UFC 200 is now in the history books and is visible only in the rear view mirror. It wasn’t the stellar card that we all wanted and there has been controversy since but that’s MMA for you.
The card for UFC 201 isn’t as stacked but it does contain some legit fighters, none more so that in the co-main and main events. I’ve broken down the top three fights on the card and 5Dimes have provided me with the odds.
Brown v Ellenberger:
Matt Brown is the type of fighter who fans love to watch. He is almost never in a boring fight and he brings it every time. Like his opponent on Saturday night Brown hasn’t been at his best of late and needs a win to sustain his career and relevant in the 170lb division.
Once a fighter on the verge of title contention there have been falls from grace and then there has been Jake Ellenberger. Ellenberger lost in a fight with Martin Kampmann that could have seen him in an eliminator, that was four years ago and he has racked up just three wins since, going 3-6 along the way, and is now 1-5 in his last six. Ellenberger must have really upset Joe Silva somewhere along the line.
As veteran fights go this is one that could hang on the smallest details. Ellenberger is an almost perfect match for Brown but has shown himself to be extremely gun shy in the last few years, almost afraid to pull the trigger. That hesitation has proven costly and I don’t see Brown giving him much in the way of opportunity. Expect Brown to swarm on Ellenberger early and as long as he keeps his chin down and his hands up ‘The Immortal’ wins comfortably inside the distance.
Recommendation: Brown wins inside distance – 2 units at -160 (5/8) @ 5Dimes
Namajunas v Kowalkiewicz:
Rose Namajunas is slowly making her mark in the women’s division. After a disappointing show at the TUF Finale ‘Thug’ has dusted herself off and taken convincing wins over three of the top contenders at 115lbs. The manner in which she dominated Paige VanZant is still a talking point given how highly her opponent was considered. A win here and Namajunas is in line for a title shot. Careful what you wish for Rose.
Undefeated Polish import Karolina Kowalkiewicz is now 2-0 in the UFC and 9-0 in her career. The last two performances being impressive wins over Randa Markos and Heather Clark and, say it quietly, the UFC must be smacking their chops at an all-Polish championship match between Kowalkiewicz and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, preferably in Poland. Joanna already holds an amateur win over Karolina so revenge is the order of the day.
Its a really tough fight to call, Rose has improved immeasurably since her TUF experience, and although Kowalkiewicz hasn’t really been tested yet this could be a career defining fight for her. Personally I think the odds on Karolina are far too big and so a small play on her is recommended.
Recommendation: Karolina Kowalkiewicz – 2 units at +195 (2/1) @ 5Dimes
Lawler v Woodley:
2014 Fighters Only ‘Fighter of the Year’ winner Robbie Lawler makes the third defence of the title that he took from Johny Hendricks in controversial circumstances. In winning the belt Lawler avenged a previous loss to Hendricks, a record that he maintains to this very day. Subsequent defences against Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald have only served to whet the appetite further and Lawler on a PPV is always dynamite as both combatants always bring it.
Tyron Woodley is a man who has propelled himself into a title shot in the most unusual of circumstances. To be fair he has beaten Carlos Condit and Kelvin Gastelum along the way, but it was the cancelled fight against Johny Hendricks, where Hendricks was hospitalised, that secured the title shot; and he didn’t even need to put on a glove. Nonetheless, its not an undeserved shot although many fans would rather see another Lawler rematch, this time against Carlos Condit. Woodley is a dangerous fighter with excellent striking and he starts fast, making him the antithesis to the notoriously cagey Lawler.
Ordinarily I’d be all over Robbie Lawler. Since winning the belt he has been almost unbeatable. Fair enough, he has come from behind on at least one occasion, but he did what he needed to do. Woodley represents an interesting proposition though as his out of the blocks style contrasts with Lawler’s tentative starts. I’m going to take an unusual route here and hedge both outcomes. On one hand I think that Lawler will finish the fight inside the distance. However, on the other hand I’ll be having a small saver on Woodley in the opening round. Miocic, Bisping, Alvarez & Nunes have all shown in 2016 that a fast starting challenger is as dangerous as a dominant champion.
Recommendation: Robbie Lawler wins inside distance – 3 units at +136 (11/8) @ 5Dimes
Recommendation: Tyron Woodley in Round One – 1 unit at +500 (5/1) @ 5Dimes