Q & Anik is an article featured exclusively at MMAOddsBreaker.com that goes five rounds with UFC commentator Jon Anik offering his betting tips and picks on some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. 1st Round Q: Conor McGregor seems to be the biggest name in the UFC right now. He goes from opening as an underdog to featherweight champion Jose Aldo to the favorite and now is solid chalk against replacement Chad Mendes, whose only two career losses came against the champ. Bettors obviously love McGregor in this matchup, so is there any value on Mendes? And who are you picking to win the main event? Anik: This entire situation is so fascinating. This is obviously a very intriguing fight. And I think for a lot of people, they really wanted to see how Conor McGregor would fare against an elite offensive wrestler. Not only is Chad Mendes an elite offensive wrestler, he’s the best wrestler in this division and has one of the best double-leg takedowns in all of the UFC. I am really surprised to see Chad Mendes swell north of +140, and I don’t have to tell you that you’re always playing the numbers. So if you can get Chad Mendes north of +140, I think you’ve got to pull the trigger and not wait even though there is a chance that more money will come in on Conor and he might close around -200. I think if you’re getting Chad Mendes north of +140, there’s just so much value on that side of things. For me, this guy, for the better part of three years, has been the best fighter in the UFC not currently holding a belt. He just can do it all. All of that said, I’m picking Conor McGregor to win the fight. I just don’t see any value on him at -175 (or higher). I think when this thing was close to a Pick’em, when you could get Conor in the -120 range, there was value there. But now I just don’t see value. I was going to pick Conor to beat Jose Aldo, stylistically I liked that matchup more for him. I’m picking Conor McGregor in this fight because I believe Conor is elite, I think he has the power to finish Chad Mendes, he has an eight-inch reach advantage, and he’s a master of controlling distance. But the (main) reason I like Conor McGregor is because essentially since January he’s been preparing his body to peak on July 11th for a 25-minute championship fight. So many fighters that I’ve talked to are just dismissing the 17 days’ notice as a potential factor for Chad Mendes. I understand that Mendes is an elite athlete who keeps himself in tremendous cardio shape. Cardio hasn’t really been an issue for him in the UFC nor in his days prior to signing with the UFC. But I’m just not convinced that’s he’s in optimal fight shape getting this call 17 days ago. A lot of people thought that the UFC was going to protect Conor from a matchup like this against Chad Mendes or Frankie Edgar…I wonder if Chad even thought this matchup would materialize on short notice. Stylistically, I think this is as tough a matchup as there is for Conor in the division. But because he’s been priming himself for July 11th and because of how highly I think of him as a striker, he is my pick in the fight. 2nd Round Q: You mentioned the biggest challenge for Mendes being the fact that he is fighting for the interim title on short notice. Is there any way that could end up being an edge for Mendes since he did not have to listen to McGregor build up the fight and talk trash for months leading up to it? Also, what else does Mendes have going for him that could help him pull off the upset in Las Vegas on Saturday night? Anik: I think the fact that Chad Mendes hasn’t had to deal with Conor over the last five months and deal with all of the build-up and the press tour could really be something that works to his advantage. Chad Mendes isn’t a guy who fights on emotion, but certainly McGregor has been one of the few guys to make him emotional when he started talking shit several months ago before Mendes fought Aldo at UFC 179. I think it’s an advantage for Chad, the fact that he didn’t have to go on the press tour and deal with Conor. From a mental standpoint, both of these guys are mentally tough. You don’t get to this level without being mentally tough. But I think for Chad, even though physically I don’t think 17 days works to his advantage, I think mentally and emotionally it certainly does. I think the big question for me is not Conor McGregor’s takedown defense – I think his takedown defense is very good – but if he does get taken down and they’re scrambling, how quickly can he get back up? I’m of the belief that he’ll be able to get back up and minimize the damage with Mendes’ ground-and-pound. But some people don’t think that he’ll be able to get back up, and that’s why a lot of people are picking Chad Mendes to win the fight. I feel like if Chad Mendes had a full training camp, he would be -200. If that doesn’t scream value, I don’t know what does. I just wonder how Mendes will deal with the pace and the pressure of Conor. And I think the simple answer might be if he leans on his wrestling, it’s going to be a tough fight for Conor. But if he wants to stand and trade, you’ve got to be real careful doing that with Conor. These could very well be the two best power punchers in the division. Conor’s just so hard to get out of there. His heart, his will, his desire, his focus, his mental toughness. He’s so elite when it comes to the mental game. Chad talks a lot about the fact that he’s going to stand and trade with him for a round. Mendes is not necessarily an output guy, so I don’t think he wants to stand on a napkin in the center of the Octagon and trade with Conor McGregor. Chad might be the more powerful one-punch guy, but he’s not going to wow you with volume. To me, path of least resistance, is to get into wrestling range, go for the takedown within the first 90 seconds and try to beat him up on the ground. If Mendes doesn’t go for a takedown in the first three minutes of this fight, I really would be surprised. The game plan for Chad Mendes really should be pretty simple. If this thing goes 25 minutes, we’re just going to get an exceptional fight. 3rd Round Q: We have been talking about Rory MacDonald being the future UFC welterweight champ for what seems like a while now, and oddsmakers have made him a solid favorite as the challenger. Is this the best he has ever been, and do you think he is finally ready to take the title belt against Robbie Lawler? Anik: I think it’s a good thing for Rory that it’s happening when he’s 25 years old, and maybe not when he’s 21 or 22. Because ever since this guy signed with the UFC in 2009, he has been painted with the brush of being a future champion. He seems like he’s fairly immune to the pressure. We talked to him on our podcast this week, and I really think he has this innate ability to just treat this like any other fight. And of course with the whole backdrop of Aldo-Mendes-McGregor – that whole situation – I think it makes it even easier for him to fly under the radar, which is where he really likes to fly. But as far as versatile, modern day mixed martial artists, they just don’t come any better than this guy. (Trainer) Firas Zahabi is one of the best strategists the sport has ever seen, and he has just the perfect pupil to do what he likes to do in Rory MacDonald. They basically take away weapons, exploit weaknesses really better than any one-two punch in the game. So now he has Rory who has mentally and physically matured, and when you look at the body of work in the UFC, he’s been close to perfect. The split-decision loss to Robbie Lawler, he did lose that fight. And then he had Carlos Condit on the ropes before being finished late in that fight. So he hasn’t really had a lot of dips. He has been pretty consistent, and I think in a matchup like this, his ability to mix it up is going to be key. Robbie Lawler’s takedown defense is outstanding, but Rory’s going to have to keep him honest with takedowns. And then when he gets him there, he’s going to have to soften Robbie up and try to sort of decimate his power a little bit by fatiguing him. It’s always interesting to see how Rory approaches a fight, but I do think you’ve seen an uptick in his killer instinct of late. The Tarec Saffiedine fight in October was incredible. People don’t realize how good Saffiedine is. And Rory just chewed him up and spit him out. I think this is the weekend for Rory MacDonald to shine, I really do. I think the title shot comes at the right time. He’s certainly earned it, and I think Canada’s getting a UFC champion this weekend. 4th Round Q: What do you know about Thomas Almeida – other than the fact that he is unbeaten – to make him the biggest favorite on the betting board? Why is he getting so much respect versus veteran Brad Pickett? Anik: Well, he got the Dana White stamp of approval. And by the way, Brad Pickett has been a long-time favorite of Dana White’s as well. But Thomas Almeida is the real deal. This is a guy who at one point was rumored to be facing Urijah Faber, and that would have just been a super interesting fight. I think with Almeida, what jumps off the page for me is just how confident and wise beyond his years he is. He fights like a savvy veteran despite being 23 years old. He fights like a guy who has been there and done that. And he’s accrued a lot of experience despite being a young guy. He just blows you away with volume and accuracy and just does not have many glaring holes in which to exploit. He’s the total package. We talk about Rory MacDonald as a guy who was painted with that brush of being a future contender, future champion from the moment he stepped into the UFC. At 135 pounds, a lot of us see Almeida making that type of run. I think the reason the line is so bloated is just because Pickett is in the twilight of his career and has been hittable of late. 5th Round Q: Best bet time, what underdogs do you think are underrated and undervalued at UFC 189? Anik: I’m a long-time fan of Dennis Bermudez. I was among those who were really stunned to see the manner in which his seven-fight winning streak came to an end courtesy of Ricardo Lamas. I think it’s a bad time to be fighting Dennis Bermudez because he has been champing at the bit waiting to get back in there. All of that said, I was off on what I thought this line would be. I thought Bermudez would be -155 and (Jeremy) Stephens would be +135. So given Jeremy Stephens’ high level of experience, given how mentally tough he is, given his obvious one-punch knockout power, I think you’ve got to take a good hard look at that as one of the best value plays on the board. I also thought there was an interesting line on Brandon Thatch against Gunnar Nelson. Brandon Thatch obviously another guy that I’ve planted my flag in, super long for the division, one of the best overall strikers we have in the welterweight division. But again, talking about Gunnar Nelson, a guy coming off a loss against Rick Story. I see value on Gunnar Nelson, he’s been entrenched with the McGregor camp over the last several weeks. Obviously, it’s a late change in opponent here. Brandon Thatch was to be facing John Howard, now he’s fighting a guy who’s ranked in Gunnar Nelson. Disclaimer: Mr. Anik is contractually prevented from wagering on UFC events. His betting tips and picks posted here are for information and entertainment purposes only.