UFC 237: Back the underdogs to overcome the 26/1 odds in Rio

Rose Namajunas and Alexander Volkanovski may be facing Brazilian opposition, but they have what it takes to claim victory in Rio de Janeiro...

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True story: Back in the days when the Dubsmash app was all the rage, me and a fellow media member wrangled a host of UFC stars, octagon girls and even the legendary ‘Security Steve’ to capture some lip-sync footage for an epic UFC video for USA Today at a UFC event in Berlin, Germany.

A very shy Rose Namajunas was there as a guest fighter and, after a little persuading, she agreed providing she could lip-sync the intro of one of her favourite songs – The Lion King’s ‘Hakuna Matata’. her other half, former UFC heavyweight Pat Barry got in on the fun, too.

Namajunas is a polite, fun, happy soul who, if you met her socially, you’d never peg as a professional martial arts fighter. But that’s what she is, and she also just happens to be the best in the world.

PaddyPower.com’s odds are a knockout

‘Thug Rose’ is the perfect embodiment of the phrase: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” She may look slight of frame compared to some of her strawweight rivals, but she’s as dangerous as any of them.

“I don’t think I need to do much to intimidate my opponents… All they need to do is see a highlight reel of me.”  – Rose Namajunas

On Saturday night, Namajunas puts her world title on the line against heavy-handed Brazilian Jessica Andrade in the main event of UFC 237 on Saturday night.

And while the oddsmakers here at Paddy Power Towers have the challenger as the slight favourite, I reckon the champ will get it done – and inside the distance, too.

Namajunas is a special athlete, who seems to improve by leaps and bounds with each fight. She’s coached by one of the best in the game, Trevor Wittman, has a strong support network with Barry in her corner, and she always seems to rise to the big occasion – just ask Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Pray, then slay

The Polish star was the seemingly invincible world champion and had tried to intimidate Namajunas during the pre-fight build-up.

But, instead of getting any sort of response to her threatening trash talk, Namajunas simply recited the Lord’s Prayer during their staredown, then demolished the champion inside a round on fight night.

It was one of the most incredible performances we’ve seen from a female fighter inside the octagon.

On Saturday night, she’ll need to do it again on enemy territory. Andrade is fast, strong and powerful, and she’ll come flying out the gate at the start of the contest. Namajunas will likely have to weather the storm, but she’s got the footwork and the skills to fend off the charging challenger.

Deploy the sub…

The 26-year-old world champion is an even-money underdog against 8/11 shot Andrade, but the value selection lies in the Method of Victory market.

Namajunas is 3/1 to win by decision, but I like the look of 5/1 on the champion getting a submission finish.

Two of Andrade’s last three defeats have come via submission, and Namajunas’s at-times overlooked ground skills could well prove the difference-maker on fight night this weekend.

She’s going to have to fight through some adversity to get there, but we’re taking ‘Thug Rose’ to retain her title inside the distance on Saturday night in Rio.

Verdict: Namajunas to win by submission – 5/1

Takedown, then chow down

One of the benefits of being a star is you get the chance to create little side projects here and there.

For former UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo, that includes his famous burger bar in Rio.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxIBExGHZsD/

One man who hopes to sample the burgers there is Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski, but the Aussie wants to smash the restaurant’s owner to smithereens first. Volkanovski will look to book himself into a title shot against Max Holloway by beating Aldo and claiming the biggest win of his MMA career.

The former rugby player has been a revelation in the UFC’s featherweight division and, while his grinding, in-your-face fight style might not win too many style points compared to Aldo’s aggressive striking-based attack, the Aussie won’t care about that.

He’s coming to upset the Brazilian crowd, upset Jose Aldo and upset the odds – and I reckon he might just do it, too.

“I’m not a prospect any more. I’m a contender… I’ll make anyone in the UFC fade with my pressure.” – Alexander Volkanovski

Volkanovski is as tough as you’ll find at 145lbs, and he’ll have to be to walk through some of Aldo’s heavy strikes. But I fancy him to get his hands on the Brazilian, drive him into the mat and dominate him en route to a three-round decision victory.

Then, he says, he’ll happily go and enjoy a burger with Aldo afterwards. “I’m a pretty friendly bloke,” he explained.

“This is all business. This is a sport to me. If he wanted to have a burger with me, I’d be happy to go try out his burgers.”

PS: Props to the reporter for asking a man who is clearly in the middle of a sizeable weight cut to talk about hamburgers. I’m sure he LOVED that.

Verdict: Volkanovski to win by decision – 7/2

Get the latest odds for the biggest bouts on PaddyPower.com

* All odds correct at time of posting.

What do you think?