I guess it was tempting fate getting into International Fight Week with no incident. Less than 72 hours from the event and one of the most anticipated fights of this, or any other year is gone.
Never mind the return of Brock Lesnar, never mind that another two title fights remain on the card, this shall forever be remembered for Jon Jones. I’ll not get too downbeat though as there is still money on the rest of the main card. As always, 5Dimes brings the odds and I’ll [hopefully] bring the winners.
Velasquez v Browne:
Can Velasquez returns from a year-long injury layoff this weekend, that hiatus being the return from a prior 18 month absence. It’s fair to say that Cain hasn’t been the most active fighter, particularly since winning the belt back in December 2012. There seems to be no part of his body that hasn’t been hurt in one way or another but that’s just how he performs; he fights hard and for as long as it takes to get the job done. He has never lost when fighting in Las Vegas, if anything he has saved his most impressive performances for the fight capital and the crowd will hope that they get to see the best again.
It wasn’t that long ago that Travis Browne was being hailed as the next legitimate challenger to Velasquez, putting together a winning streak that included wins over Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem and Gabriel Gonzaga. He lost an eliminator to Werdum and has alternated wins and losses ever since. In his current position he is treading water while those around him are wading forward.
The outcome of this fight will depend on the version of Cain that shows up. If it is Cardio Cain who literally demolished JDS twice then there is only one outcome. However, if it’s the soft, out of shape and broken version of Cain who lost to Fabricio Werdum in Mexico City then Browne could take the biggest win of his career. I’ve seen Cain as his best and there is no better Heavyweight in the world on that form. Even if he doesn’t reach those heights he should have enough to power through Browne.
Recommendation: Cain Velasquez – 3 units at -290 (7/20) @ 5Dimes
Aldo v Edgar:
The finish of UFC 194, where Jose Aldo was knocked out in just 13 seconds to lose his 145lb title sent shockwaves through the MMA world, as well as the mainstream media. While the victor has gone on to other endeavours Jose Aldo has been left to pick up the pieces, taking six months to do so. When he steps into the octagon this weekend it will be the first time in seven years that he does so without a belt around his waist. The man who went 18-0, in a run that spanned the end of the WEC and his entire spell in the UFC, goes back to square one and is still in the prime of his life so another similar run is certainly not out of the question.
There are few fighters who are as durable and entertaining as Frankie Edgar. Edgar is the king of the slow start and fast finish as he has demonstrated on numerous occasions. Against Gray Maynard he was beaten twice, almost to the point of stoppage but he came back to secure a draw and a win. A three fight skid followed, including a defeat to Jose Aldo that welcomed him into the 145lb division after a career spent at 155. Frankie is a phenomenal fighter who will fight to the very last bell and it may take that long to secure the win against him.
In the previous fight many felt that Edgar had given Aldo his toughest defence by some way, with some viewing the fight as a win for the New Yorker. He isn’t the type of fighter who will usually finish fights early which could play into the game plan of Aldo. Aldo learned his lesson by rushing into a left cross from Conor and should be a little cagier here. I’m picking Edgar to win by narrow decision to set up a unification bout with McGregor.
Recommendation: Frankie Edgar – 2 units at -115 (9/10) @ 5Dimes
Tate v Nunes:
Miesha Tate is arguably the biggest beneficiary of Ronda Rousey’s prolonged absence from the UFC. Tate had two previous losses to the former champion, one when she lost her Strikeforce title and another in the UFC. It essentially meant that she was on the sidelines until the UFC granted a rare rubber match, or Rousey was dethroned. Enter stage left, Holly Holm, who blew apart the division. Tate struggled for the early rounds against Holm and was clearly down on the scorecards before ‘Cupcake’ took her back and squeezed for dear life before she went out and Tate became the champion. Now there will be a rubber match, if indeed Rousey ever returns, Tate just has to get through Nunes first.
Amanda Nunes has elevated herself to the role of title challenger off the back of wins over Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann and Valentina Shevchenko. In a top ten left in a state of flux after two title changes inside eight months it would be hard to argue against the Brazilian being next in line. In many respects she flattered to deceive against Shevchenko but was brutal and dominant in wins over McMann and Baszler.
Tate is a notoriously bad starter while Nunes has a habit of running out of gas as the fight ends; therefore this either ends with an early Nunes win, or a late Tate victory. Nunes has never gone anywhere near five rounds in her career, and given that she gasses in the third this feels about as good a place to look for a bet. Tate has the better conditioning and if she plays it smart then she takes aim at rounds 3-5.
Recommendation: Over 1.5 Rounds – 3 units at -235 (4/9) @ 5Dimes
Lesnar v Hunt:
Brock Lesnar’s return to the UFC has been much lauded in MMA and professional wrestling circles that the only way the news of his return could be improved would be if they also called out Paul Heyman rather than Bruce Buffer to introduce him. Brock is an enigma of the sport, one who came in on the crest of a wave, shook up the division and left after a debilitating illness seemingly robbed us of his best years. It may just be for one night only but its sure good to be welcoming the big man back. Given the PPV numbers he will add I can’t honestly say who will be happier for his return.
Mark Hunt is one of the biggest fan favourites in the entire promotion; the heavy hitting Antipodean brings a fan friendly fighting style and devastating knock out power. Despite being 41 he has a new deal that has recently been signed and this weekend he has his most high profile fight to date. Age is nothing but a number and as the average age of the UFC heavyweight slowly increases so do the chances of this man finally getting a bonafide title shot.
It was expected that Brock would be given a supremely winnable fight but that hasn’t proven to be the case. One of two things will happen to dictate the outcome; either Brock will put Hunt on his back and keep him there until he can finish with ground n’ pound or Hunt stuffs the takedown and puts a hurting on Brock. Brock doesn’t like getting hit and that is Hunts favourite pastime. Five years is a long time to be inactive in combat sports and that chin isn’t improving with age. I’m taking Hunt by brutal TKO.
Recommendation: Hunt wins by TKO/KO – 2 units at -130 (4/5) @ 5Dimes