With a two week MMA break the UFC returns to Dallas, Texas for the ridiculously stacked UFC 185. The UFC continues the 2015 trend of double booking title fights for numbered cards and long may this continue. Some big names are wheeled out this week, some of them seemingly not justifying the faith that the bookmakers invested in them. Let’s have a look at the odds provided by 5Dimes to see what stands out.
Cariaso v Cejudo:
Time moves pretty fast in the UFC. Just six months ago Chris Cariaso was riding a three fight winning streak and about to fight Demetrious Johnson for the Flyweight belt. A submission loss later and he is opening the main card. A win here and he is back in contention whereas a further loss could push him back to the prelims. It’s a tough life.
Henry Cejudo is looking to build upon an impressive debut victory over Dustin Kimura. He is a former Olympian with a highly developed and technical skillset, although that counts for little when you struggle to make your contracted weight. He has used up at least one favour with the matchmakers and given the weight issues of his fellow Flyweights another issue this weekend may see him sent packing back to Bantamweight.
When comparing apples to apples then Cejudo wins all day long. If he brings his ‘A’ game then his hand gets raised comfortably. But a bad weight cut and he comes in hazy, a little dehydrated perhaps and sluggish, thus handing the advantage to Cariaso. While I think a fully prepared Cejudo wins with consummate ease I cannot ignore odds of 4/1 on a veteran and proven octagon performer, I just can’t, so will be taking a flyer on the veteran.
Recommendation: Chris Cariaso +440 (7/2) @ 5Dimes
Nelson v Overeem:
Roy Nelson looks to turn around an alarming slump in form when he faces Alistair Overeem this weekend. Nelson has dropped three of his last four, only winning against Nogueira in Abu Dhabi in a match best remembered for its one-sidedness. Inconclusive must be the report card from the TUF graduate as he demonstrates time and time again that the elite dominate him, while he dominates the level below.
Alistair Overeem is an MMA legend. I could write forever about his numerous titles in various promotions, the calibre of fighters he has faced and what he has done to them. But I won’t. Barring a poor win over Frank Mir and a good win over a poor Brock Lesnar he just hasn’t performed. The arrogant strut as he makes his entrance only serves to deceive the fragility that lies beneath, especially when the going gets tough.
While obvious that Overeem is the better fighter on paper, and certainly proven throughout a highly decorated career, the oddsmakers have this one priced up so wrong. Nelson has a haymaker in his pocket and a granite chin while Overeem has a jaw made of such brittle glass that it makes him one of the biggest busts in MMA history. If Nelson connects then it’s all over and for that reason I am taking the underdog. Odds of nearly two to one in an evenly matched fight always need to be bet, even if you don’t like it because the value says you must.
Recommendation: Roy Nelson +175 (7/4) @ 5Dimes
Hendricks v Brown:
For the first time in almost 18 months Johny Hendricks finds himself fighting outside of the main event, and not in a title fight. Alternating losses and wins in his last three has seen him win the vacant belt only to drop it in his first defence. If the photos on social media are true then he looks to be taking this very seriously and is in the best shape of his life.
With his most recent loss coming to the current champion Matt Brown now gets to test himself, and his ranking position, against the former champ. That title eliminator loss to Robbie Lawler snapped a seven fight streak but did little to harm his credentials and a fight with Hendricks gives him another chance to earn a crack at the belt.
Hendricks can count himself to be unfortunate losing a razor thin decision to Lawler. The fact that he held the belt at all puts him amongst the elite, choosing to stay active rather than taking a promised title shot being a huge gamble that was his to take. Brown has sewn up a lot of the holes in his game and remains as durable as anyone else at 170. I side with the former champion because we all know what happens when elite meets merely pretty good. Hendricks hasn’t delivered on his knockout power recently and I doubt he will do it here. Over three rounds and in the best shape of his career sees a decision win for Johny.
Recommendation: Hendricks wins by 3 round decision +100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes
Esparza v Jedrzejczyk:
From almost nowhere Carla Esparza, the quiet one of the house, came through to beat not one, but two highly fancied rivals to take the TUF crown and with it, the inaugural Women’s Strawweight Title. The win shouldn’t really have come as a surprise as she had already faced, beating in the process, two of her housemates in Felice Herrig and Bec Rawlings in rival promotions. As the champion she loses that feeling out process that TUF winners usually get, she has a large target on her back now.
Polish import Joanna Jedrzejczyk makes her third appearance in the UFC and only the eighth of a fledgling career. With wins over Juliana Carneiro and Claudia Gadelha under MMAs top promotion she also holds a knockout win over Rosi Sexton, a bout that actually prompted the British veteran to call it a day as a fighter.
As this is a first defence it is impossible to gauge just how much potential Esparza has or indeed how dominant a champion she could be. We frequently see TUF winners disappear without trace when back in the real world but a champion can’t hide. Jedrzrejczk, while unbeaten, isn’t known as a finisher and most of her wins have been by decision, although it is not inconceivable that she spends 15 minutes lighting up her opponent. Esparza however has a very slick ground game and this fight should give plenty of opportunities to demonstrate this, possibly nicking a submission late on.
Recommendation: Esparza wins by submission +594 (6/1) @ 5Dimes
Pettis v Dos Anjos:
Anthony Pettis is a fighter who truly lives up to his nickname. After losing to Clay Guida, then taking a split decision over Jeremy Stephens he found himself in the shadow of Benson Henderson who transitioned seamlessly from the WEC. From there ‘Showtime’ took over and consecutive first round finishes over Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone and Henderson himself, in addition to a second round finish of Gil Melendez propelled him to the forefront. During that run he spent 16 months on the sidelines and unable defend his belt he now fights twice in four months. For Pettis that is as regular as we have ever seen or are ever likely to see. For me this fight and his subsequent reappearance can’t come quickly enough.
When knocking out Benson Henderson I didn’t think that performances could actually get better for Rafael dos Anjos but I was wrong. While it may have been the first fight after a lengthy absence nobody could have expected dos Anjos to dominate Nate Diaz as he did. A blip against Khabib Nurmagomedov aside it has been a great few years for the Brazilian, winning eight of nine and taking out the likes of Donald Cerrone along the way. A title shot is the reward and he becomes the latest fighter to try and solve the Pettis puzzle.
It’s fair to say that without an injury to Nurmagomedov then dos Anjos wouldn’t be in this position; however that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it. The problem is that he is fighting a Phenom, someone so talented that the rest if MMA can just sit back and watch. Despite the occasional hiccup becoming the first man to tap both Benson Henderson and Gil Melendez carries a badge of honour worthy of a champion. I have previously picked Pettis to win by decision and got my fingers burned. It takes a lot to stop dos Anjos, the same was said of Pettis’ previous two opponents, go ask them how that sounds now. Pettis inside five rounds is the pick.
Recommendation: Pettis wins inside the distance -139 (2/5) @ 5Dimes