UFC 118: By the Odds

UFC 118 in Boston is just a few hours away, so in order to get a perspective on the action from the people who are paid to know winners from losers, let's examine tonight's main card betting odds.

With one new champ defending his title against the man he took it from, and one boxing great crossing over into a brand new sport that he seems to only barely understand, you'd think there would be a vast difference in the odds on the two co-main event bouts. In reality, the two lines are more similar than you might think, and they favor neither the champ nor the big-mouthed boxer.

Let's break it down below and see who the smart choices are at UFC 118.

Frankie Edgar (+240) vs. B.J. Penn (-300)

When's the last time a fighter lost his title and was a 3-1 favorite over the guy he lost it to in the immediate rematch? Off the top of my head, I can't say. All I know is that oddsmakers aren't a sentimental bunch, nor are they the types to try an avoid hurting Edgar's feelings. This line reflects the belief that a) Edgar didn't deserve to win the first fight, or b) a healthy Penn would murder him. Who knows, maybe it's both. Just remember, Penn was a 7-1 favorite the first time around. And look how that turned out.
My pick: Penn. I was one of the legion of scribes who was wrong the first time, but I have to admit that I still think Penn is the better fighter. If he comes out and gets after Edgar, he'll finish this fight.

Randy Couture (-575) vs. James Toney (+350)

Can we be honest here for a moment? Truth is, I can't believe the line is this close. Toney has the slimmest of puncher's chances, and Couture is not some fool who's going to dive into a double-leg with no set-up and get himself clipped with an uppercut. Couture is going to play it smart, stay out of range until he's ready, then close the distance and put Toney on his back. Toney, whose foot speed is about on par with his public speaking ability these days, won't be able to do much about that besides wing a haymaker and hope for the best. Lest we forget, hope is not a strategy.
My pick: Couture. The line on Toney isn't even good enough to justify a little crazy underdog spending, so you're better off betting Couture with Penn and maybe one other fighter as part of a parlay.

Gray Maynard (+130) vs. Kenny Florian (-160)

This is one of those fights that's so difficult to call because we don't know for sure how one fighter's style will influence the other. Maynard likely won't be as effective with his boxing against a more well-rounded striker like Florian, but we've seen Florian get simply out-wrestled before, so how do we know it won't happen again? In situations like this where you can never be positive how the style match-up will unfold, all you can do is go with the guy who's the more complete fighter.
My pick: Florian. It's going to be a close one, but I think Florian has the skills that make him the perfect third choice for that parlay we were just talking about.

Demian Maia (-265) vs. Mario Miranda (+205)

Miranda is still something an unknown commodity in the MMA world, so let's look at what we know of Maia. He's only lost two fights in his pro career, and they were to Nathan Marquardt and then Anderson Silva. That tells us that if you want to beat Maia, you'd better have great stand-up and the ability to stay off the mat. Does Miranda have that? Doubtful.
My pick: Maia. Yeah, I'm going with yet another favorite, but what can you say? Oddsmakers know what they're doing most of the time.

Nate Diaz (-200) vs. Marcus Davis (+160)

So it's an underdog you're looking for? Then consider Davis, who's a hard-hitting Irish explosive device with a career that may be only one or two more losses from taking a depressing turn. In Diaz he finds an opponent who likes to stand up and trade punches, and yet doesn't have a ton of power in any of those strikes. On paper, it's an ideal fight for Davis. He shouldn't have too much trouble drawing Diaz into a slugfest, since all you have to do against either Diaz brother is take a swipe at that huge chip on their shoulders, and suddenly he'll be in a brawl where he's the superior puncher with the heavier hands.
My pick: Davis. I know I picked Diaz in the head-to-head with Pat Miletich, but from a betting perspective Davis might be the best underdog choice on the card.

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