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UFC 155 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Junior dos Santos a 2-to-1 favorite to retain heavyweight championship

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Steve Marcus

Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, right, of Brazil connects wth a punch that sends Frank Mir of Las Vegas to the canvas during UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday, May 26, 2012.

Pack up those Christmas decorations and bust out the boxing gloves.

Another annual tradition goes down this weekend, as the UFC holds its end-of-the-year pay-per-view card in Las Vegas. The main event heavyweight title fight between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez looks worthy of shelling out some of that cash found under the tree.

Oddsmakers and the Sun’s picks panel are in agreement when it comes to the rematch of last year’s inaugural UFC on Fox fight between mixed martial arts’ top two heavyweights.

Dos Santos is posted as a -200 (risking $2 to win $1) favorite around town, implying the champion has an approximately 66 percent chance to once again beat Velasquez, who comes back at +160 (risking $1 to win $1.60).

Three of the five prognosticators participating in the Sun’s yearlong competition also like dos Santos. One of the two members daring enough to call for the upset, however, is the runaway leader, KSNV’s Kevin West (106-60).

In the final event of the year, West will only need to hold off ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (102-64), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (100-66), Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (96-70) and Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (82-84) to win the 2012 title.

Check below to find picks, betting odds and a breakdown of all 12 fights scheduled for UFC 155.

Cain Velasquez

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 8-1
  • MMA record 10-1
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: +160

Junior dos Santos

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 239
  • UFC record 9-0
  • MMA record 15-1
  • Out of: Salvador, Brazil
  • Betting line: -200

Heavyweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 146.

Punch list: Some say Velasquez’s rematch came too fast — he’s only won once since dos Santos knocked him out last year — but the best counter is the undeniable truth: Velasquez is the second-best heavyweight in the world. Or even the best. Saturday should help differentiate. Velasquez’s sterling wrestling credentials and rock-solid rest of his game didn’t go away when dos Santos’ punch landed behind his left ear.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Velasquez

Cofield: dos Santos

Last fight: Second-round TKO victory over Frank Mir at UFC 146.

Punch list: The Brazilian boxer foiled Velasquez’s plan for a long reign as heavyweight champion in front of a record television audience at UFC on FOX 1 last year. Dos Santos knows it’s unlikely he can score a knockout in 64 seconds or less again, but says his goal is to make the performance even more impressive. A victory would be dos Santos’ second straight defense, which would tie a heavyweight-division record.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Velasquez

Brewer: dos Santos

Okamoto: dos Santos

Jim Miller

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 10-3
  • MMA record 20-4
  • Out of: Whippany, N.J.
  • Betting line: -220

Joe Lauzon

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’10''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 9-4
  • MMA record 22-7
  • Out of: Bridgewater, Mass.
  • Betting line: +180

Lightweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Submitted by Nate Diaz in the second round at UFC on Fox 3.

Punch list: A glut of injuries pushed this bout up to the co-main event slot. Miller filled in late for Gray Maynard. Following a seven-fight win streak, the strong grappler has lost two of his last three. Entering his fifth year in the UFC, Miller’s path finally crosses with fellow-veteran Lauzon.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Miller

Cofield: Miller

Last fight: Submitted Jamie Varner in the first round at UFC on Fox 4.

Punch list: Lauzon will gun for Miller’s neck and limbs. The grappling artist’s last five UFC victories have come by submission. He’s a perennial underdog known for wild finishes and, sometimes, wilder finishes. He’s stumbled multiple times when getting near the top of the 155-pound division, most recently against Anthony Pettis at UFC 144, but this is yet another chance to join the elite.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Miller

Brewer: Miller

Okamoto: Miller

Costa Philippou

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 11-2
  • Out of: Long Island, N.Y.
  • Betting line: -120

Tim Boetsch

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 7-3
  • MMA record 16-4
  • Out of: Sunbury, Penn.
  • Betting line: -110

Middleweight Bout

Featured Fight

Last fight: Won a unanimous decision over Riki Fukuda at UFC 148.

Punch list: This is yet another bout affected by injury. Luckily, a teammate was able to answer the call when Chris Weidman went down with a torn labrum. But Philippou’s style doesn’t share many similarities with Weidman. The Greek southpaw’s main strategy involves moving forward and winging combinations.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Philippou

Cofield: Philippou

Last fight: Won a split decision against Hector Lombard at UFC 149.

Punch list: “The Barbarian” prides himself on pressuring his opponents. Philippou will need to be careful when pushing forward because Boetsch will use any opportunity to take him down or clinch up against the cage. The former light heavyweight, who’s undefeated at middleweight, doesn’t typically waste any time when he gets the fight where he wants it.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Boetsch

Brewer: Philippou

Okamoto: Boetsch

Alan Belcher

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 9-4
  • MMA record 18-6
  • Out of: Biloxi, Miss.
  • Betting line: -115

Yushin Okami

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’2''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 11-4
  • MMA record 28-7
  • Out of: Kangawa, Japan
  • Betting line: -115

Middleweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Rousimar Palhares at UFC on Fox 3.

Punch list: This will mark the first year since 2009 that Belcher has fought more than once. The chronically injured Duke Roufus-trained fighter wants to make the most of it. Belcher would be in everyone’s top 10 if he could follow the win over Palhares with an equally impressive showing against Okami.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Okami

Cofield: Belcher

Last fight: Second-round TKO victory against Buddy Roberts at UFC 150.

Punch list: Okami’s judo base makes him a tough matchup for anyone in the division. He looks to lock up and toss his opponents from the opening bell to the last minute of the fight. The win against Roberts was his first stoppage in a span of two-and-a-half years and five fights.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Okami

Brewer: Belcher

Okamoto: Okami

Derek Brunson

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 9-2
  • Out of: Wilmington, N.C.
  • Betting line: +120

Chris Leben

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 12-7
  • MMA record 26-8
  • Out of: Oahu, Hawaii
  • Betting line: -150

Middleweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Opener

Last fight: First-round knockout loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman.

Punch list: Strikeforce’s television partner, Showtime, wouldn’t allow Brunson to compete on “The Ultimate Fighter” 17 earlier this year. “Wreking Ball” now gets into the octagon an easier way, filling in for a hurt Karlos Vemola. Brunson was undefeated before losing his last two fights, to Souza and Grove.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Leben

Cofield: Leben

Last fight: Lost to Mark Munoz via second-round TKO at UFC 138.

Punch list: “The Crippler” returns from a yearlong suspension after testing positive for painkillers. The oft-troubled Leben has received a bag full of second chances from the UFC. At some point, he needs to show he’s turned a corner. There’s hope that will come now as “The Ultimate Fighter” 1 alum has even further dedicated himself to coaching and helping young fighters in Hawaii.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Brunson

Brewer: Leben

Okamoto: Leben

Eddie Wineland

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 19-8
  • Out of: Chesterton, Ind.
  • Betting line: -115

Brad Pickett

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 22-6
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: -115

Bantamweight Bout

FX prelim headliner

Last fight: Second-round knockout victory against Scott Jorgensen at UFC on FX 4.

Punch list: It’s rare to find a fight with this much potential and meaning outside of a main card. Although his UFC record looks second-rate, the losses came to two of the best fighters in the division in Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez. Wineland’s heavy hands alone keep him near the top of the class.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Wineland

Cofield: Pickett

Last fight: First-round knockout victory over Yves Jabouin at UFC on Fuel TV 5.

Punch list: None of Pickett’s fights in the UFC have gone the distance. As his nickname — “One Punch” — alludes to, point-fighting just isn’t Pickett’s style. He’s aggressive on the border of reckless with a stable of submissions to pair with his striking arsenal. Pickett’s determined on getting a title shot, and he’d be awfully close with a third straight victory.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Pickett

Brewer: Wineland

Okamoto: Wineland

Byron Bloodworth

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 6-2
  • Out of: Atlanta
  • Betting line: +320

Erik Perez

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 12-4
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line:-420

Bantamweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Second-round TKO loss to Mike Easton at UFC on Versus 6.

Punch list: Given that he came in overweight in his first UFC bout, Bloodworth most likely must win here in order to keep his job. Like Easton, Perez is a major step-up in competition for Bloodworth, who has spent years fighting on the regional circuit in the Southeast.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Perez

Cofield: Perez

Last fight: Knocked out Ken Stone in 17 seconds at UFC 150.

Punch list: Perez immigrated from Mexico with a dream to make it as a mixed martial artist. He’s living that reality now. “Goyito” is regarded as one of the top 135-pound prospects in the sports after stopping his first two UFC opponents in the first round.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Perez

Brewer: Bloodworth

Okamoto: Perez

Jamie Varner

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 156
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 20-7
  • Out of: Glendale, Ariz.
  • Betting line: -105

Melvin Guillard

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 157.5
  • UFC record 10-7
  • MMA record 30-11-2
  • Out of: Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Betting line: -125

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Third-round submission loss to Joe Lauzon at UFC on Fox 4.

Punch list: A rough weight cut led to Varner falling ill and unable to fight Guillard two weeks ago. It’s worth wondering whether the former WEC champion will be able to get to 155 pounds healthily in such a short span. He begged to fight at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale, but the commission ultimately denied Varner that opportunity.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Guillard

Cofield: Guillard

Last fight: Lost to Donald Cerrone via first-round knockout at UFC 150.

Punch list: Guillard initially said he wasn’t interested in re-booking this fight after Varner got sick and pulled out of their “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale bout earlier this month. But UFC President Dana White wanted it initially, and Guillard claims it’s now personal. He’s even hungrier to knock out Varner as a punishment for the wait.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Guillard

Brewer: Guillard

Okamoto: Varner

Myles Jury

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 10-0
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: +175

Michael Johnson

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 4-2
  • Out of: Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Betting line: -225

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Submitted Chris Saunders at “The Ultimate Fighter” 15 in the first round.

Punch list: Like Johnson, Jury fell short of the guaranteed UFC contract on his season of “TUF” but remains one of the more promising contestants in the long-term. Jury trains with the well known Alliance MMA team. He’s finished every one of his fights, six by submission and four by knockout.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Johnson

Cofield: Johnson

Last fight: Knocked out Danny Castillo at UFC on FX 5.

Punch list: Johnson may have lost to Jonathan Brookins in the championship fight of “The Ultimate Fighter”, but his career has moved faster than anyone else on the 12th season. Since he began training with the Blackzilians, Johnson has transformed into a force. He’s riding a three-fight win streak going into this one.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Johnson

Brewer: Johnson

Okamoto: Johnson

Todd Duffee

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 254
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 7-2
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -300

Phil de Fries

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6’5’’
  • Weight: 235
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 9-1
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: +230

Heavyweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Neil Grove at Super Fight League 2.

Punch list: The man many thought could someday challenge for a UFC title returns to the octagon for the first time in two-and-a-half years. All of Duffee’s fights have ended with knockout. Yes, both the wins and losses.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Duffee

Cofield: Duffee

Last fight: Second-round submission victory against Oli Thompson at UFC on Fox 4.

Punch list: The British grappler rebounded from the first loss of his career, a first-round knockout to Stipe Miocic, nicely. He wore Thompson down in the nine minutes their bout lasted. It was the eighth submission of his career.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Duffee

Brewer: Duffee

Okamoto: Duffee

Max Holloway

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 6-1
  • Out of: Waianae, Hawaii
  • Betting line: -350

Leonard Garcia

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’9’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-3
  • MMA record 15-9
  • Out of: Lubbock, Texas
  • Betting line: +270

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Second-round TKO victory over Justin Lawrence at UFC 150.

Punch list: As the youngest fighter in the UFC, Holloway makes up for his relative lack of experience with athleticism. Two straight opponents have proven unable to catch up with the striking of Holloway, who will only get better as time passes. This Hawaiian may just have future champion potential.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Holloway

Cofield: Holloway

Last fight: Lost to Matt Grice by unanimous decision at UFC on FX 4.

Punch list: At this point, the UFC knows what they’re getting from Garcia: An all-out brawl in every fight. But, at some point, “Bad Boy” is going to need to notch a win to keep his contract. He’s lost three in a row, and it would have been four if the judges didn’t egregiously give him a split-decision victory over Nam Phan in his UFC debut.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Holloway

Brewer: Holloway

Okamoto: Holloway

John Moraga

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Phoenix
  • Betting line: -205

Chris Cariaso

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’3’’
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 14-3
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: +155

Flyweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First-round knockout victory over Ulysess Gomez at UFC on Fox 4.

Punch list: Just because a fighter weighs 125 pounds doesn’t mean his strikes aren’t powerful. Moraga’s UFC debut was living proof. Gomez can attest to how it feels to get hit by Moraga. And that’s not even the strongest point of Moraga’s game. The prospect has five career victories by submission.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Moraga

Cofield: Moraga

Last fight: Won a unanimous decision against Josh Ferguson at UFC on Fuel TV 4.

Punch list: “Kamikaze” was on the fringe of title contention at bantamweight to start the year. Now, he’s right in the thick of the race at flyweight. A win here would make it four in a row overall for the aggressive wrestler. If Cariaso can keep up this pace, he’ll fight for the 125-pound division’s championship in 2013.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cariaso

Brewer: Moraga

Okamoto: Moraga

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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