Memorial Day weekend normally serves as one of the biggest UFC events of the year, and while UFC 173 won’t receive blockbuster attention, the quality of the bouts on the card is worthy of the weekend it falls on. Eight of the ten fighters on the pay-per-view portion of the card are ranked top 10 in their division, headed by the #3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Renan Barao. Barao defends his bantamweight title in the main event against T.J. Dillashaw, while title shots could be on the line for the winners of the Daniel Cormier/Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler/Jake Ellenberger, and Takeya Mizugaki/Francisco Rivera bouts. Before the card makes its way to PPV however, there will be seven fights aired on UFC Fight Pass and Fox Sports 1, all starting at 6:30pm ET. The preliminary portion of the card focuses on the lighter weight classes heavily with all seven taking place at 170lbs or lower, and four of those being contested at lightweight. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the preliminary card of UFC 173 at 5Dimes Sportsbook today. Check out the new lines: ——————– MAIN CARD (PPV, 10pm ET) UFC Bantamweight Title Renan Barao -425 T.J. Dillashaw +305 Daniel Cormier -425 Dan Henderson +305 Robbie Lawler -215 Jake Ellenberger +165 Takeya Mizugaki -150 Francisco Rivera +110 Jamie Varner -180 James Krause +140 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET) Michael Chiesa -170 Francisco Trinaldo +130 Tony Ferguson -265 Katsunori Kikuno +185 Chris Holdsworth -380 Chico Camus +260 Al Iaquinta -350 Mitch Clarke +250 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET) Anthony Njokuani -245 Vinc Pichel +175 Sam Sicilia -165 Aaron Phillips +125 David Michaud -165 Jingliang Li +125 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Both Chiesa and Trinaldo have shown marked improvements in their weakest areas in recent fights. Chiesa’s striking has looked significantly improved since he came off the Ultimate Fighter, while Trinaldo won a third round for the first time in his UFC tenure in his last outing. That makes this fight tricky to call, as Chiesa will be competitive on the feet and Trinaldo won’t fade so drastically in the later rounds. I still tend to side with Chiesa in this bout, as I think it will play out similarly to (but not as drastically as) the Piotr Hallman bout. Ferguson and Kikuno is a well-matched bout that will likely stay on the feet and be a clash of diverging striking styles. Ferguson uses high-paced, aggressive striking to overwhelm opponents, while Kikuno prefers karate-based single strikes. Both can mix in takedowns when they choose to do so, although Ferguson is the superior overall wrestler. I think in the end, Ferguson’s higher output will be what makes the difference in this bout, but Kikuno has a difficult style for any fighter to deal with so it should end up close. I think Holdsworth is one of the best prospects to come out of TUF since the first bantamweight season featuring fighters like John Dodson and T.J. Dillashaw. He has always shown a spectacular grappling game, but has also refined his striking to go with it. I simply don’t see an area where Camus can beat him, as he’ll get beaten up on the feet and torched on the ground, in addition to being at a significant size disadvantage. If the UFC is looking to build Holdsworth up as a prospect, they’re doing it in the right way as this bout should provide an impressive win, but won’t move him too far up the ladder. Clarke was overlooked pretty badly in his last fight and I expect the same to happen here, but for better reasons. Iaquinta will be far superior on the feet here, and he won’t be controlled in grappling exchanges like Clarke was able to do to John Maguire. I don’t really think Clarke is UFC caliber, and he got a bit lucky in his last outing catching Maguire at the right time. While Iaquinta won’t ever develop into the prospect some had pegged him as on the Ultimate Fighter, he’s solid and will stick around the UFC for a long time. The one issue keeping me away from betting Iaquinta is that he gets his back taken way too much for comfort, and Clarke is a solid enough grappler to maybe take advantage of that, but overall I doubt it. The Njokuani/Pichel fight is a bit of a sleeper fight in my eyes. Njokuani is obviously a talented striker, but his skills have never really developed beyond that. He’s going to have a striking advantage over Pichel here, but I honestly wouldn’t be shocked to see Pichel garner some takedowns and win rounds here, in addition to keeping the striking relatively competitive with his normally aggressive approach. I think this could be a line that the public moves way too far in Njokuani’s direction, and Pichel could end up being worth a flier. I’m imagining most people will favor Sicilia over UFC newcomer Aaron Phillips, but this actually has the makings of a competitive fight. Phillips is a talented southpaw striker who has shown good takedown defense in his young career. If he’s able to keep this bout on the feet I think it will actually go in his favor, and Sicilia’s tendency to abandon his wrestling (landing just about one takedown per fight) and throw haymakers does not bode overly well for him here. The opening bout is one of the most difficult to read of the year. Li is one of the many Chinese fighters who has amassed a solid record without facing any real competition, and he has also been out of action for over a year. Michaud is really a lightweight and is taking this bout on short notice. I give the edge to Michaud because he has a decent submission game and Chinese fighters tend to get dragged into grappling matches since they don’t have particularly developed wrestling games. Also, Chinese MMA in general is worth fading at this point in its very very early development.
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