From a fan’s standpoint, UFC 231 is a fantastic event. In terms of betting opportunities, I am feeling lukewarm. Nevertheless, here are my hints of those fights that I’m looking to play. Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Decorated jiu-jitsu winner and second degree black belt, Gilbert Burns, has been operating on his striking in the past several years. Training under famed Dutch kickboxer, Henri Hooft, Burns is now comfortable wherever the battle takes place.
Together with his newfound striking abilities, Burns scored strong knockout victories over Jason Saggo and Dan Moret. Unfortunately, preferring to bang Dan Hooker proved to be disastrous and Burns was violently finished in his final fight. I dropped 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 type of fighter that can capitalize on defensive lapses — but I am not sure Olivier Aubin-Mercier is.
Coming from a judo background, Aubin-Mercier is exceptionally strong from the clinch and heavy from leading position. While he’s a whole lot more skilled on the feet than he was, Aubin-Mercier still lacks the fluidity of someone that is a pure striker. He’s light on his toes, in and out 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 to the guard of Gilbert Burns — that speaks volumes.
In his last fight, Aubin-Mercier looked a step behind in the scrambles against Alexander Hernandez and I’d expect a master of body manipulation such as Gilbert Burns to control the mat as well (though I wish there was more footage of Burns fighting off his back to create a better assessment).
I believe that the striking exchanges will be competitive, but I give Burns a slight edge. Stylistically, this seems tricky for Aubin-Mercier and that I can’t predict his approach. Perhaps the Canadian will try and control his competitor against the fence, but without shooting takedowns?
I really do believe Aubin-Mercier is the better athlete and certainly has the superior cardio. Still, I’ll take my chances with Gilbert Burns as a +120 underdog like I think he should be a small favorite.
Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders
In a middleweight showdown between two fighters with contrasting designs (and characters ), Eryk Anders takes on Elias Theodorou.
A great athletic, Anders is volatile yet has good cardio. Struggling from the southpaw stance, Anders packs enormous electricity in his left hand but in my view, goes head searching a bit too much. In his final bout, Thiago Santos was prepared for the primary weapon of Anders — which limited his offensive victory.
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