August 4, 2018
By Brian Edwards
I’ve been a guest on the Chris Vernon Show in Memphis every Friday during football season for about a decade now. ‘Verno’ calls on me during March Madness as well and when the UFC was on fire 3-5 years ago with superstars like Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones killing it, he’d also have me on as a guest to talk UFC picks before big events.
So when he had me on eight days ago to talk college football season win totals, I added in my pre-interview text to him that I also liked Dustin Poirier in (last) Saturday’s main event on big FOX. When ‘Verno’ asked about that pick on the air, he told me beforehand that he was down on the UFC lately, admitting he hadn’t bought a pay-per-view in more than a year and basically saying he’d lost interest.
I understood exactly where he was coming from. With Rousey gone, GSP fighting only once in five years, McGregor absent from the Octagon since November of 2016, the Diaz Brothers inactive and with Jones and Silva both popping dirty for PEDs twice apiece, ratings and pay-per-view buys from the promotion have been dismal recently.
But on Friday at The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, the UFC held a presser announcing a ton of outstanding fights, including the return of Nate Diaz to fight red-hot Poirier in the UFC 230 co-main event at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
When Diaz was asked why the Poirier fight was the one to bring him out of a two-year hiatus, Nate said, “It’s time to go so…it’s time to go.”
When Nate and Dustin were asked if they think of their showdown as a “semifinal” toward a lightweight title shot, Diaz said, “This is a championship fight right here.” Poirier added, “We’re going to show up and deliver, I promise you that. This is going to be one of the most exciting fights you’ve ever seen.”
The last question from the media members in attendance was for Diaz, who was quizzed on if he still wants a trilogy fight with McGregor. He said, “I already won twice, so I ain’t worried about it.”
When the event was seemingly coming to an end, UFC President Dana White said, “We’ve got one last surprise for you guys” and a video was cued up. By now, you all know it was the announcement of the much-anticipated scrap between former two-division champ McGregor and current lightweight kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov.
When the video started, Nate bolted from the stage. Moments later, he sent out this tweet:
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto later shared a video on Twitter made by Diaz’s photographer. As you can hear on this video, Nate still has quite a few issues with the UFC. He also called McGregor and Nurmagomedov both “his little bitches.”
To be clear, I still think Nate is down to fight Dustin at MSG in NYC on Nov. 3. Dude simply likes to vent a few frustrations sometimes.
VegasInsider.com reached out to veteran MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas on Friday to inquire about his thoughts on the odds for Nate vs. Dustin. I said I was thinking Poirier at around -260. Kalikas told VI, “Looks like a line just hit offshore at BetOnline.ag (the website opened Poirier -175 with Diaz at +150). I thought it was low. I think your quoted line of -260 is more accurate. The public will bet Poirier up for sure.”
BetOnline.ag currently (8/4/18) has Poirier at -180 with Diaz as the +150 ‘dog, but 5Dimes.eu has Poirier listed as a -230 favorite, leaving Diaz as the +170 underdog.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Nurmagomedov as a -180 favorite on Friday, leaving McGregor as a +150 underdog. As of Saturday, the Westgate had ‘The Eagles’ at -160 and ‘The Notorious’ at +140.
5Dimes opened Nurmagomedov as a -245 ‘chalk’ in April and never adjusted the number once until July 26 when it reduced the odds to -205. Four days later, the offshore shop went down to -195 and then moved to -180 yesterday. Now 5Dimes has Nurmagomedov at -155 with McGregor at +135 on the comeback.
Diaz and Poirier were respectful to each other at Friday’s presser, as were Mike ‘Platinum’ Perry and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, who have trained together at Jackson-Wink before and will collide at UFC Denver on Nov. 10. The main event in the Mile High City will be Frankie Edgar vs. ‘The Korean Zombie.’
The most trash talking went down between Justin Gaethje and James Vick, who will square off in the UFC Lincoln headliner on Aug. 25. Vick is -150 at 5Dimes and Gaethje is the +130 underdog. The other combatants that were getting after each other verbally were middleweights Israel Adesanya and Derek Brunson, who will get after each other on the main card at UFC 230. 5Dimes has Adesanya as a -280 ‘chalk’ with Anderson at +200 on the comeback.
The UFC Moscow card has a main event now. The promotion’s first show in Russia is on Oct. 27 and will be headlined by a light-heavyweight battle between red-hot Anthony Smith and Volkan Oezdemire, who is a -165 favorite at 5Dimes. Smith is the +135 ‘dog.
Tyron Woodley and Darren Till, who will fight for Woodley’s welterweight belt in the UFC 228 headliner on Sept. 8, were also respectful to each other. Woodley even commented that during their faceoff, he didn’t see any fear in Till’s eyes. He went on to say that that excited him. He liked that “a young lion” thinks he can come take my belt, saying he performs best with that in mind.
Three other UFC 230 fights have been issued odds (all these numbers from 5Dimes): Luke Rockhold -175 vs. Chris Weidman (+135) in a rematch between former middleweight champs, Yoel Romero (-230) vs. unbeaten Paulo Costa (+170) and Jacare Souza (-240) vs. David Branch (+173).
White would scoff at suggestions that the UFC has been struggling, and he can point to the promotion’s new deal with ESPN to dispute those assertions. Whatever the case, fans finally have reasons to get really fired up. McGregor is back and will settle his differences in the Octagon with Khabib. Diaz is (most likely) back as well, and those two developments alone are enough to point at Friday as a much-needed turning point for the promotion.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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