When the UFC holds an event in Las Vegas you can almost be assured that it will be stacked. The Vegas books love a good fight night to get the chips flowing and the cash across the table.
Despite with the loss of the main event this is still one of the most eagerly anticipated cards of the year. If Jones and Cormier had remained in place then it could have been the best line up in the last five years. I see plenty of betting opportunities on this card and the chance to make a little green. Let’s break each fight down and see where the value lies.
Zingano v Nunes:
After 18 months on the shelf due to injury and personal tragedy Cat Zingano makes her return to the octagon. After defeating Miesha Tate at the TUF Finale to secure a coaching slot opposite Ronda Rousey, in addition to a title shot, she has the opportunity to take back what she sees as rightfully hers. Unbeaten throughout an eight fight career she knows that she is owed a title shot and could potentially secure that with a win here. Much of the future will depend on the likes of Gina Carano and Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos making 135lbs but Dana White has intimated that a warm up win will see her regain that title shot.
Standing in the way of that title shot is Brazilian Amanda Nunes. Nunes makes her third appearance in the UFC since being signed from Invicta, where she last tasted defeat. The #8 ranked fighter will be very aware that a win over the #1 would see her climb into the top five and put her on the verge of a title eliminator bout. Such opportunities are not to be taken lightly although when coming up against better competition she has been found wanting.
Zingano has looked, on social media at least, as if she has taken this very seriously and thrown herself into her training. After the year or so that she has had then she needs this more than most. If she is able to channel the pain and hurt of losing her partner into her career then she will be making quick work of Nunes. Nunes feels overmatched in this fight and I don’t give her much of a chance on paper. She will come out swinging for the fences and will find a more than willing opponent in Zingano, if ‘Alpha’ lands early then Nunes goes down and doesn’t get up.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Cat Zingano by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 3/1 (+300) @ 888Sport
Kennedy v Romero:
In his third fight of 2014 the ‘Soldier of God’ Yoel Romero looks to extend his unbeaten UFC stint to five against Tim Kennedy. Romero has impressed thus far with a highlight reel debut knockout, by flying knee no less, as well as consecutive third round finishes and a comfortable decision over the progressive Brad Tavares. Even at age 37 Romero is still in his MMA infancy and it remains to be seen how far this Olympic wrestler can actually go.
If Yoel Romero is raw power and athleticism then Tim Kennedy is the possessor of sound fundamentals and experience. Fresh from a dominant performance over Michael Bisping the National Guard Sergeant is on a tear and desperate for a shot at the UFC gold.
On paper Bisping trumps Romero every time so it is a strange matchup for the UFC to make from Kennedys perspective; from Romero’s it makes perfect sense as Kennedy is clearly top 5 calibre. As fights go you can expect little in the stand-up as both would prefer to take it to the mat. It is this preference that has won and lost fights for each. For Romero he has picked up stoppages from top position as he finally wears down his opponent. By contrast Kennedy has lost fights when his opponents keep him at reach and standing. All week I have been leaning toward Romero but I just can’t shake the fact that Kennedy has never really been stopped and his work rate is far superior. It should be a razor thin decision but I am going to take Kennedy on points in a fight that will have very few highlight moments.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Tim Kennedy by Decision – 5/2 (+250) @ Paddy Power
Poirier v McGregor:
Where the main card is concerned there are two outstanding fights on paper and in truth either could have co-headlined this event. One of them is Cerrone v Alvarez, this is the other. After a very impressive win in Dublin, Ireland Conor McGregor makes his debut on a numbered card, a PPV that could put his star into orbit rather than just in the ascendancy. Throughout his short tenure in the UFC McGregor has talked the talk and begged for a title shot, while a win over Poirier won’t get him there it will get him a damn sight closer.
Ranked #5 in the UFC official Featherweight rankings Dustin Poirier is a guy who has flirted with contention for a while but suffers from the fact that the likes of Aldo, Mendes, Swanson and Edgar are just so far ahead of the rest of the top 10 on paper. It was Swanson who handed Poirier his last defeat and did it so emphatically. Three consecutive wins have returned him to the top five and he knows that a win over McGregor could see him placed in a number one contenders match. With Ricardo Lamas engaged but Edgar and Swanson unmatched this is a real opportunity to jump a few places.
With the exception of his win over Max Holloway all of McGregor’s fights have ended inside the distance showing his preference for, and ability to deliver a finish. By contrast Poirier is the more rounded fighter showing a varied mix of winning ability and it must be said, achieved it at a far higher level than McGregor. Given the level of fighter to beat Poirier so far if this turns out to be a win for the Irishman then he proves that he is a little less talk and a little more the real deal. Prices are tight across the board in this to the point where McGregor outright, by KO or Under 1.5 rounds is unbackable. For a little value take a tickle on Notorious to win in the second.
Recommendation: Round Betting – Conor McGregor – Round 2 – 5/1 (+500) @ Unibet
Cerrone v Alvarez:
What a year it has been for Donald Cerrone; wins over Martins, Barboza and Miller and its still only September! He gets the chance to make it 4-0 in 2014 by taking on long time UFC target and debutant Eddie Alvarez. Originally scheduled to face off against Bobby Green he was given Alvarez when he was surprisingly released from Bellator. With Jones and Cormier being forced off the card this was the match to make and is one that could easily have headlined any Fight Night card in 2014. Cerrone sits on course to emulate his own performance from 2011 when he won four fights before coming unstuck against Nate Diaz. This is a more rounded Cerrone and a perfect year is very achievable.
Recent Bellator import Eddie Alvarez makes his long awaited debut for the UFC. Originally scheduled to sign almost two years ago he spent a year in litigation before reclaiming his belt from Michael Chandler in a Fight of the Year contender. Entering the UFC with an enormous reputation it remains to be seen how he performs against the best that the UFC has to offer. Sadly, Bellator imports have been known to struggle, most recently demonstrated by Hector Lombard who had to drop a division to reignite his career. If Alvarez is the real deal then this could be the most significant signing in the last five years.
I really don’t know where to go with my picks here. The bookmakers have these guys evenly matched with Cerrone narrowly shading favouritism due to his experience. Cerrone has dominated his weight class in two promotions only coming up short against challengers or champions. The same goes for Alvarez who also proved that a long spell on the sidelines did nothing for his performances. As he has been inactive since November 2013 he will have to prove that again against Cerrone. I am not sure that Alvarez has enough power or a submission game to force a stoppage whereas I think that Cerrone carries enough of both to do just that. As it is only over three rounds rather than five I’ll give the edge to Cowboy and give Alvarez enough credit to go the distance albeit narrowly losing.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Donald Cerrone by Decision – 4/1 (+400) @ Boylesports
Johnson v Cariaso:
Demetrious Johnson returns to the octagon for the fifth defence of his Flyweight title. Utterly dominant thus far he faces a new opponent as he looks to clear out his division. Since winning the belt in the 125lb tournament two years ago he has truly reinvented himself as a genuine champion rather than undersized Bantamweight. For his own sake it is a division that needs to develop some depth rather quickly to prevent him churning out rematch after rematch, He has already done this once by facing off against Benavidez, the second more emphatically than the first, and will most likely cross swords with Johns Moraga and Dodson in the near future. Until then, despite being a low PPV draw he will continue to go about his business undeterred.
It is an indictment of the state if the division that Chris Cariaso gets a title shot with a three fight streak. Those wins have come against relatively low level opponents who fail to make the top 15. With Cariaso himself ranked #9 there are at least three more appealing options than this.
This has the potential to be an absolute mismatch as Cariaso is out of his depth, on paper at least. Mighty Mouse carries the edge in every conceivable statistic and the bookies know it. Untouchable as a 1/16 favourite we are left to the round betting and method of victory for some value. I can’t touch rounds as Cariaso has never been anywhere near five rounds previously and it could be any one from five. Method of victory interests me as I feel comfortable in ruling out a decision leaving submission or knockout as the paths to victory. Submissions are always speculative and shouldn’t be relied on. Knockouts are easier to come by and Johnson may have just found his range after taking out Benavidez.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Demetrious Johnson by KO, TKO or DQ – 13/4 (+325) @ Unibet