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UFC 119: By the Odds

Okay, so there's no title on the line at UFC 119 in Indianapolis this weekend. There's probably not even anyone who will emerge as a No. 1 contender in their division as a result of a win on Saturday night, at least not unless another major injury bug clears the path.

So where does that leave us? As far as the main event, we're in 'just for fun' territory. Two former heavyweight greats with uncertain futures square off in a fight that is not terribly meaningful for the state of the division, but is still pretty interesting.

Is that worth your pay-per-view dollar? Depends on your perspective and your amount of disposable income. But if you're on the fence about it, let me just remind you that Matt Serra and Chris Lytle are also on the card, and Serra didn't bring a pair of big sunglasses to Indy with him for nothing.

Now let's take a look at the betting odds for Saturday's fights and make some hasty, financially ruinous decisions, shall we?

Frank Mir (-280) vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (+220)

You can take your pick of reasons why oddsmakers don't like Cro Cop's chances. Maybe it's his lack of jiu-jitsu, his age, or his eye. Maybe they have concerns about a guy who accepts a fight due only to an offer he couldn't refuse. Maybe they were a lot less impressed with his win over Pat Barry after reading my story about it. Okay, probably not the last one, but a self-absorbed fella can dream. Whatever the reason, I think the online bookies are either too hard on Cro Cop or too hot on Mir. For all his submissions skills, Mir isn't much for takedowns these days. He's likely to end up striking with Cro Cop at least some of the time, and that's still a very dangerous game.
My pick: Cro Cop. At these odds it feels worth the considerable risk. And poppa needs a new pair of shoes.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (+145) vs. Ryan Bader (-175)

The big question here is, how will Bader go at Little Nog? Will he feed him a steady diet of takedowns and ground-and-pound, banking that he can stay out of submissions from the top? Or does he think he's a good enough striker these days to trade punches with the Brazilian and wait for the big right hand to come to his rescue again? Either strategy presents problems, especially if Nogueira fights more like he did against Luis Cane and less like he did against Jason Brilz.
My pick: Nogueira. I think experience rules the day in this one, and that's why I'm taking yet another underdog. There's just something in the air this weekend...

Chris Lytle (-150) vs. Matt Serra (+120)

I wish there was a way to bet on this match-up for Fight of the Night, because that would be the surest thing on the whole card. Both guys are at a point in their careers where playing it safe just ain't in the vocabulary, and both feel a need to atone for their snoozer of a fight at the TUF Finale. Serra probably has the edge in terms of one-punch power, but his size makes it hard for him to get in close enough to land on a good boxer like Lytle. Even if he can take Lytle down, I don't see him snatching a submission.
My pick: Lytle. He's a more technical striker, so unless he gives this away by trying to be too exciting, he should get some revenge here.

Sean Sherk (+190) vs. Evan Dunham (-250)

It's easy to say Sherk is falling off, but people forget that his four career losses are to Frankie Edgar, B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre, and Matt Hughes. If you have to get beat up by four guys, that's a pretty respectable list. That said, Dunham can grapple a little bit too, and he should have the advantage on the feet. This is still a very tough fight for the up-and-comer, but as he long as he doesn't spend three rounds on his back he should get his hand raised at the end.
My pick: Dunham. I doubt he can finish Sherk, but the former lightweight champ ought to make for an easy target on the feet. The odds make it not worth the risk, however.

Melvin Guillard (-170) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+140)

Guillard has become a much better fighter under the tutelage of the Greg Jackson camp, while Stephens is still the same gritty, but unpolished fighter he's always been. Simply put, if Stephens stands in front of Guillard it will be a quick, painful night that he may or may not remember later. If he tries to put Guillard on his back he may wear himself out on failed takedown attempts. In short, this is a tough style match-up for Stephens, and there are no obvious solutions.
My pick: Guillard. The odds are actually somewhat reasonable for a parlay pick, if you're the parlay kind of guy.

C.B. Dollaway (-275) vs. Joe Doerksen (+215)

Oddsmakers seem to be assuming that Dollaway will fight the smart (read: kind of boring) fight against Doerksen, rather than doing what Tom Lawlor did and trying to make a real show out of it. Lawlor gave that fight away with his approach, and if he has any sense at all Dollaway won't make the same mistake against this very experienced and always dangerous opponent.
My pick: Dollaway. Doerksen is worth a look at these odds, but keep the action small.

Matt Mitrione (-150) vs. Joey Beltran (+120)

Based on experience alone, it would seem as though Beltran should roll to an easy win here. But don't discount Mitrione, who's an excellent athlete with some good training partners to help make up for what he lacks in cage time. When you're looking at two hard-hitting big men, neither of whom have a wealth of experience against high-level opponents, you're looking at a fight that will likely be decided by who makes fewer mistakes.
My pick: Mitrione. He's still at the level where his sheer athleticism can make a big difference. I think he bullies his way to a TKO over Beltran.