Once again, the UFC heads down under to Australia with a PPV card. This time the promotion lands in Perth, Western Australia where current Middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, was due to defend his belt on home turf.
Despite this being a PPV its relatively low on star quality, but it produces two very interesting fights. I’ve made my picks from these and given my thoughts with 5Dimes, as always, providing the odds.
Hunt v Blaydes:
As he stands on the verge of reaching 44, Mark Hunt will know only too well that his time as a professional fighter is drawing to a close. A decorated kickboxer he made his MMA debut in the legendary Pride Fighting Championships, amassing a record of 5-3 in the promotion, starting and ending with a loss. When the UFC purchased Pride, Hunt declined to have his contract bought out and stated his intention to continue. His Pride losses were to grappling legends Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko, but it was a streak that extended to 0-6, coinciding with his first fight under the Zuffa banner. Hunt found himself positioned as the Cinderella Man as he became a fan favourite due to some incredible performances.
Those days are in the rear-view mirror and Hunt knows it. He beat Derrick Lewis after Lewis gassed badly, it wasn’t a performance that was going to elevate his standing. By his own admission, he has started to slur his words and win or lose, this could be the final hurrah.
Curtis Blaydes entered the UFC on a 5-0 streak and was matched with, recent title challenger, Francis Ngannou, coming up short due a Drs stoppage at the end of the second round. In the subsequent period Blaydes has kept himself busy, managing to win his next four bouts, although one was overturned due to a post-fight positive test for marijuana.
If nothing else, Blaydes has time on his side and at 26 will be nowhere near his potential yet.
If styles make fights then this is a straight up wrestler vs striker matchup, with both fighters being exposed to the other’s strengths. Blaydes was lit up by Ngannou before the Dr felt compelled to call the fight, whereas Hunt has a long-time history of difficulty with wrestlers. It comes down to how well Blaydes can take a Hunt haymaker, or whether Blaydes can keep Hunt grounded for long enough to squeak a decision. I’m not expecting a pretty fight, but I am expecting it to go into the second round so I’ll have a small play on the overs.
Recommendation: Over 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at -200 (1/2) @ 5Dimes
Rockhold v Romero:
After being dethroned by Michael Bisping in one of MMA’s greatest upsets, Luke Rockhold took an extended break from MMA to refocus his mind on regaining his belt. That break ended up at nearly 15 months before he returned to face David Branch in Pittsburgh, PA. The loss to Bisping was Rockhold’s first since his UFC debut when he was finished by Vitor Belfort; that loss being the first reverse in nearly 6 years. In an 11-year career in the sport Luke Rockhold has proven himself to be an elite level Middleweight and rightly deserves another shot at the title he ripped from Chris Weidman.
Although his original opponent, Robert Whittaker, pulled out this fight is for the Interim title and guarantees Rockhold the next shot at Whittaker if he should win. Id argue that he would be an overwhelming favourite if facing 80% of the remaining 185lb top ten.
Yoel Romero is a man who is firmly positioned in the remaining 20% where Rockhold would not be the overwhelming favourite. At 40 years old he is a latecomer to MMA, but his previous history as an Olympian and freak physical specimen means that he is a legit challenger at any age.
His cardio tends to go wandering around the middle of a fight, but he ends fights in a spectacular manner. In 9 fights in the UFC he has lost one, won two by decision, has a first round Knockout of the Night and has 5 stoppages in the final round; this is a UFC record.
Rockhold has the edge in his striking, but Romero will dominate if taken to the ground. Bisping caught Rockhold on the chin at will in their title match and it left the impression that he could be a little ‘chinny’ and if Romero can get hands on that chin it could be all over. However, Rockhold has a much more rounded MMA game and if he keeps it standing then he should be able to control the distance and out strike Romero comfortably. But, if Romero can land the takedown, I’m not sure that Rockhold will be able to get back up. I do think that Rockhold is one of the top 3 fighters in his weight class in the world, but whether stylistically he matches up here is up for debate. I’m going to take a flier on Romero, the odds on him inside the distance are insane and provide excellent value.
Recommendation: Yoel Romero Inside the Distance – 1 unit at +226 (9/4) @ 5Dimes