The biggest fight in MMA history was supposed to happen five months ago. Jose Aldo was going to defend his UFC Featherweight Championship against Conor McGregor, but Aldo pulled out with a bruised rib, leaving McGregor and Chad Mendes to fight for the Interim title. This Saturday (10:00 PM ET, PPV), McGregor and Aldo both enter the Octagon as champions – only one will leave that way. The odds at press time for UFC 194 say it'll be McGregor at –130.
If that weren't big enough, the co-main event features Chris Weidman putting his Middleweight Championship on the line against Luke Rockhold. The champ is a –145 favorite in what should be another close contest. Is there any betting value with the underdogs in these two title matches?
There almost certainly is in the main event. Aldo (25-1 lifetime) was the early favorite over McGregor (18-2) for their bout at UFC 189, also at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The betting public swung in the other direction once the McGregor hype machine went into overdrive. The challenger definitely won the promotional battle. Then McGregor crushed Mendes (+170) by second-round TKO to earn Performance of the Night honors along with the Interim belt.
Props and futures for this title fight are pending at press time, but the prevailing sentiment is that Aldo and McGregor won't make it into the championship rounds. That's based almost entirely on McGregor's knockout power. Since Aldo was “promoted” from WEC to UFC Featherweight Champion, only one of his seven title defenses has failed to go at least four rounds, with Aldo winning by unanimous decision five times. The champ has the defense and the proven stamina to make it happen again on Saturday.
The Weidman-Rockhold fight looks even closer on paper. Weidman (13-0 lifetime) has yet to taste defeat in the Octagon. Rockhold (14-2), the former Strikeforce champion, lost his UFC debut to Vitor Belfort (–130) two years ago, but is 4-0 since. Rockhold is a very smart fighter with a strong blend of kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. He's won three career fights by TKO and another nine by submission, including each of his last three fights, using three different holds.
Weidman also employs a variety of fighting styles, starting with his wrestling, where he was a two-time All-American at Hofstra University. He made his name two years ago by knocking out Anderson Silva (–250) for the Middleweight strap at UFC 162, then defended the title at UFC 168 when he checked one of Silva's low kicks, causing Silva (–200) to break his own leg. Rockhold does have good defensive skills on the ground, but if Weidman sticks with his game plan, the champ should be able to retain. It's up to Rockhold to use his smarts and put Weidman off his game.