The UFC heads to Brazil for UFC 237 and a card that is heavy on Brazilian favorites with one of their own looking to wrap gold around her waist as Jessica Andrade will challenge the current women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas for the title.
Starting with the main event, Namajunas hasn’t fought since knocking off and retaining the strawweight title against the woman many thought was in the conversation with greatest female MMA fighter of all time in Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In the 13 months that have passed, a new contender emerged as Jessica Andrade put herself into the conversation with an emphatic first-round knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz last September. Andrade has won three in a row since dropping a lopsided decision to Jedrzejczyk in a title fight two years ago.
Oddsmakers are going with the momentum of Andrade here and have installed the Brazilian as a -125 favorite while the champion sits as a narrow underdog at around +105. This is a bit surprising upon closer inspection. Although Namajunas hasn’t fought in a little over a year, Andrade hasn’t only fought once within that timeframe. And while Andrade has won three in a row, it cannot be forgotten that she was utterly dominated by Jedrzejczyk.
Styles certainly make fights and that cannot be discredited heading into this fight, but Namajunas deserves to be a slight favorite given the fact that she’s defeated the former champion by both knockout and unanimous decision.
Andrade has certainly improved but is a pressure fighter who only knows one direction: forward. For the most part, it was worked out brilliantly as she’s worn down both Claudia Gadelha and Tecia Torres before steamrolling Kowalkiewicz. But Namajunas didn’t become champion by being one dimensional. She’s an apt striker with an impressive ground game. Perhaps more important is that she’s constantly evolving while holding a significant height and reach advantage against Andrade.
Namajunas is a rare product who excels when her back is against the wall. There’s a reason she requested to face Andrade in her opponent’s home country. It’s motivation. If Andrade can’t impose her will early, Namajunas is going to pick her apart. Chances are that this fight makes it to the final bell but don’t be surprised if Namajunas finds a way to secure the finish.
Free Pick: Rose Namajunas
Best Odds: Heritage (+110)
The co-main event finds the legendary Anderson Silva looking to get his mojo back against Jared Cannonier. After spending the early portion of his career as a heavyweight and then the past couple of years as a light heavyweight, Cannonier decided to drop down to middleweight to see if he could breathe some new life into his career. A one-sided destruction against David Branch in November put the division on notice.
Silva is coming off of a unanimous decision loss to the man who would eventually become the UFC interim middleweight champion in Israel Adesanya. It was a solid showing and showed that the 44-year-old still has something left.
For a co-main event, this may have two guys with less than pedestrian records over their previous five fights. Combined they are 3-6 with one No Contest. Both need a win although Cannonier has a little more momentum with a win in his back pocket. It’s the reason why he can be found as high as a -140 favorite while Silva sits around +120.
It’s no secret that Silva is far from the fighter who once ruled the MMA world. But let’s not act like Cannonier is a world beater, either. When it comes to striking, Silva remains the more polished of the two and is certainly more dynamic. The questions come when the Brazilian attempts to get cute in there with his showmanship. All it takes is one shot from the former heavyweight to change everything. It’s a tough fight to pick but I like Anderson Silva and the over of 2.5 rounds at -189. If you do like Cannonier, it’s wise to take him and the under at +160 because a former heavyweight may not have the gas tank to win a decision so it’s likely he’ll have to knock the former pound for pound king senseless. I don’t see that happening so go with the former instead of the latter.
Free Pick: Anderson Silva
Best Odds: Pinnacle (+120)
The final fight to discuss is a showdown between Jose Aldo and the fast-rising Alexander Volkanovski. Aldo comes in as a slight favorite at -135 to Volkanovski’s +115. Look, I’m going to keep this very simple: Jose Aldo doesn’t lose in non-title fights. After getting railroaded in back to back fights against Max Holloway, people tried to count the former champion out. Instead of listening, Aldo decimated both Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano with scintillating finishes.
Volkanovski certainly has the goods but wrecking Chad Mendes doesn’t exactly scream that he’s got next (although Conor McGregor will disagree with that sentiment). Aldo is still a ball of fire in the striking department and will not hesitate to pounce on wounded prey. Volkanovski has a bad habit of over-committing to his strikes and leaving himself wide open to counters. Aldo is a masterful counterstriker who loves to put one in the body.
This will be one of those moments when Volkanovski finds out that he’s in over his head against Brazil’s very own and will be stopped inside the distance by one of the all-time greats.
Free Pick: Jose Aldo
Best Odds: Heritage (-130)