One of the prelim fights at UFC Fight Night 31 that I’m most looking forward to is a middleweight matchup between Derek Brunson and UFC newcomer Brian Houston. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers has Brunson as a -175 favorite (bet $175 to win $100) and Houston as a +155 underdog (bet $100 to win $155). MMA oddsmaker opened Brunson at -300 and Houston at +220, which means there has been early action on the dog Houston. I agree with the early betting action as I am also picking Houston to come through for the upset in his UFC debut. Here’s why. Brunson (10-2) picked up a notable victory over Chris Leben in his Octagon debut at UFC 155. However, that fight was nearly a year ago and Brunson hasn’t fought since due to a combination of injuries and opponents pulling out of fights. Although he is a solid wrestler and has some boxing skills, Brunson has also been knocked out and he is one of those wrestlers who prefer to hold top position rather than going for subs or ground and pound. Brunson is a grinder and we all know that wrestler types have had success in MMA due to judges typically favoring takedowns over striking and submissions. But as we saw with Kendall Grove, sometimes that doesn’t matter if you don’t do much with the takedowns — even though I scored that fight for Brunson, Grove was arguably doing more off his back than Brunson was doing on top and he ended up losing the split decision. In addition to his style, I’m also a bit worried about his chin. As you can see from his fight against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, it’s not the best. Houston (4-0) was signed to UFC with only pro four fights, which means to me that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva sees some serious potential in this young man. So do I. From the tape I’ve watched, Houston has very heavy hands and dangerous striking overall as well as solid wrestling. His cardio is definitely a concern and he may very well be a one-round fighter, but in the first round he is likely one of the most dangerous fighters the UFC currently has in the middleweight division. That’s how high I am on this guy. Of course I’m worried about him getting taken down and controlled by Brunson, but from the footage I’ve seen on Houston he should be at least able to stop the takedowns for the first round, and that could be enough time to land the KO blow on the feet, which is definitely the gameplan I believe Houston is going to try and implement. When the line opened at +220, I took a piece of the action on Houston because I thought the line had some value and wasn’t sure which way the early action would go. Obviously I got a good line on Houston, but I still think at +155 he’s got some value in him and he’s worth a small straight play as a dog as I think he wins this fight via first-round knockout.