As marquee events go it wouldn’t be a disservice to say that UFC 175 lacked a few sparks but overall was a decent card. From a betting perspective we did pretty well, with our 5 units returning over 13 units for a profit of 8 units. This represented a return on investment of 163% and a decent nights work. For those who have been counting, it has been a poor half year return on betting so far. I am presently down 4 units for an ROI of -4%. Do not lose heart, 2012 saw +14 units and 2013 saw +31 so there is plenty of time (and events) to go.
It’s another double header this week although we do get the benefit of a few days break so I’ll have the chance to put another set of picks out before Dublin. First up though is Atlantic City with one of the best Fight Night cards ever produced. The match ups look crazy and if the UFC can’t make this entertaining then all hope is lost. I predict some explosive finishes and fantastic betting opportunities. Come and see if you agree with me.
Martins v White:
To open the main card we welcome back Lucas Martins to the octagon after a hiatus approaching 10 months. In this, his fourth UFC appearance, Martins aims to extend his winning streak to three after a debut loss to Edson Barboza. That loss represents the lone defeat of a three year career.
Making only his second UFC appearance Alex White looks to maintain an unbeaten record and follow up on a 90 second debut win. That win was over veteran competitor Estevan Payan who remains the most decorated opponent he has faced.
This feels like another situation where the odds makers are getting carried away with a good debut and not looking at the bigger picture. Although impressive in performance, Payan has now lost three on the bounce with the last two coming by knockout. For this reason alone I think that Martins has been greatly underestimated and priced incorrectly. As White is unbeaten it is unclear on the path to victory so I will simply be taking the underdog by any means possible.
Recommendation: To Win the Fight: Lucas Martins – 13/10 (+130) @ Coral
Lineker v Ozkilic:
For me John Lineker remains the best fighter in the division yet to receive a title shot. He was outworked by Ali Bagautinov in a number one contenders match and if not for his weight issues would surely be considered the next viable opponent for Mighty Mouse. Lineker has devastating hand speed and surprising power for a Flyweight but he does need to get back in the win column.
Entering his fight against Darren Uyenoyama as the heavy underdog it was a major surprise to see Alptekin Ozkilic get his hand raised in a split decision. His opponent was a semi-finalist in the Flyweight tournament and expected to tear through him. Against Louis Smolka he was unable to counter an opponent with a high level ground game and it cost him dearly.
Ozkilic is a one dimensional fighter with little ground game and doesn’t pack the same punch that Lineker does. Time and time again the Brazilian has unleashed the hands of stone to great effect and I expect him to do the same right here. I see this as a mismatch in opponents and as long as the weight cut isn’t too extreme will end early in favour of Lineker. With Dodson now sidelined until 2015 a new slot has opened up and that is all the incentive required.
Recommendation: Recommendation: Method of Victory – John Lineker by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 7/4 (+175) @ Ladbrokes
Salas v Proctor:
On every card there is a tough fight to call and this is the one that has me flip flopping. Justin Salas brings a greater level of experience to the octagon with 17 career fights, of which the last five have taken place in the UFC. Wins over Kuivanen, Riley and Wall have been punctuated with losses to Means and Tavares. Essentially, whenever Salas looks to step up he gets beaten down.
Joe Proctor is a former TUF contestant, coming up short in the quarter-finals. As so many contestants now do, he was given a chance to fight in the UFC for real and picked up a knockout win in his debut. A step up in class against Ramsey Nijem derailed him until he returned after a 15 month break to take a decision over Cristano Marcello in Berlin, Germany.
Despite some impressive performances neither fighter has been able to really kick on and get any form of run going. Both have alternated wins and losses since entering the UFC and based on that run both of them should lose. Clearly this is not going to happen and I find myself leaning towards Salas, but not by much. Ideally I’d be taking the Distance or Over 2.5 rounds but at a best priced 4/7 that’s not really an option. I’ll go with my gut and take Salas by decision.
Recommendation: Method of Victory: Justin Salas by Decision – 2/1 (+200) @ Boylesports
Story v Mafra:
Rick Story is another of those infuriatingly inconsistent fighters. With the skills and experience that he has in the UFC you can be forgiven for expecting better than a record of 4-5 over the last three years. Wins over the likes of Thiago Silva and current Welterweight king Johny Hendricks should have elevated Story to contender level. Instead, while the rest of the field has improved Story has trodden water for a long time. It is getting to make or break time for a fighter who should be at his peak at 29.
Making his debut is Brazilian knockout artist Leonardo Mafra. A product of the infamous Chute Box Academy he presents a complete style contrast to his opponent. In fact, where he excels is exactly where Story struggles, and vice versa. As a debutant he really couldn’t have been assigned a harder task than he has been given.
On paper Story takes this hands down. He has the technique and experience to swarm on his opponent and give him no room to tee off or utilise the skills that have brought him eight wins by knockout. In MMA dumb things can sometimes happen, if Story drops his hands and eats a few punches early on then this could be a stunning introduction to the top table. Story has made some bad moves but this shouldn’t be one of them. That record holds me back from betting on him though and instead I’ll be taking a small piece of the overs and hope that it goes to the judges.
Recommendation: Total Rounds – Over 2.5 – 19/20 (-105) @ Unibet
Barboza v Dunham:
In making this fight it is likely that Sean Shelby and Joe Silva had a bit of a giggle. Matching two fighters coming off a loss is one thing but matching two fighters who most recently lost to the same guy is another. Edson Barboza once again fell short when faced with an elite level opponent. Over-reliant on his kicking to keep Donald Cerrone at bay he ate a few to the face, was dropped and lost his back. The fat lady started to warm her throat and it was over midway through the first.
Evan Dunham fared only slightly better against ‘Cowboy’, making it deep into the second round before the inevitable tap. That defeat made it two in a row for Dunham and 1-3 in his last four. In truth he hasn’t been performing at the top level for some time as the sole win was a split over Tibau that could easily have been carded as a loss. On another day Dunham would have been cut and this fight never made.
Both fighters are clearly beatable, but only one has the true skills to take this fight on current form. The way to beat Barboza is to keep hitting him in the face; he doesn’t like it. Varner and Cerrone did this to great effect. For Dunham, he doesn’t have the power to do this effectively and he doesn’t block leg kicks and this is where he will really come undone. Barboza’s kicks are the stuff of legend and if I could get a bet on this then I’d be filling up. As I can’t, then I have to take the win by TKO. Sorry Evan, but this may be your last call.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Edson Barboza by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 7/4 (+175) @ Boylesports
Cerrone v Miller:
When Donald Cerrone made the jump from the WEC to the UFC in 2011 he fought an incredible five times in his first year. Four solid wins put him up against Nate Diaz at the end of year card where Diaz literally schooled him. Whatever Cerrone tried, Diaz had the antidote to it resulting in a brutally one-sided affair. Cerrone is on course to repeat 2011 and fight another five times, erasing the memory of losses to Diaz, Pettis and dos Anjos along the way. Most fighters like to stay active but for Cerrone each fight represents a very real possibility of another bonus cheque. He has received nine in the UFC and will be aiming for a tenth on Wednesday.
Jim Miller remains one of the toughest competitors to ever set foot into the octagon. Unbeaten in two years (officially, since the loss to Healy was overturned) he has always been a solid betting candidate given his propensity to go for the submission. In fact five of his last seven fights have ended in a submission, both for and against him. Ironically it was Nate Diaz who submitted him for his last loss in the very next fight that he took after beating Cerrone.
When I see Cerrone I think submission, the same for Miller, it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get in MMA. The big question is whether they will negate each other’s strengths. It didn’t happen for Healy and Miller and I don’t think that it happens here. When you compare apples to apples then Cerrone is the more accomplished and higher level fighter of the two, he is also the man more likely to climb up the mountain and achieve greatness. Ideally I wanted to bet on either by submission, just to give Miller the outside opportunity. It isn’t available so my hand is forced. Cerrone by submission, at a best priced 7/2 its crazy money and I’ll be taking all I can get on it.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Donald Cerrone by Submission – 9/2 (+450) @ Paddy Power