Two former UFC world champions go toe to toe at the head of a stacked card of fights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, live on FOX.

The UFC’s penultimate fight card of the year is a cracker, with a host of exciting matchups scheduled for action, including a superb main event.


The Main Event: Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos

Former champions collide as the former UFC welterweight champion Lawler takes on former lightweight kingpin dos Anjos in a bout that may well determine the identity of the next No. 1 contender in the UFC’s 170-pound welterweight division.

Lawler is as gritty and tough as they come. A seasoned veteran of 40 career fights, he’s built a well-earned reputation as one of the most aggressive competitors to ever put on a set of four-ounce UFC gloves. His wars with Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit rank as two of the very best fights ever seen inside the eight walls of the octagon, and now, after losing his title to Tyron Woodley and taking a little time away, he’s looking to blast his way back to the belt.

Standing in his way is former lightweight world champion dos Anjos. The Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt has a superb striking arsenal of his own, and he looked all set to dominate the ultra-tough UFC lightweight division before being dethroned by Eddie Alvarez.

Citing the cut down to 155lbs as something that held him back, “RDA” moved up to 170lbs, and he’s looked excellent fighting at his more natural weight. But in Lawler he faces a man who has been at the very apex of the division for years.

It promises to be a superb battle of former champions.


The Odds

Lawler vs. Dos Anjos Win Stoppage TKO/KO Submission Decision
Robbie Lawler +110 +244 +250 +2900 +345
Rafael dos Anjos -120 +214 +366 +545 +288
Odds retrieved on Dec. 15 from 5Dimes via BestFightOdds.com

Keys to victory

Lawler is a technical brawler with a remarkable ability to soak up punishment and dish out even more. But he was put away by Tyron Woodley’s explosive power when he lost his title. Dos Anjos won’t offer the same one-shot threat, but he’s arguably a more technical opponent. Lawler’s size and power advantage will undoubtedly give him the advantage on the feet, and he’ll look to break down the Brazilian with controlled aggression – throughout the full five rounds, if necessary.

Dos Anjos will need to fight smart to turn back Lawler. Opening up with powerful leg kicks should help reduce Lawler’s mobility, creating the opportunity for dos Anjos to pursue a takedown. It won’t be easy, with Lawler’s ability to sprawl and brawl a major weapon in his arsenal, but if dos Anjos can get the American to the mat, his superior grappling skills will then come into play.

Put simply, Lawler wants the fight standing, but dos Anjos probably wants it on the ground. The fighter who dictates where the fight goes should win the contest.

Main Event Pick

Dos Anjos has looked excellent at 170lbs since moving up, but despite picking up wins over respected campaigners Tarec Saffiedine and Neil Magny, he’s facing a different class of opponent altogether in Lawler.

The American has been there, seen it and done it throughout his MMA career, and while he’s undoubtedly been through more than his fair share of wars, he’s still very much an elite operator.

With dos Anjos’ best chance of success coming on the mat, Lawler holds the aces in this contest. His takedown defense is excellent, plus he holds the size and power advantage. The Brazilian may be the slight betting favorite, but Lawler is the pick.

It might take all five rounds, but if Lawler can make his power felt in the middle rounds, he may well get things done inside the distance.

PICK: Lawler by KO/TKO.


THE FIGHT CARD

Main Card (Live on FOX)

Robbie Lawler Rafael dos Anjos Welterweight bout
Ricardo Lamas Josh Emmett Catchweight bout (148.5lbs)
Santiago Ponzinibbio Mike Perry Welterweight bout
Glover Teixeira Misha Cirkunov Light-heavyweight bout

Preliminary Card (Live on FS1)

Jan Blachowicz Jared Cannonier Light-heavyweight bout
Julian Marquez Darren Stewart Middleweight bout
Chad Laprise Galore Bofando Welterweight bout
Nordine Taleb Danny Roberts Welterweight bout
John Makdessi Abel Trujillo Lightweight bout
Alessio Di Chirico Oluwale Bamgbose Middleweight bout

UFC Fight Pass Preliminary Bout

Jordan Mein Erick Silva Welterweight bout

The Men Most Likely…

…to deliver a Fight of the Night performance: Santiago Ponzinibbio and Mike Perry

These two welterweight bangers love to come marauding forward throwing heavy leather, and their meeting on Saturday night has rightly been described as “The People’s Main Event.”

Ponzinibbio may be the more polished athlete, but Perry’s sheer bullishness, grit and power have served him well so far in his UFC career. His only loss came against a very wary Alan Jouban, who fought off the back foot throughout the contest. Ponzinibbio isn’t likely to do the same.

This one will more than likely end inside the distance, most likely by brutal KO or TKO finish. And when it’s all said and done, there’s a better than average chance that this will be the fight fans are talking about at the water cooler on Monday morning.

Ponzinibbio is the narrow betting favorite, but he’s been finished with strikes twice before in his career, and neither Lorenz Larkin nor Leonardo Mafra pack the same amount of sheer power in their fists that Perry will bring to the party in Winnipeg. In what’s virtually a pick’em contest, Perry via KO/TKO is the value play at +250 (William Hill).

…to deliver an underdog victory: Danny Roberts

British welterweight Danny Roberts is an exciting, come-forward fighter with excellent striking and underrated submissions.

The Brit, who formerly trained at the Blackzilians team in Florida, pushed rising welterweight contender Mike Perry to the limit in a back-and-forth war at UFC 204 in Manchester last year, but was eventually stopped late in the final round.

Since then, he’s taken time out to heal his injuries from that three-round war before bouncing back in style with a knockout win over Bobby Nash in Glasgow in July.

Against the solid but generally unspectacular Nordine Taleb, Roberts’ striking arsenal should give him the edge and see him cash at odds of +120 (William Hill).

…to produce some striking acrobatics: Galore Bofando

The British welterweight arrived in the UFC as a relative unknown, but he did enough in his short UFC debut to mark him as one to keep a very close eye on.

After showcasing some spectacular striking skills, the powerful Bofando scored a remarkable knockout of Conor McGregor’s stablemate Charlie Ward with a huge slam, as he literally threw his opponent head-first into the mat.

His spectacular taekwondo-inspired striking will certainly make him worth watching against the much more straightforward approach of Canadian Chad Laprise.

And if Laprise isn’t at his evasive best, he could find himself on the wrong end of a spectacular knockout kick.

Bofando by KO is available at +245 (5Dimes).

…to win in the first, or lose after the first: Oluwale Bamgbose

Hulking middleweight powerhouse Bamgbose cuts an intimidating figure, and he’s incredibly dangerous early on in contests. All fast-twitch muscles and prodigious power, Bamgbose has finished each and every one of his wins in the very first round, all by KO/TKO. Overall, he’s 6-1 in fights that finish in the first (the anomaly being a first-round stoppage by Uriah Hall in 2015)

But if the fight gets past the first round, things don’t go so well for the New York-based Nigerian. He’s been past the first round twice in his career, and he lost on each occasion.

Bamgbose will be keen to finish things early again this weekend against gritty Italian Alessio Di Chirico. He’s  +300 (5Dimes) to win in the first, and we reckon he’ll give you a great run for your money.


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