The UFC heads to Houston, Texas for the third card of the year. Superbowl weekend usually brings with it a numbered PPV card, stacked with talent but this year appears to be an exception.
In Denver, Colorado last week there were a few eyebrows raised, but overall the card was nothing stellar, this is the third opportunity of the year to put on a show that is truly special and get 2017 moving in the sport of MMA.
I’ve picked out the top three fights on the main card and given you my thoughts, 5Dimes, as always, provides the odds.
Vick v Trujillo:
With a record of 9-0 James Vick was a fighter who was earmarked for big things in the UFC. As a competitor on season 15 of TUF he succumbed to eventual winner, Michael Chiesa, at the semi-final stage. Until UFC199 that was the only reverse in Vicks short, but successful career. As a heavy favourite against Beneil Dariush he came up short on the wrong end of a first round KO when he came out with his hands low and a pair of overhand lefts put the lights out.
Abel Trujillo is a UFC veteran who is looking to improve an already impressive standing at 155lbs. A veteran of nine fights in the UFC he has experienced just two losses, to UFC 209 opponents Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both are fighters with an excellent pedigree and are ranked #2 and #3 in the world so losses are no embarrassment. Trujillo is a man with truly bad intentions in the fight game and is a step up for any opponent, the biggest question mark over him is not due to ability but how the breakup of the Blackzilians has affected his training camp.
Both fighters have been on a real tear but I can’t help but reflect on the Vick loss as I try to decide whether it was due to timing, bad luck or an exposure of weakness that caused the upset. Dariush can hit, but not with the power that Trujillo possesses and it wouldn’t take more than one to finish this fight. I am siding with Trujillo in an absolute pick ‘em fight, per the bookies at least, but I make him a more than slight favourite.
Recommendation: Abel Trujillo – 2 units at -110 (5/6) @ 5Dimes
Grasso v Herrig:
Rising star Alexa Grasso steps into the cage for the 10th time in her professional career, and the second for the UFC. In her only outing for the promotion to date she comfortably outpointed Heather Clark to set her up for a step up in class against the vastly experienced Herrig. Grasso hails from Guadalajara, Mexico and the UFC will be banking on her regional appeal when they inevitably return to Mexico later in 2017. A solid performance against Herrig and she may even sneak a title shot and a chance to co main or main event Mexico City.
Felice Herrig is one of the most experienced and recognisable fighters in Women’s MMA today. She may have entered the company via the TUF house but she has arguably earned her place regardless through her experience in Bellator and Invicta. Due to her experience, she has been given a rougher introduction than many of her counterparts and has faced a higher level of opponent than some of her former housemates.
I favour Grasso in this matchup but she is the recipient of some horrible booking by the UFC. It is clear that she appeals to the masses and has the potential to be a flagship fighter for Mexico, so I don’t understand why she is thrown into co-main event territory for just her second promotional fight. This is an area where the UFC should be slowly building stars and working them up the card, not debuting them on the main card of the Latin America version of TUF and then supporting the main event.
Recommendation: Alexa Grasso – 3 units at -300 (1/3) @ 5Dimes
Bermudez v Jung:
While riding on the wave of a 7-0 streak TUF runner up, Dennis Bermudez, had risen to the heady heights of #5 in the rankings at 135lbs and was being touted as a serious contender to then-champion, Jose Aldo. Those were the pre-McGregor days and during the time the feisty Irishman arrived on the UFC shores Bermudez hit the skids for two fights. Those losses, against Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens pushed him to the outskirts of the top ten at Featherweight, rising only again with a pair of laborious decision wins. This is main event time, Superbowl weekend and a win here could vault him back into contention.
Chan Sung Jung, or the ‘Korean Zombie’ as he is better known has been on enforced hiatus for the past three years due to military service in his native South Korea. It really couldn’t have come at a worse time as Jung had been on the receiving end of a loss to Aldo in his only world title fight to date. While Aldo secured the win, it was by far a mismatch and Jung held his own for portions of the fight, his own shoulder being his eventual downfall.
Whenever there is any inactivity on the part of a fighter I am tempted to fade him in the betting. There is ring rust, desire and conditioning to consider and it would typically have an adverse effect on the athlete in question. However, when that inactivity is due to military service then that’s a different thing altogether as fitness levels will need to be kept as high as someone actively competing in MMA. Bermudez is a warm favourite but I’m going to make a small play on the Zombie for a returning victory.
Recommendation: Chan Sung Jung – 2 units at +170 (17/10) @ 5Dimes