With UFC Calgary upon us, it is time to stake your pre-fight flutter before sitting back to enjoy the fights. This is a card that can return a lot of bang for your buck if you have a keen eye for underdogs so I’ve broken down my picks for a 3-fight money maker below.
Dustin Ortiz vs. Matheus Nicolau
Dustin Ortiz vs. Matheus Nicolau is in the depths of the prelims, but make no mistake, this should be a competitive and entertaining fight.
Ortiz is coming in on a two-fight win streak against high level competition. He convincingly dismantled Hector Sandoval via decision in August 2017 and subsequently smashed Alexandre Pantoja within 15 seconds in January.
Spirits are high in the Ortiz camp, but many will ask if he has the talent and technique to break down a dangerous Matheus Nicolau come fight night. With scalps such as John Moraga and Louis Smolka on his resume, Nicolau is considered a rising talent in the division with only one loss to his professional record.
However, the grit and durability, coupled with dynamic wrestling pedigree should be the winning factor for Ortiz. He never tires and is relentless at pushing the pace. If he can keep the forward pressure and avoid the counter from Matheus Nicolau, we could have an underdog payday.
Pick 1: Dustin Ortiz @ 6/4
John Makdessi vs. Ross Pearson
In the UFC’s stacked lightweight division, two veteran strikers will clash to see who comes out on top. Both fighters are 33-years-of-age and need to continue winning to stay relevant in the UFC itself, let alone the division.
Always fighting out of a traditional sideways stance, John Makdessi is a skilled kickboxer. He throws lots of feints to keep his opponents guessing and has some good leg kicks too. Having traded wins and losses in recent years, Makdessi hopes to gain some momentum under famed striking coach, Duke Roufus following his recent camp switch.
In previous bouts, Makdessi was unfortunate to be on the losing end of the scorecards against Hawaiian Yancy Medeiros after three good rounds. However, in his most recent performance, he was able to comprehensively outstrike the heavy-handed Abel Trujillo to take the much needed “W”.
Standing across the cage will be English native Ross Pearson. Ross has also struggled to string together wins in his UFC career lately, coming off a terrible losing streak (albeit against good competition). To halt that skid, Pearson was able to win his last fight against Japanese striker, Mizuno Hirota, and looked rejuvenated. We saw Pearson showcase his trademark slips and accurate punches to secure a decision victory. This has lacked in his previous bouts, but the groove seemed to have returned.
While Pearson doesn’t have the diverse offensive arsenal of Makdessi, his boxing-centric style is certainly effective and crisp. Against highly-touted lightweight contender, Dan Hooker, Pearson won the first round before eventually being caught by a knee from hell in the second. This was the same story when “The Real Deal” clashed with an aggressive kickboxer in Paul Felder. Many thought Pearson would be dismantled, however, Pearson’s boxing fundamentals and slips were perfectly utilised proving he can definitely show up when the odds are against him.
Although both fighters are the same age, Pearson has the more significant mileage on his body (and chin). That being said, his grit, work rate and athleticism should be enough to catch Makdessi out and stop him before the buzzer.
Pick 2: Pearson @ 13/8
Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
In a highly anticipated rematch, Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez throw down for a chance at a lightweight title shot.
In their first outing back in May 2017, Poirier demonstrated he was the more technical striker, clearly outlanding Alvarez in the first round. After being rocked badly in the second round, Alvarez showcased his trademark Philadelphia iron-will and came back with a vengeance. In my opinion, Poirier looked to have been in desperate trouble before the fight was called off due to an illegal knee.
Another outing confirmed Alvarez is insanely resolute, while Poirier is an excellent technical striker that is very much hitting his stride. What was also obvious is that whilst both fighters have a solid wrestling base, I think we’re likely to see another standup brawl until one drops to the canvass.
In summary, you can never count Eddie Alvarez out of a fight – especially one that will predominantly be fought standing toe to toe. He is known for pushing the pace unless you detach him from his consciousness.
Whilst Poirier is arguably the better technical brawler, I feel unless he gets Eddie out of there in the opening round, he will struggle with manoeuvring out of reach of Alvarez for the full fight. That means it is a matter of time before he is caught, and with his occasionally questionable chin, it could be a tough night.
Pick 3: Alvarez @ 6/4
Treble @ 16/1 (£10 returns £164.10)