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How Chris Weidman’s lifestyle changes helped him prepare for UFC 194

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For most the temptation of indulging in celebrations after becoming a champion or winning an award is simply too strong to ignore. There is a certain pleasure that comes with grabbing a few adult beverages with the group of people who helped a person reach his or her goal.

But then there are some who understand when it’s time to put the drink down and get back to business in order to avoid a professional hangover.

In the case of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, this is exactly the choice he’s made.

“As a champion, as an athlete, I do a lot of traveling and the more you create the habit of drinking everywhere you go, it’s not good for you. It breaks down your body. I think it causes injuries,” Weidman told me. “There are a lot of bad things that can happen, so I just tried to clean up my act and live a healthier lifestyle.”

The end of Weidman’s drinking days appeared to be a decision that was made in order to keep his weight down before his fight against Luke Rockhold on December 12th at UFC 194, but the champ quickly shot this notion down.

“The drinking thing didn’t really have anything to do with weight. I’m only going to be in this sport for so long. It’s going to be a quick trip in the grand scheme of life hopefully,” Weidman said. “So I’m just trying to make the most of it. I don’t want to look back and say that I was partying too much and maybe I could have reigned on top longer. I want to keep this reign on top as long as possible. I think that controlling my habits and having discipline will help.”

At the age of 31, Weidman is still reaching the peak of his fighting prime, which is something that he wants to prolong.

“I’m in my prime and I want my prime to last as long as possible,” he said. “And if being hungover and waking up tired is going to affect that and stop me from doing what I need to do, then I should focus on cleaning it up.”

But drinking wasn’t the only habit that the “All-American” wanted to clean up. There was a point in time when the amount of food he was putting in his body could reach extreme levels.

“If I was going to a pizzeria, I needed to get three different types of slices. I needed a chicken roll. I needed a spinach roll, or I felt like I wasn’t complete. I needed them. I just had these crazy habits. If I went to the bagel shop, I needed more than just one bagel. I’d need an egg everything bagel toasted with cream cheese and then I needed to get a bacon, egg and cheese.”

Due to the amount of food Weidman was consuming, his weight would balloon up so high that it was difficult to run around the block with his nephews.

“When Hurricane Sandy hit my house after I had shoulder surgery I was getting ready for a fight and I was at 235 pounds. I was trying to run with my nephews around my block and my lower back and calves were burning so bad I was like this is terrible. I can’t let this happen again,” Weidman said. ”For the last two and a half years, I haven’t gotten over 215. A lot of these other middleweights blow up to 215, 230, 235.”

Weidman admits that his wrestling background was a big proponent for his insane eating habits, but his indulgence also stemmed from his increasing bank account.

“I didn’t have that much money, so I wouldn’t be able to just get what I want if I was out with friends at lunch,” he said. “I was always worried about paying the bills and this and that, so finally when I had some money I said I need to eat and go hard.”

Weidman’s bank account will once again increase on Saturday night, but the only thing he’s concerned about is walking out of Las Vegas with the middleweight title, which means he’s going to have to defeat a formidable challenger in Rockhold.

The two are almost mirror images of each other. Rockhold is 6’3”, an inch taller than Weidman, but the champ has a slight reach advantage (78” to 77”). Rockhold’s wrestling and jiu jitsu are both extremely dangerous. Weidman has a black belt in jiu jitsu and was a two-time Division I All-American wrestler at Hofstra.

“He’s a little taller and I’m a little longer, but the difference is when I grab him, I’m going to be a whole different man than he is and if he doesn’t know that, he’s going to realize that,” Weidman said. “I think he’s heard stories, but when I get my hands on him, there is a big difference. I’m a bigger man than him.”

The parallels between the two aren’t just in the cage. When I asked Weidman if he believed Rockhold was the toughest fight of his career, he didn’t take long to respond.

“I’m going to finish him and I plan on completely dominating him.”

It was eerily close to what Rockhold said on the UFC 194 conference call: “I’m going to dominate him, and then I will finish him.”

Weidman wasn’t surprised to hear that his opponent delivered a similar answer.

“He copies everything I’ve ever done. He’s always been behind me throughout our whole careers,” Weidman said. “I’ve always been the number one prospect; he’s always been number two or three. I was the guy and he was always the guy behind the guy. So he’s been watching what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been saying for such a long time that he’s confused about who he even is. I’m going to give him a sense of reality.”

The champion is supremely confident going into Saturday, but also understands that defeating Rockhold isn’t going to be an easy task.

“I think he’s tough. He wants to press you with an aggressive style and I have that,” Weidman said. “He’s well-rounded and an open-minded learner because he’s well-rounded everywhere so you have to want to learn. I feel like I’m the same way. He’s got some tricky stuff and I have some tricky stuff.”

There won’t be any magic tricks on display from Chris Weidman at UFC 194 because he’s already made his unhealthy lifestyle disappear.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Tony Ferguson betting favorite against Kevin Lee in UFC 216 main event

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A nine-fight win streak and fight fans’ preference to see strikers win out over grinders might be why Tony Ferguson is such a big favorite against Kevin Lee at UFC 216.

Ferguson is the -225 betting favorite with Lee coming back at +175 as they meet for the interim lightweight title at UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

As noted, Ferguson has won his last nine bouts, ending six early for a nice 66.7 percent rate. For his part, Lee has won five consecutive bouts, ending four early.

Ferguson prefers to work at distance with jabs and kicks, gradually chipping away at his opponent. The 33-year-old is a more well-rounded fighter than the 25-year-old Lee, so laying chalk is justifiable since this bout could go either way.

There is a good case to take Lee and the plus money, though. Lee is far beyond the typical lightweight in how often he attempts takedowns and how often he winds up gaining control. Succeeding in that strategy would leave Ferguson unable to use his best assets.

Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (-1200) is a massive favorite against Ray Borg (+700). Johnson is simply too complete a fighter to lose against a boxer-wrestler type such as Borg, but Borg has a great ability to get off of his back and will make Johnson work for the win. Eleven of the last 14 UFC fights (78.6 percent) in which one fighter was a favorite of -1200 or more ended with a stoppage, and based on form Johnson should extend the trend.

The potential upset on the main card involves the heavyweight tilt between former champion Fabricio Werdum (-260) and Derrick Lewis (+200). Werdum’s weakness is his striking defense and Lewis has secured 16 of his 18 career MMA wins via knockout, which seems like a lethal combination in Lewis’ favour. Werdum’s chances of winning likely rest on him wearing Lewis down or getting a takedown that sets up a submission.

As well, Beneil Dariush (-240) is favored against Evan Dunham (+190) on the UFC 216 odds in a lightweight bout that is likely to be heavy on grappling, increasing the possibility of it going the distance. Four of Dariush’s last eight fights were decided by a decision, while Dunham’s four-fight win streak consists entirely of victories by decision.

As long as Dariush stays aggressive in the stand-up game – and he likely won’t have to worry about walking into a devastating punch against a grinder like Dunham – he should be able to get the win.

And Kalindra Faria (-200) is favored against UFC newcomer Mara Romero Borella (+160), a replacement opponent who took the fight after  Andrea Lee was pulled out for not having an up-to-date anti-doping clearance.

Faria is the more seasoned fighter and her ability to throw combinations has helped her score knockouts in more than half of her 18 career professional wins. Romero Borella is undefeated in her last six fights, but prior to that was finished by strikes in three consecutive fights, so there’s potential for an early ending.

UFC 214: Jones heavy favorite against Cormier in co-main event

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If one believes a long hiatus from the Octagon benefits a fighter’s mystique more than technique, then the price might be right on Daniel Cormier.

Ahead of the most fervently anticipated rematch in the company’s history, Jon Jones is a -260 favorite against the +200 underdog Cormier in the co-main event for UFC 214 on Saturday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The fight, which will top off a loaded main card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, has been in the offing since about 30 seconds after Jones won an unanimous decision against Cormier early in 2015, but Jones’ doping suspension has prevented it from happening.

The prices have moved in Jones’ favor since he opened at -150 with Cormier coming back at +120. Before the layoff, Jones was perhaps the best fighter to ever grace the UFC and it’s understandable why fans believe he’ll use his long reach to keep Cormier at bay and get him in the clinch.

Cormier backers, though, can take heart in the belief that his takedown defense could be sharper than it was against Jones 2 1/2 years ago. The bottom line is it’s rare to get a champion at such a high price.

In the co-main event, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (-205) is favored against challenger Demian Maia (+165). Maia, who is plus money for the first time since 2014 (a bout that he lost to Rory MacDonald in a unanimous decision), is singleminded about getting a match to the mat in order to work toward a submission.

If Woodley can keep his focus on his takedown defense and keep the fight on their feet, his edge in athleticism and youth might prove to be the determining factor.

The prices for the women’s featherweight title fight between Cristiane (Cris Cyborg) Justino (-1100) and challenger Tonya Evinger (+650) underscore the difficulty Cyborg has finding a foe.  Cyborg has ended her last seven fights early, five in the first round. It might be better to pore over the odds on how many rounds Evinger, a solid wrestler, can hang in for during a fight that she accepted on relatively short notice.

Robbie Lawler (-160) is a slight favorite against Donald Cerrone (+130) in a twice-rescheduled welterweight matchup. It’s hard to know what to expect from Lawler, who’s been set back by injuries since his last fight against Woodley exactly 52 weeks ago. Cerrone is often vulnerable against left-handers such as Lawler, but takes an edge in stamina into what shapes up as an all-out brawl.

The main card starts off with a light heavyweight title eliminator, where Jimi Manuwa (-190) is favored against Volkan Oezdemir (+150). Manuwa, who is on a three-fight win streak, is the more developed and technically proficient of the two strikers. That might give him the edge against Oezdemir. It could be a quick resolution either way – Manuwa has 10 first-round knockouts in 17 pro fights, while Oezdemir has a powerful left hand and ample motivation to get a knockout and score a fight-of-the-night bonus.