The UFC returns Boston at The Garden for the first time since UFC 220. Its an arena that has been solid for the promotion and been repaid with a flurry of title matches. This time it’s a former champion who takes centre stage.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best bets on the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Stephens v Rodriguez:
Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez get to run back their recent meeting, which lasted all of 15 seconds. Due to a hotly contested eye poke, Stephens was unable to continue, and the bout was ruled a No Contest, much to the chagrin of those in attendance in Mexico City.
Stephens is a fighter who has no quit in him, and post-fight pictures seemingly back up the claim that he was indeed poked in the eye and that’s good enough for me. It’s a must win fight for the Iowa native as he enters the octagon without a win for 18 months when he beat Josh Emmett. The No Contest and defeats to a rampant Magomedsharipov and a resurgent Jose Aldo have done little to lower his stock, but a further defeat could permanently brand him with gatekeeper status.
Yair Rodriguez will still be furious at the decision to rule the previous bout as a No Contest. It was supposed to be his coming out show in his native Mexico, the time that his people saw him for the legit threat that he is. Ending a main event after only 15 seconds will only stoke that fire further.
Prior to the that fight, Rodriguez scored his last win back in November of last year with a highlight reel knockout of the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung. It was an immaculately timed elbow with a single second of the fight remaining that put Jung out cold. While the fight was close, it was going the way of Jung on two of three judges’ scorecards, with the other having them even. So, while he won, its never really going to be remembered for the performance and that detracts somewhat from the achievement.
Both guys have their issues. Stephens has a relatively poor fight IQ at times, and it has cost him dearly. Rodriguez was the definition of a hype train until he was derailed by Frankie Edgar where the fight couldn’t begin the 3rd round due to damage sustained by Rodriguez. Over 5 rounds I’d have favoured Yair, as Stephens has never really demonstrated the cardio to maintain pressure for 25 minutes, but over 15 minutes I think that Stephens has enough to pull off the win.
Recommendation: Jeremy Stephens – 2 units at -105 (20/21) @ 5Dimes
Weidman v Reyes:
Chris Weidman enters the octagon for the first time in almost a year. His last fight was in the co-main event of UFC 230 in his hometown of New York, it was a fight he lost in a familiar fashion; by KO. It marked the fourth loss of his career, meaning he has gone 1-4 since his last successful defence of his belt against Vitor Belfort. All his losses have been by TKO/KO and indicates that while he may be no slouch in either BJJ or grappling, his chin may have already taken enough damage.
Considering at one stage Weidman was considered the great white hope, the heir apparent to the man he dethroned, Anderson Silva and the future of 185lbs, its fair to say that the plans went awry. As a result, he moves to 205lbs to see if this trend changes.
Dominick Reyes will be the man who welcomes him to the division. Unbeaten in both professional and amateur MMA, Reyes puts his 11-0 record on the line for a huge scalp. Already with wins over previous contenders Volkan Oezdemir and OSP, not to mention being the last man to defeat a surging Jarod Cannonier, Reyes could easily cement himself as the next serious prospect at 205lbs if he can get that true marquee name on his record.
The biggest question mark for Weidman coming into this fight is whether his chin improves without cutting weight, similarly, whether it can hold up to an additional 20lbs of pressure being exerted on it. Given he walks around at 215-220lbs, the cut should be a lot easier on him and if he has a future in the UFC then this is a must win for him. Reyes has the advantages in all physical aspects; height, reach, range, etc and could easily put away a Weidman that looks to stand and trade, but Weidman has all the skill attributes in his favour and I’m taking the underdog in an upset. I don’t see him stopping Reyes, but his ground game could easily be enough to steal a submission win.
Recommendation: Chris Weidman – 2 units at +150 (6/4) @ 5Dimes