We've been waiting an awful long time for Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard to get back in the ring. Likewise, Kenny Florian's spent an awful long time trying to finally get a UFC belt around his waist.
The former will definitely happen tonight at UFC 136 in Houston (9 p.m., PPV). The latter? Maybe, but we're not counting on it.
Here's the main card, broken down:
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Joe Lauzon vs. Melvin Guillard (-325)
Lauzon is the first of two Boston-based fighters on the main card, and while he looks outclassed, he does have a path to victory. "J-Lau" is a submission specialist -- his armbar of Gabe Ruediger at UFC 118 at the Garden is still one of our favorites, ever. And Guillard has looked vulnerable to subs in the past, most notably falling to Nate Diaz via guillotine in 2009. So Lauzon could win this fight.
He probably won't, though. Guillard looks poised for a run at the top of the lightweight division. We love Lauzon here -- the kid's a great interview, and might be the smartest guy in the sport. But he's probably in for a tough one tonight.
Leonard Garca vs. Nam Phan (-175):
Pham will outstrike, outgrapple and outwork Garcia. Then he'll lose, 30-27 (sloppy haymakers that didn't connect).
Chael Sonnen (-255) vs. Brian Stann:
This one strike us like Guillard-Lauzon. Stann has a path to victory, with obvious knockout power:
But we see Sonnen's wrestling taking the day. If Dan Henderson doesn't get there first, we can't wait for that Anderson Silva rematch. Hopefully we don't get Quiet Chael beforehand.
Kenny Florian vs. Jose Aldo (-325):
As long as Aldo's weight cut went decently well, he's a (relatively) easy choice to retain the featherweight title. The Hominick fight aside, there might not be a better all-rounder in the game, from Anthony Pettis-level excitement to very, very good grappling.
But Florian is capable of playing spoiler. He'll have better conditioning tonight, as well as a sizable reach advantage. If he can get through the first two rounds, those could start to show.
The ultimate pick has to be Aldo -- he's a dominant champ up against a guy who's never come through in the big spot. But it might not be as big a blowout as the line indicates.
Gray Maynard vs. Frankie Edgar (-150):
If you watch MMA, you know the storylines for this one. Maynard dominated the first round against Edgar in their last title fight, but the New Jersey native stormed back to force a draw and retain the lightweight belt. It was an all-time classic, and even spawned some surprisingly good promo:
Maynard blamed himself for not putting Edgar away during an interview with Metro last week.
“He’s a tough kid,” the quiet contender said. “Of course there was
stuff I could have done. I could have been a little bit more calculated
with how I threw. But hindsight’s always 20-20.”
For our money, Maynard will take the belt tonight. Just a tiny bit more striking precision would have done it last time. With the long layoff in between title tries, he'll have improved more than enough to do it.
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