UFC 142 goes down tonight in Rio, with a headlining bout featuring UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo defending his belt against Team Alpha Male fighter Chad Mendes. Elsewhere on the card, a handful of other non-Brazilians get ready to face the most hostile crowds in there careers, and Anthony Johnson shows up dwarfing his opponent since, when you don't have to actually make your weight, it's really easy to be the bigger guy.
Who you taking in the main event?
Ben: Well it should be noted that UFC 142 has the unfortunate timing of going up against a free NFL playoff game featuring Tim Tebow against Tom Brady and the Patriots. So come Saturday night, if you are actually planning to multi-task and watch both sporting events, you are in rare company. That's not to bag on the UFC. They are putting on a great fight card on Saturday with a Rocky IV-esque main event-the American challenger (Chad Mendes) travels to a foreign land to battle the unbeatable stud champion (Jose Aldo), who massacred the challenger's friend (Urijah Faber). That's a pretty compelling story.
When it comes to picking the winner of Aldo vs. Mendes, I'll be that guy. The guy who thinks that Chad Mendes will fly down to Brazil and fly out with a UFC title belt. In every poll about the main event I've seen, 80% or more are picking Aldo to stay the champ. If you have the cajones to join me and pick Mendes, know this: your opponent has Aldo picked and he is doubling down on a leg kick KO.
Aldo is a talented fighter and has built up a reputation as a killer in the cage. Although since joining the UFC in 2011, Aldo has defended his belt with two straight decision victories. In both fights, the UFC version of Aldo has lost some rounds as he was on the receiving end of sustained ground and pound against Hominick, while Florian pressed Aldo against the cage. These are two round-winning ways that Chad Mendes can duplicate with better skill and technique than previous challengers. Look for Mendes and Aldo to trade the opening rounds, and then the champ's cardio will wear down. Chad Mendes is an undefeated wrestler who wins by decision. My pick is Chad Mendes by a 49-46 decision.
Bobby: I will admit to being a bit confused by Ben's lead in there. As a Pittsburgh Steeler fan I can say with a great deal of confidence that the football season ended last Sunday and that the UFC is the only sport going on Saturday night and I'll hear none of your claims of delusional denial. With that said, a lot of the rest of his analysis makes a bit more sense to me. I can certainly see Mendes grinding Aldo down and earning himself a very gold, very pretty piece of extra-baggage-fees for his return flight to the States, and with the odds I even think there is fantasy value as acknowledged in my breakdown of the fight. With that said, for the purposes of this breakdown we are taking the odds out of play, and in that case I need to stick with the Brazilian. As much as I certainly can envision Aldo getting worn down over the course of five rounds, I can more clearly see a fight where the champ is too fast for Mendes and calmly picks him apart while keeping things standing until Mendes is too tired to pose any real takedown threat, at which point Aldo can let his hands go for the mid-fight TKO.
What's the most surefire lock since Rickson by armbar?
Ben: Rousimar Palhares walks away with his opponent's leg as a trophy in the first round. Palhares vs. Massenzio is a squash match. Massenzio did the UFC a solid last summer and took a short-notice fight at a heavier weight class, and he is riding out his contract. Sure is coming off a win in his last UFC fight, but he outpointed a fringe UFC fighter, Steve Cantwell, who has lost four straight fights. Palhares is a beastly grappler who likes to leg-lock his opponents a little too much. The only question is whether the inevitable submission comes in round 1 or round 2. At 5 to 1 odds or better, Palhares is an easy 20% return on your investment.
Bobby: I would be inclined to agree that Palhares is a can't-miss pick if it wasn't for one thing. He's still Rousimar Palhares. Every second that Palhares isn't actively cranking on your leg after the stoppage is another chance for him to do something unprompted that can cost him the fight. There's no line enticing enough for me to put my faith in Palhares, and that's despite my considering him a top-ten fighter at middleweight. For my money, the safest pick on the card is Mike Pyle. Simply put, Pyle is better than his opponent, Ricardo Funch, anywhere the fight happens to go. Pyle has built a very strong 3-1 record in the UFC, including putting detour sign on prospect John Hathaway's path to the top of the division, while Funch has failed to earn a victory in both of his prior UFC chances. Come Sunday morning it'll be 0-for-3.
Everybody loves an upset. Who's your longshot with a shot?
Ben: Sam Stout is a slight underdog on most of the sportsbooks, and he's an underdog because of "outside of the cage" reasons-his coach and mentor Shawn Tompkins died of heart attack last August. Stout has had ample time to prepare for this fight both mentally and physically. He is a kickboxer with just enough wrestling to stay on his feet, and he is fighting Thiago Tavares, a grappler who tends to fall in love with his punching. Tavares has been known to get knocked out in the UFC, and Sam Stout will test his chin repeatedly. Although his nickname is "Hands of Stone", Sam Stout only has one of six UFC wins by knockout. Sam Stout by decision is a solid pick for the middle of your fantasy fight card.
Bobby: For my upset pick I'm going to look to the opening bout of the pay per view broadcast, where Terry Etim takes on Edson Barboza. Barboza has won over fans with his flashy striking during his three-fight UFC run, however he has yet to face a well-rounded fighter with an inclination toward grappling. Barboza has won close, and potentially contentious, decisions his last two times and we have still yet to see how well he can fend off his back, a position that Etim will provide a great deal of risk from should he manage to get the Brazilian down. I'm giving strong thought to playing Etim straight-up in my picks, and with odds as high as +255, he definitely is the most lively dog I see.