Superbowl weekend usually brings with it a numbered PPV UFC card, stacked with talent, but the new owners have taken a different route and are also headed to the Lone Star State for a Fight Night card in Houston, Texas â€“ the same city that's hosting the NFL Finale Â 24 hours later.
Â In Denver, Colorado last weekend there were a few surprising outcomes, but overall the card failed to really move the needle, so this is the third opportunity of 2017 for the Octagon to really get the year rocking, and this main card offers up plenty of talent.
We've picked out the top three fights on the main card and given them a bit of a breakdown, while 5DimesLines.com, as always, provides the odds.
James Vick vs. Able TrujilloÂ
Armed with a perfect 9-0 record, James Vick was a fighter who was earmarked for big things in the UFC. As a competitor on season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, he succumbed to eventual winner, Michael Chiesa, at the semi-final stage. Until UFC 199, that was the only reverse in Vick's short, but successful career.Â
A heavy favorite against submission savvy Beneil Dariush, the former standout boxer came up short on the wrong end of a first round knockout when he came out with his hands low and swallowed a pair of overhand lefts.
Abel Trujillo is a UFC veteran looking to improve an already impressive standing at 155lb. From his nine fights in the UFC he's suffered just two losses â€“ against #2 and #3 ranked Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov!Â
Trujillo is a man with truly bad intentions once the cage door closes and is a step up for any opponent. Yet the biggest question mark over him tomorrow night isn't due to his ability, but how the breakup of the Blackzilians may have affected his training camp.
Both fighters have been on a real tear, but I canâ€™t help but reflect on the Vick loss as I try to decide whether it was due to timing, bad luck or an exposure of weakness that caused the upset. Dariush can hit, but not with the power that Trujillo possesses and it would only take one clean shot to finish the fight. I am siding with Trujillo in an absolute pick â€˜em fight, per the bookies at least, but I make him a more than slight favorite.
Recommendation: Abel Trujillo â€“ 2 units at -110 (5/6) @ 5Dimes
Alexa Grasso vs. Felice Herrig
Rising star Alexa Grasso steps into the cage for the 10th time in her paid career, and the second in the UFC. In her only outing for the promotion to date she comfortably outpointed Heather Clark to set up a step up in class against the vastly experienced Herrig.Â
Grasso hails from Guadalajara, Mexico and the UFC will be banking on her regional appeal when they inevitably return south of the border later in 2017. A solid performance against Herrig and she may even sneak a title shot and a chance to co-main event in Mexico City.
Felice Herrig is one of the most experienced and recognizable fighters in womenâ€™s MMA. She may have entered the company via the TUF house, but she has arguably earned her place regardless through her experience in Bellator and Invicta. So far only Paige VanZant has bettered her inside the Octagon.
I favor Grasso in this matchup, but there's a lot of pressure on her shoulders being promoted to co-main event in just her second UFC fight. She's the VanZant of the Mexican market, but after debuting on the main card of the Latin America version of TUF and now this she's carrying a lot of pressure on her 23-year-old shoulders.
Recommendation: Alexa Grasso â€“ 3 units at -300 (1/3) @ 5Dimes
Dennis Bermudez vs. Chan-Sung Jung
While riding on the wave of a 7-0 streak, TUF runner up Dennis Bermudez had risen to the heady heights of #5 in the rankings at 135lb and was being touted as a serious contender for the title. Those were the pre-Conor McGregor days and by the time the feisty Irishman arrived in the Octagon, Bermudez hit the skids for two fights.Â
Those losses, against Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens, pushed him to the outskirts of the featherweight top 10, rising only again with a pair of laborious decision wins. But opportunity knocks tomorrow. This is main event time, Superbowl weekend and a win here could vault him back into contention.
Chan-Sung Jung, or 'The Korean Zombieâ€™ as he is better known, has been on enforced hiatus for the past three years due to military service in his native South Korea. It really couldnâ€™t have come at a worse time as Jung had been on the receiving end of a loss to JosÃ© Aldo in his only world title fight to date. While Aldo secured the win, it was by far a mismatch and Jung held his own for portions of the fight, his own shoulder being his eventual downfall.
Whenever there is any inactivity on the part of a fighter I am tempted to fade him in the betting. There's ring rust, desire and conditioning to consider and it would typically have an adverse effect. However, when that inactivity is due to military service then thatâ€™s a different thing altogether as fitness levels will need to be maintained. Bermudez is a warm favorite but Iâ€™m going to make a small play on the fan favorite Zombie to return victorious.
Recommendation: Chan-Sung Jung â€“ 2 units at +170 (17/10) @ 5Dimes