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UFC 124: By the Odds

With the holiday season coming up, the betting man has a choice to make. Do you play it safe, reasoning that you only have so much money to buy gift cards for extended family members who you never see?

Or do you go big anyway, even if it means that, depending on how the Georges St. Pierre-Josh Koscheck bout turns out, you might be left handing out a bunch of homemade certificates for free back rubs this Christmas?

Your answer to that question probably depends on whether you actually care about your family, and also on whether you have a severe gambling problem, but I digress.

UFC 124 in Montreal offers several tantalizing possibilities for the gentleman (or lady) who loves a good wager. And even if you're saving your money, there's no harm in just looking at the betting odds for Saturday night's event...

Georges St. Pierre (-500) vs. Josh Koscheck (+300)

Right away I'll say it: these odds are ridiculous. Koscheck is the toughest challenge GSP has faced since...well, since the last time he faced Koscheck. In that meeting, GSP came in as a -250 favorite. He won that fight via decision, but really, now the odds have doubled? If you're curious, in pegging Koscheck a 3-1 underdog oddsmakers are essentially saying he has a better chance than Dan Hardy (+450), but not quite as good a chance as Thiago Alves (+220). Personally, I think Koscheck's wrestling ability and punching power gives him a better chance than both those guys.
My pick: In straight-up picks, I'll take GSP. But at 3-1, the value on Koscheck is surprisingly good. The riverboat gambler in me can't resist, even if the sober accountant in me is scared to death.

Stefan Struve (-150) vs. Sean McCorkle (+120)

There are so many intangibles to account for in this fight that it makes my head hurt. Struve is younger, but has more quality experience. McCorkle is the shorter of the two big men, but probably the stronger one. Struve is the better striker, but McCorkle probably has the superior ground game. See? I'm dizzy already.
My pick: McCorkle. If he can't get Struve down he'll be in major trouble, but I think he can and will. The line on it is good enough to justify small action.

Jim Miller (even) vs. Charles Oliveira (-130)

Of all the main card bouts, this one is the toughest to call. Both these guys have great jiu-jitsu, with Miller probably being the better wrestler and Oliveira the more dynamic striker. So where does that leave us? Hard to say, though I agree that Oliveira deserves to be a slight favorite, if only because he's more likely to pull out a finish and remove those wacky judges from the equation.
My pick: No bet. It's too even and the odds don't make it worth the risk. If you put a gun to my head though, I'd take Oliveira. Then I would call 911. Because why are you running around putting guns to people's heads, you psycho?

Joe Stevenson (-325) vs. Mac Danzig (+250)

Both Stevenson and Danzig have hit some hard times lately, though the difference in the line is probably a consequence of the fact that Stevenson has been losing to quality competition, whereas Danzig has lost to several middle-of-the-packers. Danzig is still a tough, capable fighter, and he has to realize what's at stake for him in this fight, but it's hard for me to see him beating Stevenson.
My pick: Stevenson. Obviously, the ridiculous odds make it a bad bet, but I might consider wrapping it up in a parlay with Oliveira and McCorkle.

Thiago Alves (-280) vs. John Howard (+220)

As hard as I tried, I couldn't find any online bookmaker offering odds on whether Alves will make weight. His new dietician, Mike Dolce, assures me it won't be an issue this time, but with Alves' history I'm choosing to take a Ronald Reagan-esque 'trust, but verify' stance on it. Anyway, once both guys are in the cage and hydrated, the edge has to go to Alves. He's the better, more explosive striker, and he's got his back against the wall in this fight. I think he knocks Howard out, and I'd be surprised if it goes past the second round.
My pick: Alves. It might be a safer parlay choice than Stevenson, actually. Assuming everything goes according to the plan on the scales, that is.

Quick picks:

- Ricardo Almeida (-170) over T.J. Grant (+140). The "Big Dog" had a bad night against Matt Hughes, but Grant is no Hughes.

- Dustin Hazelett (-105) over Mark Bocek (-125). Provided the weight cut doesn't kill him, Hazelett has the superior ground game and should win what will essentially be a grappling match with gloves on.

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