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UFC on Fox 7 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Betting market backing Benson Henderson to retain lightweight title

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ben Henderson celebrates after the end of the fifth round of a lightweight championship mixed martial arts bout against Nate Diaz at a UFC on Fox event in Seattle, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. Henderson won by unanimous decision to retain his championship.

For years, mixed martial arts fans and pundits regarded Gilbert Melendez as the most significant threat to the UFC lightweight championship.

Now that it’s time for the Strikeforce champion to cross over into the octagon, he’s not even considered one of Benson Henderson’s toughest challengers. Not according to oddsmakers, at least.

Gamblers have bet UFC champion Henderson up to a minus-300 (risking $3 to win $1) favorite with Melendez coming back at plus 250 (risking $1 to win $2.50). That means sports books give Henderson a 75 percent chance of defending his title for a third consecutive bout.

Not only is the price the highest Henderson has commanded in any of his title fights, but it’s the most oddsmakers have favored “Bendo” in his entire career.

The Las Vegas Sun picks panel won’t offer much dissent. Four of the five prognosticators went with Henderson to keep his title.

Check below for betting odds and a breakdown of every fight along with picks from the Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (32-14 year to date), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (30-16), KSNV’s and 2012 champion Kevin West (29-17), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (28-18) and the Las Vegas Sun’s and 2011 champion Case Keefer (27-19).

No. 1 Gilbert Melendez

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5-9'
  • Weight: 153 lbs.
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 21-2
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: +250

Champion Benson Henderson

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5-9'
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 6-0
  • MMA record 18-2
  • Out of: Glendale, Ariz.
  • Betting line: -280

Lightweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Beat Josh Thomson by split decision at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson III.

Punch list: “El Nino” is like a five-tool player in baseball: He doesn’t have any weaknesses. Melendez spent most of his life wrestling before getting into mixed martial arts, where he’s picked up 11 victories by knockout. He’s never been submitted and tailored his Brazilian jiu-jitsu under the esteemed Cesar Gracie.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Henderson

Cofield: Henderson

Last fight: Won a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 5.

Punch list: For the third time in four UFC title fights, “Bendo” will hold a natural size advantage. It’s debatable how much it’s worked in his favor. Although he did defeat much-smaller Frankie Edgar twice, the fights were so close that some thought both should have been scored the other way.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Melendez

Brewer: Henderson

Okamoto: Henderson

No. 3 Daniel Cormier

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 5-10
  • Weight: 238 lbs.
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 11-0
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -400

No. 6 Frank Mir

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 260 lbs.
  • UFC record 14-6
  • MMA record 16-6
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +350

Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Knocked out Dion Staring in the second round at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine.

Punch list: With wrestling counting as Mir’s biggest weakness, Cormier seems like a nightmare matchup for the local veteran. Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler who’s meshed those skills impeccably with mixed martial arts — especially in the striking department. He’s stopped seven of 11 opponents inside two rounds with punches.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Cormier

Cofield: Cormier

Last fight: Knocked out by Junior dos Santos at UFC 146.

Punch list: Mir made what Cormier called a “disturbing” comment when he said he wanted to take one of the Strikeforce champion’s limbs home. Boil out the semantics, though, and Mir has a point. His most likely path to victory in San Jose is a submission. He has some of the best jiu-jitsu in the heavyweight division.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cormier

Brewer: Mir

Okamoto: Cormier

Josh Thomson

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 5-10
  • Weight: 153 lbs.
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 19-5
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: +175

No. 4 Nate Diaz

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6-0
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 11-6
  • MMA record 16-8
  • Out of: Stockton, Calif.
  • Betting line: -200

Lightweight Bout

Featured Fight

Last fight: Lost to Gilbert Melendez by split decision at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson III.

Punch list: Thomson has proven as inconsistent as Diaz throughout his career. One fight after cursing his own performance in a unanimous decision win over K.J. Noons, Thomson gave Melendez all he could handle in the final Strikeforce lightweight title fight. Several thought Thomson, not Melendez, deserved to break the rivalry’s stalemate with a decision.

Picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Diaz

Cofield: Diaz

Last fight: Defeated by unanimous decision against Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 5.

Punch list: The younger Diaz brother drew support to the point that his title fight against Henderson was a pick’em four months ago, but it was ultimately undeserved. Diaz couldn’t win a round off a champion. The loss continued an erratic career. Before the three-fight win streak that launched him into the title fight, Diaz had lost three of his last five in the UFC.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Diaz

Brewer: Diaz

Okamoto: Diaz

Jordan Mein

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 6-0
  • Weight: 170 lbs.
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 27-8
  • Out of: Lethbridge, Alberta
  • Betting line: -350

Matt Brown

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6-0
  • Weight: 170 lbs.
  • UFC record 9-5
  • MMA record 16-11
  • Out of: Columbus, Ohio
  • Betting line: +270

Welterweight Bout

Main Card Opener

Last fight: Knocked out Dan Miller in the second round at UFC 158.

Punch list: Mein is one of five fighters filling in on five weeks notice on this card. So impressed was the UFC with his well-rounded performance at UFC 158 that Mein was an easy replacement choice when a welterweight slot became open on the next major card. “Young Gun” fought out of an early submission against Miller before outclassing the veteran on the feet.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Mein

Cofield: Mein

Last fight: Knocked out Mike Swick in the second round at UFC on Fox 5.

Punch list: The opponent change, on the surface, looks like a bad break for Brown. Originally scheduled to meet Dan Hardy, the fight looked like an evenly matched, entertaining bout between two middle-of-the-pack 170-pounders. But in Mein, Brown gets a fighter the UFC is openly pushing as one of its top prospects with aspirations of breaking into the upper echelon of the division.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Mein

Brewer: Mein

Okamoto: Brown

Darren Elkins

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5-10
  • Weight: 145 lbs.
  • UFC record 6-1
  • MMA record 16-2
  • Out of: Hobart, Ind.
  • Betting line: +500

No. 1 Chad Mendes

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5-6
  • Weight: 145 lbs.
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 13-1
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -700

Featherweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: First-round TKO win against Antonio Carvalho at UFC 158.

Punch list: Here’s the shot Elkins has asked for. After winning five straight fights, the grinding wrestler wanted a chance against one of the division’s top competitors. When an injury forced Clay Guida out of this spot, Elkins was immediately ready to step in. A victory would take his career to new heights.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Mendes

Cofield: Mendes

Last fight: Knocked out Yaotzin Meza at UFC on FX 6.

Punch list: For the fourth time in his last five fights, “Money” is at least a 5-to-1 favorite. It’s too bad his title shot against Jose Aldo ended so decisively — a first-round knockout loss — because it’s possible that no one else in the featherweight class can defeat Mendes. It’s a certainty that the Team Alpha Male member would be favored over everyone else.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Mendes

Brewer: Mendes

Okamoto: Mendes

Lorenz Larkin

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5-11
  • Weight: 186 lbs.
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 13-0
  • Out of: Riverside, Calif.
  • Betting line: +140

Francis Carmont

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 186 lbs.
  • UFC record 4-0
  • MMA record 20-7
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -170

Middleweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Unanimous-decision victory over Robbie Lawler at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy.

Punch list: “The Monsoon” will look to continue the success of his Strikeforce comrades in San Jose. He was awfully successful in his middleweight debut, dominating Lawler for 15 minutes. Lawler turned around and stunned Josh Koscheck in his UFC debut, which could only be construed as a positive for Larkin.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Carmont

Cofield: Larkin

Last fight: Split-decision victory over Tom Lawlor at UFC 154.

Punch list: Carmont hasn’t lost in exactly five years come Friday, but most thought Lawlor deserved the nod six months ago. A four-fight win streak would normally move a fighter further up the ranks, but the controversial nature of his last bout kept the kickboxer hovering near average in the middleweight pack.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Larkin

Brewer: Larkin

Okamoto: Larkin

Myles Jury

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5-11
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 11-0
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: -300

Ramsey Nijem

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5-11
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 7-2
  • Out of: Orem, Utah
  • Betting line: +220

Lightweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Defeated Michael Johnson by unanimous decision at UFC 155.

Punch list: It was a long road, but Jury seems to be living up to his considerable promise in his first year with the UFC. “The Fury” missed two years with injuries but has shown no signs of rust since coming back. He’s kept his undefeated record intact and opened additional eyes by smothering up-and-coming Michael Johnson his last time out.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Jury

Cofield: Nijem

Last fight: Defeated Joe Proctor by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 5.

Punch list: This is a fight that feels like it was years in the making. Both Nijem and Jury were cast members on the 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and among the favorites to win the tournament. While Jury got injured in training, however, Nijem reached the finals and lost by knockout to Tony Ferguson.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jury

Brewer: Jury

Okamoto: Jury

No. 8 Darren Uyenoyama

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5-6
  • Weight: 125 lbs.
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 8-3
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: +350

No. 1 Joseph Benavidez

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5-4
  • Weight: 125 lbs.
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 17-3
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -500

Flyweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Second-round submission victory over Phil Harris at UFC on FX 5.

Punch list: Uyenoyama has the ability to put anyone in the flyweight class in danger with his grappling. He has four career wins by submission and has only tapped out once. His 125-pound debut was a fair representation of his abilities, as he locked in a rear-naked choke against Harris midway through the second round.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Benavidez

Cofield: Benavidez

Last fight: Unanimous-decision victory over Ian McCall at UFC 156.

Punch list: Benavidez makes his fourth appearance at flyweight at the HP Pavilion, which ties champion Demetrious Johnson for the most in UFC history. A win here might signal a rematch between the two. Although Johnson beat him less than a year ago, Benavidez has knocked off a plethora of top fighters.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Benavidez

Brewer: Benavidez

Okamoto: Benavidez

Jorge Masvidal

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5-10
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 23-7
  • Out of: Miami
  • Betting line: -160

Tim Means

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6-2
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 18-3
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: +130

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Beat Justin Wilcox by split decision at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy.

Punch list: If anyone’s taken a more unique path to the UFC than Means, it’s Masvidal. A decade ago, “Gamebred” was a part of Kimbo Slice’s illegal fighting rings in South Florida backyards. He made his way to legitimate promotions, which culminated with a Strikeforce title shot and ultimately a UFC contract.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Masvidal

Cofield: Masvidal

Last fight: Defeated Justin Salas by first-round TKO at UFC on FX 3.

Punch list: Means’ MMA career was interrupted when he had to serve a prison sentence on drug-related offenses nine years ago. He’s gone an eye-opening 15-1-1 since getting out and refocusing both his career and life. This is his first fight in 10 months after he slipped in a sauna to knock himself out before a scheduled UFC on Fox 5 bout.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Masvidal

Brewer: Means

Okamoto: Masvidal

Hugo Viana

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5-6
  • Weight: 135 lbs.
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 7-0
  • Out of: Salvador, Brazil
  • Betting line: +300

T.J. Dillashaw

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5-6
  • Weight: 135 lbs.
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 7-1
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -400

Bantamweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: First-round knockout victory over Reuben Duran at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: Whereas Dillashaw is the most promising American bantamweight, Viana is in the conversation when it comes to Brazilians. “Wolverine” showed off his sheer power against Duran, putting him out with a single punch. Viana also made the semifinals of the first Brazil season of “The Ultimate Fighter” despite competing a weight class above his natural one.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Dillashaw

Cofield: Dillashaw

Last fight: Second-round knockout victory over Issei Tamura at UFC 158.

Punch list: This fight was a late addition to the televised portion of the card, a deserving one at that. Dillashaw is perhaps the top prospect at 135 pounds, right on the verge of breaking into the top 10 of the UFC rankings. He’s the final of three fighters making a five-week turnaround after UFC 158.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Dillashaw

Brewer: Dillashaw

Okamoto: Dillashaw

Roger Bowling

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5-9
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 11-3
  • Out of: Cincinnati
  • Betting line: +155

Anthony Njokuani

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6-0
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • UFC record 2-3
  • MMA record 15-7
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: -190

Lightweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Lost to Tarec Saffiedine by unanimous decision at Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman.

Punch list: Once considered a top prospect, Bowling has won his share of fights but can’t seem to get over the hump and beat a notable opponent. He’ll have another chance against Njokuani. Seven of Bowling’s wins, and two of his losses, have come by knockout.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Njokuani

Cofield: Njokuani

Last fight: Lost to Rafael dos Anjos by unanimous decision at UFC on Fuel TV 4.

Punch list: The local kickboxer has alternated wins and losses in every one of his bouts over the past three years. Following that pattern, the bout against Bowling sets up as a win. Njokuani’s gameplan will be no secret: Establish range and fire away with all kinds of strikes.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Njokuani

Brewer: Njokuani

Okamoto: Njokuani

Yoel Romero

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5-10
  • Weight: 185 lbs.
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 4-1
  • Out of: Palmdale, Calif.
  • Betting line: -170

Clifford Starks

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6-0
  • Weight: 185 lbs.
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 8-1
  • Out of: Tempe, Ariz.
  • Betting line: +130

Middleweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Knocked out in the second round against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov.

Punch list: Romero’s wrestling credentials are nothing to scoff at themselves. He competed in the 2000 Olympics and several years worth of world championships as a member of the Cuban national team. He got off to a 4-0 career in MMA with four knockouts before encountering Feijao.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Romero

Cofield: Romero

Last fight: Submitted in the second round against Ed Herman at UFC 143.

Punch list: Coming out of the same Arizona State program that produced the likes of Cain Velasquez and Ryan Bader, Starks had an accomplished wrestling career before ever crossing over into fighting. He let his wrestling guide him for his first seven professional bouts but ran into trouble with Herman’s elevated submission game.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Starks

Brewer: Romero

Okamoto: Starks

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

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