UFC Boston Preview, Fight Picks And Betting Tips

Conor McGregor

The TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts will be the center of the MMA universe this Sunday night as, for the second time in his five fight UFC career, Conor McGregor will headline a fight night event filled with his fellow Irish fighters. His opponent on this occasion will be German Dennis Siver and, despite all the talk of it being a walkover, he brings in a resume to rival anyone the Irishman has faced before.

Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver

Having fought the first twenty-seven bouts of his career at higher weight classes, Siver dropped to featherweight In 2012. There, he has emerged victorious in four of his five fights to date although one of those wins, against Manny Gamburyan, was overturned due to a failed drug test. While his sole 145 lbs loss was to #4 ranked Cub Swanson. Siver is an eighteen fight (11-6, 1 NC) UFC veteran the last of which saw him rebound from his PED suspension with a win over Charles Rosa in a ‘fight of the night’ winner.

McGregor on the flip side has less experience at the high level but has been much more impressive in his accomplishments. Having lost two fights early in his career, the Irishman enters Sunday on a four fight UFC and twelve fight MMA winning streak. The former two weight Cage Warriors champion has garnered much interest for his braggadocios, unique personality since hitting the world stage while his actions inside the fence have consistently backed up all his talk. McGregor has dominant UFC wins over Max Holloway, Diego Brandao and, then top-5 ranked, Dustin Poirier with many suggestions that a win over top-10 ranked Siver will earn him a shot at Jose Aldo’s title.

As a styles match up this is one which should very much favour McGregor. Siver is the shorter, more stout man who likes to start out the fight light on his feet and will throw kicks from all angles – the most impressive of which is his rib crushing spinning back kick. The German is very compact with his high guard boxing approach which sees him throw a lot with his lead left hook from distance while being more than comfortable when exchanging with his opponent at close range. In the wrestling department Siver’s huge upper body aids a wicked double leg takedown which he uses on occasion. Once it hits the deck he is smothering in top position although isn’t the most effective with ground and pound or in the transitions.

McGregor’s game is much different and is largely predicated on speed, movement and power. From the second the fight begins he is straight on the attack and will push a high pace on opponents. The Dubliner will throw wild kicking techniques right out of the gate while also getting off his jab and sledgehammer left hand. He is a master of cutting off the cage while breaking down the defence of his opponents with a vast variety of attacks ranging from side kicks to hook kicks to good old-fashioned uppercuts and more. Although his ground game is somewhat of an unknown at the highest level due to his dominance on the feet, from what we have seen he has a good takedown defence, even better offensive wrestling and an ability to win transitional wars.

The fight itself could go a number of ways. Siver is usually a good starter who has trouble with quality opponents the longer a fight goes, while McGregor likes to get them out as early as possible. As he did in his fight with Cub Swanson, Siver may look to use his wrestling in the early going here in an attempt to take McGregor out of his game. He is quick to change levels when attacking a takedown but McGregor’s height and reach advantage, as well as his knowledge of range, should be enough to keep him out of the German’s clutches.

On the feet the Irishman should just be too fast. Siver’s struggles in past fights have repeatedly been with speed while his short reach and tight, high guard should play perfectly into the uppercutting and front kicking game of his opponent. Expect McGregor to draw Siver into boxing exchanges and attack with combinations of strikes while avoiding the German’s power punches on the inside. The aforementioned uppercut and front kick should be useful tools for McGregor to get Siver down the middle while not putting himself in harm’s way. The only dangers for McGregor are the nasty spinning back kicks and power strikes on the inside. If he can manage to avoid those early and get Siver backing up, he shouldn’t have too much trouble winning this fight. Siver, though, is a tough individual who will know what McGregor brings and try to avoid it while he still has the gas tank to do so. I think he has enough to maybe get through the first round but once his movement wilts and tiredness overcomes him in the second expect a sitting duck to appear and McGregor to blast his way to victory.

Pick – McGregor via KO

Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone

In the co-main event a trilogy is completed. But unlike most trilogies in MMA, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Benson “Smooth” Henderson don’t have one victory a piece. Their previous fights took place way back in 2009 and 2010 respectively when both men were towards the top of the, now defunct, WEC ranks. The first meeting was a fight of the year winner which saw Henderson scrape past the judges. The second was much more clear as Cerrone was forced to tap out to a guillotine early in the first. A lot has changed since then. Both men transitioned to the UFC where they’ve had an up-and-down ride. Henderson won the lightweight title in his fourth fight before losing it to Anthony Pettis and subsequently getting knocked out by Rafael Dos Anjos in his last outing. Cerrone also won his first four UFC fights but then his title hopes were derailed with three losses in six fights although now, riding a six fight winning streak, he is well and truly back on the gold track. The only problem is, he takes this fight on just two weeks notice (having just fought two weeks ago also) following the withdrawal of Henderson’s original opponent Eddie Alvarez.

Cerrone is a much different fighter now than he was when they fought first. He still has a tremendous muay-thai base but now his takedown defence is vastly improved while his submission game is more dangerous than ever. Henderson has always been the same sort of fighter. He is extremely well rounded but doesn’t excel to the elite in any one area. His best weapon is his ability to out work and out last opponents. Look for him to push the pace from moment one and get Cerrone backing up. To win, Henderson will need to take Cerrone out of his game by landing quick flurries on the inside, pushing him against the fence and taking him down. Cowboy, on the other hand, will want to keep Henderson at range to unload his devastating kicks high and low while also looking to exchange with hands in the pocket. I think Cerrone will be able to stop the takedown this time around and, with his exceptional ability in the transitions, he might even be able to finish a choke. The ability to control position is the determining factor on how this one might end. It will either be a back-and-forth battle and Cerrone will be able to showcase his striking and wonderful ground game or Henderson will make it a dogfight against the fence and on the floor. It’s really intriguing styles match up. Should be fun.

Pick – Cerrone via submission

Norman Parke vs. Gleison Tibau

Following a 4-0-1 run to being his UFC career, Norman Parke is being given a big step up on Saturday night against veteran Gleison Tibau. Training out of American Top Team in Florida, Tibau has amassed the third most fight time in the history of the UFC. Having made his debut at UFC 65 against Nick Diaz, the Brazilian has won fifteen of his twenty-three Octagon outings beating the likes of Pat Healy, Rafael Dos Anjos and Jamie Varner along the the way. Next Generation’s Parke hasn’t faced that level of fighter yet but has nonetheless been impressive in winning ten of his last eleven fights against increasingly tough opponents. Sunday, though, is by a distance his hardest mountain to climb yet.

These two men are very similar in the way they fight. Both men like to clinch for large periods of fights and wear their opponent down against the fence while working on takedowns. Once it hits the floor they both have an ability to finish it with a submission. The big difference between the pair is speed and strength. Parke is quicker, Tibau is stronger. In the striking department that speed advantage should help Parke avoid the more powerful Brazilian but in the clinch the sheer size of Tibau could play a telling part. I don’t think this will be a classic. I see much clinching, many breaks by the ref and a fair bit of dirty boxing. It really is a pick ’em fight but I think Tibau might have enough in the tank to win the first two rounds.

Pick – Tibau via decision

Cathal Pendred vs. Sean Spencer

Another Irishman is in action in the headlining preliminary bout as Cathal Pendred takes on Sean Spencer. Pendred, who was born in Boston and returns for the first time in twenty-three years this week, is a former Cage Warriors welterweight champion currently on a ten fight winning streak. Training out of SBG under John Kavanagh, the Dubliner has won both fights in the UFC after being a part of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ 19 but will face his toughest test to date on Sunday. His opponent, Sean Spencer is a fifteen fight MMA veteran who has won three of his five fights inside the Octagon, the most impressive of which was victory last time out against Paulo Thiago in Brazil.

Spencer’s best attribute is without a doubt his boxing. The American is extremely light on his feet and puts quick combinations behind his picture perfect jab. Wrestling, though, is his Achilles heel. Pendred is a very different type of fighter. He isn’t as fast and doesn’t throw with the technique Spencer does but he is a lot more powerful. The Irishman should have a big advantage in the clinch and in the grappling department. I see Spencer coming out here looking to spring in and land combinations at pace while avoiding the power. Pendred will have to time his shots well and should be given plenty of an opportunity to do that against a very active, attacking fighter. The winning and losing of this fight, though, is in when they get close. Spencer will be trying to avoid the power, takedowns and octagon control for as long as he can but if Pendred really engages that part of the game I don’t think the American can succeed. I’m picking Pendred here because I think he can get at least one takedown a round and he’s strong enough to control Spencer.

Pick – Pendred via decision

Paddy Holohan vs. Shane Howell

Just like at UFC Dublin, Paddy Holohan is the first Irishman on show as he takes on American Shane Howell. After going eleven fights unbeaten to start his career, Holohan came up short in his twelfth fight last time out against Chris Kelades and will be looking to bounce back here on Sunday night. Howell, on the other hand, had a much more rocky road to the UFC as he stared his career with a 7-7 record before winning six in a row to earn his shot inside the Octagon. It was a disappointing debut though as he lost to a first round Ray Borg submission.

As two of the tallest flyweights in the UFC this is somewhat of an unusual match-up for the division. Howell is a wild striker who throws kicks and long punches with reckless abandon from all angles. Holohan is equally varied in his striking but throws with an ever improving technical base. Neither man is the best wrestler although, with their long limbs, the trip is a noted weapon for both. Once it goes south, Holohan should have a huge advantage. Howell has lost five of his pro fights via submission whereas Holohan has won eight of his ten via tap out. That’s exactly how I think this one will go. Look for lots of striking early on with rapid exchanges in bursts. Eventually, though, this fight will end up on the floor either from a knockdown or trip. Once it does, Holohan should be able to take the back and sink in the choke.

Pick – Holohan via submission

SHORT PICKS

Uriah Hall vs. Ron Stallings – Hall via KO
John Howard vs. Lorenz Larkin – Larkin via decision
Zhang Lipeng vs. Chris Wade – Wade via KO
Johnny Case vs. Frankie Perez – Case via decision
Charles Rosa vs. Sean Soriano – Rosa via submission
Matt Van Buren vs. Sean O’Connell – Van Buren via KO
Tateki Matsuda vs. Joby Sanchez – Sanchez via decision

BONUS PICKS

Fight of the night – Cerrone vs. Henderson

Performance of the night – McGregor and Rosa

BET OF THE WEEK

My bet of the week for UFC Boston is an even money acca of Wade, Hall, Holohan and McGregor.

(Note: A four way all Irish accumulator works out at 6/1)

START TIMES (IRISH TIME)

Early Prelims – UFC Fight Pass at 11pm Sunday

TV Prelims – BT Sport 1 at 12am Monday

Main Card – BT Sport 1 at 3am Monday

Tape Delay Replay – 3e at 9.30pm Tuesday

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma