This weekend the UFC returns to big FOX with a slightly altered card. The main event was set to be Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson in a lightweight title eliminator, but a late injury forced… NOT Khabib out of the fight. Who saw that one coming? As a result, Khabib will now be getting the tune up fight more fighters should be presented with when coming off a year or longer out of action. UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher will be his opponent on the main card. The main event will be between a pair of familiar faces, as Glover Teixeira and Rashad Evans each look to make one last run at the light heavyweight title at age 36. The card also features former champions Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida in what is quickly turning into the middleweight/legends division. Kicking off the FOX portion of the card is a pair of fighters whose combined age is only four years older than that of Henderson. Strawweights Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas run back their 2013 fight, with much higher stakes this time around. The winner could be in line for a shot at whoever emerges from Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha when they conclude their business on TUF. Betting lines have been released for each of these fights except for the short notice Nurmagomedov/Horcher bout. In addition, four of the preliminary bouts already have odds released. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas completed the card today, releasing the opening five fights on the card at 5Dimes Sportsbook, as well as the Nurmagomedov bout. Check those new numbers out below: ——————– MAIN CARD (FOX, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 6pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 4pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: Darrell Horcher has some decent wins on his record, but his toughest opponent thus far has been Phillipe Nover, and he dropped a unanimous decision to the former next Anderson Silva. For all the jokes I like to make about Khabib Nurmagomedov, that doesn’t bode well for Horcher. He did find success against a solid wrestler in Jordan Stiner two bouts ago, but Khabib’s MMA wrestling is miles ahead of what a guy like Stiner brings. Expect plenty of takedowns for Khabib, but I still doubt he can muster enough damage to get a finish. This is almost impossible to bet though, as the line is massive and it’s hard to completely discount Khabib’s injury woes heading into this bout. I’ll stay away and just see what kind of form Khabib shows. Both Court McGee and Santiago Ponzinibbio like to move forward and throw a lot of strikes. Due to their styles, they also have quite a few strikes landed on them. Ponzinibbio has more power in his hands, but McGee has always shown a good chin so he should be able to handle the shots that do land. I think the biggest difference in this fight will be McGee’s cardio, and his ability to mix in takedowns. Ponzinibbio has struggled to defend takedowns when opponents have gone for them, and while McGee isn’t the best wrestler, he should be able to get Ponzinibbio focused on the striking enough to sneak a few in and help himself to a decision. It was good to see Randy Brown go deep in a fight for the first time in his UFC debut and come out on top. He dealt well with Matt Dwyer’s height and reach, and now he’ll go back to having big advantages in both areas against Michael Graves. His worry in this bout will definitely be Graves’ wrestling, and I’m not sure how ready he is to overcome it. Graves is by far the best wrestler he’s faced in his career. If Brown can pass the test, I’d be impressed, but I think he may stumble here. Drew Dober is tough, which we all know by now is code for “he’s good at getting beaten up”. He’s actually been showing improvement in his skill set over the past few fights, and his takedown defense has traditionally been one of his best attributes, but it just won’t hold up against the tenacious attack of Makhachev. Once on the ground, I think Makhachev should be able to work to dominant position and it wouldn’t surprise me if he scores a finish, but even if he doesn’t, it should be a dominant win for the Dagestani. I’m pretty sure that Oluwale Bamgbose’s ultra aggressive, hard hitting style is about the worst possible matchup for Cezar Ferreira, and it shouldn’t take long for that to come to fruition. Still, Bamgbose has quite a few holes and unknowns in his game, so if Ferreira is able to score an early takedown, it could spell trouble. However this fight goes, I expect it to play out inside the first round though. Under 1.5 is worth a look, and the ‘Fight Doesn’t Start Round 2’ prop is basically the same thing at a slightly better price. Elizeu dos Santos got taken down six times by Nicholas Dalby in his UFC debut. Now he’s facing someone who can actually wrestle in Omari Akhmedov. I expect takedowns at will by Akhmedov throughout this bout, but laying a big price on a guy who just got knocked out by Sergio Moraes is not exactly my cup of tea. If Akhmedov starts to fade in the late second and third round, he could be a sitting duck for the more skilled striker. I may take a shot on dos Santos by TKO for that reason, as that’s his only way to win, and it’s a real possibility.