Barely a week goes by without the UFC being embroiled in some form of controversy. This week it was the turn of Lyoto Machida to scupper another co-main event from an entertaining card.
A week ago this card was pretty strong, now it’s diluted dramatically but as the Croatia card proved there are always opportunities to make some money. I’ll be giving you my opinions and 5Dimes will help me out with the odds.
Nurmagomedov v Horcher:
With more potential comebacks than a yo-yo you’ll need to forgive my pessimism over Khabib Nurmagomedov until I see him enter the octagon on Saturday night. Unbeaten in 22 fights Nurmagomedov has manhandled all he has faced, including a dominant performance over the now-Champion, Rafael dos Anjos. That fight was his last, almost two years to the day and landscape of the 155lb division has changed irreparably since then. When fit Khabib is, and probably will be for some time to come, the most legitimate challenger for the belt in the division.
UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher is tasked with the unenviable job of welcoming the returning Nurmagomedov. Like a sacrificial lamb, Horcher was called up for his promotional debut following the loss of Tony Ferguson from the card. Previous appearances for Bellator and three consecutive headliner appearances for Cage Fury indicate that Horcher may not be as exposed as many think and, besides, this is the year of the underdog after all.
Unfortunately for Horcher I am not one of those who is buying into any of the underdog myths. Horcher is overmatched against an elite level opponent and I expect this to be evident from the opening stanza. Khabib was supposed to be fighting in a number one contender match; instead he gets a tune up fight. The Dagestani wins this comfortably and will no doubt be the first man to finish Horcher as well as securing his first finish in the UFC since ending Thiago Tavares three years ago.
Recommendation: Under 2.5 Rounds – 2 units at +105 (21/20) @ 5Dimes
Namajunas v Torres:
Rose Namajunas makes her first appearance in the octagon since brutally derailing the Paige VanZant hype train at the TUF finale in December. Namajunas opened as a reasonable underdog in that fight and performed like anything but. She absolutely dominated Paige for four rounds before securing the tap in the fifth. It was the sort of performance that you would expect to see from a fighter ranked four places higher than her opponent.
Tecia Torres already holds a win over Namajunas from their days fighting under the Invicta banner. Unbeaten as a professional she has also seen off fellow UFC straw weights in Angela Magana, Felice Herrig and is the only other fighter to top VanZant. She came up short in the TUF house, losing to eventual winner Carla Esparza in a second chance opportunity as an injury replacement.
Although Namajunas will open as the betting favourite it is Torres who is the more rounded fighter and is very much a live dog. She has never been finished, similarly she has also never finished a fight so the ‘overs’ is always a consideration but the odds are poor. The value play is Torres outright though and she could very well be the big winner in the race to the championship. It’s no guarantee that she will win but I’d rather be on this side of the bet than the other.
Recommendation: Tecia Torres – 2 units at +200 (2/1) @ 5Dimes
Teixeira v Evans:
Continuing the theme of the card, and indeed 2016 in general, this is a main event with an injury replacement as Glover Teixeira fills in for an injured Shogun Rua. Teixeira failed in a title shot against Jon Jones to encounter his first loss in nine years and snap a 20 fight win streak in the process. That loss was followed up with another to Phil Davis which cast dispersions on the legitimacy of his unbeaten streak.
The newer viewer will be forgiven for wondering why one of the Fox Sports presenters is fighting in the octagon but it’s been so long since Rashad Evans was in regular competition that it is easy missed. Suga fell short in his comeback fight against Ryan Bader but given he had been benched for two years it is forgiven. What will be interesting to see is how he can perform against another legitimate ranked fighter; a win and he is back in the game but a loss must surely signal the end of the road.
Glover certainly has the power in his hands to finish this on the feet, but in Evans he has an opponent that is extremely difficult to put away. Evans has been stopped just once in his career, an unfortunate knock out at the hands of Lyoto Machida; all other losses have been at the hands of the judges. Teixeira is a massive favourite here and on balance its probably correct but he has been known to have difficulties against high level wrestlers. Jon Jones and Phil Davis beat him and he was almost knocked out by Ryan Bader before he got reckless himself so it could be tougher than expected. If it were three rounds then I’d be betting it to go the distance, as it’s five I’m not so sure. I’ll make a small play on over 3.5 to hedge myself.
Recommendation: Over 3.5 Rounds – 2 units at -135 (3/4) @ 5Dimes