The UFC yesterday booked two huge fights in the bantamweight division, and for today’s MMA Odds and Ends I’ll give my thoughts on both of these matchups. Urijah Faber vs. Francisco Rivera, UFC 181 The first new bantamweight matchup that was announced is a three rounder between Urijah Faber and Francisco Rivera. The two will tango at UFC 181, which is set to take place December 6 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was a little surprised when the UFC booked this matchup because Faber is coming off of a win and Rivera is coming off of a loss, but the fight does make sense because the UFC is trying to keep Faber away from the other top contenders for now. They don’t want him to knock off someone like Dominick Cruz or Raphael Assuncao because if he wins, then the UFC loses a title contender, but at the same time they don’t want Faber fighting a nobody, so he gets booked against a top-15 fighter in Rivera. Faber is obviously one of the best 135lbers in the world. His wrestling is fantastic, his submissions are slick, and he has great striking and cardio. On paper, he should beat Rivera, who is more or less a power puncher with few other elite skills. That being said, his hands are bricks and if he catches anyone on the chin he can knock anyone out, including Faber, who has been knocked out in the past. As far as the line goes, most believe this is a mismatch in Faber’s favor and I can’t blame anyone for thinking that. Look for Faber to be around -500 for this fight, but don’t count out Rivera and his heavy hands. Renan Barao vs. Mitch Gagnon, UFC Fight Night 58 The second new bantamweight fight that was announced is a three-round bout between former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao and Mitch Gagnon. The bout, which serves as the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 58, takes place December 20 at Ginasio Jose Correa in Barueri, Brazil. At first glance this is a mismatch, and I can understand why people think that. Barao, of course, is the former champ and would be fighting for the title again if not for weight cut issues. But that’s the only reason why — the guy is an incredible fighter, and has one of the best resumes at 135lbs. It’s likely that the UFC wants him to get a big win over Gagnon on his home soil and re-emerge as a title contender, and on paper that’s what’s likely to happen. But as we all know, fights aren’t made on paper, and that’s why I think Gagnon has a better chance than most expect. I’ve been watching Gagnon for a long time and the guy has really transformed into one of the best bantamweights in the world. He is a finisher in every sense of the word, and most of his wins have come by submission in the first round. I am not expecting him to submit Barao in round one, but crazier things have happened and Gagnon is catching Barao at a low point of his career. He’s a talented fighter, and in a sport where anything is possible, I won’t be counting him out. Most bettors and fans of MMA in general won’t be giving Gagnon a chance here, and because of that I expect an over-inflated line on the former champ. Look for Barao to open at around -700 here and possibly even higher, with Gagnon available as a huge underdog. But to be honest, I think Gagnon has a better chance than expected and if he’s available at +500 or higher like I expect him to be, I may take a flier on him to come through as Canada’s next great hope.
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