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UFC 181: Preview, Breakdown, Predictions Featuring Hendricks vs. Lawler II, Pettis vs. Melendez and Prelims

WRITTEN BY MMA GENIUS (@mmagenius05)
Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler rematch from their incredible encounter earlier this year. Image: Jeff Bottari / Getty
Two titles are on the line in the fight capital of the World as UFC 181 takes over the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas this Saturday night. Anthony Pettis defends his Lightweight strap against Gilbert Melendez, before Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler do it all over again in a Fight of the Year candidate rematch for Welterweight Gold.

Here, I preview all the fights ahead of the main card with the breakdowns, advantages and predictions, including the intriguing undercard fights. My predictions are bold and precise, leaving no detail spared.

Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks vs "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler: UFC Welterweight Championship (Main event)

Standup Advantage: This standup in this fight is interesting.  In their first fight, both guys had their moments on the feet and rocked each guy several times.  I would say lawler throws the cleaner punches, but Johny had a torn bicep in their last fight, so he wasn't at 100% when throwing punches.  Hendricks did utilise leg kicks really well in the first fight as well.  Both guys have huge power and can finish either guy at any moment.  All in all, I think the standup is about even, but If I had to pick, I would give a slight advantage to Lawler.

Grappling Advantage: Hendricks definitely takes the grappling advantage in this fight.  As we know Hendricks is a four time All-American wrestler and beat Lawler in the first fight by using his takedowns in the 5th round to get the win.  The one weakness Lawler has is that he is not hard to take down and has been submitted before in his carrer.

Breakdown: This rematch should be a great fight.  I think in this fight with Hendricks being completely healthy, I think he will look for the takedown from the 1st round on and look to get Lawler fatigued for the later rounds.  Personally I would love for the two to stand and bang like in the first fight, but it would be pretty hard for Hendricks not to utilize his big wrestling advantage for the rematch.  Lawler has to put the pressure on Hendricks and make him back up to be successful in this fight.  Hendricks might be a little rusty in the early rounds and Lawler could possibly catch him.  

Prediction: I think the fight will be a mirror image of the first fight.  Both guys are going to have their moments and rock each other on the feet, but the deciding factor will be the wrestling. I like Hendricks to get another unanumous decision victory.  I think the fight will be close heading into the 4th and 5th rounds.  Hendricks will use his wrestling late to grind out a decision victory. Hendricks to retain via decision.
Last time it was a war. Will it be the same this time? Image: Getty Images
Anthony "Showtime" Pettis vs Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez: UFC Lightweight Championship

Standup Advantage: Pettis definitely takes this the striking advantage.  I cringe when he lands one of those body kicks on his opponents.  Pettis is easily one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC up there with Barboza, Wonderboy, etc.  Gilbert is a decent boxer, but the overall striking is nowhere near Pettis' level.

Grappling: Now some may think Gilbert has the advantage here, but I disagree.  Pettis is not hard to takedown, but his guard is sick.  Pettis is always improving his bjj especially off his back.  I think Melendez will be hesitant to jump into his guard as well.  Pettis made the tough, durable Benson Henderson verbally tap to an armbar in his last fight.  Gilbert is a decent wrestler with a good ground game, but Pettis is more dangerous on the floor.

Breakdown: Pettis dominated Gil on TUF 20, and it should continue at UFC 181.  I would assume Gilbert wants to take Pettis down and take his chances grappling with him.  Pettis will do what he normally does which is being creative and crazy.  I expect Gil to push Pettis against the fence right away.  Pettis probably dosen't even have a gameplan.

Prediction: I see this being a 2nd round TKO for Pettis.  I think Gil is tough as hell and can take Pettis' shots for at least a round, but those body and head kicks from Pettis will eventually be too much for Gil to stand.  If Rafeal Dos Anjos can beat Nate Diaz, I think he should get the next title shot.  I'd love to see RDA and Pettis exchange pnches and kicks.  Maybe we could see Khabib take on Pettis as well in a battle of world class wrestlers and strikers. Pettis to retain via Round 2 TKO.
Melendez believes he is the rightful Champion. Image: NYPost.com
Travis "Hapa" Browne vs Brendan "Big Brown" Schaub

Standup Advantage: Browne definitely has the striking advantage in this fight.  Browne has serious power and throws various types of strikes.  Schaub has power as well, but he's completely changed his style to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu guy to his chin deteriorating. Browne also has those vicious elbows against the fence that can put any heavyweight out.  Overall Browne is just the cleaner and better striker.

Grappling Advantage: We rarely see Browne on the ground in his fights and Schaub's bjj is always improving.  If I had to give the edge, I guess I give it to Schaub on the ground.  Over the years Schaub changed his style to a BJJ guy, and I necessarily don't like it.  Another reason I gave it to Schaub was because Browne has been training at GFC (Ronda Rousey's gym) with Edmond Taverdyan for this fight instead of at Jackson's.  I dont know how much Browne has been training on the ground for this fight, so we shall see.

Breakdown:  Both guys are coming off losses in their last fights.  Browne surprisingly got outstruck by Fabricio Werdum in his last fight.  Schaub lost a split decision to Arlovski in his last fight.  I am not a big fan of Schaub, and his last fight was completely boring.  To be honest this is Schaub's last hope of ever being a contender at HW, and Browne needs a win to stay in the thick of things at HW.  Schaub will probably look to take Browne down and hug him against the fence alot in this fight and grind out a decision.  Browne will look to touch Schaub's questionable chin right away and finish it early.  Athough I don't like Schaub, I think there is a chance he could pull this off.  Like I said previously, I dont know if Browne has been training bjj a lot in this camp and if he was pushed the same as he would have been at Jacksons.

Prediction:  I will safely take Browne by a 1st round TKO in this fight.  If you are betting on this fight and looking to win alot of money, don't be afraid to take Schaub.  Ultimately I think Browne's power will be way too much for Schaub's chin.
Don't blink for this one. Image: Superlutas.com
Todd Duffee vs Anthony "The Freight Train" Hamilton

Standup Advantage: I give the standup Advantage to Duffee in this fight.  Duffee has huge power as hes shown in his 7 second KO of Tim Hague and in his last fight over Phil Defries.  Hamilton is a little rudimentary in his striking, but he is your typical HW that has power.  Duffee is more polished on the feet and throws the more precise punches.

Grappling Advantage:  I give the edge to Duffee on the ground too.  Hamilton didn't show a good ground game against Alexey Olinykyk in his debut.  I havent seen to much of either guy on the ground, so it should be interesting.  

Breakdown: This is Todd Duffee's first fight in almost 2 years due to a severe illness that he had.  I think Duffee could be a player at HW if he could stay healthy.  Hamilton did win his last fight with ease, but to be honest that was against arguably one of the worst HW fighters in the UFC.  Skill wise Dufee should run right through Hamilton, but ring rust might play a little factor in that.

Prediction:  I like Duffee by late 1st round TKO.  Duffee may start off slow, but hes too skilled not to take care of Anthony Hamilton.

Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson vs Abel "Killa" Trujillo

Standup Advantage:  I am gonna say the standup is even in this fight.  I think both guys are great strikers.  I think Ferguson throws the more precise strikes, but I give a edge in power to Trujillo.  Trujillo has big time power for 155er.  Both guys love to stand and bang as well, this is definitely a candidate for FOTN.

Grappling Advantage: I give the edge to Ferguson in the grappling.  Both guys were successful college wrestlers, but Ferguson has showed serious improvement in his bjj game since training with Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.  Ferguson did get taken down by Castillo in his last fight and controlled a bit, but Trujillo is a guy that likes to stand and bang for the most part.  Trujillo really doesn't look to grapple in his fights, he scrambles throw those hay maker punches.

Breakdown:  This is going to be an exciting fight!  Both guys come to throw down and put it on the line.  This is my pick for FOTN, and I expect both guys to come in and BANG! Both guys are warriors as well, we shall see who ends up taking a back step first.  Trujillo definitely had to have worked on his ground game for this fight, and Ferguson has to keep that chin tucked early.  The winner of this fight should get a step up in competition as well.

Prediction:  I like both guys, but I am going to take Ferguson by 3rd round submission.  I think Trujillo tends to gas out due to that initial state he comes out in.  Ferguson has more gas in his tank for the later rounds and I think hell slap on a d'Arce choke in the 3rd round.

Intriguing Prelim Fights

Sergio Pettis vs. Matt Hobar: I actually think this fight is closer than people think.  I know most fans think Pettis will run right through Hobar in his hometown, but im not so sure.  Sergio is not as explosive as his brother is, but he still is crisp on the feet.  He also still has some questions about his ground game since that loss to Caceras.  Hobar will be the best wrestler he has faced in his young career. Nothing is too special about Hobar, but he keeps a pretty high pace and he should have a size advantage.  If he can get Pettis down and grind him out he could win a decision.  Pettis has a big advantage on the feet in this fight, but Hobar faced a similiar guy in Aaron Phillips in his last fight and did well.  I wouldn't be surprised if Pettis picked him apart for 3 rounds, but in my gut Im feeling a Hobar upset.

Eddie Gordon vs. Josh Samman: Gordon coming off his TUF victory against Dhiego Lima, has a very tough fight against Samman.  We haven't seen Samman since the TUF 17 finale when he beat Kevin Casey.  Samman may go through a bit of ring rust, but overall I think he is the better fighter.  On Tuf 17, he overlooked Gastelum and got caught, but overall I think he was one of the top 3 fighters in that house.  Gordon is a Huge Middleweight that tends to slow down a bit as the fight progresses, and Samman has a great gas tank.  I expect Gordon to have his moments early in the fight, but I think Samman will take the fight in the later rounds and win a decision.

With the likes of Urijah Faber, Corey Anderson, Josh Samman, Sergio Pettis and more, its set to be an intriguing undercard not to be missed.

Predictions Summary
Winners will be...

  • Johny Hendricks (Decision)
  • Anthony Pettis (Round 2, TKO)
  • Travis Browne (Round 1, TKO)
  • Todd Duffee (Round 1, TKO)
  • Tony Ferguson (Round 3, Submission, d'Arce Choke)
  • Collard(TKO)
  • Hobar (UD)
  • Pennington (UD)
  • Anderson (TKO)
  • Samman (UD)
  • Faber(RNC).

*****

There you have it, the countdown to UFC 181 is on, it's going to be quite spectacular.

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TheSportMatrix | We Live For Sport: UFC 181: Preview, Breakdown, Predictions Featuring Hendricks vs. Lawler II, Pettis vs. Melendez and Prelims
UFC 181: Preview, Breakdown, Predictions Featuring Hendricks vs. Lawler II, Pettis vs. Melendez and Prelims
Complete preview for UFC 181 featuring breakdowns and predictions with two titles on the line in Vegas.
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TheSportMatrix | We Live For Sport
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