From a fan’s standpoint, UFC 231 is a fantastic event. In terms of betting opportunities, I’m feeling lukewarm. But here are my hints of those fights I’m trying to play. Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Decorated jiu-jitsu champion and second degree black belt, Gilbert Burns, has been working on his striking in recent years. Training beneath famed Dutch kickboxer, Henri Hooft, Burns is now comfortable wherever the battle occurs.
Together with his newfound striking skills, Burns scored strong knockout victories over Jason Saggo and Dan Moret. Regrettably, opting to bang with Dan Hooker proved to be devastating and Burns was finished in his last struggle. I lost money believing Burns would grapple — oh well!
While a good striker, Burns takes risks defensively and loads up on his shots. Dan Hooker is the kind of fighter that could capitalize on defensive lapses — but I’m unsure Olivier Aubin-Mercier is.
Coming out of a judo background, Aubin-Mercier is exceptionally strong in the clinch and heavy from top position. While he is much more skilled on the feet than he was, Aubin-Mercier still lacks the fluidity of someone that’s a natural striker. He is light on his feet, out and in with his movement and somewhat tentative — but is true when he flames.
While Aubin-Mercier is a jiu-jitsu brown belt, so I doubt he would like to go to the mat with Burns. Even the muscle-bound human blanket, Michel Prazeres, refused to dive to the guard of Gilbert Burns — which speaks volumes.
In his last fight, Aubin-Mercier appeared a step behind in the scrambles against Alexander Hernandez and I’d expect a master of body manipulation like Gilbert Burns to dominate the mat too (although I wish there was more footage of Burns fighting off his back to make a much better assessment).
I believe the striking trades will be aggressive, but I provide Burns a small edge. Stylistically, this looks tricky for Aubin-Mercier and I can’t predict his approach. Perhaps the Canadian will attempt to control his competitor against the weapon, but minus shooting takedowns?
I really do believe Aubin-Mercier is the better athlete and certainly has the superior cardio. However, I’ll take my chances with Gilbert Burns as a +120 underdog as I think he should be a slight favorite.
Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders
In a middleweight showdown between two fighters with contrasting designs (and characters ), Eryk Anders takes on Elias Theodorou.
A great athletic, Anders is explosive yet has great cardio. Struggling from the southpaw stance, Anders packs enormous power in his left hand but in my opinion, goes head searching a bit too much. In his last bout, Thiago Santos was prepared for the primary weapon of Anders — which limited his offensive success.
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