As we settle in to enjoy another event on Versus, which necessarily includes a confused few minutes of searching for Versus on the cable TV dial, let's look at how oddsmakers see the action going down in Milwaukee.
Chris Lytle (-130) vs. Dan Hardy (even)
In his role as the guy you fight when you want to throw them bungalows and forget about the existence of takedowns altogether, Lytle has been pretty dependable. That's good news for Hardy, who, after three straight losses, needs a win so bad he can feel it in his mohawk. We know Hardy can be outwrestled, but we also know Lytle isn't likely to take that route. He'll stand there and fling blows for as long as Hardy wants, regardless of whether it's a good idea or not. We know Lytle is a skilled striker. What we have to wonder at this point is if he can stand up to Hardy's power. The 36-year-old vet started to look his age a little bit in his last fight. He's been eyeing retirement and a potential political run recently, while Hardy has no choice but to win. Kind of makes you think that the Brit might want/need this more.
My pick: Hardy. Based on past experience, Lytle will probably let him off the hook by ignoring the glaring weakness in his takedown defense. From there, youth and speed rule the day.
Ben Henderson (+145) vs. Jim Miller (-175)
We're still figuring out just how well the top WEC lightweights stack up against the UFC regulars, but Henderson's decision win over Mark Bocek was enough to tell us that he deserves to be taken seriously. However, there's a big difference between edging out Bocek and hanging with Miller, who's as underappreciated as any fighter in the UFC right now. The last time he lost a fight was to current top contender Gray Maynard, and that was in 2009. Since then he's won seven straight, against quality opponents, and he's finished more than half of them. Henderson is a decent striker with good grappling, but it's hard to see where he holds significant advantages over Miller. This seems like Miller's time to shine, and oddsmakers know it.
My pick: Miller. At -175 (meaning you'd need to wager $175 to win $100), you're better off saving it for a parlay pick. Just don't count on Henderson to be your underdog savior.
Charles Oliveira (-130) vs. Donald Cerrone (even)
There's a lot to like about Oliveira, even though, after his blatantly illegal knee on Nik Lentz, his understanding of the unified rules of MMA may not be one of them. But while he looked impressive right up to that point, just as he did against Efrain Escudero last September, he's facing a different kind of opponent in Cerrone. "Cowboy" is just straight-up mean. He took a disturbing amount of joy in leg-kicking Vagner Rocha until he could no longer stand, and when forced to use it, he's also got a pretty good submissions game. Oliveira had a strong start to his UFC career, but we have to face the fact that he's seeing a big jump up in competition lately, especially with Miller and now Cerrone, and we don't know for sure yet whether he's ready for it.
My pick: Cerrone. It's going to be a close one, and quite possibly the best fight on this card, but I think his experience and crowd/judge-pleasing style will make the difference.
Amir Sadollah (-310) vs. Duane Ludwig (+250)
This is one where oddsmakers seem to have zeroed in on the right guy, but are perhaps a little overly optimistic. On paper, Sadollah should beat Ludwig. But when you're looking at an experienced kickboxer like "Bang" going up against a still pretty inexperienced fighter like Sadollah, I'm not sure I'd have the faith to go all the way to 3-1 on it. Yes, Sadollah looked impressive against DaMarques Johnson (who took the fight on very short notice) in March. And yes, his weakness is his wrestling, where Ludwig isn't likely to take it. But any time you're trading kicks and punches with a guy who has as many kickboxing bouts as Ludwig does, there's always a chance for things to go wrong.
My pick: Sadollah, though I could never get on board with these odds. In fact, Ludwig might even be worth small action if you're sick of playing the lottery, where you so rarely get a decent fight for your money.
- Jim Hettes (-400) over Alex Caceras (+300). I know, you loved him as Bruce Leeroy on TUF, but Hettes appears to have the submission game that Caceras lacks, so don't get suckered in here.
- Jacob Volkmann (+105) over Danny Castillo (-135). Volkmann is not terribly fun to watch, and his trash talk on Obama comes off like an ill-conceived Mr. Bean sketch, but he's got this.
The 'For Entertainment Purposes Only' Parlay: Hardy + Miller + Cerrone + Volkmann