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UFC Fight Night 96 odds, gambling strategy guide

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Hello prospective MMA bettors! We are almost done with this long slog of fight weekends but not quite yet. This weekend we've got another UFC card so that means we're back at it again with another gambling preview of the fights, the odds, and my own personal breakdown of where the value lies. For each fight, I'm going to break down the fight as I see and tell you if I think there is a worthwhile bet. I'll also give you what I think is the best bet available for a fight even if I don't support a bet, just for those of you who are really looking to liven up your evenings.

For those new here, the number after the odds on each fighter is the percentage probability of victory that those odds imply. So Lineker at +110 means he should win the fight about 47% of the time. If you think he wins more the fight more often than that, then you should bet it because there is value in the line.

As always, all stats come from FightMetric and all the odds are from Best Fight Odds. Net Value means how much money you would have made if you bet $100 on that fighter in every one of his/her fights that odds could be found for and I calculate that using the closing odds for each fight. Doubly as always, I'm trying to provide the most thorough guide I can for those who want to legally bet or who just enjoy following along. If you are a person who chooses to gamble, only do so legally, responsibly, and at your own risk.

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Breakdown

John Lineker is a tiny man who hits extremely hard and is very bad about making weight, thus hurting his full potential. John Dodson is also a tiny man who hits extremely hard and is extremely bad about fighting to his full potential, though his weight isn't an issue. Needless to say, this fight should be one heck of a knuckleduster.

Lineker's game is built entirely around his pressure footwork, adamantium chin, and big power combinations. He forces opponents back up against the cage and unleashes hellacious combinations of body head strikes until the opponent falls over unconscious. He is more than willing to take five to land one with the idea that his one will hurt you more than your five hurt him. He has so far been correct as Lineker is showcasing one of the best chins in MMA history up to this point in his career. Michael MacDonald, one of the biggest hitters at 135, landed flush on Lineker multiple times and it dinged of his cranium like rain on a windshield. He compliments this by being tough to take down and having a relentless pace.

Dodson is one of the best pure athletes in MMA and was the fastest fighter at flyweight. Moving up to 135 pounds makes him that much quicker than all of his opponents and his power has carried with him as well. That's because Dodson is, with perhaps the exception of Anthony Johnson, the pound-for-pound hardest hitter in MMA. Lineker throws hard punches in combination that thud and make you hate yourself and fall over. Dodson throws individual strikes that don't make you hate anything, they make you unconscious.

But Dodson's hyper-athleticism and power are a double-edged sword. "The Magician" often appears disinterested or confoundingly inactive, relying on his natural skills to eventually manifest themselves in a win. Dodson has the speed, technique, and skill to beat anyone at 135 lbs. and below, but his suspect cardio and poor decision-making have cost him time and again.

Until Lineker missed weight, I felt very good about him winning this fight because his consistent style is more reliable than Dodson's mercurial nature and Dodson's other-worldly power doesn't seem capable of penetrating the cast iron jaw of Lineker. Now I am less sure because missing weight always throws fights into chaos. This is the fifth time Lineker has missed weight and he is 3-1 in those other outings though so I think Lineker still seems like the way to go.

If Dodson can fight a disciplined outside game for 20 - 25 minutes where he uses his quickness and movement to stay on the outside and stick and move, then he can absolutely win. Also if he goes for reactive takedowns as Lineker comes forward, that could win him rounds and break the pace of the fight effectively for him. Unfortunately, I don't think he can stay disciplined for the full fight. I foresee Dodson keeping the fight at range at first but as he starts to land on Lineker (which he will) he will start staying in the interior for more exchanges because he thinks he is winning. That will be his downfall as slowly but surely, Lineker begins landing more and Dodson begins fading. I like Lineker to win the later rounds as the fight looks progressively one-sided down the stretch with a possibility for a late Lineker stoppage. I had intended to suggest a bet here, but you should never bet on a fighter who misses weight.

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Breakdown

Will Brooks is elite in just about every facet of MMA. He is athletic and quick with sharp, technical striking out of both stances. He's very good at range where his kicking acumen and movement allow him to dictate the terms of engagement and he can pick his spots to move in and out with punching combinations. He's a good clinch fighter with strong knees but can be controlled by more powerful fighters there. He's a strong wrestler as well, defensively tough to take down and offensively surprisingly effective with both shot takedowns and trips from tie ups.

Alex Oliveira is a top-shelf athlete with developing skills. His strikes pack big power and he is fast and accurate with them, throwing in combination. He is also a powerful kicker and decent counter puncher. Still, on the feet he can get a bit loose with his defense which needs to be improved. In the clinch he can use his massive physical gifts to control and deliver strong knees. He's also an adept clinch wrestler. While not an elite grappler, he is competent on the floor and his size and strength allow him to control opponents more often than not. He's also massive for lightweight which explains his huge miss on the scales on Friday. Even as a welterweight, he was big for the division so as a lightweight he is truly enormous.

Brooks is the definition of "jack of all trades, master of none" and in MMA that can often be exactly what you want to be. The problem for Brooks is that while he excels everywhere, he isn't a dangerous fighter in the sense that he poses very little threat of getting a stoppage, especially over three rounds. I expect Brooks to secure the victory here behind a crisper striking game with more fundamentally sound defense. I'm a big fan of betting Brooks by decision at -125 with an Oliveira straight hedge for an almost guaranteed winner.

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Breakdown

Hacran Dias versus Andre Fili is an interesting fight between two former prospects who need wins to get back on some semblance of a top tier track. Dias is a Nova Uniao fighter and he looks a lot like a Jose Aldo if Aldo had all EA UFC levels decreased dramatically and his aggression meter gotten rid of entirely. He has very good takedown defense and an excellent ability to pop back up. He throws clean, straight punches with power and he has a vicious low kicking game. He's also an underrated takedown artist with a good controlling top game. Dias' biggest problem is his complete lack of urgency. He throws very little volume and as a result gives away rounds and fights he could win.

Fili is the opposite. Most of Fili's issues stem from a recklessness which provide his opponents with far too many opportunities for capitalize. Like Dias, Fili has skills in every facet of the game, at least offensively. He throws good combinations, has strong kicks, and is a solid offensive wrestler. Most importantly, he throws a lot of volume which is the best way to win rounds and fights. However, his defense is lacking on the feet as is his takedown defense.

This is a tough fight to call and it basically come down to how much offense Dias attempts to effectuate. If Dias decides to take advantage of the numerous openings Fili gives him, or at the least implement his takedown game, Fili could be in trouble. Still, I'm much more comfortable betting on the guy I know will be putting volume out there so I will pick Fili's aggression to win the day over Dias' conservative approach. If you need action, the bet would be Fili straight at plus money and with Dias missing weight, I don't hate making that bet.

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Breakdown

But for C.B. Dollaway making a reckless error and charging in behind his chin, Nate Marquardt would probably be out of the UFC right now. At one time, one of the top middleweights in the world, Marquardt has dropped off precipitously, losing six of his last eight with one of those wins being the Dollaway fight in which he was getting beaten soundly before pulling out a comeback KO. Though he still has skill in all areas, Marquardt's chin is Cheshire Cat faded and his inconsistency, a career long problem, has manifested itself even more so as of late. The one true plus he still has going for him is big knockout power and the general technical acumen to land it on reckless fighters.

Tamdan McCrory is an awkward, aggressive fighter who is huge for the division. He likes to come forward behind punching combinations and work his way into the clinch where he can use his frame to unbalance his opponents and get the fight to the mat. The ground is his real happy place where he is a tenacious submission grappler and sharp ground and pounder. On the feet, he isn't very sharp defensively and his KO at the hands of Krzysztof Jotko is a bit concerning.

The reality is that Marquardt is on a sharp athletic decline and shouldn't really be fighting anymore, nor does it really appear that he wants to be. He often looks disengaged or uninterested and that's not a good combination against the aggression and size advantage McCrory is bringing to the table here. McCrory can definitely get reckless as he punches his way into the clinch so there is always the chance that Nate hits the same big punch that blanked Dollaway but aside from that, this should be McCrory's to lose. That being said, McCrory's quick turnaround has me spooked and I wouldn't feel comfortable with a bet here. If you are going to be though, McCrory straight with a hedge on Marquardt by KO/TKO is pretty sound.

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THE OTHERS

Josh Burkman (-245/71.01%) vs. Zak Ottow (+205/32.79%)

Josh Burkman is a good, well-rounded fighter who can mix it up on the feet or with his wrestling game. He has sharp boxing and kicks, throws from either stance, and carries real power in his strikes. He's also defensively savvy, using head movement to great effect. He is a sound wrestler both offensively and defensively, with a good power double as well as single leg variations. He rounds his game out with solid top position work and sneaky scrambling proficiency.

Zak Ottow is primarily a grappler with a rudimentary standup game mostly reliant on having some natural power. He prefers to operate from top position and gets there with an array of trips from clinch tie-ups. Once on top, he's an aggressive submission threat with good passing and top control.

Burkman is the quintessential well-rounded veteran and this fight is his to lose. Ottow is coming in on short notice and his best skill set isn't likely to factor in much here. I expect Burkman to keep the fight standing and piece Ottow up with crisper, more technical striking. Burkman is honestly a little undervalued but this is a short-notice fight and you should never bet on these.

Louis Smolka (-470/82.45%) vs. Brandon Moreno (+375/21.05%)

Louis Smolka is a large flyweight with a developing striking game and a top-shelf ground game. On the feet, he is building an arsenal of kicks which help him take advantage of his big frame and he operates at a high pace. In the clinch, he uses his length well to work knees, trips, and throws. Once on the mat, Smolka is a monster from top position with heavy passes and even heavier ground striking. He's also an excellent scrambler.

Moreno is another fighter coming in on short notice though one with more promise. Moreno is very young and a good sized flyweight in his own right. His game is built around his boxing which is sharp and technical. He prefers to work in close where his uppercuts and proficiency in exchanges can work to his benefit. The rest of his game is still developing though and that isn't where you want to be against a fighter the caliber of Smolka.

Smolka should win this one walking away. Moreno wants to get in close to work and there, Smolka can force tie-ups and take this fight to the ground. Once there, he has a massive advantage and should be able to make short work of the debuting Moreno. Again, don't bet on short-notice fights or fights with debuting fighters so you should pass here. But if you really want some action, Smolka inside the distance is -185.

Luis Henrique da Silva (-125/55.56%) vs. Joachim Christensen (+105/48.78%)

Luis Henrique da Silva is an aggressive, stalking fighter with good power who excels in the clinch. He's also got a good kicking game but he is overly reliant on his chin rather than fundamental defense. Joachim Christensen is equally defensively limited but has a better technical boxing game and excellent size for the division.

Both men are defensive liabilities, but there is a reason Henrique da Silva is called Frankenstein, and that's because he is tougher than a $2 steak. At range, he can hold his own, and in the interior, I expect he strong clinch and knee game to win the day here. I like da Silva to win the bout, but I wouldn't bet on it because this is basically low level heavyweight MMA. If you want action though, da Silva at -125 is where to go.

Walt Harris (+105/48.78%) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (-125/55.56%)

Walt Harris is a big ol' southpaw who throws with big power, but that's really about all he's bringing to the table. He throws a decent jab but his boxing defense isn't great and he has questionable durability for the heavyweight division. Shamil Abdurakhimov is also a striker with slightly better boxing which he supplements with a decent kicking game. Unlike Harris, Abdurakhimov is also a solid clinch fighter and fair wrestler.

I'm just not sold on Walt Harris. Despite being an athletic dude, he has mostly fallen short on the biggest stage and was even losing to Cody East before landing a big shot to turn the tide. He also doesn't throw in combination and doesn't really maximize his speed. I expect Abdurakhimov to get the better of exchanges at range, and even if he is losing there, Abdurakhimov has a very viable secondary line of attack. This is low level heavyweight MMA and even though Abdurakhimov should be a bigger favorite here, betting on heavyweight MMA is not the best decision. If want some action here though, Dagestani Knuckle Game Cartel straight is the way to go.

Keita Nakamura (-115/53.49%) vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (-105/51.22%)

Keita Nakamura is a dynamite grappler who thrives in the in-between spaces, transitions, and scrambles, adept at sneaking to the back given the slightest opening. He's a developing striker who is mostly more tough than good but he is extremely tough and will continue to press forward. In contrast, Elizeu Zaleski is a large striker with power and strong combinations. He's also an adept kicker. He's not much of a grappler though and he has subpar wrestling defense.

Nakamura isn't a great wrestler but he's proven to be effective at finding was to get the fight into his wheelhouse and that's what I expect to happen here. If it stays on the feet, Zaleski will box Nakamura's ears but his suspect takedown defense will cost him and once it hits the floor, Nakamura is miles beyond Zaleski. I have to admit here I don't feel very confident in this pick, because I have an odd feeling that my read on it might not be as good as I think, but betting Nakamura straight at -115 doesn't seem awful. Also, Nakamura by sub at +200 is fairly enticing.

Jonathan Wilson (+155/39.22%) vs. Ion Cutelaba (-175/63.64%)

Ion Cutelaba is a powerful, athletic light heavyweight who throw winging overhands and likes to come forward. He's also extremely strong in the clinch. However, he's also defensively porous and relies on his chin (which is good) far too much. Jonathan Wilson is an athletic striker who moves fairly well, mixes his levels, and works at an extremely high pace. He's also not great defensively and his cardio isn't as high as you would expect for a guy who works at the rate he does.

If it stays at range, Wilson is a bit cleaner of a striker but Cutelaba is more durable and can keep fighting hard for a full 15 minutes. Cutelaba has a significant clinch advantage though, being the more physically powerful man as well as being a strong clinch grappler, whereas Wilson has shown to be controllable in tie ups. I expect Cutelaba's durability, cardio, and clinch work to wear Wilson down and win him the fight. The odds are close to right but a little soft on Cutelaba who should probably be in the -180 range. Having said that, there are better options to bet on this card but backing Cutelaba isn't bad.

Cody East (+200/33.33%) vs. Curtis Blaydes (-240/70.59%)

Cody East vs. Curtis Blaydes is a fight between rising heavyweight prospects who suffered losses in their UFC debut and the loser here may well get his walking papers. East is a striker with good power and who is quick for the division. He throws in combination, has a snapping front kick that he uses to good effect, and he keeps a high pace which is often good but can drain his suspect cardio. Blaydes is a former JUCO national champion wrestler with an excellent power double and good finishing variations to his entries. While still raw on the feet, he has good low kicks and has shown a decent chin, surviving shots from Francis Ngannou and rallying successfully.

Though Blaydes is still a very green fighter, this fight should be his to lose. East was a high school wrestler, and is decent at defending the first level of a takedown, but Blaydes has shown the ability to adapt and chain trips and that should be enough to get East down. On the mat, Blaydes has good top control and East probably won't be able to consistently get back to the feet. Moreover, East has suspect cardio and Blaydes forcing him to grapple is sure to wear him down. The pick is Blaydes by late TKO. This is low level heavyweight MMA so don't feel good betting it but if you want some action, the over 1.5 rounds at -110 isn't a bit enticing as both men have proven to be pretty durable.

Kelly Faszholz (-120/54.55%) vs. Ketlen Vieira (+100/50%)

Ketlen Vieira has a 6-0 record but the combined record of her opposition is 6-12, with two of those wins against debuting fighters, two of them against flyweights, and one against a strawweight. Kelly Faszholz will be by far the best opponent Vieira has ever faced, holding her own with tough veteran Lauren Murphy in her last bout.

Both women prefer to strike and both aren't terribly defensive. Vieira prefers to work at range behind her inconsistent jab whereas Faszholz wants to come forward and get herself into the clinch. Faszholz has also shown a bit more diversity, willing to mix her levels and attack the body. I'll pick Faszholz to win a fun decision based on a bit cleaner of a game and her clinch superiority but both fighters are green and this isn't something you should feel confident with a bet on. If you must bet it though, Faszholz straight is my suggestion.

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And that's all for this week. I went on Daniel Levi's podcast this week to break down the fights so here is audio for those who would like that.

Enjoy the fights everyone. Good luck to those who need it and if you've got any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew

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(Editor's note: All this advice is for entertainment purposes only.)