UFC 181 Play: Anthony Pettis (-220) vs Gilbert Melendez (+180)

UFC-On-FOX-6UFC 181 Date: December 6, 2014 Arena: Mandalay Bay Events Center City: Las Vegas, NV Lightweight bout: Anthony Pettis (-220) vs Gilbert Melendez (+180) Fight Breakdown: The co-main event for UFC 181 on Pay Per View will see UFC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis defend his title for the first time against former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez. Pettis is the betting favorite heading into this five round title fight, with California’s Melendez being a +180 underdog at 5Dimes Sportsbooks. Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (17-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) last saw action at UFC 164 in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI over a year ago, where he dethroned Benson Henderson of his lightweight title for the second time. The first time it was under the WEC banner, in the promotion’s final show, and this time it was inside the Octagon, which made it a real dream come true for “Showtime”. Heading into the UFC 181 five round co-main event against the former Strikeforce lightweight champion Melendez, he will be looking to make his first title defense, while simultaneously extending his winning streak to five in a row. Pettis is an incredible striker; one of the elite in MMA and arguably the most exciting to watch. He has a flashy style but is very effective, as he is well known for his famous “kick heard around the world” AKA the “Showtime kick”, a kick-off-the-cage he landed on Henderson in the final round of their first meeting. He is very versatile on the feet and likes to implement all of his limbs in his offensive striking attack. He favors his kicks the most and certainly has a variety of them in his arsenal; he throws some vicious head and body kicks and has recorded a pair of very impressive Octagon knockouts with them, including a first round head-kick knockout over Joe Lauzon and a first round body-kick knockout over Donald Cerrone, respectively. To compliment his skills on the feet, the Wisconsin native is equally brilliant on the mat, as he is a serious threat from both top and bottom positions. He has a great rubber guard and always remains very active from the bottom, not giving the opponent on top a second to have a clear thought. Training out of Roufosport in Milwaukee, WI., the 27 year old is generally well conditioned, so even with his extended injury layoff in mind, I expect him to be prepared for a full 25 minutes of action against Melendez on Saturday night. Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (25-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) received a title shot in his Octagon debut at UFC on FOX 7 in his backyard of San Jose, CA, and he lost a controversial split decision to then-champion Benson Henderson on the judges’ scorecards, after five closely contested rounds of action. The loss snapped a seven fight winning streak the former Strikeforce lightweight champion had built and sent him back to the drawing board. He bounced back in his next outing, with a unanimous decision victory over Diego Sanchez, though it is worth noting that Sanchez had him hurt in the third round of the bout, and neared a finish. If it were a five round fight, Sanchez would have likely pulled off a major upset, as he was would have been the much fresher fighter heading into the fourth frame. But in this world without if’s, three rounds was enough for “El Nino” to return to the win column, and it has been over a year since, as he has opted to sit on the sideline and wait for his title shot, while also taking a coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter reality series, opposite Pettis. Melendez trains out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Lodi, CA with the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields as his main training partners. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has an excellent submission game, though he only owns one submission victory in his 25-pro fight career. It is also worth noting that he is much more effecting with his Jiu-Jitsu from top position and is not nearly as talented off his back. Opponents with a solid top game could take advantage of his subpar guard, but getting there is a tough task, as Melendez possesses tremendous takedown defense, and when taken down, does a fantastic job of quickly finding his way back to his feet. The Northern California native much prefers to keep the fight on the feet, as he is an excellent striker. He has great boxing skills and is very effective with his punches. His technique is very good and he has the punching power to go with it, so that makes him a real dangerous threat on the feet. “El Nino” also has excellent wrestling skills; he works great takedowns and has a solid top game, where he does a good job of staying heavy and working his ground and pound. Melendez generally has great cardio, so even with the extended layoff, I expect him to be in shape for five rounds of action against the champ. Gabe’s Thoughts: I think this is going to be a closely contested back and forth battle that sees its way all the way to the judges’ scorecards for a decision that could very well go either way. A straight play on Melendez at underdog odds would also be a good move, as I think this fight is a real coin-flip and see value there, but I think there is more value in the Over 4.5 rounds total, even at the current betting price of -180. I think the ‘Over’ is the safest play to make, as regardless of who gets his hand raised, I think a finish on either end is unlikely in this particular contest. Also, if you would prefer to take the underdog money on Melendez, I would suggest the Decision prop at +249 rather than taking him straight-up at +180. It isn’t that much of a difference, but I think it’s enough to make it worth it, as I think the chances of Melendez winning any other way than a decision are very slim. Gabe’s Call: Melendez by Split Decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Over 4.5 rounds (-180) 5.4u to win 3u

Written by Gabe Killian

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