UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez

Published on Saturday, 4/20/13, at 2:15 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will bring a 12-fight card to HP Pavilion in San Jose tonight for UFC on FOX 7: Henderson vs. Melendez.

Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson will put his lightweight belt on the line against former Strikeforce middleweight kingpin Gilbert ‘El Nino’ Melendez in the main event. Most betting shops have Henderson (18-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) installed as a -300 favorite. Gamblers can back Melendez for a +250 return (risk $100 to win $250).

Henderson won the UFC’s lightweight strap with a unanimous-decision victory over Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar at UFC 144. BrianEdwardsSports.com scored the fight 49-46 in favor of Henderson, but many thought the fight was closer.

Therefore, Edgar was granted an immediate rematch. This space saw the second fight at UFC 150 completely different, giving Edgar the nod by a 49-46 score. However, one judge had it 49-46 for Edgar but the other two saw it 48-47 for Henderson, who retained the belt by split-decision.

In his second title defense at UFC on Fox 5, Henderson dominated Nate Diaz en route to a unanimous-decision victory (50-45 three times) back on Dec. 8. The win was the sixth straight for ‘Smooth,’ who hasn’t tasted defeat since losing a unanimous decision to Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis at WEC 53 on Dec. 16 of 2010.

Melendez (21-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has won seven consecutive fights and hasn’t lost since dropping a unanimous decision to Josh Thomson on June 27 of 2008. He will be making his Octagon debut after holding Strikeforce’s 155-pound strap for nearly four years.

The knock on Melendez is that he hasn’t faced the type of competition that Henderson and other UFC lightweight contenders have. But he has been in the same gym as Nate and Nick Diaz and Jake Shields for many years, and ‘El Nino’ has a win over Clay Guida by split-decision on his resume.

Melendez wants to make this a boxing match, while Henderson wants to use his wrestling and grappling to grind out a decision. Oddsmakers are expecting just that, creating a -240 price for the fight to go the five-round distance (risk $240 to win $100). Bettors can earn a +180 payout if the bout doesn’t go the distance.

Prediction: I think Henderson grinds out a decision victory but from a gambling perspective, I think the odds are too expensive for both Henderson and the fight to go five rounds. Therefore, this fight is a pass for me.

In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier (11-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will make his much-anticipated debut in the UFC when he faces former two-time heavyweight champ, Frank Mir. Most spots have Cormier installed as a -400 ‘chalk.’ Mir is an enormous +300 underdog (risk $100 to win $300).

Mir (16-6 MMA, 14-6 UFC) has moved to Greg Jackson’s training camp in Albuquerque for the first time in prepping for his fight. Mir has customarily trained in Las Vegas where he lives. He has worked with light heavyweight Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and Travis Browne, among others.

Mir has only been this big of an underdog once before. As generous as a +400 underdog his last time out, Mir was the victim of a second-round knockout courtesy of Junior dos Santos, who was making his first defense of the heavyweight strap he eventually lost to Cain Velasquez.

Discounting the loss to JDS, Mir has had a history of hooking up his betting supporters with nice underdog returns. For instance, Mir beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as a +300 underdog at UFC 92 and bested Brock Lesnar as a +160 ‘dog at UFC 81.

Mir is considered by most to be the heavyweight division’s best submission specialist in mixed martial arts history. Twice Mir has earned Submission of the Year honors in wins over Lesnar and Nogueira.

Cormier won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix with wins over former UFC heavyweight champ Josh Barnett and Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. He was an Olympic wrestler but his striking skills have developed rapidly.

Prediction: Although I believe Cormier will most likely get the win, I’m not going to pass on the opportunity to back a man with Mir’s talent and experience at such a generous underdog price. I recommend a small play on Mir as the heavy ‘dog. Furthermore, if you have an account at 5Dimes, I’m not against taking a small flyer on Mir to win by submission at +725 odds (risk $100 to win $725). If Mir indeed gets the victory, it almost certainly will come via the submission route.

Nate Diaz (16-8 MMA, 11-6 UFC) will be looking for a bounce-back victory when he takes on Josh Thomson in the second fight on the FOX portion of the card. Diaz saw his three-fight winning streak snapped in the aforementioned loss to Henderson.

Most books have Diaz as a -175 ‘chalk,’ while Thomson is a +145 underdog.

Thomson (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) will be returning to the Octagon for the first time since 2004. The 34-year-old held the Strikeforce lightweight belt two different times.

Prediction: I think this is going to be Fight of the Night. I like Diaz to win as long as the price is -180 or less.

In the first of four fights on FOX, Jordan Mein (27-8 MMA, 1-0 UFC) is heavily favored (-300 or more) against veteran Matt Brown, who is at least a +240 underdog.

Brown (16-11 MMA, 9-5 UFC) has won four consecutive fights, including a second-round KO of Mike Swick in his last trip into the cage at UFC on Fox 5.

The 23-year-old Mein destroyed Dan Miller in his Octagon debut, finishing the UFC veteran with a KO late in the opening stanza.

Prediction: Brown has a great chin, excellent cardio and experience galore. I’ll take the veteran as an enormous underdog.

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