LAS VEGAS — That Dustin Poirier might assume underdog status in the run-up to his UFC 264 headliner with Conor “Notorious” McGregor next Saturday astounds Chicago native and MMA expert Jordan Sherwood.
For proper and provocative perspective, Sherwood believes there would be value in Poirier, known as “The Diamond,” even if he were a -175 to -180 favorite.
“I’d still think that’s stealing,” Sherwood says. “I just don’t think Conor McGregor is going to win this fight.”
In price, value and blind patriotism, the main event at T-Mobile Arena might belong among the 2017 McGregor-Floyd Mayweather and August’s Manny Pacquiao-Errol Spence Jr. boxing matches.
The odds on McGregor-Poirier are about dead even. One Vegas sportsbook has McGregor -115, Poirier -105; another Poirier -115, McGregor -105. A third shop has the 32-year-old, 5-9 southpaws at -110 apiece.
If Poirier (PORE-ee-ay) gets tagged with a plus price? Brett Okamoto, ESPN’s Vegas-based MMA analyst-reporter, says, “That would be an A+ play, in my opinion.”
Sherwood expects more greenbacks from McGregor’s fellow Irishmen and ardent base to flood the market. He suggests patience by Poirier fans, to pounce on an optimal price in the few days, even hours, before the fight.
“Dustin Poirier had a chance to take a title fight, but he chose this one,” says Sherwood, 39. “This is a winnable fight, an easier fight, and he’s going to make boatloads of money.”
WWF TO MMA
Born and raised in Glenview, Sherwood went to Glenbrook South and earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism at Illinois.
A claim to fame might be the 32-man rock-paper-scissors tournament he organized in the chapter room of his Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house in the winter of his junior year.
The entry fee was 20 bucks, best-of-five rounds, winner-take-all. He didn’t last long. However, he displayed an early handicapping knack by profiting on an array of in-game side action.
“I have no idea how we seeded 32 guys,” he says. “It was probably on a Saturday night, just some pregaming before heading out to the bars.”
His childhood affinity for pro wrestling, especially Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, helped hook Sherwood on MMA. He began betting it in 2006 and soon started handicapping the fights.
He highlighted MMA on his Cleveland radio show, attracting national attention. He amplified that coverage at a West Palm Beach, Florida, station for more than 10 years.
About three weeks ago, Sherwood, his wife and two young children moved back to Chicago, where he creates marketing and advertising campaigns for ESPN 1000 and his beloved White Sox.
Displaying his MMA prowess, he often guests on the Vegas Stats & Information Network, and he provides picks to a handicapping service.
Floods of typical Filipino cash on Pacquiao in Vegas have made the price on Spence — from -450 down to -230 (risk $230 to win $100) — rather enticing for their Aug. 21 boxing clash at T-Mobile.
Which harkens Sherwood back to the exceptional squared-circle deal Mayweather backers relished in 2017 against McGregor, whose countrymen created immense value for “Pretty Boy Floyd” inside T-Mobile.
Mayweather had open-ed at about -2500, but he closed around -450 as battalions of Irish influence sliced McGregor from +950 to +325. Mayweather supporters salivated before and after his 10th-round TKO.
“Floyd was the cheapest [price] he’s ever been, when he boxed McGregor,” Sherwood says. “That’s insane! The greatest boxer of all time such a slim favorite over a guy who’d never boxed? Ridiculous.”
Poirier and McGregor first fought, as featherweights, at UFC 178 in September 2014, here at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Sherwood saw the flamboyant Irishman intimidate Poirier before the first bell.
McGregor won, via a controversial paw to the back of Poirier’s noggin and subsequent stoppage, after just 106 seconds.
“Dustin could not handle the pressure or spotlight,” Sherwood says. “Poirier stayed active … became an interim lightweight champion. McGregor sat out a couple of years, had some issues with the law, had his run-in with Mayweather.”
In January, as lightweights, Poirier was a leg-kicking dervish at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. He withstood some power punches and exploited the wide McGregor stance that provides him with such dynamic leverage.
Poirier whipped that front leg repeatedly, leading to his TKO victory 2 minutes, 32 seconds into the second round.
“There was a fundamental difference between that fight and the first one, which Poirier knew was a dog-and-pony show,” Sherwood says. “Poirier is leaps and bounds above the guy who stood across from Conor seven years ago.
“Execute your game plan. You know how to beat this guy, and you’re going to win. That’s exactly what he did in the rematch in January.”
McGregor (22-5-0) is guaranteed $3 million, with bonuses that could boost his payday to $10 million; Poirier (27-6-0) $1 million and $3 million, respectively. All 20,800 T–Mobile tickets for the scheduled 12-fight card were nabbed within seconds in April.
(In the last two UFC events, favorites have gone 21-3-1.)
Sherwood envisions McGregor winning only if he begins in a blaze of fists and fury, ensuring that it doesn’t extend past the first of five five-minute rounds.
“He’ll have to blow the doors off of Poirier and get him quickly,” Sherwood says. “Conor can’t go into deep waters with Poirier because Poirier has more ways to win and gets better as the fight goes on.”