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T.J. Dillashaw thinks Conor McGregor imitators, like Dominick Cruz, are ‘getting old’

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T.J. Dillashaw is not only the current UFC bantamweight champion; he’s one of the best mixed martial artists in the world.

In just five and a half years, Dillashaw has climbed to the top of the mountain in the 135 lb weight class thanks to his impressive wrestling ability (he qualified for the NCAA D1 tournament three times during his time at Fullerton State) and the guidance of his striking coach Duane Ludwig.

Currently there are only three fighters who are ranked higher than Dillashaw in the promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings: Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, and Conor McGregor.

So yeah the 29-year old from the small town of Sonora, California has earned the right to run his mouth about the amount of success he’s had.

But don’t expect him to.

You see Dillashaw doesn’t live in the universe that McGregor resides in. While McGregor will use press conferences to talk about custom-made suits, watches, and the panties his opponents’ wife may wear in order to drum up interest about his next fight, Dillashaw has been forced to listen to his opponents complain about his lack of desire to trade insults.

Dominick Cruz, who is set to challenge Dillashaw for his bantamweight championship on Sunday, actually asked T.J. why he doesn’t feel the need to talk about his opponents or how great he is during a face-to-face sit down.

The champ’s answer: “‘Cause I don’t want to”

Dillashaw has no desire to change the person that he is because he doesn’t want a fake persona to define his run at the top.

“I want you to remember me for my fights, not because of what I’m talking about and the drama I’m creating.” Dillashaw told NBC Sports. “I want you to remember me because of my great performances. I want to be able to look back at my career and see that, instead of being a reality TV star.”

With the rapid amount of attention McGregor has received over the last 12 months, it makes sense for more fighters to try and follow his path to success, but it’s a dangerous game to play because not everyone is cut out to have a persona that hilariously degrades his or her opponent on the microphone.

Cruz has certainly upped the amount of verbal jabs he’s thrown at Dillashaw before they square off at the TD Garden in Boston, but the champ thinks this it is an act of desperation by his opponent.

“It looks out of character,” Dillashaw said, “like you’re trying too hard, so you end up saying some ridiculously outlandish stuff and I feel like that’s what happening to him. I’m not going to play the game or let him get under my skin. He’s just trying to do that to draw some attention towards himself.”

“He’s trying to stay relevant because he hasn’t fought that much in the last four years,” Dillashaw added. “He’s trying to pump himself up with a bunch of outlandish talking and he’s kind of being a hypocrite as well. He’s not making much sense with what he’s doing. It’s kind of out of character for him.”

But it doesn’t seem like the trend of elevated belittlement is going to go away any time soon in the UFC, especially with the amount of money McGregor is generating. McGregor’s victory over Chad Mendes at UFC 189 had over one million PPV buys and his 13-second KO of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 could wind up as the second highest grossing PPV in company history when the numbers are finally released.

There is a direct correlation between McGregor running his mouth and over a million people forking over $50-$60 to watch him fight. He’s become the sport’s biggest male star by becoming an entertainer on the microphone and in the cage, so it’s easy to see why fighters would want to try and copy his blueprint, even if it means changing their personality outside of the octagon.

“I think only so many people can do what McGregor does. McGregor is really good at what he does and it works for him,” Dillashaw told me, “but for people to change who they are to kind of be that type of person, it doesn’t really work.”

Whether it works or not, it seems like the UFC is about to enter a world where there are carbon copies of McGregor’s road to success and excess and it’s something that Dillashaw is very worried about.

“With more people trying to talk that way, it’s going to make it too fake, too WWE. Eventually it’s going to get old. I think it’s already starting to get old.”

It’s a trend that Dillashaw will have to deal with going forward, but he has the ability to thrive in this world because he doesn’t feel the pressure to verbally assault his opponent, so he’s more likely to stand out in the landfill of trash talk.

“By being respectful and acting true to my colors, my personality will seem unique in the long run if guys continue to act like this.”

There is a sense of pride that you can hear in Dillashaw’s voice when he talks about the legacy that he wants to leave. He wants to make sure that every time he steps into the octagon, he’s putting on the best performance he possibly can for the fans, which means he doesn’t have time to worry about stringing together a series of insults.

“Hopefully people will want to watch me fight because I’m no bullshit,” Dillashaw said. “I just step in there and fight.”

On Sunday Dillashaw has the chance to add another victory to his impressive resume and you can bet he’ll let his fists do the talking.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Miocic favored against Cormier to highlight UFC 226 betting lines

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Stipe Miocic takes a significant size and reach advantage into a legacy fight against Daniel Cormier – and perhaps has more face to lose. Miocic is the -210 favorite with Cormier coming back at +170 in the co-main event on the UFC 226 betting lines, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

 

Miocic is on a streak of a record three heavyweight title defenses and Cormier, who is the light heavyweight title holder, will go into the Octagon at T-Mobil Arena in Paradise, Nevada on Saturday with a chance to become a two-weight world champion, a feat few other men have completed.

 

Holding a 7½-inch reach advantage over Cormier, Miocic may offer a combination of power, speed and boxing ability that Cormier hasn’t seen before. Cormier might rate better in the grappling department, which is a reason why it wouldn’t come as a shock if he pulled the upset, but Miocic’s edge in the stand-up game is certainly greater.

 

Miocic is also 35, still the typical peak period for a heavyweight, whereas Cormier, at age 39, might be at the point of his career where durability is becoming a factor, especially in a bout with a strong likelihood of going the full five rounds. At the end of the day, the figurative scales seem tipped in Miocic’s favor.

 

In the co-main event, Francis Ngannou (-370) is a hefty favorite against Derrick Lewis (+280) on the UFC 226 odds in a heavyweight matchup. Both are counter-punchers by nature, so it’s possible a feeling-out process takes the fight past Round 1, where Ngannou ended his last four victories. If the two keep the fight standing, then Ngannou should come out ahead against Lewis, whose last three losses have come by knockout or technical knockout.

 

Paul Felder (-155) took a fight on this card late, but is favored against Mike Perry (+125) in a  welterweight matchup. The 33-year-old Felder has scored three consecutive knockout victories whereas the 26-year-old Perry has lost his last two bouts, so it’s reasonable to think the elder fighter will be able to figure out an opponent who seems to have plateaued in his maturation process.

 

Michael Chiesa (-160) holds an edge in grappling technique over Anthony Pettis (+130) in a catchweight (157.5 pounds) matchup. Chiesa missed the cutoff weight for lightweight for this bout. Fighters who miss weight are 7-2 in the UFC in 2018. Chiesa’s route to victory involves getting the match to the ground or on the fence and grinding out a victory, making it worth considering taking him to win by decision, which was also the verdict in three of Pettis’s five defeats during his seven most recent fights.

 

And Gokhan Saki (-145), a converted kickboxer, has a striker-vs.-striker matchup against Khalil Rountree Jr. (+115) in a light heavyweight bout. Saki is an unknown as a grappler, but what is known about Rountree is that he has never landed a takedown in the UFC, so there is a strong likelihood of a high-volume striking matchup that Saki could end by knockout or technical knockout.

 

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.

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.