When the UFC heads to the Honda Center in Anaheim for UFC 157 on Saturday night, they’ll need something the organization has never had to worry about before — a dressing room for female fighters. The headline fight of this card will be the first women’s fight in UFC history. That makes this by far the biggest spotlight that women’s fighting has ever been under. No pressure. Here’s how that fight and the rest of the main card breaks down with some predictions for each match (all UFC 157 odds are from Bovada):
Women’s Bantamweight Championship - Ronda Rousey (-1000) vs. Liz Carmouche (+600)
The UFC is making a major investment in women’s fighting — making it a main event, signing most of the top talent available, and so on. That gamble could all come crashing down if Rousey disappoints here. She’s the chosen face of this effort, and she has a massive personality. Luckily, the UFC doesn’t have to be too stressed about how this one will turn out. Rousey is the most talented fighter out there by a fair margin, and she towers over Carmouche in terms of skill and strength. Rousey will dominate this one, and it shouldn’t take her too long to do so. This is a mismatch — and you can be certain that Dana White didn’t just let that coincidentally happen. It would be a major shock if this wasn’t an impressive coronation for the first UFC women’s champ.
Pick: Ronda Rousey
Light heavyweights - Lyoto Machida (-240) vs. Dan Henderson (+190)
The pressure is on here for both fighters. While nothing has officially been promised, it is quite likely that the winner here will get a title shot. Machida is 34 and is the far younger fighter here (Henderson is 42), so this could be the last shot at glory for both of them. For Henderson it has to hurt that he’s in this spot — he was set to face Jones at UFC 151 before a knee injury sidelined him. Now the grizzled veteran is coming off a 15-month layoff and hoping he still has some gas in the tank.
Machida last fought in August and was very impressive in beating Ryan Bader. The way he won that one — a quick, devastating punch after patient stalking — is what makes this one so interesting. Henderson has never been knocked out, and he’ll be aggressive as a result. Machida will try to be patient, but can’t be too relaxed or Henderson will put him to sleep. It’s going to be a chess match, though it will likely start slow.
Pick: Lyoto Machida
Bantamweights - Urijah Faber (-400) vs. Ivan Menjivar (+30)
These two have actually fought before — at a minor league event in Canada in 2006 — but that didn’t tell us much since Menjivar was disqualified for an illegal kick. Faber was beat up in his title shot at UFC 149, so he needs a very strong fight here to get back in the title picture. He won’t get to fight for the hardware with a win here, but he’ll be on the path. That will be significant motivation, and he has a favorable matchup here.
Pick: Urijah Faber
Welterweights - Josh Koscheck (-500) vs. Robbie Lawler (+350)
Both fighters give us reasons for concern. Koscheck is coming back from a back injury. Lawler is fighting at 170 pounds for the first time since 2004. Unless the back is a problem here, though, this one won’t be close. Koscheck is an elite wrestler, and Lawler will find himself on the ground — and in trouble — far too often. It won’t be particularly interesting or fast, but Koscheck will win.
Pick: Josh Koscheck
Welterweights - Court McGee (-300) vs. Josh Neer (+230)
After winning “The Ultimate Fighter 11” and some follow-up fights, it looked like McGee could be a serious contender. He’s struggled in back-to-back losses, though, so now the pressure is on to maintain his relevance. I’d love to finally pick an underdog on this card, but unfortunately I can’t. Neer has also lost two in a row and has done so in the first round both times. Not impressive, and not enough to trust.
Pick: Court McGee
On each card I make a mythical $500 bet — typically one or more parlays. On a card like this that is choking on all the chalk we won’t get too creative, and we aren’t going to get rich:
$300 Parlay - Take Rousey, Machida, Faber and Koscheck. Potential profit of $401.25.
$200 Parlay - Take Rousey, Machida, Faber, Koscheck and McGee. Potential profit of $423.33.
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