Stipe Miocic makes first title defense as betting favorite at UFC 203

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Stipe Miocic is the betting favorite against challenger Alistair Overeem in the heavyweight title fight that will cap UFC 203, which is in the fighter’s hometown on Saturday.

The specter of losing the strap, and face, is a powerful motivator for Miocic heading into the showdown at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Saturday. Miocic is listed at odds of -145 for a victory in the five-round bout, with Overeem rating a good chance at +115.

It might be tougher to keep a title than earn it in the heavyweight division, but Miocic has evolved from freestyle wrestling background into a hybrid of grappler and disciplined boxer who keeps his guard up.

Overeem has potential to knock out almost any opponent, but the chances to land a massive strike could be farther and fewer between than usual against Miocic, who is a good striker in his own right. Miocic is also generally considered the stronger wrestler of the two.

Also on the main card, Fabricio Werdum, who lost the heavyweight title to Miocic at UFC 198 in May, is a -225 favorite against +175 underdog Travis Browne on the UFC 203 betting lines.

Werdum won a unanimous decision against Browne when they last tangled in April 2014 in spite of spotting him three inches in height. Losing in May should have been a prod for Werdum to brush up on his technique. Browne has split four TKO decisions since that bout 3½ years ago.

Former WWE champion CM Punk is a +300 underdog in his UFC debut against Mickey Gall, who is a -400 favorite entering their welterweight match. It has taken 21 months since the time he signed with UFC to get CM Punk into a ring, and it’s hard to imagine the UFC would give him an opponent whose style would pose problems.

Bantamweight contender Jimmie Rivera is listed at -125 against 37-year-old mainstay Urijah Faber, who is a slight underdog at -105. The 27-year-old Rivera is Faber’s junior by a decade. Over their careers, Faber has been more reliable at earning submissions and at defending against submission attempts. Rivera’s punching power and the fact that he’s on the way up whereas Faber has plateaued make him a tempting play.

Jessica Andrade is a -145 favorite against -115 underdog Joanne Calderwood in the women’s strawweight matchup that opens the UFC 203 main card. Andrade has the greater knockout capability, while Calderwood possesses more stamina.

Calderwood got a lesson in weathering an early onslaught in a 2015 fight against Cortney Casey when she was nearly dispatched early before eventually winning. Learning from that experience could come in handy against Andrade.

Conor is back: UFC says McGregor will fight Oct. 6 in Vegas

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conor McGregor will return to mixed martial arts on Oct. 6 in Las Vegas with a bout against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The UFC dramatically announced the matchup Friday to close a news conference promoting the slate of fight cards for the rest of 2018.

McGregor won the featherweight and lightweight championships during his meteoric MMA career, but he hasn’t fought in the UFC since taking the lightweight belt from Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.

McGregor hasn’t competed at all since losing his incredibly lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017.

McGregor also has resolved his legal troubles after throwing a hand truck at a bus containing UFC fighters last April. Nurmagomedov was the intended target of his misbehavior after a previous spat between the fighters’ camps.

T.J. Dillashaw Slim Favorite Against Cody Garbrandt on UFC 227 Odds

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The betting lines are tight for the rematch between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, even though the outcome was as clear-cut as it could be the first time around.

Dillashaw is a -120 favorite with Garbrandt coming back at -110 on the UFC 227 odds in a bantamweight title matchup that is the co-main event for the night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The rivals will square off at Staples Center in Los Angeles exactly nine months to the day since their title bout at UFC 217, when betting underdog Dillashaw won by a second-round knockout.

Dillashaw’s many virtues include premier footwork and being hard to hit, and he likely has the edge in grappling over Garbrandt, who will be conceding a 1½-inch disadvantage in reach. Garbrandt is also a top striker with knockout potential, but given that neither man has been in the Octagon since their title encounter, it’s hard to see how he flips the tactical edge that Dillashaw exhibited last November.

It seems eminently possible that the fight could be a rehash, albeit a more a drawn-out one, as Dillashaw’s other four title fights have all gone at least four rounds.

The co-main event of UFC 227 might be more of a matter of “how he wins” than “who wins?” as Demetrious Johnson (-500) takes on Henry Cejudo (+350) in his 12th title defense as flyweight champion. The value on Johnson is to be found in the method-of-victory props, where it is worth noting that four of his last seven victories have come via submission.

Cejudo, thanks to a decent wrestling base, should put up enough resistance to make Johnson work for a few rounds.

Thiago Santos (-375) is a ranked middleweight while Kevin Holland (+285) is a newcomer to the UFC in a matchup that was added to the main card just days ago. The heavy-footed Santos has had issues against technical fighters that work to take away his biggest weapon, but Holland is also a kickboxer first, who is jumping up a notch in competition.

Santos is coming off of a loss but his last four victories were all by technical knockout.

Renato Moicano (-375) would seem to be on more of an upswing than Cub Swanson (+285) entering their UFC 227 featherweight matchup, having gone 3-1 in his last four fights (all wins by decision) while Swanson has lost two in a row. However, Swanson is a high-volume striker who has a puncher’s chance for the betting-line upset, provided he can keep the fight standing and prevent Moicano from getting the fight on the ground and utilizing his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skillset.

And Polyana Viana (-225) is heavily favored against J.J. Aldrich (+175) in a matchup between two promising women’s strawweights. Viana has finished nine of her 11 pro fights in the first round, but is facing a step up in competition. Aldrich, whose last four fights have all gone the distance, is very capable of taking a victory by 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