On Saturday night, the UFC returns to the Mecca of combat sports. Madison Square Garden will play host to UFC 230, featuring the first title defense of heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier as he faces knockout artist Derrick Lewis fresh off his stunning Comeback of the Year victory less than one month ago.
Whenever the UFC heads to MSG, it’s a big deal, and with the title of Baddest Man on the Planet on the line, UFC 230 should be quite the event, with people placing bets the world over.
If you want to get in on the action, here is what MMA betting fans should be considering.
Daniel Cormier is one of the very best fighters competing in MMA. After a standout collegiate wrestling career, Cormier went on to be one of the best wrestlers in the world for many years.
But despite his grappling pedigree, Cormier has developed into an elite MMA striker with a game built around smother pressure, boxing combinations and world-class clinch control.
This isn’t just a supplement to his grappling game but a game plan in itself, as Stipe Miocic found out the hard way when he was knocked out by a clinch right hook in their title fight.
At this stage in his career, Cormier presents very real threats in all phases of the game and the world-class wrestling to control where the fight take place should one of the phases not be working out for him.
Cormier may be best served to do just that as Derrick Lewis is one of the sport’s best knockout artists.
In contrast with most modern-day MMA fighters, Lewis appears to be a throwback to a simpler time of fighting, when big brawlers ruled the roost. But while that characterization is apt to a degree, it also completely misses the mark on the unique skillset Lewis brings to the table.
Lewis is more than just a big, strong guy who throws hammers; he’s incredibly durable, mentally unflappable and in possession of an excellent fight IQ. Like other hyperdynamic fighters, Lewis has an innate sense of timing and opportunity, and knows how to lose battles to ultimately win the war.
Take his most recent fight, a last-second KO of Alexander Volkov. Lewis was soundly beaten for the entirety of that fight, all the way up until he wasn’t. It took 14-and-a-half minutes, but Volkov finally slipped up.
And when he did, Lewis pounced with thunderous precision. Like Yoel Romero or Brian Ortega, Lewis is a violent opportunist and his ability to lose battles on the way to ultimately winning the war is not to be overlooked.
Despite having nearly unparalleled success in the sport, Cormier’s MMA career was destined to forever live in the shadow of Jon Jones. That is, until he knocked out Stipe Miocic in the first round and won the heavyweight title.
By nature of winning the UFC title, Cormier cemented himself on the short list of greatest heavyweights of all-time and now, unencumbered by the burden of the massive asterisk that loomed over his light heavyweight title, Cormier is free to receive his due propers and those propers should only get louder after Saturday night.
There’s a reason that Cormier took this fight on short-notice and while still recovering from injury: He should be able to get his possibly still broken hand raised on Saturday night without too much issue.
Make no mistake, Lewis is as game as they come -- a legitimate world-class heavyweight --but the stylistic matchup is rough for him here. Though Lewis is always dangerous, no matter how out of a fight he is, realistically he needs to hurt Cormier early to have a chance.
That seems highly unlikely as Cormier is a technically superior striker and should have a considerable speed advantage. After the first round, Cormier should be able to put a pace on Lewis that will quickly exhaust the famously out-of-shape heavyweight and from there, it’s formulaic.
So, given that Cormier is going to win this fight 95 times out of times of 100, betting Cormier straight at -715 on 888Sport or betting Cormier Inside the Distance at -560 are both bets with value, even if there isn’t a lot of meat on those bones.
If you’re looking for a little more spice in your Saturday night betting agenda, Cormier is perfect parlay fodder, so pairing him with Israel Adesanya (-350 on 888Sport) can bring that price down and get bettors more bang for their buck.
The co-main event of the evening features former middleweight champion Chris Weidman taking on Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a bout that will likely determine the next 185-pound title challenger.
Weidman has not fought in 15 months -- a submission win over Kelvin Gastelum -- and hasn’t looked good in a fight in over three years. More to the point, Luke Rockhold’s obliteration of Weidman appears to have cracked the All-American’s chin.
He has been knocked out in three of his last four fights and was severely hurt by Gastelum before rallying back in the second round. Unlike Gastelum, Weidman won’t be able to hustle Jacare on the ground, considering Jacare is, at worst, the second-best grappler in MMA.
I don’t trust Weidman’s chin to stand up to the power and athleticism of Jacare so getting plus money on Souza feels like a steal. Take Souza at +145 with Karamba.
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