Mexico City is set to host UFC 188 this Saturday, and as usual, promoter Dana White has stacked the card with local talent. Will they be stronger UFC picks at home?
Every salesperson knows the three most important factors when it comes to valuing a property: Location, location, location. Dana White knows this very well. He's expanded the UFC footprint across the globe, and anytime he brings an event to your area, he makes sure the card is loaded with fighters carrying your flag. Fans want to see their hometown heroes win. They pay good money for it.
This becomes even more important when you're promoting in a relatively new location. This Saturday, White brings the troops to Mexico for just the second time, following up on last November's successful UFC 180 card at Arena Ciudad in Mexico City. That card was chock-full of Mexican and Mexican-American fighters, many of whom had their hands raised at the end of the night. Can we expect something similar when we make our UFC picks for UFC 188 at the same venue?
Perhaps. Before we get too carried away with conspiracy theories about the hometown fix, let's acknowledge that most of the fights in question from UFC 180 were between two Mexicans. The UFC often breaks ground in a new location by running a local version of The Ultimate Fighter; in this case, we saw the Featherweight and Bantamweight finals for TUF: Latin America.
Otherwise, yes, the local fighters are often matched up against softer opponents when they're first starting out. And there are definitely some mismatches on Saturday's card. The biggest favorite on the UFC odds board at press time is Henry Cejudo, a Mexican-American flyweight from Los Angeles, who's priced at –1000 for his bout against Chico Camus from Milwaukee.
Cejudo is a special case, though. He's a rising star in this sport, after winning the 55kg Freestyle gold medal in wrestling at the 2008 Summer Games. Cejudo is just the third gold-medallist in the UFC, following in the footsteps of Mark Schultz and Kevin Jackson. He's being groomed carefully for success – and he's also trying to figure out how to cut weight successfully to compete as a flyweight. Cejudo's victory over Chris Cariaso (+600) in March suggests he's got things mapped out.
Knees To Meet You
Other Hispanic fighters carrying chalk into the Octagon this Saturday include bantamweight Alejandro Perez (–170) vs. American Patrick Williams, and welterweight Augusto Montano (–150) vs. Ireland's Cathal Pendred. But that's about where White's largesse ends. Efrain Escudero (+130), Yair Rodriguez (+190) and Gabriel Benitez (+210) all figure to be in tough in their respective fights.
Montano might be your best bet if you're looking to add some homegrown talent to your UFC picks. The Mexico City native was outstanding in his Octagon debut at UFC 180, putting away Chris Heatherly (+195) in the first round with a series of knee strikes. But Montano is no raw rookie; he was 14-1 lifetime going into that fight, winning multiple local titles as a middleweight. Montano's kung fu isn't to be trifled with, either.
The Book of Cain
Of course, the biggest name on the card is Cain Velasquez, the Mexican-American UFC Heavyweight champion, who'll be fighting Interim champion Fabricio Werdum in the main event. Werdum isn't to be trifled with, either, but we already have Velasquez on our betting ticket at
–425, and he's moved to –525 since we last looked at that fight.
We'll be taking another look (or two) before they touch gloves Saturday night. But if you're on the fence about which of these two fighters to support, keep in mind those three magic words: Location, location, location. Sending the home crowd happy will help ensure the UFC once again fills up Arena Ciudad later on down the road. That's just smart promoting.