London is now consigned to the history books, as is that epic main event. From the O2 in London to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas we go for UFC 196.
Devastation at the loss of 155lb kingpin Rafael dos Anjos was turned into jubilation at the booking of Nate Diaz in what is now a fun grudge match. As always, I’ll be providing my thoughts along with 5Dimes providing you with the odds.
Nunes v Shevchenko:
Amanda Nunes looks to continue her impressive surge toward a title shot in the Women’s Bantamweight division. Already ranked #4 she has only Rousey, Tate and Zingano ahead of her, with Zingano handing her a loss on her return after a period away due to personal issues. An impressive first round win over an ageing Shayna Baszler and a more impressive submission over Sara McMann has put Nunes within touching distance. A win over newcomer Shevchenko and she could be next in line for the title if Ronda encounters any delays in her comeback.
A debut win, albeit by split decision has propelled Valentia Shevchenko into the top ten of the Women’s 135lb division. While impressive in execution it demonstrates the lack of depth at this weight class when one win makes you top ten. If a win can be secured over Nunes then Shevchenko is inside the top five and suddenly very relevant.
Shevchenko won her last fight as a late notice replacement and still beat a highly respected name in the division. With the benefit of a full camp who knows what she could be capable of and that’s exactly what she will need against a potential monster like Nunes. The Brazilian has the punching power to finish anyone inside the distance and going against a Muay Thai specialist this could be explosive. I picked Shevchenko last time out and I won’t be changing this time either as the underdog has some huge upside at a decent price.
Recommendation: Valentina Shevchenko – 2 units at +100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes
Anderson v Lawlor:
As the winner of the Ultimate Fighter Series 19 big things have been expected from Corey Anderson from the off. Entering the house with an unbeaten record he only surrendered this to Gian Villante in an upset. Comeback wins over Jan Blachowicz and Fabio Maldonado have positioned him again for a crack at the top ten.
Tom Lawlor, ‘Filthy’ if you will – but just don’t call him Thomas – puts a two fight streak on the line that extends back almost three years. Prior to his last appearance in July 2015 Lawlor had been out of the octagon since April 2013 due to injury and has been robbed of some of his prime fighting years in the process.
As a wrestler with solid BJJ things are looking very good for Anderson; if for no other reason than Lawlor struggles against this skill set. Lawlor’s last three losses have come against Chris Weidman, Aaron Simpson and Francis Carmont; all of whom are ether accomplished wrestlers, BJJ artists or train with them. The massive edge goes to Anderson and he is a decent price to win this inside the distance.
Recommendation: Anderson wins inside distance – 1 unit at +335 (10/3) @ 5Dimes
Villante v Latifi:
With the collapse of Strikeforce, prospect Gian Villante made the jump to the UFC and was immediately matched against an old roster mate in OSP. Saint Preux took a technical decision handing Villante his fourth career loss and the first since a 1-3 spell the previous year. Further losses to Tom Lawlor and Fabio Maldonado have fully removed the prospect tag and he finds himself of the periphery of the top 15 in a fairly deep talent pool.
Ilir Latifi landed in the UFC as an extremely late notice replacement for Alex Gustafsson facing Gegard Mousasi in Sweden. Latifi did about as well as expected and was rewarded with a contract that he has grasped with both hands. Although losing to Mousasi he has rattled off wins over Chris Dempsey, Cyrille Diabate, Hans Stringer and Sean O’Connell; all of them in the first round. His only defeat since Mousasi was against Jan Blachowicz in Poland, again inside the opening round.
Both of these guys can hit hard and take a punch. Latifi has a record where he rarely gets out of the first round and, although taken the distance against Maldonado, Villante also has his fair share of early finishes. The first real punch landed will set the scene here and it will come as no shock to see it finish inside the halfway point.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at -105 (20/21) @ 5Dimes
Holm v Tate:
Holly Holm makes the second biggest appearance in her fledging UFC career this weekend. Her biggest appearance and by proxy, achievement, came when she shocked the watching world by dethroning the previously impervious Ronda Rousey in Melbourne, Australia and taking home the Women’s Bantamweight belt with her. Holm executed the perfect game plan against Rousey and had the fight won from the opening exchanges and consequently it was no shock that it ended when it did.
If there was one person more delighted than Holly Holm about Rousey losing her title then it was Miesha Tate. With two losses to the former champion, one in the UFC and one in Strikeforce, Tate found herself on the fringes of title contention. Previously promised the shot that Holm was given Tate was aware that rubber matches don’t really happen in MMA, not when there is a belt at stake and not when you are 0-2 against the current incumbent.
A friend once advised me that the UFC just don’t learn from their mistakes and that he “would blind back Anne Widdecombe in a bout with Holm because dumb things happen”. What I think he was trying to say was that Holm v Rousey II is the money fight and why jeopardise that with a risky defence beforehand. Rousey taking a year out has forced their hand but it shouldn’t change the outcome. Holm has the best striking in the division and at Jacksons has the best camp. Tate can take some punishment but this should be a more relaxed and more risk adverse Holly Holm who retains her title, most likely inside the distance.
Recommendation: Fight won’t go 5 round distance – 2 units at -145 (7/10) @ 5Dimes
McGregor v Diaz:
Once again the MMA gods deny us the opportunity to see a fully hyped and booked Conor McGregor fight. First it was Andy Ogle, then Cole Miller, then Jose Aldo and now Rafael dos Anjos. The UFCs new license to print money has been unlucky with his advertised fights and we have been forced into lesser bouts in the preceding days before an event. It was supposed to be the fight where Conor picked up the 155lb belt to go with his 145lb strap and making history in the process. With the injury to RDA the frenzy began with Cerrone, Pettis and Nate Diaz.
The golden ticket went to Diaz. Not for his fighting style, or his legendary performances inside the octagon but his ability to talk almost as much trash as the Irishman. Nate has spent a while outside of the octagon, at one point flirting with leaving as the disputes over brother Nick heated up. Diaz returned with a very impressive win over Michael Johnson earlier this year to make himself relevant again.
Many are talking about this being a tough test for Conor, how jumping two weight classes will be far too much for him and this may all be true, but he is fighting an opponent that is not in the elite classes. Diaz has never held a belt and is never likely to, if MMA divisions were tiered then Diaz is probably third tier at best. Conor will be able to dance around Diaz, almost striking at will. As long as he uses his far superior fight IQ to good effect then I fully expect him to stop the Stockton native inside the distance. If this happens then the fight won’t even be close.
Recommendation: McGregor wins inside distance – 3 units at -300 (1/3) @ 5Dimes