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UFC 181 Predictions

The UFC’s final pay-per-view event of 2014 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights for you below.

Main Card:

Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler

We’ve already seen these two go toe-to-toe for five rounds earlier in the year, so we’ve got a fair idea of what to expect here.

Neither man seemed to really be throwing their renowned KO power punches in that bout though – perhaps in Hendricks case due to a torn bicep injury and Lawler’s due to having some success outstriking his opponent while also attempting to conserve energy (though cardio did still become a factor for him in the fifth round).

With that in mind, perhaps there is a little room for things to play out differently on the feet this time around, but the biggest opportunity to add something new comes with Hendricks wrestling which was underutilized back in March. With his bicep now better he may be more confident in that aspect of his game and he should hold an advantage on the mat – if he can get Lawler down.

It’s such a hard fight to call as both men have the ability to finish the fight in an instant. If they just decide to do much the same thing as last time out Lawler’s slicker striking in-close could win out if he’s improved his cardio, but overall with Hendricks wrestling factored into the equation I’m leaning slightly towards him to retain his belt.

Johny Hendricks to win by decision.

Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez

Pettis finally returns to action to defend his lightweight title for the first time against former Strikeforce champ Melendez.

On the feet I definitely like Pettis here. He’s a specialist here – excellent technically, but with real flair and creativity that makes him unpredictable. The beauty of it is that he’s also effective, not just flashy with the techniques he uses.

Melendez has done so well in the game because he’s a very good all-rounder. He doesn’t excel in striking as much as Pettis – his style is built more around very solid boxing fundamentals and toughness that’s often enough to see him through, but I think there’s a real chance the champion is going to be able to exploit his more predictable approach.

Any exchanges on the mat could be interesting with Melendez being good on top with good control and ground and pound, while Pettis has improved his skills there over the years, offering an active guard and submission threat. Potentially he can be stifled though, which will be a concern, but still, I believe his stand-up work is going to shine through here though he may have to settle for a win on the scorecards.

Anthony Pettis to win by decision.

Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub

This looks like a good fight for Browne. On paper Schaub has plus points – he’s a good athlete who’s moves well, has good boxing and can wrestle too, but his chin is highly questionable and in his recent performances it looks like he’s painfully aware of it as he’s looked tentative out there.

That could be very dangerous against Browne who’s also athletic and light on his feet, but brings more power to the Octagon and will bring the kind of aggression that Schaub has been lacking.

On the mat I’d give Schaub the edge and that’s surely got to factor into his gameplan, but Browne has proven to be very hard to take down and that may well spell trouble for Schaub. I’m taking Browne to get an early stoppage due to strikes in this one.

Travis Browne to win by KO in Rd1

Todd Duffee vs. Anthony Hamilton

Duffee’s certainly not had his troubles to seek over the years with a number of untimely layoffs and issues and here he is coming back again after two years out hoping to deliver on the promise he showed early in his career.

Ring rust could clearly be a factor here, but it’s still potentially a winnable fight for Duffee. He’s the more imposing figure and should be able to keep this one standing and make his mark in the striking exchanges to collect a second round stoppage.

Todd Duffee to win by TKO in Rd2.

Tony Ferguson vs. Abel Trujillo

An interesting lightweight match-up opens up the pay-per-view card offering a competitive match-up wherever the fight goes.

Ferguson is a fluid combination striker who uses his reach well which should pay dividends given that he’s got a 6″ advantage over Trujillo in that regard. He’ll need every inch of that distance though as Trujillo is a combustible brawler with KO power.

Both Ferguson and Trujillo are capable wrestlers, though they prefer to keep it standing. If they do look to lock horns then I’d tip Ferguson to pose the biggest threat as he can transition nicely into fight finishing submission attempts, and I think that could be his key to a win inside the distance here.

Tony Ferguson to win by submission in Rd2.

Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)

Urijah Faber vs. Francisco Rivera
Eddie Gordon vs. Josh Samman
Corey Anderson vs. Justin Jones
Raquel Pennington vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
Sergio Pettis vs. Matt Hobar
Clay Collard vs. Alex White

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