Getty Images

New York removes ban on pro MMA fights

Leave a comment

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 favored against Cormier to highlight UFC 226 betting lines

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.