Although UFC 141's drawing power will no-doubt come from the battle of two behemoths in the main event, where former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar will take on K-1 Grand Prix Champion Alistair Overeem, fans who tune in for the main event will be happy to find a main card featuring a mix of top fighters and rising prospects along with many fights which promise fun action. Kicking the night off is a featherweight bought between The Ultimate Fighter veteran Nam Phan and undefeated grappler Jimy "The Kid" Hettes.
Hettes is considered one of the brightest grappling-based prospects in the UFC's lighter weights, having won all of his professional and amateur bouts by way of submission. An unblemished record, with the added bonus of all his bouts being finished, was enough to earn Hettes a call to the UFC when the promotion required a late replacement for the injured Leonard Garcia, allowing Hettes to make his UFC debut at UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle this past August.
Hettes' latest fights have ended the same way his early-career bouts did, with a tap from Hettes' opponent. Hettes has found that it's taken a touch longer to secure his wins of late, with his last three bouts coming with second round submissions, compared to first round victories in his prior six professional bouts and all four of his amateur competitions. Hettes' debut came against Alex Caceres, who was making his featherweight debut, and would follow the Hettes bout up by making his Bantamweight debut. The end came with a rear naked choke just past the three minute mark of round two.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As you've likely figured out by now, Hettes' strength inside the cage lies in his ground work. Any time you step into the cage with an opponent who has never failed to elicit a tap from his adversary you have to mind your P's-and-Q's on the mat and be sure that your positional awareness doesn't falter for even a second. Unfortunately, Hettes' debut also seemed to show a fighter who was green and not used to facing fighters who belonged in the cage with him, as he struggled early with Caceres, losing the first round to a fighter who needed three tries and two weight drops to notch his first UFC win. Against a seasoned opponent like Phan who has never been tapped, Hettes may struggle to secure a sub, and his willingness to concede position to attack a submission could be costly.
It's easy to look at Hettes' record and say that, if you're picking him, surely you must be backing a submission victory. I wouldn't be so sure. Phan has never been tapped, and is unlikely to be faced with anything he's never seen before from his young opponent. Hettes is more likely to take this bout via a positional decision. With Hettes' aggressive style it may not be clean either, with a judge seeing it for Phan due to the likelihood Phan will be able to steal some top positions on submission escapes. Take Hettes by split decision if backing "The Kid" in this one. Hettes is going off at +225 in fantasy betting, which does provide some interesting value as a small play, or as a dog paired up with a couple of safe fighters for your parlay bet.
Nam Phan analysis after the jump.
Phan entered the TUF household as one of the most experienced fighters on the show, and was nearly able to ride that experience to the finals. Unfortunately for Phan, he came out on the wrong side of a split-decision in the show's semi-final round. The bout would not mark the last time Phan was hard-done by the judging on a TUF-related event.
Following his run through the TUF house, Phan made his official UFC debut at the finale when he squared off against Leonard Garcia. Phan appeared to control the striking throughout the bout, while Garcia showed a truly shocking level of disdain for any air residing in the general vicinity of Phan, pounding the poor molecules relentlessly with power strikes. Despite the clear edge to Phan, it was sadly unsurprising when the decision came down for Garcia. Phan's next bout came against former featherweight champ Mike Brown, where Phan again dropped a judge's call, setting the table for a rematch with Garcia. Despite what were no-doubt some nervous moments after the bout and before cards were read, Phan got vindication in the form of a unanimous decision win.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Phan's career has spanned more than a decade, and he has the well-rounded skill set which comes with spending such a long time fighting in mixed martial arts. Although Phan has competed in boxing, his grappling is nothing to scoff at and could prove frustrating for Hettes. On the feet, Phan should have a technical edge over Hettes, and has shown a penchant for landing absolutely devastating body shots which can sap his opponent's will in an instant.
Phan is a solid betting favorite in this bout with good reason, making him a smart play for your fantasy picks. With the ground chops to hang on the mat with Hettes, and the strong edge on the feet, look for Phan to wear down his opponent over the course of the fight. If he can't keep it standing it will be on Phan to scramble or sweep into top to earn the decision, but with some successful sprawling Phan should wear down Hettes en route to a round two TKO win. On the betting front, Phan is a -255 favorite. While it's not an appealing line for a straight bet, fantasy riches come with successful investment of your available parlay money, and Phan provides a decent option as a safe add-on to your parlay to up its payoff without a massive risk of killing the parlay.