Your gambling guide to the best bets at UFC 148 tonight via our man Dan at CageWagers.
Chad Mendes Vs. Cody McKenzie
On paper Chad Mendes should win this fight easily. All he has to do is avoid the favourite trick of Cody “the one trick pony” McKenzie. His infamous guillotine has been responsible for 11 men losing fights that they should have won on paper.
A specialist of McKenzie’s ilk is a dying breed and poses an interesting problem for the archetypal new wave MMA fighter in Mendes. The team Alpha Male representative is better than McKenzie on the feet and on the ground; he has lost only once in his 12 fight career, a KO courtesy of the champ Jose Aldo in their January 2012 title match.
He doesn’t pose the same KO or submission threat as his mentor Urijah Faber; instead he has established himself as a grinder, using his top notch division 1 wrestling to take opponents down, controlling the fight from inside the guard. The bookies see this one as a straightforward decision win for Mendes at odds of 10/11 and I am tempted to agree as this is the most likely outcome.
I do, however, love a good underdog story and at certain odds I am willing to lay down some cash behind another McKenzie guillotine. Ladbrokes are offering 5/1 on this eventuality and I am going to take a punt on the Cesar Gracie representative pulling out the upset early on.
Fight Pick: Cody McKenzie (By submission: 5/1 with Ladbrokes)
Dong Hyun Kim Vs. Demian Maia
Demian Maia frustrates me more than any other fighter in the UFC. Quite possible the most talented Jiu Jitsu practitioner in the organisation, he seems to have abandoned his legendary ground game in favour of his remedial striking. I hope it makes sense to somebody, because it doesn’t make any to me.
On entering the UFC he notched up 5 highly impressive submission wins, taking out the likes of Chael Sonnen with a triangle choke. Then he was brutally knocked out by Nate Marquardt in their UFC 102 meeting, and hasn’t been the same since. Clearly he vowed to improve his striking so he never has to suffer such a devastating defeat again, but surely this cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of his ability to win fights.
This is his first bout at welterweight and that poses a number of unknowns, most importantly his ability to make the 170Lb limit. He gassed badly against Chris Weidman at 185Lbs back in January so we will have to trust that he has made some major changes in his conditioning regime this time around.
This is also a bad style matchup for the Brazilian as Judo Blackbelt Dong Hyun Kim has stellar takedown defence, not that Maia has the type of takedowns that would worry any decent grappler.
On the feet Kim is far more developed with almost half of his 15 wins coming by KO. By contrast, Maia has only ever won once by TKO and that was in his very first fight (the other TKO win on his record is due to an opponent retiring injured). I see Kim keeping this one on the feet for three rounds and most likely winning by TKO as Maia gasses in the later rounds.
I would love to see a rejuvenated Demian Maia come out and pull guard and make something happen off his back like the old days but judging by his most recent performances this isn’t going to happen.
Fight Pick: Don Hyun Kim (By KO/TKO: 6/1 with Paddy Power)
Cung Le Vs. Patrick Cote
Former title contender Patrick Cote makes his promotional comeback at short notice against former Strikeforce Middleweight champion Cung Le in what is likely to be one of the evening’s most entertaining matchups. Le is nearing the end of his career and clearly has a lot of distractions thanks to his burgeoning movie career.
Unfortunately for Le, mixed martial arts is not a sport where one can afford long periods of inactivity without detrimental effects as we saw in his UFC debut loss to another fighter in the twilight of his career, Wanderlei Silva. He has all the flashy skills to pull off a highlight reel knockout but I just don’t think he has the intensity or desire to grind out a win when things get tough inside the octagon.
For Patrick Cote, this could be his one and only shot at redemption. He suffered an unfortunate injury in the Anderson Silva fight back in October 2008 and subsequently lost several fights before being cut by the UFC. Since then he has put together a 4 fight win streak in various other promotions and I hope that he can make a return to the kind of form he was in at the peak of his career.
Cote always brings the fight, having the KO power and iron chin to back up his fan friendly style. He is the type of fighter we desperately need in the middleweight division and if he is injury free I believe he will win impressively tomorrow night and go on to re-establish himself as a title contender at 185Lbs. He will weather the early storm of Le’s before taking control of the fight in the second round on his way to a TKO victory.
Fight Pick: Patrick Cote (By KO/TKO: 13/10 with Paddy Power)
Forrest Griffin Vs. Tito Ortiz
This fight will close out the most closely contested trilogy in UFC history and will quite possibly be the swan song for both men. Their first two meetings resulted in split decisions, Ortiz winning the first at UFC 59 and Griffin evening the score to 1-1 at UFC 106.
Two former champions and legends of the sport, they are both known for their attrition tactics and exciting fights. With 5 “Fight of the Year” awards between them, both men come to fight with everything they’ve got and I doubt this match will be any different.
I see this one playing out on the feet and there will be several momentum shifts in what will surely be another razor sharp decision as I don’t think either man can make the other quit.
Of the two, Forrest is probably slightly fresher at this stage and although he has expressed a desire to walk away from the sport he will have that bit extra in the tank tomorrow night that should see him over the line. There’s not much more I can say about this one except that it will be a barn burner, another classic and a fitting finale to two spectacular careers.
Fight Pick: Forrest Griffin (By decision: Evens with Ladbrokes)
Anderson Silva Vs. Chael Sonnen
In what could well be the most anticipated rematch in UFC history, perennial pound for pound kingpin and Middleweight champion Anderson Silva puts his belt on the line once more against the man who came so close to dethroning him in August 2010.
Sonnen is the surprise star of recent times, reinventing himself both in and out of the octagon to become a one man promo machine. His grappling heavy style of fighting is clearly the foil to Anderson’s elite striking as we saw in their first meeting and many people believe that this fight will play out in almost identical fashion save for the last ditch triangle choke by Silva deep into the 5th round.
There are several variables from that fight that make it hard for me to predict a repeat performance by Sonnen. Firstly we cannot quantify how badly injured Silva actually was coming into that fight and how much that affected his ability to defend Sonnen’s takedowns.
Would a fully healthy Silva be able to stuff the double leg? We will find out the answer to that question about 10 seconds into the rematch on Saturday night. My guess is that this time around things will be very different.
Firstly, Sonnen has lost a key factor in his success the first time around- the element of surprise. Silva was cruising through the division and had those bizarre outings against Thales Leites and Demian Maia where he seemed to have become complacent in his dominance before Sonnen woke him up in a hurry.
I don’t think Anderson was expecting to be so thoroughly dominated and he will have addressed many of the issues he faced at UFC 117 in this subsequent camp’s, knowing that a future meeting with Chael was a certainty. He has shown that he is back to his very best with KO wins over Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami since his near defeat by Sonnen.
Secondly, all the pressure is now on Sonnen to put on another near flawless performance in order to legitimise his previous success. In the back of his mind he knows that if he gets destroyed by Anderson this time around, the Silva camp will be able to point to the fact that the injured rib was the significant factor in Anderson’s poor performance in their first encounter, rather than any great skill on Sonnen’s part.
In the Bisping fight, Sonnen didn’t look all that amazing and it is very possible that his UFC 117 performance was simply the best of his career, a night where it (almost) all went perfectly. You don’t get too many golden opportunities to beat a guy like Anderson Silva, and I think that was Sonnen’s chance.
He came up short and I believe Silva holds all the cards this time around. Sonnen’s style does not allow for a change in gameplan so Silva will know exactly what to expect. Sonnen on the other hand cannot legislate for the revised gameplan of the champion with all the knowledge of the first fight behind him. I believe that Sonnen will experience a much more dynamic opponent who will be harder to take down and even harder to keep down. Silva will play his game from range and I believe he will stop the fight due to strikes in the 2nd round.
Fight Pick: Anderson Silva (By KO/TKO: 13/10 with Ladbrokes) (To win in round 2: 9/2 with Ladbrokes)