respect, repeatedly dropping his hands and inviting Silva to get busy.
At the outset of Round 3, that’s exactly what Silva did. The entire course of the fight changed when Silva connected with a headkick. ‘Bigfoot’ followed up with several overhand rights that hurt Overeem and pushed back against the cage. Silva’s violent flurry was capped by a couple of uppercuts that floored Overeem before Herb Dean stepped in to end the carnage.
Prediction: Velasquez looked incredible against Dos Santos in his last outing. I don’t think it’ll be nearly as easy against Bigfoot as the last time they squared off, but I see Velasquez winning by second-round KO. From a betting perspective on the side, this is undoubtedly a situation where you either take the underdog or pass. If you like Velasquez enough to risk a -700 Chalk Sandwich, then you’re confident it’ll happen in the first round. Therefore, go with the ‘under’ for less risk if that’s your thinking. I’ll pass.
In the co-main event, Dos Santos (15-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) will take on former K-1 champion Mark Hunt, who brings a four-fight winning streak to Vegas. Most spots have JDS listed as a -450 ‘chalk’ with Hunt available for a +360 return (risk $100 to win $360). The total is 1.5 rounds (‘over’ -160, ‘under’ +130).
Hunt (9-7 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is coming off a thrilling third-round KO of Stefan ‘Skyscraper' Struve, who had won four straight fights before falling victim to a leaping left hook from Hunt that broke his jaw.
Both men like to stand and bang, but there has been plenty of speculation that Dos Santos will attempt to demonstrate his ground game against Hunt. The Brazilian hasn’t needed his ground game in his UFC career to date, but he is a member of Team Nogueira and has a black belt in jiu-jitsu.
Hunt, who has won four straight fights with scalps of Struve, Cheick Kongo, ‘Big’ Ben Rothwell and Chris Tuchscherer, has an iron chin, spectacular kickboxing skills and a vicious left hook.
The winner is expected to get a title shot.
Prediction: When you take the type of beating JDS did against Velasquez, you never know if that fighter will ever be the same again. There’s another factor that I believe could work against Dos Santos in this matchup: If his game plan is to indeed take the fight to the ground, that’s a different strategy from every other previous Octagon appearance. I think Hunt has a great shot here and with the generous odds, he is an automatic play for me. I like Hunt to pull the stunner with a second-round KO.
In a light heavyweight showdown, Glover Teixeira (20-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC) will square off against James Te Huna. Most books have installed Teixeira as a -320 favorite with Te Huna available for a +260 payout. The total is 1.5 rounds (-180 ‘over,’ +150 ‘under’).
Teixeira, who is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Rampage Jackson, hasn’t tasted defeat in more than eight years. However, his performance hasn’t really met the hype in his three UFC victories. The Brazilian needs to make a statement if he wants a shot at the title in 2013.
Te Huna (16-5 MMA, 5-1 UFC) has won four in a row, but this will be his toughest career test.
Prediction: I think Teixeira wins a unanimous decision in a competitive bout (29-28). I’ll pass on a wager, though.
In the lightweight loop, Gray Maynard (11-1-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1-1 UFC) and T.J. Grant will collide for the right to face Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson for the 155-pound belt. Most spots have Maynard installed as a -210 favorite with Grant available at +170 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $170). The total is 2.5 rounds (-210 ‘over,’ +170 ‘under’).
Maynard has only fought once since his epic bouts with Frankie Edgar for the 155-pound strap. ‘The Bully’ collected a split-decision win over Clay Guida in Atlantic City on a night when ‘The Carpenter’ used a lame Greg Jackson game plan and ran from Maynard for 15 minutes.
T.J. Grant (20-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC) has won four consecutive fights, but this is a big step up in competition for the Canadian.
Prediction: The -210 price is just a tad too ‘chalky’ for my taste but I’m not against taking the risk with Maynard. I think Maynard wins a unanimous decision (30-27).
The opener on the pay-per-view card will feature Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (20-5 MMA, 6-2 UFC) versus K.J. Noons in a lightweight scrap. Most spots have Cerrone as a -290 ‘chalk,’ while Noons is a +240 underdog. The total is 2.5 rounds (‘over’ -135, ‘under’ +105).
Noons (11-6 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has lost four of his last five fights and is making his Octagon debut.
Prediction: I like Cerrone to win by submission, but the price is too expensive for me. Therefore, I’ll go with the ‘under’ (2.5 rounds) at the inexpensive rate (+105).
--On Tuesday’s edition of UFC Tonight on FUEL TV, we learned that Chad Mendes and Clay Guida are likely to scrap at UFC 164 in Milwaukee.
--Travis Browne vs. Alastair Overeem is a huge heavyweight matchup that has been confirmed (h/t to MMAJunkie.com) for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 card, joining lightweight showdown Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Johnson and Matt Brown vs. Thiago Alves (welterweights).
--Former welterweight champ Matt Serra has told the media that he is retired ‘unless he gets a chance to fight at Madison Square Garden.’ The state of New York has yet to sanction mixed martial arts.
--The UFC signed former heavyweight champ Josh Barnett this week.