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UFC 229 - Best Bets
Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor will make his Octagon return Saturday night to face undefeated lightweight champion Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov in the UFC 229 main event at T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas.

This is the fight mixed-martial arts fans have been waiting for, one that pits two savages at the top of their game and in the prime of their careers. Toss in a ton of bad blood, a wild bus attack that resulted in McGregor’s arrest in New York City earlier this year, and you get a dream matchup that is probably only the first chapter of this bitter rivalry.

McGregor has only lost once during his 10-fight UFC tenure, falling to Nate Diaz via second-round submission at UFC 194 in a welterweight contest that was put together on less than two weeks of notice when then-lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos was forced off the card due to a foot injury.

The Dubliner avenged that defeat with a majority-decision victory in their rematch at UFC 202. Less than three months later in the UFC’s debut in NYC at Madison Square Garden, McGregor scored a second-round knockout win over Eddie Alvarez to capture the promotion’s 155-pound strap.

Since the Nov. 12 of 2016 triumph over Alvarez, however, McGregor hasn’t stepped foot in the Octagon. He wisely cashed in on a chance to fight Floyd Mayweather on Aug. 26 of 2017. McGregor lost by 10th-round KO to the undefeated Mayweather, but he set himself up for life with a payday that was reportedly in the $100 million neighborhood.

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He has been on a hiatus of sorts since getting paid. I’m not throwing stones here in any whatsoever because I suspect that I’d go on at least a 12-month run of partying if my bank account was showing eight zeros. But I’m not a cage fighter – McGregor is.

The red flags around McGregor in this spot are glaring. Dude has his own brand of whiskey these days, in addition to a clothing line and all sorts of other money-making ventures. As we saw at the UFC 229 presser at Radio City Music Hall in NYC a few weeks ago, McGregor isn’t shy about drinking his whiskey either.

There have been various reports that McGregor has been doing a lot of partying for a long time, but especially in the last year. He was put in handcuffs after orchestrating an attack on the bus that was carrying nearly a dozen fighters from UFC 223 Media Day at Barclays Center back to the hotel, including Nurmagomedov.

McGregor rented a private plane with 15-20 comrades to fly from Ireland to NYC to confront Nurmagomedov, who had a minor altercation with McGregor’s longtime teammate and training partner, Artem Lobov, earlier in the week. McGregor and his group attacked the bus, throwing various objects at it that broke several windows and caused injuries to both Ray Borg and Michael Chiesa.

The New York Athletic Commission forced Borg and Chiesa to withdraw from their fights, and the UFC also cancelled Lobov’s bout. McGregor turned himself into authorities late that night and was facing three felony charges. Thanks to some quality work by his team of lawyers, McGregor was able to slide out of trouble with basically just a slap on the wrist.

As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) installed as a -175 favorite with a total of 2.5 rounds (‘under’ -130, ‘over’ +110).

My advice to those bullish on McGregor is to grab the underdog odds now. In most of McGregor’s prior UFC fights, a flurry of action on him in the 24-48 hours prior to the scrap has prompted drastic adjustments to the odds. We suspect that Khabib will be at a less expensive price on Saturday afternoon.

The 30-year-old Nurmagomedov trains with striking coach Javier Mendez at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., the same gym that has produced three other UFC champs in Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold. Even though Valasquez is a heavyweight, Cormier toils at heavyweight and light heavyweight and Rockhold is a huge middleweight, the 155-pound kingpin trains regularly with these bigger fighters, who rave about his Sambo wrestling, gas tank, strength and toughness.

The Dagestan native won the vacant lightweight strap by beating Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision at UFC 223 in April. He has other notable UFC wins on his resume over Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson and Dos Anjos.

Most believe that Nurmagomedov will enjoy advantages in wrestling, grappling and cardio. On the flip side, there’s no doubt that McGregor has enormous edge in the stand-up department. His left hand is a threat to turn the lights off on any opponent at any weight class.

Prediction: I think Nurmagomedov delivers his promise to humble ‘The Notorious.’ He has toyed with previous foes like Johnson, who he held down while talking trash about McGregor to UFC President Dana White. The dude was wrestling bears as a kid in Dagestan. Now certainly, McGregor has a good chance to close the show with his striking in the first round and for as long as he can keep the bout standing in Round 2. If McGregor hasn’t beaten Nurmagomedov by that point, he’s in for a long and bloody night at the office. With that said, I'm not going against McGregor by laying a ‘chalk’ price North of -150. In fact, I’m not recommending Nurmagomedov unless the odds dip to -135 or less, but my guess is that we’ll get that opportunity by early Saturday evening. If we get to -135 or less, let’s go with three units on Nurmagomedov.

**Other Picks**

-- Let’s go with Tony Ferguson, who has won 10 straight fights, to win inside the distance (in any way except for a decision by the judges) one unit at +118 odds (5Dimes.eu) in his co-main event slot versus Anthony ‘Showtimes Pettis. Also, we like the ‘under’ (2.5 rounds at a -105 price) for two units.

-- We’re on Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis to knock off Alexander Volkov for one unit and a +150 return in a heavyweight clash on the main card.

--Let’s bet Ovince St. Preux as a +210 underdog for one unit and also back the ‘under’ (1.5 rounds at a -160 price) for one-half unit.

--On my Games Galore podcast last week, Jason Floyd of The MMA Report (@Jason_Floyd on Twitter) predicted a first-round knockout win for McGregor. However, another sharp MMA bettor in GambLou (GambLou.com and @GambLou on Twitter) joined me on this week’s pod and was extremely bullish on the unbeaten Nurmagomedov. GambLou also likes a pair of underdogs in Scott Holtzman (+240) and Jussier Formiga (+140).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.


  
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