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Conor McGregor KO’s Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, wins UFC belt

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Conor McGregor backed up every word he ever said to Jose Aldo with one spectacular punch.

McGregor stopped Aldo with a left hand to the jaw just 13 seconds into the first round Saturday night, claiming the undisputed featherweight title at UFC 194.

McGregor (19-2) finished the fight with an electrifying exchange shortly after the opening bell, slipping Aldo’s lead right and cracking the champ with his formidable punching power.

Aldo (25-2) actually finished his punch and hit McGregor with a left, but the champ fell senseless to the ground. McGregor pounced, only to be pulled off in victory.

Aldo had won 18 consecutive fights over the last 10 years, but not even the UFC’s greatest 145-pound fighter could survive McGregor.

The loquacious Irish brawler goaded Aldo throughout the promotion of their delayed bout, only to earn a victory that was even more dramatic than he predicted. McGregor’s victory was the fastest title fight in UFC history, surpassing Ronda Rousey’s 14-second win over Cat Zingano at UFC 184 in February.

“Precision beats power, and timing beats speed,” McGregor said. “Jose was a phenomenal champion. He deserved to go a little bit longer, but I still feel at the end of the day, precision beats power and timing beats speed. That’s what happened.”

Luke Rockhold also claimed the UFC middleweight title with a bloody fourth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten champion Chris Weidman in front of a frenzied crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But the sellout crowd was packed with thousands of screaming Irish fans who traveled to see whether their braggadocious countryman could back up his talk.

McGregor, a former plumber who was fairly late to take up mixed martial arts as a career, has won 15 consecutive fights since November 2010 while building an international celebrity. He is 7-0 in UFC bouts, stopping his last five opponents with his vicious punching power.

He picked one of the UFC’s most daunting targets in Aldo, who had made seven consecutive title defenses. McGregor targeted the imperious Brazilian champion with a steady stream of trash talk and entertaining antics, infuriating Aldo while making himself into a pay-per-view draw and arguably the UFC’s second-biggest star behind Rousey.

McGregor and Aldo were scheduled to meet at UFC 189 in July, but Aldo pulled out with an injury two weeks before the bout. McGregor stopped Chad Mendes to win the interim title belt but never stopped talking about Aldo.

Aldo was the only featherweight champion in UFC history, and he hadn’t fought since October 2014 due to injury. After recovering from the knockout, Aldo called for a rematch in the cage, saying through a translator that it “wasn’t a real fight.”

For just the third time in UFC history, two undisputed title belts changed hands on the same card.

Rockhold (15-2) finished his own championship victory with brute style, pounding Weidman on the ground late in the third and again in the fourth. When referee Herb Dean finally pulled Rockhold off the bloodied Weidman (13-1), the new champion collapsed face-down on the canvas in relief.

Rockhold, a native of Santa Cruz, California, who trains in the Bay Area, has stopped his last five opponents.

He seized control of the fight when Weidman attempted to throw a wheel kick in the third round. Rockhold dodged it and took the champ to the ground — the first time Weidman, a vaunted wrestler, had ever been taken down in a UFC fight.

“He shouldn’t be trying that kind of stuff on me,” Rockhold said.

Weidman had ruled atop the division since dethroning long-reigning champ Anderson Silva in 2013 and breaking Silva’s leg in the rematch. Injuries limited Weidman’s activity, but Rockhold established himself as the clear No. 1 contender with four straight UFC victories since a testosterone-aided Vitor Belfort stopped him in Rockhold’s only loss in 14 fights since November 2007.

UFC 194 concluded an unprecedented three-day stretch of three fight cards on the Las Vegas Strip.

Yoel Romero won an entertaining split decision over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a meeting of middleweight contenders. Demian Maia also dominated Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson with his peerless jiu-jitsu to win a wide decision, and veteran bantamweight Urijah Faber finished the preliminary bouts with a bruising win over Frankie Saenz.

 

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.