Two title matches are set to take place in the upcoming UFC 161, as Anthony Pettis defends his lightweight crown against Gilbert Melendez while welterweight king Johny Hendricks and top contender Robbie Lawler renew unpleasantries. We break apart both fights to decide which fighters to back with our UFC picks.
Hendricks – Lawler II
Johny Hendricks (16-2, 8 KO’s, 1 Sub) has earned three consecutive Fight of the Night honors, with the most recent being an absolute war with Robbie Lawler to claim the vacant UFC Welterweight throne which was abdicated by the legendary George St. Pierre. According to Hendricks he had torn a bicep before the epic battle with Lawler and still came out on top. Bigg Rigg has a fistful of dynamite in his left hand and is a relentless grappler. Rumors abound that Hendricks’ furious five-round title match that ended with GSP scoring a split decision was just the incentive St. Pierre needed to step away from the Octagon with his championship reign intact.
Challenger Robbie Lawler (24-10, 19 KO’s, 1 Sub) may have 10 losses on his record but since he entered the UFC he has won five of six matches with his only defeat coming at the hands of Johny Hendricks. At 32-years-old Lawler still has a few good years in front of him and the superior level of competition in the UFC seems to be maximizing his vast potential. After dropping the title match against Hendricks, the former Strikeforce refugee finished UFC gatekeeper Jake Ellenberger and then stepped up in grade to defeat top-five tough guy Matt Brown in a bout that would ultimately be declared the Fight of the Night.
Hendricks was installed as a 4-1 favorite when he met Lawler the first time in March of this year. It was a far closer fight than many anticipated and the most recent UFC odds posted in their rematch at UFC 181 reflect just that. Hendricks is no longer a prohibitive favorite and is now a more palatable -220 favorite at Dimes if you are so inclined to include Hendricks in your UFC 181 picks..
While the victor won’t be known until the wee hours of December 7th what we do know is that anyone watching these pair of 170 pounders do battle will no doubt be the only guaranteed winners on fight night. My money is on Hendricks to do it all over again and retain the UFC Lightweight strap.
Pettis’ Premier Defense
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (17-2, 8 KO’s, 6 Subs) opened up as a slight underdog on SBR’s UFC odds boards for his title match with then champ Ben Henderson but by the time the bell sounded he had been bet down to a virtual pick’em in most offshore shops. Before the first round was over, Pettis submitted the champ via armbar and all that late money on Showtime proved to be sharp money. Pettis got the belt and all of his backers got paid.
But Pettis’ stunning victory came well over a year ago and that must seem like an eternity for a guy who has historically kept an active fight schedule. However, injuries have kept him out of the Octagon and on the trainer’s table. Recent reports are that he is now completely recovered from his knee injuries and if he is to get through Gilbert Melendez then the super fight between he and featherweight champ Jose Aldo may actually come to pass. But first things first.
Speaking of the challenger, Gilbert Melendez (22-3, 11 KO’s, 1 Sub) is a former Strikeforce lightweight champion who was immediately given a crack at the title in his first foray under the UFC banner. He dropped a split decision to Ben Henderson but rebounded with a unanimous decision over long time UFC veteran Diego Sanchez. Melendez was installed as a prohibitive 6-1 favorite in UFC odds in that fight and earned not only the victory but Fight of the Night honors as well.
As of this writing, the champion is approximately a 2-1 favorite and those betting odds would probably be higher if a spate of injuries hadn’t sidelined him for so long. Unless Pettis enters the cage with a severe case of ring rust, I trust he will reward those willing to back him with their UFC picks come December 6th.