Touted newcomer Jim Hettes puts his undefeated record on the line against the always dangerous Nam Phan. Also, find out if Alexander Gustafsson can continue working his way to a title show with a possible win over Matyushenko.

UFC 141: Main card predictions

Jim Hettes vs. Nam Phan 

Undefeated prospect Jimmy Hettes takes a huge leap in completion when face off with the battle hardened, Nam Phan.

Jim HettesHettes’ latest finish over Alex Caceres brought his record to an impressive 9-0. At only 24 years old the kid has shown a great deal of natural adaptability to both the striking and grappling aspects of MMA. His grappling ability has even received praise on some of the lower grappling circuits around the country, as not a single one of his 9 opponents has managed to avoid being submitted.

The way he’s able to chain his submissions together is without question his strongest attributes as a fighter. Against Bruce Leroy we saw him relentlessly attack with submissions from just about every position imaginable. He can be a bit shaky from top position ( Caceres was able to reverse multiple positions throughout the first round,)but his back and guard control are excellent.

At one point yesterday, the UFC betting lines for this fight reached -365 in favor of Nam Phan before the eventual buyback corrected the line back down to -280. For the most part, the UFC odds makers seem to be banking on Phan’s enormous edge in experience.

What determines this line for me, though, is Phan should be the aggressor in the striking exchanges and also possibly holds an edge in cardio. Hettes has never seen a 3rd round in his career and we have no idea how he holds up if this fight turns into a war of attrition, which Phan is known for creating.

However, Hettes has the much higher ceiling at this point in his career. He’s at a stage where he’s constantly making drastic improvement from fight camp to fight camp. The sportsbook offering of +220 should be worth a marginal play here.

Free UFC pick: Jim Hettes +220 (@bookmaker.com)

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Vladimir Matyushenko

40 year old veteran Vladimir Matyushenko has his hands full at UFC 141 with one of the more promising light heavyweights to come out of Sweden.

Since entering the UFC in 2009, Alexander Gustafson has put together a 4-1 record consisting of notable victories over Matt Hamill and Cyrille Diabate. The Swede possesses a malicious arsenal of strikes to go along with an increasingly dangerous submission game. Over his brief career he’s flawlessly adapted his striking to fit his 6’5 frame and 76.5” reach.

The line for this fight opened around -280 before the early action pushed it 25 cents in Alexander’s favor. The early UFC picks were all in favor of Alex but we’ve seen a very marginal buyback on “The Janitor” this week. At the moment Pinnacle.com is offering the best price at +265 on Vladimir. My guess is the line stagnates until a possible 10to 15 cent move on Alex after the weigh-ins.

As a -150 favorite in his last fight over Mat Hammil, Gustafson showed some early chinks in his defense. Up until the knockout in the second round, the fight was relatively close. At the end of the fight the entire right side of Alex’s face was marked up from eating way too many of Hammil’s jabs and left hooks.

That kind of defense makes me question the current price tag. Vladimir isn’t known as a big puncher, but lately his kickboxing coach, Anthony Hardonk, has made some effective refinement to his combinations and movement. In fact, he’s knocked out his last two opponents in the very first round, the latest against Brilz coming just 20 seconds into the fight.

At the end of the day Gustafson should prove to be too long and fast for the aging veteran. Gustaffson’s lead right uppercut, his most effective strike, should find a home early and often. His defense is still a concern for me but I think Gustafson is the right play at the current odds.

Free UFC Pick: Gustafsson -320 (@ 5dimes.com) 

Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks

Jon Fitch has a shot at his 10th straight decision-victory when he goes up against Johny Hendricks at UFC 141.

Johny HendricksIn fact, the last time Fitch finished a fight was in 2007 against Roan Carneiro. His inability to finish elite fighters has proven to be one of the more profitable betting angles in MMA over the last few years. This time, however, he faces an opponent whose durability is widely acknowledged by the public. How that affects the price on the decision props remain to be seen, but my guess is anything involving a decision will be greatly overpriced here.

His opponent, Johny Hendricks, recently had a close fight with fellow wrestler Mike Pierce. Although the late steam was all on Hendricks, the line closing at -160 proved to be mistake. While the fight was close all throughout, Hendricks was just a tad more accurate and threw the more eye catching strikes. In the end, the split decision truly could have gone either way.

Coming into the UFC, Hendricks was considered to have had one of the more decorated collegiate careers. Unfortunately, the NCAA Division I wrestling title he won at Oklahoma State hasn’t necessarily translated too well into MMA. He’s been taken down in most of his fights and was out wrestled for portions of his fights with Rick Story and Charlie Brennaman --both considered to be inferior wrestlers.

Now, against Fitch, Hendricks is up against the most conducive wrestling style to MMA. The Logic from your average fan is: well if Rick Story was able to grind him out against the fence, why can’t Fitch? While I agree with that sentiment for the most part, Hendricks at +214 seems a bit much.

Giving him less than a 32% chance to win this fight seems just a tad off to me. I think his boxing on the inside has a good chance of softening Fitch up early. And while his takedown defense hasn’t been great, I expect Fitch to struggle more with his takedowns than many seem to think. 

Free UFC Pick: Johny Hendricks +214 (@pinnacle.com)