By Tony Cline, Staff Writer
This week, the UFC travels to Kansas City for UFC on Fox 24. These cards on Fox are always my favorites because they begin at 8pm on the east coast, so I can get to bed at a decent hour. The preliminary card has some good fights on it, so I wouldn’t advise missing it, but we will focus on the four-fight main card here.
The first fight on Fox will be Jeremy Stephens facing off against Renato Carneiro. Carneiro has never lost a professional MMA bout, but his level of competition has been somewhat subpar. Stephens is 5-4 since dropping down to featherweight in 2013, but all of his losses have come against the elite of the division. Carneiro has a height and reach advantage, but I just don’t think the experience level is there for him to seriously challenge Stephens. The current line on Stephens is -240, so you’re not going to make much money, but he should be a pretty safe bet.
The second fight on the main card will see Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza face off against Robert Whittaker. Whittaker is on a six-fight win streak and has never lost at middleweight, including his last win against the very powerful Derek Brunson. Souza is 10-1 in his last 11 fights, with his only loss a split decision to #1 contender Yoel Romero. Whittaker has the punching power necessary to always give himself a chance to win against anyone, but Jacare may be the most well-rounded fighter in the UFC at any weight. The middleweight division is packed with a set of killers that can all beat each other on any given day, but right now, Robert Whittaker is on the outside of that group looking in. Jacare simply has more tools and more paths to victory. An upset would not be a monumental shock here, but it is unlikely enough that the -230 line on Souza, while unprofitable, should be pretty safe.
The penultimate fight of the night may very well be the fight of the night as Rose Namajunas takes on Michelle Waterson in what should lead to a title shot for the winner. Thug Rose is a whirling dervish of a 115-pounder, and she has some of the most creative striking in women’s MMA. She is 5-3 in her young career, but her losses all came to top ranked fighters. Waterson is 13-4, having fought in both the 105 and 115 divisions in her career. Waterson’s strength is grappling, and if Rose has a weaker spot in her game, it will be on the ground, though she isn’t exactly subpar there. Both ladies have very well-rounded games, but Rose’s 3” arm reach and 4” leg reach advantage will give her a decided advantage on the feet. Michelle will want to get this fight to the ground to have a chance, but Rose is almost as good there as she is. The real wild card in this bout is Waterson’s coach, Greg Jackson, who may very well be able to find the game plan to allow Waterson to defeat Namajunas. The line here is -150 on Rose and +135 on Michelle. I think Rose is the likely winner, but I wouldn’t bet on either one with these lines.
The main event sees Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson defend his UFC Flyweight title against Wilson Reis. Johnson will be seeking to tie Anderson Silva’s record of ten successful UFC title defenses. During this streak, Mighty Mouse has dispatched the best the world has to offer at this weight, some of them more than once. Wilson Reis does not fall into this category. Reis is a good fighter, to be sure, but good is still about five levels below Johnson, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world at the moment, and Johnson somehow seems to still be improving with every fight that passes. The odds for this fight are currently at -840 on Johnson, and that may not even be high enough. This fight is as close to a sure thing as you will ever see in the sport, but the line doesn’t really leave any money to be made. Johnson probably ends this via KO/TKO in the first couple of rounds.
UFC on Fox 24 offers fans a chance to glimpse history and a chance to do so without having to pay for the fights. This is a good card for completely free fights, so take advantage and enjoy. Tune into the prelims on FS1 starting at 5pm ET to see a strong prelim card headlined by Roy Nelson vs. Alexander Volkov in what is sure to be a heavyweight slobberknocker.
Enjoy the fights.