With all of the hype surrounding both UFC 187 and UFC 189, the return of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez has somehow flown under the radar. The two-time champion will be unifying his belt with the interim title held by Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 188. Velasquez, fighting for the first time in 20 months, opened as a -475 favorite (bet $475 to win $100) over Werdum despite the layoff, and the line has stayed relatively level. Werdum can now be had at a dog price of +360 (bet $100 to win $360) at 5Dimes Sportsbook. The line just underscores the confidence of the MMA public in Velasquez’s conditioning and consistency throughout his career. The co-main event of the card is a bout that was once seen as one of the premiere bouts to be made outside of the UFC, as former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez takes on former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. There was a time when a case was made for both men to be the top lightweight in the world, and a victory for either would go a long way to inserting them into the UFC title picture and moving towards the world’s #1 spot. Recently re-minted middleweight Kelvin Gastelum makes his return to the division at UFC 188 to face another former Strikeforce champion in Nate Marquardt. Both men suffered defeats by decision in their last outings, and need a good performance here to bounce back. This card is taking place in Mexico, and there is some local flair on display in addition to the likes of Velasquez and Gastelum. TUF Latin America featherweight winner Yair Rodriguez makes his first appearance since the show aired when he faces Charles Rosa. Kicking off the main card is a women’s strawweight battle between a pair of young prospects who rely heavily on their striking. Tecia Torres has already positioned herself amongst the top 10 in the 115lb division with some solid wins in Invicta, but she stumbled against solid grapplers on TUF. Angela Hill fell to eventual winner Carla Esparza, but looked impressive in her first fight after the show. It will be interesting to see how their striking matches up in this contest. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for all of the UFC 188 fights today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (PPV, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (FX, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: The more I think about the Melendez/Alvarez fight, the more I like Alvarez. Melendez has been bad defensively in his recent fights, and he doesn’t have the same type of firepower that Alvarez possesses. Alvarez was a bit disappointing in his UFC debut after a nice start, but that had a lot to do with Cerrone’s leg kicking game, something Melendez can’t threaten him with. If some early money comes in on Melendez, I’ll definitely be taking a shot on Alvarez, but can’t bet him at anything closer to even than this opener. Nate Marquardt seems done. This is by far the largest underdog he’s been in his career, but I’d need a far bigger number to lay any money on him at this point. Gastelum is the far busier and more dangerous fighter, and he’s just going to put offense on Marquardt until he breaks. From a technical perspective, I don’t think the disparity is too big here, but physically, mentally, and from a momentum perspective Gastelum has huge advantages here. I’m still not sure what to make of the talent level on TUF Latin America, but my instincts are still that it’s not good enough to hang with legitimate talents in their respective divisions. Charles Rosa is a legitimate talent. His BJJ is much better than Rodriguez’s, and his striking has improved significantly in a short period of time. I think wherever this fight goes, Rosa will have an advantage, and I don’t think the hometown crowd will be enough to turn this in his favor. I expect that Torres/Hill will be a striking battle, and at the current line, I’m actually leaning a bit more towards the longer, more athletic striker in Hill. She’s more limited on the ground than Torres, but I’m not sure Torres has the tools to really make her pay for being so green on the mat. I’ll wait to watch this line move up on Torres, but it’s already tempting to me.