Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is making its long-awaited debut south of the border for tomorrow night's (Sat., Nov. 15, 2014) UFC 180 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Mexico City, even after it lost two of its biggest Mexican stars in Diego Sanchez and Cain Velasquez.
No point crying over spilled leche.
The show must go on, so the "Nightmare" bout was shit-canned altogether and Mark Hunt was airlifted to Mexico on short notice. To compensate for the fact that he'll probably gas on his way to the Octagon, the promotion is dangling the interim heavyweight title like an Auckland carrot.
Which Fabricio Werdum is trying to bite before the "Super Samoan."
In the co-main event, Jake Ellenberger is trying to prove he's not a fading also-ran by turning away the new kid on the block, Kelvin Gastelum, who is perfect since winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 as a middleweight, but who can't buy a finish in recent fights.
Add to that an electric featherweight throwdown with serious title implications when Ricardo Lamas hangs and bangs with Dennis Bermudez and we have ourselves a halfway decent card for 60 clams. So, who wins this weekend (besides Montezuma)?
Let's find out.
265 lbs.: Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum (18-5-1) vs. Mark "Super Samoan" Hunt (10-8-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Mark Hunt, as he so often does, ballooned up to over 300 pounds after knocking out Roy Nelson in Japan. Well to be fair, he was also 300 pounds before planishing "Big Country," but I'm not here to talk about how fat the New Zealander is.
Oh wait, yes I am.
The "Super-Sized Samoan" does not fight well at high altitude, evidenced by that wind-sucking performance against Ben Rothwell in Denver, Colorado. Considering Mexico is over 2,000 feet higher than the "Mile-High City," Hunt is basically screwed.
He's got one round to swing for the fences.
Unless Fabricio Werdum is the dumbest fighter on the planet, I expect him to get this fight to the floor. I've been impressed with his improvement in the stand up, but there is absolutely no reason to try to bang it out with a K-1 Grand Prix Champion who has the ground game of that gimp from Johnny Got His Gun.
Let's not confuse the issue.
Hunt is not here by accident. He's here because he's a winner and knows how to bury his opponents inside the cage. But heading into Mexico on three weeks notice against a much-larger fighter already two months into an acclimation period leaves him grotesquely outmatched.
Even if their conditioning was equal, we still have a bloated striker with six of his eight losses coming by way of submission against an Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) legend holding taps over Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Assuming Werdum doesn't plant his feet and try to get cute, this one is academic.
Final prediction: Werdum def. Hunt by submission
170 lbs.: Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger (29-8) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (9-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: The fact that Jake Ellenberger is clinging to the No. 7 spot in the official rankings gives you an indication of the difference between the top and bottom half of the 10 best. "The Juggernaut" has been held in high esteem over the last few years thanks to a finish over Jake Shields, but he's looked awful in recent fights.
That includes a stinker against Rory MacDonald, where he looked flat and unwilling to engage. Ellenberger followed that up with a technical knockout loss to Robbie Lawler in a fight that he appeared to want nothing to do with about midway through the second round.
That's a good question, as Jugs has the perfect skill set to make a run at the title. In addition to his experience, he's a good wrestler with heavy hands, which makes me wonder aloud if the mental aspect of combat sports is keeping him grounded.
Fortunately, he may not have to worry about getting finished by Kelvin Gastelum. After a successful run on TUF 17, "KG" was able to rattle off four straight wins over some very tough opponents. But outside of the venerable Rick Story, he's been mixing it up with guys who are relatively wet behind the ears.
And Gastelum himself is still only 23.
Since both fighters are accomplished wrestlers, this is probably going to play out on the feet. I don't think Gastelum is going to stand there flat-footed and go bomb-for-bomb, but assuming "The Juggernaut" finally figures out how to pull the trigger, I have to lean toward the more experienced fighter.
Final prediction: Ellenberger def. Gastelum via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Dennis "The Menace" Bermudez (14-3) vs. Ricardo "The Bully" Lamas (14-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Every time I write a post about the featherweight title hunt and mention names like Conor McGregor and Cub Swanson, I invariably get bombed by some uber-fan on Twitter: HEY WHAT ABOUT BERMUDEZ, JERK-FACE?!?
While it's true that Dennis Bermudez has won seven in a row following his debut loss, the quality of opposition leaves a lot to be desired. The losing fighters during that streak, looking at their past three fights, are a combined 7-14 (and three of them have since been cut).
There is no question that Bermudez sets a ridiculous tempo and is as strong as an ox, but I'm not sure he's refined enough to overcome Ricardo Lamas, who went five rounds with Jose Aldo and also holds a submission win over top contender Cub Swanson.
Then again, it all depends on which "Bully" shows up in Mexico City.
The tentative, do-enough-to-win Lamas can easily be outworked across three frames, but the aggressive, calculated striker who comes to finish can neutralize his opponent and shut down that blitzkrieg by the second stanza. This is a tough fight to call, but once again I believe youth yields to experience.
Final prediction: Lamas def. Bermudez by submission
170 lbs.: Augusto "Dodger" Montano (13-1) vs. Chris "Stump" Heatherly (8-2, 1 NC)
Nostradumbass predicts: I know the layman is turning his nose up at this fight, but I'm actually interested to see what kind of impact Augusto Montano can have at 170 pounds. "Dodger" will prove to be a huge welterweight and assuming the cut is no issue, he may be able to use that advantage to stay upright.
He's going to need it.
Heatherly is a talented ground fighter with crafty submissions but his hands are garbage, so I expect him to work tirelessly in an effort to drag this fight to the floor. While Montano is not going to pull off any kind of highlight-reel subs like Ben Saunders did, he's not completely inept on the ground.
Though I'd reckon he'd be looking to get back to his feet.
I usually favor wrestling over striking, but knowing that Montano is being coached at Jackson-Winkeljohn leads me to believe his corner has the right strategy to keep it standing -- which means Heatherly won't be.
Final prediction: Montano def. Heatherly via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Edgar Garcia (14-3) vs. Hector "El Toro" Urbina (16-8-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Here is a fight that has no business being on PPV, but I won't bore you with another one of those speeches because this is becoming the norm, so we'll acknowledge it and move on. Hector Urbina was bounced from TUF 19 and hasn't won consecutive fights in over five years.
What does he bring to the table?
"El Toro" is well rounded, comes from a good camp, and has been around the block, so at the very minimum he can perform competently inside the cage. Like his opponent, Edgar Garcia hasn't been lighting the world on fire, but he has at least remained consistent over the past couple of years.
7-1 since 2010, for those keeping score at home.
With a raucous Mexican crowd behind them, I wouldn't be surprised to see these two perform beyond expectations and put on a show, but when push comes to shove, Garcia has looked better in recent fights and already has UFC experience.
At this level, that's usually all it takes.
Final prediction: Garcia def. Urbina via submission
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 180 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the PPV start time at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 180 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Werdum vs. Hunt."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.