Linares' great story ends with Lomachenko; Nunes defends title at UFC 224
May 08, 2018 3:05 AM
by Alan Berg
Jorge Linares has one of those unique boxing stories. Not many fighters lose three of seven fights and go on to become a World Champion.
Hall of Fame former boxing champion and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya has gone on record to say it’s incredible how Linares is getting better. And while it’s a nice story to see a guy literally rise from three KO losses to capture the Ring Magazine, WBA Lightweight Championships. Saturday night it all ends.
Live and free on ESPN, two-time Ukrainian Olympic Gold Medalist, Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko challenges Linares the undisputed lightweight title and to further establish “NoMaschenko” as the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world.
To Linares’ (44-3, 27 KOs) credit, this will be the biggest fight of his career and he has earned it by rolling off 13 straight victories to prove he is the top lightweight in boxing. His prize, if you can call it that, is to face off against a truly special fighter in Lomachenko.
The NoMaschenko nickname came from his last fight, a six-round floor mopping of Guillermo Rigondeaux, who at the time was considered one of the four best fighters in the world. It was mopping because Rigondeaux quit on his stool, which marked the fourth straight fighter to quit during the fight. Vasyl gave himself the nickname recalling Roberto Duran’s famous “No Mas” fight against Sugar Ray Leonard.
Lomachenko (10-1, 8KOs) has been a professional for less than five years but every fight, minus his pro debut, a world title was on the line. A win makes it titles in three different weight classes. He was 396-1 as an amateur, avenging his only amateur loss twice. In other words, he’s a special breed.
LOMACHENKO -1300 (Wynn)
LINARES +1000 (Westgate, Station Casinos, William Hill)
Currently, Caesars and CG Technology also have the fight up for betting but fell in between the best numbers.
For Lomachenko to win its simple, be Lomachenko. Having covered boxing for over 10 years and watching the sport since I was 5 years old, I don’t remember seeing a fighter this complete. Fighters quit because fighting this guy is like fighting a shadow or a ghost. But a shadow or ghost can’t punch you in the face.
Lomachenko will use his body work, timing and hand speed to consistently keep Linares off balance. The Ukrainian star has no wasted motion, his fluidity and accuracy will be well on display in this fight from the opening bell.
Linares does exhibit top level offensive ability as he loves to mix it up and does a great job throwing picture perfect combinations. However, against a fighter with the talent level of Lomachenko, he won’t have time to set his feet and fire away. More likely, the second Linares stops moving to setup he will take a one-two from “Hi-Tech.”
Whatever game plan Linares brings to the table won’t be enough because he’s truly outgunned. In boxing, you’ll often hear head trainers telling their fighters to be first, in between rounds. This will likely be a theme for Linares’ crew. He will have to beat Lomachenko to the punch regularly, but Lomachenko’s defense skill will shine in this fight.
Vasyl will dictate the pace; he will land the bigger shots and slowly chop down Linares to the body, leading to a mid-round stoppage.
Unless this fight somehow falls near the -750 to -800 range, I cannot recommend a bet, heavy chalk is just not my style, but this should be the second straight weekend where a big favorite wins easily. Something to keep in mind: if a round prop appears, anything under 7.5 rounds is a play. UNDER
Live from Rio de Janeiro, UFC 224 hits the PPV market this weekend with “The Lioness,” UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes main-eventing in her home country against No. 2 ranked contender Raquel Pennington.
NUNES -900 (Station Casinos)
PENNINGTON +800 (William Hill)
TOTAL: 2.5 OVER +135 (Westgate) UNDER -150 (WH)
The line is also offered at Caesars, Wynn and CG Technology.
So far this line has gone insane; Nunes opened around -475 to -500 and has reached as high as -1300 at William Hill! Clearly the people betting this believe the line was not correct.
Nunes (15-4, 13 KO/SUB) has been a killer in most of her recent fights minus her pair of close decision wins vs. Valentina Shevchenko. Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann, Shayna Baszler, Germaine de Randamie and two others lasted one round. Clearly we know Nunes has top level stuff.
Pennington (9-6, 4 KO/SUB) is coming off a 19 month layoff for her title shot, largely based on a four-fight win streak capped with a win over Tate back in November 2016. She was supposed to fight Nunes back in December but was involved in an ATV accident.
The champion comes in riding a wave of confidence having essentially cleaned out her division. As she awaits the next batch of challengers, the women, like Pennington, who haven’t gotten a crack at her will get their chance. Nunes is on top because she is a vicious striker and once she has her opponent hurt The Lionness can finish the job on the ground with her black belt jiu-jitsu. That being said, Nunes has losses to Cat Zingano (who also beat Pennington) and Alexis Davis, meaning she’s not invincible.
Pennington’s best asset for this particular fight is her defense, which will have to be elite level to have a chance of winning the title Saturday. She will have to consistently change angles, pick off power shots coming at her and land counter punches when Nunes closes the space.
Pennington should lean on her kickboxing training as Nunes pursues, crush her lead leg with kicks. Most importantly she should want this fight to go into the deep rounds. In order to have success in the final three rounds of the fight Pennington will need to control the octagon, keep Nunes close enough that the champion is actively striking, thus tiring her out.
When it comes betting, Nunes is likely becoming a bigger favorite because she’s on another level than Pennington, not to mention it’s in Brazil. The best play here, based on Nunes support, is the total. UNDER.