The joint will be jumping when Anderson Silva returns to the Octagon to take on the tough and talented Nick Diaz on January 31st but what about the undercard and UFC odds sportsbooks are offering?
Tyron Woodley (14-3, 5 KO’s, 5 Subs) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (10-0, 3 KO’s, 4 Subs)
Rabid fans of the UFC will immediately recognize both of these fighters but the more casual fan will squint their eyes and shrug. Yet I am here to tell you that this throw-down has Fight of the Night written all over it regardless of the star power that the main event holds. Both fighters are on a collision course that could very well result in the winner getting a shot at Robbie Lawler and the UFC Welterweight strap.
Tyron Woodley’s three losses all came at the hands of tough, veteran welterweights in Nate Marquardt (KO), former Strikeforce Middleweight king Jake Shields (decision) and the uber talented Rory McDonald (decision). But Woodley is a fighter on the rise and rebounded from his decision loss to McDonald back in June of last year with a stunning first round TKO over judo master and UFC veteran Dong Hyun Kim. Though Woodley’s background is rooted in wrestling and BJJ he possesses extraordinary punching power in his compact 5’8” frame.
Boyish charm and good looks give the impression that Gastelum would be better served as a concierge at a high end hotel rather than a cage warrior capable of doing bodily harm. Gastelum ambled onto the scene rather than exploded when he was picked last by Chael Sonnen in TUF: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen. Not much was expected of the former Arizona State High School wrestling champ until he reeled off five consecutive wins in The Ultimate Fighter competition culminating in a split decision victory over the heavily favored Uriah Hall (UFC odds pegged Hall as a -285 favorite in that fight).
People have been underestimating Gastelum since he broke into the fight game and when the UFC odds are released they will most likely reflect that lack of respect once again as Woodley should be the betting chalk. Woodley has certainly fought a better class of opponent and brings more raw power to this fight than Gastelum; however Gastelum sets a torrid pace that has been known to gas opponents if they are not equipped to deal with his frenetic tempo. Both fighters are equally adept on the mat though I would give a slight edge to Gastelum yet when it is all said and done, I have to give the nod to Woodley in what should be a barn-burner in Vegas…but then again I have underestimated Kelvin Gastelum before. Haven’t we all?
Free UFC Pick: Tyron Woodley
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Joe Lauzon (24-9, 5 KO’s, 18 Subs) vs. Al Iaquinta (10-3, 5KO’s, 1 Sub)
I am routinely startled whenever I write on an upcoming fight featuring Brockton born Joe Lauzon because I expect to see he had another birthday since last I wrote turning him 37 or 38 years-old. The fact of the matter is that Lauzon is only 30 but his many years plying his trade in at the most elite level of MMA would suggest he must be entering the twilight of his career.
Lauzon may be chronologically only 30 but he’s got plenty of brutal miles on those well-worn treads. Lauzon captured the imagination of underdogs everywhere when he notched a stunning KO victory over former UFC Lightweight champ Jens Pulver as a +700 dog in UFC odds well over eight years ago. Since that time Lauzon has been referred to as the Human Bonus Machine reaping bonuses on a dozen occasions in the UFC alone. Lauzon has been a fixture in the UFC but always as a gatekeeper as opposed to a legitimate title threat. He is equipped with superb submission skills and can bring the heat with his fists when needed.
Al Iaquinta has compiled a 5-2 record since entering the UFC but all three of his losses have come via submission. He will be facing arguably – or is there an argument? – the finest mat tactician he has ever met in Joe Lauzon. I don’t believe Iaquinta has neither the pedigree nor the ground game to compete in this one, take Lauzon as your UFC pick.
Free UFC Pick: Joe Lauzon