UFC 181 is the last numbered UFC show of the year, but they hope to close with a bang.
UFC has had a rough 2014 with so many fights dropping by the waste-side because of injuries. But it looks to close strongly. On paper, this show is a strong one and if it produces like many expect it to, it can be one of the best shows of the year.
All year, we’ve been keeping track of our picks for most of the UFC main card fights. In addition to the FGB crew, included in our picks are John LaRocca, president of Premier Wrestling, Heidi Fang from MMA Fight Corner, and Alex Goff from Online World Of Wrestling.
We’re previewing both the title matches and predicting the rest of the main card fights.
Here’s how we’re doing so far:
With just two shows left to preview, it looks like Duan and Jim are fighting it out to the end.
Tony Ferguson Vs Abel Trujillo
Duan: Tony Ferguson
Alan: Tony Ferguson
John: Abel Trujillo
Heidi: Tony Ferguson
Alex: Tony Ferguson
Jim: Tony Ferguson
GG: Tony Ferguson
Todd Duffee Vs Anthony Hamilton
Duan: Todd Duffee
Alan: Anthony Hamilton
John: Anthony Hamilton
Heidi: Todd Duffee
Alex: Todd Duffee
Jim: Todd Duffee
GG: Anthony Hamilton
Travis Browne Vs Brendan Schaub
Duan: Travis Browne
Alan: Travis Browne
John: Travis Browne
Heidi: Travis Browne
Alex: Travis Browne
Jim: Travis Browne
GG: Travis Browne
Anthony Pettis Vs Gilbert Melendez
Alan: Gilbert Melendez by decision
It’s a battle of two guys who we haven’t seen in action in over a year. Thus there’s no real form book to speak of here, and in many ways that makes this a very interesting fight. Gilbert is a guy who gives fight of the year candidates the majority of times he steps into the Octagon. Pettis is a guy who is as dynamic as they come and usually doesn’t let fights get out of the first round. It will be interesting to see how Gilbert handles the champion if Pettis comes out all guns blazing. He’s been so durable throughout his career, that it’s hard to imagine him being steamrolled. Conversely if Gilbert can take Pettis into the late rounds and make it a dogfight, then the champ will have to show the heart that he displayed against Benson Henderon in the final ever WEC fight. It’s tough to predict how this fight goes, but it’s easy to predict that it will be incredibly entertaining. I’m going with Melendez – he may see this as his last shot at the ultimate prize, and he’s going to give his everything to claim it.
Alex: Gilbert Melendez by decision
What an exciting fight Anthony Pettis vs Gilbert Melendez looks to be. Gilbert enters the cage as a 12-year veteran of MMA. He had his first fight at the age of 20 and spent most of his career having highly acclaimed fights on smaller stages. This Saturday, he will enter the cage and attempt for the second time to win a UFC belt. Anthony Pettis shows us how fighting has evolved. Not only is he technically awesome, but then he may run up the fighting surface and kick you in the face. Just amazing and it always looks good when you see it in clip form. Gilbert has to understand this may be his last title shot for a while. I predict this will drive him to find a way to beat the champion.
GG: Anthony Pettis by decision
In the Countdown To UFC 181, Pettis made mentioned Melendez’s game. He didn’t really give Melendez credit for anything, saying he was good at this, okay at that. Is that because he’s overconfident? From a talent perspective, Pettis has all the tools. In my opinion, he’s one of the most talented athletes on the roster and he has very few weaknesses. He went through a slow period in 2011, losing to Clay Guida and beating Jeremy Stephens by split decision. But since then, he’s been terrific. I’m not going to underestimate Melendez either. He’s one of my favorite fighters to watch and is on quite a roll himself. Since losing to Josh Thomson in 2008, he’s 9-1 with the only loss being to Benson Henderson in a fight many thought he won.
At the end of the day, I’m going to lean toward Pettis to win by decision, but I still think it’s going to be a very close fight.
Duan: Gilbert Melendez
John: Gilbert Melendez
Heidi: Anthony Pettis
Jim: Anthony Pettis
Johny Hendricks Vs Robbie Lawler
Duan: Johny Hendricks by decision
You can definitely make a case for Lawler winning the first fight, and perhaps he even should have, but if he was ever going to beat Hendricks, that was his night to do it. I feel with every month that’s gone by since, the pendulum has swung back further in favour of the defending champion.
This will be Robbie’s fourth fight in nine months and his fifth in the last thirteen. None of those have been walkovers either. They were all against top 10 ranked welterweights. That’s just too much to take on at this level. Those were draining fights on top of a draining career.
Hendricks, on the other-hand, has had the chance to rest up and recover following his surgery from both the bicep tear itself as well as the rest of the wear and tear which comes from having back to back title fights.
I expect to see him looking fresher, fitter and more focused than he was back in March, while Lawler may show some signs that the schedule is catching up on him. That will be enough to put daylight between them in the rematch. Hendericks takes the cards again, but this time without any controversy.
Heidi: Johny Hendricks by decision
If Hendricks got past Lawler with one arm the first time, I believe he can do it again now that he’s healthy with both arms functioning. Lawler is good at defending the takedown, but again, a Hendricks with full strength may be able to power his way to more doubles this time than he had in their last fight. Lawler can’t be counted out due to his sheer power, but on paper, when you look at the skills they both bring to the table, I have Hendricks winning unanimously.
Alan: Robbie Lawler
John: Johny Hendricks
Alex: Robbie Lawler
GG: Johny Hendricks
Jim: Johny Hendricks