Two titles are on the line in Dallas, Texas this weekend as Tyron Woodley makes his long-awaited return, and Nicco Montano makes history with the first Women’s title defence at 125lbs.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Montano v Shevchenko:
The fact alone that Nicco Montano is the inaugural Women’s champion at 125lbs isn’t the story here. The story is that she achieved it with only 6 professional fights and took the belt by winning a reality tv show, beating the affable Roxanne Modafferi along the way. Modaferri is extremely likeably, but there are serious questions over her suitability in the UFC at 35. Injury has delayed her first title defence and, for 10 months, has left us questioning how high her ceiling is. It may be high, in all honesty it will need to be.
The first legitimate challenger at 125lbs is former 135lb challenger Valentina ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko. Shevchenko came up short twice against Amanda Nunes, once on the wrong side of splitsville in her only title shot to date. Similarly, she also holds a win over former champion Holly Holm which double underlines her credentials in the game. Most recently though, she dismantled Priscila Cachoeira, a previously unbeaten Flyweight in one of the most uncomfortable performances the octagon has seen. Bluntly, Bullet is a killer at 125lbs. She is scary enough to make Richard Kuklinski melt.
From the limited tape available on Montano I would put her in a similar bracket to Cachoeira and we all saw how that went down. But for a sharper ref the fight would have been over inside five minutes. It is performances like this that makes Valentina the shortest priced challenger in the history of the UFC.
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and little Valentina shall eviscerate Nicco in the first 3.5 rounds”
Recommendation: Under 3.5 Rounds – 4 units at -115 (20/23) @ 5Dimes
Woodley v Till:
For some reason Tyron Woodley has almost always failed to get over as 170lb champion. When he was the challenger he was hyped and loved, but as champion its almost a complete reverse. It doesn’t help his cause that he has competed in three of the drabbest fights that you could ever wish to avoid. From his first defence, a draw with Stephen Thompson, to the rematch which was another turgid affair, the consensus was that no fight could be as dreary as those. We were wrong.
The most tactical, evasive and non-threatening title bout followed as Demian Maia tried to grapple with Woodley. It was a fight that set a record for the least amount of strikes thrown and landed. Woodley has been out of action for almost 14 months since that fight, and he still has his back to the wall. He needs a win, and he needs a spectacular performance to go with it.
Much has been written about the background of Darren Till. From the tough streets of Merseyside to the tougher streets of Brazil and back again, Till has evolved as a fighter and finds himself on the cusp of greatness. Unbeaten as a professional fighter he is 4-0 since the only blemish on his record, a draw with Nicolas Dalby where he picked up a shoulder injury sidelined him for 18 months.
In a little over a year he has amassed four wins, including a dominant performance over Donald Cerrone and a grinding decision over Stephen Thompson. The win over Thompson was tainted by the weight cut where Till missed by nearly 4lbs, having to make 188lbs by noon the following day for the fight to go ahead. Till won a slightly contentious decision in the Liverpool Echo Arena and secured the title shot when Colby Covington declined.
Its taken me a while to warm to the prospect of Darren Till as a legit contender and every time I’ve doubted him he has proved me wrong. So, this time I am firmly aboard the Till train and hope that he rides out of Dallas, Texas to a chorus of ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond whilst holding the belt aloft. If he does it then I think he does it early and catches Woodley a little cold, much in the same manner that Woodley did to Robbie Lawler. And I’ll go out on a limb and say that he does it in the first too.
Recommendation: Darren Till Inside the Distance – 2 units at +160 (8/5) @ 5Dimes