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September 23, 2014

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UFC 133: Breakdown & Picks

Ravaged by injuries and late cancelations, Saturday’s card in Philadelphia unfortunately falls right in line with what has become the norm for the UFC. Three of the organization’s last four pay-per-view main events have now lost at least one fighter. Although Tito Ortiz was able to step in for Phil Davis to keep Rashad Evans on the bill, the UFC named no replacement for a planned co-headlining bout between Rich Franklin and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Our picks crew will look to bury through the rubbish to select winners. They’ve done so with remarkable equality so far. Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer, KSNV’s Kevin West and ESPN Radio/Cagewriter.com’s Steve Cofield all have an identical 53-36 record on the year. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, who joined later, has compiled a 39-18 mark. Odds are provided by The Venetian/Lagasse’s Stadium and subject to change.

Tito Ortiz

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’2''
  • Weight: 206
  • UFC record 15-8-1
  • MMA record 16-8-1
  • Out of: Huntington Beach, Calif.
  • Betting line: +300

Rashad Evans

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 10-1-1
  • MMA record 15-1-1
  • Out of: Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Betting line: -400

Light Heavyweight Bout

Main Event

Last fight: First round submission victory against Ryan Bader at UFC 132.

Punch list: The win over Bader was technically by submission, but it was an Ortiz right hand that dropped his opponent and led to the stoppage. That’s appropriate because many believe Ortiz’s boxing has evolved further than ever before. It’s the rest of his game, namely speed, that begs questioning.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Evans

Cofield: Evans

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Rampage Jackson at UFC 114.

Punch list: For the first time in years, ‘Albuquerque, N.M.’ isn’t attached to Evans’s name. He’s now training out of Imperial Athletics in South Florida where he helped start a team he calls ‘The Blackzilians’. Evans says he’s getting more specialized coaching at the new location.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Evans

Okamoto: Evans

Yoshihiro Akiyama

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Out of: Osaka, Japan
  • Betting line: +280

Vitor Belfort

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 8-5
  • MMA record 19-9-1
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: -360

Middleweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 120.

Punch list: His job probably isn’t in as much danger as it seems. Fighters are usually at major risk of release by the UFC if they lose three in a row, but Akiyama has some factors working in his favor. Not the least of which is the fact that he’s revered in Japan, where the UFC is attempting to expand, and treated as an A-list celebrity.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Belfort

Cofield: Belfort

Last fight: First round knockout defeat to Anderson Silva at UFC 126.

Punch list: Given their ages, it’s surprising when Akiyama says he’s always looked up to Belfort. But that’s what happens to a fighter like “The Phenom”, who started in mixed martial arts in 1996. That’s eight years before the older Akiyama. Belfort won a UFC tournament title at the ripe age of 19-years old.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Belfort

Okamoto: Belfort

Brian Ebersole

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 47-14-1
  • Out of: Sydney, Australia
  • Betting line: -120

Dennis Hallman

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-4
  • MMA record 50-13-2
  • Out of: Olympia, Wash.
  • Betting line: -110

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Chris Lytle at UFC 127.

Punch list: Ebersole has reach, size and youth advantages over Hallman. That’s usually a pretty meaningful combination. He also scored one of the biggest upsets of the year when he beat Lytle in his UFC debut on less than two weeks notice.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Ebersole

Cofield: Ebersole

Last fight: Beat Karo Parisyan by first round TKO at UFC 123.

Punch list: Hallman is most known for his two wins, each in less than 25 seconds, over UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. He hasn’t found the same level of success in the octagon as Hughes, but could be primed to make a run as he’s on a two-fight win streak.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Hallman

Okamoto: Hallman

Costantinos Philippou

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 7-2
  • Out of: Long Island, N.Y.
  • Betting line: +155

Jorge Rivera

  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 7-6
  • MMA record 19-8
  • Out of: Milford, Mass.
  • Betting line: -185

Middleweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Nick Catone at UFC 128.

Punch list: The UFC pulled Philippou off of the first bout of the night against Rafael Natal and up to the main card. The heavy-handed striker trains at former UFC champion Matt Serra’s gym in New York.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Philippou

Cofield: Rivera

Last fight: Second round TKO loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 127.

Punch list: Rivera is openly contemplating retirement after this fight, although he said he would likely still fight once or twice more. He’s coming off of one of the most controversial losses of the year, as Bisping hit him with an illegal knee early in their bout.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Rivera

Okamoto: Rivera

Mike Pyle

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 21-7-1
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +220

Rory MacDonald

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -300

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Ricardo Almeida at UFC 128.

Punch list: “Quicksand” is a submission master with 17 victories by the method in his career. His striking has come along, too, and with three straight victories Pyle is looking to make a run at the title late in his career.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: MacDonald

Cofield: MacDonald

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Nate Diaz at UFC 129.

Punch list: The British Columbia native recently started training with pound-for-pound great Georges St. Pierre at Tristar Gym in Montreal. He says the time there has vastly improved his game, which was already among the most promising in the UFC.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: MacDonald

Okamoto: MacDonald

Alexander Gustafsson

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6’5’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Betting line: -180

Matt Hamill

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 9-3
  • MMA record 10-3
  • Out of: Utica, N.Y.
  • Betting line: +150

Light Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: First round submission win over James Te Huna at UFC 127.

Punch list: This is Gustafsson’s chance to move up to the top tier of the 205-pound division. His only loss came to undefeated Phil Davis. He was originally supposed to face veteran Vladimir Matyushenko in Philadelphia before an injury nixed those plans.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Gustafsson

Cofield: Gustafsson

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Rampage Jackson at UFC 130.

Punch list: Welcome to the UFC, where a fighter can go from main event to preliminary card in two months. That’s precisely Hamill’s situation here after he dropped all three rounds to Rampage in a fight he begged for in late May.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Gustafsson

Okamoto: Gustafsson

Rani Yahya

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 16-6
  • Out of: Brasilia, Brazil
  • Betting line: +400

Chad Mendes

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 10-0
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -600

Featherweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Mike Brown at UFC: Fight For The Troops 2.

Punch list: Yahya snapped a two-fight losing streak in his octagon debut. The submission ace will test the heralded Mendes’ ground game — if he can get him there.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Mendes

Cofield: Mendes

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 126.

Punch list: Just how badly did Mendes want to fight on this card? He brushed aside a promised title shot against Jose Aldo, which the UFC wanted to happen in Philadelphia, to take the Yahya bout.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Mendes

Okamoto: Mendes

Nick Pace

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 6-1
  • Out of: Staten Island, N.Y.
  • Betting line: +190

Ivan Menjivar

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 22-8
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -240

Bantamweight Bout

Last fight: Split decision victory over Reuben Duran at UFC on Versus 3.

Punch list: His only career loss came to Demetrious Johnson, the scheduled next challenger for Dominick Cruz. His stock could take a rapid rise with a win over Menjivar.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Menjivar

Cofield: Menjivar

Last fight: First round TKO win over Charlie Valencia at UFC 129.

Punch list: “The Pride of El Salvador” put on one of the most dominant showings of the night in front of 55,000 people in Toronto earlier this year. He swarmed veteran Charlie Valencia and made him look outmatched.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Menjivar

Okamoto: Menjivar

Mike Pierce

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 12-3
  • Out of: Portland, Ore.
  • Betting line: -115

Johny Hendricks

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 5-1
  • MMA record 10-1
  • Out of: Dallas
  • Betting line: -115

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Second round TKO victory over Kenny Robertson at UFC 126.

Punch list: The Team Quest product is known for his wrestling, but can’t be labeled as unexciting. His last two bouts have been wins by TKO and submission, respectively.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Pierce

Cofield: Pierce

Last fight: Defeated T.J. Waldburger via first round TKO at UFC Fight Night 24.

Punch list: The former Oklahoma State wrestler has developed a lethal striking game of late. Each of his last two wins have come by TKO.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Hendricks

Okamoto: Hendricks

Nam Phan

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 16-8
  • Out of: Orange County, Calif.
  • Betting line: +170

Mike Brown

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-3
  • MMA record 24-8
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: -200

Featherweight Bout

Last fight: Split decision defeat to Leonard Garcia at ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ 12 finale.

Punch list: Phan’s loss to Garcia was considered one of the worst decisions of last year. Everyone except the judges believed he dominated most of the fight. The UFC scheduled a rematch, but Phan had to cancel with injury.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Brown

Cofield: Brown

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Rani Yahya at UFC: Fight For The Troops 2.

Punch list: The former WEC champion gets one last chance to save his fledging UFC career. Brown has gone 2-3 since prying the 145-pound belt from Urijah Faber two-and-a-half years ago.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Brown

Okamoto: Phan

Paul Bradley

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 18-2
  • Out of: Minneapolis
  • Betting line: Even

Rafael Natal

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 0-1-1
  • MMA record 12-3-1
  • Out of: New York City
  • Betting line: -130

Middleweight Bout

Last fight: First round submission win over Eddie Larrea at Extreme Challenge 188.

Punch list: Pulling Philippou up to the main card gave Bradley his first chance in the UFC. Many felt it could have come earlier, as his only two career losses are to Mike Pierce and Strikeforce top middleweight contender Luke Rockhold.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Natal

Cofield: Bradley

Last fight: Majority draw with Jesse Bongfeldt at UFC 124.

Punch list: Ideally, the Brazilian native’s first UFC win would come via submission. But he’d take anything at this point, as a loss likely spells the end of his time in the octagon.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Natal

Okamoto: Natal

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