OUR UFC correspondent David Walker (@Walkerdavid32) is in Vegas for tonight’s huge fight. His best bets are here.
Jose Aldo v Conor McGregor | Sunday 05:30 | BT Sport 2
What a match up! Jose Aldo is a stone cold killer and is undefeated in 10 years. That is extraordinary in itself. He has beaten down every opponent that has been put in his path since entering the WEC and moving on into the UFC. With an outstanding record of 25-1-0, Aldo is ranked as the number 1 pound for pound fighter in MMA.
As with Conor McGregor, one of Aldo’s greatest strengths is his self belief and mentality that no one else will possibly defeat him. This was brought into question around the time of the planned original bout between the two at UFC 189 when I genuinely believe that Aldo pulled out because, mentally, he knew that McGregor had got to him.
Aldo was consumed with anger at McGregor’s antics and it was obvious that the Brazilian’s head had gone. However, fast forward five months and the Aldo of old has returned. He has refocused himself and allowed himself to become ambivalent to McGregor and his mental warfare.
For his part too, the Irishman and his braggadocio has been replaced by what McGregor calls his more Zen like persona. He seems calm and very focused. Conor knows what is at stake here and he knows that he is facing his toughest ever opponent. But what McGregor also knows, is that (in his mind) there is no fighter who can live with him.
McGregor can be brash, boastful and down right disrespectful at times causing people to love or hate him, but when he talks about fighting and movement, he is incredibly intelligent and innovative. Aldo has never faced anyone like McGregor and it will be very interesting to see how the diversity and movement of the challenger is dealt with by the champ.
Betting wise, this has been as tough a decision as I’ve made in a long time as I have been trying to think with my head and not my heart. McGregor has been a big favourite with the bookies for a long time but much of the ‘smart’ money has come in on Aldo over the past week and both fighters are now a best price of evens each to win.
In my head, I have been leaning towards Aldo. Listen to previous title challengers like Kenny Florian, Mike Brown, Ricardo Lamas and Uriah Fäber talk about the damaging leg kicks that Aldo inflicted upon them – Fäber and Florian both said that it took about two months after their respective fights for their legs to return to normal.
McGregor has had two fairly serious knee injuries in the past three years and this is something that Aldo will most definitely target. With a 43% striking accuracy and 3.29 significant strikes landed per minute, Aldo will set out to primarily target the Irish man’s legs and try to limit his opponents renowned movement.
Also supporting my initial view that Aldo would win is simply the fact that he has been unbeaten in so long. Many of the fighters have selected Aldo as the winner of this bout and despite most recognising what McGregor brings to the table, they see Aldo being too tough and dominant for the Irishman to possible lift the title. If Aldo does win, it will come via one method and that is a decision. The best price on this is a fantastic 5/1 with Skybet.
Initially, Aldo was a knock out machine and in his first six fights in WEC, he had six knockouts. Upon looking more closely at his fights, however, he has slowed down and become much more cautious in recent years and has earned a KO win only twice in his last seven bouts, the rest coming by decision.
Aldo is no stranger to five round fights and he will most definitely have the stamina to the last the course but I would note that against Frankie Edgar, Mark Hominick and most recently Chad Mendes, he tired notably in the championship rounds.
For McGregor, he will be coming out and looking to overwhelm Aldo with his diverse striking, movement and length. McGregor has a 4″ reach advantage and is naturally the bigger man. He also has a very impressive 5.44 significant strikes landed per minute and a striking accuracy of 44% both of which surpass the champion.
What McGregor must do if he is to win, is utilise this striking whilst reducing the damage he takes, as the challenger absorbs a weighty 3.01 significant strikes per minute. McGregor must ensure that he makes it difficult for Aldo to land those punishing leg kicks.
Fighting from a southpaw stance, Aldo will largely be restricted in inside leg kicks and when throwing for these, he will leave himself vulnerable to Conor’s incredibly powerful and accurate left hand.
This is the weapon that will be most likely to end the fight for McGregor and, if he is to knock out Aldo, it is more likely to happen early in the fight when he is at his most powerful.
Aldo is very durable and has never been knocked down let alone knocked out. I do believe, however, that McGregor is very capable of finishing the Brazilian and he can be priced at 7/5 (Betway) to win in such a fashion.
To do it in rounds 1 or 2 is a very good value 11/5 (Ladbrokes) and this is what I’m leaning towards. Be in patriotism or logic, I honestly do not know but something keeps telling me that McGregor will win. If he does, Vegas will erupt. Ireland will erupt. I will be laid out crying my eyes out at the most remarkable feat an Irish MMA fighter will have ever achieved.
Jose Aldo v Conor McGregor – McGregor to win (21/20 Matchbook)
Jose Aldo v Conor McGregor – McGregor to win in rounds 1 or 2 (11/5 Ladbrokes)
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