The opening main card bout of UFC 170 is a welterweight bout between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker. The current betting line for the fight at 5Dimes Sportsbook lists Thompson as a -135 betting favorite (bet $135 to win $100) while Whittaker is a +115 underdog (bet $100 to win $115). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Thompson at -130 and Whittaker at -110, meaning the early public action has been on the slight favorite “Wonderboy” I agree with the line movement as I am also picking for Thompson to win this fight. Here’s why. Thompson (8-1) is a 31-year-old striker from the United States known for his top-level karate and kickboxing. Nicknamed “Wonderboy,” Thompson is so far 3-1 in the UFC with wins over Chris Clements, Nah-Shon Burrell and Dan Stittgen, with the lone loss coming to top-ranked Matt Brown. Formerly the top fighter in the World Combat League, Thompson has been impressive since moving over to MMA in 2010 and despite being over the age of 30 now, still appears to have a lot left in the tank. A gifted kickboxer with improving grappling skills, Thompson seems destined to break away from the middle of the pack in the UFC welterweight division, and with a win over the highly-touted Whittaker on PPV, he could earn himself a big fight against someone ranked in the top 15 or so of the division. Whittaker (11-3) was a competitor on TUF Smashes and won the tournament with his decision win over Brad Scott at the Finale. Since winning the show, the 23-year-old Whittaker has gone 1-1 in the Octagon with a TKO win over TUF 16 winner Colton Smith and a split decision loss to Court McGee in his last outing at UFC Fight Night 27. An exceptional offensive striker who is rapidly improving his game, the Australian has a bright future in the sport and just needs to start being more consistent when he fights in the Octagon. Against Thompson, Whittaker is being given an opportunity to fight someone who will stand and bang with him, and so it’s possible we could see the best Whittaker yet — or we could see the flaws in his striking defence that he showed against Smith and McGee be exposed by a seasoned veteran in Thompson. This should be a fairly competitive fight that takes place primarily on the feet, but I think Thompson’s unorthodox fighting style will be difficult for the youngster Whittaker to deal with, and I think that Thompson is going to land the cleaner strikes throughout the contest and win a decision on the judges’ scorecards, if not knock Whittaker out. At -135, I will be making a small play on Thompson here as I capped him a bit higher than that and I so I see some value in the current line. With the state of MMA judging I don’t think one can go too crazy betting on this fight, but considering he’s only -135 I think Thompson is playable here. As far as props go, there’s nothing that stands out to me yet, but I will probably take a look at the Fight of the Night prop for this bout when it comes out as I expect it to be an exciting stand-up affair.
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