UFC 138: By the Odds

Chris LebenUFC 138 comes to us on tape delay from across the pond this weekend, and like many UFC events in the U.K. it features no shortage of fights that, at least on paper, seem a little bit lopsided.

What does that mean for you? Well, if you know how to pick 'em you could profit handsomely off an outsized betting line here or there. If you don't, you could end up crying into a pint of the dark stuff along with all the Brits who made ill-advised bets on Premier League games. Hey, at least you won't be drinking alone.

Now let's take a look at the odds on UFC 138's main card bouts, and see if we can't find a bargain.

Chris Leben (+200) vs. Mark Munoz (-255)

Remember when Leben was a hefty dog against Aaron Simpson, who also seemed like a sure bet to out-wrestle him thoroughly and completely? All it took was a couple patented Leben bombs to turn that one into the kind of street fight he was looking for, so why couldn't history repeat itself? Before we get carried away in that comparison we should note some differences between Munoz and Simpson. For starters, Munoz owns a victory over the A-Train, which has to count for something. But more importantly, Munoz has improved his all-around game greatly in the past couple years, so if he has to he can hold his own on the feet with Leben, at least for a little while. That's not to say he'll necessarily want to try for the knockout, of course. The smart play would be putting Leben on his back and keeping him there, but Munoz can swat when he wants to. Just ask CB Dollaway. By the same token, Leben can take it and keep coming back with more. Just ask Akiyama.
My pick: Leben. Any time you throw your money down on the Catsmasher, be prepared to lose it. That said, I just can't turn my back on odds like these, especially when they're attached to a guy who is never more than one left hand from victory.

Brad Pickett (+105) vs. Renan Barao (-135)

It's still hard to tell just how good Barao really is. He won both his WEC fights and then edged out Cole Escovedo at UFC 130, but he hasn't stepped up to take on that next level of competition yet -- at least, not until now. Granted, Pickett wouldn't be this high on any UFC card outside the U.K., but this is still a man with wins over both "Mighty Mouse" Johnson and Ivan Menjivar in the past year and a half, so it's not as if he's just some bloke who's been plucked from the local pub and thrown into the cage. Like many British fighters, he could stand to improve his wrestling. That might be more of a concern if he was going up against an All-American from some Big Ten school, but against a Brazilian like Barao it might be less of an issue. You know Pickett will have the crowd on his side, which could help swing it if the fight goes the distance. Barao's winning streak is impressive on paper, but it's one thing to beat local dudes in Brazil and quite another to take on an experienced opponent like Pickett in his home country.
My pick: Pickett. He's only a slight underdog, but I'd take him here if the odds on it were even.

Thiago Alves (-300) vs. Papy Abedi (+230)

These UK cards are usually great opportunities for lesser-known European fighters to get beat up by UFC mainstays, which is exactly what oddsmakers think is going on here. Abedi is a Swedish fighter who's undefeated against a handful of Europeans you've probably never heard of, and here he is making his UFC debut against human buzzsaw Thiago Alves, who is sorely in need of a victory to lift him out of the rough spot he's in. In one way, it's a tough fight for Alves. After going 1-3 in his last four, he can't afford to lose to some guy from Sweden who's making his UFC debut. If Abedi gets knocked out by Alves, hey, what did anyone expect? But if Alves does anything but dominate Abedi, it looks bad. That's a lot of pressure to perform, and at a critical time in his career.
My pick: Alves. Debuting against a guy like Alves is asking a lot of Abedi. If he turns out to be up to the task, he'll surprise a lot of people, me included. But I'm not willing to bet on it.

Terry Etim (-600) vs. Eddie Faaloloto (+400)

Etim's an exciting young fighter who's been out of action since the UFC's trip to Abu Dhabi in April of 2010. Now he makes a comeback in front of his countrymen, and it seems like he might be getting a bit of a softball. Faaloloto is very inexperienced, and he has yet to win a fight under the Zuffa banner. He didn't even make it out of the first round in his only UFC fight, so it seems as if just maybe the brass is feeding him to Etim with the expectation that the British crowd will enjoy seeing an American get pummeled by one of their own. That's not bad logic, but it is bad news for Faaloloto unless he's a lot better than he's shown so far.
My pick: Etim. With odds like those, it's almost not worth including in the parlay. Almost.

Cyrille Diabate (-400) vs. Anthony Perosh (+300)

At first glance, it seems like sort of a miracle that Perosh is still in the UFC. He got back in the organization as a late replacement against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, who brutalized him something awful until the doctors finally stopped it. He got the requisite make-up fight back in a weight class more to his liking last February, and he made the most of it with a submission win over Tom Blackledge. Now he has to leave the friendly confines of Australia and take on the French kickboxer Diabate in an old school striker-versus-grappler match. As you can see, oddsmakers like the striker's chances, and with good reason. Diabate is not only dangerous on the feet, he's also learned to use his lanky frame on the mat in recent years. In fact, he's only lost to two people in the last five years, and one was "Shogun" Rua. The other was Alexander Gustafsson, which is still not too shabby for a guy in his late 30s. Perosh, who is also pushing 40, seems like he can't be long for the UFC with his up-and-down performances. Then again, I never would have guessed he'd hang on this long.
My pick: Diabate. Another one for the parlay. Sadly, I can't bring myself to take the long odds on "The Hippo."

The 'For Entertainment Purposes Only' Parlay: Pickett + Alves + Etim + Diabate

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