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UFC 146 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez are heavy favorites

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Associated Press

Undefeated heavyweight contender Cain Velasquez flexes at a weigh-in before UFC 99.

Expanded Coverage

Underdogs have more than held their own in UFC main events so far this year.

Through 11 fight cards in 2012, favorites are barely outperforming their upset-minded opponents. The underdog has prevailed in five events, including a streak of two straight.

Oddsmakers and the Las Vegas Sun’s picks panel have a hard time imagining the trend continuing Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos comes in as a chalky -500 favorite over former champion Frank Mir, who comes back at +350, at UFC 146.

None of the five prognosticators chose Mir to knock off dos Santos. They unanimously sided with two other favorites on the annual Las Vegas Memorial Day weekend card, which airs on pay-per-view at 7 with a preliminary card on FX at 5 and facebook at 3:45.

Check below for a breakdown, betting odds and picks from Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (39-28 year to date), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (39-28), KSNV’s Kevin West (39-28), Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (33-34) and the current leader, ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (41-26).

Frank Mir

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’3''
  • Weight: 260
  • UFC record 14-5
  • MMA record 16-5
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +350

Junior dos Santos

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’3''
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 8-0
  • MMA record 14-1
  • Out of: Salvador, Brazil
  • Betting line: -500

Heavyweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Submitted Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the first round at UFC 140.

Punch list: Mir always trusted he’d get back to this point. Even when the chorus of naysayers sounded overwhelming after losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, the local product focused on improving in all areas of his game to receive another title shot. He believes his striking is bounds above where it’s ever been before and he remains intensely dangerous on the ground. Mir is predicting a first-round submission victory over dos Santos.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: dos Santos

Cofield: dos Santos

Last fight: Knocked out Cain Velasquez in the first round at UFC on FOX 1.

Punch list: “Cigano” has enjoyed everything about life as a champion since taking the belt from Velasquez. He’s practically a national hero in Brazil and can’t walk the streets anywhere in America without autograph and picture requests. But dos Santos is ready to get back to fighting after seven months off to repair an injured knee. He’s predicting a second-round knockout victory over Mir.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: dos Santos

Brewer: dos Santos

Okamoto: dos Santos

Antonio Silva

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 264
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 16-3
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: +300

Cain Velasquez

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 7-1
  • MMA record 9-1
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -400

Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: First-round knockout loss to Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce World Grand Prix Semifinals.

Punch list: The long shot odds are no deterrent to Silva, who has pulled off some memorable upsets during his seven-year MMA career. None were more notable than when he beat Fedor Emelianenko by second-round TKO in the Strikeforce World Grand Prix tournament last year. Silva has to cut significant weight to make the 265-pound limit, probably making him the largest active fighter in the UFC.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Velasquez

Cofield: Velasquez

Last fight: First-round knockout loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1.

Punch list: Without the horde of media obligations and slew of promotional responsibilities, Velasquez says he’s much more comfortable heading into this fight than when he lost to dos Santos. A win would put Velasquez right back into title contention. The heavyweight division remains somewhat shallow on top and Velasquez is unanimously considered one of the top five best fighters in the class.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Velasquez

Brewer: Silva

Okamoto: Velasquez

Dave Herman

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 242
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 21-3
  • Out of: Temecula, Calif.
  • Betting line: +170

Roy Nelson

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 246
  • UFC record 3-3
  • MMA record 16-7
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: -220

Heavyweight Bout

Featured Contest

Last fight: Defeated by second-round TKO against Stefan Struve at UFC on FUEL TV 1.

Punch list: “Pee Wee” was relaxing when he got the call to replace an injured Gabriel Gonzaga and fight Nelson three weeks ago. He jumped at the opportunity because he was eager to put a lopsided loss against Struve from earlier this year behind him. Herman solely looks for the knockout, infamously stating that “jiu-jitsu doesn’t work.”

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Nelson

Cofield: Nelson

Last fight: Lost by unanimous decision to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 143.

Punch list: A year ago this week, the talk was that “Big Country” could challenge for the title with a couple consecutive wins. A disappointing 1-2 stretch later and Nelson is trying to hold onto his job. He’s dropped lopsided unanimous decisions to Werdum, Mir and Junior dos Santos over the last two years.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Nelson

Brewer: Nelson

Okamoto: Nelson

Shane del Rosario

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 248
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 11-0
  • Out of: Irvine, Calif.
  • Betting line: +130

Stipe Miocic

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 8-0
  • Out of: Independence, Ohio
  • Betting line: -160

Heavyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Submitted Lavar Johnson in the first round at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva.

Punch list: Only one of del Rosario’s fights have ever left the first round. He finished that outlier a minute into the second with a TKO. He has eight career wins by knockout and three by submission. The former professional kickboxer says he’s not worried about the 14-month layoff preceding this bout.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Miocic

Cofield: del Rosario

Last fight: First-round knockout victory against Philip de Fries at UFC on FUEL TV 1.

Punch list: For someone who has fought for less than three years, Miocic is incredibly well rounded. The aspect of surprise plays to his benefit, as the firefighter is as likely to take an opponent down as he is to stand and box with him. His last three wins have come via three different methods — knockout, decision and submission.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Miocic

Brewer: Miocic

Okamoto: Miocic

Lavar Johnson

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 253
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 17-5
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -110

Stefan Struve

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6’11’’
  • Weight: 256
  • UFC record 7-3
  • MMA record 23-5
  • Out of: Beverwijk, Netherlands
  • Betting line: -120

Heavyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Opener

Last fight: First-round knockout victory over Pat Barry at UFC on FOX 3.

Punch list: Struve’s biggest weakness is his chin. Johnson has knocked out two straight opponents in the first round, establishing that he may have the heaviest hands in the UFC. He’ll look to make Struve No. 3 and the second in three weeks, as Johnson replaced Mark Hunt in this bout at the last minute after beating Pat Barry at UFC on FOX 3 on May 5.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Struve

Cofield: Struve

Last fight: Scored a TKO victory against Dave Herman at UFC on FUEL TV 1.

Punch list: Johnson’s biggest weakness is his submission defense. Struve can grapple with the best, notching 15 submission victories in his career. It’s not a well-kept secret what “Skyscraper” will look to do in this fight — take Johnson down and force him to tap out.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Struve

Brewer: Struve

Okamoto: Johnson

Darren Elkins

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 13-2
  • Out of: Hobart, Ind.
  • Betting line: +300

Diego Brandao

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 19-7
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -450

Featherweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Defeated Tiequan Zhang by unanimous decision at UFC 136.

Punch list: Elkins could stylistically challenge Brandao by using his wrestling to take the fight to the ground. Elkins is capable of smothering opponents and using effective ground-and-pound. That’s how he got the win against Zhang in his last contest.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Elkins

Cofield: Brandao

Last fight: Submitted Dennis Bermudez in the first round at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: If Brandao can tone down his wildness, he’s talented enough to someday challenge for the featherweight title. “Ceara” knocked out his first four opponents on the last season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before showing off his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu by submitting Bermudez in the finals.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Brandao

Brewer: Brandao

Okamoto: Brandao

Jamie Varner

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 160
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 19-6-1
  • Out of: Phoenix
  • Betting line:+300

Edson Barboza

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 4-0
  • MMA record 10-0
  • Out of: Jupiter, Fla.
  • Betting line: -450

Lightweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Submitted Drew Fickett with punches in the first round at Xtreme Fighting Championships 16.

Punch list: The UFC passed on bringing the former WEC lightweight champion to the octagon after the two organizations merged in late 2010. Many felt that signaled the end for Varner in a major promotion. Not so fast. His willingness to jump in on short notice against one of the sport’s top 155-pound prospects proved enough to get Varner a chance in the UFC.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Barboza

Cofield: Barboza

Last fight: Knocked out Terry Etim in the third round at UFC 142.

Punch list: The spinning heel kick he landed in Rio de Janeiro against Etim still registers as the Knockout of the Year on many people's lists. UFC 146 was supposed to serve as the card where Barboza received a major upgrade in competition level. But Evan Dunham pulled out of their scheduled bout with injury, opening the door for a late-replacement who looks overmatched on paper in Varner.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Barboza

Brewer: Varner

Okamoto: Barboza

C.B. Dollaway

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 5-4
  • MMA record 11-4
  • Out of: Tempe, Ariz.
  • Betting line: +140

Jason Miller

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 0-2
  • MMA record 27-8
  • Out of: Orange County, Calif.
  • Betting line: -170

Middleweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Lost to Jared Hamman via second-round TKO at UFC on Versus 5.

Punch list: Last year was one Dollaway would rather forget. The former Arizona State wrestler went 0-2 in 2011 and squandered a chance to enter the upper echelon in the middleweight division when Mark Munoz knocked him out in less than a minute at UFC on Versus 3. “The Ultimate Fighter” 7 veteran hasn’t lived up to the promise some thought he showed on the reality show, but he’s young enough to still get there.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Miller

Cofield: Dollaway

Last fight: Third-round TKO defeat against Michael Bisping at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: UFC President Dana White threatened to cut Miller after a lackluster performance against Bisping. He ultimately relented and gave the fan favorite one more chance. Conditioning was a problem in the Bisping fight, as Miller gassed in the middle of the second round.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Miller

Brewer: Dollaway

Okamoto: Dollaway

Duane Ludwig

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 4-3
  • MMA record 21-12
  • Out of: Denver
  • Betting line: +110

Dan Hardy

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 4-4
  • MMA record 23-10
  • Out of: Nottingham, England
  • Betting line: -140

Welterweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: First-round submission loss to Josh Neer at UFC on FX 1.

Punch list: While Hardy arguably has the edge in power striking, few can match the technicality of Ludwig’s stand-up. “Bang” had a professional kickboxing record of 43-7-1. He’s been far less consistent in MMA, dropping three of five bouts since re-signing with the UFC in 2010. He’s as desperate for a win as Hardy in terms of keeping his UFC contract safe.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Hardy

Cofield: Hardy

Last fight: Third-round submission loss to Chris Lytle at UFC on Versus 5.

Punch list: This matchup was met with almost universal applause from mixed martial arts fans. Like Ludwig, Hardy has no particular interest in fighting anywhere except on his feet. The strategy has backfired as of late, as the former top contender has lost four in a row. Hardy took nine months off since his last fight, spending much of the time in Las Vegas, to try to improve and put his slide behind him.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Hardy

Brewer: Hardy

Okamoto: Hardy

Paul Sass

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 12-0
  • Out of: Liverpool, England
  • Betting line: +130

Jacob Volkmann

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 5-2
  • MMA record 14-2
  • Out of: White Bear Lake, Minn.
  • Betting line: -160

Lightweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First-round submission victory over Michael Johnson at UFC on Versus 6.

Punch list: All of his opponents have known what’s coming, but none of them have been able to prevent it. Sass is a submission specialist, winning all but one of his career bouts by either triangle choke or heel hook. His fights have only made it out of the first round twice. A win here would signal a major thrust up the rankings.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Volkmann

Cofield: Sass

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Efrain Escudero at UFC 141.

Punch list: Volkmann has become known for bizarre post-fight interviews, twice involving his dislike of President Barack Obama. The comments have even overshadowed an impressive run that has seen him win five fights in a row. Since dropping to lightweight in late 2010, no one has been able to stop Volkmann’s wrestling and takedowns.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Volkmann

Brewer: Volkmann

Okamoto: Volkmann

Glover Teixeira

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 17-2
  • Out of: Minas, Brazil
  • Betting line: -200

Kyle Kingsbury

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 11-3
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: +160

Light Heavyweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First-round submission victory over Ricco Rodriguez at MMA Against Dengue.

Punch list: For years, many have felt Teixeira was UFC-worthy. He’ll finally get a chance in what should be the tail end of his prime. Despite spending most of his career outside of major promotions, Teixeira has faced formidable opposition. He’s beaten seven UFC veterans, including a former champion in Rodriguez.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Kingsbury

Cofield: Teixeira

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 139.

Punch list: “Kingsbu” appeared destined for big things in the 205-pound division. Then the Bonnar fight happened. Bonnar thoroughly dominated Kingsbury, taking him down repeatedly and revealing major holes in his game. Teixeira should provide a more favorable stylistic matchup, as both fighters will look to stay on their feet and slug it out.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Teixeira

Brewer: Teixeira

Okamoto: Teixeira

Daniel Pineda

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 17-7
  • Out of: Houston
  • Betting line: +175

Mike Brown

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-3
  • MMA record 25-8
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: -225

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First-round submission victory over Mackens Semerzier at UFC on FX 2.

Punch list: No one has enjoyed a better start to 2012 than “The Pit”. Pineda won fights on each of the first two FX cards, both by submission, to catch some momentum. He’s rewarded with a bout that carries more significant stakes on an increased stage. It’s been more than two years since Pineda has suffered a loss.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Brown

Cofield: Brown

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory against Nam Phan at UFC 133.

Punch list: Brown is the forgotten champion of the 145-pound division. Although he held the WEC featherweight strap only three years ago, his time at the top is seen as nothing more than a bridge between the long reigns of Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo. It didn’t help that he lost his first two UFC bouts upon the demise of the WEC. He’ll need a win here to prove he’s still at the top and worthy of a UFC roster spot.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Pineda

Brewer: Brown

Okamoto: Brown

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

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