UFC 146: Dos Santos vs. Mir

Published on May 22 at 6:48 p.m. Eastern. Updated May 24 at 6:05 p.m. Eastern. 

By Brian Edwards

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will put its heavyweight division in the spotlight this Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas at UFC 146. All five fights on the pay-per-view card will feature heavyweights, including Junior dos Santos’s first title defense against Frank Mir in the main event.

Dos Santos (14-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC) was initially slotted to face Alistair Overeem, but the Dutch kickboxer flunked a surprise drug test that revealed an elevated amount of testosterone in his blood.

Mir (16-5 MMA, 14-5 UFC) is trying to become the first 3-time heavyweight champ in the promotion’s history. The Las Vegas native first won the UFC belt with an armbar finish of Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 on June 19 of 2004. Then at UFC 92 on Dec. 27 of 2008, Mir displayed his improved stand-up game in a second-round knockout of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who had never been KO’d previously, to win the UFC’s interim crown.

Mir has won three consecutive fights, including a second win over Big Nog at UFC 140. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt won Submission of the Year honors when he snapped Nogueira’s arm with a brutal kimura that was preceded by a wild scramble.

Big Nog is Dos Santos’s mentor, so JDS will not only be trying to defend his title, but also attempting to gain a small measure of revenge for Nogueira.

Dos Santos is considered the best striker in the game right now. Despite fighting with a torn meniscus, his powerful right hand led to a first-round KO finish of Cain Velasquez to win the belt at UFC on Fox 1 back on Nov. 12 of last year.

Before beating Velasquez, JDS won a pair of decisions over Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson. He has three KO of the Night performances on his resume.

Although Mir has become an excellent striker, his best chance of winning the fight is to get JDS to the ground. However, that’s much easier said than done. In fact, Dos Santos hasn’t ever been taken down in eight Octagon appearances.

Most betting shops are listing Dos Santos as an enormous minus-500 favorite, while Mir is plus-400 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $400). For bettors that are bullish on JDS, there’s the prop-bet option of trimming a bit of the price off by taking Dos Santos to win by TKO at minus-300.

Prediction: I don’t ever rule Mir out of a fight because he’s so tough, so experienced and so lethal with his BJJ skills. With that said, I believe Dos Santos is going to win although the expensive price is not an option for me. I think the best way to bet this bout is by taking the prop for Dos Santos to win in Round 1 at just a risk of minus-115 (risk $115 to win $100, per 5Dimes).

In the co-main event, former champ Cain Velasquez (9-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) will take on Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva. Most books are listing Velasquez as a minus-400 ‘chalk’ with Silva installed as a plus-300 underdog.

Velasquez, who has three KO of the Night bonuses to his credit, was a two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona St. He won the UFC heavyweight title by destroying Brock Lesnar with a first-round KO at UFC 121.

Velasquez has eight career KOs and only one of his fights, a unanimous-decision win over Cheick Kongo at UFC 99, has gone the distance. He owns victories over Big Nog, Ben Rothwell and Jake O’Brien.

Silva (16-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will have a height advantage on Velasquez, but a similar edge didn’t help him in his last outing when Daniel Cormier KO’d him in the first round of a semifinal bout in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Silva had advanced to the semifinals with a stunning upset win over Fedor Emelianenko.

This is Silva’s UFC debut.

Prediction: I think Velasquez gets his hand raised but the price is too expensive for my taste. I’ll pass.

The pay-per-view card will begin with a dynamic matchup that promises to provide fireworks, as Stefan Struve (23-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC) takes on Lavar Johnson. Most books have this fight as a pick ‘em (minus-115 either way).

Struve, who is the UFC’s tallest fighter at six feet and 11 inches, was originally going to face Mark Hunt in what was also made a pick ‘em by the oddsmakers. But Hunt suffered a knee injury and had to withdraw last week.

Struve has won back-to-back fights over Pat Barry (second-round armbar) and Dave Herman (second-round TKO). The Dutch mixed martial artist has a pair of Submission of the Night honors on his record along with one KO of the Night performance.

Johnson (17-5 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has collected two KO of the Night bonuses in as many Octagon appearances since joining the promotion after losing his last two fights in Strikeforce. At UFC on Fox 2 on Jan. 28, Johnson became the first man to KO Joey Beltran and he did so in the first round.

Then three weeks ago at UFC on Fox 3, Johnson nearly got submitted by Pat Barry in Round 1, only to come back in the second stanza to score a devastating knockout. Johnson hooked up his betting supporters as a plus-140 underdog.

Prediction: Although Struve will have the advantage IF the fight goes to the ground, I think Johnson has too much power for Struve. Johnson is my favorite pick on the card at a pick ‘em.

Jason Floyd, who is the host of ‘In the Cage’ on sports radio in Tampa, also likes Johnson to win the fight. Floyd told BrianEdwardsSports.com, “Johnson has shown what he can do with his hands, so the key for him on Saturday night will be to keep this fight standing and not allow Struve to take him down. If Johnson keeps the fight standing, he has a good chance of winning but if the fight goes to the ground, he will be in trouble.”

On the undercard that’ll be aired on Fuel TV, Dan Hardy (23-10-1 MMA, 4-4 UFC) will try to end a four-fight losing streak when he takes on Duane Ludwig. Hardy is a minus-130 favorite, while Ludwig is available at even money.

Hardy won his first four UFC fights before losing a unanimous decision to Georges St. Pierre for the 170-pound crown. Since then, he’s lost to Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle.

Ludwig (21-12 MMA, 4-3 UFC) has won two of his last three fights but is trying to bounce back from a first-round loss to Josh Neer.

Prediction: I like Hardy to end his losing slide and get the victory. Take the favorite at the inexpensive price.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–The two pay-per-view fights not mentioned above: Roy Nelson (-230) vs. Dave Herman (+180) and Stipe Miocic (-155) vs. Shane del Rosario (+125).

–Also on the Fuel TV undercard, Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller (23-8-1 MMA, 0-2 UFC) will collide with C.B. Dollaway in a middleweight clash. Miller is coming off a shaky performance in a third-round TKO loss to Michael Bisping at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale. Dollaway (11-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) has lost back-to-back fights to Mark Munoz and Jared Hamman. Miller is a minus-150 ‘chalk,’ while Dollaway is a plus-120 ‘dog. I’m not as high on Dollaway as I am for wagers on Johnson and Hardy, but I will make a small play on the short underdog. More than anything, it’s a play against Miller. And to be clear, I’m on Johnson for more units than Hardy.

–Stephan Bonnar is lobbying Dana White for a coaching slot opposite of Forrest Griffin for Season 16 of TUF. Griffin (-300) is slated to complete a different trilogy with Tito Ortiz (+220) at UFC 148.

–Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis is still recovering from surgery but is hoping to return for a spot on the UFC 151 card on Sept. 1. Pettis wants to face Nate Diaz for the No. 1 contender spot and a shot at the title vs. the winner of Ben Henderson-Frankie Edgar II, which is scheduled for Aug. 11 at UFC 150. Diaz has already been told he’ll get the title shot, but Pettis was given similar indications in the past. I like the idea and the timing would be right with the fights just three weeks apart (assuming Pettis can be ready on Sept. 1).

–Jake Ellenberger is a minus-200 ‘chalk’ vs. Martin ‘Hitman’ Kampmann (+160) in next weekend’s main event of the TUF 15 Finale.

–Check out more of Jason Floyd’s analysis for Struve-Johnson, in addition to his power rankings along the left rail, at this link. For MMA fans that do the twitter thing, Floyd’s handle is @Jason_Floyd.

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