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UFC 166 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Are underdogs the way to go on heavyweight-centric card?

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Steve Marcus

Cain Velasquez, left, punches heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos during a heavyweight title bout UFC155 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. Velasquez reclaimed the belt by unanimous decision.

Not only is the challenger 2-0 in heavyweight championship bouts between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, but so is the underdog.

Oddsmakers had dos Santos at plus-140 the first time the two rivals met at the inaugural UFC on Fox event. Dos Santos clubbed Velasquez with a right hand to claim the title in just over a minute.

Sports books overcompensated for the rematch as Velasquez posted as a plus-160 underdog before UFC 155. He made a mockery of the number with a lopsided unanimous-decision beatdown of dos Santos.

Now the betting line has swung in Velasquez’s favor more than ever. He’s nearly a 2-to-1 favorite before Saturday’s UFC 166 in Houston against dos Santos. Oddsmakers give him close to a 65 percent chance to defeat dos Santos in the rubber match.

Does the Sun’s picks panel believe in the trend or think it’s too small of a sample?

Look below to find a breakdown and odds of every fight along with picks from ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (112-54 year to date), 2011 champion and the Sun’s Case Keefer (107-59), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (107-59), the Sun’s Ray Brewer (106-60) and 2012 champion and KSNV’s Kevin West (106-60).





Junior dos Santos

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 239
  • UFC record 10-1
  • MMA record 17-1
  • Out of: Salvador, Brazil
  • Betting line: +160

Cain Velasquez

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 10-1
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -190

Heavyweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Third-round knockout of Mark Hunt at UFC 160.

Punch list: There’s no confusion on how dos Santos defeated Velasquez two years ago — with punching power. If the third fight turns into a slugest between who can hit harder, dos Santos is likely to win with his boxing.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Velasquez

Cofield: Velasquez

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 160.

Punch list: There’s a misconception that Velasquez beat dos Santos the last time around with his wrestling. Even though the former Arizona State wrestler took down the Brazilian boxer 11 times, Velasquez separated himself and took control of the bout by coming straight at dos Santos and pressuring him in the stand-up.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Velasquez

Brewer: Dos Santos

Okamoto: Dos Santos

Roy Nelson

  • Age: 37
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 260
  • UFC record 6-4
  • MMA record 19-7
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +400

Daniel Cormier

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 235
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 12-0
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -500

Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous-decision loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 161.

Punch list: Watch out for right hands. Cormier knows it. Everyone knows it. Nelson’s gameplan, time and time again, is to come out, load up his lethal right hand and try to connect for a knockout.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Nelson

Cofield: Cormier

Last fight: Defeated Frank Mir by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 7.

Punch list: A former Olympic wrestler who quickly seasoned his striking game, Cormier is ranked ahead and would be favored over every heavyweight other than Velasquez and dos Santos. It’s too bad, then, that this is his last fight in the division before dropping to light heavyweight.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cormier

Brewer: Cormier

Okamoto: Cormier

Diego Sanchez

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 13-5
  • MMA record 24-5
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: +500

Gilbert Melendez

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 21-3
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: -700

Lightweight Bout

Featured Contest

Last fight: Beat Takanori Gomi by split decision at UFC on Fuel TV 8.

Punch list: “The Dream’s” return to the division where he once fought for the title didn’t go smoothly as he missed weight and lost to Gomi on everyone’s scorecards other than two judges. All the entertaining battles “The Ultimate Fighter” 1 champion engaged in through the years may have started to add up.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Melendez

Cofield: Melendez

Last fight: Lost to Benson Henderson by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 8.

Punch list: “El Nino” finally re-watched his failed bid at the lightweight championship and still couldn’t believe he wasn’t awarded the victory. The good news is, most people agree so Melendez isn’t very far from getting a title shot against new champion Anthony Pettis.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Melendez

Brewer: Melendez

Okamoto: Melendez

Shawn Jordan

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 248
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 15-4
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -195

Gabriel Gonzaga

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 262
  • UFC record 10-6
  • MMA record 15-7
  • Out of: Ludlow, Mass.
  • Betting line: +165

Heavyweight Bout

Main Card Fight

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Pat Barry at UFC 161.

Punch list: His punching power has come along to where he can be considered one of the top knockout artists in the division. Jordan, who trains under Greg Jackson, rides a string of two straight knockout victories into this fight and also finished with strikes in his other UFC victory.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Gonzaga

Cofield: Jordan

Last fight: First-round knockout victory over Dave Herman at UFC 162.

Punch list: Although the consensus is he’s not quite what he once was, Jordan will still want to avoid going to the ground with Gonzaga. The former heavyweight top contender — he lost via TKO to Randy Couture at UFC 74 — is a decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner with nine career victories by submission.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jordan

Brewer: Gonzaga

Okamoto: Gonzaga

Darrell Montague

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 13-2
  • Out of: Chino, Calif.
  • Betting line: +270

John Dodson

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 14-6
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -330

Flyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Opener

Last fight: Submitted Jesse Miramontes in the first round at Submission Championship MMA 2.

Punch list: Considered one of the strongest flyweights outside of the UFC, Montague now gets a chance to challenge himself against the best. His only two previous fights against guys currently in the UFC, Ian McCall and Robbie Peralta, resulted in losses by stoppage.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Dodson

Cofield: Dodson

Last fight: Unanimous-decision loss to Demetrious Johnson at UFC on Fox 6.

Punch list: Those asking for more prominent placement for the flyweights on the biggest UFC cards get their wish. Dodson is one of the division’s best fighters, coming off of a championship-bout loss, and gets to open one of the major pay-per-view events of the year coming off of a Fox main event.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Montague

Brewer: Dodson

Okamoto: Dodson

C.B. Dollaway

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 7-4
  • MMA record 13-4
  • Out of: Tempe, Ariz.
  • Betting line: +140

Tim Boetsch

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 7-5
  • MMA record 16-6
  • Out of: Sunbury, Penn.
  • Betting line: -170

Middleweight Bout

Fox Sports 1 Prelim

Last fight: Split-decision victory over Daniel Sarafian at UFC on FX 7.

Punch list: A teammate of Velasquez dating back to his college wrestling days at Arizona State, Dollaway has salvaged his UFC career with two straight wins directly following a two-fight skid. He’ll look to control Boetsch with takedowns.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Dollaway

Cofield: Boetsch

Last fight: Unanimous-decision loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 162.

Punch list: A year removed from nearing title contention, “The Barbarian” now finds himself fighting for his job off of consecutive losses to Munoz and Costa Philippou. He was 4-0 at middleweight before the skid, beating Kendall Grove, Nick Ring, Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Boetsch

Brewer: Boetsch

Okamoto: Boetsch

Hector Lombard

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 32-4-1
  • Out of: Coconut Creek, Fla.
  • Betting line: -175

Nate Marquardt

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 10-5
  • MMA record 32-12-4
  • Out of: Denver
  • Betting line: +145

Welterweight Bout

Fox Sports 1 Prelim

Last fight: Split-decision loss to Yushin Okami at UFC on Fuel TV 8.

Punch list: Want something more disappointing than Marquardt’s return to the UFC? Lombard’s tenure. There’s no other way to slice it. His mediocrity has made Bellator President Bjorn Rebney’s declaration of Lombard being the best middleweight in the world look even more foolish than it did at the time he said it.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Marquardt

Cofield: Marquardt

Last fight: Lost to Jake Ellenberger by first-round knockout at UFC 158.

Punch list: So the attention paid to Marquardt’s reconciliation with the UFC might have been all for naught. The one-time castoff underwhelmed in his first fight back in the octagon, looking completely outclassed by Ellenberger in Montreal.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Marquardt

Brewer: Marquardt

Okamoto: Marquardt

Jessica Eye

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 10-1
  • Out of: Cleveland
  • Betting line: +170

Sarah Kaufman

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 16-2
  • Out of: Victoria, British Columbia
  • Betting line: -200

Women’s Bantamweight Bout

Fox Sports 1 Prelim

Last fight: Defeated Carina Damm by unanimous decision at North American Allied Fight Series: Fight Night In The Flats 9.

Punch list: A former Bellator standout, Eye comes to the UFC with visions of a quick rise to the top. Her biggest obstacle will be the weight class, as she’s used to competing 10 pounds lighter.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Kaufman

Cofield: Kaufman

Last fight: Split-decision victory over Leslie Smith at Invicta 5.

Punch list: It’s another long-awaited UFC debut from one of the best female fighters in the world. Kaufman was Ronda Rousey’s last victim in Strikeforce, where she’s best known for defeating Miesha Tate.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Kaufman

Brewer: Kaufman

Okamoto: Eye

K.J. Noons

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 156
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 11-6
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: -175

George Sotiropolous

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 7-3
  • MMA record 14-5
  • Out of: Vancouver, Wash.
  • Betting line: +155

Lightweight Bout

Fox Sports 1 Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous-decision loss to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 160.

Punch list: Loser of three in a row and four of his last five, Noons has slowed on the talk that he could be the best lightweight in the world. His confidence continues to shine through in his kickboxing, as he believes he can kickbox with anyone in mixed martial arts.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Noons

Cofield: Sotiropoulos

Last fight: Third-round knockout loss to Ross Pearson at UFC on FX 6.

Punch list: With fighters now so advanced in every discipline, it’s not as often fights are booked specifically with “striker vs. grappler” in mind. But that’s what the UFC stages here to kick off the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card in Houston. Sotiropoulos fulfills the grappling part, with eight career submissions but no wins at all since 2010.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Noons

Brewer: Noons

Okamoto: Noons

Adlan Amagov

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -170

T.J. Waldburger

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 4-2
  • MMA record 16-7
  • Out of: Temple, Texas
  • Betting line: +140

Welterweight Bout

Fox Sports 1 Prelim

Last fight: Unanimous-decision win over Chris Spang at UFC on Fuel TV 9.

Punch list: The Russian’s background is in sambo, but his striking has come along recently with two of his last three wins coming by knockout. He also dropped a weight class, from middleweight, in his UFC-debut win over Chris Spang by unanimous decision.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Amagov

Cofield: Amagov

Last fight: Submitted Nick Catone in the second round at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: Waldburger doesn’t yet own a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but his results could convince anyone otherwise. His last three wins in the UFC have come by submission, including the last one by triangle choke that scored him a Submission of the Night bonus.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Waldburger

Brewer: Waldburger

Okamoto: Waldburger

Mike Rio

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 9-2
  • Out of: Miami
  • Betting line: +285

Tony Ferguson

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Out of: Ventura, Calif.
  • Betting line: -375

Lightweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Submitted in the first round by Francisco Trinaldo at UFC on FX 8.

Punch list: “The Wolverine’s” time on “The Ultimate Fighter”, two seasons after Ferguson, didn’t go as well as he lost in the first round. Rio was able to fight his way into the octagon anyway, beating castmate John Cofer in a bout that amounted to a play-in to the UFC.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Ferguson

Cofield: Ferguson

Last fight: Lost to Michael Johnson by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 3.

Punch list: After winning the 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Ferguson hasn’t worked his way up the ranks as far as some expected. The loss to Johnson is only partly to blame. “El Cucuy” has also battled injuries, leaving him inactive for the past 17 months.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Ferguson

Brewer: Ferguson

Okamoto: Ferguson

Andre Fili

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -185

Jeremy Larsen

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-2
  • MMA record 8-4
  • Out of: Phoenix
  • Betting line: +155

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Third-round TKO victory over Adrian Diaz at West Coast Fighting Championships 5.

Punch list: “Touchy” pieced so many victories together that the UFC could no longer ignore him. The Team Alpha Male-product has won eight straight dating back to October 2010 with five coming by stoppage.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Fili

Cofield: Fili

Last fight: Knocked out by Lucas Martins in the third round at UFC on FX 8.

Punch list: The UFC would cut most fighters who flamed out of “The Ultimate Fighter” and lost two additional bouts in the octagon. But Larsen is different because of his reckless style, which is capable of drawing anyone into a fight.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Fili

Brewer: Fili

Okamoto: Fili

Kyoji Horiguchi

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 131
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 10-1
  • Out of: Takasaki, Japan
  • Betting line: -165

Dustin Pague

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 136
  • UFC record 1-4
  • MMA record 11-8
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: +135

Bantamweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Defeated Shintaro Ishiwatari by fifth-round TKO at Vale Tudo Japan 2.

Punch list: The UFC is trying to secure more Asian fighters as it looks to further break into markets like Japan. Horiguchi, trained by UFC veteran “Kid” Yamamoto, didn’t need the expansion to secure employment as he wins over notables like Ishiwatari and Ian Loveland.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Pague

Cofield: Horiguchi

Last fight: Split-decision loss to Yves Jabouin at UFC 161.

Punch list: With three straight losses, “The Disciple” was given a generous chance to save his job here. His biggest advantage might be size, as he’s fought as high as lightweight while his opponent struggles beefing up to make the bantamweight limit.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Horiguchi

Brewer: Horiguchi

Okamoto: Pague

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

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