As 2017 winds to a close the UFC heads to the Motor City, Detroit for the penultimate PPV card of the year.
In an event that will put the exclamation point on the latest TUF series as well as identify the next Heavyweight challenger, it is headlined by a rubber match between the current and former champions at 145lbs. I’ve picked my top 3 fights on the card and given my thoughts with 5Dimes, as always, providing the odds.
Gaethje v Alvarez:
Former WSoF lightweight kingpin, Justin Gaethje certainly does his best to live up to his nickname of ‘The Highlight, as he goes all out to finish his opponent before celebrating with a moonsault from the top of the cage. His promotional debut was a Fight of the Year contender as Gaethje recovered from being rocked to finishing Michael Johnson in the second round. A win this weekend puts him at 19-0 and in line for a title eliminator against Dustin Poirier.
Former Bellator and UFC lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez looks to reclimb the mountain he was topped from by Conor McGregor. Although he entered the bout as the title holder, he was outgunned from the opening bell and it was a matter of time before the finish came. A few months out to regroup and Alvarez was involved in a No Contest with Dustin Poirier, it’s a fight that Poirier believed was his for the taking and will be keen to get it re-run.
I find it almost inconceivable that this fight goes the distance. Alvarez was finished inside two rounds against McGregor, and Gaethje has a fan friendly style that sees him take a lot of punishment, something that Johnson briefly threatened to capitalise on. If it goes the distance then it would well be the Fight of the Year, but I think that chins have been weakened enough over time to see a well-timed punch end this midway through the second round.
Recommendation: Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision – 2 units at -175 (4/7) @ 5Dimes
Overeem v Ngannou:
Alistair Overeem will eventually make the Hall of Fame, and when the curtain comes down on his career he will be recognised as one of the most successful fighters of all time, even if not mentioned in GOAT discussions. Until moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico and training with Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn he was a little too arrogant and relaxed in his approach to MMA and it left gaping holes in his defence, namely his chin. Three losses in four fights, all by KO/TKO saw his career in jeopardy but he has recovered well and remains in the hunt for the gold to complete his collection.
French behemoth, Francis Ngannou looks to extend his winning streak to 10, six of which would have come under the UFC. He is a monster of a man who rarely needs more than a round to get the job done and dismantled the reanimated corpse of Andrei Arlovski in January of this year. While Arlovski was at the tail end of a horrendous run he was enough of a name to propel Ngannou up a few tiers. The jury is still out against a prime fighter though.
This is a fight that will dictate the future of the Heavyweight division in the immediate, and foreseeable future. At 31 Ngannou is one of the younger fighters in the division and with only 11 fights before Saturday he is also one of the least battle worn. If he makes his bones with Overeem, then a title shot looms and he is young enough to reign supreme for a long time. On the flip side, Overeem is nearing the end of a spectacular and highly decorated career. He has a decisive loss to Miocic already but may be granted a further opportunity due to beating Fabricio Werdum. Jackson Wink have devised game plans to shield Overeems chin, and I’m not buying the hype on Ngannou so a small play on experience is called for.
Recommendation: Alistair Overeem – 1 unit at 210 (21/10) @ 5Dimes
Holloway v Aldo:
In the first defence since winning the belt outright, Max Holloway is hoping for lucky 13 in Chicago. It will mark the 22nd fight of his career for a man who, at 25, has already beaten more than half of the top 10 in his division. His last loss was to Conor McGregor but since then he has evolved beyond all expectations. As a fighter he gets stronger, as a martial artist he is more patient and yet aggressive than he has ever been. He has been fighting professionally since 18 and he shows no signs of damage in the ring. He beat Aldo once, if he beats him again there is little that could stop him from becoming one of the true greats at 145lbs.
At one stage in his career Jose Aldo was the only 145lb champion that the UFC had ever seen. In addition, he had been unbeaten for 10 years as he dominated all opponents in the UFC and, prior the WEC. As seems to be a recurring theme through this event, he was humiliated by Conor McGregor in 13 seconds. It was a defeat that looked to have shattered the aura of invincibility. It returned, albeit briefly as he put in a virtuoso performance against Frankie Edgar before getting finished by Max Holloway in a title unification match. Aldo has been known to fell redwoods with his leg kicks, against Holloway he didn’t manage to throw more than one.
The decisive outcome in the previous meeting made an immediate rematch extremely unlikely, and this was true until an injury to Frankie Edgar saw the main event placed into doubt. With the top fighters all booked for other fights it was Aldo who stepped up to try and right the wrongs of UFC 212. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this fight ends any differently if it is run another ten times, Holloway has improved exponentially as a fighter and is clearly the big dog at 145lbs. His cardio improves in the later rounds where Aldo is known to gas a little. Max ends this inside the distance, most likely by KO.
Recommendation: Holloway wins by TKO/KO – 2 units at -110 (10/11) @ 5Dimes