Dustin Poirier has quietly become one of the UFC’s most consistently exciting fighters. Ever since his 2012 Fight of the Year against the Korean Zombie, “The Diamond” has put on thriller after thriller, earning him high profile matches against the likes of Michael Johnson, Eddie Alvarez and even Conor McGregor.
There are a variety of things that make Poirier so fan-friendly: He’s athletic enough to pull off flashy strikes. He fights emotionally, with a ton of heart. He’s got the power to put dudes out. But most importantly, Poirier is just good enough to maintain a top ranking, but not dominant enough to win with ease. This leads to a ton of fun, back-and-forth matchups.
This Saturday’s main event looks to be no different, as Poirier meets “Showtime” Pettis in the main event of UFC Fight Night 120 in Virginia. Pettis, of course, is no stranger to highlight reels himself. Coming off his first win at 155 pounds in years, the former lightweight champion will look to jump back into contender territory when he meets the No. 8 Poirier.
In the co-main, Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez will likely stain the canvas red in an expected bloodbath. Anyone who has watched any of their fights know that these dudes go out on their shields at all costs. It doesn’t even matter that there are no title stakes involved here.
All in all, it should be a great night of fights. Let’s break down the key matchups along with your best bets, courtesy of the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu.
Dustin Poirier -105 vs. Anthony Pettis -125
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -115, under -105
The fact that both guys have negative money lines shows how competitive this matchup is. While Pettis is a slight favorite, you could switch the odds around and nobody would bat an eye. “Showtime” has a slight edge in striking, as he is one of the most dynamic, creative strikers in the business.
But the biggest advantage here might be Poirier’s wrestling. Rafael dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez both exposed Pettis’ takedown defense and held him down from the top ride. Poirier showed he could follow a takedown-heavy gameplan when he upset Joe Duffy and dominated him on the ground.
Poirier’s price is definitely playable as it pays out nearly even money. Stay away from the round total in this one, as both guys have their fair share of early finishes and decisions.
Our Pick: Poirier to win at -105
Matt Brown -356 vs. Diego Sanchez +276
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over +130, under -150
There’s always the risk that this fight devolves into Haymakerfest 2017 – Sanchez has a way of drawing that out in guys. That makes betting this fight a dicey proposition, but we’re leaning towards “The Nightmare”. The key factor here is that Sanchez is an relentless submission wrestler facing a guy who can be taken down and has lost 10 submission losses in his career.
We’re also a little bit puzzled as to why Sanchez is such a big underdog here. He’s younger, still difficult to knock out, and still has that bottomless gas tank.
At +276, Sanchez’s price is too tempting in a fight that should be much closer than the odds suggest. Brown has lost three straight coming into the matchup, and he’s been finished in each of those. Sanchez might not finish him, but Brown is certainly a worn down fighter.
Our Pick: Sanchez to win at +276
Andrei Arlovski +280 vs. Junior Albini -340
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over +140, under -160
Under no circumstances can you trust Arlovski’s chin – everything he does well is negated by the fact that he just cannot take a solid punch anymore. Albini is no Francis Ngnannou when it comes to punching power, but he’s got good Muay Thai and hits heavy. If anything, Junior can walk down “The Pitbull” and crack his way to a win.
The price on Albini is too high to be anything but parlay fodder., If you’re looking to gamble try the rounds over. Junior has a history of quick finishes with 11 of his 14 wins coming in the first round, but Arlovski was able to get through three rounds with Marcin Tybura and will likely fight conservatively. He’s still one of the more athletic fighters in the division by heavyweight standards and should be able to avoid Albini’s power for a bit.
Our Pick: Over 1.5 rounds at +140
Nate Marquardt +225 vs. Cezar Ferreira -285
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over -200, under +170
Marquardt has been around for nearly 20 years, and it shows. He can still take some shots, but the truth is that he’s facing a bigger, younger, more athletic fighter. While Marquardt is probably a better striker, Ferreira will probably neutralize this by pressing him into the cage and taking him down. From there, his grappling skills will carry him to victory. It won’t be easy, as Marquardt is one of the most experienced guys on the roster.
The fight script projects lots of ground and clinch exchanges, making the rounds over the safest play. Ferreira’s faulty chin could come back to haunt him here, but he is the younger, quicker and has far less miles on the odometer.
Our Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -200
Raphael Assuncao to win at -330
Joe Lauzon to win at -115
Matthew Lopez was discovered on Dana White’s “Lookin’ For a Fight” YouTube series, and he does have some promise as a well-rounded finisher. But throwing him into the mix against Assuncao, whose beaten guys like T.J. Dillashaw, Bryan Caraway and Aljamain Sterling is too much, too soon.
It’ll be a sad day when Clay Guida and Joe Lauzon hangs up the gloves, but their matchup should provide plenty of high-level exchanges in the meantime. We lean on Lauzon here, as he’s a much better striker than Guida and knows how to defend against wrestlers.