Kicking off the main-card, Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon all but guarantees a bout with 'Fight of the Night' potential. Also find out if Mark Hunt can derail Cheick Kongo’s momentous streak with a knockout in the first round.

UFC 144: Anthony "Showtime" Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon

A lightweight scrap between Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon properly kicks off the action on the main-card at UFC 144.

Anthony PettisLauzon has always remained just below the upper tier of the division, however, a win over Pettis would be the first time in his career he’s defeated a top 10 lightweight in back to back fights. A win here could easily elevate him to his highest spot in the rankings since joining the UFC back in 2006.

Joe has never really been one to shift gears. He fights at one pace and usually exerts a lot of energy in the first 3 minutes of his fights. His striking is fairly average for the division, but he does have what I consider to be slightly undervalued punching power. He has a sneaky left hook that dropped both Melvin Guillard and knocked out Jens Pulver at UFC 63.

With that said, He’s obviously outclassed on the feet here. Outside of disguising his takedowns, I don’t seem him sticking around for too long in the pocket with Pettis.

Anthony is just a sniper on the feet, and there’s no wasted motion in this kid’s strikes. He has tremendous hand speed and phenomenal precision. His overhand right and left head kick are two of his more powerful strikes, but he is fully equipped with a wide range of knockout blows.

Anthony’s takedown defense is the single greatest dilemma we encounter when making our UFC picks on this fight. He was outmuscled by Jeremy Stephens for an extended period and couldn’t keep Guida off of him for an entire 3 rounds. Lauzon may not have the best takedowns in the division but he’ shown to be relentless with his double, single and body lock against the cage, successfully applying all three at one point or another in his fight against Sam Stout.

Lauzon by submission or him winning in round 1 are the only 2 UFC betting probs I’d consider in this fight. I think Anthony struggles in the first round with Joe’s aggression but as long he survives the early onslaught he should dictate the pace in the last two rounds. Without seeing a the sports betting lines yet I have to take Pettis to win here.

UFC Pick: Anthony Pettis SU 

Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt

A rising heavyweight and a former Kickboxing legend collide when Cheick Kongo takes on the battle hardened, Mark Hunt.

Cheick KnogoIn a pure striking match, Hunt will walk through Cheick within 2 rounds; I have no doubt about that. Hunt possesses an advanced repertoire of heavy, fight ending strikes. He beautifully turns over his lead hook, masterfully measures his overhand right and perfectly times the uppercut off his back foot. He also likes to lead out a lot with his 3-6 combination, and his primary kill shot is usually the uppercut.

At times, Kongo’s defense is downright hazardous. It’s no coincidence that he’s either been badly rocked or completely finished in 3 of his more recent fights. He drops his right too low when he’s reeling off his back foot and dangles his left anytime he’s on the attack with straight right. 

What he has going for him his is clinch work against the cage and a massive conditioning edge if this makes out of the first round. Kongo has shown that he can welt his opponents up in an instant with his inside knees against the cage. Travis Browne was just the latest to feel the effect of Kongo’s clinch work against the fence. After taking a few of those inside knees his movement was completely altered and labored for the second half of the fight.

I see Hunt enduring a similar attack early in this fight. Kongo will likely utilizes his knees to take the spring out of Hunts step before ultimately securing a takedown sometime after the first few minutes. However, his fight with Pat Barry leaves us to question just how much of a game plan he’s willing to follow. Personally, I’m keeping my eye out for UFC betting prop value on Hunt winning in the first round and possibly a straight bet on Kongo.

UFC Pick: Cheick Kongo SU

Jake Shields vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama

Akiyama returns to Japan to fight in front of his home crowd for the first time since Dream 6 back in 2008.

Jake ShieldsConsidering this will be his debut at welterweight, we really have no idea how the drop in weight effects his conditioning. As it currently stands, his cardio is already considered to be one of the weaker aspects of his game. He faded badly in the third round against Leben, Bisping and Belfort, which doesn’t bode well for his first cut to 170lbs.

Shields, meanwhile, looked fresh for the entire 5 rounds against GSP. His striking is an absolute eyesore but he’s not afraid to lead out with is finger nails and has proven that his activity alone is enough to fool some of the more incompetent judges we have in the sport.

Akiyama is clearly the superior striker here. He has decent chance of landing a big shot in the first round, but Jake has shown some of the best recovery ability we’ve seen in the sport. If he does get hurt, I think he survives long enough to eventually wear Akiyama out down the stretch. Jake by submission or him winning in round 3 are the two props I’m looking to bet. I’d avoid making a straight bet on this fight unless we’re offered a ridiculously good price on Shields, which is doubtful in my opinion.

UFC Pick: Jake Shields