The UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week for a monster card involving no less than seven fights on the main card.
Ronda Rousey steps into enemy territory for her latest title defence against Bethe Correia and the Nogueira brothers make a dual appearance. Although there are seven fights listed I’ll be passing on the TUF finals to focus on what should be some excellent remaining bouts. Let’s take a look at the odds provided by 5Dimes to see where we can find some value.
Gadelha v Aguilar:
The opening bout of the night sees the woman who many felt beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk go against the woman who is likely to be her next legitimate challenger at 115lbs. Claudia Gadelha lost a highly contentious split decision to the present Women’s champion, although it was a fight that the majority of the MMA media scored for the Brazilian. Until Jedrzejczyk manages to beat Gadelha cleanly then that spectre will always loom over the champion; with a solid win over Aguilar that rematch could happen sooner rather than later.
Jessica Aguilar took a huge gamble with her career to take this fight. Until recently she was the WSoF Women’s 115lb champion; however she successfully negotiated her release from the rival promotion to test her mettle in the UFC. It was a calculated gamble and one that could pay huge dividends should she impress in Brazil with the next challenger to Jedrzejczyk yet to be announced.
This is a tough fight to call as both are well matched and, in truth, I could make a case for either to win. Gadelha is a huge favourite and I think that these odds are false; while she probably did beat Jedrzejczyk she shouldn’t be opening up anywhere near a -440 favourite. In a serious case of ‘dog or pass’ I’ll be taking the newcomer at ridiculous odds.
Recommendation: Jessica Aguilar -1 unit at +350 (7/2) @ 5Dimes
Silva v Palelei:
One-time Heavyweight championship contender, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva makes his octagon return looking to banish the reminders of what has been a horrible two years. After working his way to a title shot he was demolished inside two minutes by Cain Velasquez, this was followed up in a Fight of the Year contender draw with Mark Hunt; a fight that was marred by a post-fight drug test. After a nine month ban he faced a resurgent Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir; both of those fights ended inside three minutes and the legend of Bigfoot was destroyed.
In a comic-book style matchup facing Bigfoot can only be ‘The Hulk’, Soa Palelei. Palelei has been making the best of his second chance in the UFC winning all bar one of his 5 fights. The loss was a poor display against Jared Rosholt; the wins were against promotional newcomers Nikita Krylov and Ruan Potts while also seeing off Pat Barry and Walt Harris.
When two men of this age meet then you don’t really expect fireworks, Hunt notwithstanding, but when they have cardio as poor as these two you can only hope that it ends quickly. Without the TRT Bigfoot looks a shadow of the man he was and his last two fights have proved this. His chin looks like it’s gone, and Palelei has fought at a lower level so it hasn’t really been tested. One for the ‘Unders’ please, preferably less than 1.5 rounds
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds -2 units at -170 (8/11) @ 5Dimes
Struve v Nogueira:
Standing at seven feet tall Stefan Struve is hard to miss in the octagon, so much so that he absorbed huge levels of punishment in his last two fights. Although both losses were split by a period of forced absence due to a heart condition the outcome was the same. Struve was exposed by the heavy hands of Mark Hunt, and the occasionally heavy hands of Alistair Overeem; the latter being a particularly poor and non-engaging fight. Once on the verge of title contention he now finds himself on the verge of relative obscurity.
Speaking of obscurity, while the name Nogueira will never be obscure the memory of him on the UFC roster has been. Big Nog hasn’t been seen since April 2014, which was a tough fight to watch as the veteran was repeatedly rocked and shaken by Roy Nelson. I thought then would have been the right time for the elder twin to bow out but most legends always have one more fight left in them and Big Nog is no different.
It is a critical fight for both fighters; Struve needs a win to avoid the dreaded three in a row as does Big Nog. Win, lose or draw this will be the end of the road for at least one combatant, if not both. I have Struve as the more likely winner but the big story should be Nogueira bowing out in front of an adoring crowd and leaving those battle worn gloves in the ring. Speaking of which…..
Recommendation: Stefan Struve -2 units at –165 (8/13) @ 5Dimes
Rua v Nogueira:
In a battle of the MMA legends, two Pride veterans meet in a rematch 10 years in the making. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua has long since relinquished the UFC Light Heavyweight belt and now gets called up to face the newcomers or veterans with name recognition. It would be fair to say that his tenure in the UFC hasn’t quite gone to plan; since beating Lyoto Machida for the belt he has gone 3-6 and time is rapidly running out.
Fighting on the same card as his brother for the first time since 2011 is the younger Nogueira twin, Little Nog. Nogueira hasn’t been seen on a UFC card in a year now, fighting only intermittently prior to that. His loss to Anthony Johnson was as brutal as it was devastating, like his brother it felt like a good time to say goodbye.
With a Brazilian legend facing another Brazilian legend in Brazil it makes sense that it is time for at least one to bow out gracefully. I have already picked Struve to overcome Big Nog and I will be taking Rua to get past Little Nog; if this happens I will expect both brothers to follow suit and leave their gloves in the ring, in front of their adoring fans. Although not as decorated as his bigger brother it has been an honour to watch Little Nog fighting in MMA and if his last action is to be knocked out by Shogun then so be it because that’s what I expect to happen.
Recommendation: Mauricio Rua -2 units at –190 (8/15) @ 5Dimes
Rousey v Correia:
Where to start with this one? Each time Ronda Rousey fights I need to come up with new and interesting ways of identifying her paths to victory. In reality it’s either by arm bar submission, or her new favourite, the knock out. En route to winning and then defending the title she hasn’t just beaten but completely dominated all comers. The truth is that there is nobody in this division that can even come close to her; you have to wonder how she will continue to motivate herself for these fights.
Bethe Correia faces the biggest test of her fledging career this weekend, and it’s one that very few people give her more than a minute to survive in. While unbeaten in her MMA career to date the list of names that she has faced are little more than an introduction to the sport, none of them remain in the UFC and it is difficult to build any type of pedigree here. In nine fights she has gone the distance in seven of them; this will not be an eighth.
This is a mismatch of epic proportions, so much so that the bookies are giving nothing away. They know that Rousey losing to Correia would be the biggest upset in MMA history and have priced outcomes accordingly. She is -1700 just to win, -190 to win by submission and +245 by knockout but the reality is that Ronda can win how she wants, when she wants. I am going to take the value play on Ronda by knockout; Correia has said some things to rile the champion and I have a feeling she will want to finish this with her fists rather than removing Correia’s arm.
Recommendation: Ronda Rousey Wins by KO/TKO -1 unit at +245 (5/2) @ 5Dimes
Its parlay time again, with little in the way of evenly matched fights it has been hard to locate some value on the undercard. I’ll be taking Hugo Viana at -380 (1/4), Clint Hester at -160 (8/13) and Iuri Alcantara at -255 (2/5) for a +186 (15/8) treble for a single unit.