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UFC 196 Picks: Werdum vs. Velasquez and Hendridks vs. Thompson

UFC 196 Picks
When: Saturday, February 6, 2016
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: PPV
By Scott of Predictem.com

Fight Analysis:

On UFC 196, UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum defends his title against the man he won it from in ex-champ Cain Velasquez. Werdum looks to repeat that win in the main event. Velasquez, meanwhile, looks to win the heavyweight title for the third time. The main card is stacked with good action, including former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks against up-and-comer Stephen Thompson in a pivotal 3-rounder.

Fabricio Werdum, 20-5-1 (6 KOs, 10 Submissions), (+125) vs. Cain Velasquez, 13-2 (11 KOs), (-145)
The main event of UFC 196 is the rematch between Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight title. In UFC 188 in June of last year in Mexico City, Werdum annexed the title with a 3rd-round guillotine choke. He was a considerable underdog, but was able to deliver on a career-best win. The 38-year champion is actually a small underdog in this bout. The reasoning has a lot to do with the notion that Velasquez can improve in this bout.

There could be some credence to the notion that weíll see a better Velasquez in this rematch. While he is the one of Mexican ancestry, the site of the first bout was not to his liking. The normally energetic and well-conditioned Velasquez found himself gassed early in the high altitude of Mexico City. And with a slew of injuries leading up to the bout, it was his first octagon appearance in nearly two years.

At the same time, Werdum looked great in the fight. A long career has led to this point, where he is an ultra-experienced practitioner of the sport. He has beaten Velasquez and a slew of other top fighters that reads like a whoís-who of top heavyweights over the past decade-plus. He is unbeaten in his UFC tenure and has lost just once since 2008óan amazing feat considering the high level of his competition. This is in his blood. He has been around and worked with some of the best in the sport for almost 15 years and his pedigree is above reproach.

Velasquez is at a point in his career where you have to wonder if his best days are behind him. On one hand, losing to a master like Werdum in your first fight in almost two years coming off injuries is no great shame, but some tough questions need to be asked. Velasquez is an explosive athleteóan absolute freak of a force at 240 pounds. And in training and in the octagon, he has gotten to the top by flooring it and giving it all he has. But itís hard for any human body to hold up to the rigors of being Cain Velasquez. By the time he steps into the octagon for this fight, he will have had one fight in the last 28 months.

The first fight was a back-and-forth affair and one couldnít help but notice the reduced stamina of Velasquez, something that had been a lynchpin to his success as a fighter. And falling into a guillotine choke has to at least be partly attributed to that. With revenge on his mind and the locale of the fight being in his stomping grounds, we could see a Velasquez who is more able to sustain the frenetic pace that he usually sets. Then again, we donít want to fall into the trap of thinking Werdumís win was all related to whatever liabilities Velasquez had that night. And in a lot of rematches where the first fight was an upset, we sometimes focus too much on what can change with the fighter who lost. But Werdumís win in June had a lot to do with what he did right and whoís to say he wonít be better for this fight too? After all, itís hard to forget what happened the last time Velasquez lost, as he came back and annihilated Junior dos Santos in their rematch.

Velasquez is the more explosive athlete, with Werdum being the more-talented fighter. Velasquez shines more as an athlete, whereas Werdumís star shines brighter as a mixed martial artist. And whatever Werdum is doing is more sustainable, as itís hard to imagine Velasquez still doing this at 38 or making it through a dozen more fights at this level. There is a reason Velasquez is still favored. At his best, thereís not another sheer physical force like him. But based on the first win and how well Werdum is looking at this point, itís hard to turn him away at an underdog price.

My Prediction to Win: Iím betting on Fabricio Werdum at +125. Heís beaten this man before and despite being 38, is fighting better than he ever has. There just arenít many fighters who are more difficult to beat than Werdum. Find the best MMA/UFC underdog betting odds at Bovada Sportsbook.

Johny Hendricks, 17-3 (8 KOs, 1 Submission), (-300) vs. Stephen Thompson, 11-1 (6 KOs, 1 Submission), (+240)
On the main card, former champion Johny Hendricks takes on Stephen Thompson in welterweight action. Hendricks, 32, could really use a win over a rising commodity in Thompson. Inactive since last March when he decisioned Matt Brown, Hendricks had to miss his last fight due to intestinal blockage and a kidney stone. And Thompson has been on a nice roll, winning five straight fights. He should give a robust challenge to Hendricks, though the odds are firmly in the former championís favor.

Hendricks is only a fight removed from being the UFC welterweight champion, with his only two high-profile losses being by split decision, but there is this lingering feeling that his window of greatness has passed. He has scored only one stoppage win since 2011. He remains at welterweight and has made some changes to how he approaches making weight, but you have to wonder how much itís taking out of him to make 170 pounds and in an ideal scenario, youíd almost like to see him fighting at middleweight. And those wars with Georges St. Pierre and Robbie Lawler (twice), along with a slew of other tough fights have perhaps rendered him a bit of a spent force at 32.

Thompson is also 32, but more of a newcomer on the MMA scene. He had a successful kickboxing career, before transitioning to MMA. After only six fights, he was thrown to experienced contender Matt Brown, where he lost a decision in their 2012 bout. Since then, heís been perfect, scoring five straight wins, including knockouts over Robert Whittaker and Jake Ellenberger, in addition to a decision win over tough vet Patrick Cote. His last fight, a spinning hook-kick KO over Ellenberger in the first round, showed Thompson is ready to make a move.

Hendricks is the better-known quantity after so many high-profile fights. And while he had his issues, both with health and the fact that he has lost two of his last four, heís still a gigantic handful for anyone at 170, especially for a relatively unproven commodity in Thompson. But the odds in this fight seem somewhat thrown in Hendricksí favor due to his greater familiarity with fans and whatnot. Not that Hendricks isnít going to win or that he shouldnít be favored, but I think there is some good value on Thompson in this bout. Iím going with the dog.

My Pick to Win: Iím picking Stephen Thompson at +240. In recent outings, Thompson has shown growth, while Hendricks may be receding some. At better than 2/1, Thompsonís actual chances appear to be at least slightly better than that. Deposit $100 and get $100 FREE to bet on this fight at MyBookie.

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