One of the most highly anticipated cards of the year is finally upon us.
The main event will see Nate Diaz take on Jorge Masvidal for the BMF belt (google it) live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
With Englishman Darren Till also in action, alongside a well-matched heavyweight bout and another appearance for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, there will be no shortage of action for MMA fans to sink their teeth into.
We preview all the best bets ahead of the fights here.
Kevin Lee v Gregor Gillespie
This bout pits two fighters at slightly different career crossroads. Lee is trying to re-establish himself in the division after two demoralising losses, while Gillespie is out to prove with finality that he is one the most capable operators at 155lbs.
Gillespie comes into this one with a perfect 15-0 record, with six finishes proving that he’s as effective with his hands as he is on the ground. Lee is no pushover and was once touted as the future of the lightweight division, but I expect ‘The Gift’ to take his opportunity to propel himself into the title conversations.
Kevin Lee – 13/10
Gregor Gillespie – 3/5
Derrick Lewis v Blagoy Ivanov
Another man hoping to re-establish his place in his respective division is Derrick Lewis. After powering his way through the heavyweight ranks, his momentum has been stalled by back-to-back defeats. His opponent, Blagoy Ivanov, on the other hand, has won his last two fights over Ben Rothwell and Tai Tuivasa and a win over the well-respected Lewis would bolden his claim for a title match.
This fight may well come down to the condition of Lewis’ knee following surgery. He may well look stronger, having repaired the issues that have hampered in him in recent years and if he does, he should have enough to beat Ivanov and place himself in line to face the winner of Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier.
Blagoy Ivanov – 4/5
Derrick Lewis – Evens
Vicente Luque v Steven Thompson
Stephen Thompson is one of the sport’s most loved characters after a brilliant career in which he twice challenged for the gold. He has, however, won just one of his last five fights and is in danger of falling down the pecking order with another loss here. Luque comes into the bout on a six-fight winning streak and looks to be on the up and up.
The Brazilian is a dangerous striker, having won by stoppage in five of his last six fights and will trouble ‘Wonderboy’. I think Thompson will put on a good show though, and should just have enough to get a much-needed win.
Vicente Luque – 11/10
Stephen Thompson – 7/10
Kelvin Gastelum v Darren Till
If this fight had taken place 12 months ago, you would have been forgiven for expecting it to be a bill-topping title fight. Darren Till’s welterweight rise was then halted by Tyron Woodley and further derailed by an explosive knockout by Jorge Masvidal. He moves up in weight for this one, hoping a big win here could thrust him into the 185lb title-picture.
Gastelum, on the other hand, makes his first appearance since coming out on the losing side of a war with now champion, Israel Adesanya back in April. He tested ‘Style-bender’ like nobody has so far and was unlucky to come away with a loss on his record. What makes this fight so interesting is that both fighters have lots to gain and lots to lose from this meeting. The winner will have title opportunities awaiting down the line, the other will have a tough job rebuilding their reputation. If I had to choose a winner, I’d back Gastelum to get the job done.
Kelvin Gastelum – 1/2
Darren Till – 6/4
Jorge Masvidal v Nate Diaz
This is a dream match-up for many UFC fans between two of the sport’s most popular figures. Diaz has of course been in the game alongside brother Nick since before it was cool, while Masvidal made a name for himself alongside Kimbo Slice and his street fights. Diaz, of course, was propelled into the limelight by his shock victory over Conor McGregor, while Masvidal became a household name following a win over Darren Till and the fastest knockout in UFC history against Ben Askren. Another one to google if you haven’t seen it.
Don’t be surprised if the cage door shuts and these two go to war. In fact, be surprised if they don’t. Diaz has shown time and time again that he can withstand a barrage of punishment and Masvidal has proven during his 47 pro-bouts, including wins against Donald Cerrone, Askren and Till in recent years, that he’s capable of mixing it with the best. I’m leaning in favour of the Stockton one, Nate Diaz, but not by much. He’s 11/4 to win by decision at grosvenorsport.com.
Nate Diaz – 27/20
Jorge Masvidal – 8/13