Rashad Evans (-210) vs. Phil Davis (+170)
The line on this fight started out a little closer to even -- Evans at -160 and Davis at +135 sounds about right to me -- but soon spread out, leaving us to ask the question: does Evans really deserve to be a 2-1 favorite over a former NCAA champion wrestler who's unbeaten in his MMA career? Really?
As you can probably tell by now, I'm leaning toward no. It's not that I don't think Evans deserves to be the favorite. He's been in this sport longer, knows the tricks of the trade a little better, and is more comfortable in the big fights than the relatively unpolished and still largely one-dimensional Davis. Coming from a wrestling background himself, Evans probably has a good sense of what Davis doesn't even know he doesn't know yet (if that makes any sense at all), and that might be the edge that matters in a close fight. Still, 2-1 over a guy who would most likely beat him in a straight wrestling match? That's hard to swallow. Evans can't rely on wrestling ability or sheer athleticism against a guy like Davis. He'll have to be the smarter, more experienced fighter, and he'll also have to hope that Davis' long layoff will take its toll in the late rounds. Those are all distinct possibilities, but by no means guarantees.
My pick: I hate to sound like a Facebook relationship status here, but it's complicated. If you could have jumped on Evans when he was at -160, I'd tell you to take that. If you feel like waiting to see if Davis creeps up closer to +200, I'd applaud your patience. In other words, I like Evans to win, but these odds aren't worth the risk in a fight this close.
Chael Sonnen (-400) vs. Michael Bisping (+300)
Here's a fight where the line has actually come down a bit from a slightly absurd start when it was first announced. Simply put, oddsmakers seem to think that there's no clear path to victory for Bisping, and I tend to agree. He lacks the knockout power to truly put the fear into Sonnen on the feet, and he's not exactly a submissions artist off his back. Neither is he a high-caliber wrestler with the chops to shut down Sonnen's takedowns and use his hit-and-run tactics to wear the self-proclaimed middleweight champion down. So what's a well-rounded Brit to do? I'm not sure I know the answer, and I doubt that Bisping does either.
My pick: Sonnen. The line makes this a parlay pick all the way, but it's as close to a lock as you'll find on this card.
Chris Weidman (-150) vs. Demian Maia (+120)
Okay oddsmakers, here's where I have to call shenanigans. If Weidman had signed to fight Maia six weeks ago, maybe then I could understand this line. If he'd had all that time to study film and work on countering Maia's style of jiu-jitsu in the gym, then fine, maybe I'd agree that he deserves to be a small favorite. But that's not what happened. Weidman took this fight -- easily the biggest fight of his life and against the most accomplished opponent he's ever faced -- on less than two weeks' notice. He's going from facing the Tom Lawlors and Jesse Bongfeldts of the MMA world to fighting a guy who has perhaps the most dangerous submissions game in the division, and he's doing it with no real training camp to speak of. You take a fight like this on short notice, your big concern is getting your weight right and showing up looking reasonably ready to fight. You're basically saying that you think you could beat Maia if he walked in unannounced to your gym one day and issued a kung fu movie-esque challenge right on the spot. And -- who knows? -- maybe Weidman really is that good. All I know for sure is that we haven't seen it yet, at least not against any opponent of Maia's caliber.
My pick: Maia. His edge in both experience and preparation makes him an underdog I can't pass up.
- John Olav Einemo (+120) over Mike Russow (-150). Yes, Russow is a tough guy and a local favorite, but I think he's a tad too slow for Einemo.
- George Roop (+115) over Cub Swanson (-145). Roop is slightly better than his recent record indicates, while Swanson still has a lot of holes in his game.
The 'For Entertainment Purposes Only' Parlay: Sonnen + Maia + Evan Dunham (-400) + Joey Beltran (-225).