UFC 292 takes place this week from Boston, MA. The thirteen-bout fight card is rife with competitive matchups and it features two, five round world championship title bouts.
Last week favorites realized a 9-4 result making favorites on the year: 194-99-14 or 63% which is about average for a typical UFC year. Last year’s 67.5% favorite result appears to be just an outlier.
Aljamain Sterling -260 vs. Sean O’Malley +210 Bantamweight (135lbs.) title
There are layers to this bout but whittled down to its most common denominator what we have here in Sterling is an elite all world grappler/wrestler who is an effective striker, he’s massive for the division and with his size comes incredible strength supplemented by cardio that is seemingly unending.
Sterling’s one of the most lethal bantamweight fighters in UFC history. He’s been in with the absolute elite of the division and has cleaned them all, he’s extremely intelligent, focused and he arrives swelling with confidence based on who he has defeated and who he is facing Saturday.
In second ranked O’Malley we have a long, tall athlete who effectively controls space/distance by utilizing his athleticism and fluidity of movement. O’Malley will be the younger, longer, quicker athlete in the cage Saturday.
Once this fight begins O’Malley’s unique fighting style will be on display. He’ll flow and parry to create striking angles. His use of unorthodox timing to try to stun, surprise and bewilder the incoming Sterling with straight strikes and kicks.
O’Malley’s a more singularly versed mixed martial artist despite the fact that he’s trained extensively on his take down defense and ability to get back to his feet.
O’Malley acknowledges openly that his priority in this bout is to absolutely NOT allow Sterling to clasp onto him, press him against the fence and by all means O’Malley is aware that he must not allow Sterling to drag this fight to the canvas.
If and when he does find himself there, he must be able to return to his feet or this will be a short night.
For Sterling, he will want to take this fight right to O’Malley and in measured, steady, aggressive fashion muscle him backwards and force him to exert his energy defending and evading as opposed to flowing and striking.
The Sterling camp believes that as the fight wears on, O’Malley, who has never been five full rounds and in fact has had cardio issues late in three round bouts, will begin to wane and as he does, Sterling will begin to press more.
Sterling’s focus is to systematically usurp the energy from O’Malley then in the late third or championship rounds when the kid is gassed and gored, find a way to take his back then choke him into unconsciousness.
O’Malley’s camp realizes (rightfully so) that Sterling cuts massive amounts of weight to make 135lbs. Further, they in conjunction with the UFC cooked up the idea that this fight should take place immediately on the heels of Sterling’s dominant title defense against Henry Cejudo in June!
Sterling and camp feel pressured into the very quick turn around here and have stated that the result of this will be that he’ll take it out on O’Malley who Sterling states is in this position only because of his ‘Dana privilege’.
Privileged or not, these two tussle Saturday and without question the weigh-ins are of ultra-importance in this one so I’ll hold off until later this week to make any position on this bout.
Total in this fight: 4.5Rds. Under -165
Points: Sterling -5.5 -130
Zhang Weili -310 vs. Amanda Lemos +250 woman’s strawweight (115lbs.) title
Champion Zhang won the title back in her last fight against then champion Carla Esparza. In this her second stint as champion it’s my belief that it will take something quite impressive to defeat her.
Zhang may be the most complete, fully equipped mixed martial artist in the organization. She’s intelligent, a workaholic who lives in the gym. She’s strong as an ox, fast as lightning and tough as a six-dollar steak.
In Brazilian Lemos we have an effective power striker who is forward pressing, aggressive and offensive. Eleven of her thirteen wins have been via the finish because she’ able to keep fights standing. Her take down defense is formidable based on the incredible power in her torso and legs. This allows Lemos to keep fights on the feet where her ferocity, might and power translate into advantage, finishing advantage.
When this fight starts it will be fascinating to watch how Zhang decides to usurp some of the zip from Lemos. Does she do that by counter striking, does she try to wrestle her up?
Either way it’s my judgement that Lemos has about six and a half to seven minutes of fight ending threat in her and it’s in these first minutes that Zhang must be wary and respect.
For Zhang, she needs to ensure that she takes this bout into the second round and beyond for even Zhang with her granite jaw has been slept and a fresh firing Lemos can put anyone in the division’s lights out with one elbow, kick or fist.
Zhang’s ability to use her fight intelligence, employ her full fight arsenal supplemented by her extreme athleticism must be used together to force Lemos to effort early in this fight so that Zhang can go offensive on the Brazilian finisher later as she begins to slow.
Provided Zhang does not run into something early I handicap this bout to be styled much to her favor and I look for Zhang to eventually finish the brazen Brazilian brute.
Zhang via finish -120 (DraftKings)
Total in this fight 3.5Rds. Under -175 after opening -140
Points: Zhang -5.5 -195
This week the GambLou ‘Bout Business Podcast drops Friday AM across all pod platforms. My final UFC 292 releases can be accessed there!
Enjoy the fights and thank you for reading