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Nunes, Sterling headline UFC Vegas card

By Lou Finocchiaro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

June 2, 2020 09:25 PM
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Amanda Nunes
© Imagn

The UFC stomps into June with a stacked fight card featuring two-division titleholder Amanda Nunes, ex-bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and a fistful of other rated and talented fighters in various weight classes.

UFC 250’s main card in Las Vegas starts at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT), with prelims beginning four hours earlier.

Last week I dropped the Tyron Woodley release in a sizable miss. I regard myself as a seasoned, experienced bettor who strives to uncover value on underdogs but uncover value at any cost. While Woodley was a losing bet, I did advise readers to make wagering on a favorite at least tolerable by advising to use him in a parlay.

“I’ll use the open parlay from UFC 249 (Henry Cejudo -210) with Woodley -190, which, if it hits, pays + 126.

“I strive to lay only a net one unit for all of my wagers if at all possible. Using a parlay on value-laden favorites is one of my favorite ways to minimize outlay yet maximize profitability. For any that do not have the open leg available with Cejudo, I would suggest you start one here with Woodley.”

That was last week’s statement on wagering Woodley. If anything, the loss reinforces my distaste for chalk. Even so, when line advantage dictates, I’ll use value-laden favorites again. But if I do, most likely they’ll be used in one side of a parlay to minimize risk. That saved us 80 cents.

Season profitability: 15-5 + 10.9u

Amanda Nunes -700 vs. Felicia Spencer + 550, women’s featherweight (145 pounds), championship

Spencer is a natural featherweight whose arsenal is based on karate, Muay Thai and BJJ. This will be her fourth UFC fight. She’s 2-1, with her sole defeat a tightly contested three-round loss to highly regarded Chris Cyborg.

Besides a vast experience deficit, Spencer is 2 inches shorter and gives away an inch of arm and leg reach to the champion. If Spencer has any chance to win, she’ll need to press Nunes, smash her against the cage and take the champion to the mat and earn top position.

Spencer must at all costs avoid any prolonged standup with Nunes, and the best way to do that is to press and attack to earn inside position. That will allow Spencer to muffle some of the power and snap from Nunes’ strikes and lethal kicking game. The risk of this most apparent game plan is the tremendous risk it puts Spencer in as she tries to jump right into the fire.

Nunes has competed for or defended the title in seven straight scheduled five-round championship bouts in bantamweight and featherweight. She’s arguably one of the top two women’s mixed martial artists today. She has won 72% of her fights via KO or TKO, and her 80% takedown defense will help counter Spencer’s attempts to take her to the mat.

The time to have bet Nunes was at the opening line. I’m seeing the total as 1.5 rounds Over -185. Spencer’s size, toughness and grit will make this interesting, but on top of her inexperience, there’s this: Fighters in position to experience “Octagon jitters,” meaning inexperienced fighters in a debut fight — and in this instance the main event in a pay-per-view event for the UFC — have won 26% of their fights since 2013.

Pass

Four to six fights pique my betting interest, but here’s one I wagered on last week, and the bonus is that the price remains the same.

Aljamain Sterling -110 vs. Cory Sandhagen -110, bantamweight (135 pounds)

I believe that this bantamweight matchup delivers a more qualified opponent for the next title opportunity than does the bantamweight co-main event.

Sandhagen, 28, is unusually tall for a bantamweight at 5-foot-11. He displays deft movement and fluid striking.

In his two most recent fights, Sandhagen realized a grotesque height and reach advantage over 5-5 Raphael Assuncao and 5-3 John Lineker. Each struggled to navigate his precision striking and overall size despite fighting him very competitively.

Sandhagen lands an average of 7.1 strikes per minute, which is a high volume and greatly contributes to his success, for he is an offensive fighter who realizes that volume will help overcome his relative lack of power. But his defense is less than stellar. Sandhagen allows 4.2 strikes per minute against. More importantly, his 26% takedown defense is sure to be tested by his wrestling-based opponent.

The 5-7 Sterling will be giving up 4 inches to Sandhagen, but any advantage that creates is eliminated by Sterling’s reach advantage. Sterling’s 13 UFC battles provide an advantage not only in experience but with a far superior level of competition, and this is his second attempt at a title opportunity.

Sterling is a wrestler with tremendous athleticism, movement and evolving striking. He averages 4.85 strikes landed a minute but allows a paltry 1.95. Sterling will try to rush Sandhagen for the clasp, then the fence press and eventually the floor.

In December 2017, Sterling realized his biggest career opportunity when he faced Marlon Moraes. He was finished in that fight, and since then he’s had to scrape, claw and badger back through a deeply talented bantamweight division to earn this opportunity.

Sterling’s experience, hunger, focus and wrestling base will provide a real test for the less experienced Sandhagen. Also, I think Sterling’s size and thickness will be contributing factors because Sandhagen has benefited by fighting men over whom he had dynamic physical advantages in his last two outings, and before that he faced a UFC debuting fighter.  

Sterling -110

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