It’s the last UFC card of the year and it’s a biggie. One of the best fights in the octagon gets a re-run in the second title fight of the evening, while another opportunity is created for a double champ to leave the arena.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Cyborg v Nunes:
Cristiane Justino, Cyborg as she is better known, is an absolute force of nature for WMMA. Her 20-0 run doesn’t even tell the full story. Delve deeper and you’ll realise she lost her debut back in 2005, the only time she has tasted defeat. Since then she has literally torn her way through opponent after opponent, winning 17 of the 20 inside the distance. While WMMA hasn’t always been at the forefront of the sport, knowledge of her victims has been; Gina Carano – once the darling of WMMA, sent into retirement such was the beating, Marloes Coenen – twice, and most recently Invicta champion Tonya Envinger and Holly Holm, conqueror of Ronda Rousey. For a long time, it looked as though the UFC would never see Cyborg in the octagon, but the addition of weight classes made it a reality and this weekend she fights out the last date of her current contract.
Amanda Nunes is another veteran of the sport. While not as decorated as her opponent, she has a recent resume that elevates her above Cyborg. While Cyborg had bodies brought in at 145lbs, Nunes has beaten a murderer’s row at 135 with Sara McMann, Valentina Shevchenko, twice, Miesha Tate and Germaine de Randamie amongst the many casualties. Her most famous victory was the one that plunged Ronda Rousey into retirement as she succumbed to a four-minute striking clinic at Nunes’ hands. As is the trend in the UFC in 2018, the chance now exists to step up in weight to become another Champ Champ, and the first in the women’s era.
At no point in the last 13 years have we seen Cyborg even remotely troubled in the ring, so it’s hard to identify where the path to victory comes from. She can probably be swarmed, maybe taken down and submitted, but it’s unlikely. Cyborg can maintain pressure like no other and can hit with freakish power and if Nunes decides to back up against the cage then she may not get away. These are arguably the best odds that you’ll ever get on Cyborg, I strongly suggest that you take them before she takes the yellow brick road to Bellator and into the arms of her former boss, Scott Coker, for a last payday.
Recommendation: Cristiane Justino – 2 units at -240 (2/5) @ 5Dimes
Jones v Gustafsson:
A fighter arguably hailed as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) steps back into the octagon this weekend after yet another enforced hiatus. Like many, I have followed the career of Jonathan Dwight Jones from the time he applied a beatdown to Brandon Vera in 2010, through to his many indiscretions and comebacks. Its been a rollercoaster ride and not always a fun one to be part of. Whether it be a hit and run or numerous doping violations that have affected his career, it was all avoidable.
In 24 professional fights he has left the octagon peerless, with one exception; Jones fought Gustafsson in September 2013 at UFC 165 in a Fight of the Year winner. It was a remarkable fight as Jones was outgunned in many areas that he has dominated his opponents; takedowns, striking, takedown defence, the list goes on. However, Gustafsson was able to negate the biggest weapons in the arsenal and came very close to besting the GOAT.
Alex Gustafsson is an extremely accomplished fighter and one of the mainstays at 205lbs, despite his losses. This is a fighter who is fighting in his true weight class and it shows with his performances. He is also a fighter who has always looked to take a loss as a learning point, a defeat to Phil Davis a case in point when he pitched up at Alliance MMA to learn from his conqueror. I gave him the decision against DC, but I understand why the judges didn’t as it was razor thin.
Time is a huge factor for both opponents. Jones hasn’t fought professionally in 18 months, in fact this fight would mark only his third fight in four years. Gustafsson fares only marginally better with four fights in the same time period. There will be an obvious apprehension from both fighters as they feel their way into the bout, neither wanting to be caught cold and finding out that time is against them.
I’m a big believer that concussive effects are cumulative and once they start then it’s a steep slope downwards, this is my big fear for Gustafsson as he has taken some extremely solid shots from Jones, Cormier (albeit only narrowly losing) and Anthony Johnson and the long-term effects of those are unknown. For Jones, he has fared far better, only taking heavy shots from Gustafsson. Jones finished Daniel Cormier and, despite the outcome being overturned to a NC, remains the only man to do so. I think that the cream rises to the top and Jones will finish Gustafsson late into the fight, once again reclaiming his throne.
Recommendation: Jones Inside the Distance – 2 units at +116 (23/20) @ 5Dimes