The UFC is coming to my hometown of Calgary on Saturday night for UFC 149. Given all the problems they have had with this card it could easily be the last time they come here.
Normally I start these previews by talking about any changes there may be to the lineup due to injuries. If I were to do that here, though, it would take me days.
Never has the UFC had an event hit quite so hard by injuries — and they have been crushed by injuries all year. Jose Aldo, Thiago Alves, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Michael Bisping — they are all out, and that’s not even all of the casualties. It has turned a very strong card into a very underwhelming one.
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The UFC has to at least be happy that the card imploded after the event had sold out, so their bottom line is unaffected by their terrible luck — besides the decreased PPV sales, of course. Here’s how the main card shapes up (all odds are from Bovada):
Interim Bantamweight Championship - Renan ‘Barao’ Pegado (-200) vs. Urijah Faber (+160)
Dominick Cruz tore his ACL this spring, so the winner of this fight will take care of his title until Cruz returns to action. Cruz is the only Bantamweight champion the UFC has ever had, and his first of two title defenses was a unanimous decision over Faber, so the underdog here will be looking to win to earn an eventual shot at revenge — especially since Faber beat Cruz to defend his WEC title in 2007.
Unfortunately for him, though, he’s up against a very good fighter.
Barao lost his very first career fight in 2005. Since then he has gone 28-0-1 and has been convincing in all three UFC outings. He’s lightning-quick, opportunistic, and masterful with submissions. He also kicks very well, and he is often able to set the tone of the fight by standing outside and letting his feet maintain his space.
The biggest edge Faber has, though, is his experience. Barao has all sorts of upside, but Faber has long been at the top of the sport and has fought and beat many fighters much better than Barao has seen. He’s much wilier, and he can combine that with outstanding stamina and a totally relentless determination.
No matter what, with Faber in the fight you know that it is going to be an entertaining fight. I also think it can be an upset.
Pick: Urijah Faber
Hector Lombard (-310) vs. Tim Boetsch (+240)
I normally don’t bet on guys like Lombard who are making their UFC debut. The Cuban has 31 wins under his belt in a variety of organizations, though, so he could be the exception to that rule.
Boetsch is largely a journeyman, but he has found his way recently in the middleweight ranks and had a huge upset of Yushin Okami last time out. Still, Lombard is far more explosive, and he starts fast while Boetsch takes much longer to find his stride.
I expect Boetsch to be in trouble before he even gets rolling.
Pick: Hector Lombard
Shawn Jordan (-135) vs. Cheick Kongo (+105)
I have to admit a bias here. I hate SEC football, and LSU in particular. That makes it really hard for me to support Jordan.
He was part of the Tigers’ program for National Championships in both 2003 and 2007. That’s not ultimately why I’m not backing Jordan here, though. He’s early in his career in the UFC, and he’s taking a massive step up in class here.
Kongo hasn’t always been consistent. However, he’s very aggressive and he is smart enough to give Jordan real issues.
Pick: Cheick Kongo
Brian Ebersole (-400) vs. James Head (+300)
There is a major contrast here — Ebersole is fighting for the 66th time in his career here, while Head will be making appearance number 11. Despite that disparity Ebersole has only fought four times in the UFC — all wins, while Head is 1-1.
Head has one overriding issue here — he just isn’t good enough. He needs to catch Ebersole off guard or he’s in trouble, but the veteran has seen too much to be caught off guard very often.
Pick: Brian Ebersole
Matt Riddle (-155) vs. Chris Clements (+125)
Five different fighters have been a part of this fight at some point, and this is by far the least interesting combination.
I’m just not that impressed with Riddle. He’s 6-3 in his UFC career, lacks a signature win, and has a bad habit of deviating from his gameplan too quickly.
Clements will be able to capitalize on that tendency, and he is an attractive underdog here. Clements is making just his second UFC appearance. He’s not destined to be a headliner, but I like his upside.
I think Riddle, on the other hand, has pretty much peaked where he is.
Pick: Chris Clements
On each card I make a mythical $500 bet — typically one or more parlays. We’ve won nicely in two of the last three, and look to do so again here with one bet with a big potential payout:
$500 parlay on Lombard, Kongo, Ebersole, Clements. Potential profit of $3313.
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