UFC Fight Night 116 Preview and Picks

The UFC heads to the Steel City for UFC Fight Night 116: Rockhold vs Branch

UFC Fight Night 116 Preview and Picks

The UFC heads to the Steel City for UFC Fight Night 116: Rockhold vs Branch. There are some interesting fights on the card, and there have been some fights cancelled and some people have been replaced. The main event should be interesting, and the prelims and the main card are full of up and coming fighters.

Middleweights

Krzysztof Jotko (19-2) -200* vs Uriah Hall (12-8) +170*

I have to favor Jotko in this one, while Hall is a very creative striker, Jotko will be able to hold his own and should Jotko want to take this to the ground he holds a tremendous advantage there. The line is too hight for my taste but I expect Jotko to rebound here. Jotko is a nice parlay piece and I think the over is a nice
parlay piece as well.

The Pick: Jotko via unanimous decision

Lightweights

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (9-2) -120* vs Tony Martin (12-3) +100*

This fight is one of the more interesting ones on the card as both of these guys are coming off of impressive performances. Martin with a dominant win over Johnny Case and Aubin-mercier dismantling Drew Dober. It’s a classic matchup of striker vs grappler, and out of all the guys in the UFC that have improved, Tony Martin is at the top of the list. I have to go with Martin here, although I haven’t decided if I’m going to bet this fight, I feel Martin can win on the feet and is a capable enough grappler to compete with Aubin-Mercier. OAM will have his moments but I like Martin here.

The Pick: Martin via unanimous decision

Welterweights

Kamaru Usman (10-1) -800* vs Sergio Moraes (12-2) +550*

Another unbettable fight for me, but Usman should take care of business here…he’s the better fighter in every aspect. Moraes has excellent Jiu-Jitsu, and so one would think Usman would like to keep the fight standing. Usman will be in the title mix very soon, but he should be extremely focused for this fight as Moraes has the tools to give him problems as he’s extremely durable. Usman wins this but if these odds get crazy I might have to sprinkle on Moraes. Usman opened -440 and is now -800 which is a tad inflated, but the explosive Nigerian should get the job done.

The Pick: Usman via unanimous decision

Middleweights

Hector Lombard (34-7-1) +100* vs. Anthony Smith (27-12) -120*

I feel like I have burned so many times by Hector Lombard, and while I’m not invested in this fight I will say that this is a winnable fight for him. Both guys have cardio issues, and I feel that Lombard is definitely the more versatile fighter. He can take this fight to the ground with his judo and he should be able to close the distance being the quicker guy. The only thing that concerns me about Lombard is he’ll either gas out or in his last fight he simply just made himself vulnerable to combinations and failed to adjust. Lombard is very capable of ending this early, I just don’t have the confidence in betting him. lombard is the better fighter here and should win this fight. Lombard opened at -160 and is not down to a pick. Lombard is the only way I’d look here, but not a lot of confidence whatsoever.

The Pick: Lombard via 1st rd TKO

Main Event

Middleweights

Luke Rockhold (15-3) -525* vs David Branch (21-3) +450*

Luke Rockhold will be making his return to the octagon after a 15 month absence. When we last saw Rockhold he wa knocked out by Michael Bisping and losing the UFC Middleweight championship. Standing in his way is MMA veteran David Branch, who is coming off a split decision victory over Krzysztof Jotko, his 11th win in a row. It’s pretty odd that a guy that lasts tasted defeat back in 2012 to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in the Titan FC promotion. Rockhold is an elite mixed martial artist that has excellent kicks and and is an high level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Rockhold also has excellent top control and some fierce ground and pound. David Branch is a above average striker with good boxing skills. He is also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie.

There are a number of ways this fight could end, and Rockhold should be the favorite, but he opened at -400 and is now -500. To me, that’s insane. Rockhold has often stated that Branch doubts himself when inside the octagon. Shouldn’t the guy that was knocked out by Michael Bisping have a little self doubt? Not only does Rockhold have a somewhat suspect chin. He’s also coming off a long layoff along with an ACL injury.

Some people say that Branch looked somewhat timid in his last fight against Jotko, which was his return to the UFC. Branch looked great at times, and somewhat nervous. One would have to imagine that Branch had some jitters, even with his experience. I think this time around we will see a more relaxed version of David Branch, and the one thing he has to do is close the distance and try to mix it up in the pocket. While Rockhold is an elite grappler, I think Branch is the stronger guy and can compete on the ground if it goes there. I would think Rockhold would rather keep the fight on the feet and attack with kicks to the body. One thing that Branch showed was great timing on his takedowns. Granted taking Rockhold down is a tough task, but if anyone can do it it’s Branch.

Many aren’t giving Branch a shot here, but everyone knows I love underdogs, and Branch is a really live dog in my opinion. He has a lot of experience in 5 round fights, and he has just as many paths to victory as Rockhold. While I touched on self doubt earlier, and while I think Rockhold is motivated for this fight, you have to wonder where he’s at mentally. One more thing to take into consideration is Rockholds other occupation, which would be modeling (ahem, Alan Jouban, ahem). It is a known fact that Rockhold with his modeling career going well, he revealed that he would have no problem taking an indefinite hiatus from the Octagon in order to pursue a modeling career. So should Rockhold get in any sort of disadvantage, heart and determination will come into play. I think Branch’s heart and determination can ultimately win him this fight.

The Pick: David Branch via 4th round TKO

 

That will do it for this card, I’ll be back next weekend UFC Fight Night 117. Best of luck and enjoy the fights!!!

-Dawk

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