As if UFC 189 and the TUF 21 Finale on back-to-back nights wasn’t enough, the UFC will only go two days without an event before UFC Fight Night 71 kicks off from Sand Diego on Wednesday night. The 13-fight event looks to be more high-profile than the average fight night card, and the matchups appear like they’ll translate into entertaining fights as well. The only bout with a betting line to this point is the heavyweight main event between former champion Frank Mir and one-time blue chip prospect Todd Duffee. Mir finally put an end to his four-fight losing streak with a first round KO of ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in his last outing. Duffee has only fought five times since being released by the UFC over five years ago. He has won his last two inside the UFC, but this main event will be the highest profile bout of his career since he stepped in on short notice to face Alistair Overeem in Japan in 2010. Duffee opened as a -175 favorite (bet $175 to win $100), and the line has stayed relatively steady with him climbing to -185 as of this writing. Mir began at +135 (bet $100 to win $135), and now sits at +160 as the margins have tightened and a bit more action has come in on his younger foe. While the heavyweights have been granted headliner status, the two best bouts on the card may be in the lightweight division, where former Strikeforce champions Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson face a pair of 155ers on the rise. Melendez will be tasked with Al Iaquinta, while Thomson goes up against former TUF winner Tony Ferguson. This could signal a bit of a changing of the guard at lightweight, as Melendez and Thomson have been amongst the best at 155 for going on a decade. The card also features what could prove to be an important bout in the women’s bantamweight division, as undefeated boxer-turned-MMA fighter Holly Holm faces the stiffest test of her career in the surprising Marion Reneau. Lightweight prospects Kevin Lee and James Moontasri join them on the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card, which will be kicked off by a surefire action fight between Alan Jouban and Matt Dwyer at welterweight. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the entire UFC San Diego card today at Several Bookmakers. Check them out below: ——————– MAIN CARD (Fox Sports 1, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: There were a lot of people who picked Gilbert Melendez to get upset by Eddie Alvarez, but very few who expected that fight to play out like it did. The fact that Melendez was outwrestled so easily by Alvarez is very concerning against a fighter who possesses a lot of the same tools, but has generally been more willing to pull the trigger in the UFC than Alvarez has. Melendez is known for pushing the pace in his fights, be he gassed badly against Alvarez, is taking this fight on short notice, and is facing someone who fights at an even higher pace than he does. I like Iaquinta to come forward, eat some of Melendez’s shots, but generally be the busier fighter en route to winning the biggest fight of his career. Iaquinta at dog money is a play for me here. I expect a similar narrative to play out in the other big lightweight fight. While I believe that Josh Thomson is a more skilled fighter than Tony Ferguson, he’s now 36 and has been injury riddled throughout his career. He has a tendency to allow his opponents to dictate the pace of his bouts too often, and that’s what has lost him close, controversial decisions in three of his past four. Ferguson has no such issues, as he likes to stalk opponents and keeps up a high volume. On the ground I think Thomson has a significant advantage here, but I’m not sure he can get it there, and Ferguson will likely outwork him on the feet. I have a feeling this line will creep up, and I may end up with a play on Thomson however. Sometimes there are fighters that you’re just not sold on, and Holly Holm is at the top of that list for me right now. She just got past Raquel Pennington in a fight that shouldn’t have been as close as it was, and now she faces a fighter who is better in every technical and physical area than Pennington. I think Marion Reneau will make Holm’s life very difficult in this fight at every range, and I think there’s a good chance she scores the upset. I’m hoping that Holm didn’t lose too much of her lustre against Pennington and there’s still a nice, juicy dog number to be had here though. Kevin Lee tends to tire a bit in his fights, and aside from not having the most aesthetically pleasing style, that’s my biggest knock on him. Luckily for Lee in this spot, it’s a glaring weakness for James Moontasri, and it’s one that Lee’s style is perfectly equipped to exploit. Don’t get me wrong, if this turns into a 15-minute kickboxing match, Lee is in trouble, but he’s never pursued that gameplan before, and now would be a very foolish time to start. Give me Lee by decision or late submission. While that last fight will probably go late, I expect Jouban/Dwyer to end pretty early, and I expect it to be Dwyer taking the nap. Alan Jouban doesn’t have impenetrable defense, so I can see Dwyer landing some shots to make it interesting, but Jouban is the more durable and powerful fighter. In a battle of strikers who share some similar aggressive traits, those two things count for a lot. It’s hard to trust either Sam Sicilia or Yaotzin Meza. Sicilia can be chinny at times, while Meza can be put on his back and controlled. Sicilia doesn’t have particularly good cardio, but Meza doesn’t push a high pace in his fights. This is a complete pass for me from every betting perspective, but if I had to choose a winner I’d side with Sicilia. Sarah Moras is a pretty solid grappler, but unless she’s improved her takedown defense or ability to get back to her feet in the year since we last saw her, I don’t think that’s going to matter. Jessica Andrade is far better on the feet and a much better wrestler. As long as she learned from her last fight what a triangle is, I think she’ll be okay against Moras in this one, but her repeatedly diving into Marion Reneau’s triangle doesn’t inspire much confidence. When I look at Scott Jorgensen these days, I see a fighter who is just done at this level. Getting hurt on the feet and stopped by Jussier Formiga and Wilson Reis is not a great thing, and that’s just the type of stuff that makes me think Manny Gamburyan can finish him despite not being an offensive dynamo. Gamburyan isn’t a spring chicken himself, but he’s holding up better than Jorgensen at this point, and I have to side with him even though I can’t trust him with much of my money. I expect Masanori Kanehara to be underrated once again facing Rani Yahya, and I think he moves to 2-0 in the UFC. Yahya has always been more impressive to me at 145 than 135, and even though he picked up a good win against Johnny Bedford, I don’t think he’ll have the same sort of success grappling against Kanehara. Kanehara will be the better striker here, won’t have to worry about Yahya’s striking, and can get takedowns of his own to grind out rounds. I think Kanehara picks up the win here, but I’m going to hold off on a bet as I think the public will come in on Yahya. Sean Strickland is being given a very favorable style matchup with Igor Araujo here, and as long as he doesn’t go completely inactive as he has in some fights recently, I don’t see him losing this one. Araujo shouldn’t be able to take him down and control him, and Strickland is a significantly better striker here. I actually could see Strickland getting top position and finishing Araujo similar to how George Sullivan was able to, but even without that he should win a decision. THE KING IS BACK! Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that I’m a big fan of Kevin Casey’s fighting, music, and ability to make me money. I think this is another spot where he can do at least two of those to good effect, as his wrestling should be enough to get takedowns on Alcantara, and his jiu-jitsu could be enough to even advance position and score a finish. I wouldn’t count on that, but we’ve seen Alcantara ground out a few times in the past, and he put on a stinker of a performance even in a win last time out, so I think Casey returns successfully from his steroid suspension. Even though Lyman Good was the butt of jokes on his season of TUF, he’s now being welcomed into the organization, and he’s being put in a very good position to win his debut fight against a somewhat chinny fighter dropping to a new weight division. Good is big enough that he could pass as a welterweight, so I don’t even expect Craig to have much a of size advantage for all his trouble. I think Good stuffs takedowns, perhaps hurts Craig on the feet, and widens the gap as the weight cut takes its toll on Craig in the later rounds.