January 31, 2015 - 1:09 am
A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 183 today at the MGM Grand Garden:
Anderson Silva (33-6) vs. Nick Diaz (27-9-1)
■ CLASS: Middleweight
■ LINE: Silva minus-450
■ STORYLINE: Anderson Silva is one of the greatest fighters of all time. It’s possible he has been surpassed by Jon Jones, but there is no doubt he is right near the top of an elite list. There would be more concern about where he is physically after more than a year out of action if Diaz wasn’t coming off almost two years of inactivity. Diaz also doesn’t appear to be completely invested in his career at this point. The general perception is that he is simply collecting a paycheck. That’s not the attitude to have when you are fighting Silva, one of the most dangerous strikers to compete in the octagon. Diaz has the ability to win the fight on the ground. He rarely takes advantage of those skills, however, and it’s likely he will engage Silva on the feet. Usually, that gets fighters knocked out. Silva’s leg should be fully healed. The only question is how the injury he suffered the last time he threw a competitive kick will impact him mentally.
■ PICK: Silva by second-round knockout
Tyron Woodley (14-3) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (11-0)
■ CLASS: Welterweight
■ LINE: Woodley minus-120
■ STORYLINE: There has been money coming in on Gastelum throughout the week, pushing him to a favorite role as of Friday morning. The sentiment in his favor changed quickly after he missed weight by nine pounds Friday night and bettors flocked to the window to bet against him. This is the biggest fight of Gastelum’s career, and Woodley is in another class from anyone the undefeated prospect has seen. Woodley is a two-time All-America wrestler in college who should be able to thwart Gastelum’s takedown attempts. If it becomes a standup affair, Woodley has an edge in experience and power and should find a way to win.
■ PICK: Woodley by third-round knockout
Joe Lauzon (24-10) vs. Al Iaquinta (10-3-1)
■ CLASS: Lightweight
■ LINE: Iaquinta minus-190
■ STORYLINE: Lauzon is a rugged veteran who has collected the most fight-night bonus checks in UFC history. His exciting style has made him a fan favorite, though it also leaves him susceptible at times during his fights. Iaquinta, who has won five of his past six fights, has talked all week about how he has no intention of getting sucked into a thrilling brawl. He wants to make quick work of Lauzon to avoid that kind of excitement. Iaquinta, who trains with UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, is capable of doing that. His only three losses have come by submission, though, and that’s where Lauzon excels. Even if Iaquinta can knock Lauzon to the ground, Lauzon has a propensity to recover quickly and immediately transition back to attack mode on the ground.
■ PICK: Lauzon by second-round submission
Thales Leites (24-4) vs. Tim Boetsch (18-7)
■ CLASS: Middleweight
■ LINE: Leites minus-450
■ STORYLINE: Leites is the rightful favorite in this bout. The number seems ridiculous, however. Since dropping to middleweight in 2011, Boetsch has yet to be outclassed in a fight, compiling a 6-3 record, with the losses coming against top competition. Leites, a former title challenger, has won seven straight fights. Four of those victories have come since making his return to the UFC. He is a skilled fighter on the ground who has shown vast improvement in the striking game. Leites has even recorded back-to-back knockout victories. He probably won’t stand up with Boetsch for long, though. Expect Leites to return to his roots and find a way to end the fight with his outstanding jiujitsu. That said, bettors looking for underdog value probably should take a long look at Boetsch. His toughness and power make him an intriguing play at this price.
■ PICK: Leites by second-round submission
Jordan Mein (29-9) vs. Thiago Alves (25-9)
■ CLASS: Welterweight
■ LINE: Mein minus-140
■ STORYLINE: Alves is powerful and dynamic. He has all the makings of a star in the sport, but his career has been derailed by a series of injuries. This will be just his second fight since March 2012. He will provide a dangerous challenge for Mein, but Mein is a fundamentally sound fighter. Expect Mein, who is 3-1 in the UFC with three knockouts, to remain patient and wait for the right opportunity to go on the offensive. Alves has been known to tire, and Mein will look to exploit his advantage in stamina.
■ PICK: Mein by decision
ADAM HILL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL