The UFC has landed in the land Down Under for a huge pay-per-view event in Melbourne, where a cast of Antipodean superheroes look to show off their superpowers in front of around 60,000 fans at Marvel Stadium.
We reckon it’s going to be a big night for the New Zealand contingent on fight night (or fight morning if you’re in Australia), and we’ve picked out three men, and three value bets, to follow through the night on Saturday night…
Robert Whittaker may be the defending UFC middleweight champion, but interim champ Israel Adesanya seems destined to take the throne.
The former kickboxing ace has transitioned to MMA with consummate ease and has added excellent defensive wrestling and scrambling skills to his armoury to complement his elite-level striking.
While Whittaker looked in outstanding shape at this week’s open workouts, it can’t be ignored that he is returning from the longest layoff of his UFC career.
He’s also shown that he can be both clipped and hurt in fights. Up against a fighter with the ice-cool composure and razor-sharp striking skills of Adesanya, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Adesanya will need to be wary of Whittaker’s power – the defending champ can certainly pack a punch – but when it comes to the stand-up battle, the challenger holds all the aces.
The New Zealander looks ready to deliver the biggest performance of his career and produce a stoppage win over the scrappy, but super-tough champion, and with his strikes his clear number-one weapon, the 21/10 on an Adesanya KO/TKO win looks appealing.
But, don’t place that bet. Head instead for Paddy’s Double Chance markets, where you can back “The Last Stylebender” to win by either KO/TKO or submission for the same odds.
A submission win for Adesanya is unlikely, but it’s a little insurance policy in case he pulls something out the bag. And for the same odds, too.
Bet of the bout: Adesanya to win by KO/TKO or submission – 21/10
“The Hangman” is one of the most exciting men in the UFC’s lightweight division. Always pushing forward and always looking for ways to finish the fight. The Kiwi striker and teammate of Adesanya has a chance to catapult himself into the very top bracket at 155 pounds by defeating New Yorker Al Iaquinta in the night’s co-main event.
Iaquinta is an outstanding fighter with heavy hands, underrated jiu jitsu and a solid wrestling game.
He arguably gave Khabib Nurmagomedov a tougher night than either Conor McGregor or Dustin Poirier, and he did it on a day’s notice at UFC 223, so don’t underestimate “Raging Al’s” credentials.
But for all of Iaquinta’s qualities, we like Hooker’s chances just that little bit better. He has a more varied striking game, is excellent on the ground and he’s likely to be the beneficiary of a sizeable crowd support.
It’s a huge occasion for Hooker and his team, City Kickboxing, and he wants to set the stage for Adesanya in the main event.
This could be the fight of the night, and we’re taking Hooker to get the job done on the scorecards.
Bet of the bout: Hooker to win by points – 13/8
One of the lesser names on the fight card is that of Luke Jumeau, who takes on TUF alum and brother of Bellator welterweight star Douglas Lima, Dhiego Lima, in a welterweight bout.
Lima may be more familiar to long-time UFC fans, but Jumeau may well prove to be that little bit better on fight night. The Kiwi has home(ish) advantage and has prepared for his bout alongside fellow Kiwi stars Dan Hooker and Israel Adesanya, so his preparation will be on point.
He hasn’t been finished since 2013 and has lost just once in the last five and a half years. He also has a decision win over the Duracell bunny-esque Dominique Steel on his record, so cardio and pace shouldn’t be a problem.
He’s the betting underdog, yet most of the conditions appear to be in his favour. It may well go the scorecards, but if it does, we’re likely to see “The Juggernaut” getting his hand raised.
Bet of the bout: Jumeau to win by points – 11/4
* All odds correct at time of posting.