The entree of International Fight Week — UFC 213 — features a pair of title fights, several former champions and a host of fights that should serve to provide action. Not a bad way to close out a busy weekend. Let’s not waste any time (opening odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook and listed in parenthesis)…
Amanda Nunes (-150) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (+120): The big questions in this fight are of strategy and conditioning. Nunes is the bigger, stronger fighter, and a more capable wrestler. She showed that in the first fight between these two, in addition to the fact that she can dominate from top position. However, after two rounds of employing that strategy, she was spent, and Shevchenko took over. A similar pattern also took place in the previous fight where Nunes employed her grappling (against Cat Zingano). So that begs the question, does Nunes grapple here, or strike with a more technical striker? If she does grapple, will she even find the success she found last time? Is she capable of pacing herself to prevent gassing? Altogether, I think there are too many questions Nunes has unanswered heading into this bout. Despite winning their first meeting, she seems to require more adjustments heading into this fight to emerge victorious in a five-round affair. Shevchenko is my play in is what is now basically a Pick’em fight with the current odds, but I’m not sold on a bet with the public leaning that way.
Yoel Romero (-130) vs. Robert Whittaker (+100): Somehow, Romero has closed as the underdog in his last five fights, and given that he’s spent much of the time since this line has been released as a slight underdog, that could be six. It seems the bettors simply don’t understand that this man is the most impressive athlete MMA has ever seen. At 40 — in Cuban years, which is probably just about as close to 50 — he still moves at a level that most of those who compete in MMA can only dream of. Whittaker is an excellent fighter, a great striker and has built his game expertly around his skills, but I just can’t bet against Romero, especially as a slight underdog now. When the man flips the switch, nobody in MMA is capable of quite as much.
Curtis Blaydes (-405) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (+285): Let’s put two-and-two together here, shall we? Blaydes is now over -700 in this fight, meaning that he’s probably going to win. In his seven career losses, Omielanczuk has only been finished once, and that was less than a minute away from hitting the Over 1.5 mark. It was also a submission that required long limbs that few other than Stefan Struve possess. Add that to the fact that Blaydes is a grinder (who usually earns finishes in the second or third round), and I think there’s a pretty good recipe for some #FGF here. Even better, the public has been kind enough to take the line from the opener of -170 down to -130. Just give me 7.5 minutes, gentlemen.
Alistair Overeem (-150) vs. Fabricio Werdum (+110): What a strange trajectory this trilogy has taken. Werdum won the first meeting because he sold out on his grappling, and he lost the second bout for the same reason. Then their careers went in opposite directions for a few years, culminating in Overeem getting knocked out by Ben Rothwell and Werdum winning the UFC heavyweight title just two months apart. For the next couple of years, Werdum would’ve been a healthy favorite in this bout, but now Overeem has experienced a resurgence and gets the slight nod. I can’t say I disagree with that assessment. Overeem has become so good at picking his spots, and it seems like Werdum’s incredible durability is starting to wane. Overeem’s grappling from top position is also consistently underrated, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he spends some time there in this fight. It’s still hard to bet Overeem because of his chin, but I’ll take him to win the fight.
Anthony Pettis (-265) vs. Jim Miller (+185): If Miller was a better takedown artist, I’d like his chances a lot better in this fight. As good as Pettis is on the ground, Miller is capable of hanging with him in scrambles and can likely maintain top position. However, I don’t think this fight ever gets to the ground. This seems like the type of fight set for a vintage Pettis left kick finish. It can be to the body or head, it doesn’t matter, I can’t see Miller standing up to that left shin.
Travis Browne (-180) vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk (+140): I just don’t understand this matchmaking. Is the UFC still trying to build Browne up by giving him Oliynyk in this spot, or is this just a throwaway fight? I can’t imagine there’s a whole lot of faith left in Browne on the organization’s part, but this is a very winnable matchup for him. The probable result is that Oliynyk doesn’t survive the shots that Derrick Lewis did, and this one is over quickly. That makes me question why this line was only opened at -180 and has only gone up to -220. Browne is far better than any of the guys Oliynyk has beaten in the UFC, and even well beyond Oliynyk’s only loss (Omielanczuk). I have no desire to bet on Browne, but I feel like that’s the play here.
Chad Laprise (-230) vs. Brian Camozzi (+170): Remember when Laprise lost back-to-back fights as a 4-to-1 favorite? Good times. I’m baffled that anyone could be so confident in him to push him up to -600 in any spot. Camozzi isn’t a world-beater by any means, but he’s an actual welterweight, will have significant height and reach advantages over Laprise and has shown solid skills in the clinch and from his back on the regional scene. This price is just absurd, and at the very least, Camozzi is worthy of some round-robin consideration.
Gerald Meerschaert (-190) vs. Thiago Santos (+150): This one doesn’t need much of a breakdown despite the line flipping in the other direction. Santos either knocks Meerschaert out early, or he gets taken down and submitted. Of course, when they seem that simple, those are the fights that end up finding a way to make it to decision, so be cautious about laying the now -435 on this fight not to go to decision.
Jordan Mein (-140) vs. Belal Muhammad (+100): Why exactly is Mein still fighting? The argument could have been made that coming off a nearly two-year layoff, he might have some fire back, but he showed absolutely nothing against Emil Weber Meek back in December. I have no reason to believe that he’s going to show up with any more desire against Muhammad here. That’s a bad recipe given the matchup, as Muhammad is the type of fighter who will gradually turn up the heat on you as a fight progresses. To me that spells a second- or third-round TKO for Muhammad, who is priced very reasonably here, even as a favorite now.
Rob Font (-215) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (+165): I understand that Font is 3-1 in the UFC, but are we really getting to the point where he deserves to be more than a 3-to-1 favorite over a capable bantamweight? Thus far, he’s beaten George Roop’s 135-pound skeleton, 0-2 UFC fighter Joey Gomez and flyweight Matt Schnell. Has he really done so much in those performances that people think he’s going to blow out a guy who was competitive with a much more dangerous striker in Zubaira Tukhugov? I actually expect Andrade’s pressure to give Font some of the same fits that Lineker gave him, and while Font showed a good chin in that fight, he didn’t show much else when he’s not dictating the pace. Andrade ML and by decision (+477) are both very tempting in this one.
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