Bigg Rigg Hendricks should thump Thompson

February 02, 2016 3:02 AM
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Super Bowl week is upon us so it’s no surprise the upcoming UFC Fight Night 82 is not getting much attention, even here in the host city of Las Vegas. 

This event was originally scheduled for pay-per-view as UFC 196 and set to showcase a main event featuring the rematch between former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and current title holder Fabricio Werdum.

Plans changed when an injury forced the challenger to pull out just two weeks before the bout and the UFC offered Stipe Miocic a shot at the heavyweight strap. Even on short notice Miocic agreed but a day later Werdum refused to defend his title claiming he too was injured and more importantly, would not have enough time to prepare for a new opponent.

With only a week to go before the MGM Grand Garden Arena was set to play host to UFC 196, the promotion’s president Dana White announced the UFC would be cancelling the pay-per-view broadcast. Fight Night 82 will take its place and fill the void, with fans being able to view the event on Fox Sports 1 instead. Also, the co-main event is now the main event so let’s break it down and see if we can uncover any value.

Former UFC welterweight title holder Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks (17-3) faces five-time world kick boxing champion Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (11-1). This will now be a 5 round fight but that change has not affected the betting line at all. Hendricks opened as a -220 betting favorite with the take back on Stephen +185, and that’s exactly where the line sits as we go to print.

Hendricks enters the Octagon only 2-2 over his last 4 bouts but both losses came against former and current UFC champions. He represents Team Takedown which is fitting since his wrestling pedigree has been the foundation for Hendricks’ success in mixed martial arts. The former champion and southpaw is also very well known for having one-punch knock out power, most notably in his left hand.

Statistically Hendricks averages over 4 take-downs per 15 mins and though he’s not a submission specialist, he’s got some nasty ground and pound. He’s been able to defend 61% of opponents take-down attempts which helps dictate where the fight takes place. Five of Hendricks’ last six bouts have gone the distance and like most high level wrestlers, he’s got an excellent gas tank.

For Stephens, he’ll enter the cage on a five fight win streak having finished 3 of his last 4 inside the distance. In fact, only one of his last 3 opponents has survived the first round, and that was Patrick Cote who may have the best chin in the division. Stephens will have a 6 inch reach advantage in this bout and 3 inches in height.

He’s a volume striker who’s connected on 50% of strikes while defending 58% of his opponents. Stephen has landed 4.68 strikes per minute while absorbing 3.04. He only averages a little over 1 take down per 15 minutes and has been able to avoid 78% of opponent take-down attempts, which will be crucial in this fight.

Though on paper it may appear Stephen has the edge if the fight stays standing, I personally disagree. I believe Hendricks will be able to close the gap and get close to land on Stephens and also back him up. 

Johny’s power will get Stephen respect and the worry of being taken down should put him on the defensive. That should play right into Hendricks hands since he’s at his best when being the aggressor. The fighters who have given the southpaw the most problems were those who make him fight backing up and I don’t believe Stephen will be able to do that.

Finally, the level of competition both have faced in the UFC has been vastly different. Hendricks has been in the cage with St-Pierre, Brown, Condit, and Lawler twice within the past 3 years, while this will be the first time Stephen is in with a top 10 welterweight. 

Although the books are asking -220 to back Hendricks on Saturday night, I believe the true odds reflect the price should be a lot higher. I am confident “Bigg Rigg” will have his hand raised when all the dust settles, whether he lands the big shot of systematically breaks “Wonderboy” down over five rounds. So I will go ahead and make my way to the betting window and lay the -220 believing I’m getting the best of it.

PICK = JOHNY HENDRICKS

Vegas-Runner is a professional bettor/handicapper featured on CNBC, ESPN, FOX, Yahoo, CBS This Morning, The Herd, JT the Brick, & More. Follow VR on Twitter @Greek_Gamblerand at the home of the Animals, Phillygodfather.com. Contact Vegas Runner at VegasRunner@GamingToday.com.