Favorites continued their tear last weekend, achieving a 7-2 mark in Saturday’s UFC Las Vegas 39 event. They now stand 48-11-1 (80 percent) over the last five fight cards. For the year, favorites are 221-113-11 (64 percent).
We’ve been able to profit over these last several cards by being in tune with where value was to be uncovered, whether with favorites, underdogs, round totals or propositions.
This week at the Apex in Las Vegas, we get another card riddled with obscure competitors that only hard-core fans will recognize, but it’s important to acknowledge that the rank-and-file fighters of the UFC need to earn and improve just as the stars of the organization do. While this card has few stars, it features talented mixed martial artists well matched against similarly versed foes willing to put it all on the line.
Aspen Ladd (-130) vs. Norma Dumont (+ 115)
Women's featherweight (145 pounds), main event
Ladd was scheduled to fight Macy Chiasson two weeks ago, but as has happened before, Ladd missed weight for that bantamweight bout and it was canceled. Ladd’s trouble making the 135-pound bantamweight level is well publicized, so this shift to featherweight makes sense. But it comes dangerously soon after her recent drama on the scale.
Ladd is an aggressive, wrestling-based fighter who has developed BJJ and kickboxing skills. She is aggressive in the cage, but turning around for a fight up a weight class just two weeks after she was weak-kneed on the scales is somewhat surprising.
Clearly, in her zeal to offset the weight situation with the UFC brass, she has decided to step into this bout on short notice and save the main event, which had been slated to pit Dumont against Holly Holm. While this move is admirable, it’s also risky for Ladd, who has not competed at featherweight.
Dumont has had legitimate success at the featherweight level, beating Felicia Spencer, a previous title contender, in her last bout. Dumont is decorated in BJJ and Sanda, a Chinese striking specialty. Dumont will be the slightly longer, larger athlete in the octagon, but she’ll lack the level of competition and experience of her opponent.
Predictions on this fight hinge on Ladd’s ability to recover from her debacle of two weeks ago and then adapt to a larger, superbly conditioned fighter who is acclimated to the weight class and benefiting from a full fight camp.
It’s my take that Ladd has the tools to succeed here, but the unknowns concerning her mental and cardiovascular states force me to watch this bout to determine whether Ladd can compete at the top of the featherweight division.
Total for this fight: 4.5 rounds. Over -120, down from -150 open.
Carlos Felipe (-110) vs. Andrei Arlovski (-110)
Heavyweight (265 pounds), co-main event
Arlovski, a 42-year-old Belarussian power puncher, is 31-20-2 and has been fighting professionally since 1999. He has earned victories in each of the last four decades.
Arlovski enters this fight having won three of his last four bouts, though the caliber of fighter he has beaten qualifies as gatekeeper, while endeavors with ranked or soon-to-be-ranked talent finds Arlovski overmatched.
The heavyweight division is lacking talent, so fighters with dubious credentials are at times allowed to compete despite the vast gap in pedigree. When Arlovski faces inexperienced, young mixed martial artists, he is effective because of his experience and guile. But when pitted against top-15 talent, his age and the attrition he has endured usually leave him exposed. This was the case recently in his fight against Tom Aspinall, when Arlovski was choked out in the second round.
Arlovski’s background is in Sambo and BJJ, but at this stage of his career he chooses to stand and strike since that taxes his cardio least. This tactic works against suspect adversaries, but against any legitimately talented heavyweight, he’s there for the taking. Only his granite jaw, stubbornness and toughness allow him to overcome his lack of footwork, movement and strike evasion.
Felipe, 26, is 16 years younger. He is 4 inches shorter than Arlovski and will give away a couple of inches of reach, but he will be the more athletic, explosive man while also being the heavier, portlier puncher.
As a 14-year-old, Felipe weighed almost 350 pounds and was bullied incessantly. Eventually Felipe found boxing and mixed martial arts, which gave him an avenue by which to channel his aggression, anger and emotion. Felipe fights without much precision or plan, but he brings a fiery temper, built-up angst and an aggressive, reckless power punching attack.
It will take Arlovski’s best effort to be able to maintain space and distance by which to crack the incoming roundhouse puncher. Arlovski’s movement will be critical. My biggest question is how much athleticism and movement the old warhorse has left, as effective evasion will force Felipe into wild advances that will set up Arlovski’s Sambo game.
On the other hand, Felipe simply wants to engage Arlovski in a good old-fashioned throwdown.
Felipe will pressure Arlovski with forward pressure and aggressive power slugging, while the cagey Arlovski with his world-class Sambo must measure the angry Brazilian to time a takedown on the frantic forward entries Felipe will employ to try to gain inside position.
So is it the young, angry, clench-fisted brawler who is more explosive than his opponent who will get his arm raised? Or will the craft, patience and experience of the veteran be too much for Felipe, who must refine every aspect of his fight game if he is to earn his way into the top 15?
Total for this fight: 2.5 rounds. Over -185.
I’ll wait for the props to hit before committing to this bout.