From a fan’s standpoint, UFC 231 is a fantastic event. In terms of betting opportunities, I’m feeling lukewarm. Nevertheless, here are my hints of those fights that I’m trying to playwith. 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 fight takes place.
Together with his newfound striking skills, Burns scored emphatic knockout victories over Jason Saggo and Dan Moret. Unfortunately, opting to bang with Dan Hooker proved to be disastrous and Burns was violently finished in his last struggle. I lost money thinking Burns would grapple — oh well!
While a solid striker, Burns takes dangers defensively and loads on his own shots. Dan Hooker is the kind of fighter that can capitalize on defensive lapses — however I am unsure Olivier Aubin-Mercier is.
Coming from a judo background, Aubin-Mercier is immensely strong in the clinch and heavy from leading position. While he’s a whole lot more skilled on the toes than he used to be, Aubin-Mercier still lacks the fluidity of someone that is a natural striker. He is light on his feet, out and in with his movement and somewhat undependable — but is true when he fires.
While Aubin-Mercier is a jiu-jitsu brown belt, so I doubt he wants to go to the mat with Burns. The muscle-bound human blanket, Michel Prazeres, refused to dive into the protector of Gilbert Burns — that 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 control the mat too (although I wish there was more footage of Burns fighting off his back to create a better assessment).
I think that the striking trades will be competitive, but I give Burns a slight edge. Stylistically, this seems catchy for Aubin-Mercier and I can’t predict his approach. Maybe the Canadian will try and control his opponent against the fence, but minus shooting takedowns?
I do believe Aubin-Mercier is the better athlete and has the superior cardio. However, I’ll take my chances with Gilbert Burns as a +120 underdog like I believe he must be a small favorite.
Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders
At a middleweight showdown between two fighters with contrasting designs (and personalities), Eryk Anders takes on Elias Theodorou.
A great athletic, Anders is explosive yet has good cardio. Struggling out of the southpaw stance, Anders packs huge electricity in his left hand — but in my opinion, goes head hunting a little too much. In his last bout, Thiago Santos was well prepared for the primary weapon of Anders — which limited his offensive victory.
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