By Lou Finocchiaro  () 

Last week’s UFC event in Mexico City was as odd of a fight card as I can recall. The evening was capped by a main event that lasted 15 seconds and was ruled a no-contest due to eye pokes. I had released Yair Rodriguez 100 in that main event, and I have a few things to say.

First, Jeremy Stephens (who got both eyes poked badly) spent better than $30,000 toting his fight camp to Mexico City for five weeks to train for this fight. No way was he faking the injury as many (mainly his opponent Rodriguez) claim. No way.

Second, I say now that I had the wrong kid in the fight. Both Stephens and Rodriguez knew what was going to transpire in that cage had this fight been able to play out. We are rarely presented a chance to “luck out” of a poor wager with a no-contest determination, but that is exactly what happened.

Rodriguez entered the cage Saturday with the look of a baby gazelle surrounded by hungry hyenas. He walked in there cold, scared to hell and ready to face the fury as his machismo would force him to do in front of an arena of crazed fight fans. There is little way he would have handled Stephens’ pressure last Saturday. He knew it, Stephens knows it and now so do we.

Finally, it’s Rodriguez who’s doing all the yapping now and chiding Stephens about the incident, yet I feel there is absolutely no way he will agree to fight him again. Somewhere deep inside of me yearns for this fight to be rescheduled quickly as I want to see Stephens whup Rodriguez after all the belly aching he did after the fight which I viewed totally as a “tell” to the relief he felt not having to undergo the whuppin Stephens was about to inflict on him.

This week the UFC debuts in Copenhagen with a fight slate much more steeped in competitive matchups than we’re used to seeing in Europe. And, remember, the prelims start at 8 a.m. PT with the main card going at 11 a.m. PT.

Middleweight (185 pounds)

Jack Hermansson -240 vs.

Jarod Cannonier 200

Hermansson, a Swede, headlines a main event in his backyard after earning impressive victories over top-rated (if aged) middleweight competition. Hermansson, 31, has a complete fight arsenal, which relies on a heavy grappling/wrestling base and

is complemented by solid striking. In recent fights, Hermansson has been able to engage his opponents and dominate them with inside grappling using over/under hooks to gather them in and smother them in the clinch before dragging them down to the floor for some ground-and-pound.

Hermansson is the slightly younger man and he’ll be the taller fighter, but Cannonier has the same reach, so Hermansson’s jab may be less effective in this fight than it has in the past, which is important as his striking does work off of the jab.

If there is one concern I have for the Swede, it is that his body of competition is not quite what it appears. Sure, his opponents’ names are recognizable, but their ages at the time he fought them tell me that Hermansson has not been in there with a fighter as viciously fast, powerful and as quick as Cannonier.

Cannonier arrives to this fight an underrated force at middleweight. He’s competed in the heavyweight/ light heavyweight divisions and fared well against larger, stronger men. Only now has he moved down to this weight. His results have been stellar. At middleweight, Cannonier has found his home.

If Hermansson decides to forgo the striking and simply wrestle Cannonier from the opening bell, then I believe Cannonier may have a difficult time with Hermansson’s Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling.

That said, he trains at one of the more complete gyms in America, known for its expertise in BJJ and wrestling, The MMALab. Cannonier did effectively impede David Branch’s (a Renzo Gracie Black Belt in BJJ) takedown attempts before finishing him in the second round a few fights back. He is well aware that Hermansson will try to take this fight to the floor once he gets clocked by Cannonier early on.

Hermansson is the more complete MMA fighter, but I believe the difference in this fight will be the speed, quickness and conditioning of Cannonier, who I regard as a most dangerous and capable opponent.

Cannonier opened a 160 dog and has risen to 200, presenting value on the American. As is usually the case with underdogs, the value will grow as we near the opening bell because UFC gamblers bet favorites, they bet parlays and they bet late so be patient and watch this line closely.

Cannonier 200 (or better) is on my watch list, pending weigh-ins and of course another dime or two of value.

Welterweight (170 pounds)

Gilbert Burns -135 vs.

Gunnar Nelson 125

This fight is going to be interesting. Burns, who has made the move to welterweight from lightweight, is experiencing what many of today’s fighters are: They perform better without having to make drastic weight cuts.

Both of these men are world-class BJJ artists, so a flop on the floor would be most exciting to us purists.

But in situations like this, it’s common to have the competitors fight it out in the middle of the cage.

When standing in this fight, Burns will need to navigate Nelson’s unorthodox karate stance to be effective, but Burns holds significant speed and power advantages in the stand-up department. He also is one of the few mixed martial artists who is a more pedigreed dangerous Jiu Jitsu artist than Nelson. Burns will have no problem on the mat.

Anywhere this fight goes, I must give Burns the edge. I believe Burns’ struggles as a lightweight were caused by the drastic cutting. This move up in weight has allowed him to fight with more ability to take a shot as well his cardio has improved significantly. On top of all this, Nelson’s striking is only average within the division and his power comes not from the fists but from his kicks.

Burns -135 is in an advantageous position Saturday night.

Point Spread Weekly readers hold a Justin Gaethje -190 open-ended parlay from the UFC Vancouver card, which we will now tie to Burns -135 ( 166).

I am not a big parlay advocate. But when I uncover value in favorites, the parlay is a great tool that allows one to keep the investment to 1 unit. If we can get Burns to batter Nelson, we’ll have a nice underdog priced profit.

My record stands 12-14-1 for -.25 units after last week’s no-contest with the above second leg of the parlay in balance.

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