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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.

 

Whittaker Faces Romero as Betting Favorite on UFC 225 Odds

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Robert Whittaker was not 100 percent physically when he defeated Yoel Romero in their first fight 11 months ago, which is something to keep in mind when sizing up the rematch on Saturday.

With the UFC middleweight championship at stake, Whittaker is a -220 favorite on the UFC 225 odds with Romero coming back at +190 in the headlining fight on the main card, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The card, which is one of the most stacked the promotion has had in some time if all goes off according to plan (that is, everyone makes weight) takes place at United Center in Chicago.

Whittaker, despite being encumbered by a leg injury, won by unanimous decision when the two squared off in the Octagon at UFC 213 in July 2017. The Australian fighter has not fought since then. At his peak, Whittaker is a well-rounded fighter, combining high-volume striking – especially to opponents’ heads – with a strong takedown defense.

The main question with the 41-year-old Romero is his cardio, especially since the UFC’s recently adopted changes to weigh-ins have created extra challenges for older fighters to make weight. In their first fight he attempted half as many strikes as Whittaker but landed them at a higher rate. However, in a close fight, volume has a favorable effect on the judges’ scorecards.

Whittaker has landed at least one knockdown in six of his 12 career UFC fights, while Romero has had at least one in six of his 11 starts in UFC and Strikeforce. That suggests there is potential for a stoppage.

In the co-main event, Colby Covington (-130) is a narrow, nominal favorite against Rafael dos Anjos (+110) as they vie for the interim welterweight title. Covington is a on five-fight win streak, but the past three were by unanimous decision as he bases his strategy around takedowns and grinding opponents.

However, if Dos Anjos can tap into his Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu background and keep Covington at bay with powerful kicks, he will stand a great chance at winning and giving backers a payoff. There’s a strong likelihood the matchup goes the duration.

Holly Holm (-210) is favored against UFC debutante Megan Anderson (+180) in what amounts to a women’s featherweight title eliminator. Holm, the former bantamweight champion, is 0-2 as a featherweight. The powerful but inexperienced-with-grappling Anderson, at 6-foot tall to Holm’s 5-foot-8, will come in with a significant reach advantage and that might help her with wearing down Holm.

The generation gap is hard to ignore in the heavyweight matchup between Tai Tuivasa (-250) and Andrei Arlovski (+210). Tuivasa, age 25, has won all seven of his pro fights by knockout or TKO, but the 39-year-old Arlovski will be his toughest opponent yet. Tuivasa believers should probably expect another quick knockout, while skeptics might look at a safe play on Arlovski dragging out the fight and testing the younger artist’s staying power.

In the opener on the main card, welterweight Mike Jackson (-200) is favored against CM Punk (+170) in a matchup that is as blank a slate as it gets, due to each man’s inexperience in UFC. CM Punk comes in with a deeper grappling background than Jackson and that could set him up for the upset in a fight that is highly likely to have an early stoppage.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Nunes, Pennington carry conflicting betting trends into UFC 224

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All of Amanda Nunes’ wins in her homeland have ended early, but challenger Raquel Pennington has a history of going the distance.

Women’s bantamweight champion Nunes is a -900 favorite on the UFC 224 odds with Pennington coming back at +550, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.  The card is set for Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday.

Nunes is 7-1 when she fights in Brazil, while Pennington is fighting in the country for the first time. Although Pennington has only been stopped once in 22 pro and amateur fights, Nunes’ home-soil advantage could be crucial. Nunes did require a decision during her most recent title defense against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215 in September 2017.

Bettors looking for value in method-of-victory props will have to decide whether they believe Pennington can duplicate and improve on the techniques Shevchenko employed, or whether Nunes learned some lessons from that fight about being the aggressor with her powerful striking game. If the latter theory pans out, there’s a good chance of a Nunes knockout.

In the co-main event, Ronaldo (Jacaré) Souza (-135) has a three-inch reach advantage over Kevin Gastelum (+130) in a matchup of Top 5 middleweights, as well as home-soil advantage. Souza rates the edge in power and versatility, which might make him too much for Gastelum to handle, setting the table for a submission.

That said, Gastelum’s speed and accurate striking does make it tempting to back him for the win, knowing full well that it’s not the percentage play.

Up-and-coming Mackenzie Dern (-265) takes on Amanda Cooper (+225) in a grappler vs. striker matchup between two women’s strawweight competitors who are each somewhat experienced. Dern has had three of her six wins via submission, which is coincidentally how Cooper has sustained all three of her losses.

Those trends should carry over, presuming that Dern has continued to upgrade her technique in order to get the match to the ground.

John Lineker (-250) is favored against Brian Kelleher (+195) in a bantamweight bout between high-volume strikers. Six of Lineker’s last nine fights have gone to a decision and that trend could continue if he focuses on using his punching power to wear Kelleher down early and get a lead on the judges’ cards. For Kelleher, the matchup might be too big of a step up in caliber.

And Lyoto Machida (-260) is favored against Vitor Belfort (+200) in a middleweight bout between two aging Brazilian fighters, the latter of whom has said this will be his last fight. Stylistically, Machida likely has the edge due to his abilities as a counter-striker, which should enable him to weather the anticipated early onslaught from Belfort, who is 0-4 in his last four fights as the underdog. Machida’s most likely path to victory is through a decision.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.