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UFC 143: By the Odds

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Super Bowl may offer more crazy betting opportunities for compulsive gamblers -- seriously, if you bet on the coin toss, check yourself into some sort of program immediately -- but UFC 143 has no shortage of juicy betting lines for the sporting man or woman. What do you say we examine a few and talk about how we’d spend someone else’s hypothetical money on them?

Nick Diaz (-225) vs. Carlos Condit (+175)

Personally, I’m a little disappointed at the general lack of Nick Diaz-related prop bets this week. Why should the Super Bowl get all the ridiculous betting fun? After all, betting on a Diaz fight is relatively boring when compared to betting on a Diaz press conference or weigh-in. For instance, odds Diaz will make it to today’s pre-fight presser: -160. Odds he’ll give at least one awkward, rambling answer that makes other fighters on the dais visibly uncomfortable: -500. Odds he’ll accidentally smile during any of his face-offs with Condit: +1200. Sadly, no one with the ability or willingness to actually take these bets is offering them, so we’ll have to settle for betting on what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning Super Bowl coach (I got a sawbuck says it’s orange). As for the fight itself, is it really possible that Diaz is this much better than Condit?

The answer is: not really, but enough people seem to think so. Most of the lines for this fight started out in the -105 to -150 range, with at least one online bookmaker even pegging Condit an early favorite, if only just slightly. Then the money started coming in on Diaz, who has the more passionate, loyal fanbase, and things quickly got out of hand. What’s really working in Diaz’s favor here is the fact that the fight is a five-rounder. Everyone who’s ever fought or even sparred with him talks about his almost supernatural ability to wear you down through sheer pace and pressure. You can even win the first and second rounds as he walks into one punch after another, but his chin and his conditioning enable him to slowly turn up the heat over the course of a fight, and many opponents simply can’t cope. Can Condit? We’ve never seem him collapse in a fight, but we’ve also never seen him against an opponent like this one. That means there are at least some doubts, whereas with Diaz you always know exactly what you’re getting, for better or worse.
My pick: Diaz. The odds are far too lopsided -- anything over 2-1 in favor of Diaz is a bad deal -- but I feel safe enough to include it in the parlay.

Fabricio Werdum (-150) vs. Roy Nelson (+120)

The Frank Mir fight taught us that Nelson can be out-wrestled. The Junior dos Santos fight showed he can be out-boxed. But can "Big Country" be out-jiu-jitsu’d? Maybe the better question is: if he can’t, what else does Werdum have to fall back on? The Brazilian has decent hands, which he demonstrated in brief spasms against Alistair Overeem between guard flops. But does he have what it takes to beat Nelson on the feet or put him in an uncomfortable position on the mat? I doubt it, just like I doubt that Werdum can take many of Nelson’s big right hands if the fight makes it into the later rounds. I don’t know if it’s his physique or just a couple of poor performances that has people undervaluing Nelson, but he’s better than he gets credit for. Werdum? Sorry, but I’m still not sold on him as a top heavyweight.
My pick: Nelson. The slight underdog line is all I need to justify small action on the one and only IFL heavyweight champ. IFL. Never. Die.

Josh Koscheck (-265) vs. Mike Pierce (+205)

Ask yourself what Pierce does better than Koscheck. Go ahead...I’ll wait. If you came up with ‘nothing,’ congratulations. Pierce is like Koscheck, only smaller, less dynamic, and not as physically imposing. Like Koscheck, he also leans heavily on his wrestling ability, only not as successfully. He lacks Koscheck’s punching power and his experience in big fights. Pierce is jumping up to a whole new level of competition here, whereas Koscheck is in something of a holding pattern. In fact, the biggest threat to Koscheck here might be the very real possibility that he’ll take Pierce too lightly and get Paulo Thiago’d all over again. You’d like to think that that would only need to happen once for you to learn your lesson, but hey, no one ever accused Koscheck of being a quick study when it comes to lessons in humility.
My pick: Koscheck. The line is probably just about right, but it’s also just about perfect for a parlay bet and nothing else.

Renan Barao (-225) vs. Scott Jorgensen (+175)

If Barao’s win over Brad Pickett didn’t make a believer out of you, it’s possible that you’re just being a stubborn jerk. This guy seems to be the real deal at 135 pounds, whereas Jorgensen seems to be one more wrestler among wrestlers. He has solid ground-and-pound, and he’s dangerous when he can get guys down and stay on top. Against Barao, I expect he’ll have trouble with both, which leaves him in a risky no-man’s land.
My pick: Barao. Another one for the parlay, but I can’t talk myself into betting on Jorgensen’s takedowns against Barao’s all-around game.

Ed Herman (-300) vs. Clifford Starks (+230)

I suppose it’s possible that Starks is ready for a fight on this level. We don’t know, because we haven’t seen enough of him yet, which is kind of the problem. Starks has fewer than ten pro fights, and none against this caliber of opponent. Herman has nearly a decade in this sport, not to mention some sneaky submissions and deceptively heavy hands. I suppose you could talk yourself into believing that the unbeaten Starks has something in the tank that Herman isn’t ready for, but you’d be basing that bet on more hope than reality.
My pick: Herman. Next stop: Parlaytown. Mayor Georges St-Pierre bids you welcome.

Quick picks:

- Matt Brown (-300) over Chris Cope (+230).
This fight feels like a way to get rid of Cope and keep Brown. My guess is it’ll accomplish both within the first or second round.

- Matt Riddle (-400) over Henry Martinez (+300). A guy who’s undersized for the division takes his first UFC fight on short notice? We’ve seen this movie before.

The ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’ Parlay:
Diaz + Koscheck + Barao + Herman + Brown + Riddle. What it lacks in exciting underdogs it makes up for with sheer, overwhelming quantity.