By Matt White
The UFC returns to Las Vegas this Saturday (October 7) as the locals mourn the events of earlier this week at Mandalay Bay. Two titles are on the line, which seems to be the UFC mantra for PPV cards in 2017.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Derrick Lewis vs. Fabricio Werdum
Derrick Lewis makes his return to MMA following one of the briefest retirements in recent memory. The Black Beast lost by TKO to Mark Hunt in Australia, announcing his retirement in the cage. A necessary back surgery followed and Lewis then announced his return, this time to face former champion, Fabricio Werdum.
Fabricio Werdum made a solid case to be called the GOAT (greatest of all-time) of MMA when he beat Cain Velasquez in Mexico City. At that point he had beaten the best heavyweight in the UFC as well as Strikeforce, Fedor Emelianenko, and Pride, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, all by submission. Whether he took Stipe Miocic seriously or not is irrelevant; he lost his UFC title by way of first round knockout.
The fact that this is going to be fought over three rounds is key for me. Lewis has already shown he has very little in the way of cardio, unsurprising for a man of his size, whereas Werdum has been through his share of rounds and will clearly have the edge in conditioning. Lewis’ best chance of a win comes by catching Werdum cold, but I don’t see that as a likely outcome and will take the Brazilian to work the distance, tiring out Lewis en route to a late submission or decision win.
Recommendation: Fabricio Werdum – 3 units at -230 (10/13) @ 5Dimes
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
Demetrious Johnson is a man who stands on the cusp of true greatness, in MMA terms at least. He reigns supreme as the best fighter to put on a pair of gloves at 125lbs, is number one in the pound-for-pound list and is tied with Anderson Silva for the most UFC title defences. For all his accomplishments, though, his PPV figures are reportedly some of the worst the UFC has seen from a champion. At 125lbs he is a freak of nature – faster, stronger and more rounded than anyone has ever been – and I feel we will only realise what we’ve lost when it has eventually gone.
Ray Borg is a man who gets the title shot not because he has ploughed his way through the top ten but because the man he faces on Saturday has already done that for him. In some cases, twice.
Borg may be the luckiest 125lb’er in the unluckiest position. If he loses, his will be the name that becomes synonymous with Johnson breaking the UFC record for title defences. Borg should consider himself extremely lucky to have this fight rebooked after he withdrew at very late notice. The UFC has proven itself to be somewhat vengeful in the past with aborted main events and this is likely to be the only stroke of luck he gets this weekend.
It would be the biggest shock in MMA history if Johnson were to lose and he is an untouchable favourite in this fight – more so than in his previous defences. That isn’t to say Ray Borg doesn’t stand a chance. He does. But to realise this he must revert to the old Ray Borg and rediscover a submission game he hasn’t been able to showcase in the UFC. He must do what Henry Cejudo couldn’t and out-wrestle Johnson. He must then either dominate him for three to five rounds or make him tap. None of this will happen and ‘Mighty Mouse’ will sit atop the world, if only for a brief period, as the greatest of all-time.
Recommendation: Under 4.5 Rounds – 4 units at -135 (20/27) @ 5Dimes
Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
This weekend finally seems to be the opportunity for Tony Ferguson to get his hands on UFC gold. Failed bookings against Khabib Nurmagomedov, the last for the interim title, has seen Ferguson spend 15 months off the mat and in the Fox studio. In fact, it was in the studio where this fight was born: Ferguson, on air, refused to give Lee the credit he deserved for beating Michael Chiesa.
The 155lb division has essentially been on hiatus while Conor McGregor took a year off for the birth of his son and his sojourn into professional boxing. It’s a hiatus that has arguably been to Ferguson’s detriment of Ferguson, as his potential opponents all succumbed to the injury curse.
Kevin Lee has been a very fortunate fighter, not because his wins have been lucky or undeserved, but because he has been active at a time when precious few have done the same. Wins over Chiesa, Francisco Trinaldo and Magomed Mustafaev aren’t really the sort of performances that typically lead to a title shot. But, with dos Anjos moving to 170lbs and Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez coaching in TUF, he just may be in pole position to leapfrog the queue and land the money fight.
Barring a miracle Ferguson will enter the Octagon on Saturday as a strong favourite – and rightly so. His performances, barring a relatively tame win over Lando Vanatta, have been levels above those shown by Kevin Lee so far. It’s a second five-round fight for Ferguson and a first for Lee, and those extra ten minutes could make all the difference. Lee needs to put El Cucuy away early to take this fight and dos Anjos, who hits a lot harder than Lee, couldn’t do the job. I doubt Lee will, either.
Recommendation: Tony Ferguson – 3 units at -230 (10/23) @ 5Dimes