From a fan’s standpoint, UFC 231 is a wonderful occasion. In terms of betting opportunities, I’m feeling lukewarm. Nevertheless, here are my hints of the fights that I’m looking to playwith. Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Decorated jiu-jitsu champion and second degree black belt, Gilbert Burns, was operating on his striking in recent decades. Training under famed Dutch kickboxer, Henri Hooft, Burns is currently comfortable wherever the fight takes place.
With his newfound striking abilities, Burns scored strong knockout victories over Jason Saggo and Dan Moret. Regrettably, preferring to bang with Dan Hooker proved to be disastrous and Burns was finished in his last fight. I lost money believing Burns would grapple — oh well!
While a solid striker, Burns takes dangers defensively and loads on his shots. Dan Hooker is the kind of fighter that could capitalize on defensive lapses — but I am unsure Olivier Aubin-Mercier is.
Coming out of a judo background, Aubin-Mercier is immensely strong in the clinch and hefty from top position. While he’s much more proficient on the toes than he used to be, Aubin-Mercier still lacks the fluidity of someone that’s a pure striker. He is light on his toes, out and in with his motion and slightly undependable — but is true when he fires.
While Aubin-Mercier is a jiu-jitsu brown belt, I doubt he wants to go to the mat with Burns. Even the muscle-bound human blanket, Michel Prazeres, refused to dive into the guard of Gilbert Burns — which speaks volumes.
In his last battle, Aubin-Mercier appeared a step behind in the scrambles against Alexander Hernandez and I would expect a master of body manipulation such as Gilbert Burns to dominate on the mat as well (though I wish there was more footage of Burns fighting off his back to create a much better assessment).
I think that the striking exchanges will be competitive, but I give Burns a slight edge. Stylistically, this looks tricky for Aubin-Mercier and I can not predict his strategy. Maybe the Canadian will attempt to control his competitor against the fence, but minus shooting takedowns?
I do believe Aubin-Mercier is the better athlete and has the cardio. Still, I will take my chances with Gilbert Burns as a +120 underdog as I think he should be a slight favorite.
Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders
At a middleweight showdown between two fighters with contrasting styles (and characters ), Eryk Anders takes on Elias Theodorou.
A fantastic athletic, Anders is explosive yet has good cardio. Fighting from the southpaw stance, Anders packs huge electricity in his left hand — but in my opinion, goes head searching a little too much. In his last bout, Thiago Santos was prepared for the primary weapon of Anders — which limited his offensive success.
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