UFC 171 Picks: Lawler, Condit, Sanchez, Story & More
Published on Saturday, 3/15/14, at 4:45 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
For the first time since B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes faced each other at UFC 63 on Sept. 23 of 2006, Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre won’t be inside the Octagon when the welterweight title is at stake tonight in Dallas at UFC 171.
Johny Hendricks deserved to have the belt after mauling GSP at UFC 167 last November, but the judges inexplicably saw it otherwise.
Most books have had ‘Big Rigg’ listed as an expensive favorite for more than a month. The number spent time in the -450 range earlier this week, but Hendricks hit the scales at 171.5 at yesterday’s weigh-ins. This prompted enormous drama for nearly 90 minutes before Hendricks weighed in at 170 on his next attempt.
Hendricks was reportedly back up to 190 pounds late this morning. I’ve spoken to several industry sources today that have downplayed the impact of what was clearly a tough cut for the heavy favorite. Nevertheless, the odds have gone down and you can’t get ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler at quite as generous of odds as you could’ve a few days ago.
I actually got a small taste of Lawler at +400 several days ago. As of 4:45 this afternoon, most books had Hendricks favored in the -350 range. Most spots had Lawler at around +280 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $280).
If my life was on the line, who would I take in tonight’s main event? Without a doubt, it would be Hendricks. However, my life is fortunately not on the line tonight, so as a gambler I’m going with Lawler.
Why, you ask? Well, because I would take Lawler at nearly 3/1 odds against just about anyone. There’s not a human being on the planet that Lawler can’t potentially finish with one punch (or kick). In short, the dude packs dynamite in his hands.
And he’s in his prime. Like he’s said repeatedly in the weeks leading into this fight, this is his time. He’s 31 and a true veteran but isn’t even close to losing a step — and certainly not any power — for another 2-3 years minimum.
Recommendations: Take Lawler as long as you’re getting odds of +260 or better for 2 units. Also, go ‘under’ 3.5 rounds (at -130/-135 price) for three units.
In the co-main event, Carlos ‘The Natural Born Killer’ Condit will take on Tyron Woodley. If Condit wins, he’ll undoubtedly get a shot at the winner of Lawler-Hendricks for the 170-pound strap. The former interim welterweight champ is a favorite in the -160/-170 range, leaving Woodley as a +135ish underdog. Woodley might get a title shot with a victory as well, though the promotion hasn’t officially tabbed this scrap as a title-eliminator.
The only blemishes on Condit’s record since 2009 came in decision defeats against GSP and Hendricks. Condit got worked by St-Pierre for the most part, but he also nearly won when he caught the former champ with a sick headkick that had GSP in big trouble for about 15-20 seconds. But St-Pierre recovered, got back to his superior wrestling and cruised to (you guessed it…) a decision victory (shocker!).
In the showdown with Hendricks (a year ago tomorrow), fight fans saw one of the most exciting fights of 2013. Hendricks had Condit in big trouble in the first round but couldn’t get the finish. The second stanza was also going Hendricks’s way until Condit mounted a furious/thrilling rally that brought the crowd to a roar at the end of the round.
Condit won the third round and had Hendricks floored and in trouble at one point, yet ‘Big Rigg’ withstood the flurry and held on to take a unanimous decision (29-28 three times).
In the interim between ’09 and the two aforementioned setbacks, Condit has posted wins against a slew of welterweight contenders like Martin ‘Hitman’ Kampmann, ‘The Stun Gun,’ Nick Diaz, Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald.
Woodley is 2-1 since coming over to the UFC from Strikeforce. He’s beaten Jay Heiron and Josh Koscheck, while losing to Jake Shields.
Recommendations: This is a MAJOR step up in competition for Woodley, and it’s not happening tonight against Condit. Lay the price with Condit as long as it doesn’t move north of -200 (we’ll call it -170 for record-keeping purposes) for 2 units. Also take the ‘under’ 2.5 rounds for a +130 return (1 unit).
One of the most exciting fighters to ever step into the Octagon returns tonight, and I’m talking about Diego ‘The Dream’ Sanchez. He is off yet another three-round war with Gilbert Melendez, suffering a UD loss (losing the first two rounds before winning the third and nearly finishing ‘El Nino’).
Sanchez is a +160 underdog against Myles Jury, an up-and-coming lightweight who is just 25 years old and has won his first four UFC fights. Jury is unbeaten in 13 career professional fights.
Recommendation: Again, like Woodley against Condit, this is a major step up in competition for Jury. No need to over-think this one: I’m on Sanchez for one unit at +160.
This card would’ve been more fitting as UFC 170 since the welterweights are clearly the main attraction Yet another 170 scrap will go down between Jake Shields and Hector Lombard, who is a favorite in the -220 range. Shields called Lombard “a prick” at the media scrum a few days ago.
There has been chatter that Shields might get cut if he loses, but a poor performance from Lombard could net the same result. Both are legit top-10 guys, but the loser is probably out of the title mix for a long time and both fighters are expensive (think Yushin Okami and Jon Fitch).
Recommendation: I think it’s a toss-up fight. I thought Lombard would be a short favorite in the -130/-140 range. Therefore, with a chance to back Shields at +185ish, I’ll go with Shields for one unit.
I think OSP wins the pay-per-view opener but he’s a -550 favorite, so that’s a pass for me.
My last pick is on the headliner of the preliminary card. I like Rick Story as an underdog against Kelvin Gastelum, the winner of The Ultimate Fighter last year. I got Story at +160 early this week but that number is long gone. Nevertheless, I’ll still suggest Story for a +120 payout.