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Best bets for UFC 252: Cormier out of time?

Daniel Cormier is as decorated as any mixed martial artist, but handicapper Lou Finocchiaro thinks his age might catch up to him Saturday.

Cormier is a -116 favorite to take the heavyweight title from champion Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 252 at the Apex facility in Las Vegas. This will be the rubber match of their trilogy. Cormier knocked out Miocic to win the title in July 2018, but Miocic struck back with a KO to reclaim the championship in August 2019.

“This will decide who is the greatest UFC heayweight to date,” Finocchiaro said.

Before his tangles with Miocic, Cormier was a former UFC light heavyweight champion whose only losses came against superstar Jon Jones, though one was later changed to a no-contest because of Jones’ positive test for a banned substance.

Based on resume, Cormier should be favored over Miocic, Finocchiaro said.

“This issue is not his opponent, but his age,” Finocchiaro said.

Cormier is 41, and fighters of that age competing against younger men are 170-265 (a success rate of 39 percent) in the UFC, Finocchiaro said.

Also, after Cormier was knocked out in the last fight, he has said he plans to go back to his wrestling roots against Miocic.

“I have my doubts that he can wrestle for five full rounds,” Finocchiaro said.

He will be backing Miocic as an underdog (-104 on Friday at Circa Sports) for a full unit. However, Finocchiaro said he expects Cormier money to show up Saturday, so he advises waiting to snag Miocic at +105 or +110.

Over 2½ O’Malley-Vera

Also on the main card, rising star Sean O’Malley might be in over his head against Marlon Vera in a bantamweight bout, Finocchiaro said.

O’Malley is 12-0 and has already notched two knockouts this year, but he has faced “very nominal competition so far,” Finocchiaro said.

“This will be O’Malley’s toughest fight,” he said.

Vera is a solid pro who has fought a much higher level of competition, Finocchiaro said, and Vera is also coming off a highly questionable decision loss to Song Yadong.

Finocchiaro sees this bout as similar to Derek Brunson’s recent upset of the heralded Edmen Shahbazyan, in which an up-and-comer was matched against a more experienced pro who wasn’t ready to be a steppingstone.

“Vera will be highly motivated,” Finocchiaro said. “He doesn’t want to be seen as a journeyman or a gatekeeper.”

Vera knows that his path to victory is taking O’Malley late into the fight, Finocchiaro said.

He’s backing Vera to do just that by playing over 2½ rounds at -115 for a full unit, plus a half-unit on Vera to pull off the upset at +260.

Dodson +210

Finocchiaro also likes another fighter in a gatekeeper role Saturday, as John Dodson meets Merab Dvalishvili in a bantamweight bout.

Dvalishvili is ranked No. 15 in the division while Dodson is No. 12, though Dvalishvili should really be in the top seven, Finocchiaro said. However, Dodson has the right style to beat Dvalishvili, who is a highly skilled wrestler but is not much of a striker, Finocchiaro said.

“Dodson has the speed and striking to make Dvalishvili one-dimensional,” Finocchiaro said. “When he gets Dvalishvili in a position where he tries to force a takedown, Dodson will have him right where he wants him.”

Finocchiaro is backing Dodson for a full unit at +210 in what he called his best bet of the night.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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