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The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale odds, gambling guide

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UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson vs. Tim Elliott and all the rest of the fights this weekend get a comprehensive gambling breakdown.

Welcome MMA bettors, speculators, and gambling lurkers! Back at it again for another week of comprehensive gambling analysis from your friends at MMAFighting.com. This weekend, we have the pound-for-pound king defending his flyweight championship against the most recent TUF winner as well as what presumes to be a No. 1 contender match in the co-main event spot. The undercard is a bit sparse, but I'll try and hunt up some value for you fine people anyway.

For those of you who are new here or those who have forgot, 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 Johnson at -840 means he should win the fight 89 percent of the time). If you think he wins more often than the odds say, you should bet it because there's value there.

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.

Now with all that out of the way, let's rock.

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Breakdown

Look, I like Tim Elliott. Actually, I like him a lot and think he absolutely deserves to be in the UFC and probably should have been the No. 1 seed in the TUF house; he's definitely the guy from TUF with the best chance to upend Demetrious Johnson's historic run (maybe DJ gets lazy and Elliott could snatch a neck in transition) but there is just no way he wins this fight. We all knew this when the whole thing was announced months ago and despite Elliott's improvement on the show, we all still know the truth of it now.

Elliott is basically a poor man's Dominick Cruz and it's pretty obvious he based a lot of striking and footwork off of Cruz (or I suppose Jersey Joe Walcott, though I'm going to assume it's Cruz). He keeps his arms low and uses body movement and shifting steps to create angles to open up strikes and takedown opportunities. Unlike Cruz though, he's not the same level of athlete and he doesn't have the same level of craft so he's there to be hit much more and a consistent jab often finds a home on his jaw.

Elliott's best skill is his grappling. He's not a great defensive wrestler, but he's a deceptively good offensive wrestler in part because of his footwork and the timing on his takedowns. He's fairly solid at controlling on top but where he really excels is in scrambles where he can grab things and latch on for finishes.

All of those are great and wonderful things, but they amount to approximately jack-all when going up against the best fighter in MMA and one of the best fighters in history. I've been on this hill for a while, and I'll happily die defending it, but in the nebulous world of "pound-for-pound" I would put DJ at the top even if Jon Jones didn't have a disastrous self-sabotaging streak. I would argue he is already in the top 5 fighters of all time with a clear avenue towards taking the GOAT title from Georges St-Pierre.

Not to gush, but Johnson has almost no weaknesses individually and he's the best in the sport at blending attacks and operating in the between stages of fighting that separate the all-time greats from the super elite. He's a pressure fighter at heart, with really sharp footwork and superior shifting steps than the ones Elliott uses. He is lightning quick and packs surprising power in his punches which he throws in combination before moving out on angles or punching his way into the clinch.

In the clinch, Johnson is an effing monster. Henry Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. That's a dude who has spent a lifetime clinched up with the strongest, most impressive grapplers in the world and came out the better of them en route to accomplishing one of the toughest things in sport. He lasted all of two minutes in the clinch with Mighty Mouse. You could write a book on all the things DJ does there, but in the interest of brevity let's just say he has an incredible variety of subtle controls that allow him create the positions and angles he wants to bash his opponents with strikes or change levels for a takedown. Unsurprisingly, Johnson is also an outstanding wrestler and a certified hellion on top having become increasingly more brutal with his ground and pound and an authoritative finisher of submissions.

Like I said, I really like Tim Elliott but he has approximately a snowball's chance here. He is basically a worse version of the Dominick Cruz DJ barely lost to in 2011, and Mighty Mouse has gotten so astronomically better since then I would be absolutely flabbergasted if he lost. Elliott is too hittable on the feet, not a good enough wrestler, and miles behind Johnson in the clinch. This should be all one-way traffic for the champion here and I like him to get a TKO sometime in the third round. Having said all of this, don't bet the house here since there is so little meat on this bone. If you want to bet it straight anyway I don't hate that since I think DJ wins 95% of the time (and free value is free value) but I also like the under 4.5 rounds at -130 for a bet.

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Breakdown

Joseph Benavidez can do everything and do it all at extremely high levels of proficiency. He's a sharp combination striker and since he is back to working full time with Duane Ludwig he's cleaned up some of his technical problems and picked up his volume. He mixes his strikes well, can counter or lead, and has good power especially for the division. He's also a good wrestler (though perhaps a bit overrated), but he's an outstanding scrambler and extremely difficult to control. He's lethal in those scrambles with the trademark neck attacks befitting his Team Alpha Male lineage.

Henry Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist wrestler and that should tell you just about all you need to know about his wrestling game - it's hot fire. He's got it all on the mat but, slightly paradoxically, he rarely chooses to go this route, instead preferring to work his striking game which is developing but limited. On the feet, you can see the bones of a striking game that may come to fruition but mostly you just see his tremendous physical talents manifest themselves positively against overmatched competition. There isn't a ton of variety but there is consistency and volume which counts for something. Lastly, Cejudo is a great clinch fighter (even though he got sh*t-housed by DJ there) and should he get there with Benavidez we should assume he'll be able to win those exchanges.

Let's get down to brass tacks, the odds here are off. Benavidez should likely be the favorite here due to his experience and slightly higher craft, but he shouldn't be this big of a favorite. Cejudo is much younger in fight years and steadily improving and Benavidez is showing early signs of having moved past his peak. My biggest question for this bout is how does Cejudo look after that loss to Johnson and will he actually use his wrestling? If he does, Cejudo should be able to take Benavidez down (Makovsky did it a bunch) and can bank some points to take a decision. If he doesn't Benavidez's trickier movement and consistent power punches will probably edge it out on the cards. Either way, the odds are off and so betting Cejudo is a good idea. I'm actually going to bank on Cejudo's improvements versus Benavidez's slight drop off and pick the Olympian to win a very narrow decision, and I like him for a straight bet.

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Breakdown

Jake Ellenberger is an enigma. He blends some of the hardest punching in the division with a powerful and explosive wrestling game backed by dynamite athleticism, or at least he does when his head is in the game but that's a huge "if." For the most part, Ellenberger has shown a complete lack of urgency in the cage and you can't win fights without at least attempting to land punches, something he has been largely averse to doing the last few years. The lack of urgency has seen him lose far more than win recently and he'll need to move past that if he wants to pick up a win here.

Jorge Masvidal is a great counter fighter with good power who can operate at all ranges. He has sneaky ways to hurt incoming opponents and possesses a diverse array of attacks on the feet. He's also got an offensive wrestling game that's better than average and his timing on single legs is tricky enough to be successful. And let's not forget that Masvidal is a very good grappler who tapped Michael Chiesa (which ain't nothing to sneeze at) and he's got above average ground and pound. Masvidal's biggest weakness is a general lack of volume and a sense of operating at a level that is a mite too defensive, letting fights come to him.

Ellenberger was essentially given his walking papers from the UFC before begging for one last shot and then turning back the clock to stop Matt Brown in the first round at UFC 201. And as impressive as that win was (lord knows I love Matthew Burton Brown more than most) it did come over a guy with a clear liability (body attacks) and Ellenberger was very, very close to losing it before he won. We just don't know if that win was the start of something new or Ellenberger's last hurrah. If it's the former, then we could be in for one hell of a fight as Ellenberger's potent offense goes up against the excellent defensive acumen of Masvidal. However, it's much more likely that Ellenberger gets dissuaded early and reverts to sitting back while Masvidal pecks away and wins a slow paced decision. Masvidal is a bit of a slow starter so if Ellenberger lands the right early that might damn well be game over but I'm predicting Masvidal by decision. As for a bet, Masvidal is a slow starter who has gone to decision nine times out of 11 in the UFC so I like a bet on Masvidal by Decision at +170.

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Breakdown

Sara McMann is an Olympic silver medalist wrestler, and that's the bread and butter of her game. As you would guess, she's a superior athlete and one of the most powerful fighters in the division but aside from her wrestling she hasn't really adopted enough of a striking game to be very threatening there. It's mostly just a big right hand thrown to cover distance and get into a clinch. When she does get into clinches though, McMann is extremely powerful and stifling with her control. She doesn't open up a lot of offense but she does stay on top which curries favor with judges.

Alexis Davis is one of the strangest fighters in the division. She's not a really good athlete but she has a depth of skill everywhere and that has gotten her past several fighters she wasn't favored against. On the feet, she throws at a high rate and mixes her attacks pretty well and on the ground she is a superb grappler with her control, passing, and finishing. She's not a great wrestler (though an acceptable defensive one) and she's hittable on the feet but her scrappiness makes up for these holes.

Davis has been out of action for almost two years while she had a child and that alone is reason enough not to pick her to win. We honestly have no idea how she is going to look coming back and she's at a massive athletic disadvantage here. McMann's wrestling should be enough to control Davis for large swaths of the fight, but on the other side of that coin, McMann's a notoriously inconsistent fighter who has looked especially underwhelming in her recent outings. Ultimately, the pick has to be McMann but considering the outside factors here you really shouldn't bet either side in this one. Fight Goes to a Decision is -200 though and that seems like a sure thing here and worth either a straight bet or a parlay include.

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THE OTHERS

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Ion Cutelaba (-210/68%) vs. Jared Cannonier (+190/34%)

Cutelaba is an aggressive power puncher who pressures his opponent and then slings ‘em and wings ‘em with go-to-sleep power. He throws at a high volume and, despite being a light heavyweight, seems to be able to keep that pace up fairly well. He also doesn't get hit as much as you'd expect for someone throwing his type of volume (though he is hittable). He's more than serviceable in the clinch and a fine defensive wrestler, but mostly those don't figure to come into play much, because Cannonier is also a big power boxer who operates more willingly off the counter or lunging in. Cannonier has more power but is less durable than Cutelaba and both men throw early and often so this fight figures to be one hell of a scrap on the feet. In fights like that, you should almost always side with the guy who is harder to get out of there so Cutelaba is the pick here. That being said these lines are a bit far off and if you were going to bet this I think Cannonier would be the play. I don't suggest a bet either way though.

Brandon Moreno (-140/58%) vs. Ryan Benoit (+130/43%)

Crazy world we live in where the 16th seed on TUF 24 gets into the UFC, but the guy who roasted him in the first round might not get a shot. Still, there's a reason Moreno is here, and it's because he's a solid prospect. Moreno is all offense, a scrapper who works behind a steady jab and throws combinations in the pocket. His pace is exceptional but it also opens him up to get hit back and he does, a lot. He's not a great wrestler, but he is a very good scrambler and sneaks his way to the back or into winning positions. Benoit is a solid power striker with good speed and sharp counters. He's a competent defensive wrestler but the rest of his game is underwhelming and his propensity to sit and wait on the feet loses him rounds. The tale of this fight is the volume of Moreno. Moreno's going to throw and throw and throw some more until the fight is over. This will provide opportunities for Benoit to land big counter strikes but unless he lands something with some real sauce on it, he's going to take three punches for every one he lands and fall further and further behind on the score cards. I like Moreno to win and I think the odds here are spot on so no bet is suggested.

Gray Maynard (+100/50%) vs. Ryan Hall (-110/52%)

This is a tricky one because earlier this week I was definitely backing Maynard because the style matchup fades him heavily even considering how faded he's looked as of late. But then this happened at the weigh in.

No that's not Skeletor, that's Gray Maynard making the cut to featherweight. I know Conor McGregor was able to somehow look like that and still show out but I can't in good conscience pick a dude who looks that sunken in on the scale. If Maynard has any gas he's still a good enough wrestler to keep it standing and definitely the better boxer, but considering his decline and Maynard's need to Vincent Van Gogh back to lightweight, the pick is Hall by decision and if Hall gets back to plus-money then he's probably worth a bet.

Rob Font (-255/72%) vs. Matt Schnell (+235/30%)

Font is a power puncher with good size that he uses well. He's not a great grappler but he's competent enough there and his big power on the feet makes that less than necessary. Schnell is a super slick submission grappler with a striking game that's more video game combinations than fundamentals. Schnell has a legitimate chance here but he's coming in on short notice and jumping up a weight class, two things which don't often portend great success. The pick has to be Font, but the odds are still a wee bit off. That being said, short notice and low-ish level fights are not good places to bet so you should pass this.

Dong Hyun Kim (-125/56%) vs. Brendan O'Reilly (+115/47%)

Kim is basically a really fun, action fighting brawler. He has more skill than his style would sometimes have you believe but his defense is minimal (seriously, he gets hit almost twice as much as he lands) and he doesn't have a ton of power to dissuade engagements by his opponents. O'Reilly is also defensively poor on the feet but unlike Kim, his offense isn't great either. O'Reilly is predominantly a takedown artist and clinch grinder. He also is cutting back down from welterweight and has had cardio issues in the past. The main question here is does O'Reilly's cardio last for two rounds. If so he can squeak out a wrestling-based decision, but I think it's more likely that Kim is able to keep it on the feet and mark O'Reilly up with his superior striking combination. Kim by decision is the pick, but I think the line is about right so pass on betting this.

Kailin Curran (-125/56%) vs. Jamie Moyle (+115/47%)

Curran is a fantastic athlete without too much else to boast in her game. Like many raw athletes, her offensive skills are much better than her defensive skills and she often leaves herself open on the feet or in grappling exchanges. Moyle is a slick grappler who is happy to get into exchanges on the feet. She has to be though because Moyle is tiny for the division and not a great offensive wrestler. Curran is a notoriously slow starter and that might hurt her here but ultimately her physical advantages and improvement should carry her through. Moyle won't be able to get this to the floor and on the feet Curran should be able to bully Moyle and take a decision but as always, never bet on low level women's MMA. It is wild and unpredictable and your heart and monet are better invested elsewhere. I'm almost tempted by Fight Goes to a Decision at -160 but again, just don't bet this.

Elvis Mutapcic (+120/45%) vs. Anthony Smith (-130/57%)

Mutapcic is a striker who can do a bit of everything on the feet and has pretty good takedown defense to keep it there. He's not very sound defensively though, and he's a bit of a slow starter. Smith is also a striker but a much bigger and longer one, sporting an extra four inches of height and five inches of reach. His size also makes him a decent clinch fighter when the occasion calls for it. Smith also has a problem with slowing down as the fire wears on. Basically, this fight comes down to who wins the second round because Smith should win the first and Mutapcic should win the third as Smith fades. Honestly, I don't feel like I have a good read on this fight so I suggest a pass but since the fight is a coin flip, plus money is the way to go if you insist.

Josh Stansbury (+100/50%) vs. Devin Clark (-110/52%)

Clarke is a former JUCO national wrestling champion and that's the bedrock of his style. He's not super technical on the feet but he is willing to throw and he does have some power in his hands. Stansbury is fairly technical on the feet but he's slow for the division and facing a big athletic gap here. Clark can hang well enough at striking and should be able to secure takedowns. The pick is Clark and the odds are almost close enough to bet it but still, this is low level MMA and you should be more judicious with your money. Pass on this.

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And that's everything for tonight. Enjoy the fights y'all and good luck to those who need it. If you've got any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and follow me there for any betting updates as the fights get closer.

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