UFC 177 Play: Derek Brunson (-130) vs Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin (+110)

Derek BrunsonUFC 177 Date: August 30, 2014 Arena: Sleep Train Arena City: Sacramento, CA Middleweight bout: Derek Brunson (-130) vs Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin (+110) Fight Breakdown: Headlining the UFC 177 preliminary card on FOX Sports 1 will be a middleweight bout between a pair of Strikeforce imports, as three-time All-American Derek Brunson takes on Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin. Brunson is the slight betting favorite at the sportsbooks at -130 ($130 to win $100) and Larkin is barely an underdog at +110 ($100 to win $110) at 5Dimes Sportsbooks. Derek Brunson (11-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is coming off a third-round TKO loss against Olympic gold medalist wrestler Yoel Romero. He was doing surprisingly well against Romero, as he got the better of the Cuban on the feet for the first two rounds of action. Unfortunately for Brunson, Romero caught him with some heavy shots in the third frame, breaking his jaw and then ultimately using vicious elbows to the body on the mat that forced the referee to step in and call the fight. Though ultimately a losing effort, it was nonetheless an impressive outing for Brunson, who won over many fans with his performance, including yours truly. Now, seven months later and all healed up, he is ready to return to the Octagon and get back on another win streak. Going into the Romero bout, he was riding a 2-0 inside the Octagon, with a unanimous decision victory over Chris Leben in his promotional debut and an impressive first round finish of Brian Houston that followed. He hurt Houston with a head kick in the opening seconds of the round, dropping him, and then pouncing on his back to secure the rear naked choke for the tap. That marked the second time he finished an opponent in that fashion, as he previously dropped Lumumba Sayers with a straight left, and then took his back for the choke. Brunson is a talented wrestler who is good at scoring both single and double-leg takedowns. He is not very active from top position, as far as ground and pound and submission attempts go, but he does have solid top control and is a good grinder at 185 pounds. Training out of Jackson-Winklejohn MMA in Albuquerque, he has been showing improvement in the striking department, as was evident in his first 10 minutes against Romero; the southpaw has undoubtedly been seeing results from all the hours he puts In with striking coach Mike Winklejohn. Brunson is very flexible and athletic. He has a solid straight left, and a nice high kick, which he caught Houston with. The Strikeforce import works well against the cage, where he likes to use his knees. His submission defense is good, but his striking defense is not quite so good; he tends to leave his chin high and open when throwing punches, which leaves often leaves him open for counterpunches. That said, I think that is an area of his game he has been working on, so with seven months away from the cage, I am interested to see in the improvements he has made. His cardio is not very good, so considering the long layoff, that is another thing to keep an eye on; though, he had started making improvements in that department, as well.   Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin (14-2-1 NC MMA, 1-3 UFC) is on the first two-fight losing streak of his professional mixed martial arts career, coming off a first round knockout at the hands of Costa Philippou just three months ago, and dropping a unanimous decision to Brad Tavares just a few months prior. Since moving to the UFC, he has gone 1-3 inside the Octagon and likely has his back against the wall heading into this three round affair. Larkin has good footwork and head-movement, and he is great at countering his opponents on the feet. He has great balance and solid takedown defense, but if and when he is taken down, he is very active off his back. The Strikeforce veteran does an excellent job of moving around the cage and coming at his opponents from different angles. He is fast and does a good job of changing up his speed on the feet. His kickboxing and boxing are both solid; it is worth noting that he went 5-0 as an amateur boxer. The uppercut is one of Larkin’s favorite punches and he uses it well; he even has a great lead uppercut, not to mention a heavy overhand right and a solid left hook. “The Monsoon” also has some nice flying attacks, including a flying knee and a flying roundhouse kick. He can be flashy with his style, but he is also very effective. He employs a spinning attack, as well, with which he often finds success. The Riverside native likes to use his jab, even his lead jab. He does damage with nearly every strike he connects with. Larkin has an excellent kicking game. He delivers beautiful, heavy kicks and likes going to both the head and body with them. He also works the inside and outside legs of his opponents really well, as he likes to mix it up and slow them down. “The Monsoon” works the Thai plum clinch well, and uses the position to put his knees and elbows to work. He puts great, effective combinations together, and while Larkin does not have excellent top control, he does employ a solid ground and pound attack, in which he does damage with heavy, vicious elbows. As far as his conditioning is concerned, it is generally on point, though it is a bit of a question mark for me in this bout. That said, I don’t expect it to be an issue for him in this scrap. Gabe’s Thoughts: I think this will be a closely contested bout that sees both middleweights have their moments. I see this fight playing out for all three rounds of action, and I lean with Brunson to get his hand raised. The reason for that is because I think Brunson has been on his way up and improving, while Larkin has been on a decline. Even in his lone Octagon victory over Chris Camozzi, I did not think he was impressive, because he was a heavy favorite in that match-up and it ended up being a lot closer than it should have been. Back in Strikeforce, I would have said Larkin is almost a sure bet, but now, I feel Brunson has grown to become the superior mixed martial artist of the two. I think it will be close, but at -130, I do like Brunson for a small play. Gabe’s Call: Brunson by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Brunson (-130) 1.95u to win 1.5u

Written by Gabe Killian

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