When Jon Jones was removed from UFC 187 and stripped of the light heavyweight title due to his hit-and-run accident, it created a domino effect with some upcoming cards, and nowhere can that be seen more than on UFC Fight Night 68. The main event for this card is now tentatively penciled in as the next 205lb title bout, and that leaves Dan Henderson and Tim Boetsch as the main event of the New Orleans card. The odds were just recently released for this bout at 5Dimes Sportsbook, and Boetsch opened a -170 favorite. The early public action has taken that line up a bit higher, and Boetsch now sits at -190 to Henderson’s +150. Despite the lacklustre main event, this card features some intriguing matchups, particularly on the main card, which should result in an entertaining event. The first of those is a heavyweight tilt between heavy hitters Matt Mitrione and Ben Rothwell. Mitrione is riding a three-fight win streak into this event, and in the heavyweight division one more could put him surprisingly close to title contention. Rothwell has won his last two, and his only losses in the UFC have come to past title contenders (Velasquez, Hunt, and Gonzaga). Both of these men definitely prefer to look for the KO, and it would be surprising if that were to change here. Moving down to the lightweight division, a battle of two highly gifted offensive fighters is on deck next. Nobody has ever questioned the ability of Dustin Poirier or Yancy Medeiros to inflict punishment on their opponents, but the key for each in the past has been avoiding it. This bout likely won’t do any favors to the pair’s defensive statistics, as it looks on paper to be a shootout. While the previous two men have well-rounded skills, the featherweight bout between Thiago Tavares and Brian Ortega seems a bit more one-dimensional. However, with the talent each man possesses on the ground, it could be a back-and-forth style of grappling we see, especially given Ortega’s aggressive, submission hunting nature. Tavares should sport an edge on the feet — if it stays upright — but both are at their best on the mat. The next offering on the main card features recent bantamweight title challenger Joe Soto in the match he was supposed to have back at UFC 177, a bout against Anthony Birchak. While Soto made a good account of himself, but ultimately fell short against Dillashaw, Birchak was upset by Ian Entwistle in December, so both men will hope to get back on track here. Kicking the main card off is another bantamweight pairing which once again looks to be entertaining. Francisco Rivera brings his massive power to the cage once again to take on the crafty unorthodox Alex Caceres. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas released the full betting lines for UFC Fight Night 68 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (Fox Sports 1, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 7pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: As Andrei Arlovski proved once again last weekend, there are few things certain in the heavyweight division. However, one consistency in the division is that if someone chooses to strike with Matt Mitrione, he’s probably going to land first. Now that doesn’t mean he’s going to beat Ben Rothwell, who has a pretty terrific chin, but it gives him a good shot given the accuracy and power he’s displayed when closing the distance lately. Even if Rothwell survives the first flurry, Mitrione will still hold a significant speed advantage through the first round. We don’t know what will happen after that however, as Mitrione hasn’t seen a second round since 2011. I’m going to give him the edge even if this goes late, but unless I can get a price close to pick em, this is a pass for me. It seems like plenty of people are back on board the Dustin Poirier bandwagon, and while he should probably win this fight, it’s not an easy one for him by any means. This is still the same fighter who has been stung by nearly everyone he’s faced dating back to his WEC days, and now he’s facing one of the more dangerous strikers he’s gone up against in his career. Poirier has a definitive ground advantage here, but who knows how doggedly he’ll want to pursue takedowns (my guess: not very). That means he’s facing a longer opponent who can throw a variety of offense with power. That’s enough to keep me away from Poirier in this spot. Thiago Tavares has quietly turned in a very solid UFC career (9-5-1), and he seems to be looking his best of late. I’m not sure if the UFC has the confidence in him to make a deep run at featherweight however, and that makes this booking a bit puzzling to me. Tavares has a clear edge on the feet, and he’s probably even the better wrestler than Ortega. On the ground, Ortega is incredibly slick, but will that be enough to control or tap Tavares? I don’t think so. Couple the style matchup with Ortega coming off of a steroid suspension and moving back up in weight, and this seems like a punishment more than a “welcome back” to the youngster. Prior to their first bout, I thought Anthony Birchak could beat Joe Soto. After seeing each of their last performances I have a hard time believing that now. Soto’s biggest red flag to me was how he seemed to tiptoe around his eye injury after coming back from it, and he showed no signs of that against Dillashaw. On the other hand, Birchak had a perfectly winnable fight and decided to take it directly to his opponent’s strongest area, where he was tapped rather swiftly. I still think Birchak can be a solid bantamweight for years to come, but Soto should have much more confidence after being in with the UFC champion for 5 rounds, and I can’t see him being troubled by much that Birchak has to offer here. MMA math doesn’t always work, but it can tell a bit of a story. For instance, Alex Caceres was taken down 5 times by Urijah Faber in their bout. Francisco Rivera was not taken down by Faber. In a fight I see playing out with Rivera as the more dangerous striker and Caceres needing to get this to the ground, how they fared wrestling a common opponent is important, and I think that will be the key to Rivera getting his hand raised by either TKO or decision. Sean Jordan and Derrick Lewis are quite similar to me. Both are bowling ball heavyweights who have surprising power and agility. They can both wrestle a bit, but due more to their athleticism than actual wrestling chops. They can both also be knocked out, as their recent losses can attest to. In the end, I’ll side slightly with Jordan as I think he is a bit quicker and can put himself in better spots throughout the fight. Whether that will result in a KO or a decision I’m not quite sure, but I lean towards a decision. This Ebersole/Akhmedov bout is one that I don’t have a great read on, so I’ll have to take a closer look throughout the week. My first instinct is that Akhmedov gets takedowns and controls from top position enough to pick up a decision, but he is an extremely flawed defensive fighter, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Ebersole can catch him just about anywhere in this one. Until I can look at each guy more, this is a pass. I was pretty high on Chris Wade coming into the UFC, and after his first performance in the Octagon. The Zhang Lipeng fight took some of the win out of those sales because it was such a dull affair, but I still think highly of Wade. I expect him to control the wrestling against Christos Giagos and perhaps find a submission against a solid fighter who was gifted an easy matchup his last time out. I expect the public will be on Wade here, and if they move the line much further I’ll probably stay away, but Wade could be a target for a parlay this week. Edwards/Proctor seems like the type of fight we should have seen on TUF Live. Edwards main weapon is his guillotine — which is exactly how Proctor lost in his last outing. I don’t think Edwards can use his striking to get Proctor to open up to that choke like Medeiros did though. I think Proctor will outwork Edwards standing and generally nullify any attempt Edwards makes at grappling, and we’ll get a decision that will likely be forgotten by the time the next card rolls around. Jake Collier looked like the prospect I thought he was for about 4:50 of his UFC debut, then he got headkicked and finished. Now instead of facing someone dangerous on the feet, he’s facing someone extremely dangerous on the ground. I expect this to be a case of the Brazilian simply not having good enough wrestling to get this fight into his world, and Collier should be able to work Abreu over on the feet. Collier’s pressure makes fighters uncomfortable, especially those who have been grappling most of their lives rather than getting punched. In the battle of the two TUF Latin America runner ups, I favor the 145lb contestant Leonardo Morales. The Nicaraguan’s size and striking should be solid advantages here, and Quinones won’t have the benefit of bringing Morales into hostile territory. This is another bout I can’t see much benefit to betting, although perhaps the public will favor the Mexican more highly because of his country and the success they saw on TUF in comparison to team Latin America.