The Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York plays host to the UFC this week.
As is the theme for the UFC in 2018 a headliner was lost from a PPV, marking the fourth such time that this fight has been cancelled. A solid replacement beckons, along with an anticipated rematch, with both drawing my attention. 5Dimes, as always, provides the odds.
Namajunas v Jedrzejczyk:
Rose Namajunas provided the sport of MMA with one of its most stunning upsets at UFC 217 in New York City. Experts and analysts alike gave her little chance, but those that did thought that her submission game was the clearest path to victory. How wrong we all were. From the opening bell she stayed calm, found her range and struck Joanna cleanly and clearly as if striking were her strongest asset. It demonstrated how far Rose has evolved since breaking through as a losing finalist on the TUF:20 show.
If truth be told I am still struggling to understand how Joanna fought so flat footed and so poorly when she faced Namajunas. As the defending champion she had demonstrated a stand-up game that was so far ahead of her opponents it was like watching her in a different sport. Yet, against Rose she stood toe to toe with a non-striker, and eventually tapped to strikes. Where was the head movement, the eviscerating striking, the kicking? We’ve seen this before from a dominant champion where they simply dial in a few performances and rarely come unstuck. But the question now remains, does Joanna have it in her arsenal to overcome the first defeat and moment of adversity in her fledgling career?
Both my heart and my head say that Joanna is going to come in with a completely different game plan this time around. I mean, she can’t fight as poorly as she did in the original encounter, can she? This is a dominant kickboxer who got out struck, who got hit more often and more cleanly than she has done in 15 prior bouts. I’m not going to pick a winner here, but I am going to bet that it ends inside the distance. Mainly because I can’t convince myself who does actually win.
Recommendation: Fight Doesn’t Go to a Decision – 2 units at -125 (4/5) @ 5Dimes
Nurmagomedov v Holloway:
Yet again a freak injury has robbed the waiting world of the fight that almost seems destined never to be. As Tony Ferguson, this time, is forced to withdraw we face the fourth time this fight has been cancelled. That makes him and Nurmagomedov, no stranger to an injury layoff himself, at 2-2 for cancellations. Next one wins by default? If he makes it to the octagon on Saturday it will be the most active that Khabib has been as a fighter since 2013 when he fought, twice, with a four-month layoff in between. Khabib brings a 25-0 record as he seeks the 155lb title, a title that he should have contested several times by this stage of his career.
In addition to his Featherweight title, Max Holloway brings with him a 12-0 streak that extends back to August 2013. The last man to defeat the current 145lb kingpin? Conor McGregor. And it is McGregor that Holloway can emulate this weekend as he challenges for the 155lb belt. If Max were to win then he would replicate Conor’s achievement of being the only man in the UFC to hold two belts concurrently. It would also make for an intense rematch as both men could lay claim to being the rightful champion at both weights. It’s a booking that the UFC would sacrifice their first-born son for (if they had one!).
With a combined record of 37-0, this is the longest combined winning streak in UFC history that has been put on the line. Khabib, the Dagestani who trains with bears against the Hawaiian wrecking machine. It’s not the fight we wanted, but it could end up being the fight we all wanted.
Holloway has made a career out of stuffing the takedown and working the strikes, but Khabib might just be the best at what he does in the UFC. He doesn’t embrace the grind, he IS the grind. Unless Nurmagomedov gasses badly, and there is no evidence to suggest he would, then he takes this into deep waters and finally wears Holloway down.
Recommendation: Over 3.5 Rounds – 2 units at +105 (21/20) @ 5Dimes