UFC expert David Walker (@WalkerDavid32) is in Las Vegas for three-day fight extravaganza. Here he previews Friday night’s action.
I'm writing this before Thursday's fight card even starts but you can honestly feel the atmosphere building in Las Vegas for all of these fights.
Irish fans (like myself) are mixing with the multitude of real life cowboys who are here for some huge rodeo shindig and the result is more than entertaining. I'm expecting the Brazilians to begin landing soon and the atmosphere might begin to get a bit tense.
Either way, expect lots of noise and plenty of tricolours and the green and gold of the Brazilian flag to be on display during Thursday and Friday nights' events.
Chad Mendes v Frankie Edgar | Saturday 04.00
Anyway, I digress. Back to Friday night's TUF finale. This sees the end of the most recent and most entertaining Ultimate Fighter show since Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson coached on season 10.
The finale is headlined by Frankie Edgar (18-4-1) and Chad Mendes (17-3-0) in a number one contender fight in the increasingly difficult featherweight division. This fight has been talked about for a number of years and will be an absolutely unrelenting battle from the second that first bell goes.
Both men have exceptional MMA records with Mendes only ever losing championship fights (most recently to Conor McGregor for the interim belt and twice to Jose Aldo) with Edgar having also lost three times in championship fights (a decision loss to Jose Aldo and two incredibly close decisions to Benson Henderson in the lightweight division).
Frankie's only other loss came to Gray Maynard but he avenged that by drawing with then beating Maynard for the lightweight title.
Chad Mendes is an all American wrestler and yet another member of Team Alpha Male. There is absolutely no doubting Chad's abilities and his desire to be the best.
With wrestling being his forte, he backs this up with having some of the heaviest hands in the featherweight division. Unfortunately for him, at the final stage, he has fallen short.
As mentioned above, most recently he lost to Conor McGregor in July during an interim title fight (champ Jose Aldo was injured). It should be noted that Mendes took the fight on with just two weeks' notice and even managed to injure himself in that process!
Determined, however, he showed up on fight night and was getting the better of McGregor in the grappling exchanges until the Irishman landed some devastating blows at the end of the second round to defeat Mendes by TKO.
This fight against Edgar is at the same venue that Mendes lost to McGregor and he will be hoping that it is a chance, with a full training camp, to exorcise his demons.
Frankie ‘The Answer' Edgar, however, will be hoping he continues his four-fight win streak since losing to champ Jose Aldo and destroys any opportunity for Mendes to get back into title contention. Indeed, with a win of his own, Frankie can't be denied the next title shot at 145lbs.
For me, Frankie Edgar is one of the greatest ever MMA fighters and, in time, he should be recognised for everything that he has achieved in his remarkable career.
The three aforementioned championship fights that he lost were all razor thin decisions and, having watched each fight multiple times, there was genuine argument that he should not have lost any of them.
He is a truly skilled fighter whose strong wrestling base is supported by an all round fighting game but there is no issue in stating that Frankie's greatest weapon is his movement. The man does not stop moving. EVER! He reminds me of an ADHD Duracell bunny who hasn't taken his Ritalin.
Most fighters rightly struggle in the final rounds when competing in five-round main events. However, Frankie Edgar could fight for 10 five-minute rounds and still not fatigue. His cardio is supernatural.
But I'm sure you're thinking, ‘where are the bets?'
This fight will be very competitive and both men are capable of winning albeit via different methods. Notably, the Octagon being used is the smaller one that the UFC has and this will play into the favour of Chad Mendes as it will restrict Frankie's movement and will make it easier for Chad to chase him down.
With a striking accuracy of 49% and 2.71 significant strikes landed per-minute, Mendes will be hoping to get his heavy hands finding their mark early on in the fight in an attempt to get the KO, which is his best hope of victory. The price on Mendes to win by stoppage is appealing at 10/3 (Skybet).
Despite having a 71% defensive success against strikes, Frankie has shown that he can be susceptible early in fights and his face marks up taking a lot of damage. The saving grace for Edgar is that his powers of recovery are not human, as he showed against Aldo and famously against Gray Maynard in both their championship fights.
If, as I expect, Mendes is unable to stop Edgar in the first two rounds, Frankie will go on to dominate through his slick movement and excellent boxing skills. Edgar's more active striking (3.5 significant strikes landed per-minute) and attacking style should see the judges score rounds in his favour.
And with Edgar having most recently defeated Mendes' Alpha Male chief and mentor Uriah Fäber by dominant decision, ‘The Answer' has a blueprint for how to win the fight.
I expect this one to go the distance as a superb spectacle but for Frankie to come out on top, winning by judge's decision at a best price of 5/4 (BoyleSports).
Joe Lauzon v Evan Dunham | Saturday 03.00
This fight has the potential to be a real barnburner and end as FOTN (fight of the night).
Joe Lauzon currently holds the record for most post-fight bonuses with 13. Dunham is no stranger to an entertaining fight either with four post-fight bonuses. Both lightweights want to finish fights and go out to entertain the fans.
Lauzon is the fighter who strongly appeals to me in this and is somehow a huge underdog at 7/4 (Bet365). I have been trying to make sense of this and simply cannot.
Both fighters have up and down records without ever stringing long winning runs together (Lauzon is 25-10-0 whilst Dunham is 16-6-0). Dunham is currently on a two fight-winning streak whereas Lauzon has one.
Looking through the calibre of fighter that both have faced in recent times, it's is fairly even with neither being known for being afraid to take on the best in the 155lb division. There is simply nothing to be found that suggests Dunham should be such a heavy favourite.
Dunham has only won seven of his victories by stoppage, the last of which was in January of 2012 and prior to that it was January of 2010, so he is not a prolific finisher at all.
Granted he beat Ross Pearson comprehensively in his most recent victory but the Geordie is a striker and struggled against Dunham's oppressive grappling game. Not only will Joe Lauzon not be afraid to be taken down or involved in grapples with Dunham, he will look to instigate these exchanges himself.
Of Lauzon's 25 wins, an impressive 24 have come via stoppage (6 KO/TKO and 18 submissions). There is a reason why Lauzon has so many performance bonuses and the way he has looked in two of his last three fights, annihilating Takinori Gomi and lighting up the impressive Michael Chiesa, I think that there is great value in backing Lauzon to win at that 7/4 mentioned above.
Better still are the prices on offer for a stoppage. Lauzon is a crazy 17/2 (Paddy Power) to win by KO/TKO and 11/2 to win via submission (BoyleSports). I am inclined to plump for the submission win but at 17/2, I'll be having a fiver on the win via KO/TKO, just in case. Regardless of how this fight is won, it should be a tremendous watch for everyone.
Chad Mendes v Frankie Edgar – Frankie Edgar to win via decision 5/4 (Boylesports)
Joe Lauzon v Evan Dunham – Joe Lauzon to win 7/4 (Bet365)
Joe Lauzon v Evan Dunham – Joe Lauzon to win via submission 11/2 (Boylesports)
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