After a brief hiatus the UFC returns to Las Vegas for International Fight Week. It’s the biggest week in the MMA calendar and really serves as the Superbowl for combat sports.

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

Holloway v Ortega:

 

While much of the talk regarding UFC 226 has centred on Daniel Cormier and his opportunity to secure a second title, its easy to forget that an overzealous NYSAC official robbed Max Holloway of a similar opportunity at the ill-fated UFC 223 card. Holloway stepped up at late notice to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the vacant 155lb belt, but a poor weight cut saw him replaced by Al Iaquinta. As fights go it was a no brainer for Max to take the fight as the rewards far outweighed the risks. It wasn’t to be, and we have had to wait until July for the first competitive outing for the Hawaiian in 2018. Not that 2017 was too shabby, mind. Back to back third round finishes of Jose Aldo saw Holloway peerless at the top of the 145lb pile.

 

Brian Ortega has come from nowhere to become the new face of 145lbs. A submission specialist by trade this BJJ black belt has tapped out black belts in Diego Brandao and Cub Swanson while showing that he has power in his hands as he became the first man to finish Frankie Edgar in a potential Knockout of the Year contender. Flying under the radar has served Ortega well as he was matched against Swanson in a fight that was supposed to be a tune up for a title shot for Cub. Fast forward 7 months and Ortega gets the title shot that has so far eluded Swanson. Question is whether Ortega is good enough to beat Max.

 

This is a fight whereby the passage of time changes your perception immeasurably. If you’d asked me a year ago who was likely to win then I’d have bet the farm on Holloway. Why? Because he hasn’t put a foot wrong since losing to McGregor 5 years ago. Now? I still favour Holloway and by some distance, but Ortega has continued to upset the odds. I picked Ortega over Edgar, but I never expected a knockout. This is most certainly a huge step up in class for T-City, but we have no idea how high his ceiling can do. I’m taking a small play on the underdog purely because MMA is crazy and dumb things happen when least expected.

 

Recommendation: Brian Ortega – 1 units at +125 (5/4) @ 5Dimes

 

Miocic v Cormier:

 

Since shocking Fabricio Werdum and taking his belt Stipe Miocic has cemented a legacy in a very short period of time. Just over two years has passed since taking the belt and he has already become the greatest Heavyweight champion of all time, in terms of wins at least. Prior to Miocic no Heavyweight in the UFC had defended the belt on three consecutive occasions. Not only has he done that, but he has beaten three of the most decorated big men of all time in doing so. Now he faces the ‘little’ big man for a shot at immortality.

 

Although Daniel Cormier has carved his reputation at 205lbs it is easily forgotten that he made his breakthrough at Heavyweight in Strikeforce. It was in that promotion that he entered the Heavyweight Grand Prix, as a late replacement no less, a tournament that contained such luminaries as Fedor, Arlovski, Barnett, Werdum, Silva and Overeem. DC won the final as the least experienced fighter in the group. It was to propel him to the UFC, and as his teammate was their champion at the time, down to 205lbs where the rivalry with Jon Jones began.

 

This is a matchup that could be a defining moment for both fighters. For Miocic, it is validation that he has cleared out all legitimate challengers at his own weight, and a former Olympic champion at a lesser weight. For Cormier, it gives him the opportunity to lay the ghost of Jon Jones to rest and proclaim himself as only the second dual champion in UFC history.

 

Interestingly enough, win or lose the future looks the same for either fighter; as either Jon Jones or Brock Lesnar awaits. Depending on protracted legal complications it’s likely that Lesnar will be cleared to fight first and he’ll likely face the winner. Jones is a little more complicated and he could very well face the loser; a certainty if its DC, as a tune up before a title shot. This will be a cagey affair and I don’t see an early finish. Miocic has the edge but DC has the tools. I’m going for a small play on the overs.

 

Recommendation: Over 3.5 Rounds – 2 units at -117 (20/23) @ 5Dimes

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