This is the kind of weekend guys like me dream about. Completely stacked with fighting!
UFC 225 takes place this Saturday from Chicago and boy is it a great card. The main event features UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker vs. Joel Romero, a rematch of the UFC 213 closer that crowned Whittaker the Interim Champion at the time.
The co-main event is a UFC Interim Championship fight, No. 1 ranked Welterweight Rafael Dos Anjos vs. No. 4 Colby Covington. Rounding out the PPV card: Holly Holm vs. Megan Anderson, Andrei Arlovski vs. Tai Tuivasa and former WWE Star C.M. Punk vs. Mike Jackson.
Even the FS1 prelims and UFC Fight Pass portions are full of intriguing battles: FS1 fights – No. 2 ranked Heavyweight Alistair Overeem vs. No. 4 Curtis Blaydes, No. 3 ranked Women’s Strawweight Claudia Gadelha vs. No. 6 Carla Esparza. FP fights – Rashard Evans vs. Anthony Smith, No. 1 ranked Flyweight Joseph Benavidez vs. No. 5 Sergio Pettis, Clay Guida vs. Charles Oliveira.
With all this goodness let’s get on with some picks and breakdowns.
WHITTAKER -240 (Caesars, Wynn)
ROMERO +220 (Westgate, William Hill)
TOTAL: 4.5 OVER +130 (Westgate) UNDER -130 (William Hill, CG Technology)
More books will have the total later this week.
As a bettor myself, I have waited too long as Whittaker’s price has gotten out of hand. He opened around -180 to -190 and the best line you can see in town is -240. I loved “The Reaper” at that opener as now the line is closer to what I believed the number should be. With that said, it’s a UFC PPV and the public should be out to bet the highlight reel machine at a great +220 price. My approach will be to wait and see how low this Whittaker (20-4, 10 KOs, 5 Submissions) line will go on fight night. If I can’t get around -220, I will pass.
With that said, let me explain why I like Whittaker. I was fortunate to be live at T-Mobile Arena for their first fight It was very tactical and Whittaker was the right choice by the judges that night. Whittaker excels, in my view, in two areas – managing space and takedown defense.
From the opening bell Romero (13-2, 11 KOs) was confident and took the opening round. He was accurate 14-for-20 strikes (12-18 significant) and landed one takedown. Whittaker was 7-25 in strikes, all significant.
However the only statistic that truly mattered in Round 1 was Romero landing a side kick that messed up Whittaker’s knee. Romero battered Whittaker in the following round as the bad knee was clearly bothering “The Reaper’s” movement. Round 2 saw Romero landing two takedowns plus 49-55 strikes (only 6-12 significant).
It clearly looked like Romero was going to win the fight, but Whittaker adjusted with one good leg and swept the final three rounds. Romero, surprisingly, was never really aggressive going after Whittaker’s injury and probably didn’t realize how bad Whittaker’s knee was.
The reason I am giving all this backstory is Whittaker basically beat Romero on one good leg. That’s a hell of an accomplishment. Whittaker stuffed Romero’s takedowns (1-8) and landed 61-174 in significant strikes to Romero’s 30-77. Because Whittaker did all of this with one good leg, imagine how he will fare on two. Whittaker’s speed and motion will be much improved; he clearly started to figure out Romero, going 31-79 SS in Round 5 to seal the fight. WHITTAKER
DOS ANJOS -115 (CGT)
COVINGTON EVEN (Westgate, William Hill, Wynn)
I am a little surprised by this line, as maybe it’s the hype I am getting caught in. Dos Anjos opened as a -120 to -125 favorite and I think Covington should be the small favorite. Covington’s level of takedown defense and his sheer aggressiveness might mirror the Eddie Alvarez-Dos Anjos fight. Alvarez swarmed and Dos Anjos couldn’t deal with the pressure.
If Covington can push Dos Anjos into the cage and keep firing away punches and elbows, I think he stops Dos Anjos. Covington has hopefully learned from his quick submission loss to Warlley Alves to not hang out his neck. I think the lesson in that loss makes him respect Dos Anjos’ ability as a grappler and leads him to a late round stoppage. COVINGTON
Parlay for everyone: Tuivasa Overeem and Gadelha.
I seriously can’t get over how crazy this weekend is for fights. We have two star powered cards Saturday as well. ESPN’s new streaming service, ESPN +, a monthly subscription like Netflix, costs $4.99 per month. With it you can watch the WBO Welterweight Champion Jeff Horn take on Ring Magazine No. 3 Pound for Pound Fighter Terence Crawford live from MGM Grand; $5 sure beats $60-$100 for a marquee boxing match.
Also, the same night Showtime showcases two of its top talents as Leo Santa Cruz defends his WBA Featherweight Title against Abner Mares. The co-main is WBC Junior Middleweight Champion Jermell Charlo vs. Austin Trout.
HORN +650 (William Hill)
CRAWFORD -800 (CGT)
TOTAL: 9.5, OVER Even, UNDER -120 (Westgate, William Hill)
Plenty of books around town have the fight and more should have the total soon.
Top Rank Boxing started their relationship with ESPN with a megafight on the network featuring superstar Manny Pacquiao, who just happened to be fighting Horn in his home country of Australia. One controversial decision later, Horn was a name after winning a decision against the Philippine dynamo.
Crawford had been cutting his chops on HBO, knocking out top contenders, winning world titles and looking like one of the very best in the world. Crawford’s hand speed and ring IQ would probably be even more appreciated if this wasn’t the era of Vasyl Lomachenko.
Nonetheless this is a great fight that as you can see by the line should showcase Crawford as he looks at bigger and better challenges in the future. The interesting thing about the line is it opened at -1250 to -1400 and we are down to -800.
I had Manny winning 115-113, but to me it wasn’t the robbery everyone claimed. Crawford will outbox Horn and should be able to find a way to stop him. If Crawford hits a low of -650 to -700 it’s hard not to recommend that bargain. See where it falls and decide. CRAWFORD
SANTA CRUZ vs. MARES and CHARLO vs. TROUT
No lines yet on these Showtime fights, but make sure you have the third TV or computer screen going for this doubleheader as well.