LAS VEGAS — T.J. Dillashaw has been out of the Octagon for more than two years. He was suspended for two years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency when he was caught using EPO during a 2019 fight in Brooklyn with Henry Cejudo.
Dillashaw’s time off isn’t what concerns me from a betting perspective heading into his main event bantamweight bout Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) at Apex against Cory Sandhagen. Training has advanced so much in recent years that fighters are able to stay in magnificent condition and compete at a high level.
Former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate proved that last week, ending a nearly five-year retirement when she defeated Marion Reneau. Georges St-Pierre proved that in winning a middleweight title from Michael Bisping. Dominick Cruz proved it as well.
The concern I have if I’m going to wager on Dillashaw is how much of his success was due to the use of performance enhancing drugs. Was that Dillashaw we saw defeating the likes of Renan Barão, Cody Garbrandt, John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao?
Or was it the EPO?
At BetMGM, Sandhagen is a -185 favorite, while Dillashaw is +155. Sandhagen is on a roll and has wins over Frankie Edgar, Marlon Moraes, Assuncao and Lineker recently.
Sandhagen’s most recent loss was a first-round submission to Aljamain Sterling, now the bantamweight champion, at UFC 250 on June 6, 2020.
In my mind, Dillashaw at his best is superior to Sterling at his best, though both are outstanding fighters.
Dillashaw’s wrestling and footwork helps set him apart from others. I don’t think his success was the result of EPO, honestly. The UFC has a vigorous testing program, and while it’s not infallible, it’s very difficult to evade for a long period of time.
So I’ll buy Dillashaw’s assertion that his use was a one-time thing for the Cejudo fight. Why he did it, I’ll never understand, but I’ll take his word for that considering the quality of the testing he received.
That then says to me that we’re just picking who we believe will win here. And since I’ll discount the layoff — it could actually be beneficial as it let him heal his body — it comes down to style and who makes the fewer mistakes.
I see the fight as an even match and in my mind, it should be -110 either way. Thus, Dillashaw is a huge value at +155.
Given that, I have to take the plus money and lay $100 to win $155 on the former champion.
There is an interesting women’s flyweight fight on the card Saturday between two of the UFC’s top prospects, Miranda Maverick and Maycee Barber. Maverick is -135 and Barber is +115.
To me, that shows great respect for Barber, who has lost her last two fights, to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso, after beginning her career 8-0.
Both women have defeated Gillian Robertson, though Barber stopped Robertson in the first and Maverick won a decision over her at UFC 260 in March.
Maverick to me has a slightly more well-rounded game while Barber has more power and is a better finisher.
I’ll lay the -135 on Maverick hoping to win $100.
Other plays for UFC Vegas 32
• I will lay the -200 on Adrian Yanez and pick him to defeat Randy Costa. BetMGM’s props aren’t up yet, but I will also consider Yanez by KO in this fight.
• I will lay the -115 on Hannah Goldy to defeat Diana Belbita.
• I like the Darren Elkins-Darrick Minner fight to go the distance. I lean toward the underdog Elkins at +135.
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