The final main UFC card of the year is always a belter and 2018 is no exception. We have two mouth-watering fights on the card here, headlined by a rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson as the main event. A co-main featuring Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes is nothing to sneeze at either. The returns of both Carlos Condit and Ilir Latifi are also talking points, as is the form of Aussie featherweight Alex Volkanovski. Let’s take a look at our best bet for each of the 5 fights on the main card.
JON JONES VS ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT, MAIN EVENT
Considered by many to be the greatest UFC fighter of all time, Jones enters this matchup with an impressive 22-1-1 record. He absolutely destroyed Daniel Cormier last time out, but had the win overturned after he tested positive for Turinabol. Recent suspensions have marred Jones’ legendary career, having only fought twice in the UFC since 2015. As complete a fighter as you’ll ever come across, I don’t expect the long layoff to hamper Jones here. Not only does he have the striking advantage over Gustafsson, but his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gives him the edge on the ground.
The current #2 ranked light heavyweight UFC contender, Gustafsson enters this tilt with an impressive 17-4 record. His last fight was a very impressive knockout of Glover Teixeira that saw him take home Fight of the Night honours. Perhaps the best fight of Gustafsson’s career was 5 years ago against Jones, where he narrowly lost a title fight via decision. Despite an affinity for submissions earlier in his career, Gustafsson has only won by KO or decision since early 2011. Having previously lost to both Jones and Cormier in title fights, you have to wonder whether this will be Gustafsson’s last title shot.
Prediction: Jon Jones by KO or Points ($1.72)
Having had immense success backing Jon Jones in the past, now definitely isn’t the time to start going against him. His time out of the ring and multiple suspensions actually mean he’s undervalued in the betting market. I like the double chance here for Jones and expect him to win either by KO or decision.
CRIS CYBORG VS AMANDA NUNES, WOMEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT, CO-MAIN EVENT
Cyborg enters this all Brazilian tilt with an outstanding 20-1-1 professional MMA record. Her last fight was a very impressive first-round knockout of Yana Kunitskaya. Known for her incredible power and striking ability, 17 of Cyborg’s 20 career wins have come by knockout. She was excellent against Holly Holm in the corresponding card last year, comfortably winning by unanimous decision. Whilst I expect another win for Cyborg in this one, the power and versatility of Nunes still pose a significant threat.
The Lioness enters this one off the back of 7 straight victories that have taken her overall career record to 16-4. Perhaps the most surprising of these was her well-timed rear naked choke on Miesha Tate to first claim the Bantamweight title. This was followed up with impressive title defences over Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Schevchenko, and Raquel Pennington. Having shown her excellent power at Bantamweight, there are real fears around whether Nunes can handle Cyborg at 145 pounds. With Amanda’s grit and determination, I’m confident she can at least keep this one competitive.
Prediction: Cris Cyborg by KO/TKO at $2
Whilst Amanda Nunes has beaten some tough women, Cris Cyborg is just a different animal. Especially at a higher weight class, I expect Cyborg’s power to prove difficult to contend with in this one. At $2 to win by KO, I think this represents immense value.
CARLOS CONDIT VS MICHAEL CHIESA, MEN’S WELTERWEIGHT
Once the interim Welterweight champion, the ‘Natural Born Killer’ has been defeated in 7 of his last 9 fights. His defeat to Robbie Lawler for the Championship at UFC 195 appeared to be a defining moment for Condit. From that point forward, he lacked that power and killer drive that made him such a strong contender. Submission losses in two of his last 3 fights to Demian Maia and Alex Oliveira really don’t fill me with confidence here against a ground specialist like Chiesa.
After racing out to 14 wins in his first 16 professional fights, Chiesa enters this one off the back of consecutive defeats to Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis. Known for his excellent ability on the ground, all of Chiesa’s wins have come by knockout or submission. Having now moved up to the Welterweight division, the cut should prove much easier for Chiesa, who missed weight last time out. Whilst he’ll struggle in a striking match against Condit, it could be over quickly if he gets this to the ground.
Prediction: Chiesa by Submission or Decision at $1.67
Another fight where I see good value on the double chance market. Chiesa has never won a fight by KO in his career and I don’t see that changing here. That said, he has a huge mismatch on the ground here and I see him grinding out a late submission or points victory.
ILIR LATIFI VS COREY ANDERSON, MEN’S LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
The Swede enters this one with an improving14-5 record after registering 5 wins in his last 6 fights. He was particularly impressive against Ovince Saint-Preux last time out, managing a first-round technical submission. His previous fight was another very solid outing, handing Aussie favourite Tyson Pedro the first loss of his career. Whilst he was meant to fight in July at Fight Night 134, he had to pull out with injury. An excellent wrestler, Latifi’s ability to get this fight to the ground could prove crucial.
Corey Anderson looks to be a fighter to watch in the Light Heavyweight division, already defeating Patrick Cummins (not the cricketer) and Glover Teixeira earlier this year. Currently enjoying the #9 spot in the rankings, a few more victories and he could well have a title shot. The thing working against Anderson is the lack of excitement surrounding his fights. Known primarily for his Muay-Thai ability, he only has 1 win by knockout in all of his UFC bouts.
Prediction: Latifi to Win $1.56
I think Latifi has a clear edge on the ground in this one. His wrestling ability should come in handy against Anderson and I expect a workmanlike win from the Swede here. Anything above $1.60 represents solid value.
CHAD MENDES VS ALEX VOLKANOVSKI, MEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT
Known primarily for getting slapped up by Conor McGregor for the interim Featherweight title, Chad Mendes enters this one sporting an 18-4 record. His TKO victory over Myles Jury earlier this year was the first time he stepped in the ring since 2015. Known for being a relatively hard hitter, each of Mendes’ last 6 wins have come by knockout. As an elite wrestler in College, it will be interesting to take note of Mendes’ approach here against Aussie Alex Volkanovski.
The pride of New South Wales, Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski will look to do Australia proud on Sunday. He enters this one with a very impressive 18-1 record, winning each of his last 15 fights. His versatility has been on full display in this streak, with wins by knockout, submission, and decision. He currently sits in the top 10 of the UFC Featherweight rankings and could be set to climb with an upset win here.
Prediction: Fight Goes the Distance $1.80
Whilst I think these are two evenly matched fighters, I just don’t see a KO in this one. Mendes is still finding his feet after a long layoff, whilst 3 of Volkanovski’s last 4 fights have gone the distance. At $1.80, I think this is a strong value play.