Andrew Wilson |  Tue 08/05/2018 - 22:19 EDT

UFC 224 Preview and Predictions

UFC 224 Preview and Predictions
The UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, May 12 at 10:00 PM with UFC 224. Headlining the event is a title fight for the Women’s bantamweight belt between current champion Amanda Nunes and the second-ranked contender Raquel Pennington. Rounding out the main card is a few great bouts featuring some highly ranked middleweights and some upcoming fighters in the women’s strawweight division.

UFC 224 Preview and Predictions 

After the debacle of UFC 223, the UFC is taking extra-precautions for UFC 224 to ensure the card does not fall apart just a few days before the event. While the event contains only one title fight, the main card is full of great battles to help set up future title fights, shake up the rankings and includes a potential final farewell to two Brazilian legends. Canadian sportsbooks are offering plenty of action on each fight on the main card, including some decent underdog lines worth wagering.

Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida

Two veteran’s of the octagon square off to start the main card at UFC 224. Lyoto Machida is the favourite at -225 on Sports Interaction. However, there are quite a few factors that make this fight more even than the current odds suggest.

Both fighters are coming off wins, but each fighter was winless in their previous three matches. Age, changes to rules and unfavourable opponents all played into Belfort’s and Machida recent struggles. Even though they are ageing into retirement, the two former champions should relish at what will likely be their last opportunities to fight in front of their home country of Brazil.

Prior to winning his last fight, Machida had been knocked out in three consecutive contests. His defence is slipping as he loses speed with age. Belfort can still land a few good shots, taking more time to pick and choose his strike placement. As the underdog, Belfort at +185 is the better wager.

Pick: Vitor Belfort (+185) at Sports Interaction

John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher

With a fast, aggressive and relentless attack, John Lineker will try to continue his climb up the Bantamweight rankings, when he faces American Brian Kelleher. Lineker has won 11 of his last 13 matches. His last loss came against TJ Dillashaw by unanimous decision. In that bout, Dillashaw utilized takedowns to great success, which eventually led him to win.

Kelleher is not nearly as skilled at takedowns as Dillashaw. While Kelleher is willing to attempt a good number of takedowns per fight, his accuracy is below-average. Lineker can take advantage of failed takedowns to land good strikes that will result in points (and even a potential TKO).

While Kelleher has a three-inch height advantage, Lineker has an inch longer reach and the home crowd on his side. Overall, Lineker is the better bet in this fight. Kelleher is better against ground/submission fighters, which Lineker is not.

Pick: John Lineker (-240) at Sports Interaction

Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Cooper

The trash talk is building up between these two strawweights. Mackenzie Dern won her UFC debut back in March and believes her second fight will be easier, while Cooper believes Dern is sloppy and overrated. The trash talking is certainly increasing the intrigue in this fight. While neither fighter is ranked, a victory at UFC 224 could lift place the winner into the top-15.

Mackenzie Dern is a modest favourite in this fight at -285. She remains undefeated in her professional MMA career at 6-0-0, utilizing Brazilian jiu-jitsu to either control the fight or submit her opponents. Cooper is not the aptest defender of takedowns and generally needs to stay on her feet to win a match. All of Cooper’s losses in her MMA career have been by submission. That gives Dern a significant edge in this fight.

Cooper is a better striker than Dern’s first opponent. However, Dern now has a slight height advantage, and the two are relatively even in arm and leg reach. Dern’s first opponent had a four-inch height and six-inch reach advantage. All said this is a better matchup for Dern who did look great in her UFC debut. Pick her to win and consider betting on victory by submission.

Pick: Mackenzie Dern (-285) at Sports Interaction

Ronaldo Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Two contending middleweights round up the lead up to the night’s title fight. Number two ranked Ronaldo Souza takes on number five Gastelum in arguably the best fight of the night. Souza will try and jockey his height advantage to keep Gastelum at bay. Gastelum is an elite wrestling, meaning getting into a ground war with Souza is too dangerous.

Souza is one of the best UFC middleweights in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Of his 25 professional MMA wins, 14 (56%) have been by submission.  Souza can also defend well-enough to handle Gastelum striking skills. Unless Souza slips up bad (unlikely in front of his home country), Souza should win this big middleweight bout, setting up a potential title fight in the near future. 

Pick: Ronaldo Souza (-140) at Sports Interaction

Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington

The main event sees the heavily favoured Amanda Nunes try to make her third straight title defence. It is hard to argue Raquel Pennington is any better than the fighters Nunes faced to win and defend her belt. The 29-year-old Brazilian beat Miesha Tate to win the belt and had successful defences against Ronda Rousey and Valentina Shevchenko.

Raquel Pennington is coming off an 18-month fight hiatus, beating Miesha Tate by decision at UFC 205. While an impressive win, the bantamweight class has gone through much change the past year-and-half. Even if Pennington was not coming off a lengthy absence from the cage, Nunes is the better fighter. Nunes is pound-for-pound one of the best strikers in the UFC. She lands a staggering 4.28 significant strikes per minute.

To beat Nunes, Pennigton needs to get her off her feet and strike hard and fast on the ground. Nunes is a great defender though, continually improving since her last lost to Cat Zigano at UFC 178. Essentially everything is pointing to a swift victory by Nunes. Take her on the moneyline to win and consider betting on under 3.5 rounds.  

Pick: Amanda Nunes (-615) at Sports Interaction 

Category : Sports

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