UFC 180 was supposed to feature heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez defending his belt against Latin Ultimate Fighter coach and #1 contender Fabricio Werdum (18-5-1) in his home country of Mexico.
A late injury spoiled that parade. But enter the likeable Super Samoan Mark Hunt (10-8-1) to save the day.
In fact, UFC 166 in October 2013 was the last time the crown was defended.
If Hunt can defeat the Brazilian – on three weeks notice – it would complete what unquestionably would be one of the most improbable paths to a UFC heavyweight title ever.
Welcome back to The Crossfire.
MMA Crossfire Expert Cassie Wiseman shares her thoughts on the card:
UFC FIGHT PASS EARLY PRELIMS (7PM ET/4PM PT)
MARCO “PSYCHO” BELTRAN (5-4-0) VS MARLON “CHITO” VERA (6-1-1)
Wiseman: Beltran is coming off a three fight losing streak, so the pressure to really put a stamp on his career is huge. Winning brings confidence, which is where Vera is fighting from. His submission game has really been his bread-and-butter so far in his career. Now that they are in the UFC spotlight, he will need it even more. Vera hasn’t been consistent at all, not even in the way he has won and lost. Vera is simply the more primed and ready fighter.
Wiseman Prediction: Marlon “Chito” Vera via submission.
HENRY “BURE” BRIONES (18-4-1) VS GUIDO “NINJA” CANNETTI (6-2-0)
Wiseman: Cannetti really doesn’t mess around. The bell rings and he is all over whoever is inside the octagon. Briones is the more technical fighter and will be able to take advantage of openings that Cannetti leaves, thus being able to counter with his power striking.
Wiseman Prediction: Henry “Bure” Briones via TKO.
SPORTSNET 360 PRELIMS (8PM ET/5PM PT)
GABRIEL “MOGGLY” BENITEZ (16-5-0) VS HUMBERTO “EL GATO NEGRO” BROWN (4-4-0)
Wiseman: Brown is interesting because he is the only fighter I have come across who has 75% wins by submission, but also 75% loss by submission. Is he good off his back or not? Doesn’t really matter since he is going against a guy who loves to submit people. Bernitez has the experience advantage, but also is able to use his ground game for the great good…winning.
Wiseman Prediction: Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez via submission.
#6 JESSICA “EVIL” EYE (10-2-0, 1 NC) VS #13 LESLIE “THE PEACEMAKER” SMITH (7-5-1)
Wiseman: Smith has been fighting since the beginning of time, so there is nothing that she hasn’t seen. Eye has been trying to make her way up the tight bantamweight ladder, but struggling with some of the beast women that have climbed in the cage with her. In this match, Leslie likes to stand and strike, which often opens her up for a beating. Eye is a precise striker with combinations. When Smith is under pressure, that’s when she takes too much damage.
Wiseman Prediction: Jessica “Evil” Eye via split decision.
ALEJANDRO “DIABLITO” PEREZ (15-5-0) VS JOSE “TECO” QUINONEZ (4-1-0)
Wiseman: Quinonez really hasn’t had the best kind of luck with his MMA career, but he always gives it his all. Perez is the more well-rounded and experienced fighter. Power, submission game, speed, the list goes on. Out of these two fighters, both who are trying to make it in the UFC, Perez is the stronger fighter.
Wiseman Prediction: Alejandro “Diablito” Perez via submission.
YAIR “EL PANTERA” RODRIGUEZ (4-1-0) VS LEONARDO “CHIMMY” MORALES (5-0-0)
Wiseman: Both fighters fighting on the biggest stage of their lives. Rodriguez having had fought on TUF and Morales making his debut levels the playing field. Rodriguez has a three-inch reach advantage which will certainly help him use his power in the striking department, but Morales also has knockout power. I see these guys putting on a great show, but their skills really cancel each other.
Wiseman Prediction: Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez via decision.
MAIN CARD (10 PM ET/7 PM PT)
EDGAR GARCIA (14-3-0) VS HECTOR URBINA (16-8-0)
Wiseman: Urbina hasn’t been consistent throughout his MMA career. He wins a fight, then loses the next two. For those who don’t know, he won his last fight. Garcia fought against a higher level of opponents and his skill settings are more technical. Garcia just seems to be evolving more, which will be evident in this match.
Wiseman Prediction: Edgar Garcia via unanimous decision.
AUGUSTO “DODGER” MONTANO (13-1-0) VS CHRIS “STUMP” HEATHERLY (8-2-0, 1 NC)
Wiseman: Heatherly uses his striking merely to set up a takedown. A takedown that he will always complete. Montano isn’t fabulous on the mat, but he is active off his back, which allows him to get back to his feet. Montano will have the power advantage and will swarm Heatherly.
Wiseman Prediction: Augusto “Dodger” Montana via TKO.
#4 RICARDO “THE BULLY” LAMAS (14-3-0) VS #7 DENNIS BERMUDEZ (15-3-0)
Wiseman: Bermudez is a beast. His speed, wrestling, and power are going to be too much for Lamas. Lamas doesn’t do well with fighters who attack with aggression. Unfortunately, that is all Bermudez. Expect to see Bermudez attack with a flurry, only to set up a takedown, and unload non-stop ground-and-pound.
Wiseman Prediction: Dennis Bermudez via unanimous decision.
#7 JAKE “THE JUGGERNAUT” ELLENBERGER (29-8-0) VS #11 KELVIN GASTELUM (10-0-0)
Wiseman: The Ellenberger of old, the aggression, speed, and passion we haven’t seen in a long time now. Gastelum who is still fresh off the boat, is showing all those things that Ellenberger used to bring to every fight. Gastelum brings speed and power, moving forward, and putting together damaging combinations. They are both wrestlers who have knockout power and a submission game, but Gastelum is on fire and sets things up better. The presentation of the same skills makes all the difference in this fight.
Wiseman Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision.
#1 FABRICIO “VAL CAVALO” WERDUM (18-5-1) VS #4 MARK “SUPER SAMOAN” HUNT (10-8-1)
Wiseman: While no one can count Hunt out due to his power which could end anyone’s night, the fact that he only had three weeks to prepare for this fight is insane. In that three weeks he had to drop over 30 pounds and get adjusted to the Mexican elevation. Crazy. Meanwhile, Werdum had three months to do all of this. Werdum is a skilled striker and a magician on the mat in addition to the fact that he had a full training camp. It doesn’t make it impossible for Hunt to win, but I don’t see the odds in his favor.
Wiseman Prediction: Fabricio Werdum via submission.