After one of the longer breaks of the year, the Octagon will return to Mexico City for UFC Fight Night 98. The main event is a bout that could have easily been for the UFC lightweight title just a couple of months ago. However, after former champion Rafael dos Anjos lost his belt to Eddie Alvarez, and Tony Ferguson was nearly upset by Lando Vannata, it’s now an extremely important contest to position the next title challenger at 155. Fight Night 98 will also feature the finals of TUF Latin America 3, where Mexico’s Martin Bravo and Peru’s Claudio Puelles square off to determine the lightweight tournament winner. The Latin American theme continues with fighters such as: Diego Sanchez (taking on Marcin Held in his UFC debut) and Ricardo Lamas (facing Charles Oliveira in a fantastic featherweight fight), while further down the card there are plenty of Mexicans for the local fans to cheer for. Most notably, 115lb prospect Alexa Grasso makes the transition over from Invicta and makes her UFC debut on this card against Heather Clark. The betting odds for the majority of the main card have already been released. After opening a pick ’em (-120 each way), Rafael dos Anjos has moved to a -150 favorite (bet $150 to win $100) against Tony Ferguson (+130). Held sits at -265 against Sanchez, and Grasso is currently the biggest favorite on the card at -470. The other bouts with current betting odds are: Rashid Magomedov favored at -145 over Beneil Dariush (+125), and Erik Perez at -185 against Felipe Arantes (+160). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the remaining lines for UFC Fight Night 98 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check the opening odds for the full slate of bouts out below: ——————– UFC Fight Night 98: Dos Anjos vs. Ferguson NOVEMBER 5, 2016 Mexico City Arena | Mexico City, Mexico MAIN CARD (Fox Sports 1, 10pm ET) Tony Ferguson -120 Rafael dos Anjos -120 Over 3.5 -155 Under 3.5 +115 – “TUF 3: Latin America” Lightweight Tournament Final Claudio Puelles +135 Martin Bravo -175 Over 2.5 -230 Under 2.5 +170 – Diego Sanchez +165 Marcin Held -215 Over 2.5 -170 Under 2.5 +130 – Charles Oliveira -115 Ricardo Lamas -125 Over 1.5 -210 Under 1.5 +160 – Beneil Dariush +130 Rashid Magomedov -170 Over 2.5 -140 Under 2.5 +100 – Heather Clark +285 Alexa Grasso -405 Over 2.5 -270 Under 2.5 +190 ——————————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET) Felipe Arantes +165 Erik Perez -215 Over 2.5 -185 Under 2.5 +145 – Erick Montano +175 Max Griffin -245 Over 2.5 -105 Under 2.5 -135 – Henry Briones +160 Douglas Silva de Andrade -210 Over 2.5 -175 Under 2.5 +135 ——————————— PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET) Alex Nicholson +235 Sam Alvey -315 Over 1.5 -130 Under 1.5 -110 – Jason Novelli -110 Marco Polo Reyes -130 Over 1.5 -135 Under 1.5 -105 – Chris Avila +260 Enrique Barzola -380 Over 2.5 -185 Under 2.5 +145 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Both Ricardo Lamas and Charles Oliveira seem stuck in the same tier at featherweight. They’re below Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, and Max Holloway (and Conor McGregor, should he decide to be a featherweight again), but capable of beating anyone else in the division. Oliveira might be the best submission finisher in MMA right now, but he’s also the more susceptible of these two to get finished at any given time. I think the key to this bout is going to be that Lamas isn’t able to deal with the pace that Oliveira wants to fight at. Oliveira is going to be the one initiating and throwing more in exchanges, and he has good length for a featherweight that he’s becoming more and more adept at using. As long as he can avoid the one big shot from Lamas, I think this is Oliveira’s fight to win, as he’s not the type of fighter to get ground out, which seems to be what Lamas is having to do as he nears the end of his tenure as a top 145er. Marco Antonio Beltran being 3-0 in the UFC typifies the current UFC product. Prior to going back and watching his fights, there wasn’t a single moment I remembered from any of his previous Octagon appearances. He’s going to be favored over Guido Cannetti, and that in itself makes this an interesting spot. Cannetti is the bigger puncher of the two, has better wrestling, and improved his cardio drastically from his UFC debut to his upset of Hugo Viana. Now, we’ve learned that Viana is pretty bad recently, but is he any worse than Marlon Vera or Guangyou Ning, who Beltran went to close decisions with? I’d be willing to put a ticket out there on anything over +150 that he’s not. It’s hard to read much into Max Griffin’s UFC debut. He was facing a steamroller in Colby Covington, and he got… well, steamrolled. Erick Montano showed better than expected against Randy Brown in his most recent appearance, but got submitted late, which was his fourth sub loss in four losses. The problem for him is that Griffin is the more dangerous striker here, so he may be forced to use his wrestling and risk getting caught again. Griffin doesn’t have a great guard, but he’s good if he can get on top, so Montano will have to be steady with his position if he can score takedowns. If he can’t get the takedowns, he’s probably going to be eating quite a bit of leather en route to his first loss not by submission. Douglas Silva has some of the sloppiest striking in the UFC, while Henry Briones was effective enough on the feet to force Cody Garbrandt to use his wrestling for the only time in his career. That bodes well for Briones here, although Silva seems to bring fighters down to his level and make fights ugly. Briones also hasn’t shown great takedown defense so far in the UFC, so perhaps Silva can sneak in a takedown or two to steal a round, although that’s not really his MO. I still think Briones pulls off the win, but I’m not confident enough to bet it unless I can get a decent plus number. Alex Nicholson seems like the perfect matchup for Sam Alvey. We know what Alvey is at this point, and that’s an extremely patient counterstriker with massive power. He shouldn’t have to wait long for openings against Nicholson however. Nicholson moves forward and throws wildly. He was getting lit up on the feet by Devin Clark, and if Alvey connects with the same shots, I don’t think Nicholson survives. Polo Reyes may not have a long career, but it’s going to be a fun one. He throws at a high clip, has virtually no defense, but excellent recovery. Jason Novelli is better than he showed against David Teymur, and he isn’t going to face many strikers of that calibre in the UFC. His reach advantage might not come into play here as Polo Reyes is so aggressive and intent on closing the distance, but Novelli could have good success in the clinch and may even be able to take this fight down from there, where his advantage should be significant. This could be a sneaky spot where Novelli doesn’t get the respect he deserves and the price could be right for a play. Despite having a pretty bad decision go against him in his last outing, I think it’s safe to say that Enrique Barzola has already exceeded expectations in the UFC. After showing his wrestling in his debut, he showed massively improved striking against Kyle Bochniak. On the other hand, Chris Avila lost to Artem Lobov via flowiness, and I’m not sure there’s a single thing Lobov does better than Barzola (other than keeping it flowy, of course).
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