With Jon Jones out of the light heavyweight title picture for the foreseeable future, every bout in the division has taken on a new importance of late. That is especially true for fighters who already had a shot at Jones and were soundly defeated (like Rashad Evans and Glover Teixeira). If anyone is able to string together a few wins at 205, they can instantly be inserted as a title challenger for current champion Daniel Cormier. Even Cormier’s next opponent has dropped two of his last three bouts, and the other logical choice to fight for the title has a win streak consisting of nothing but decisions against Anthony Perosh, Rafael Cavalcante, Ovince Saint Preux, and Phil Davis. With an impressive victory, either the fifth-ranked Glover Teixeira, or sixth-ranked Saint Preux could become a title challenger based on the dearth of options in the weight class right now. Those two men will headline the UFC’s latest trip to Nashville, on a card which looks to replicate some of the success the organization has had with smaller names but focusing on exciting fights. The co-main event certainly fits into that category, as neither Michael Johnson nor Beneil Dariush brings a ton of fanfare with them into the cage, but both are certainly capable of putting on quality fights. Johnson is riding a four-fight win streak, including a victory over Edson Barboza which looks even more impressive in the wake of Barboza’s performance last weekend. Similarly, Dariush has won his past four, although Johnson will mark a significant step up in competition for him. The main card also features middleweights Sam Alvey and Derek Brunson looking to continue moving their way up the ladder, heavyweights Jared Rosholt and Tim Johnson squaring off, and a striking battle between Tom Watson and Chris Camozzi. Perhaps the biggest thing to watch on the main card however will be the fourth UFC appearance of prospect flyweight Ray Borg, as he welcomes the debuting Geane Herrera to the Octagon. The preliminary portion of the card features an important women’s bantamweight bout between Sara McMann and Amanda Nunes, as well as another solid flyweight scrap between Dustin Ortiz and Willie Gates. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for UFC Fight Night 73 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out below: ——————– MAIN CARD (Fox Sports 1, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 2, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: While I’ve been very entertained by Sam Alvey’s recent run, I think it comes to an end here. Derek Brunson has looked significantly better in the UFC than I ever thought he was when many touted him as a good prospect in Strikeforce. His striking has come a long way, and his wrestling gives him a significant advantage over Alvey here. Alvey’s problem has always been a lack of volume, and I think that will let Brunson settle in to a pace he likes which should give him time to set up takedowns over and over. I’m favoring Jared Rosholt to beat Tim Johnson, but these are heavyweights and Rosholt has really poor striking defense. Johnson’s specialty is hitting hard, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Still, I expect Rosholt gives us something closer to his four UFC wins (by the way, Jared Rosholt is 4-1 in the UFC) than his lone loss. The danger of a KO is enough to keep me away for the time being though. Camozzi/Watson just seems like a fight that has happened before on an undercard somewhere. I expect a moderately exciting, generic kickboxing match, and I don’t think there’s a ton to separate these two. Camozzi probably has the better chin if things get a bit too heated, and Watson may have been the better technical striker in his prime, but I’m also of the opinion that Watson is on a bit of decline. While it will be competitive, I think Camozzi will be doing a bit more throughout and earn himself a decision. Geane Herrera looks to be a solid addition to the flyweight division (which realistically has the best calibre of ‘bottom-tier’ fighter in the UFC), but he’s going up against a guy who could very well be a champion. Herrera’s big issue here is that he’s not a technical enough wrestler to stop Borg’s takedowns, and not technical enough as a grappler to consistently get back to his feet. He may be able to avoid getting submitted, but with Borg’s ability to take the back I think that may even be a stretch here. I was going to type that this is the exact type of fight that Uriah Hall doesn’t show up for… but it can also be the exact type of fight he looks great in. So basically what I’m saying is that this is a Uriah Hall fight. My position on the bout will dependent on what the public does, because Bamgbose is a talented, dangerous striker in his own right, and if Hall isn’t 100% there this will be extremely close. I can’t trust Sara McMann anymore. She’s at the point in her career where she’s getting up there in age, has lost to both the champion, and another contender on her way back up the ladder. This seems like the perfect letdown spot for McMann, especially against a fighter who makes it easy for opponents to want to go away early. I’m not convinced that Nunes is a contender or anything, but I think she’s the hungrier fighter of the two, and that could go a long way with her aggressive approach. That doesn’t mean I’m betting Nunes, but I’m certainly not betting McMann. Dustin Ortiz belongs in the top tier of fighters at flyweight, and I think he’ll prove that against a guy who isn’t quite there yet in Willie Gates. Ortiz always turns his bouts into high-paced grappling matches, and he’s a much better grappler than Gates. On the feet, Ortiz is solid as well, and his striking should be more than sufficient to get inside where he can really get his game going. I can’t bet Ortiz at the opener, but he usually doesn’t get the respect he deserves, so perhaps the line will drop in this one. I’m still not quite sure what to make of Frankie Saenz’ performance against Iuri Alcantara, but I’m going to air on the side of caution and say I remain unconvinced. Also, against Sirwan Kakai, he’s facing a fighter who is a better striker, skilled in the clinch, and should be able to use his size advantage to keep things on the feet. The more time this spends at distance, the more it favors Kakai, but I think he can do well regardless of where the fight takes place. I’m thinking the public will put a bit too much stock in the Alcantara fight, and this line could get better. I haven’t fully delved into Jonathan Wilson yet, but the recipe is here for him to look impressive against a blown up middleweight in Chris Dempsey. Dempsey looked like he belonged nowhere near 205 when he debuted against Ilir Latifi, and was treated as such. Now he’s facing a guy who is a more dangerous striker than Latifi, and once again doing it on short notice. I’m tempted to bet the opener just based on what I’ve seen early, because I think this line may shoot up. Since beating up a bunch of cans on the regional circuit, Roman Salazar has gotten smoked by Mitch Gagnon (no shame in that) and was on his way to losing to the ghost of ‘Kid’ Yamamoto (shame in that). I’ve seen nothing from him to make me think that he’s UFC calibre. Marlon Vera isn’t much different in terms of his performances, but I think he’s a better athlete training at a better camp, and I expect to see some significant improvements out of him that will lead him to victory in this one. Anthony Christodoulou being in the UFC still just doesn’t make sense to me. Scott Holtzman isn’t Mairbek Taisumov, but I still think he’s better everywhere than Christodoulou and it should be another unfortunately quick night for the Greek fighter, unless Holtzman decides to wrestle and drag it out.