Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:03 AM

UFC FOX 30 Best Bets

Three former champions are on the main card of Saturday’s UFC on FOX 30 show in Calgary. The headliner is a lightweight rematch between Eddie ‘The Underground King’ Alvarez and Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier.

As of early Friday afternoon, most books had Poirier (23-5-1 MMA, 15-4-1 UFC) installed as a -165 favorite over Alvarez, who was a +135 underdog (risk $100 to win $135). The total was 2.5 rounds (‘under’ -145, ‘over’ +115).

This is a rematch of a no-contest due to an illegal knee from Alvarez that brought a halt to their slugfest at UFC 211 on May 13 of 2017. Poirier was having his way for most of the fight, hurting Alvarez badly with strikes midway through the second round. Alvarez was in complete survival mode, but that’s when he can be extremely dangerous.

Alvarez connected with a big punch that wobbled Poirier. In a clinch situation, the North Philadelphia product landed a big knee. However, sensing more knees could be coming, Poirier placed both of his hands on the canvas. In this situation, one is considered ‘down’ and you can’t kick or knee a downed opponent in the head.

In the heat of the moment, Alvarez connected with two follow-up knees to the head. Referee Herb Dean immediately saw the fouls and called time. The second knee had hit Poirier on the side of the head and caught his ear, leaving his equilibrium all out of sorts. When Poirier rightfully decided he couldn’t continue, Dean waved off the bout and ruled it a no-contest.

The crowd was furious that such a barnburner had to end that way and roared its disapproval at Alvarez for committing the blatant fouls. As Joe Rogan interviewed the fighters in the Octagon, Poirier went to bat for Alvarez. He scolded the crowd and said his foe was “a warrior” and that “things happen in a fight.”

However, a few days later, Alvarez went after Poirier in multiple interviews and on social media, claiming his opponent “was looking for a way out.” Since then and even this week, Alvarez has said “if you’re getting kneed in the head, you know where the fight is going.” In other words, Alvarez has confidently implied he was about to win the fight.

I doubt there are many observers of the scrap that feel the same way. In truth, Poirier was winning the fight and Alvarez was extremely fortunate that he wasn’t disqualified for the illegal knees. Whatever the case, there’s some bad blood going into this five-round showdown.

Poirier has found his groove in the lightweight division since moving up a weight class after his first-round knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 178 on Sept. 27 of 2014. The American Top Team member out of Lafayette, LA., is 7-1-1 as a 155-pounder with six KO victories.

Since the fight with Alvarez, Poirier has captured back-to-back victories in a pair of bout that earned Fight of the Night honors. First, he scored a third-round KO triumph over former lightweight champ, Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. Then on April 14, he waged war with Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje in a Fight of the Year candidate.

The back-and-forth affair was a stand-up classic from the heavens. Poirier was getting the better of most of the boxing exchanges, but Gaethje was ruthlessly peppering Poirier’s legs with non-stop kicks. Poirier was obviously having trouble putting weight on his lead leg by late in the second round. The thriller ended 33 seconds into Round 4 when Poirier finished it with a KO from multiple punches.

The only defeats on Poirier’s resume have come against Danny Castillo (unanimous decision), ‘The Korean Zombie’ (via fourth-round submission in another FOTN), Cub Swanson (UD), McGregor and Michael Johnson (first-round KO). His most notable career wins (not yet mentioned) have come over current featherweight champ Max Holloway, Yancy Medeiros, Joe Duffy, Bobby Green and Jim Miller.

Alvarez (29-5-1 MMA, 4-2-1 UFC), who at the age of 34 is five years older than Poirier, has won belts with five different promotions. He was the two-time Bellator lightweight champ before signing with the UFC. His Octagon debut came against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC 178, with Cerrone prevailing by UD (29-28 across).

Alvarez bounced back by winning consecutive split decisions over Gilbert Melendez and Pettis to earn a title shot vs. Rafael dos Anjos on July 7 of 2016 at International Fight Week in Las Vegas. I was at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on that night and bet Alvarez as a +240 underdog. He took it to RDA early and often and finished the deal with a brutal first-round KO with 71 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.

McGregor took the belt from Alvarez in his first title defense, however, scoring a second-round KO win at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Alvarez returned against Poirier and has fought just once since then. He defeated Gaethje via third-round KO with a big knee that shut the lights out on ‘The Highlight,’ who saw his undefeated record take its first blemish (before facing Poirier, obviously).

Prediction: I like Poirier here, but this is way too tight of a matchup to lay a price north of -135ish. Instead, I’ll go with two units on the proposition bet for Poirier to win inside the distance at a -109 price (at [...]). Also, give me one-half unit for ‘The Diamond’ to win by TKO/KO for a +150 return (William Hill).

In the co-main event, former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo will take on Jeremy ‘Lil Heathen’ Stephens in hopes of avoiding a three-fight losing streak. This will be Aldo first three-round bout and non-title fight since beating Swanson in eight seconds with a flying knee back at WEC 41 in June of 2009.

In the weeks leading up to this contest and as recently as late Thursday, Aldo was a short ‘chalk’ at most books. But by late Friday morning, Stephens had been adjusted into the favorite role. As of Friday afternoon, Stephens was -120 or -125 at most shops. The total was 2.5 rounds (‘over’ -185, ‘under’ +160).

Aldo (26-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) is a tough cookie to figure out at this point in his career. The Brazilian Muay Thai practitioner isn’t over the hill by any means at the age of 31, but he’s mentioned retirement before and even said this week that he will walk away when his UFC contract with three fights remaining on it expires.

With back-to-back losses to the current featherweight champ Holloway, his path back to a title shot is dicey while ‘Blessed’ remains atop the division. Many felt a move up to lightweight could be the next step in his career after losing to Holloway again by third-round KO at UFC 218 this past December.

Aldo elected to remain in the 145-pound loop, though, perhaps due to his fondness for this specific matchup with Stephens, who will happily stand in the pocket and throw down. Before losing three of his past four fights, Aldo’s storied career included a stretch of more than a decade without tasting defeat.

He won the WEC’s featherweight strap with a win over Mike Brown in 2009 and defended that belt successfully twice. When the WEC merged with the UFC, Aldo remained the champ and went on to defend his title seven times before losing it to McGregor at UFC 194 in December of 2015. When McGregor went up to lightweight and was stripped of the 145-pound belt, Aldo defeated Edgar for a second time at UFC 200 to reclaim the title.

Aldo’s list of victims on his resume include the likes of Urijah Faber, Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes (twice), Edgar (twice), The Korean Zombie and Ricardo Lamas.

Stephens (28-14 MMA, 15-13 UFC) has ripped off three consecutive wins, including a pair of violent knockouts in his last two Octagon appearances. The 32-year-old appears to be in the best form of his career and believes an impressive win over Aldo will have him in line for a title shot.

Stephens owns an 8-5 record since dropping down to the 145-pound loop in 2013. The fourth-ranked Alliance MMA team member has taken home three bonuses since starting his current streak with a unanimous-decision win over Gilbert Melendez at UFC 215.

Stephens garnered Fight of the Night honors in his victories over Melendez and Doo Ho Choi. He finished ‘The Korean Superboy’ with a second-round KO on Jan. 14 of this year. Five weeks later, Stephens won a Performance of the Night bonus thanks to his second-round KO of Josh Emmett.

This 29th career walk to the Octagon will be his most important to date. Stephens has beaten three former champions, including Dos Anjos and Renan Barao, who held the UFC’s lightweight and bantamweight straps, respectively. He also has a win over Melendez, who is the two-time former Strikeforce lightweight champ.

Stephens lost to two different former UFC lightweight champs in Pettis (by split decision) and Edgar (UD). The product of Des Moines, Iowa, has four KO of the Night bonuses, including his third-round KO of Dos Anjos at UFC 91.

Prediction:: Stephens tipped the scales at 144 pounds at Friday’s weigh-ins, coming in an extra pound under the limit to clearly indicate he had no issues with this weight cut. On the other hand, Aldo barely made it at 146. From this view, it seems obvious that we have two fighters headed in different directions. Stephens has always been seen as a dangerous striker who can take out any opponent with one punch, but his overall skill set and, perhaps most important, his mental approach toward the fight game, has rapidly improved over the last couple of years. When you’ve fought for a belt in 14 consecutive outings, where’s your motivation coming from? When you’re 1-3 in your last four fights, isn’t it fair to question Aldo’s confidence level, especially compared to where it was during his incredible stretch as a champion? I got on Stephens earlier this week at +110 odds, so I’m not as bullish with him as the favorite. Nevertheless, I’ll go with Stephens at -120 for 1.5 units.

Like Aldo, former UFC women’s strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) is accustomed to five-round scraps with a belt at stake. Her last eight fights have been title bouts, meaning this three-round affair is her first since edging Claudia Gadelha by split decision on Dec. 13 of 2014.

Jedrzejczyk, who at the age of 30 has plenty of prime fighting years remaining, successfully defender her belt five times after winning it with a second-round KO of Carla Esparza in March of 2015. But at UFC 217, Jedrzejczyk was defeated via first-round KO by ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas. The rematch took place at UFC 223 in April, with Namajunas winning a UD in Brooklyn.

Jedrzejczyk, a native of Poland who trains with ATT in South Florida, will try to get back on track versus Tecia Torres. As of Friday afternoon, most books had Jedrzejczyk listed as the -290 favorite with Torres at +230 on the comeback. The total was 2.5 rounds (‘over’ -400, ‘under’ +300).

Torres (10-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) saw her three-fight winning streak snapped in a UD loss to Jessica Andrade in February. Her only other career loss came to Namajunas, who lost to Torres back in 2013 under the Invicta banner. She has notable scalps over Michelle ‘The Karate Hottie’ Waterson, Paige VanZant, Felice Herrig, Angela Hill, Bec Rawlings and Juliana Lima.

Prediction: I think Joanna gets back in the win column here, but she’s way too expensive to bet. The props don’t appeal to me either because Torres has never been finished. I’ll pass.

The main card’s lid-lifter is a lightweight showdown between Alexander Hernandez and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Most spots had it as a pick ‘em affair on Friday afternoon.

B.E.’s Octagon Nuggets

-- All 26 fighters for the 13-fight card on Saturday made weight.

-- McGregor reached a plea deal on Thursday that basically resulted in a slap on the wrist. There are no restrictions on his travel. According to multiple reports, negotiations for a lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and ‘The Notorious’ are going well. McGregor’s manager said they “were in the red zone” (meaning inside the opponents’ 20-yard line in football). The potential dates that have been reported are Oct. 6 or Dec. 30. Nurmagomedov is a -205 favorite at [...], which has McGregor as a +165 underdog.

-- Tyron Woodley will face Darren Till in his next welterweight title defense in the UFC 228 headliner. [...] opened Woodley as a -160 favorite, leaving the undefeated Liverpool native as a +140 underdog. When Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington won the interim welterweight title with a UD win over Dos Anjos recently, the thinking by nearly everyone was that Covington and Woodley would collide later this year. However, Covington needed to undergo nasal surgery (and he did) that would leave him unable to go until at least November. Therefore, the UFC (unfairly but that’s Dictator Dana for ya) stripped him of the belt and booked the bout with Till instead.

-- Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone will take on Mike ‘Platinum’ Perry in a must-see welterweight showdown at UFC Denver (Fight Night 139) on Nov. 10. Yes, please and thank you very much! The main event will be a featherweight showdown between Edgar and The Korean Zombie.

-- Torres told the media that at Thursday’s faceoff with Jedrzejczyk, the Polish kickboxer told her, “Welcome to hell.”

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

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