By Matt White
After the fun and games of UFC Stockholm we return to PPV territory with UFC 212.
The first in a run of 10 consecutive events begins in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with a unification bout at 145lbs and a number one contender match for the women’s 155lb belt in the co-main.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Belfort v Marquardt:
Vitor Belfort steps into the octagon this weekend safe in the knowledge that this will be his last fight in MMA, and has the privilege of competing back in Brazil in front of an adoring audience. For all his recent performances Belfort must be recognised as both a pioneer of MMA and a legend of the sport. At 40 his time has passed and he knows it. The chiselled physique is gone, along with it a decent gas tank, to be replaced by a dad-bod and a gas tank of roughly 60-90 seconds. He is still capable of the win, but if he doesn’t get it in the opening minute or so his odds massively drift.
Nate Marquardt is in a comparable situation. He isn’t likely to retire after the fight, but his record since returning to the UFC in 2013 (3-7) is little to be proud of. Just three fights went the distance, with the remaining seven barely seeing the second round. He is a man on his last legs but seemingly willing to keep going.
With a combined age of 78 the last thing you can expect to see here is a cardio war. The reality is that the first solid shot could see the fight end very quickly. Belfort should take home advantage but the truth is that both fighters are way past their best and this should be evident as the action unfolds. Don’t leave your seats folks; it won’t last too long.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 3 units at -220 (1/2) @ 5Dimes
Gadelha v Kowalkiewicz:
Claudia Gadelha can consider herself to be extremely unlucky at 115lbs. Firstly, she was on the wrong end of a split-decision to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a fight that many in attendance believed she won. Secondly, after dominating Jessica Aguilar, she received her shot at the title, and redemption. Once again, she fell short, although this was a clear loss, by a reasonable margin. So here she sits, an outcast at strawweight at least until Joanna drops the belt, which could mean a very long wait.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz missed her opportunity to topple the champion in New York at UFC 205, coming up short via lopsided decision. It was the first defeat in a fledgling career but not the first time she experienced defeat to Jedrzejczyk (she was second best in an earlier fight between the two at amateur level).
This will be the exact opposite of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bout. Neither fighter is known for furious finishes and it would be a major shock to see either stopped inside the distance. From a betting perspective, this is a dog or pass event, meaning that it’s a bet on Kowalkiewicz or leave it alone. I’ll be taking a small value play on KK to set up another meeting with JJ later this year in Poland.
Recommendation: Karolina Kowalkiewicz – 2 units at +280 (14/5) @ 5Dimes
Aldo v Holloway:
When taking a decisive win over Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo put behind him the humiliation of a 13-second defeat to Conor McGregor at UFC 194. For over a year Aldo had his personal headspace invaded by the Irishman to the point where he simply lost control. And, like that, it was gone; ten years of invincibility, consecutive victories and the proud statistic of being the only ever UFC champion at 145lbs gone in an instant. While dominant, Aldo had coasted his way to victory in his last few defences and needed that loss to stoke the fire. Against Frankie Edgar, he was back. The only question is, how long will it be for before he goes McGregor hunting again?
Upon winning the UFC’s interim featherweight title over Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway proclaimed, “Where’s Aldo?” as part of his victory speech. It was less than convincing and felt scripted, but he had the right to call out the linear champion. Like Aldo, Holloway experienced his most recent defeat at the hands of Conor McGregor and, like Aldo, has been looking to avenge the loss ever since. With Conor sticking around at 155lbs, this was the fight to make and it’s hard to argue against the match-up. With a ten-fight streak behind him, the biggest surprise is that he didn’t get his shot two years ago.
The bookies have this as a pick ‘em matchup, and so do I. It is near-impossible to separate them based on work rate and striking ability. The kicker is the big fight mentality and that goes to Aldo. He has seen this situation before and adapted comfortably. For this reason I think he will take a narrow decision, although I wouldn’t be shocked if this ended as a draw.
Recommendation: Jose Aldo – 2 units at -145 (7/10) @ 5Dimes