BantamweightsRay Borg (13-5) vs. Joseph Nathan Maness (11-1)
ODDS: Borg (-225), Maness (+175)
Borg is finally regaining his old form, and it has been a pleasure to see. Borg’s flyweight title challenge of Demetrious Johnson in 2017 was too much too soon, both on paper and in practice, but given that “The Tazmexican Devil” was only 23 years old at the time, he figured to keep improving and round into his best self in short order. Instead, absolutely everything got derailed for Borg, personally and professionally. He was injured in Conor McGregor’s infamous bus attack at UFC 223 and then found himself out of action due to his newborn son’s health issues. Once Borg was finally ready to return to the cage, the weight issues that had lingered for his entire career reared their head once again. Complications forced Borg out of a return at flyweight, and he even missed weight upon being forced into the bantamweight division. That comeback bout wound up being a disappointing loss to Casey Kenney that looks better in retrospect, but Borg’s next few outings were still fairly disheartening despite racking up two straight wins. Borg managed to beat Gabriel Silva and Rogerio Bontorin—the latter being another attempted return to flyweight that saw him miss weight—but he showed none of his usual dynamic grappling skills or his improved boxing, instead re-inventing himself as a blanketing control wrestler and little else. Borg’s confrontation with Ricky Simon was a pleasant surprise, as he suddenly turned in a vintage performance, including regaining confidence in the striking game that was coming together leading into his battle with Johnson. With some mental hurdles cleared, the next question involves whether or not Borg can actually physically hang as a bantamweight. While he looked good in the fight against Simon, the latter did still prove to be the more powerful wrestler and walked away with the victory as a result. That is where newcomer Maness comes in. There are things to like about Maness, who has faced some solid competition and definitely has some skills, but his patient approach does raise some concerns against better athletes who may take more control of the fight. The main issue here is that Maness is a gigantic bantamweight, making this an excellent baseline test to see if Borg has the physicality to make hay at 135 pounds. Before the Simon fight, the pick would probably have been Maness, but now that Borg has been able to mix things up past that one-dimensional wrestling approach, he can probably throw enough looks at the newcomer to win rounds, even if he should still struggle in moments. The pick is Borg via decision.
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