This Saturday the UFC continues to show just how global the sport of MMA and more notably the promotion has been in recent years.
Only a week has passed since Brazil hosted UFC on FUEL TV 10, and now it heads north to the MTS Center in Winnipeg, Canada for UFC 161.
As usual, the entire card is stacked with some very competitive scraps and thus far, that’s exactly what the betting market reflects. The main-event features two former champions as “Sugar” Rashad Evans (17-3-1), who held the UFC Light Heavyweight crown and was the Season 2 winner of The Ultimate Fighter faces Dan “Hendo” Henderson (29-9), owner of championship straps in both Pride and Strikeforce, and former title contender in the UFC.
Evans, 33, has lost his last two UFC bouts, including one for gold against current UFC light heavyweight belt holder Jon “Bones” Jones (17-1). Henderson, 44, also enters the octagon off a loss against another former LHW champi Lyoto Machida (19-3).
Some speculate the loser of this bout may all but be eliminated from any future title contention. So it’s easy to see just how much will be on the line for both men come Saturday.
Currently, bookmakers have offered this matchup to bettors as more or less a coin-flip, with Evans being listed as a slight favorite.
A legion of Henderson’s fans has cashed plenty of tickets on him in the past at very generous odds. Evans is a fighter that in the past fans have looked to fade, and with recent success.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this line were to flip favorites in favor of Henderson…unless of course the wiseguys and /betting syndicates get involved.
The reason I say this is simple, if the professionals get involved, I strongly believe they’ll look to back Evans.
It’s no secret one has to question whether or not Evans has become damaged goods, meaning, after two straight losses where he was dominated, being out-struck by a combined 145 to 67, is he a shot fighter.
Perhaps we will see the Evans who completely overwhelmed former UFC titlist Tito Ortiz, where he out-landed Ortiz by 43 strikes, passing his guard with ease four times to win via second round TKO. He then returned to the cage to set back Phil Davis’ progress as a contender, passing another extremely efficient wrestler’s guard six times.
For Evans, he’ll need to obviously avoid Hendo’s greatest weapon, the “over-hand right” that’s finished the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Renato Sobral, and Michael Bisping to name a few, inside of three rounds.
Evans avoids 65% of opponents strikes and was able to last the entire 5 against Jones, something no other opponent of his can claim in his last 16 bouts, spanning over four years. With that said, he was in survival mode throughout, but that shouldn’t be the case against Henderson.
Look for Evans to out-wrestle and even out-grapple one of the best Roman-Greco wrestlers to ever compete in MMA. It will be very difficult for Henderson to keep Evans from taking the bout to the mat when he chooses.
Evans averages over 3½ take-downs per 3 rounds, and though he don’t execute much of a submission game when he gets the fight to the ground, he should be able to pass Henderson’s guard often enough to do damage. Also, with Hendo averaging less than ½ a sub attempt per 3 rounds himself, Evans shouldn’t find himself in danger from top or bottom.
Finally, there’s no denying that Henderson has provided some of the most action packed fights in the history of the sport, regardless of the promotion he competed for. And I won’t make it a secret that I am personally a fan and bettor who’s walked away very happy after plenty of bouts over his career.
Come Saturday night, he’ll find himself in the cage against an opponent, who at this time in his career, is a little or a lot better than him in too many aspects. Unless he’s able to land that big over-hand right, which still packs power and can change the outcome of any fight instantly, I just can’t see where Evans won’t walk out of the octagon with his hand raised.
Pick: Evans over Henderson.
Bonus Bet: Tyrone Woodley over Jake Shields
VR’s all-time record: 108-58 (65%)
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].