Its Red Panty Night in the home of fighting, Las Vegas, this weekend as the inimitable Conor McGregor makes his long-awaited return. All talk of dolly-gate now needs to go on hold.
 

As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
 

Ferguson v Pettis:

 

Since emerging victorious from TUF 13 Tony Ferguson has barely missed a beat. I say barely as he came up short against Michael Johnson, but that aside he has proven himself as a destructive force. Stylistically, he matches up to anyone and his 10-0 streak only emphasises this. In another universe it may have been Ferguson fighting in the main event against McGregor, but he was forced out of his title shot earlier this year with a knee injury. Its just one of four times that the planned matchup failed to make it to fight day.

 

When he makes it to fight day, he brings it. Prior to the Kevin Lee fight he had secured 5 consecutive performance bonuses, but it was this fight that saw the quest for gold realised. It was interim of course, but it was also fleeting as he was stripped when injury curtailed his most recent tête-à-tête with Khabib.

 

At one stage of my MMA viewing experience there was nobody better at 155lbs than Anthony Pettis. The hardcore will remember him for the ‘Showtime’ kick in the WEC, where the promotion folded with him as their last champion, many new to the sport view him differently.

 

This version of Anthony Pettis has gone 3-5 in his last 8, starting with a rag dolling at the hands of dos Anjos at UFC 185. While he did secure a win over Michael Chiesa last time out, a back to back win is something that he hasn’t achieved in almost four years now. A brief sojourn at 145lbs proved fruitless and he returned to Lightweight. Massive question marks hang over his head questioning his ability to hang at this level any longer.

 

From the brief open workouts I have seen Pettis looks sharp, and he will need to be at his very best to top Ferguson. Ferguson, by contrast, looks drained and in poor shape, no doubt due to a gruelling weight cut. Although he is the older man I feel that Ferguson still has a few more miles left in the tank and will be taking him to secure the win. There isn’t much in terms of value available so I’ll be laying down a few shekels on the overs for a bit of interest.

 

Recommendation: Over 2.5 Rounds – 2 units at -130 (5/6) @ 5Dimes

 

Nurmagomedov v McGregor:

 

At 26-0 Khabib Nurmagomedov holds the most impressive record in all of professional MMA. it is amazing that it took 25 fights to get him into a legitimate tile match. Of course, it wasn’t all down to the UFC that it took this long, Khabib needs to shoulder some of the responsibility for a few issues, but so then does his regular dance partner Tony Ferguson.

 

The truth is that Khabib is a monster of a fighter, at 5’10” he is huge for a 55’er and his overall skillset is unparalleled; Sambo, Judo, Russian Freestyle Wrestling, he has it all. To top if off, he gets to practice those skills in a gym that houses legitimate killers in Cormier and Velasquez, not forgetting Rockhold. In 26 fights he has objectively barely lost a round, all the while facing powerhouses like Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson and Rafael dos Anjos amongst others. A patchy injury record and Ramadan, Khabib is a practicing Muslim, has seen his elevation slow down somewhat but he is in the prime of his life. He has missed weight twice at 155lbs and it will be a concern going into the fight, Tiramisu anyone?

 

To many casual fight fans, Conor McGregor IS the UFC. He has reached a point where he has transcended both the brand and sport. Officially he has been MIA for 23 months, if you ignore the Mayweather distraction. Even still, it was a distraction that did him no physical or reputational harm and earned him north of $100 million. He says he is set for life and fights for fun, well now is the time to prove it.

 

His UFC tenure has redefined hype with a lone loss to Nate Diaz, coming two weights outside of his, then, fighting weight. Throughout his entire career its been the same as he has been taken to a decision just twice in 24 fights, again to Nate Diaz in a successful rematch and against Max Holloway in a fight where he blew his ACL. He dominated Eddie Alvarez to become the first ever Champ Champ in the UFC and with it, the most marketable fighter in the history of the sport. He courts controversy wherever he goes, and he sells PPV’s. So much so that the UFC is prepared to overlook the sort of indiscretion that may have seen other fighters given a pink slip.

 

I find this an extremely difficult fight to call from a winner perspective as there are two very clear paths to victory. For Khabib, his ground game is second to none and if he takes Conor down then I don’t see him being able to get up time and time again. On the flipside, Khabib is hittable and Conor has incredible striking and I couldn’t rule out Conor doing the exact same to Khabib as he did with Jose Aldo.

 

What is clear for me is that this fight ends inside the halfway point, either through strikes or 12.5 minutes of relentless pressure. I’ll be hoping for a McGregor win as its best for business, but I won’t be betting it.

 

Recommendation: Under 2.5 Rounds – 2 units at -132 (10/13) @ 5Dimes

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