Heading into the month of February, it was completely fair to say...
UFC Fight Night Vancouver Maia vs Condit
Coming off the extreme high of an incredible and historic UFC 202 card, it would be unfair for fans to expect a similar level of excitement for any non-PPV card. UFC Fight Night Maia vs Condit likely will not top McGregor vs Diaz 2; but it certainly is not a bad follow-up main event on free television headlining the UFC’s August 27th’s event in Vancouver this weekend. Outside of Maia vs Condit, which will have title shot implications, there are a couple of other decent scraps I’ll take a look at and offer some predictions to ‘hopefully’ improve your bank accounts.
Notable Main Card Fights:
Page “12 Gauge” VanZant (10th) vs Bec “Rowdy” Rawlings (Women Strawweight 115lbs)
Preview: Last time Page VanZant was in the octagon she got thoroughly throttled by Rose Namanjunas, eventually succumbing to a submission in the 5th round in their December 2015 fight. While she has not fought since, her profile and celebrity grew with appearances on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ & a leading role in UFC sponsor Metro PCS commercials. Page is definitely marketable, and she had shown skills to finish opponents (albeit not very skilled ones) at 115lbs, which is a rare commodity for the smaller women’s weight class. However, her decisive loss to Namanjunas exposed her to have a large deficiency in her grappling and ground game when dealing with a stronger opponent. Her opponent Bec Rawlings will surely look to test that deficiency in their fight. Rawlings is riding a two fight win streak, and is known for her unrelenting aggressiveness which she’ll hope to copy what Namanjunas was able to do against VanZant. Rawlings will also hold a two-inch height advantage which may give her some additional advantage if they get in the clinch along the cage. Rawlings also possesses an excellent takedown defense, having stopped 80% of the attempts on her in her career. VanZant is still very young at 22 years old, so the ability to improve and learn from her loss will be a critical part to watch in this fight. She has been out of the cage for over 7 months, and had her attention in other places than the octagon at times. VanZant’s first round performance will be an interesting storyline to see if she struggles with any ring rust or how she responds to facing any early adversity due to Rawlings history as a quick starter.
Odds: VanZant (-195) vs Rawlings (+170)
Prediction: It is no secret on which fighter the ‘UFC’ would prefer to win this fight. Page VanZant is the more marketable fighter, in a division that is very top heavy talent wise outside of the top 4 fighters in the division. Marketability aside, I think Page VanZant is extremely talented young fighter and likely more overall skilled than Rawlings. However, I am not completely convinced she wants the career of a full-time ‘fighter’. MMA is absolutely cruel to even the best in the sport, let alone people who are not fully invested in making a living at it. After losing her first fight as a UFC fighter, she essentially took an extended vacation away from the sport. The Women’s divisions have transformed in the last year, as more and more talent comes into the sport making the degree of difficulty even higher for everyone. VanZant is in the hurt business, and she has to compete with women who want nothing more than to wake up and fight everyday until they are a champion. If Page VanZant is not a 100% convinced that she wants to become the best UFC fighter she can; as her career path, the sport will make that decision for her. Bec Rawlings is a tough aggressive fighter who will test VanZant’s commitment to the sport and her future in it. VanZant may impress and show she’s ready to contend once again. However, this fight I’m taking the plus money odds (+170) on the fighter who I know wants in that cage, against the one I’m not entirely sure does.
(Bec Rawlings (+170) via Unanimous Decision)
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira (6th) (Featherweight 145lbs)
Preview: December 6th, 2014 seems like eons ago for Anthony Pettis’s career. It is surreal to see a guy who was arguably on everyone’s Pound for Pound list, suddenly in discussions as to whether he may get cut from the promotion entirely with another loss. Prior to winning his championship belt against Gilbert Melendez that night in December, Pettis and streak were two phrases that did not seem like they’d ever go together. However, after suffering a total beat down from Dos Anos in his first title defense, Pettis has lost 3 straight as he enters his fight with 6th ranked Charles Oliveira as an unranked fighter dying for a win in hopes of salvaging his career. In reality, I do not believe Pettis gets cut if he loses this fight, as he still has a fan friendly style and name recognition to at least stay on the roster. However, a 4th straight loss will almost certainly end his career as a contender. In Pettis’s defense, all of his losses have been too absolute monsters. Two of his three straight losses have come to former or current UFC champions, but it’s the way he’s lost that has you concerned if you are a Pettis fan. The creativity, fluidity, and lethal striking that made Pettis a household name and champion have suddenly disappeared in these losses. He looks tentative and unsure of himself making him nearly unrecognizable to fans of the sport. The UFC did not do Pettis any favors by giving him a super tough Charles Oliveira to snap his losing streak. Oliveira has won three of his last four fights, has a two-inch reach advantage against Pettis, and will absolutely test Pettis’s heart with his unrelenting attacking style. Pettis will have to use his footwork, find his range with striking and will likely have to hurt Oliveira early to keep him from smothering him along the cage. He will need to establish a rhythm which will lead to some in ring confidence that has eluded him during this losing streak.
Odds: Pettis (-210) vs Oliveira (+175)
Prediction: My heart wants to see the old “Showtime” return and knock out Charles Oliveira as he resurrects his career, and is able to challenge for a title once again. However, I just can’t recommend taking a guy who’s a 2-1 favorite despite having lost three straight fights and looks like he may have his confidence in his incredible abilities. Charles Oliveira is an animal, and he will not care about the Pettis resurrection story line. Oliveira sees this as a potential make a name for himself fight by destroying a former champion. His camp is likely telling him if he can end Pettis, it will make a case for getting a number one contender fight. At +175 odds, I’ll go with the guy brimming with confidence and zero pressure on him instead of Pettis who may have the weight of the world on his shoulders heading into this fight.
(Oliveira (+175) via Unanimous Decision)
Main Event (Non-Title Fight)
Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit (4th) vs Damian Maia (3rd) (Welterweight 170lbs)
Preview: Carlos Condit appeared like he might be ready to call it quits after his last split decision loss to Robbie Lawler, a tough brutal fight for both guys. Condit is a tremendously talented former champion who unfortunately fights in a loaded Welterweight division while unsure if his best days are behind him. Many in the MMA community were caught off guard, when he opted to not retire and instead take on the extremely dangerous Damian Maia as the main event for UFC Fight night. No one will argue Condit is out of his depth against a tough opponent like Maia, but when you hear fighters start to seriously consider retirement it is hard to wonder how much they have left in their tank. Condit still possesses the ability to stop almost any guy in the Welterweight division, and with his incredible cardio cannot get taken lightly by Damian Maia, regardless if this is Condit’s swan song or not. Damian Maia is a man who also cannot get taken lightly, as he is looking for his shot at the title as he looks to extend his five fight win streak. Maia knows that if he can finish Condit, the UFC will have little choice but to give him a title shot. There is no one better on this card, and potentially most of the UFC on the ground than Maia. Statistically it is not even close; Maia spends a larger percentage of his fights in a dominant position on the mat than any other fighter on this card. He also is not just a “lay and pray” wrestler once he gets his opponents to the mat. The man is a wizard on the ground, he finishes fights there, and any opponent he faces is always a single mistake away from being submitted by this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. The key for Maia will be how his cardio holds up over the scheduled 5 rounds vs an opponent known for his good gas tank. Maia will have to work to get Condit in his wheelhouse; on the ground, and this may come down to the classic fight adage of who can make their opponent fight their style. Condit will be happy to keep it standing, and Maia wants to take it to the mat.
Odds: Maia (+105) vs Condit (-125)
Prediction: This entire card feels like several of the favorites with big names (VanZant, Pettis, and Condit) are all extremely talented fighters who are facing external questions about their commitment to MMA for several different reasons. Most bettors would jump at the chance to take Carlos Condit at close to “even-money” against any welterweight not named Tyrone Woodley or Stephen “Wonder Boy” Thompson. I cannot be one of those guys however as I’ll continue with my theme of taking the underdog with +odds against a favorite who may or may not want a place in the fight game anymore. This is the biggest coin flip fight on the card, and it would not surprise me to see the old Condit out strike & outwork Maia for a 5 round unanimous decision. However, if Condit does not come completely ready to fight a guy looking for a title shot, I think he is apt to get submitted. I think Maia finds a way to get a dominant position at some point during this fight. Once Maia gets that position, I do not think Condit will be able to stop the submission master from getting his 6th win in a row.
(Damian Maia ((+105) via Submission)
Prediction Record Year to Date (7-4-0) (+$65)
-Record& predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions& Records are for entertainment value only
*Stats via www.UFC.com