(C) Johny Hendricks vs. #1 Robbie Lawler:
As amazing as it would be to see Robbie Lawler as the UFC Welterweight champion, I don’t believe it’s going to happen at UFC 181.
Hendricks and Lawler went at it, exchanging in the pocket for the better part of five rounds in their first meeting. All credit to Johny Hendricks’ chin, but if Robbie Lawler was unable to finish an injured Hendricks who stood with him for nearly five full rounds, I’m hard-pressed to see it happening in the rematch, especially if Hendricks is healthy.
Hendricks tore his biceps in the first round of the first fight with Lawler, which, according to Hendricks, gave him problems finishing the takedown and defending strikes.
Hendricks will likely look to take this fight to the mat, and not exchange on the feet much with a very dangerous Robbie Lawler. If Hendricks puts pressure on Lawler with his wrestling and is able to take Lawler down consistently, he should come away with a successful title defense.
As for Lawler, he needs to keep Hendricks at distance using his rangy striking and be prepared to defend takedowns, which won’t be an easy task. Hendricks also has a tendency to explode in against longer fighters, getting inside by faking a level change, looking to land that knockout punch. If Lawler can correctly time when Hendricks looks to explode in, he can land some very big strikes of his own.
My Pick: Hendricks
Favorite: Hendricks (-202) Underdog: Lawler (+172)
(C) Anthony Pettis vs. #1 Gilbert Melendez:
Anthony Pettis is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. Pettis has finished his last three fights in the first round, competing for a total time of eight minutes and 27 seconds between all three. The fact that these victories were over world-class fighters makes that all the more impressive.
In the early stages of a fight, you don’t want to get hit by Anthony Pettis. If Pettis lands flush with a kick to the head or body you’re in big trouble.
In order to beat Gilbert Melendez, Pettis will need to keep his back off of the cage and try to keep this fight at kicking range. For the most part, Pettis just has to do what he always does, throwing his flashy, yet technical kicks early to catch Melendez off guard and hope to connect with something big.
As for Melendez, he needs to make this fight a dirty one, similar to what Benson Henderson attempted to do in his last fight with Pettis. Melendez needs to get Pettis against the cage, take away his space in order to use dirty boxing and work from the clinch.
Where Melendez should also hold the advantage is in the wrestling department, however, he should refrain from getting in Pettis’ guard early in the fight, as he is a known finisher from his back and has a very proactive guard. Melendez has to keep this fight in close range early to tire Pettis out and then take it to the mat in the later rounds, where he will be much more difficult to submit. However, Pettis’ recently improved takedown defense could make this a very difficult task.
My Pick: Pettis
Favorite: Pettis (-275) Underdog: Melendez (+230)
#3 Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub:
This fight is much more interesting than people believe it to be.
Travis Browne is one of the most dangerous Heavyweights in the world in the first round, as 12 of his 16 victories have come via a round one finish. If he is able to land a big shot early, he could definitely add Schaub’s name to that list.
Browne is a huge Heavyweight at 6’7, who uses his range very well. Browne likes to throw front kicks, superman punches, etc.. which have been successful for him in the past. Aside from his last fight with Fabricio Werdum, Browne has also shown excellent takedown defense, especially against the cage where he lands vicious elbows that have finished both Gabriel Gonzaga and Josh Barnett.
But here’s where things get interesting. Brendan Schaub is a very well-rounded fighter, which he doesn’t get enough credit for. Schaub is a solid striker and if he is able to find his way inside of Browne’s reach, could have some success of the feet. However, the biggest variable in this one could be whether or not Schaub can take the fight to the ground. Schaub should look to use his strikes to set up takedowns in the center of the octagon, if he is able to do so, he should have his way with Browne from there.
I’m torn on this fight, but will play it safe and go with the favorite in Travis Browne.
My Pick: Browne
Favorite: Browne (-350) Underdog: Schaub (+290)
Todd Duffee vs. Anthony Hamilton:
After two years away due to parsonage turner syndrome, Todd Duffee finally returns to the octagon.
Duffee is another Heavyweight who is ridiculously dangerous in round one. Only one of Duffee’s eight wins have not been a first round knockout.
Anthony Hamilton, who has power in his own right, just hasn’t faced someone with the skill level of Todd Duffee.
Duffee should be better than Hamilton in every aspect of the game, outside of a one-punch knockout, I can’t see Hamilton winning this fight.
Either way, look for a big knockout in this one.
My Pick: Duffee
Favorite: Duffee (-330) Underdog: Hamilton (+270)
Tony Ferguson vs. Abel Trujillo:
This fight has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Both Ferguson and Trujillo are known knockout artists and if they land, can finish anyone in the division.
Ferguson needs to be wary of the explosive power of Trujillo and keep this fight on the outside and using his range and technical striking to find the victory. Ferguson is also a solid wrestler and is able to work well from his back, so should be fine wherever he finds himself in the grappling exchanges. However, if Ferguson finds himself on the bottom, he needs to work to get back to his feet, as Trujillo will look to finish from the top.
For Trujillo, he needs to use his strength and athleticism to make this fight dirty. Trujillo needs to get inside and land some heavy punches. He should look to muscle Ferguson around, especially against the cage where he has proven to be very dangerous from in the past.
This is another close fight, where both men have the ability to win, but Ferguson’s well-rounded skill set should be enough to get him the victory.
My Pick: Ferguson
Favorite: Ferguson (-265) Underdog: Trujillo (+220)
#3 Urijah Faber (-635) > #11 Francisco Rivera (+485)
Eddie Gordon (-137) > Josh Samman (+117)
Corey Anderson (-385) > Justin Jones (+315)
Ashlee Evans-Smith (-195) > #13 Raquel Pennington (+166)
Sergio Pettis (-235) > Matt Hobar (+195)
Clay Collard (-112) > Alex White (-108)