UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar

Published on Friday, 2/1/13, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Gamblers have a stacked mixed martial arts card to wager on Saturday night at UFC 156 in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The main event will be for the promotion’s featherweight belt as Jose Aldo Jr. returns from a one-year layoff to take on division newcomer and former lightweight champ, Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar.

As of Friday morning, most betting shops had Aldo (21-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) installed as a minus-220 favorite. Edgar is listed as a generous plus-180 underdog (risk $100 to win $180).

The price for the fight to go to a decision after five rounds is minus-150 (risk $150 to win $100), while bettors can collect a plus-110 payout if either fighter gets a finish.

For Edgar to win inside the distance, a lucrative plus-950 payout can be garnered.

Aldo has won 14 consecutive fights, including three successful defenses of his 145-pound belt in the UFC. Aldo, who hasn’t tasted defeat in more than seven years, won a unanimous decision over Mark ‘The Machine’ Hominick in his Octagon debut at UFC 129.

In his next title defense at UFC 136 in Houston, Aldo beat Kenny Florian by unanimous decision. Then in Rio at UFC 142 on Jan. 14 of 2012, Aldo finished previously-unbeaten Chad Mendes with a big knee with one second remaining in the first round.

Edgar (15-3-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC) has lost back-to-back fights by close decisions against current 155-pound kingpin, Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson. However, BrianEdwardsSports.com scored the rematch vs. Henderson at UFC 150 in favor of Edgar by a 49-46 score.

Henderson won by split decision and with two victories over Edgar, it was time for the New Jersey native to drop down to his natural fighting weight of 145. In the lightweight loop, Edgar often faced foes on fight night that were 20 pounds heavier.

Nevertheless, he didn’t have problems scoring takedowns against the likes of B.J. Penn, Gray Maynard and Henderson. Like Aldo, a big part of Henderson’s offense is his kicks but at UFC 150, Edgar did an excellent job of catching Henderson’s kicks and then countering with a takedown.

If Edgar can do that against a bigger and stronger Henderson, you would think he could do the same against Aldo. Although Aldo is faster than Henderson, Edgar has much better speed than Aldo’s previous Octagon victims in Hominick, Florian and Mendes.

In 13 Octagon appearances, Edgar’s fights have gone to the judges 10 times, including six in a row. All six of those bouts were title fights, two apiece against Penn, Maynard and Henderson. Aldo’s fights with Hominick and Florian went the five-round distance.

Prediction: I like Edgar to win and cash a nice plus-180 underdog ticket. Edgar has as good a chin and as much heart as any mixed martial artist in any division. And he’s starving for a victory after getting robbed against Henderson at UFC 150. Two things you’ve never seen Edgar struggle with are cardio and taking a punch. As for Aldo, might cardio be an issue considering the long layoff? The champ certainly looked tired in Round 5 against Hominick when he couldn’t get off of his back in the final minutes.

When I appeared on Jason Floyd’s podcast on The MMA Report earlier this week, Floyd agreed that Edgar was his pick. Floyd added, “I’m a big believer in cage rust and I think that will be a factor for Aldo.”

In the co-main event, ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans (17-2-1 MMA, 12-2-1 UFC) will return to the Octagon for the first time since losing a unanimous decision to his nemesis, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, in a light heavyweight championship fight at UFC 145 in Atlanta last April.

Evans went the distance with Jones, but the Michigan St. wrestler was dominated in every stanza except for the second. Evans didn’t take the type of ferocious beating that Jones routinely deals out to most foes, but he could not close the distance and didn’t mount any semblance of an offensive attack with the exception of Round 2.

As Evans preps for another run at the belt (possibly at middleweight against Anderson Silva rather than at 205?), he does so in a much better frame of mind than when he faced Jones at Philips Arena. His divorce is further into the past and the emergence of his new ‘Blackzilians’ gym in South Fla. seems to have diminished his bitterness about his fallout with Jones and former trainer Greg Jackson.

I get the sense that Evans is poised to put on a dominating performance in the cage, but it won’t be easy against veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who has not fought since Dec. 10 of 2011 due to various injuries.

Nogueira (20-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) shook off back-to-back decision losses to Ryan Bader and Phil Davis to KO Tito Ortiz at the 3:15 mark of Round 1 at UFC 140 in Toronto. His other UFC wins came over Luiz Cane and Jason Brilz.

Evans is outrageously priced at -450 and is as expensive as -500 at many offshore books. Little Nog has underdog odds in the plus-370 range (risk $100 to win $370).

The only way to bet Evans without risking a ridiculous price is by backing him to win by KO for a plus-250 payout. However, bettors should keep in mind that Little Nog has only been finished once in 25 career fights and that came six years ago at Pride 33.

Prediction: Evans wins but the price is too expensive to risk with a wager. If anything, risk a very small amount on Evans to win by KO at +250 odds (risk $100 to win $250).

Alistair Overeem (36-11-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) will return from a one-year suspension to take on Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in a critical heavyweight showdown. Overeem is a huge -360 ‘chalk,’ while Silva is a plus-280 underdog.

Overeem made his Octagon debut at UFC 141 against former heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar. The Dutch kickboxer dominated Lesnar from the get-go, scoring a first-round KO after Lesnar covered up following a brutal liver kick.

The win over Lesnar gave Overeem a shot at the heavyweight strap then held by Junior dos Santos, but a failed drug test landed Overeem on suspension and out of action for a year.

After getting destroyed by Cain Velasquez in his UFC debut, Silva (17-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC) bounced back with an impressive first-round KO of previously-undefeated Travis Browne in the main event at UFC on FX on Oct. 5. (We should note, however, that Browne sustained an injury early in the fight and was basically on one leg when Silva started to get busy on his way to the KO victory.)

Silva’s biggest career win came over Fedor Emelianenko in ground-and-pound fashion in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament. He also beat former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski while fighting under the Strikeforce banner.

Prediction: I don’t give Silva much of a chance unless he can score a takedown and get Overeem on his back. Overeem will win by KO, but there isn’t much shaved off of the prop price (compared to straight price) for him to do so (like there is for Evans). Most offshores have Overeem with -275 odds to win by KO. That’s still too ‘chalky’ for me so this is a pass.

In the welterweight division, Jon Fitch (24-4-1-1 MMA, 14-2-1 UFC) and Demian Maia will collide in an interesting matchup. Fitch was a minus-180 favorite earlier in the week but his price has increased to -220 at many books in the last 24-48 hours. Maia is around +170 or +180 on the comeback.

Fitch had a rough 2011 and 2012 was not much better until he got into the cage against Erick Silva in Brazil at UFC 153. After seeing his five-fight winning streak snapped in a controversial draw versus Penn at UFC 127, Fitch fought injuries until facing Johny Hendricks at UFC 141.

Before going up against ‘Bigg Rigg,’ Fitch had not been submitted or knocked out in 15 previous UFC bouts. But Hendricks ended that with an enormous left hook that left Fitch out cold just 12 seconds into the fight.

At that point, Fitch’s aspirations of getting another title shot against GSP went out the window. Now he’s just focused on winning fights and making money for his family. Fitch did just that his last time out, beating Silva by unanimous decision as a short favorite while also garnering a Fight of the Night bonus check.

Maia (17-4 MMA, 11-4 UFC) is an extraordinary jiu-jitsu practicioner, perhaps the best in any division in all of MMA. Since dropping down to 170 from middleweight, Maia has won back-to-back fights over Dong Hyun Kim (TKO, rib injury) and Rick Story (neck-crank submission).

Fitch has the best submission defense in UFC history, successfully defending 25 serious submission attempts. When Maia takes a fighter’s back, he is a magician with his jiu-jitsu. Former opponents/victims like Chael Sonnen, Ed Herman, Ryan Jensen and Nate Quarry can attest to this.

Prediction: I like Fitch to win by decision but the prices for each (-210 odds for the fight to go the distance) are too ‘chalky’ so this is yet another pass for me.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–The first bout on the pay-per-view portion of the card will feature a pair of flyweight contenders. Former No.1 contender Joseph Benavidez (16-3 MMA, 3-1 UFC) is a minus-250 ‘chalk’ vs. Ian McCall. Benavidez lost a split decision to Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson for the featherweight strap at UFC 152. McCall (11-3-1 MMA, 0-1-1 UFC) fought Johnson to a majority draw and then lost a unanimous decision in the rematch.

–There are four preliminary fights that will be televised on FX. None interest me gambling-wise, but Floyd pointed out that he likes Evan Dunham at even money (+100) against Gleison Tibau.

–Maia has won Submission of the Night honors four times.

–Several new fights were added to the UFC 159 card this week. Of course, the main event is for the light heavyweight championship as Jones will take on Sonnen. The co-main event will feature a pair of middleweight contenders in Michael Bisping and Alan ‘The Talent’ Belcher. Bisping is coming off a second-round KO loss to Vitor Belfort, while Belcher saw his winning streak ended in a UD loss to Yushin Okami.

–Jim Miller will also welcome Pat Healy to the UFC in a lightweight matchup at UFC 159.

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