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The city of Boston has been very good to the UFC through two shows in the historic city and the expectations are just as high for the third card landing in Beantown this weekend as featherweight superstar Conor McGregor faces Dennis Siver in the headline bout on Sunday.
McGregor is one fight away from earning a shot at the featherweight title and champion Jose Aldo, but Siver has the rare opportunity to play spoiler as he looks to take out the Irishman and stall the rise of the most hyped fighter in the UFC today.
Also on the card, former lightweight champion Benson Henderson looks to bounce back from a recent loss to Rafael dos Anjos when he takes on familiar foe Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the co-main event. Cerrone
just fought two weeks ago at UFC 182, but this is the same kind of short notice as many fighters might have in the same situation.
Cerrone actually fought Henderson twice while the two of them were in the WEC. Henderson won both fights, so this is a huge chance for Cerrone to steal the show and avenge the losses to the former champion.
To help you get ready for the action this weekend in Boston, we're going to look at some of the locks, some of the toughest picks on the card, as well as an upset special that may be the difference between winning or losing when Sunday night comes to a close.
These are the fighters with the best chance of coming away with a victory at UFC 182. While this is mixed martial arts - which means nothing is guaranteed - these are the favorites that will be the hardest to pick against come Saturday night in Las Vegas
CONOR MCGREGOR (-1025 FAVORITE OVER DENNIS SIVER)
The main event this weekend also happens to be the fight with the biggest odds shifted in one fighter's favor as Conor McGregor looks to ascend the throne as the No. 1 contender in the world at 145 pounds. McGregor has been virtually untouchable in his UFC career, but it's not because he's knocking opponents out in the first round.
It's actually McGregor's defense that's so incredible when you really drill down the numbers and see what this Irish fighter is doing so well. McGregor has shown an incredible ability to avoid his opponents in every facet of the game. So far, through four fights in his UFC career, McGregor has been in command of every moment outside of 22 seconds of his total time in the Octagon. McGregor has controlled the pace, and kept good head movement while standing and avoiding any takedowns thus far in his UFC career.
Siver will definitely present a look McGregor hasn't seen before and he is probably the most dangerous striker to stare down the upstart contender since coming to the UFC two years ago. Siver is compact, so his defense is always tight, allowing him to block just under 69 percent of his opponent's strikes. He's got some flashy stand-up moves like a spinning back kick, which has rendered more than a couple of fighters in the UFC unable to continue.
As much of a threat as Siver can be to any featherweight fighter, the odds are right on the money in this fight and it should be McGregor's night in Boston. With a four-inch reach advantage at his disposal, McGregor can pick his shots from the outside before opening up a combination that could stun, then finish, the German veteran.
PREDICTION: Conor McGregor by knockout, round one
McGregor's teammate and flyweight up and comer Paddy Holohan was a victim of an upset in his second UFC fight, but chances are he won't allow that to happen again when he faces Shane Howell.
Holohan is a very well-rounded fighter with long arms and legs, which will serve him well in the flyweight division. Holohan is proficient with takedowns, where he's put opponents on the mat with just under 43 percent accuracy, and while wrestling still may not be his best weapon, it should serve him well in this bout.
The biggest difference maker in this matchup is Holohan's ground skills if and when this fight hits the mat. Holohan has an 80 percent finishing rate on the ground with submissions and he's equally deadly whether he's applying pressure from the top or fishing for the finish from the bottom. Holohan has a nasty triangle choke that he can slap on from anywhere and Howell may spend the better part of a round or two just trying to fight for air.
PREDICTION: Paddy Holohan by submission, round two
This lightweight matchup is still a tough pick, but second-time UFC fighter Johnny Case will have a few advantages over newcomer Frankie Perez when they meet on Sunday night.
First off, Case has been preparing for this bout for weeks while Perez accepted this fight more recently after injuries took out two separate fighters in the span of just a few days. Second, with Case's biggest weapon being his formidable striking attack, on the feet is the exact place Perez probably doesn't want this fight to happen in and he may be powerless to stop it.
Case is a dynamic striker with serious knockout power in both hands and feet, especially if he smells blood in the water after hurting an opponent while standing. He trains every day with a group of killers at the Alliance Training Center, which means he's honed his striking with Jeremy Stephens and Myles Jury and routinely works on footwork and head movement with fighters like Dominick Cruz. Perez is no pushover, coming from the Ricardo Almeida camp, where he's training alongside former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar as well as Muay Thai expert Edson Barboza.
But it's a mighty tall order to ask Perez to step in on short notice and face a fast rising star like Case in this matchup and the moment alone could overwhelm the UFC rookie. Case just needs to pick his shots and not open himself up to a takedown, which is the one area where Perez might excel in this fight. If Case sticks to a tactical striking attack and avoids Perez's takedowns, he'll eventually find an opening to put a stop to this fight. Regardless of the outcome, these are two lightweights to note after Sunday night is over because both could be players in a very deep 155-pound division
PREDICTION: Johnny Case by TKO, second round
It's a battle of rivals in this showdown at 145 pounds, as American Top Team fighter Charles Rosa faces Blackzilians team member Sean Soriano. Both competitors are looking for their first UFC win, but Rosa will hold a slight advantage come fight night.
Rosa took his first UFC bout on a week's notice and still gave Dennis Siver everything he could handle for three rounds. Rosa is composed and relentless, especially if the fight hits the ground, where he has a 67 percent finishing rate. You should actually watch out for Rosa everywhere because his overall finishing rate is 90 percent, which means he's on the attack from the moment the referee says go.
Soriano hasn't shown his best stuff since coming to the UFC two fights ago and a third loss could potentially send him packing, so the pressure is certainly ratcheted up for him in this fight. Soriano is a well-rounded fighter when he allows himself to get comfortable in a fight, but there's a good chance nerves and a raucous hometown crowd clearly in the corner of the Boston native will give him no room to breathe. Not to mention, Rosa is a pitbull in every facet of the fight and he will start looking to put Soriano away the first chance he gets until he's dragged away by the referee.
PREDICTION: Charles Rosa by submission, round three
These are the fights on the card that are just too close to call, but getting them correct could make the difference in the fantasy points total being tallied when Sunday night comes to a close.
BENSON HENDERSON (-146 FAVORITE) VS. DONALD “COWBOY” CERRONE (+126 UNDERDOG)
Benson Henderson has fought and defeated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone on two previous occasions, so in theory, the mental edge should go to the former UFC lightweight champion. But a week ago he was getting ready for a shorter, compact striker like Eddie Alvarez and now he's facing one of the most dangerous knockout artists on the roster regardless of short notice and having wins over him from a few years back.
Cerrone is an impossibly tough matchup for anyone at 155 pounds, and with the wave of confidence he's riding from his last six wins in a row, no one should doubt that he could pull this one off as well. Cerrone is a machine on the feet with blistering kicks that will come at all angles and land like bombs no matter where he throws them. His rapidly improving wrestling game might be one of the biggest keys in countering Henderson in this fight because he's shown real proficiency with takedown defense and counters when opponents have tried to take him to the mat recently.
Henderson will give Cerrone everything he can handle and more. He's a more well-rounded fighter overall when combining his considerable wrestling skill with a slick jiu-jitsu game and underrated striking attack. Henderson has developed a real kicking game of his own over the past few years since his last time meeting Cerrone and his biggest improvement on the feet might be his willingness to mix things up in order to gain the upper hand. There's nothing timid about Henderson and he'll come after Cerrone as soon as the fight starts.
The odds sit in Henderson's favor with a full training camp to not only get ready, but plenty of time to rest as well. There's no telling how the wear and tear will hit Cerrone on fight night after two bouts in the span of two weeks, but these are the moments he lives for and this is his chance to prove it.
PREDICTION: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone by split decision
Another intriguing matchup on the main card pits Octagon veteran Gleison Tibau against former Ultimate Fighter winner Norman Parke. The fight really comes down to one key element - where the fight takes place.
Tibau is a machine when it comes to dragging opponents into deep waters by taking his fights to the ground. He lands over four takedowns per fight and lands with nearly 56 percent accuracy. He's relentless with his attacks and don't forget that Tibau is a monster at 155 pounds, so chances are if he gets the fight down and lands on top, very few people are going to be able to shrug him off.
Parke has to use speed and quickness to avoid Tibau's takedowns while trying to apply a good counterstriking game to put the Brazilian on his heels. Parke has great combinations standing and lands nearly two strikes more per minute than Tibau, but he has to avoid the takedown so he'll probably have to abandon any kind of kicking game right away. Parke's quickness will do well for him in this fight so he'll need to get in, get out and get away over and over again to get the win.
As fast as Parke may be, it still might not be enough because Tibau's willingness to grind an opponent into the mat could certainly favor him over the course of a three-round fight.
PREDICTION: Gleison Tibau by unanimous decision
The odds definitely don't seem to favor Ultimate Fighter China winner Zhang Lipeng in this matchup with American wrestler Chris Wade, but there are still a few things to like about this fighter traveling thousands of miles for a shot at his third win in the UFC.
Zhang will be making his second appearance as a lightweight, where he has looked really good so far in his short time inside the Octagon. He is strong and will have a slight size advantage over Wade when the two fighters meet on Sunday night. The reason why Zhang is probably an even bigger underdog in this matchup is because he loves to fight on the ground and he's facing an accomplished collegiate wrestler in Wade, who was unstoppable with the takedown in his UFC debut.
Wade takes a lot of pride in his wrestling skills and he's not afraid to use them. To win this fight, Zhang will have to find a way to stave off a few takedowns from Wade, which could quickly break the spirit of the American fighter. The old saying goes that the last place a wrestler wants to be is on his back, but if there was a second most discouraging moment, it's not being able to score a takedown at all. Zhang needs to stand Wade up every chance he gets, and by the third round he may have worn down the American enough to score a victory. It's not going to be easy, but if there's one upset on this card to keep an eye on, it's this lightweight matchup.
PREDICTION: Zhang Lipeng by split decision