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Four big fights, bigger gates, and even bigger longshots

By Zach Arnold | April 19, 2013

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Saturday night promises to be super-great with two major fights — Ben Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez for the UFC Lightweight title (HP Pavilion in San Jose) and Canelo Alvarez vs. Austin Trout (Alamo Dome in San Antonio). Then we have Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen on the 27th in Newark, New Jersey and Zab Judah vs. Danny Garcia in Brooklyn. On May 4th, it’s Floyd Mayweather versus future New York jailbird Robert Guerrero in Las Vegas.

The reality is that the fans have a pretty good ideas as to who will win each of these bouts. However, the odds will not stop them from packing arenas and buying PPVs. Business will be huge. Can’t wait.

The closest fight in terms of odds is Canelo vs. Trout. Canelo is a 2-to-1 favorite (-200) while Trout is the underdog (+170). 2-to-1 sounds pretty dominant but by Vegas standards this is a pretty interesting line. There is family history between Trout and the Canelos and the Dome will be packed like crazy. Private jets vs. Southwest. A big fight for Showtime. Unfortunately, Laurence Cole will be the referee for the fight. Of course. It’s Texas. You win some, you lose some.

UFC’s event for Fox broadcast television on Saturday night is headlined by Ben Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez, a super match-up on a card that is entirely stacked. It is no coincidence that there will be at least 11,000-12,000 fans in attendance for San Jose, which is great to see. Daniel Cormier faces Frank Mir in the semi-main event. Cormier is more than a 4-to-1 favorite to win (-420) and Mir is a big underdog (+320).

The headlining fight should be five rounds of chess between the champion, who’s as flexible as gumby, and the challenger from Strikeforce on home turf. In Vegas speak, Henderson is a 73% favorite (-280) and Melendez is a healthy underdog (+220). According to ESPN viewers, 80% of them feel that Henderson will win the fight.

Image credit: ESPN (SportsNation)

On the 27th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Showtime will air Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah. Garcia is a heavy 6-to-1 favorite while Judah is a +450 dog. KO finish most likely here.

In nearby Newark, New Jersey, Jon Jones will tolerate fighting Chael Sonnen in order to get a quick payday and move onto bigger and better things. At least that’s what he hopes.

In all of the fight preview material UFC has pitched for the bout, Jones has basically treated Chael Sonnen as if he’s MMA’s version of Skip Bayless & Jay Mariotti. We saw that on display last Saturday night. Even UFC can’t hide Jones’ derision for accepting the fight and putting up with having to promote it in a serious fashion.

“Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones believes Chael Sonnen is his weakest opponent to date. At UFC 159, he plans to defeat Sonnen in devastating fashion.”

I suppose Vladimir Matyushenko will be glad to hear this. So will Matt Hamill. The reality is that Vegas agrees with Jones. Jones is a 9-to-1 favorite to win the fight, while Sonnen is a +600 underdog. It’s not the 12-to-1 favorite status Ronda Rousey had over Liz Carmouche or the 13-to-1 favorite status Anderson Silva had over Stephan Bonnar, but it’s in the ball park of St. Pierre being such a huge favorite over Matt Serra.

The lesson to be learned here is that you can be an insanely big underdog and still manage to attract a big PPV buy rate if the fans care about you. Of course, that dynamic worked for Rousey and Anderson because they are fan magnets. Jones is an enigma — he has fan appeal but limits it often with the tone in which he carries himself. Sonnen is doing the heavy lifting in promoting this fight. It’s still odd to see Jones act so disgusted when he was the one who gave into taking the Sonnen fight and going along with The Ultimate Fighter charade, even after his employers purposely humiliated him for not taking a last-second fight against Sonnen last September.

I’m really not concerned extremely with Chael’s gifts,” Jones said. “He’s an awesome fighter. He’s pretty good at boxing, he loves his wrestling and his been pretty successful in his wrestling. He has pretty good ground and pound and I just familiarized myself with the whole thing and what I’m getting ready to face. I wouldn’t say there’s any one thing that concerns me.”

As goofy as Chael Sonnen can be, I’m not sure it can match the following…

This is Robert Guerrero, a +525 underdog to the 8-to-1 favorite Floyd Mayweather, being blessed by a priest in front of the media. I was half-way expecting Vince McMahon to come out and tell the press that it was all a skit and that he was bringing back the old Tuesday Night Titans show. Friar Ferguson!

In recent fights, Mayweather has been a 4-to-1 or 5-to-1 favorite. To see him as an 8-to-1 favorite here is pretty strong… and I have no doubts that he will win by decision. I still want to see the fight (as does the rest of the world), but I’m more curious to see what happens to Guerrero. If he loses decisively, then it’s the expected outcome… and his troubles will just be beginning, given that he’ll be serving jail time for certain under New York’s new gun laws. If Guerrero pulls off the big upset, he’ll be an even bigger target for New York prosecutors who will go out of their way to make his life a living hell and put him in jail for the maximum amount of time. Even Bay Area defense attorneys believe the book’s going to get thrown at him because of his celebrity status.

As Floyd puts it: I’ve done my time… now it’s Guerrero’s turn. Charming.

It’s going to be an entertaining three weeks of pugilistic pounding.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “Four big fights, bigger gates, and even bigger longshots”

  1. Awesome article, as always.

    Ben Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez for the UFC Lightweight title as a main event is amazing, and for FREE?

    Someone emailed me some PPV numbers a couple weeks back, and every main event match from Lightweight and lower does very poor ratings – I guess that’s why they’re giving them away for free now. I’m not complaining.

    Of all these fight I think Henderson/Melendez will be the most entertaining, and the closest. And that card is fantastic overall! I’d like to see Mir surprise everyone with a submission.

    Jones/Sonnen should be a quick and uneventful TKO for Jones, followed by a chorus of boos. Then, in the post-fight interview when Rogan asks if he’ll ever face Anderson Silva, he’ll just mumble about “respecting him too much”.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    Henderson vs. Melendez is a fantastic fight, even if most fans think that Henderson will win. To me, Melendez was the best champion coming out of Strikeforce.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    There is always a chance that the Boston Bombing stuff has a big news event during the UFC on FOX Fights….. And we end up missing half of the event….

  4. RST says:

    Mir and Melendez are decent bets IMO.

    Mir has got that weird luck that enables him to be the first person to KO and then SUBMIT Nog among all his other unlikely achievements and failures.

    And I was never sold on Cormier yet.

    Bigfoot can be surprised with a hot one.

    Beating barnett isn’t as big of an achievement as people keep saying it is IMO.
    And he didn’t really look as good as people keep saying he did while doing it IMO either.

    I think people are understandably underestimating Mel for his soft performance last time out and a layoff.
    While Bendo has looked absolutely dynamic in his last few.

    I’m not saying Mel is going to beat Bendo,
    just that I think those odds should be much closer and might be the kind of popular misconception that could make a gambling man some money.

    Sonnens best chance would be the same one he used in the first fight against shmilva,
    that his opponent doesn’t take him seriously.

    But despite some of the immature type decisions that the 25 year old Jones may make out of the cage,
    I’ve never seen him give any hint that he takes his performance in the cage as anything less then mortally serious.

    The only time I saw him go easy was when he allowed Shad to see the final bell.

    But he was also in complete control for those 25 minutes and was never in any trouble.

    (I dont pay attention to maywhether. I know he’s great,
    but I have as little interest in him squashing shlubs as I have in flamdersons career.)

  5. RST says:

    Mir has always been just as lucky at finding unlikely ways to lose.
    (You’re out of gas already?!)

    And it sounds like Mel did quite well against one of the best LW’s in the sport today.
    Thats a tough fight coming off a layoff and for your first fight in the UFC.

    I have a feeling there will be a rematch sooner then later.

    Wow @ Thompson.
    There must be some sort of irony at re-entering the UFC by being the first guy to KO a Diaz in the same fashion as the highlight loss that sent him out of the UFC.

    Sounds like it was a pretty good card,
    especially the undercard.

  6. Brendan says:

    “I suppose Vladimir Matyushenko will be glad to hear this. So will Matt Hamill.”

    I lol’ed at the unintentional Hamill joke.


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