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Conor McGregor a no-show, and off of UFC 200

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor’s seat was vacant, and so now is his spot headlining the big UFC 200 card this summer.

The Irish fighter was a no-show at a press conference Friday promoting the card, and UFC President Dana White said he would not meet Nate Diaz in a rematch on top of the July 9 card in Las Vegas.

“You have to show up to promote the fight,” White said. “It’s part of the job. It’s what we do here.”

Not to be outdone, McGregor tweeted that he respected the fact other fighters traveled to the press conference “but not everyone up there made the company ($)400 million the last 8 months.”

The dispute over promotional duties means UFC’s biggest card of the year will be without McGregor, the wildly popular fighter who lost to Diaz last month in a major upset. Diaz indicated he might not fight, either, though White said he was looking for an opponent for him.

“If it doesn’t happen I’m going on vacation,” Diaz said.

White left a seat on the dais vacant at a press conference at the MGM Grand, though McGregor made it clear earlier this week that he wouldn’t be attending. McGregor posted on Facebook that he couldn’t afford the time he would need to leave his training camp in Iceland for a series of promotional appearances for the card.

But White noted the fight was nearly three months away, and that UFC is spending $10 million to promote the card and needed McGregor to participate in the promotion.

“People (other fighters on the card) came from Poland and Brazil. Is that fair?” White asked. “It sets a bad precedent. These guys came in from all over the world and they’re here.”

McGregor had asked for a quick rematch with Diaz, after moving up in weight to lose to him in a fight he dominated early. The two signed contracts, but McGregor disrupted plans when he refused to travel to Las Vegas from Iceland to promote the bout.

White said he is not angry with McGregor and expects him to fight again, just not on the landmark UFC 200 card that will be held at the new T-Mobile arena on the Las Vegas Strip. He said McGregor could fight the winner of the bout between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar, which is on the UFC 200 card.

Also on the card is Miesha Tate, who upset Holly Holm last month and will meet Brazil’s Amanda Nunes. White said it is also possible that light heavyweight Jon Jones could meet Daniel Cormier on the card if Jones wins his fight Saturday against Ovince Saint Preux.

McGregor is the biggest pay-per-view attraction the UFC has, but White said the card will have plenty of attractive fights. He said he understands fans want to see McGregor on UFC 200, but that he had to take a stand.

“It’s an unpopular decision, but it’s the right decision,” White said.

The press conference took place before the weigh-in for UFC 197, which features Jones vs. Saint Preux for the light heavyweight title and Demetrious Johnson against Henry Cejudo in a flyweight title bout.

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.