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July 29, 2014

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UFC 126: Breakdown and Picks

UFC fans have started to expect one of the best cards of the year annually on Super Bowl weekend and the organization is not letting them down in 2011. Three headline-worthy bouts are scheduled for the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday as well as a loaded undercard. Check out a breakdown and predictions for all 11 fights from the Las Vegas Sun's Case Keefer, KSNV's Kevin West and ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield below. Keefer, West and Cofield are all 5-5-1 in UFC picks through one event this year.

Anderson Silva

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’2''
  • Weight: 185
  • MMA record 27-4
  • Betting line: -280

Vitor Belfort

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 185
  • MMA record 19-8
  • Betting line: +230

Middleweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Fifth round win over Chael Sonnen by submission (triangle choke) at UFC 117.

Punch list: No one can rationally argue against Silva being one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He’s crushed everyone who's stood in his path since 2004. Silva will try to break his own record by going for an eighth straight title defense.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Silva

West: Silva

Last fight: First round win by knockout against Rich Franklin at UFC 103.

Punch list: Like Silva, Belfort is considered one of the best Brazilian mixed martial artists ever. He’s a renowned striker who has won three straight and four of his last five by knockout. This is only the former UFC light heavyweight champion’s second bout in the 185-pound class.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Silva

Forrest Griffin

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 205
  • MMA record 17-6
  • Betting line: +160

Rich Franklin

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 6'1''
  • Weight: 205
  • MMA record 28-5
  • Betting line: -200

Light Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Split decision win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 106.

Punch list: The fan-favorite Griffin has been a part of some of the most memorable fights in UFC history. The question coming into this one is whether he will be rusty after 13 months off.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Franklin

West: Franklin

Last fight: First round win over Chuck Liddell by knockout at UFC 115.

Punch list: Franklin, of course, was a high school math teacher before he turned in his chalk and eraser for a shot in mixed martial arts. He never looked back and was the last man to hold the middleweight championship before Silva

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Franklin

Jake Ellenberger

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • MMA record 23-5
  • Betting line: -320

Carlos Eduardo Rocha

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 170
  • MMA record 9-0
  • Betting line: +250

Welterweight Bout

Last fight:Third round win by TKO over John Howard at UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko.

Punch list: Ellenberger has one defeat during his three-fight UFC career, but it’s a disputed one. Many feel he won a fight that resulted in a split decision loss against welterweight contender Carlos Condit in his debut.

Staff picks:ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Ellenberger

West: Ellenberger

Last fight: First round win by submission over Kris McCray at UFC 122.

Punch list: Rocha is newer to the mixed martial arts world, as his first fight was in 2008. But he’s a long-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner who has a black belt. He’s submitted eight of nine opponents in MMA.

Staff picks:Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Rocha

Jon Jones

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 205
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Betting line: -400

Ryan Bader

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6'2''
  • Weight: 205
  • MMA record 13-0
  • Betting line: +300

Light Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: First round win by TKO over Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko.

Punch list: Everyone around mixed martial arts is anointing Jones as the next superstar. He’s practically undefeated as his only loss came by disqualification for illegal elbows after the fight could have already been called.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Jones

West: Jones

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 119.

Punch list: Bader won season eight of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has quickly worked his way up the 205-pound weight division. His last two victories, against Nogueira and Keith Jardine, were particularly impressive and put him close to a title shot.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Jones

Miguel Angel Torres

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5'9’’
  • Weight: 135
  • MMA record 37-3
  • Betting line: -400

Antonio Banuelos

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’3’’
  • Weight: 135
  • MMA record 19-6
  • Betting line: +300

Bantamweight Bout

Last fight: Second round win by submission over Charlie Valencia at WEC 51.

Punch list: Torres’ record can be misleading because two of the three losses have come in the last year and a half. But he’s a former WEC champion who defended his belt three times.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Torres

West: Torres

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory against Chad George at WEC 51.

Punch list: It’s a great opportunity for Banuelos to catapult his stock against one of the division’s most recognized names. The ground specialist had a up-and-down career in the WEC.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Torres

Donald Cerrone

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 155
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Betting line: -300

Paul Kelly

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • MMA record 12-3
  • Betting line: +220

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: Second round win by submission over Chris Horodecki at WEC 53.

Punch list: “The Cowboy” from Colorado came painstakingly close to the WEC lightweight belt multiple times, losing in three title fights. He starts his UFC journey against a veteran of the organization.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Kelly

West: Cerrone

Last fight: Second round by TKO over T.J. O’Brien at UFC 123.

Punch list: Quick turnaround for the England native, who has gone 2-2 in his last four bouts. Kelly is his most dangerous on the mat where he can wail away with his superior ground and pound.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Kelly

Chad Mendes

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • MMA record 9-0
  • Betting line: -350

Michihiro Omigawa

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • MMA record 12-8-1
  • Betting line: +250

Featherweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory against Javier Vazquez at WEC 52.

Punch list: Mende’s stock skyrocketed after he dominated Vazquez last November. He’s now seen as a force to be reckoned with in the 145-pound division.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Omigawa

West: Mendes

Last fight: First round win by submission over Cole Escovedo at DREAM 16.

Punch list: The Japanese veteran likes to lock up and engage in dirty boxing. He’s won five straight, which gives him his second shot in UFC after going 0-2 in the organization in 2008.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Mendes

Norifumi Yamamoto

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’4’’
  • Weight: 135
  • MMA record 18-3
  • Betting line: -120

Demetrious Johnson

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’3’’
  • Weight: 135
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Betting line: -110

Bantamweight Bout

Last fight: First round win by knockout over Federico Lopez at DREAM 14.

Punch list: “The Kid” has a huge following in Japan, where he ran through K-1 and emerged as a world-class kickboxer. But has he lost something in losing two of his last three?

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Yamamoto

West: Yamamoto

Last fight: Third round win by submission over Damacio Page at WEC 52.

Punch list: Johnson is one of the most athletic bantamweights in the world. He said he considered facing Yamamoto an honor.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Johnson

Paul Taylor

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5'0’’
  • Weight: 155
  • MMA record 10-6-1
  • Betting line: -210

Gabe Ruediger

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 155
  • MMA record 17-6
  • Betting line: +165

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: Split decision loss to Sam Stout at UFC 121.

Punch list: The svelte Taylor has lost two consecutive fights and four of his last six. He’s been in the UFC since 2007, but may need a win here to keep his spot safe.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Taylor

West: Taylor

Last fight: First round loss by submission to Joe Lauzon at UFC 118.

Punch list: The former WEC lightweight champion has never won a UFC fight, going 0-2. He cleans up competition on smaller cards, but appear to struggle on the sport’s biggest stage.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Taylor

Kyle Kingsbury

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 205
  • MMA record 9-2
  • Betting line: -125

Ricardo Romero

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 205
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Betting line: -105

Light Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Jared Hamman at UFC Fight Night: Marquardt vs. Palhares.

Punch list: “The Ultimate Fighter” season 8 alum got a UFC contract despite not winning any bouts on the show. He’s won two straight after dropping his first UFC fight.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Romero

West: Romero

Last fight: Second round win by submission over Seth Petruzelli at UFC 116.

Punch list: Romero is a well-rounded fighter with a wrestling background. His armbar submission of Petruzelli in his UFC debut opened some eyes after his long run in the Ring of Combat promotion.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Romero

Mike Pierce

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 170
  • MMA record 11-3
  • Betting line: -300

Kenny Robertson

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5'10’’
  • Weight: 170
  • MMA record 10-0
  • Betting line: +220

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Third round win by submission over Amilcar Alves.

Punch list: Pierce has quietly had a nice run since joining the UFC in 2009, going 3-1 with his only loss coming against former welterweight top contender Jon Fitch.

Staff picks: ESPN Radio and KSNV

Cofield: Pierce

West: Pierce

Last fight: Second round win by submission over John Kolosci at Bellator 25.

Punch list: Robertson has seven submissions to his name, but has done it against lesser competition as this is his UFC debut.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun

Keefer: Robertson

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