The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 58 is a three-round bantamweight bout between Renan Barao and Mitch Gagnon. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Barao is a -750 favorite (bet $750 to win $100) while Gagnon is a +525 underdog (bet $100 to win $525). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up Barao at -705 and Gagnon at +435, and the betting public has pushed Barao to an even higher number. I like Gagnon but Barao is the clear side in this fight and I agree with him being such a big favorite. Here’s why. Barao (32-2, 1 NC) is the former UFC bantamweight champion. The 27-year-old Brazilian is 7-1 in the UFC with wins over Urijah Faber (twice), Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, Cole Escovedo, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett with his lone loss coming to TJ Dillashaw in what was the biggest upset of the year. Barao was supposed to fight Dillashaw in a rematch at UFC 173, but he missed weight and Joe Soto got the fight instead. The UFC punished Barao by not giving him an immediate title shot against Dillashaw, and now he has to fight Gagnon and earn a win to get back in title contention. I think the UFC was harsh on Barao considering the circumstances, but at the same time making weight is part of the job and Barao failed to do that, so I understand why they are making him prove himself again. Prior to the loss to Dillashaw, Barao was labelled as a P4P great in the sport. He was riding a 32-fight undefeated streak, was unbeaten in the UFC, and hadn’t lost a fight in nine years. However, he looked human against Dillashaw and is no longer considered unbeatable. Having said that, Barao is still pretty damn good. He is a lethal finisher with wicked striking skills and tremendous submission ability. He has solid wrestling, good cardio and is also very tough. While Gagnon is a solid fighter, he is a step down from the guys Barao has been fighting the last few years, and on paper this is a fight Barao should win, which is why he is such a big favorite entering the contest. Gagnon (12-2) is one of the top up-and-coming bantamweights in the UFC. The 30-year-old Canadian is 4-1 in the UFC with wins over Roman Salazar, Walel Watson, Tim Gorman and Dustin Kimura and his lone loss coming to Bryan Caraway in his promotional debut. He is undefeated since then and overall has looked great in his last four bouts, but he has been fighting bottom feeders and Barao represents a major step up in competition, and I’m not sure it’s a test Gagnon passes. Having said that, I think Gagnon is a tremendous talent. He has a wicked submission game and his guillotine choke is one of the best in the business. He also has improving striking and wrestling. However, his conditioning is a concern as in the past he has gassed when fights go into the deep waters. In order to beat Barao, Gagnon is going to have to finish this fight in the first round. He’ll need to rock Barao and take his neck while he’s hurt, or he’ll have to rock him and finish him with strikes — I don’t see any other way for him to win. We’ve seen crazier things happen in the sport and Barao has a bunch of question marks surrounding him going into this fight, but on paper Barao is a superior mixed martial artist and not surprisingly Gagnon enters this fight against the former champion as a massive underdog. I love Gagnon and I wish I could pick him in this matchup, but I just can’t. While I think Gagnon has looked terrific in the UFC, to jump up in competition from the likes of Salazar and Gorman to the former champ in Barao is just going to be too big a leap to overcome. While Gagnon is a terrific offensive fighter, he has holes in his defence and I expect Barao to exploit them early and often. I don’t think this fight lasts long. I think these two get into an early exchange and Barao lands something hard on the feet to stop Gagnon with strikes, or submit him while he’s dazed. The line is really high at -750 so I don’t know if there’s value in the moneyline anymore, but I do like the UNDER 1.5 rounds total at +110. I think the fight ends in the first round either way and at plus money, I think it’s a better bet than laying all that juice on Barao.
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