The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 55 is a three-round lightweight bout between Ross Pearson and Al Iaquinta. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Pearson is a -145 favorite (bet $145 to win $100) while Iaquinta is a +125 underdog (bet $100 to win $125). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Pearson at -135 and Iaquinta at -105, and so far the betting action has come in on the favorite Pearson. I think Pearson wins this fight and agree with the action in his direction. Here’s why. Pearson (16-7, 1 NC) won The Ultimate Fighter season 9 back in 2009, and over the past five years has become one of the stalwarts of the UFC lightweight division. The 30-year-old Brit is 8-4 with 1 no contest in the UFC with notable wins over Gray Maynard, George Sotiropoulos, and Dennis Siver, with his only losses coming to Cub Swanson, Edson Barboza, Diego Sanchez and Cole Miller. However, it must be kept in mind the losses to Barboza and Sanchez were very controversial decisions and Pearson could have easily been given the nod in those fights had he not been fighting in his opponents’ backyards. Primarily a boxer, Pearson has expanded his overall MMA game over the years but he still relies on his hands, which are powerful and accurate. He has six career knockout wins, including three T/KO finishes in his last three victories. Since moving to Alliance MMA in San Diego, California, Pearson has had the luxury of working with Michael Chandler and Myles Jury, two other top lightweights, and it’s helped him as he looked better and better each fight. If not for the controversial loss to Sanchez, Pearson would be on a five-fight unbeaten streak, and would be getting talked about as a top-15 contender. However, that loss set him back, and although a win over Maynard got him back in the W column, he needs to do more in order to cement his status as a contender. He has been given a difficult matchup stylistically here in the form of Iaquinta, but it’s a fight he deserves to be favored in based on his history, and he indeed enters the matchup as the favorite. Iaquinta (9-3-1) made it to the finals of TUF 15, but lost to Michael Chiesa in the finals by submission. Since the show, the 27-year-old American has gone 4-2 overall in the UFC with wins over Rodrigo Damm, Piotr Hallmann, Ryan Couture and Kevin Lee, with losses to Chiesa and Mitch Clarke. The Clarke loss was especially tough for Iaquinta to take as he was winning the bout until getting caught with a choke, but he bounced back with the win over Damm and with a victory over Pearson will get right back to where he was before facing Clarke. Iaquinta is a solid wrestler/boxer who uses a sprawl-and-brawl gameplan to win his fights. He has very good wrestling both offensively and defensively, and he has very nice hands, although he is lacking in power. The problem with Iaquinta is 1) his poor fight IQ and 2) poor submission defence. Those flaws will cost him against slick grapplers like Chiesa and Clarke, but against a fellow boxer like Pearson, those flaws shouldn’t come into play. I do believe that Iaquinta has good potential in the sport, but until he proves himself to me — I find him to be quite overrated at this point, as his 3-3 record over his last six fights isn’t special at all — I have hard time picking him against an established vet like Pearson, and I agree with him being the underdog heading into this matchup. This should be a really competitive fight that primarily takes place on the feet, where both fighters excel. These guys love to show off their boxing, but while Iaquinta throws a higher volume of strikes, Pearson has more pure power, and I would argue is the more effective striker in this matchup. Iaquinta is certainly a good fighter, and could possibly get the upset here, but he’s hard to trust at times, while Pearson as of late has looked outstanding. I think this is going to be a close fight and it likely goes to decision, but at the end of 15 minutes I believe Pearson is going to be the one getting his hand raised. At -145, though, I don’t think he has enough value for a bet. I still think it’s a favorite-or-pass situation, but at the current line I’m leaning towards a pass, although if the line drops to a Pick ’em for whatever reason I would bet on Pearson.
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