This week the UFC visits Albuquerque, N.M., for a card lacking big-name recognition. But the slate does contain a handful of well-matched, competitive bouts. I’ll cover the main event in “Insight the Octagon” and follow up later in the week with any further releases.
Last week our release of Dan Ige + 110 was profitable. Readers of “Point Spread Weekly” were made aware that Ige, who opened as the favorite over Mirsad Bektic, had been bet into underdog status. That did not go unnoticed, as Ige won the first and third rounds impressively.
We stand undefeated with UFC releases this year, realizing a 2-0 + 2.3u result with an open-ended two-team parlay still awaiting its second release. The first leg of that parlay: Curtis Blaydes -240 from the event in Raleigh, N.C.
This week’s main event is a rematch of a fight at UFC 191 in 2015 in Las Vegas.
Corey Anderson -200 vs. Jan Blachowicz + 175, light-heavyweight (205 pounds), main event
Most pundits would have told you the winner of this elimination bout would be next in line to face light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. But after Jones’ razor-close decision over Dom Reyes last weekend, the feeling is that one of these men will have to do something spectacular to jump ahead of Reyes, who many think will be granted an immediate rematch.
When Anderson and Blachowicz fought in 2015, Blachowicz, then 32, held measurable advantages in experience, level of competition and fight acumen. It was Anderson’s seventh professional fight, and he was coming off a TKO loss to fellow East Coast mixed martial artist Gian Villante.
Blachowicz, a -125 favorite at closing odds, was controlled in the second and third rounds. Anderson used unrelenting forward wrestling pressure and dominant control on the mat, where he unleashed a devastating ground-and-pound attack to batter the Polish fighter.
Anderson amassed 136 total strikes to Blachowicz’s 29. Anderson also rang up 114 effective ground strikes to his opponent’s 10 and held top position for 9:43 to Blachowicz’s 11 seconds. Blachowicz seemed to tire very early in that three-round fight, and significantly, Saturday’s main event is scheduled for a full five rounds.
Blachowicz’s fight game has improved since their first meeting. But he’s also now 37 and coming off a very lackluster performance against Jacare Souza, who was once a world-class top-five talent in the division but who is now just a shell of his former self.
Meanwhile, Anderson has won his last four fights against top competition — the last a first-round KO of heavily favored Johnny Walker — after a couple of fights in which he was flushed on the face and knocked out by lesser fighters than Blachowicz. So Anderson has great momentum, but he must protect against being belted on the beak.
I see this fight transpiring much like their first fight. I believe Blachowicz will attempt to control the stand-up and prevent Anderson from taking him down at all costs. While this is easy to say, it’s quite difficult to do.
Anderson must not allow Blachowicz to find range and rhythm with his stand-up, as Blachowicz does have the pop to put Anderson’s lights out with his striking. Anderson will look to utilize that stout wrestling game to eliminate Blachowicz’s distance. He’ll then try to grope, grind and maul him up against the cage and then on the floor for another healthy dose of devastating elbows, strikes and hammerfists.
It’s my judgment that Anderson will have managed to shore up the experience differences from their first bout and will employ world-class wrestling to negate the striking range of Blachowicz and control him on the floor.
Anderson opened -145, and he has been bet up to -200. I believe -200 is getting a bit inflated. Anderson is younger and, I believe, hungrier. He has had some uneven performances but was so stellar in his fight against Walker that I think a little recency bias might be driving up the price on him.
I’ll continue to monitor this fight through the week and will not be hesitant to invest in Anderson should this price compress a bit before the opening bell. As of this writing, no props are posted, so I’ll be patient in waiting to determine if there is value to be had in other areas of this matchup.
Nathaniel Wood -160 vs. John Dodson + 140, bantamweight (135 pounds)
Wood is the hyped young up-and-comer at 26, but he is stepping way up in class of opponent — way up. Dodson is 35, but he is incredibly skilled, fast and experienced.
Dodson has lost three of his last four fights, but losses to Petr Yan, Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes do nothing but encourage understanding that Wood is not in the same hemisphere of talent as those fighters. Dodson did beat current No. 6-ranked Pedro Munhoz a couple of fights back, and I regard Munhoz as a top talent in this stacked division. I believe the wrong fighter is favored here.
Dodson + 140