UFC 246 Primer: ‘Cowboy’ vs. Conor

The Octagon is back in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Center for tonight’s UFC 246 card. Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor will make his return in the main event, as he seeks his first win since 2016 against the promotion’s all-time leader in career wins, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

This is a five-round, non-title bout that’ll be contested in the welterweight division.

As of this afternoon, most betting shops had McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) listed as a -330 ‘chalk.’ Cerrone was around +265 on the comeback, while the total was 1.5 rounds (‘over’ -140, ‘under’ +120).

Cerrone and McGregor both hit their marks by weighing in at 170 pounds Friday morning. Then they had their staredown at the ceremonial weigh-ins that you can see below:

Cerrone (36-13-1 MMA, 23-10 UFC) is The Uno in UFC history in career wins (23), career finishes (16), post-fight bonuses (18) and knockdowns (20). He’ll surpass Jim Miller tonight for most fights when he makes his 34th career walk to the Octagon.

‘Cowboy’ has lost back-to-back fights, but the defeats came against Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, the two biggest challenges facing 155-pound kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2020.

Cerrone has more experience at welterweight, going 6-4 in the 170-pound loop during a three-year run from 2016-18. All six of his wins came by finish, including first-round finishes over Alex Oliveira, Yancy Medeiros and Mike ‘Platinum’ Perry.

McGregor has fought only twice at welterweight, splitting a pair of bouts against Nate Diaz.

I see the scrap going one of two ways. The first scenario is that with his elite timing and power in his left hand, McGregor will score a knockout in the first or second round. For gamblers wanting to avoid the expensive straight price on McGregor, he can be backed to win in Round 1 for a +200 return and his odds are +300 to win in the second stanza.

If Cerrone can handle McGregor’s left and avoid getting caught early, he’ll be in business. If the fight gets to a third round, look for Cerrone to pull the upset.

Why, you ask? Well, he’s the bigger man and undoubtedly has better cardio. Plus, if ‘Cowboy’ gives the fans two rounds of phone-booth fighting with McGregor, he won’t have anything to feel guilty about if he looks to take the bout to the ground.

Cerrone is vastly superior to McGregor on the ground. He has 17 submission wins on his resume, while McGregor has won by submission only once in 25 career fights.

This is the first fight in McGregor’s UFC tenure in which he hasn’t spent the pre-fight buildup verbally attacking his opponent. He’s a master at doing so, winning multiple fights before they even started by invading his opponent’s head with trash talk galore.

Most notably, Jose Aldo and Dustin Poirier, two of the best to ever step foot in the Octagon, were so mentally spent that it was clear how uptight they were during the fight’s introductions. Both fell victim to early first-round KO losses to McGregor.

Just a few days ago, McGregor paid homage to Cerrone’s career accomplishments and added, “There will be blood spilled Saturday night, but it will not be bad blood.”

I don’t have a strong opinion on this fight. You either shave off the expensive price by backing McGregor to win in Round 1 or Round 2 (or bet both and it’ll be still net a nice profit), or you take Cerrone as a healthy underdog.

I’ll go with one unit on Cerrone for a +280 payout (5Dimes).

My favorite bet of the night is on Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis (22-9 MMA, 9-8 UFC) against Carlos Diego Ferriera, who has won five fights in a row.

However, the 34-year-old Ferriera hasn’t beaten anyone in the lightweight division’s Top 10.

Pettis returns to his natural 155-pound weight in this spot. He is the former UFC lightweight champ, holding the strap after taking it from Benson Henderson and successfully defending it against Gilbert Melendez. He lost the belt by unanimous decision against Rafael dos Anjos.

After losing a Fight of the Night thriller to Ferguson in 2018, — when his coach wouldn’t let him come out for Round 3 due to a broken hand — Pettis moved up to welterweight to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

Breaking into his ‘Showtime’ bag of tricks yet again, Pettis scored another highlight-reel finish by jumping off the fence to put more power behind a right hand that slept Thompson, who has twice challenged for the welterweight strap (fighting former champ Tyron Woodley to a split draw and losing a narrow decision).

Pettis stayed at 170 pounds for one more scrap, losing a unanimous decision to Nate Diaz last year. It was a helluva fight, but Diaz’s superior size and cardio took over late in the second round and in the third.

This is a huge step up in class for Ferreira, who has lost both times — to Poirier and Beneil Dariush — he was given an elite opponent.

I’m baffled with these odds, as I believe Pettis should be favored. Let’s get all over Pettis for two units and a +210 return (5Dimes).

My other plays tonight include Holly Holm for two units vs. Raquel Pennington at a -125 price (Sportsbook), 1.5 units on the Maurice Green vs. Aleksei Oleinik heavyweight bout to end in Round 1 at a -130 price and one unit on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds (+105 payout) in the Maycee Barber vs. Roxanne Modafferi showdown.

Good luck with your bets and enjoy the show!

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