All that, plus...did I mention it's free? Something to consider when Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz come asking for your money.
But before the action goes down in New Orleans, it's time again to sort through the betting odds and see who's overvalued and who's overlooked. And who knows, maybe you find a better use for the 65 bucks in pay-per-view dollars that you save by watching this instead of boxing.
Jake Shields (-200) vs. Jake Ellenberger (+160)
Is it utterly reprehensible to take Shields' father's death into account when examining betting odds and making pre-fight picks? Probably, yeah. It's also not something you can really ignore, since it had to effect his preparation for this fight. People can make a big deal about Brett Favre playing a football game after his father died, but that's just one night of setting your grief aside. It's got to be even tougher to keep going through the grind of a training camp after something like that. I don't know how he did it, but it tells you something about Shields' dedication and focus. That said, Ellenberger would have been a decent underdog pick at these odds without any personal distractions factored in. He's a fantastic athlete with a good all-around game, and his only loss in the UFC came via an extremely close split decision against Carlos Condit. This is a guy who stands a very real chance of beating Shields, and let's be honest, Shields has yet to turn in a truly impressive performance in his two UFC bouts.
My pick: Ellenberger. He's a great underdog choice at these odds, and wouldn't even be a bad selection in a straight-up pick.
Court McGee (-165) vs. Dongi Yang (+135)
McGee's been out of action nearly a year, and that's always a red flag. That's not to say he couldn't come back looking as sharp as ever, but it's tough to do. Fortunately for him, Yang is not the toughest of opponents to jump back into the fray against. He's a threat to take you down and pound you out, but his lone UFC win came against Rob Kimmons, who is, as they say, no longer with the organization. I'm still not convinced that McGee is one of the TUF winners who will go on to do great things in the Octagon, but who knows? We've only seen him in one post-TUF bout since he won the finale in June of 2010. I think he wins this one, but with his injury layoff I don't feel comfortable enough with it to risk letting it ruin my precious parlay.
My pick: Nobody. What, I can't stand up for my rights and refuse to pick every now and then? Okay, if you're putting a gun to my head, then I'll take McGee. But as soon as you put that gun away I'm back to picking nobody.
Erik Koch (-200) vs. Jonathan Brookins (+160)
Brookins is another TUF winner who more or less dropped off the map after his time on the show. He wrestled his way to a win at the finale and hasn't fought since, so how much can we possibly know about how he'll perform? On the flip side, Koch is a legitimately dangerous featherweight whose only career loss is to Chad Mendes, and there's no shame in that. The last time we saw Koch he was looking fierce with a knockout win over Raphael Assuncao at UFC 128. If he can stay off his back here, there's ample reason to believe he could give a repeat performance against Brookins. Oddsmakers seem to think so too, so there's not much juice to be squeezed out of this one.
My pick: Koch. But he's just too big a favorite to put in my parlay this time around.
Alan Belcher (-315) vs. Jason MacDonald (+245)
Once again, the layoff factor rears its ugly head. Belcher has been out since his submission win over Patrick Cote in May of 2010, dealing with serious eye issues that at one point seemed potentially career-ending. He's got all that sorted out now, he says, but coming back against a big, tough grappler like MacDonald after nearly a year and a half out of the cage isn't so easy. Skill-for-skill, Belcher should beat MacDonald. He's a much better striker and probably has good enough takedown defense to keep MacDonald from getting it to the mat. But you just don't know how a guy's timing and conditioning will be after he's gone so long without being in a fight that really matters. All things being equal, Belcher deserves to be a 3-1 favorite. But all things are rarely equal, and so it is here.
My pick: MacDonald. I have to go with at least one crazy underdog per card. I'm not so much betting on MacDonald here as I am betting against Belcher's ability to jump right back in after so much time away.
- Mike Lullo (+130) over Robert Peralta (-160). Lullo lost his first UFC bout to Edson Barboza, but so would a lot of people. Peralta seemed not quite ready for primetime in his last Strikeforce fight.
- Donny Walker (+135) over Ken Stone (-165). Walker looked decent while losing his UFC debut via decision, but really, this is about Stone. He's been knocked out badly in his last two fights, one of which was a frightening slam KO at the hands of Eddie Wineland. It seems to take less and less to put him out these days.
The 'For Entertainment Purposes Only' Parlay: Ellenberger + MacDonald + Lullo + Walker (crazier than normal, I know, but sometimes you've just got to round up a bunch of underdogs and see how far ten bucks can take you).