Although it seemed as late as Wednesday night that the featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor was in jeopardy, the show will go on, and the interest in UFC 189 has never been higher. There is so much that has already been said about this fight, and it will continue to garner the lion’s share of the attention over the course of the next couple weeks. There is another excellent title fight on the card as well, as welterweight champion Robbie Lawler defends his belt against Rory MacDonald in a rematch of their November 2013 bout. Lawler picked up a split decision in that bout, which earned him his first UFC title shot, and went on to put a series of good performances that earned him the title. MacDonald has won three straight since dropping that bout to Lawler, and many still have the 25-year-old pegged as the future of the 170 division. The lines for those two bouts have been released for some time, even though the Aldo/McGregor line was pulled from 5Dimes Sportsbook recently amidst speculation of the fight being cancelled. Prior to being pulled, the line was incredibly close, with Aldo just a -115 favorite (bet $115 to win $100) and McGregor -105. With news of Aldo’s rib injury that line could flip, and Aldo may be one of the rare champions to come into a defense as an underdog. Unless things change drastically, Lawler will be in the same position, as he currently sits a +160 underdog (bet $100 to win $160) against MacDonald’s -185. The rest of the card is enthralling as well, with important and entertaining bouts across several divisions. Featherweights Dennis Bermudez and Jeremy Stephens look to rebound from recent setbacks and put themselves in title contention. Welterweight up-and-comers Brandon Thatch and Gunnar Nelson are in similar positions, as both lost to top fighters in their most recent appearances, and now look to use each other as stepping stones to contention. Opening up the main card, bantamweight prospect Thomas Almeida looks to continue his tear through the 135lb division, as he welcomes Brad Pickett back to the weight class. Even the undercard of UFC 189 is tremendous, and the featured prelim of Matt Brown and Tim Means is surefire violence. Also at welterweight, Cathal Pendred comes back on short notice to take on John Howard. Speaking of welterweights and comebacks, Mike Swick returns to the Octagon for the first time since 2012 to face Alex Garcia. Cody Garbrandt will kick off the televised prelims as he faces Enrique Briones. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the full betting lines for UFC 189 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out below: ——————– MAIN CARD (PPV, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 7pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: I expect a lot of people to jump to the conclusion that because Charles Oliveira was able to outwrestle Jeremy Stephens, that Dennis Bermudez will be able to do the same, but I’m not so sure. Oliveira’s wrestling comes primarily from the clinch with a variety of trips that utilize his length. Bermudez is more of a traditional wrestler and Stephens has had success stuffing those takedowns in the past. If that’s the case, Stephens is the far more dangerous striker and this will be a highly competitive bout. I’m hesitant to play anything right now because I think the line will climb on Stephens, but I can definitely see myself making a bet on him. I expect Brandon Thatch to tear through Gunnar Nelson. Yes he eventually tired against Benson Henderson and got submitted, but Henderson makes opponents work way harder than Gunnar Nelson. Thatch should dictate the pace of this fight on the feet and be able to stuff Nelson’s takedowns early. By the time Thatch slows enough for Nelson to get takedowns, I’m not sure the Icelandic fighter will have enough left in the tank to get them, if he’s even still in the fight at all. Despite Gunnar having some big time hype, I’m going to play Thatch small early, because I think it would be a shame to not have any money on him in this one. Brad Pickett was starting to get in a lot of trouble in his fights before killing his body to transition down to 125. He looked particularly bad there, and I don’t think moving back up to 135 to face one of the most dangerous fighters in his entire career is going to go well. Pickett is an historically tough fighter, but I think Almeida puts him away in swift fashion, and the under is tempting. I’ve been waiting for a fighter who will go in to the cage and make Tim Means move backwards. I thought George Sullivan could have been that fighter, but that was obviously misguided. Matt Brown is definitely that guy, and I think his pressure will stunt a lot of Means’ offense. ‘The Dirty Bird’ will still get some licks in — and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the threat of a finish due to body shots — but I think Brown can swarm him, get some takedowns, and win a decision here. Not very anxious to bet it though. Cathal Pendred has a very good chance at moving to 5-0 in the UFC against John Howard. Howard has rather porous takedown defense, and can just turn off offensively. This is almost similar to the Montano fight for Pendred, except Howard is a much more straight forward fighter who won’t be as difficult for him to find, clinch, and wrestle. I’m hoping money comes in on Howard, because I’d have no issues playing Pendred here at a lower price. This is not going to go well for Mike Swick. He hasn’t fought since 2012 and he has one win this decade in MMA. That was against Damarques Johnson in a bout he didn’t even look good in. Aside from that, he’s been knocked out badly by Matt Brown, and dropped and submitted by Paulo Thiago. Alex Garcia might be more dangerous than either of those fighters were at that point, and he seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder from the Magny loss. I don’t think a 36-year-old Swick makes it to the halfway point of this fight, and if he does, it’s because Garcia chose to put him on his back instead of a stretcher. Speaking of stretchers, Cody Garbrandt has power at bantamweight that may only be matched by his fellow prospect Thomas Almeida and Cisco Rivera. He should get a chance to show that off against Henry Briones, who doesn’t have the wrestling to get Garbrandt out of his comfort zone and will probably eat all varieties of punches for his troubles. Neil Seery seems to be constantly underestimated, and I have a feeling that will be the case again here. Louis Smolka is probably a more well-rounded mixed martial artist than Seery, but the Irishman should be able to give Smolka fits on the feet. I think Smolka may be able to adjust and score with kicks later in the fight or resort to some clinch work and wrestling to pull out the victory, but nothing is easy when facing Seery. It’s hard to trust Yosdenis Cedeno after watching him get outhustled by Ernest Chavez and outskilled by Chad Laprise thus far in his UFC career. Against Cody Pfister, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the former happen one more time. Pfister was in tough in his UFC debut, but I think Cedeno is an inferior version of James Moontasri and with a full camp he may be able to pull it off. I’m not making a play on Pfister since this is somewhat similar to Cedeno’s bout with Jerrod Sanders, but I’m not ruling it out either.