The main event for this Saturday's UFC 189 card might not have as much sizzle as before, but there are plenty of good fights on the undercard for your UFC picks.
So much for dodging that bullet. As it turns out, Jose Aldo will not be defending his Featherweight title this Saturday (10:00 p.m. ET) at UFC 189 in Las Vegas. Aldo's rib injury proved to be too much, so Chad Mendes will fight McGregor for the Interim title instead. Should be a good matchup, but let's face it, people are disappointed, and the UFC is likely to take a bath on this PPV after shelling out so much money promoting Aldo-McGregor.
Take heart, fight fans. Even with the changes to the card, Saturday should be a quality event with lots to offer. We've already discussed the Welterweight bout between Gunnar Nelson and Brandon Thatch, and our colleague Swinging Johnson seems to agree that Nelson is the right man for your MMA picks. He's also previewed three other matches for Saturday; let's continue to flesh out this card by looking at two of the preliminary fights going down.
Welterweight: Matt Brown vs. Tim Means (+155)
Aside from the aforementioned Nelson-Thatch matchup, this might be the best value on the entire UFC 189 card. Brown (19-13 lifetime) is officially the No. 5-ranked welterweight according to the UFC, and No. 7 on the Sherdog rankings, while Means (24-6-1 lifetime) is on the outside looking in. But only one of these two gentlemen has had any success lately, and it's the underdog.
Means enters the Octagon this Saturday on a four-match winning streak. The former King of the Cage champion at both lightweight and welterweight has been excellent since making his return to 170 pounds; his last two victories were against Dhiego Lama (+150) by first-round TKO and George Sullivan (+145) with an arm-triangle choke late in the third round.
Brown, on the other hand, is coming off back-to-back decision losses to Robbie Lawler (–550) and Johny Hendricks (–350). This is obviously a tougher level of competition than Means has faced, but a loss is a loss. Means has a two-inch height advantage at 6-foot-2 and has superior stats for both volume of strikes and defense. We like his chances of getting in early and staying on top of this fight.
Free UFC Pick: Take Means +169 at Marathon
Welterweight: Cathal Pendred (–115) vs. John Howard
When we compiled our complete list of UFC picks for UFC 188, we decided to fade Pendred as a +130 underdog in his matchup with Augusto Montano, who was fighting in his hometown of Mexico City. So much for home cooking. Pendred (17-2-1 lifetime) moved as high as –115 before the fight, then he beat Montano by unanimous decision in a poor showing by the local hero. Full credit to Pendred for grinding Montano down and encouraging him to remain passive. It might not win him any Performance of the Night bonuses, but Pendred is a very smart fighter – he holds a Bachelor's degree in analytical science. The Boston-born Irishman also trains with the same SBG team as McGregor and Nelson. Again, very smart.
Howard (22-11) was originally supposed to fight Thatch at the MGM Grand, but the injury to John Hathaway led to a shuffling of the deck, and Pendred was brought in on short notice. Howard and Pendred share similar styles: lots of clinching with some takedown attempts and a focus on top control. But Howard, a former Ring of Combat champion as a welterweight, is on a three-match losing streak, most recently falling to Lorenz Larkin (–178) via first-round TKO.
We'll once again be going with the larger fighter and the better record, even if his level of opposition has been somewhat lacking. Pendred towers six inches above Howard at 6-foot-1, he connects on more strikes while absorbing fewer of them, and he lands more takedowns with a considerably better defense rate (80 percent) than Howard (51 percent). Dial us up, and may the Octagon be with you.
Free UFC Pick: Take Pendred –105 at Pinnacle