UFC 180 Preview and Predictions – Werdum vs. Hunt

When UFC 180 tickets went on sale, they were scooped up in less than eight hours by fans in Mexico City. While more than 20,000 fans will enjoy a good card on Saturday, November 15, they will not get the fight that they were expecting. Originally Cain Velasquez was going to defend his Heavyweight Title against Fabricio Werdum. However, Velasquez injured his knee and is being replaced by Mark Hunt in what will now be an interim title match. Other bouts of interest include a Welterweight tilt between Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum, and a Featherweight battle matchup between Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez.

When UFC 180 tickets went on sale, they were scooped up in less than eight hours by fans in Mexico City. While more than 20,000 fans will enjoy a good card on Saturday, November 15, they will not get the fight that they were expecting. Originally Cain Velasquez was going to defend his Heavyweight Title against Fabricio Werdum. However, Velasquez injured his knee and is being replaced by Mark Hunt in what will now be an interim title match. Other bouts of interest include a Welterweight tilt between Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum, and a Featherweight matchup between Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez. Below, we preview all of the UFC 180 action and provide our take on how the fights will play out.

Werdum, twice a Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, seeks a fifth straight win. In his last bout, he earned a unanimous decision victory over Travis Browne in April. Fighting in Brazil last year, he forced Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira into a second round submission using an armbar, avenging a 2006 loss to Minotauro. In 2012, he punched his way to a first round TKO against Mike Russow. Werdum’s last loss came against Alistair Overeem in 2011 and he is 18-5-1 all-time, with half of his wins via submission. Hunt will inevitably be looking for the knockout, but Werdum has proved to have a solid chin; he has been knocked out only once (back in 2008 against Junior dos Santos).

Werdum’s opponent, Mark Hunt, is only 1-1-1 in his last three fights and 10-8-1 all time. He knocked out Roy Nelson in September after a majority draw against Antonio Silva last December. He shares a knockout loss to Junior dos Santos in common with Werdum; dos Santos KOed Hunt with a highlight reel spinning heel kick at UFC 160 in May 2013, bringing a swift halt to Hunt’s four-fight win streak. Hunt was 30-13 as a kickboxer before shifting to mixed martial arts. True to his kickboxing pedigree, seven of his ten career MMA wins have come by knockout, and six of eight losses have been submissions. Werdum is heavy favorite at -530. A Mark Hunt upset is +350. The planets seemed to have aligned against Hunt for this match. The 40-year-old is coming into the fight on short notice after just fighting in September, and he will be fighting in front of a Latino crowd partial to Werdum. Coupled with the fact that Hunt has never beaten someone of Werdum’s stature, we’re predicting Werdum by submission in the second round. But, with his heavy hands and kickboxing background, Hunt will have the customary “puncher’s chance”.

Prior to the main event, Jake Ellenberger will look to get back on track after two straight losses. He’s 29-8 overall following a TKO loss to Robbie Lawler (May 2014) and a unanimous decision loss to Rory MacDonald (July 2013). Ellenberger has 18 career knockouts but none in the last three years.

Kelvin Gastelum will be hoping to keep Ellenberger’s losing streak going while simultaneously maintaining his own unblemished record. Gastelum improved to 10-0 lifetime after earning decision wins over Nico Musoke and Rick Story this year. He used a rear-naked choke to force Brian Melancon into a submission during his welterweight debut in August 2013. Gastelum won the Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale with a split decision over Uriah Hall in April 2013. Though Ellenberger is more experienced, has more power, and has been taking on tougher competition, we see this fight going past the first round and the younger Gastelum imposing his will more and more as the fight gets deeper. We like Gastelum to stay unbeaten.

At 14-3, Ricardo Lamas is coming off of a win against Hacran Dias. Before that match, he lost to Jose Aldo in February, but was a game opponent and arguably won a round against the champ. Half of his wins have come by decision while two of three losses have been knockouts. Dennis Bermudez has won seven straight and is 15-3 overall. He forced Clay Guida into a submission in July after earning a TKO over Jimy Hettes in March. This fight looks fairly even, but we like Lamas to eke out a victory.

Also on the card is a match between Edgar Garcia (17-3) and Hector Urbina (16-8). After being dropped from the UFC following two straight losses, Garcia has won four straight and finds himself back on the biggest MMA stage. Urbina was a cast member on TUF 19, but will be making his official UFC debut at UFC 180. Garcia has good power (seven of his 17 wins have been by (T)KO), and Urbina as lost five by knockout. With Garcia anxious to prove he deserves to stay on the UFC stage, we predict he stops Urbina at UFC 180.

In women’s action Jessica Eye battles Leslie Smith. Eye is 10-2 but lost her last fight to Alexis Davis (who then went onto a title fight against Ronda Rousey). Smith won her last fight against the lanky Jessamyn Duke in July to up her record to 7-5-1. We like Eye to come out on top; she has the better record and has faced better competition in her career.

The last fight is between two relative unknowns –  Augusto Montano (13-1) and Chris Heatherly (8-2). Heatherly has one previous UFC fight under his belt, a submission loss to Ben Saunders. Looking at Montano’s stats, he appears to have a good ground game and decent power. All 13 of his fights have come by way of either (T)KO (eight) or submission (five). Though the 30-year-old has never fought in the UFC before, he will be making his debut in his home country. With the home crowd behind him, we like Montano to win in his UFC debut.