UFC 188 brings a fantastic card this Sunday headlined by the heavyweight championship bout between Fabricio Werdum and the returning Cain Velasquez. Can Velasquez return to his best? We preview the championship bout as well as several of the key contests on the card in our UFC 188 preview.
UFC Heavyweight Title: Fabricio Werdum (19-5-1) vs Cain Velasquez (13-1)
Fabricio Werdum has world class BJJ and one of the most feared guards in all of MMA. In his early days he literally used to lie down in front of his opponent daring them to engage him on the ground. However in recent times, under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro he has emerged as one of the top strikers in the heavyweight division. He picked Travis Browne apart over five rounds and knocked Mark Hunt cold with a flying knee. He is unorthodox, striking from different angles and good at using his length to maintain the distance. He has been a little hittable lately and it must be of some worry that Mark Hunt was able to play in his guard with relative ease.
Cain Velasquez is the baddest man on the planet. The fights with Junior Dos Santos, Bigfoot Silva and Brock Lesnar are some of the nastiest examples of sanctioned violence you are ever likely to see. A NCAA division 1 wrestler, the rumours of what he does to people on the training mat at the American Kickboxing Academy are legendary. While he has fantastic wrestling and boxing, its Cain’s pressure and cardio that set him apart from his contemporaries. From the first bell until the inevitable referee stoppage, Cain is constantly coming forward, pressuring his opponents into the cage with that jab. Once against the cage he holds them there with an over/under hook while punishing with brutal dirty boxing (JDS) or putting them on their back and finishing with elbows (Bigfoot). He also has the cardio of a well-conditioned middleweight, so that pressure just keeps coming. However, the caveat is, Velasquez has been cruelled by injuries. It has been 20 months and numerous shoulder and knee surgeries since we last saw Cain in the octagon and you have to question what he is going to look like on his return. Everything coming from his camp says that he is better than ever, but that has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Prediction: I think Cain will push Werdum up against the fence for the first few rounds, before finishing him on his back via TKO in the fourth. Providing of course we are getting the real Cain.
Tip: Cain Velasquez by KO/TKO - $1.83 at Sportsbet
Gilbert Melendez (22-4) vs Eddie Alvarez (25-4)
Former Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez versus former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez, this fight is five years in the making, and it should deliver an absolute barn-burner.
Melendez is a very well rounded fighter. He has great takedown defence, good boxing, a BJJ black belt under Cesar Gracie and an iron chin (although he has been knocked down a few times recently which may be a sign his chin is starting to go). Melendez has a high pressure game and not afraid to just stand in front of his opponent and throw leather (see Diego Sanchez rd 3). His striking game is very straightforward; throws a jab to keep the distance and comes over the top with a right hand.
Like Melendez, Alvarez is a complete package. He has some of the more technical boxing in the lightweight division, a solid wrestling game and good defensive grappling. Unlike Melendez, Alvarez is a dynamic striker he throws in combinations, mixing it up to the body and has a vicious right uppercut. He does get knocked down often, but has always shown an excellent ability to recover.
This is going to be an incredibly close, back and forth fight, which should be contested mainly on the feet. If someone does go for a takedown they are very evenly matched wrestlers with more takedown defence than offence, so we’re more likely to see some clinching up against the cage.
Prediction: This one is going to be a war, and I believe the odds should be much closer than they are. I just give Alvarez the edge in the striking, and I think that’s what will ultimately get it done in a 29-28 decision.
Tip: Eddie Alvarez - $2.61 at Sportsbet
I also like this fight to be awarded fight of the night - $2.80 at Sportsbet
Tecia Torres (5-0) vs Angela Hill (2-0)
The tape on these two is limited and most of what we know about them comes from their stint on the Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. On the show Tecia Torres came in as one of the favourites and severely underperformed and Angela Hill came in as 1-0 fighter and performed like a 1-0 fighter. They are both predominately stand up fighters and that’s where I expect this one to play out. Hill is still very raw, but has some good Muay Thai fundamentals and shown a lot of power with hands and knees. What Torres lacks in power she makes up with volume. Although not a technical boxer, she is constantly moving forward winging hooks, working from the pocket or holding up against the cage and utilizing dirty boxing. She will want to be careful from here though, because if Hill gets that Thai clinch going it will spell trouble.
Prediction: Torres’ pressure game should be enough to negate Hill’s striking and if this one does go to the floor, Torres has the edge. Neither girl really has the knockout power or submission game to force a stoppage, so I think Torres will prevail in a hotly-contested decision.
Tip: Fight to go to decision, Yes - $1.56 at Ladbrokes
Henry Cejudo (8-0) vs Chico Camus (14-5)
Henry Cejudo has the best wrestling pedigree in the UFC and as we’ve seen, wrestling is the single most effective discipline. This makes the Olympic gold medallist a tough prospect for anyone. Not much needs to be said about his wrestling. If he wants to take you down, he probably will and you probably won’t be able to get back up. Cejudo has shown solid improvements in his striking with each UFC outing, and while it remains rudimentary, he has powerful punch kick combinations.
Chico Camus is a prototypical flyweight; he’s good at everything. His striking is slick, effective and accurate and his sensational footwork allows him to move in, rattle off a combination and move out without getting countered. In a few of Cejudo’s fights, he has abandoned his wrestling to show off and improve his boxing, and if he thinks he can do that here, Camus might be able to land some significant strikes. While Camus’ takedown defence is solid, he has been taken down and controlled by far inferior wrestlers to Cejudo. However, I think Camus is experienced enough to stay out of any submission attempts.
Prediction: Cejudo to hopefully play it safe and wrestle his way to dominant 30-27 victory setting himself up for a shot at Demetrious Johnson’s flyweight title.
Tip: Henry Cejudo by points – $1.57 at Sportsbet
Cathal Pendred (16-2-1) vs Augusto Montano (15-1)
Cathal Pendred comes into this one on the back of three straight wins to start his UFC career, however at least one of those should probably have been a loss as he has been the beneficiary of some pretty questionable judging decisions. The Irishman is a solid wrestler with decent position grappling. On the feet he certainly has some power, but is pretty slow and predictable. His defensive striking is not good however and in each of his UFC fights so far he has been lit up multiple times by his opponents. His strongest attribute has to be his heart, this man might have the greatest ability in the UFC to take a beating, hang in there and find a way to get himself back in the fight.
Augusto Montano, while not the most technically sound striker, is certainly very effective. He may appear a little sloppy at times, but he throws in accurate combinations, mixes it up with shots to the body and those knees he finished Chris Heatherly with in his octagon debut were just brutal. There are still big question marks out over him, as the level of competition he faced so far faced has been pretty ordinary. Also very few of his fights have made it out of the first round, and in the ones that have, he has certainly slowed down, so his cardio remains a concern.
Prediction: Although I can certainly see Montano taking advantage of Pendred’s defensive shortcomings and getting a brutal knockout, I am backing the Irishman to weather the early storm and win a 29-28 decision, if not force a late stoppage.
Tip: Cathal Pendred – $2.35 at William Hill
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