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UFC on FUEL: By the Odds

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC on FUEL is only a day away, and it brings with it the opportunity to do some reckless mid-week fight wagering. It’s one of those pleasantly weird feelings, sort of like having breakfast for dinner. Except that, with sports gambling, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up broke and in tears before it’s all over. Actually, that happens when I have breakfast for dinner, too. Nevermind, they’re exactly the same.

So how do oddsmakers see it all going down in Omaha on Wednesday night, and where might they be asking for trouble? I’m so glad you asked...

Diego Sanchez (+300) vs. Jake Ellenberger (-400)

Forgive me for being so blunt, but are you kidding me with this? 4-1 for Ellenberger? Seriously? Look, I get that he’s the favorite, and for good reason. The man has some serious skills, as wins over the likes of Jake Shields and Mike Pyle suggest. But aren’t we getting just a little carried away here?

On the flip side, let’s look at Sanchez. On paper, he’s riding a two-fight win streak. Personally, I thought the decision in his fight with Martin Kampmann should have gone the other way, but you can’t say he didn’t prove something about his durability there. Before that, he pretty much trounced Paulo Thiago. And before that, well, he went through some rough times, okay? The point is, when Sanchez has his act together, he can beat top welterweights. Even when he can’t, he’s tough enough to hang around and at least make it a nail-biter down the stretch. For that reason alone you can’t count him out. Should Ellenberger win this? Absolutely. Is it going to be easy? No way.
My pick: Sanchez. Sorry, but I can’t resist an underdog who somehow finds a way to win as often as he does. I’d keep the action small, because, c’mon, Ellenberger should win. But you’re a risk-taker, right? RIGHT?!

Stefan Struve (+125) vs. Dave Herman (-155)

Herman has been full of surprises lately. From beating up John-Olav Einemo in his UFC debut, to his ‘I can’t say I’m not around it’ defense for a positive test for marijuana, to showing up in Omaha looking like a member of Bon Iver’s entourage, he’s kept us guessing. The question in a fight against Struve, as always, is whether he’ll figure out a way to get inside the Dutchman’s gangly reach and do some damage. Struve is the rare heavyweight who can submit people off his back (although Herman doubts that jiu-jitsu even works) and knock them out on the feet. Trouble is, he’s also got an increasingly suspect chin, and that’s one of those things that doesn’t often improve over time. Can Herman -- who is not exactly a small dude himself -- get in there close enough to test that chin? I think he can, and I have serious doubts that Struve can pass such a test right now.
My pick: Herman. You could go broke trying to bet on what he’ll do or say next outside of the cage, but I feel pretty safe with him in my parlay.

Ronny Markes (-115) vs. Aaron Simpson (-115)

I still don’t know what to make of Simpson. He beats all the guys who aren’t quite good enough for the UFC -- your Eric Schafers, your Mario Mirandas -- but tends to struggle against the even slightly tougher competition. At 37 years old, it’s hard to think that he’s on an upward trajectory, but maybe he’s just another one of those wrestlers who peaks late and goes on forever. In Markes, he faces a much younger prospect who’s got some hype behind him, but relatively little to show for it so far. Will Simpson outwrestle him en route to another decision, or will Markes start living up to his potential? Oddsmakers don’t seem to know, and they don’t think you know either. But instead of giving us even odds and calling it a toss-up, they’re going to make you pay for the privilege of taking a shot in the dark on this one. Are you dumb enough to reward them for it?
My pick: Nobody. It’s not financially sound, and it’s hard to get fired up in either direction. Leave this one alone and buy your girlfriend something nice. No girlfriend? Then buy a fish for your apartment. It’ll give you someone to talk to.

Stipe Miocic (-400) vs. Phillip De Fries (+300)

If there’s any fight on the main card that deserves 4-1 odds, it’s this one. Miocic is a former college wrestler and Golden Gloves champ. De Fries is a submissions specialist who probably lacks the ability to force a fight to the ground, or the striking ability to win one on the feet. In other words, Miocic should run through him, if he fights up to his own potential. If there’s one knock on Miocic so far, it’s that, as his own coach has said, he sometimes fights down to his level of competition. Maybe being undefeated has left him without the appropriate sense of urgency, or maybe he’s just not quite as good as some people want to think he is. Either way, this would seem to be his fight to lose, and I doubt he will.
My pick: Miocic. Let’s stick it in the parlay and then never give it another thought, shall we?

Walel Watson (+210) vs. T.J. Dillashaw (-280)

I’m trying my best, but I can’t figure out why Dillashaw is this heavy a favorite over Watson. You might remember Watson from his very close fight with Yves Jabouin at UFC 140 -- a decision he lost by the slimmest of margins. Dillashaw had a good run on this past season of TUF, but his loss in the finals gave us reason to question his chin, and his inexperience at this level should be worrisome to anyone who thinks he’s worth nearly 3-1 odds. Do oddsmakers know something I don’t know? Is Watson going to be stabbed by an evil emperor backstage just before going out to fight? Can we really know that much about Dillashaw after a handful of TUF fights and a quick loss in the finale? I don’t know, but something isn’t adding up here.
My pick: Watson. I admit, if it was +130 for Dillashaw, I’d take him. But he seems way overvalued, and I wouldn’t rule out Watson’s ability to use his height and range to pull off an upset.

Quick picks:

- Ivan Menjivar (-235) over John Albert (+175).
Menjivar’s a bad man who’s been around the block a few times. He’ll make a fine addition to the parlay.

- Justin Salas (-140) over Anton Kuivanen (+110).
Solid wrestling skills and sharp hands make Salas a good bet over the European import.

The ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’ Parlay: Herman + Miocic + Menjivar + Salas