Last week’s UFC 254 was highlighted by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s final display of dominance as he submitted Justin Gaethje early in the second round in defense of his lightweight title.
Viewers witnessed fights that ended via KO/TKO, decision and submission, but the most notable statistic of the night was the tale of the favorite as chalk went 10-0-2. Yes, that’s correct, 10 favorites, no underdogs, a draw and the Robert Whittaker-Jared Cannonier fight, which went off as a dead pick-’em.
Favorites in 2020 now stand 234-114-13, or 66.1%.
UFC 254 results for the night: 2-1, 1.3u as Nurmagomedov “ITD” and Shavkat Rakhmonov 140 were solid winners. The Cannonier release lost and was never really in jeopardy of winning, a poor handicap on my part.
2020 Insight the Octagon profitability stands: 35-23, 19.02.
Action returns this week to the Apex in Las Vegas and the smaller 25-foot octagon. Besides the main event in which Anderson “Spider” Silva competes, we’ll see a substantial drop in name recognition and fighter status as the organization allows its lifeblood the opportunity to earn.
Uriah Hall -235 vs. Anderson Silva + 200, middleweight (185 pounds), main event
Silva is one of the busts on the Mt. Rushmore of UFC greats, but this is the 45-year-old version of Silva and one whose placement in this main event seems more ceremonial than serious.
Ultimate champions who for so many years enjoy the spoils of greatness have nowhere to go to recapture the adulation they received 24/7/365 when they ruled their division. Whether it was Muhammad Ali in the late 1970s and early ’80s or Silva now, elite fighters are always unable to execute the decision to retire when they’re at the pinnacle of their craft.
The idea of cementing their standing throughout time and elevating themselves to the likes of Rocky Marciano and now Nurmagomedov drives these fighters’ lust for further recognition and money.
A perfect example besides Silva is Stipe Miocic. He bested Daniel Cormier in the trilogy, and if he drops the mic and walks, he solidifies his place as a true heavyweight GOAT. But no. He’ll wander in for a rematch against Francis Ngannou, and the historic view of Miocic will then be tarnished in dominant fashion, I believe.
In his day, Silva was fluid like water with his defensive movement, explosive as a lightning bolt when striking, precise as a laser with his aim, masterful on the mat and simply the most dangerous 185-pound fighter to ever breathe.
Today Silva’s mind is as sharp as ever, and the signals it commands to his body to react are more acute than ever. The issue is that at his age, his carcass is unable to physically execute the demands from the brilliant mind trying to direct it.
Silva is 1-6 in his last seven fights, and he endured a PED suspension, which throws some shadow over his career and burdens me with questions. What would stop Silva from using PEDs before his final bout? My answer always comes back to … absolutely nothing.
Silva has absorbed more significant strikes than he has landed in nine of 24 UFC bouts, and seven of those nine have come in his last eight bouts.
Hall, the ninth-ranked middleweight, is a top-12 talent in the weight class on his day, but catching Hall on his day is very difficult to predict. He does not possess the experience or diverse MMA acumen of Silva, but Hall is nine years younger. He’ll also have natural speed and explosion advantages over the old, proud, stubborn champion.
If this fight were purely physical, it would be all Hall. But one forte of Silva is his mental toughness, something of which Hall has never been accused. In fact, his lack of confidence has often been cited for his inconsistent results. Where Silva has courted supreme confidence, Hall has been spurned by occasional mental lapses resulting in uneven performances.
The total for this bout is lined: 4.5 Under -115.
This price indicates that someone believes Silva is going to use movement and separation as an integral part of his plan, but will the older man be able to float like a butterfly for more than a couple of rounds?
But if Hall tries to engage Silva, he must cut the cage down to kick the cobwebs from the Spider. I have hesitation regarding Silva’s ability to compete with a legitimate middleweight and doubts regarding the accuracy of the judging should Hall not get the finish, which seems likely.
Too many unknowns: Pass.
Bryce Mitchell -155 vs. Andre Fili + 135, featherweight (145 pounds), co-main event
Mitchell, the 15th-ranked featherweight, enters this fight with a 13-0 record, 3-0 in the UFC. He is a grappling and submission fighter whose skills on the mat are pronounced but whose ability on his feet is still developing. For Mitchell to succeed, he must drag Fili to the floor, where he is most comfortable as a mixed martial artist. He’ll be overmatched in any form of striking competition.
With a win, Mitchell attracts attention to his gym as well as the Arkansas area as a contributor to the national MMA community. With a loss, I believe Mitchell’s path to top-10 consideration is hardly affected because of his talent, potential and fight acumen. He’s just early in his development at 26.
Fili, 30, enters this fight thirsting for top-15 consideration. He holds a vast advantage in experience as well as 4 inches of arm reach to complement his more refined striking. Yet it is he who arrives unranked.
Fili is the more well-rounded fighter, he has faced more competent opponents and he trains at a gym steeped with athletes whose specialties are wrestling and grappling. Fili is taking a huge risk fighting this highly regarded prospect, but provided he keeps this fight on the feet, I believe he can frustrate the kid and expose him via striking.
A completely focused and prepared Fili may be in a very advantageous position.
Fili 135 (half).
Total is 2.5 Over -145.
Greg Hardy -315 vs. Maurice Greene + 265, heavyweight (265 pounds)
Hardy is a former NFL All-Pro who now fights in the top organization in the world and holds a 6-2 record. He trains at ATT in Florida, where he is putting in his time against diverse training partners and in a great team culture. It’s not if Hardy rises to the top 10 of the division, it’s when.
Greene has had to grind into the division. His struggle to become relevant in the UFC is very real. He recently moved his family to Albuquerque, N.M., from Colorado as proof of his intention to make the most of this opportunity. Greene may have a slight striking advantage besides being taller and longer.
So the athletic Hardy who is confident he will win faces off against a grinder in Greene who is hoping he can win.
Hardy is the more gifted athlete who lacks refinement and experience. Greene is the more seasoned striker but does not possess an abundance of cardio or power.
Hardy is a worthy -300 favorite in this spot.
Total in this fight: Over 1.5 -110.
Aljamain Sterling 120 vs. Petr Yan for the bantamweight championship. This fight is in December. Take Sterling now.