The UFC is in high definition at high altitude for its first Versus network broadcast—and yes, its available on Direct TV. Compelling match-ups with contender implications occupy the night’s top slots and big punchers round out the main card action Sunday from the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo. Here are FIGHT!’s Picks for this weekend’s bouts with odds courtesy of bodog – we’re currently 22-11 with our picks in 2010.
Brandon Vera’s muay Thai, Greco-Roman wrestler pedigree and Lloyd Irvin ground game all favor “The Truth” over Jon “Bones” Jones. However, Jones, a fighter who entered the UFC in similar meteoric fashion as Vera did in 2005, offers enough aggression to disarm the San Diegan’s finesse game. The New Yorker’s freakish 84.5” reach will threaten Vera’s leg kick approach with counters.
For Vera, engaging in an inside fight to stifle Jones and potentially force him to work off his back is the surest way to victory. Unfortunately, striking first and fast isn’t his strong point.
FIGHT! Pick: Jones
A battle of Brazilian heavyweights, Gonzaga vs. Dos Santos is a fight similar to Vera-Jones with Gonzaga as the former young gun and Dos Santos the new kid proving quick on the draw.
A world jiu-jitsu champion, Gonzaga’s key to victory is taking top position over the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira purple belt. “Napao” understands kicks are necessary to solve Dos Santos’ problematic punch first-punch often style and has a decided grappling edge but dos Santos is too strong, athletic, and aggressive.
FIGHT! Pick: dos Santos
(Al-Turk chases Kongo.)
Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello has his chance to live up to his nickname against Frenchmen Cheick Kongo. While the two heavyweights are on the opposite end of the abs spectrum, they also posses varied striking styles. Buentello is a heavy puncher as his nickname suggests, while Kongo enjoys eight-point striking and occasional takedowns resulting in ugly elbows.
Buentello is a solid underdog considering that the likely outcome for the loser is lights out; however, he’s the more limited fighter.
FIGHT! Pick: Kongo
James Irvin hasn’t been inside the Octagon since July 2008. Alessio Sakara has quietly improved at American Top Team, but the Italian folds under explosive strikes like Irvin’s. Displaying an increasingly well-rounded game against Irvin is a must for Sakara but his willingness to engage likely gets him in trouble before that can happen.
FIGHT! Pick: Irvin
Clay Guida looks to rebound from back-to-back defeats to Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian against City Boxing protégé Shannon Gugerty. An aggressive grappler, Gurgerty is capable of keeping up with the speedy Guida in key scrambles. The Chicagoan is simply more seasoned and violent, losing only to the sport’s best in recent bouts, so count on “The Carpenter” to avoid submissions long enough to do damage with ground and pound.
FIGHT! Pick: Guida
We know the Japanese have a different approach to matchmaking but it’s hard to see any rationale behind Minowaman vs. Jimmy Ambriz. There, are, however, a handful of compelling match ups going down tomorrow in Tokyo.
Hansen is favored in this fight but he’s dropping 7 kilos from Dream’s lightweight division to its featherweight division. The 139-pound limit is a serious cut for a guy who has fought as high as 168# and may sap his strength and energy. Hansen is clearly the better striker but Fernandes has the advantage on the ground. My gut says Hansen but my brain says keep your money in your pocket.
FIGHT! Pick: None. Discretion is the better part of valor.
This fight isn’t big money but it’s easy money. Barnett returns to action overseas, effectively dodging his problems with the California State Athletic Commission over his dirty urine test in August 2009. “Mighty Mo” returns to MMA action after nearly a year-and-a-half hiatus. The K-1 vet had only one kickboxing match during that time, so it’s fair to say that both of these guys will have some ring rust. Mo’s striking is dangerous, but Barnett is good enough to get the takedown and submit him without sustaining too much damage. Hopefully this is just a tune-up match for Barnett and he’ll start fighting more relevant heavyweights again this summer.
FIGHT! Pick: Barnett
Pro-Diaz fans like to hate on Noons and his EliteXC/boxing/manager drama, but the “King Karl” is a bad dude with serious boxing-for-MMA skills. “Dida” is a solid opponent but has dropped three fights in a row to top-shelf guys (Calvancante, Alvarez, Kikuno). Unless travel and ring rust get to Noons, he takes this fight by KO or TKO.
FIGHT! Pick: Noons
Jon Jones (-250) vs Brandon Vera (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Jones Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Gabriel Gonzaga (+200) vs Junior dos Santos (-260)
FIGHT! Pick: Dos Santos Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Paul Buentello (+285) vs Cheick Kongo (-365)
FIGHT! Pick: Kongo Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
James Irvin (-130) vs Alessio Sakara (+100)
FIGHT! Pick: Irvin
Clay Guida (-500) vs Shannon Gugerty (+325)
FIGHT! Pick: Guida Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Bibiano Fernandes (-105) vs. Joachim Hansen (-125)
FIGHT! Pick: None. Discretion is the better part of valor. Resulting Outcome: CORRECT, haha.
Josh Barnett (-1400) vs. Siala Siliga (+700)
FIGHT! Pick: Barnett Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
KJ Noons (-250) vs. Andre Amade (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Noons Resulting Outcome: CORRECT