Saturday night Mandalay Bay Events Center hosts UFC 156 which on paper at least, appears to be every bit as extraordinary as the Super Bowl.
UFC President Dana White & Co. made certain this event would not be common, featuring the return of two of its biggest stars in a title fight at 145 lbs, Featherweight champ Jose Aldo against Frankie Edgar.
Aldo (21-1) returns from a year on the sideline after sustaining a motorcycle injury. He’s attempting to defend his title for the fourth time. Edgar (14-3-1) is a former UFC Lightweight belt holder.
Preceding that main event fight will be a matchup between Rashad Evans and Alistar Overeem.
Oddsmakers have Aldo at -240, with the take-back on challenger Edgar a lofty +200. This will be Edgar’s first fight at the lower weight class of 145 lbs. With an obvious loyal fan base and lack of having to cut weight to make his prior 155 lb. division, my initial read suggested the sports books have an opinion of their own on this bout.
It’s been well documented that a handful of Edgar’s opponents at lightweight, such as current strap holder Benson Henderson and Gray Maynard chose to cut as much as 25 lbs to make the 155 lb. limit. But Edgar, a former wrestler who undoubtedly has experience in cutting weight walked around at only about 160 lbs.
Edgar preferred to drop very little. Therefore, I for one do not believe the reasoning behind this hefty price to back Aldo is dependent on Edgar dropping down to featherweight.
Rather, it’s the fact Aldo appears unbeatable of late. He was a perfect 8-0 in the WEC, making two title defenses and finishing seven of his bouts within the allotted time. Since making the jump to the UFC, Aldo’s record remains unblemished with three successful title defenses. Aldo is known as an extremely efficient Muay Thai practitioner, who receives a lot of comparison to his countryman and current UFC Middleweight title holder Anderson Silva, especially when the talk is centered around both men’s accuracy with striking.
Aldo’s precision is second to none, landing over 3.5 strikes per minute, and his striking defense is even more impressive as he avoids 71% of opponents attempts to connect. We have not had the pleasure of seeing him showcase his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills much at all thus far in his career fighting at the top levels.
It’s no secret he holds a black belt and like most Brazilian mixed martial artists, should be able to handle himself just fine if this bout goes to the mat. When we think of Edgar, the first thought that comes to mind has to be “toughness.”
Edgar has proven time and again that he possesses an almost “Rocky-like” ability to absorb punishment and recover. Though his take-down accuracy is nothing that should intimidate Aldo at 37%, he does average almost 2 take-downs more per 15 minutes than the champion.
Neither fighter looks to attempt many submissions. The challenger prefers to employ his boxing instead and being one of the most conditioned athletes we’ve ever seen inside the cage. Edgar’s game-plan almost always revolves around taking his opponents into deep waters and testing their resolve.
The question is whether or not Edgar can take Aldo into the later rounds and use what should be a case of “ring-rust” to take advantage of the champion’s conditioning. In the past, especially in his UFC debut against Mark Hominick, Aldo appeared to gas. Although the Canadian was unable to capitalize, Edgar has the experience needed to seize that type of opportunity if it presents itself.
Aldo will need to utilize his devastating leg kicks which brake down opponents and more importantly, slow them to where they are forced to stand and trade. And when it comes to a test of chins, few fighters at this weight class have shown the ability to hurt Aldo.
On the flip side, the combination of punches, kicks, and knees from Aldo have gone on to finish many of his opponents. Bottom line, one of Edgar’s greatest advantages at 155 lbs. was that he was much quicker than his bigger counterparts. He used his slick and swift footwork to get in and land, then get out of harms way.
That won’t be as easy now that he’ll be facing opponents who should be just as fast, if not faster. Couple that with Aldo’s leg kicks and what I believe to be heavier hands, and I have to give the champion the advantage on their feet.
When you take into account that Aldo’s been able to fend off 95% of take-down attempts as a pro, I can’t see many places the fight can go where he won’t have the advantage. Other than experience in big fights, along with his fortitude and stamina, Edgar won’t hold much leverage in this one.
Like last week when we backed three favorites and were forced to drink down some water to swallow all that chalk, the only way I can look to bet this week’s main event is by laying the wood again. To add some value, I’ll also look to tie up some parlays with those fighters that I’ll share below.
PICK = JOSE ALDO
ã Bonus PICKS :
1.) IAN McCall +230 over Joseph Benavidez
2.) ALISTAR OVEREEM -350 over Antonio Silva
3.) RASHAD EVANS -450 over Antonio Nogueira
ã MMA & BOXING RECORD
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Vegas-Runner is a professional sports bettor in Las Vegas. He’s been featured on CNBC/ESPN/Yahoo/Fox/CBS & More. Follow VR on Twitter (@vegasrunner), at Pregame.com, and on ESPN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM) when he co-hosts First Preview.
Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN. Follow him on Twitter@vegasrunner, at Pregame.com and on AM 1100 ESPN (also FM 98.9) on Fridays and Sundays from 11 pm to midnight when he co-hosts First Preview. Contact Vegas Runner at [email protected].