UFC

Odds lean toward Thompson against Woodley for Saturday’s UFC 209 card

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The odds for the rematch reflect popular consensus that Stephen Thompson outfought Tyronn Woodley when they first met for the UFC welterweight championship.

Thompson, the challenger, is the -160 betting favorite against +130 strap-holder Woodley in the co-main event for UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The two will meet for the second time in fewer than four months when they step into the Octagon at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

In their first fight, Thompson was able to dictate terms and Woodley often ceded control of the Octagon, which gave Thompson time and space to connect with kicks and strikes. One could theorize that three and a half months of analyzing that fight has helped Thompson figure out how to maintain that advantage while upgrading his defense.

That said, Woodley is stronger in cinches and at grappling – when he chooses to use those skills. His patience and strength could help him drag the fight out and pick spots to land his big overhand right.

Elsewhere, Khalid Nurmagomedov is a -190 favorite against +155 underdog Tony Ferguson, as they square off for the interim lightweight title in the co-main event.

Nurmagomedov’s 24-0 career record might give bettors pause about picking against him, but this is the first time he has ever faced a five-round bout and Ferguson might be the more tireless fighter. Ferguson, with his six-inch edge in reach, should have the advantage in stand-up situations.

Rashad Evans is the -230 favorite against +180 underdog Daniel Kelly on the UFC 209 betting lines in a matchup of mirror-image middleweights, as each relies on wearing down opponents. The bout is unlikely to end early and Kelly tends to get stronger as a match goes on as he gains a feel for his opponent’s tendencies.

It’s something of a toss-up, although some bettors might shy away from Evans in his debut at 185 pounds and go with Kelly strictly on betting value.

Alistair Overeem is listed at -145 against +115 slight underdog Mark Hunt in a heavyweight bout. Overeem, who will have something to prove after losing his last bout against Stipe Miocic in September, has a multi-faceted repertoire and can punish opponents when he gets them into clinches.

Hunt is a strong counter-puncher who comes into this matchup with greater knockout capability, but Overeem’s edge in grappling makes him a solid chalk pick.

And in a lightweight bout, Lando Vannata is a -270 favorite against +210 underdog David Teymur. Vannata is more of a striker, while Teymur, with his background in Muay Tuai, is more of a kickboxer.

A win would validate why Vannata thus far has made a rapid ascension through the lightweight division, but Teymur will get his chance to land some devastating kicks. He’s also a left-hander, which can sometimes be a difficult matchup. There is upset potential here.

Holloway favored over Pettis on UFC 206 odds for Saturday night event

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Whether one buys the premise of an interim featherweight title bout, it’s easy to see why Max Holloway is a big favorite against Anthony Pettis in the headline matchup for UFC 206 in Toronto on Saturday.

Having won nine fights in a row, Holloway is listed as the -190 betting favorite with Pettis at +165 for the co-main event at Air Canada Centre, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The interim belt was created after Conor McGregor moved up to win the lightweight strap at UFC 205.

Holloway is a much busier striker who prefers to attack, while Pettis picks his spots for counter-attacks. There is definitely potential for Pettis to win if he can slow the pace and get the match to the ground, although no one has done that against Holloway recently. It will also be interesting to see what form Pettis shows now that he has cut body mass to compete at featherweight (145-pound limit).

The match is scheduled for five rounds. The winner will likely advance directly to a title fight against champion Jose Aldo.

In the co-main event, welterweight Donald Cerrone is the main card’s heaviest favorite at -280 as he takes on veteran Matt Brown, who is listed at +220. Cerrone is looking for a fourth consecutive win since moving up to welterweight and it’s fair to take a pass on Brown, who has lost four of his last five bouts. If Brown prevails it would be the biggest upset, in terms of odds on the underdog, at a UFC event since UFC 200.

Featherweight Doo Ho Choi is a -210 favorite against Cub Swanson, who is listed +180. Swanson’s defense is top-notch but he is spotting some reach to Choi, who is also the more efficient of the two in the striking game. Choi defends well and, if anything, might be underpriced. The line could narrow closer to fight time, since Swanson has more name recognition among casual North American and European fight fans.

Coming out of nearly two-year hiatus, Jordan Mein is favored at -155 against +135 underdog Emil Meek. Meek, a Norwegian newcomer to UFC, is a powerful striker who has seven of his eight career wins by knockout. A loss here won’t hurt his prospects in the UFC, so essentially he has been handed a nothing-to-lose scenario which might foment trying to attack Mein and get him off-balance early. There is upset potential here.

Middleweights Tim Kennedy (-145) and Kelvin Gastelum (+125) have been matched after each was pulled out of UFC 205. The prices have been shifting toward equilibrium – Kennedy opened -222 with Gastelum at +175 – as oddsmakers try to balance out the enthusiasm for Gastelum. Gastelum is now likely a middleweight for good after failing to make the weight limit for UFC 205 and should be motivated, whereas it’s unclear what to expect out of the 37-year-old Kennedy, who last fought more than two years ago.

Underdogs have won 163 of 440 fights this year in the UFC, or 37 percent. That trend has been consistent from UFC 201 through UFC 205 with underdogs prevailing in 14 of 41 fights, or 34.1%.

CM Punk’s UFC debut pushed back due to back surgery

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Phil “CM Punk” Brooks’ UFC debut will have to wait.

The former WWE champion told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that he needs to have back surgery in order to fix a herniated disc.

His recovery time is 4-6 weeks, which means his fight with Mickey Gall that was rumored to take place at UFC 199 will have to be pushed back.

Punk said his back stopped responding to any treatment and that he had a hard time getting through his training sessions with the New Jersey Devils last month. He attributed the injury to the numerous years he spent in the world of professional wrestling.

This is not the first time the 37-year old has had his MMA debut pushed back due to injuries. Punk was rumored to step into the octagon for the first time last fall, but he injured his shoulder during a training session in August.

Punk said his upcoming procedure is very similar to the one that UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez had recently.