UFC on ABC: Sandhagen vs. Nurmagomedov Predictions

by | Last updated Jul 12, 2024 | mma

UFC on ABC: Sandhagen vs. Nurmagomedov Picks
When: Saturday, August 3, 2024
Where: Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
by Loot Levinson of Predictem.com

Fight Analysis:

UFC on ABC from Abu Dhabi on August 3 features a little bit of the present, as well as the past and the future of the UFC on one card. In the main event, you get longtime bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen taking on an undefeated up-and-comer and brother of the great Khabib in Umar Nurmagomedov. Then we get a little blast from the past, with old-timer Nick Diaz climbing back into the octagon, as he takes on Vicente Luque. Let’s get into what should be an interesting card from the UAE on August 3.

Cory Sandhagen, 17-4 (7 KOs, 3 Submissions), (+220) vs. Umar Nurmagomedov, 17-0 (2 KOs, 7 Submissions), (-275)—Odds by Bovada

Cory Sandhagen and Umar Nurmagomedov face each other in the main event in a bantamweight title eliminator. The winner of this fight will get a shot at the belt, making the stakes high in this 5-rounder. Sandhagen, 32, has won three straight and after over six years in the UFC, is ready to make a big move, coming off a decision win over tough Rob Font in August of last year. Nurmagomedov, 28, is unbeaten, coming off a win in March, with this representing a step up in class. Let’s break it down!

Sandhagen has been close before, losing a title eliminator to Aljamain Sterling and an interim title shot to Petr Yan—two men who wore the crown at 135 pounds. But in the last 4-5 years, he’s been on the precipice and won’t go away, this latest win-streak illustrating his stubbornness. We’re talking about a very talented veteran fighter who can do a lot of different things. He’s been in against the best and has shown that unless you’re amongst the very cream of the crop, you’re not beating Cory Sandhagen.

Sandhagen has fought at a high level and is no stranger to five round fights or thriving over the 25-minute distance. The same cannot be said for Nurmagomedov, who has fought in the UFC only four times, taking on more entry-level talent, and never going past the third round. At the same time, he’s yet another unbeaten wrestler-extraordinaire named Nurmagomedov, and betting on that has never before worked. Despite his deficits in experience and having taken on a much weaker roster of opponents, you can’t ignore talent and background.

25 minutes is a long time to maneuver around a wrestler of Nurmagomedov’s talent, but Sandhagen is gifted with great mobility and enough wrestling skill of his own to not be lost when it goes to that place. Betting against anyone named Nurmagomedov has never paid off before, but with some holes we’ve seen in Umar’s game, combined with Sandhagen being amongst the most skilled at 135 pounds, I think we can justify an underdog position on Sandhagen in this one.

My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Cory Sandhagen at +220 betting odds. A tough fight for Sandhagen to be sure, but his accomplishments, skills, mobility, and experience make him a good-value choice at this price.

Nick Diaz, 26-10 (13 KOs, 8 KOs), (+375) vs. Vicente Luque, 22-10-1 (11 KOs, 8 Submissions), (-500)—Odds by Bovada
Former UFC standout Nick Diaz returns to the octagon in Abu Dhabi against longtime UFC welterweight Vicente Luque. The elder Diaz brother and originator of a family mystique that captivated fans for years is giving it another go before his time is up. This will be only the third time we’ve seen him since 2013 and he’s not being fed a creampuff, with Luque being a tough veteran who has seen a lot of success in the UFC. Who should we get behind in this one?

None of this is meant to badmouth Diaz, a man who forged a legacy in this sport. But his last appearance was a stoppage loss to a former champ who is a spent force in Robbie Lawler. That was in 2021, nearly seven years after his last fight. He is winless since beating BJ Penn in 2011. His thirties were basically spent inactive, injured, or more notably—on suspension. Thirteen years since a win is tremendous amount of time and even going against a veteran like Luque, Diaz basically went into mothballs when Luque was getting his career started.

Part of you wants to defer to the mystique of Diaz, his accomplishments, along with the fact that Luque hasn’t been great lately. This is at welterweight, where he still has those spidery dimensions with that long reach, although Luque is pretty long for the weight too. Despite coming from a bygone era in MMA, Diaz is only 40 and has kept in shape. But how much of Nick Diaz is left? His best period of 2008-11 was a long time ago, and in MMA terms, it’s graded on an even harsher scale.

Luque, 32, was at one time a contender and after losing to current champ Leon Edwards in 2017, he won ten of 11 fights and put himself in a good position. It was a nice turnaround after an uneven 11-6-1 start. A 2022 loss to Belal Muhammad slowed his momentum, with stoppage losses to Geoff Neal and Joaquin Buckley now having him with his back against the wall. For a hard-nosed veteran like Luque who was never stopped before on strikes despite a long and tough career, seeing that happen twice in his last three fights is a bit disconcerting.

I’d expect a fight that doesn’t go the distance, with both fighters combining for only eight decision wins in 71 combined fights between the two. Luque’s recent work isn’t inspiring, but it has come at the hands of relevant welterweights, and he has been in the recent mix of big-time 170-pound bouts. Diaz, conversely, is coming off a stoppage loss to a spent force three years ago, his second octagon appearance in 11 years. For as great as he was, time waits for no one, and while far-crazier things have happened, I see Luque coming through in this one.

My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Vicente Luque at -500 betting odds. While a fanciful underdog pick on a fighter with the ability of Diaz against a fading contender in Luque isn’t the craziest move, the sheer dormancy of Diaz and how he looked in last fight offers little promise.

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