[UPDATE November 11, 2017: Frankie Edgar has been replaced on the card by Jose Aldo. New odds and prediction below.]
UFC 218 (Saturday, Dec. 2, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit) may seem like the pay-per-view that gets lost in the shadow of the spectacular UFC 217 card, but it shouldn’t feel inadequate when it has one of the best championship fights of the year and a sweet symphony of MMA action on the undercard.
In the main event, featherweight champion Max Holloway will defend his title against
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar former featherweight champ Jose Aldo.
In the co-main event, heavyweight extraordinaire Francis “The Predator” Ngannou has left a path of destruction in his wake and is looking for another victim when he takes on UFC veteran Alistair Overeem. At 31, Ngannou has a chance to throw himself into the title picture and make good on UFC President Dana White’s prophecy of being the next big thing. No pressure.
While we’re going to hand out “next big thing” labels, there really is nobody “thing-ier” than lightweight Justin Gaethje, who will be putting his perfect record on the line against former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
The UFC 218 card hits all the right notes. Let’s add to the euphony by breaking down the main and co-main events and finding the best bets of the night.
UFC 218 ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
[UPDATED: Main Event changed to Holloway vs. Aldo on November 11th]
Max Holloway (c) (-210) vs. Frankie Edgar (+170)
Max Holloway (c) (-185) vs. Jose Aldo (+148)
Since losing to Conor McGregor back in 2013, Max Holloway (18-3) has been on a tear. The 25-year-old has won his last 11 fights, including a TKO victory at UFC 212 where the Hawaiian was crowned the undisputed featherweight champion. That win came at the expense of Jose Aldo (26-3) who, thanks to a recent injury to Frankie Edgar, now has a chance to get his featherweight title back.
We don’t have to hit the rewind button for too long to see what worked and what didn’t work for Aldo at UFC 212. After the former champ got smashed in the third round via TKO, many questioned why he didn’t throw more of his vicious leg kicks to slow Holloway’s movement.
Aldo was finding success in the first round with some solid combinations, but as the fight wore on, Holloway was able to find his groove. The 25-year-old champ, as he’s wont to do, mixed up his strikes and attacked on multiple levels.
When he was slated to face Edgar, Holloway had to be wary of takedowns. He doesn’t need to worry about Aldo trying to take the fight to the mat. And, while Aldo makes for a tougher matchup overall, the champ likely prefers the new style this fight should take on.
Holloway throws 3.55 significant strikes per minute, and he is extremely precise and accurate with his long, straight punches. He also has the advantage of being able to switch his stance from orthodox to southpaw, which can create problems for his opponents. He keeps his movements extremely efficient and is one of the toughest guys in the UFC to hit. While both fighters have excellent cardio, Holloway gets better the longer the fight goes on.
When Aldo, the greatest featherweight in UFC history, was dominating the division, he was chopping guys down with leg kicks and counter-punching effectively with his excellent jab. But he is not the same man who dominated this division for nearly a decade. Aldo has only fought three times since 2014 and has registered just one win in that time (a unanimous decision over Edgar in July 2016). We have not seen any of that Aldo’s vintage technique — i.e. effective leg kicks and counter-punching with the jab — in his last three fights and it’s baffling.
Aldo will need to reverse that trend to earn back his featherweight title. If he can work some great counter punching along with some nasty kicks, he has a chance to win. But the younger champion is likely too fast and too technically sound on his feet to let that happen. This fight will end the same way UFC 212 did.
Winner: Max Holloway (-185)
Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou (No Odds Available)
You can’t blame the UFC President for being excited about a large man who finishes every opponent they put in front of him within two rounds. Francis Ngannou (10-1) can knock you out or submit you and possesses all the tools of destruction to one day be a UFC champion.
At UFC 218, though, he will have to put all of that potential together against a dangerous Alistair Overeem (43-15), a decorated fighter who doesn’t want to be seen as anyone’s stepping stone.
At 37 years old, and soon to have 60 MMA fights on his resume, the longtime combat-sports veteran has accomplished a lot in his career, and he still feels he has enough left to get the one thing that has eluded him throughout his career: a UFC championship belt.
“Ubereem” has a long history of ending fights with his vicious kick-boxing skills. He added to his list of kills at UFC 209 against Mark Hunt. He’s also coming off a convincing win over Fabricio Werdum so any suggestion that the former K1 champion is slowing down are folly.
But is the Dutchman fast enough to stop the monster they call “The Predator?”
Just like the movie version that collected human skulls, Ngannou hunts his opponents in the cage, throwing explosive combinations with a right hand that can put you to sleep with one touch. And Overeem’s style — standing and trading — plays right into Ngannou’s hands, like literally right into those violent hands.
We still haven’t seen the Cameroon native face a high-level wrestler yet, and Overeem isn’t that guy, though the Dutchman does have a 1.47 takedown average with a 64.29% takedown accuracy. He may not shoot for the legs often, but if the veteran feels like he’s in trouble on the feet, he’s savvy enough to try to take this fight to the mat.
Overeem has the power and the tools to win this fight, but his old chin is suspect. The younger Ngannou will be too much to handle. When the odds are finally set for this fight, Ngannou should be the slight favorite. Jump on those odds as soon as they come out as they will get shorter as we get closer to the fight.
Winner: Francis Ngannou