Nearly 17 years ago, the UFC signed a heavily hyped fighter nicknamed “The Spider,” and Anderson Silva went on to somehow exceed the lofty expectations for him. He became the longest-reigning champion in history and his name was in the UFC record books only slightly less frequently than Wayne Gretzky’s was in the NHL record book.
Now, another spider of sorts has been coming along and is making a lot of noise. Jalin “The Tarantula” Turner lost two of his first three bouts after winning a contract on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” Not only has Turner righted the ship and reeled off five consecutive victories, he’s begun to look like a legitimate title contender.
The UFC did Turner no favors. He was supposed to face Dan Hooker on Saturday at UFC 285 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but when Hooker was injured, the UFC landed on Mateusz Gamrot to replace Hooker. That’s a significantly more difficult matchup, and Gamrot is -225 to win at BetMGM. Turner is +185.
Gamrot gave Beneil Dariush a great run before losing a decision at UFC 280 in October, and before that, he’d won a terrific bout against Arman Tsarukyan.
Turner faces a huge challenge against Gamrot, a wrestler who has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Gamrot has been facing a lot of wrestlers, and Turner has to be concerned about being put on his back and pounded out. But Turner is, at 6-3, massive for the lightweight division and has added layers to his game. He’s more of a multi-dimensional fighter now than he’s ever been.
He’ll need to thread the needle in order to win. He can’t afford to let Gamrot get in on him and bully him. He’ll need to create angles with his movement and athleticism and mix up his strikes.
If this bout was even money, I’d play Gamrot. But with Turner at +185, he represents a chance for a nice payday. He’s improved greatly and is worth a play at the plus money to score the biggest win of his career.
Jones solid favorite over Gane
Jon Jones hasn’t fought in 37 months and has never fought anyone as big and as athletic as Ciryl Gane, whom he’ll meet for the vacant heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 285 Saturday.
Jones, the UFC’s long-time light heavyweight champion, is -165 at BetMGM to defeat Gane and win the title in a second weight class.
I love Gane’s total game, especially his footwork, but whenever I lean toward picking him I remember this: He was outwrestled by Francis Ngannou. Ngannou, who vacated his title when he couldn’t come to turns with the UFC on a new deal, was a powerful striker but nowhere near the type of wrestler Jones is.
So when the going gets tough, I look for Jones to resort to his wrestling. I’ll play Jones to win here and lay the -165. I like the fight to go the distance, but BetMGM has no line up and I don’t want to make a play without knowing the line there.
The Queen will retain her crown
I tried and tried and tried to find a way to be able to pick Alexa Grasso to defeat flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in the co-main event on Saturday, but there just doesn’t seem to be a path to victory for her.
Shevchenko is a -650 favorite, and she’s that low only because of the perception that she struggled in her last bout against Taila Santos. Grasso is a +450 underdog.
I believe Shevchenko should be a 9-1 or 10-1 favorite in this spot, so there’s value here. Even though I despise laying these big numbers, I’ll do it and lay -650 on Shevchenko to win.
Other plays for UFC 285
I’ll take Derek Brunson at +190 to win over Dricus Du Plessis.
I’ll lay the -165 and take Cody Garbrandt to defeat Trevin Jones.
I’ll lay the -115 on Amanda Ribas to win over Viviane Araujo.