OUR UFC expert David Walker (@Walkerdavid32) is buzzing about the Sunday night action and has come up with these well-researched bets.
Anthony Pettis v Eddie Alvarez | Monday 03:40
Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis gets back on the horse for the first time since losing the Lightweight championship belt to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185 in March. As he tries to get back into title contention, Pettis will face former Bellator champion ‘The Silen Assassin’ Eddie Alvarez.
Alvarez fights just for the third time in the UFC and has lost to ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone via unanimous decision before showing excellent durability when coming back to defeat Gilbert Melendez by split decision.
Alvarez has not set the world alight in his early UFC career but his pressing style provides for entertaining fights as he opponents never need to chase him down looking for exchanges. In fact, due to the elite level strikers in the Lightweight division, this could explain why Alvarez has found things so difficult in his last two fights.
As a consequence of his pressing style, Alvarez absorbs 3.10 significant strikes per minute and whilst he has a good output of landing 3.38 significant strikes per minute, he will need to reduce the damage he takes in fights should he wish to d feat Pettis, move up the rankings and eventually challenge for the title.
Pettis, himself, has pinpointed the strikes taken on by Alvarez as the way to defeat his opponent. Pettis is one of the most creative strikers in all of MMA not just within the UFC.
Spinning kicks, flying knees, running off the Octagon to land kicks, on his feet, Pettis has it all and is an entertaining fighter, hence his moniker, ‘Showtime’.
Surprisingly, upon checking his significant strikes per minute, Pettis does not land as prolifically as one would have thought with only 2.16 landed per minute on average.
Pettis will need to address this against Alvarez and up his output and look to capitalise on his opponent’s lack of lateral movement. Should he do this, Alvarez will find it very difficult to withstand the punishing strikes that Pettis lands.
Of his 18 wins in MMA, Pettis has won 15 by stoppage including, prior to his RDA defeat, four consecutive wins inside the first two rounds. Pettis is a very dangerous fighter and his jiu jitsu is dangerous enough to combat the fact that he will likely spend time on his back, should he fail to finish Alvarez on his feet early in the fight.
Should Alvarez survive the early exchanges on the feet, I have little doubt that he will try to take Pettis to the ground as this is where RDA did the majority of his damage when destroying Pettis on the way to taking his belt.
Alvarez has a very impressive average of 3.45 takedowns per 15 minutes and this will greatly test ‘Showtime’s’ 61% takedown defence. However, Pettis moved his wrestling training to Izzy Martinez in order to combat this hole in his game. Martinez is one of the most colourful coaches in the business and has, amongst others, developed the wrestling of Jon Jones and Holly Holm who prevented Ronda Rousey from taking her to the ground in her recent upset win over the UFC star.
In terms of betting for this fight, I see nothing but a Pettis win, however, there is absolutely no value in backing the former champ on the straight win market.
More interesting to me is whether Pettis will manage to stop Alvarez or not and with his previous record of impressive finishes, I see no reason to question Pettis in this fight.
After his previous losses, Pettis has come back with three finishes in his next four wins and I expect him to do the same in the co main event early Monday morning.
TJ Dillashaw v Dominick Cruz | Monday 04:00 | BT Sport 2
At the start of the month, we had an early fight of the year candidate between Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit and I fully expect that by the time this fight is over, it too will be a potential fight of the year winner.
The matchup between Dillashaw and Cruz has been in the offing ever since TJ destroyed Renan Barão and claimed the Bantamweight title. Unfortunately, the fight was never able to be made due to the devastating injuries that Cruz has faced over the past four years, seeing him fight only once.
Many thought that Cruz would never overcome the many setbacks he faced, however, an incredible strength of character matched with his competitiveness, dedication and sheer hard work has allowed Cruz to claw his way back to the top.
Dominick Cruz, in essence, is the real Bantamweight champion since he has not been beaten inside the Octagon nor when he was the WEC champion.
Cruz uses this fact to his advantage and it clearly is part of his psyche and why he believes that he will once again hold that belt outright. In his mind, no one has beaten him since his WEC debut defeat to Urijah Fäber.
That stretches back a very impressive 11 fights during which run he avenged his defeat to Fäber and handed current P4P number 2 and dominant flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson his only UFC defeat causing him to move down to the lighter division.
Dillashaw currently is the ‘real’ champion since he holds the bet and he does so having twice soundly beaten former highly ranked P4P and Bantamweight champion Renan Barão.
These two victories elevated Dillashaw from a good fighter with promise to the media now referring to him as a great fighter who could go on to be one of the best ever. This is questionable in my opinion.
Barão was an excellent fighter and had been unbeaten in almost 10 years and there is no question Dillashaw excelled to defeat the Brazilian using slick footwork and a high striking output to overwhelm the then champion.
However, as Cruz points out, Barão was largely a stationary fighter allowing Dillashaw to light him up and eventually finish him twice. And as impressive as his victories over Barão were, Dillashaw has not won against any other significant fighter. In fact, he has two defeats to the next two well known fighters on his record.
This is not to dismiss Dillashaw completely as there is no question that he has developed his skills and evolved his style, making him a worthy champion but, for me, it brings into question his overall credentials and definitely has me querying his position as odds on favourite to win this fight.
Dillashaw has been preparing to face Dominick Cruz for years as TJ tried to mimic Cruz in sparring to help his teammates Urijah Fäber and Joseph Benavidez prepare for their respective fights with the former champion.
As a result, Dillashaw will be confident that he has worked out Cruz and how to exploit his weaknesses. Dillashaw, himself, has also taken on a variation of Cruz’s style and uses rapid lateral movement and weaving to make it difficult for his opponents to predict what attack is coming and from where.
Because of this movement, Dillashaw has a UFC high of landing an average of 5.81 significant strikes per minute which is a very dangerous weapon.
TJ will be hoping that his output allied to his movement will allow him to track down Cruz and hit him like no fighter has been able to do to Cruz before.
For his part, Cruz has an impressive 3.4 significant strikes landed per minute but his biggest weapon over a 25 minute fight is that he is so difficult to hit.
Cruz has an outstanding 73% defence against strikes due to his own fantastic movement. Throughout his fights, opponents are often made to look foolish when trying to track down Cruz as he moves comfortably around the entire Octagon.
Cruz does not run from opponents but he uses all of the space available to come in from unusual angles to land his strikes before quickly escaping and obtaining that distance to avoid being caught by his challengers.
Jumping ahead, I see Cruz winning this fight and I see him doing so because of two things: using his movement to avoid the high levels of striking that most of Dillashaw’s opponents have taken and by using his wrestling to take Dillshaw down and out point him.
This may be seen as a controversial statement due to the fact that Dillashaw has never been taken down in an MMA fight and has a very good wrestling pedigree. However, Cruz has a superb 3.95 takedowns per 15 minutes and has comfortably taken Dillashaw’s former stablemates Fäber and Benavidez to the ground multiple times during their fights.
Added to this is the 56% takedown accuracy of Cruz, not to mention his larger frame and I feel this is the method Cruz will use to reclaim his title and overcome the injury demons he has faced in the past five years.
Should Cruz be able to get Dillashaw to the ground early on, it will negate the current champion’s volume of striking as TJ will become worried about being taken down repeatedly and Cruz will then be able to dictate the fight on his feet.
Cruz has spent much of the last four years as a fighting analyst and this has allowed him to develop his understanding of the game and of other fighters and their styles. For me, his game plan will be perfect and if he can implement it in the way that I have mentioned, I see him coming out as victor.
Cruz can be backed for the straight win at 5/4 with Bet365 which has enough value in it for me to be happy to back. If you fancy a bigger price, Cruz (if he wins) will win by decision (8/10 wins in WEC/UFC have been by decision) and he can be backed to win on points at 5/2 with Ladbrokes.
Anthony Pettis v Eddie Alvarez – Pettis to win via finish (Evens Skybet)
TJ Dillashaw v Dominick Cruz – Cruz to win (5/4 Bet365)
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