Despite the withdrawal of Jose Aldo from the main-event the decision to replace him with Chad Mendes offers hardcore fans an equally intriguing match-up. Can McGregor handle a wrestler? Is two weeks long enough to train for the Notorious?
There’s also the rematch between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald for Lawler’s belt plus a stacked card full of great fights at MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas.
Let’s take a look at the main card and see where the money can be made.
Conor McGregor v Chad Mendes
It’s not the fight we were promised but it’s a fight which has the potential to answer a lot of questions about how good a fighter Conor McGregor really is.
— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2015
Chad Mendes is no joke. In fact he’s by far the best fighter McGregor has ever faced and, most importantly to some, the first top class wrestler. The American only has two losses on his record, both in title fights against Jose Aldo. He was knocked-out in less than five minutes in their first meeting. He then went on a five-fight winning streak, notching up four knockout wins, to earn a rematch. The second time round Mendes pushed Aldo to the brink.
At 6/4 he’s not a bad bet, especially if McGregor has an issue with wrestlers as many virilant social media commentors are convinced is the case. Dennis Siver was able to take McGregor down but not keep him down, if Mendes can get McGregor on his back he’ll do a far better job of keeping him there. Although you shouldn’t discount the power in his hands Mendes’ best route to victory is to put McGregor on his back and grind out the win.
Truly grateful for every single person supporting me! Tomorrow I raise the gold for my country! pic.twitter.com/Vke30VbDzk
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) July 11, 2015
There’s as much evidence to suggest McGregor can’t handle elite wrestlers as there is that he can. It will remain hypothetical until after this fight. What we do know is that McGregor holds an eight inch reach advantage. He hits hard, accurately and from a multitude of angles. Something it will have been hard to train for on two weeks notice, which is all Mendes had.
— UFC (@ufc) July 7, 2015
Although both fighters weight in at 145lbs come fight time expect to see McGregor considerably bulked up. His size alone could be enough to negate Mendes’ wrestling. If he can stuff the majority of Mendes’ take-downs, get back to his feet quickly if he does get taken down and keep this a largely striking contest then McGregor is a stronger favourite than the 8/15 price suggests.
Lots of ifs though.
McGregor has predicted a second round KO win at 9/2. The biggest factor is that Mendes hasn’t had long enough to prepare and if he’s not up to speed McGregor might get the job done even sooner with a first round KO at 3/1.
Robbie Lawler (c) v Rory MacDonald
While the muted personalities and respectful manners of both fighters was never likely to whip up the pre-fight hype like Conor McGregor versus whoever, this match-up has just as mush potential to be a fight for the ages.
Lawler took possession of the welterweight belt thanks to a contentious split decision win over Johnny Hendricks last December. He also holds a split-decision win over MacDonald from 2013, something the Canadian will be looking to rectify.
LAWLER vs MACDONALD!!! pic.twitter.com/ibb3fJLbGd
— Dana White (@danawhite) July 11, 2015
Lawler is the more dangerous striker who used low kicks in their first bout to slow MacDonald and keep him off kilter, allowing Lawler to get to the punch first. MacDonald might look to utilise his own hard kicks in this bout as a way of halting the aggressive champion.
If MacDonald can take Lawler down he has a better chance of controlling this fight but he’s certainly well rounded and intelligent enough to come up with a gameplan to beat Lawler on the feet.
Arguably the toughest bout to call of the night and liable to go to another split decision with both men having improved since they last met. The challenger is the 8/13 favourite in the betting which makes Lawler a very tempting bet at 5/4. It could go either way but the value is with the champion.
Dennis Bermudez v Jeremy Stephens
Only two of the last twelve fighters to have failed to make weight have have gone on and won their fight. He missed weight on Friday and on top of handing Dennis Bermudez 20% of his purse he has also greatly increased his chances of losing a third straight fight and facing the dreaded chop from the UFC.
— Jeremy Stephens (@LiLHeathenMMA) July 11, 2015
Bermudez was on a seven fight winning streak before losing to Ricardo Lamas in his last outing. He’s a strong 2/5 favourite to beat Stephens tonight and the most sensible bet is to take him to win on points at 5/4. However if Stephens struggled with the cut Bermudez could use his wrestling to take his opponent down, sap his strength and look for the submission win at 5/1.
Gunnar Nelson v Brandon Thatch
McGregor training partner Gunnar Nelson is a world class brazilian jiu-jitsu artist, as was displayed by the submmision victories in three of his four UFC wins. However last time out he came up against Ricky Story who used his wrestling to prevent Nelson’s takedowns and ultimately hand the Icelandic native his first professional loss via a split-decision. Against Brandon Thatch we’ll find out if that was a slip-up or if Nelson is possibly not quite up to the hype which grew with his first four fights in the octagon.
A win over Brandon Thatch would push Nelson towards title-contention but he’s the 11/8 underdog for a reason.
— UFC Brasil (@ufc_brasil) July 10, 2015
Thatch has finished all eleven of his professional MMA wins inside the distance. He’s an experienced striker who is lethal in the clinch. He’s physically one of the biggest welterweights, with Nelson one of the smallest, so he has the siz to dominate the clinches. Things are more even striking from the outside where Nelson will look to use his in-and-out karate movement to avoid Thatch’s heavy shots.
Thatch’s aggression will open up opportunities for Nelson to take him down, where he has his surest route to victory.
If you want to cover your derriere then take Nelson to win via submission at 11/4 and Thatch to win by KO at 8/5.
Brad Pickett v Thomas Almeida
This fight cements Brad Pickett’s position as a gate-keeper for the UFC as the veteran is set to test the mettle of the unbeaten rising star Thomas Almeida at bantamweight. Alemeida has stopped 18 of his 19 opponents and will look to swarm Pickett with strikes. He has particularly vicious body shots which will test how much fight his veteran opponent has left in him.
Almeida’s style will leave openings for Pickett to land some shots. He has good hands and decent power but with four losses in his last six fights his career his definitely on the decline. Almeida to win by KO at evens looks to more likely outcome. If you’re after a bigger profit then try taking Almeida to knock the durable Pickett out in the third round at 8/1.
Despite winning his first four UFC bouts the Dubliner’s last three fights, all points victories, were bordering on the tedious. His eagerness to get back in the cage just four weeks since his last outing is testament to his courage and desire to make more of a mark. An impressive, exciting loss will do more for his stock in the UFC than another stunted victory.
— Cathal Pendred (@Pendred) July 11, 2015
His opponent, though far more experienced, has lost his last three fights so Pendred looks a good bet for the win at 4/5. He’ll fight on the October card in Dublin regardless but if he can win this fight in impressive fashion he’ll be a whole lot closer to the top of the card. Pendred on points at 5/4 remains the sensible option if you fancy the Dub.
He has looked better than Pendred in his last two UFC wins but Seery is another Dubliner who has yet to really catch the eye in the UFC. He faces Louis Smolka who is coming off a performance of the night KO win and Seery would do well to look to take this fight to the ground where he should hold the advantage with his grappling. A tough one to call but sheer blind optimism has me backing Seery to win via submission at 7/1. A wild punt to start a wild night of fights.