Stipe Miocic

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.