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UFC Fight Night 98 odds, gambling strategy

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Welcome all you MMA bettors and gambling lurkers! We're finally back after a long layoff from UFC events and now we've got a full slate ahead of us until the end of the year. Unfortunately for us, UFC Fight Night 98 isn't too exciting from a betting perspective, but the fights should be great and will serve as an excellent appetizer for the feast that will be UFC 205 next week.

Since it's been a hot minute since our last time out, let's go over the rules. This aims to be an exhaustive preview of the fights, the odds, and my own personal breakdown of where you can find betting value. The number after the odds on each fighter is the probability of victory that those odds imply. So Rafael dos Anjos at -135 means he should win the fight 57 percent of the time. If you think he wins more often than that, then you should bet it because there's gold in them thar lines.

As always, 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.

Now with all that out of the way, let's get down to business.

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Breakdown

This fight is absolute gangbusters, and the winner here is likely next in line for a lightweight title shot (unless Conor wins, in which case it's gonna be Nate Diaz).

Rafael dos Anjos is one of the premier pressure fighters in MMA today. He has great footwork and excellent defense as he backs fighters up against the cage behind a steady jab and thudding body kicks and leg kicks. He also works at a very high rate and his consistent pressure breaks opponents down.

RDA's pressure striking game is complemented by being a very good wrestler and absolute hell-demon on top. He shoots clean doubles against the fence, is a rock on top, and passes with absurd cleanliness. He's not going to go for the submission, instead opting to beat the hell out of the guy on the bottom.

Tony Ferguson's game is weird, man. It's one of those oddly dynamic styles that lacks the composite tendons of traditional greatness but man he makes it work for him. He's relentlessly aggressive, operates at an outlandish pace, and is freakin' Great White of a finisher.

He's a long striker with odd combinations and very good power. He throws sharp kicks and switches stances freely. He's also good in the clinch where his long frame allows him to rock solid elbows and knees. He also looks to create weird scrambles from there to look for his patented D'arce choke.

What Ferguson's game lacks is real defense. Like I said, his game lacks a lot of connective tissue but the one thread tying everything together is excellent durability. On the feet he is very hittable, especially in exchanges, and he can be overly ambitious with his rolls in scrambles which won't play well against a highly canny grappler.

This is one of those fights where my head says one thing and my gut says the other. On paper, I favor dos Anjos' technical superiority and consistent, process driven game. If you go back and watch Ferguson's fights, he gets tagged a lot and is often losing before pulling out some wicked offense and turning everything around on a dime. RDA's metronomic consistency is built to take advantage of dynamism-first fighters like Ferguson. Moreover, Ferguson's best weapon is his idiosyncratic, reactive submission game, and I can't see that being effective against RDA who has lost grappling exchanges with exactly one fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and the texture of that fight and the tools which Ferguson will employ are substantively different. On paper, RDA should back Ferguson up and wear him down early before transitioning to a ground and pound game later as Ferguson's over aggressive style starts to drain him over energy.

Having said all that, I cannot help but think Ferguson is going to win this. Despite his defensive deficiencies, Ferguson's dynamism is a very real threat, and I have a sneaking suspicion that RDA is on the wrong side of his athletic bell curve. I also have very real concerns about RDA leaving Kings MMA, the gym that is responsible for his transformation into a divisional juggernaut.

Ultimately, this fight feels very much like Lawler-Woodley did to me. For that fight, I chickened out so this time I won't (this is fierce confirmation bias, I'm aware). I'm picking Ferguson to get RDA out of there before the elevation becomes a problem for his balls-to-the-wall style and like him for a bet here since this is very close to a 50/50 proposition. Oh, and since I don't know where else to put this, here's a fun fact for you people who like stuff like this: former champions coming off losing their title are 22-18. Tony will make it 22-19.

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Breakdown

Diego Sanchez's run as of late has been horrid and, outside of a win against Jim Miller, it's mostly been losses and garbo wins. Joe Lauzon KOing him at UFC 200 might be the death knell for his career, though, as Sanchez has always been phenomenally durable regardless of skill depreciation. He's still an aggressive fighter, and a defensively savvy grappler, but that is about all he has left at this point.

Marcin Held is an exciting prospect to finally have in the Octagon, and at 24 years old, he still has a lot of room and time to improve. Held is primarily a grappler with one of the great equalizers in MMA, a diverse and lethal leg lock game. He's not just a leg lock man, though, as he can use them to sweep or scramble and on top he is an excellent ground and pounder.

On the feet, Held is still developing, but he's a competent combination boxer and uses his strikes to set up his takedowns fairly well. Held's biggest weakness is his aggressive style and willingness to go for broke when sometimes it would be better to just bank rounds instead of giving up his back in pursuit of rolling heel hooks.

Stylistically, this match-up actually favors Diego quite strongly, and if this was two years ago, I would say pick him but it's 2016 and you shouldn't be putting your money down on Diego Sanchez versus any above average lightweight. Honestly, not much more needs to be said other than that. The pick is Held by TKO, but don't put your money on this.

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Breakdown

Lamas not fighting B.J. Penn is one of the kinder things the MMA gods have given to us lately, as instead of what would have been a thoroughly depressing drubbing, we get a legit fight from two of the top featherweights in the world.

Ricardo Lamas is one of the foremost opportunists in MMA. He's not the most skilled man in the division, but he's well-rounded and a good athlete and, more importantly, a stone cold killer when he gets the chance. If you leave an opening for him, he's going to jump on it with the quickness. Other than that, he's a competent striker with a decent jab and a good chin but his best area is likely top position grappling where he's active on top and has never been submitted.

Charles Oliveira is an offensive dynamo with some fireworks grappling and showed some improvements in the striking in his last outing against Anthony Pettis, but still suffers from the same flaws that have plagued him forever. He's one of the very best grapplers in the UFC and having him latched on anywhere near your neck is a recipe for disaster. On the feet, Oliveira is still a wooden striker who prefers to operate in single shots, is defensively porous, and wilts under serious pressure. He also missed weight by a full weight class and is here only four weeks' notice which could portend real bad things in the Mexico City elevation.

The narrowness of the line here surprises me. In the last five years, Lamas has only lost to the very best featherweights in the world who, coincidentally, also had pretty clear athletic advantages over him. Oliveira doesn't have these edges (though he is carrying an extra 10 pounds of weight I suppose) and doesn't seem likely to get Lamas out of there. I expect Lamas to fight through whatever early offense Oliveira puts on and beat back his aggression with consistent work. Oliveira will also likely fade as it gets later on and Lamas should be able to pick up a clear decision. You should always be wary about betting on fights where a guy misses weight, especially an instance like this where Oliveira basically just said, "eff it, I'm not even gonna try," but I like Lamas for a play so long as the odds stay this close.

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Breakdown

This is a match-up between two former big-time prospects who have lost some of their luster; Dariush because he took a couple of losses and stole one from Michael Johnson and Magomedov because he has underwhelmed in his appearances.

Beneil Dariush is a developing striker who has the all the hallmarks of a Kings MMA fighter. In other words, he pressures his opponent effectively behind a steady jabs, solid footwork, and a concentrated kicking attack. But he's not great defensively, in part because he's a middling athlete.

Where Dariush excels, though, is as an elite-level grappler. When you can give jiu-jitsu tips to Fabricio Werdum, you don't suck at grappling. He's not a great wrestler, but he is a fair one and once he gets on top, he is likely staying there until the round is over or the ref steps in.

Rashid Magomedov is on the other end of the fight spectrum. He's a striker, pure and simple and a technically diverse one at that. He has excellent layered defense and uses footwork and angles to set his preferred range and dictate terms of engagement. All of this sets up strong, crisp counterpunching. It's also the reason some of the shine has come off Magomedov. He's so defensively minded it results in a lack of killer instinct and long stretches of inactivity.

This fight is looks to be a favorable stylistic match-up for Magomedov. At his core, Dariush is a pressure fighter without great wrestling or defense and Magomedov is a counter fighter with very good takedown defense. As Dariush comes forward, I expect Magomedov to counter and angle out continuously. Magomedov's refusal to put a stamp on things and Dariush's forward pressure might make things closer than they should be, but on the whole, I think Magomedov will land the cleaner, more effective blows and dictate the action. Magomedov by decision at +155 is almost worth a bet but his year-long layoff is something to keep in mind and will ultimately scare me off of any recommendation here.

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THE OTHERS

Martin Bravo (-110/52%) vs. Claudio Puelles (+100/50%)

Bravo is a tough, aggressive wrestler who is going to shoot in and grind until he can get you down. Puelles is the bigger man here with a lankier frame and a game built around kicking on the outside and smooth transitions from striking to wrestling.

Bravo is the better striker, but Bravo is probably the better wrestler and definitely scrappier. Both of these guys are pretty good prospects but considering their relative inexperience I'll side with the scrappier fighter and say Bravo by decision. As always though, don't bet on stuff like this. No one actually knows what will happen and your money should go elsewhere.

Alexa Grasso (-525/84%) vs. Heather Jo Clark (+450/18%)

Grasso is a very good athlete and technically sound beyond her 23 years of age. She is a sharp boxer with good combinations and power, and works at a very high pace. She's also strong in the clinch and a plus defensive wrestler. Clark is also a pretty good athlete but she is far less technically sound on the feet, especially defensively. She is a gamer though and will be in there until the end.

Clark already fought this fight once before when she lost to Karolina Kowalkiewicz and this fight should look very similar. Grasso is going to overwhelm Clark with a ton of volume and better technique. I like Grasso to win, but there's just not enough meat on the bone here to bet these odds.

Erik Perez (-210/68%) vs. Felipe Arantes (+190/34%)

Erik Perez is a tough, aggressive, well-rounded fighter with good pop in his hands who blends grappling and striking pretty well. He does get a bit brawl-y though and as a result he's hittable which almost cost him in his last fight with Francisco Rivera. Arantes is an aggressive, opportunistic fighter that is often to his own detriment. He works a good high-volume yet powerful kickboxing game and he's active off of his back but he's not a good wrestler and he is far too content to stay on his back.

This feels like a pretty clear fight for Perez to win. Both guys are aggressive but Perez is the more disciplined fighter. Moreover, this fight looks like it will almost certainly end up with Perez on top and Arantes fishing fruitlessly for a submission while he gets pounded from on top. Perez by decision is the pick and betting that at +140 is not a bad idea.

Marco Beltran (-115/53%) vs. Joe Soto (+105/49%)

Beltran is primarily a striker who wants to keep a good range and work in combination. He's a bad wrestler though and his footwork is still developing. Soto is a well-rounded fighter with a pretty good takedown game, solid grappling, and crisp striking. The problem for Soto is that he's small for the division and doesn't have the best chin.

This is a weird fight because Soto is better in just about every area, but he's coming in on short notice and he's going to navigate a five-inch reach disadvantage. Still he's a much better wrestler and grappler and Beltran is still not there yet in those departments. I'll take Soto to win the fight but, as always, betting on short notice fights is a freakin' crapshoot, doubly so when factoring in the Mexico City elevation. If Soto creeps up to an even bigger dog, then maybe take a flyer on him but at barely plus money I don't like a bet here.

Erick Montano (+125/44%) vs. Max Griffin (-135/57%)

Montano is a decent boxer and wrestler who uses awkward, shifting movements to throw his opponents off guard. He's not a super athlete but he is scrappy as hell which is a good trait to have in your underdogs. Griffin is a strong man with pretty good movement on the feet and big power in his strikes but he isn't a good grappler.

This is a tough fight to call because of the large holes in both of their games. If it stays on the feet, Griffin is going to land the harder punches and despite Griffin not having a good takedown defense, he's such a superior athlete that he likely can get it back to the feet. Like I said, Montano is scrappy so maybe that gets him by a very limited fighter here but I favor Griffin to take the fight. But if it wasn't clear enough from the flimsy analysis, I'm not super-confident in this fight and would never suggest a wager here.

Henry Briones (+135/43%) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (-155/61%)

Henry Briones is a solid boxer with a game built around his consistent, stinging jab and good movement. He's a competent grappler, but if he's on the floor he's not winning the round. Andrade is a fantastic athlete with very little technique as a result of being self-taught for most of his career. His game is mostly built around power punches and kicks.

All things considered, this fight is a coin flip to me. Andrade is the less skill but better athlete and Briones is the worse athlete but more skilled. I will pick Andrade to win based on youth and athleticism, but I like a value bet on Briones here. The X-factor is that both of these guys are coming off 18-plus month layoffs and I am always wary about betting on fights with long layoff fighters. Still, this is a 50/50 fight so the free points on Briones is worthwhile.

Sam Alvey (-205/67%) vs. Alex Nicholson (+190/34%)

Alvey is a counterpunching southpaw with legit power and average grappling and clinch skills. Nicholson is a tough-as-nails brawler who jumps in and throws weird hammers at a good clip.

This fight appears to be an either-or bout; either Sam Alvey lands the punch and knocks Nicholson out, or Alvey's low output loses him a decision to the brawling Nicholson. Though Nicholson has proven highly durable, the former seems far more likely as his devil-may-care attitude towards defense leaves him open for Alvey's counters. Considering all this, going small on Alvey by KO/TKO at +120 is not a bad bet.

Marco Polo Reyes (-165/62%) vs. Jason Novelli (+155/39%)

Reyes is a decent striker who often forgets that in favor of interior brawling which isn't always to his favor. He does have power and toughness which help him survive in these moments though and he's a good clinch fighter as well. Novelli is a big dude who can use his length to stay outside but can also mix it up in close range as well.

Honestly, I'm not really sure how this one will play out, but I favor Reyes' power and toughness to eke out a decision in what will turn into a brawl in close. As the line sits, I don't see any value here and wouldn't feel confident with any bet.

Enrique Barzola (-525/84%) vs. Chris Avila (+450/18%)

Barzola is a developing striker with a sharp jab and decent counter punching. He's also a good, explosive wrestler with a solid top game. Avila is a fair boxer who prefers to work at range but he is often reticent to throw and has low defensive skills. A training partner of the Diaz brothers, his game resembles Nate Diaz without years of experience or the underlying craft. All of this is to say that Avila lost to Artem Lobov who is on the fringes of the UFC talent pool. Barzola should win this one pretty cleanly. That being said, the odds here are out of whack for fighters as young as this and you shouldn't bet on this one.

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And that's everything for tonight y'all. Enjoy the fights, 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.)