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New York removes ban on pro MMA fights

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) The light heavyweight Liam McGeary, an English expatriate who lives in Brooklyn and fights for Bellator, isn’t the only mixed martial arts champion most New Yorkers have never heard of. But they may soon.

The more famous MMA promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship lobbied hard for years to convince state politicians to legalize it, bringing marquee fighters like Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey to Albany’s Capitol. Meanwhile, Rousey became a model and action film star with an entourage. Jones, a native of upstate New York, is widely regarded as the best fighter, pound for pound, on the planet.

Although UFC opened New York’s cage door, McGeary, Bellator and others plan to storm into the lucrative new market now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law Thursday legalizing professional MMA in the last state where it was banned.

“There’s a lot of fight fans over here who don’t get to experience the fight shows we do over on the West Coast,” said McGeary, who has fought in California and other states. He predicted many local fans, as well as others from England, will turn out to New York venues. “I believe there will be packed houses.”

Bellator’s principal owner is New York-based Viacom, whose Spike TV broadcasts the fights to 150 countries. Promotion President Scott Coker said they put on 16 cards last year, plan to do 29 this year and are averaging 1.2 million viewers per show. “We’re building our roster every month. We’re going after some of the big free agents. We’re building some fighters from the ground up,” he said.

Among venues they’re talking to is Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, Coker said. “It’d be a great place to hold our inaugural event there in New York.”

The UFC, the sport’s largest promotion, which broadcasts shows on Fox television and major events on pay-per-view, announced plans Thursday to hold its first New York show Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden.

Cuomo signed the law there Thursday, saying it will boost New York’s economy. He was ringed by UFC fighters Rousey and ex-champion Chris Weidman, a Long Island resident. Weidman has a June middleweight title rematch with Californian Luke Rockhold set for Los Angeles.

“Madison Square Garden is the international icon for great sports events,” Cuomo said. “The economics that go along with the sport are undeniable.”

UFC President Lorenzo Fertitta said they’ll hold an upstate event this year and later others throughout New York.

Bellator is also considering the Garden and other New York venues, including Indian reservation casinos and Buffalo, Coker said. McGeary, coming off an injury, may fight again in July or August, but the state may not be ready by then.

The law doesn’t take effect until September, giving the New York State Athletic Commission time to add two members, adopt regulations, train staff and begin licensing promoters, trainers and fighters. The sport’s violence drew opposition from some lawmakers and proposals from others to better protect fighters in the combination of kickboxing, wrestling and judo often done inside a cage or other enclosure with small gloves and a referee.

Added provisions raise the insurance required to $50,000 for fighter injuries, a $50,000 death benefit and to $1 million for life-threatening brain injuries. It authorizes the state to study potential funding mechanisms for long-term care of fighters who develop degenerative brain conditions. It’s also designed to bring the amateur sport, which has grown unregulated across the state, under state-authorized supervision.

Duff Holmes makes his living as a personal trainer for a roster of about 20 fighters evenings and weekends at his gym in suburban Utica. Former UFC contender Matt Hamill trained with him.

“The last few years in New York, the highest level amateurs were basically pros,” Holmes said. Several of his guys had 15 or 20 amateur fights, while in other states most have only four or five before turning professional. For the New Yorkers, travel would have cost anything they made. The ability to sell hometown tickets could change that math, though the insurance requirements may keep smaller promoters out of the market, he said.

However, Holmes has at least two fighters, featherweight Eric Mendiola and lightweight Pete San Antonio, who’ve each fought professionally twice for smaller promotions following long amateur careers. “They’re at the level that’s going to be noted,” he said.

There are a dozen or more amateur promotions in New York, including some that sell tickets to mismatches with barely trained fighters, Holmes said. “That’s one good thing that’s going to come out of this. They’re going to go bye-bye.”

Miocic the betting favorite against dos Santos on the UFC 211 odds

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Stipe Miocic lost his previous fight against Junior dos Santos, which gives him a point to prove in the co-main event at UFC 211 on Saturday.

Miocic is listed as the -140 favorite against dos Santos, the +110 underdog, in their UFC heavyweight betting matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The title fight will cap off the card at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The two went the distance in December 2014, but bettors should keep in mind that dos Santos needed nearly-perfect takedown defense to get the win by decision. Miocic will be conceding some quickness, but his well-honed grappling and ground-and-pound technique give him an excellent chance of avenging that defeat.

Miocic, being the champion instead of the challenger, might also have the psychological edge as the champion; he can pick his spots and avoid the inherent risk of a slugfest with an excellent technical fighter.

In the co-main event, reigning women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a -185 favorite on the UFC 211 betting lines against Jessica Andrade (+150). There’s a distinct possibility of this being a mostly stand-up fight, which would work in favor of Jedrzejczyk, who is taller and has the reach advantage against Andrade.

Jedrzejczyk’s penchant for pace and volume also means she’ll get tougher as a fight progresses. If Andrade is to win, it will likely have to be through a quick submission.

Jorge Masdival (-130) is a slight favorite against Demian Maia (even money) in a welterweight bout. Masdival is a superb striker and his recent TKO victories against Donald Cerrone and Jake Ellenberger put those skills on full display. However, Maia, with his aptitude for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, can take that away from an opponent, as he’s won six matches in a row. The ageless Brazilian has enough in the tank to go five rounds.

Frankie Edgar (-140) is favored against Yair Rodriguez (+110) in a featherweight match. The lines might reflect the boundless respect that Edgar commands among fight aficionados, but both the height (five inches to Rodriguez) and age (Rodriguez is 11 years younger) differences might be daunting for Edgar. Rodriguez’s reach advantage might negate the edge Edgar has in boxing and wrestling. Rodriguez is on an eight-match win streak, with four of his last six wins having come by decision.

Krzystof Jotko (-160) is the favorite against David Branch (+130) in a middleweight tilt that was bumped up due to a withdrawal. Jotko is 6-1 in the UFC. While his only loss was by submission, his most recent win against Thale Leites saw him display excellent sufficient defense, which might be a good omen in a matchup against a grappler such as Branch.

Underdogs have won in 40 of 84 fights, or 49 per cent, so far this year in the UFC.

 

UFC 2010 odds: Cormier slight underdog vs. Johnson on betting lines

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The notion that a knockout artist is generally more appealing than a wrestler in the UFC might play into the shifting odds for the co-main event for UFC 210.

Although he lost in their first light heavyweight title bout, Anthony (Rumble) Johnson has shifted to being the -125 favorite against -105 slight underdog Daniel Cormier, the reigning champion, at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Their rematch will cap off the card  at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York on Saturday.

Cormier opened as a -120 favorite with Johnson at -110, but the latter, as one of the hardest hitters in the Octagon, constitutes the classic irresistible force. Johnson only needs one great shot to decide a fight and the law of averages would dictate that the more he sees of Cormier, the better his chance to land it.

That said, Cormier can get the fight to the mat and to the cage and force Johnson to expend a great amount of his energy getting free.

The co-main event is a veritable toss-up, with Gegard Mousasi listed at -120 on the UFC 210 betting lines against ex-middleweight champ Chris Weidman, who has a price of -110. The lines might be a bit reputation-based, but Mousasi has won four consecutive fights whereas Weidman has lost his last two. Mousasi also has a methodical approach that should serve to keep him out of trouble against Weidman, who in both of his losses fatigued when he wasn’t able to dominate early.

Welterweight Patrick Côté is a -160 favorite against +130 underdog Thiago Alves, who’s something of an enigma due to a 17-month layoff. Both prefer the standup game, but the match might turn on who uses his wrestling effectively, and that’s more likely to be the bigger Côté. Alves, at age 33, still has the speed to deliver devastating kicks.

Coming off a loss in his last bout, lightweight Will Brooks is a -240 favorite against +190 underdog Charles Oliveira. While Oliveira’s failures to make weight as a featherweight are well documented, Brooks has had the strength to go up a weight class to welterweight. The favorite should have a wrestling and strength advantage that will serve to negate the aggression of Oliviera, who is a good striker.

Women’s strawweight grappler Cynthia Calvillo is a -270 favorite against +210 underdog Pearl Gonzalez, who is making her UFC debut. Calvillo, who also won at UFC 209, is a rising prospect who has finished three of her four opponents by submission since turning pro. The 30-year-old Gonzalez’s best qualities are her wrestling and submission game. With Calvillo’s relative inexperience, this bout has upset potential.

Through the first three months of the year, there were 27 underdog victories in 87 UFC bouts, or 31 percent, according to OddsShark.com. Underdogs won at a 36.8 percent rate in 2016 and 38.5 percent in 2017, so one should expect the current rate to rise over the course of the year.