As you may or may not know, UFC 200 took a hit late last night when the UFC announced that Jon Jones had been pulled from UFC 200 for a potential USADA violation. While that is a big disappointment to us all, there are still 11 terrific fights on this card, including the return of Brock Lesnar, a women’s bantamweight title fight and a featherweight interim title fight.
From the curtain-jerker all the way to the main event, the card is a stacked affair that should please even the most jaded MMA fan. As is my routine, I have selected four fights that I believe have the potential to end in an upset. Since Joe Silva and Sean Shelby do such a great job matching the fighters, any fight on this card could be a spoiler. That’s what makes it so special.
I now present you with my selected underdogs:
Mark Hunt $10,400 / Brock Lesnar $9,000
Mark Hunt is a bad, bad man. There are no two ways about it. Always has been, probably always will be. That said, he has his weaknesses. He’s not a great wrestler, and once he’s put on his back, he does a very good impression of a turtle that’s been flipped over. Against a giant hulk of a man like Lesnar, whose bread and butter is aggressive power wrestling, you’ve got the ingredients for trouble.
Add in that Hunt also has a button on his chin (albeit hard to find), that when touched the right way, will drop him like a ton of bricks, and you have the secret to an upset. Ask Melvin Manhoef. Or Fabricio Werdum. Or Junior dos Santos. He is also susceptible to submissions, and Brock does have a couple good ones, most notably the arm-triangle choke he beat Shane Carwin with.
Brock Lesnar via Decision
Frankie Edgar $9,900 / Jose Aldo $9,500
Frankly, I’m surprised to see so many folks counting Jose out. Despite the number of fights he’s had, he’s really not that shopworn when you factor in the time off he’s had over the last 5 years (only fought 8 times in 5 years). He’s still a devastating striker. He’s still a very well-rounded athlete.
While I believe Edgar is a great fighter with very good boxing, I don’t think he’ll best Aldo. Frankie is just the type to suit Jose’s range striking, especially those vicious kicks, and he has very good takedown defense. Distance management, excellent wrestling defense and the ability to get out of sticky situations while simultaneously inflicting damage will be the keys to victory for Aldo.
Aldo via Decision
Cain Velasquez $11,200 / Travis Browne $8,200
Cain Velasquez is a guy that’s easy to root for. He’s relatively quiet, as far as the brash talkers and media darlings go, he’s likable and he’s a great athlete. He has some serious issues, though. Injuries are the Number 1 bane to his career. He either gets an injury and refuses to take time off, exacerbating it to the point of requiring time off or surgery, or he overtrains to the point he doesn’t even realize that he’s injured. Both scenarios have led to him pulling out of multiple bookings.
The other issues aren’t as glaring, but they have presented themselves. His carelessness when he faced Junior dos Santos the first time, led to a disastrous result. His conditioning (or lack thereof) led to a second disastrous result against Fabricio Werdum. He looked like a very shopworn fighter, rather than one who has just 15 fights under his belt.
Travis Browne is a ferocious striker and will have no problem capitalizing on any opening that presents itself. He’s a tall, rangy fighter with excellent kicks. If he can fight from the outside and utilize those kicks, and in the event Cain goes in for those trademark takedowns, Travis has another potent weapon in his arsenal; fight-ending elbows. Hellbows. Dynamic energy (aka explosiveness) and range fighting are the keys to victory for Browne.
Travis Browne via TKO
Cat Zingano $10,500 / Julianna Pena $8,900
If this fight had taken place a year ago, I would have chosen Zingano for the victory, but it didn’t, and Cat’s time away from action, a whopping 17+ months, will almost certainly carry some ring rust with it. This is not her first big layoff, either. She had another 17-month layoff immediately preceding the aforementioned one. As a matter of fact, in the last 5 years, she’s fought exactly 5 times.
Cat also presents as a slow starter who eats a lot of punishment before getting her offense off the ground. We saw that in both the Nunes and Tate fights. She took a huge risk and tried to amend her previous slow starts in the Rousey fight, but missed something in her calculations, and ended up paying dearly for the mistake when she was submitted in just 14 seconds.
Julianna Pena is the same height as Cat, but her build is much more powerful in her shoulders and arms. She hits like a Mack truck, and has learned how to control top position quite well. She seizes the mount and goes to work with ground and pound like she was born to it. While Cat was convalescing, Julianna was racking up a couple important wins. While she hasn’t faced the Top 5 level competition that Cat has, she did manage to grow exponentially with each outing.
The key to victory for Pena is to force the action early and keep the pressure on from start to finish. While getting the fight to the ground and acquiring top position would be her best option, Julianna has enough power and durability to go toe-to-toe with Zingano.
Julianna Pena via Decision
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.