Welcome MMA bettors, speculators, and gambling lurkers! We’re back at it again for another week of comprehensive gambling analysis from your friends at MMAFighting.com. This weekend we have the first ever UFC women’s featherweight title fight between two top-15 bantamweights.
For those of you who are new here or those who have forgotten, 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 Holm at +110 means she should win the fight 48 percent of the time). If you think she wins more often than the odds say, you should bet it because there's value in the line.
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. 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 go.
Holly Holm is predominantly an out fighter who relies on volume to rack up points. Though she made her name as a professional boxer, it is Holm's kicking game that is a threat on the feet. Holm lacks real pop in her hands when coming forward because she doesn't transition any weight into her shots, preferring to flick her punches out as set-ups for her left kick. When fighting on the counter, she is much better at sitting down into her punches and landing hard shots than pivoting out of the engagement, which makes her much more dangerous on the back foot.
Elsewhere, Holm is a competent fighter but somewhat reliant on her size and athleticism instead of a depth of technique. She has good positional awareness in the clinch and is very difficult to control, but she provides no real offense and mostly just looks to disengage. She’s an excellent defender of takedowns and can also wrestle a bit offensively, though she doesn’t often look to do so. As a grappler though, she still isn’t great and lacks urgency in getting back to her feet.
Germaine de Randamie is a big, rangy striker who likes to use her physical advantages to her best effect. She’s a former Muay Thai practitioner and her game looks like you would expect. She operates behind a heavy, thudding jab, which she follows up with sharp right hand. She also has ridiculous kicks and all of her strikes carry real power. Moreover, she is textbook sound in her technique and her footwork is some of the best in women’s MMA.
De Randamie also has the clinch as an excellent secondary skill set. Her size and Muay Thai background make her a handful, and she also has excellent uppercuts to compliment her elbows and knees. She’s a solid defensive wrestler at range, but once she gets taken down, GDR offers very little off her back.
Many people are underwhelmed by this main event but it’s only because of the circumstances of the title fight. Were the specter of Cris Cyborg not hanging over this fight, everyone would be excited about the high-level striking match that’s about to ensue. De Randamie is the better, more powerful striker, but Holm is more athletic and has faced a much higher level of opposition. Holm also trains out of a much better camp and can theoretically use other avenues besides just striking to engage GDR.
This fight is a question of tactics. If de Randamie keeps a long range, this fight instantly becomes a nightmare for Holm who isn’t great at leading and will be walking herself into de Randamie’s power shots. If de Randamie chooses to pressure, Holm’s chances go up dramatically, as she is much better on the counter, attacking and angling out. It also depends on whether Holm is content to stay striking or whether she mixes things up. Holm was never getting dominated by Valentina Shevchenko, but she wasn’t winning the rounds and her lack of desire for changing the theater of combat cost her.
So really it’s a question of whether de Randamie’s stylistic advantages are the controlling factors or whether Holm’s intangibles add up enough for a win. The confluence of Holm’s small edges in cardio, experience, athleticism, camp, and strength of competition make me genuinely unsure of this one but ultimately I will favor de Randomie to win a back and forth decision. As for a bet, I think the odds are close to right, though just a hair too much in favor of de Randamie here so a bet on Holm by decision at +250 is a decent value bet since Holm has never been much of a finisher.
To put it bluntly, Anderson Silva is old. He’s 41 years old and he hasn’t officially won a fight in five years. At his peak, Silva was the best fighter in the world thanks to sniper accuracy, sneaky power, and unprecedented countering ability, but even then he was still known for curious instances of inactivity and disinterest that would show up between explosions of offense. Now that he’s older, those lulls are even more frequent to the point that he often looks entirely defensive but for one or two salvos each round. When he’s feeling it, though, he still poses a threat to anyone alive, as evidenced by the liver shot to Daniel Cormier in the third round at UFC 200 that badly hurt the light heavyweight champion.
Derek Brunson is an athletic, powerful fighter who is often too aggressive for his own good. He likes to pressure forward before leaping in with a big straight left. If he connects, the fight is often over, but his reckless leap forward also opens him up to counters, which is how Robert Whittaker took him out in his last fight.
Outside of over-explosive striking, Brunson is also a great clinch fighter and grinder. He works well with knees and punches in the clinch and he also can change levels to drop for takedowns. When he gets the fight to the floor, he is a punishing ground-and-pounder and defensively sound.
If this were a couple of years ago, Silva would be the prohibitive favorite, as the stylistic match up favors him a good deal. Unfortunately, it’s not 2015 and Silva appears to be on his last legs as an elite fighter and his chin is a major concern. If Brunson lands on him, that will probably be the end of the fight. The question is, can Silva snipe the overly aggressive Brunson coming in? I think Silva absolutely could do that, but I’m not predicting it. In my head, I think Brunson understands the threat Silva presents and won’t come out as ridiculously, chin-up aggressively as he did against Whittaker. I expect Silva to back himself up to the fence like he has done his last few fights, and from there, Brunson’s clinch game is enough to neutralize the faded Silva and allow him to secure takedowns and landing punches inside. Silva’s chin fails him and Brunson earns a TKO in the second round. Having said all that, I think Brunson should only be a -120 favorite, so a bet on Silva is not a bad idea.
Ronaldo Souza is, at worst, the second- or third-best grappler in the history of MMA. A multiple-time world champion jiu-jitsu practitioner who also possess elite athleticism and top level wrestling, there is a very good argument that “Jacare” is the best middleweight on the planet right now.
Everything about Souza’s ground game is impeccable, but what’s perhaps even more impressive is his success as a striker. He has an excellent pressure game and he cuts the cage well. He throws punches and kicks with big power. He doesn’t have sensational cardio though, and his athletic window is closing at 37.
Tim Boetsch is a brute of a puncher with a power wrestling game to supplement it. This isn't to say that he has no skills elsewhere — they're fine — just that his success comes almost entirely as the result of his big-time power and a strongman style clinch game, replete with punches, knees, and elbows that do enormous damage.
Take a gander at Boetsch’s record as an underdog above. Tim Boetsch is the consummate spoiler, which means you should never count him out. That being said, this fight should be one-way traffic in favor of Jacare. Boetsch doesn’t have great wrestling defense and Jacare is a great finisher of takedowns. While Jacare could do fine on the feet as well, I expect him to plant Boetsch on the mat and find a submission early in the bout. The pick is Jacare, and though I don’t support a bet on him straight, parlaying Jacare ‘Inside The Distance’ at -255 with somebody else isn’t bad. Alternatively, you can play Jacare straight and offset it with Boetsch by TKO at +725 to basically guarantee a small profit.
Glover Teixeira has an excellent pressure game on the feet that is backed up by well-rounded offensive skills. He’s a meat-and-potatoes striker centered on a sharp jab, straight right, and a left hook. While not the most diverse attack, Glover's pressure footwork, speed, and timing make it a highly effective one, and his power means he doesn’t have to land a lot to win the fight. He’s a bit plodding, but he feints well enough to set up the big left hook kill shot, and not many people can eat that without falling down.
Where Teixeira really excels though is on the ground. He’s an excellent wrestler on the inside (though not much of a shot takedown artist). He chains snatch singles and doubles off of duck-unders to great effect, and once on top, he’s a hellion, punishing and passing until he can lock up a submission.
Jared Cannonier is the inverse of Teixeira: a striker who prefers to use his exceptional reach to fight at a long range and would much rather avoid the ground. He’s works at a good clip on the feet and is an accurate striker, building everything off of his jab. He also is a good kicker, but his best asset is his sharp right hand, which packs tremendous power.
Cannonier isn’t much for grappling. He’s a middling defensive wrestler but he is very defensively minded when taken down, constantly moving and looking to stand back up. He’s also got excellent cardio for the division but he’s a small 205 pounder who has talked about eventually ending up at middleweight.
I think this fight is closer than the odds indicate. 2017 looks like it might be the year we start getting major turnover at the top of the higher weight divisions and Cannonier might be part of that trend. He’s much younger and looks to be coming into his own as a future light heavyweight contender, whereas Teixeira is 37 and coming off a violent knockout loss. Moreover, Teixeira needs to get inside to operate, and Cannonier has the power and mobility to deny him that. This fight comes down to the wrestling and whether Cannonier has improved enough to keep the bigger man from dragging him to the mat. I think we can expect some improvement in that department but ultimately not enough to save him. I expect Teixeira may have some early trouble but will eventually be able to clinch up with Cannonier and get the fight into his comfort zone. It also helps that Cannonier has been susceptible to a solid left hook in the past and that is Teixeira’s best weapon. The pick is Teixeira by late submission but the odds here are much wider than I believe they should be and so I suggest no bet or a small value bet on Cannonier.
Dustin Poirier is a well-rounded fighter who has found his stride since moving up to the lightweight division. He is a good combination boxer who works well in the pocket and has big-time power. He’s still a lacking defensive fighter, but he's been steadily improving his footwork and head movement, which has been a big part of his recent success. While Poirier is at his best when he is coming forward, he’s also an improved counter puncher on the inside and keeps a high pace.
Poirier is also an excellent clinch fighter. He has good knees and trips from that range, and he has a really nice uppercut that he hides behind his own head before bringing it up the body to score. He has good defensive wrestling and solid takedowns. Once on top, he is a powerful ground-and-pounder with solid scrambling.
Jim Miller is a rugged southpaw who can do everything at well above average skill level. He is a serviceable striker with an underrated kicking game, decent defensive fundamentals, and a snappy left hand. Though he’s fading physically, he’s still a fairly durable guy as well.
Miller’s real talent lies in his grappling. He’s aggressive in hunting for submissions either from on top or on bottom and he’s a great scrambler. He’s also a very solid takedown artist who has excellent timing on his shots. Defensively, though, he’s not much above average as far as staying on his feet goes.
Miller is surprisingly on a three-fight winning streak after the Diego Sanchez loss, but that likely ends here. Poirier is a good enough wrestler to keep this on the feet and Miller doesn’t really have the power to put him in danger. From there, Poirier’s speed and power should give Miller fits, and I expect him to win a wide decision or possibly a late stoppage. Despite my confidence in Poirier here, though, there’s not enough meat on this particular bone and you should pass on betting this one.
Randy Brown is a long, athletic striker who throws powerful combinations and a good jab. He’s enormous for the division and uses his length well, especially in the clinch, where he can use trips to compliment his knees and elbows. Muhammad is a sharp, technical striker who prefers to strike at range and at a high volume.
This seems like a tough row to hoe for Muhammad. He wants to fight at distance but he’s giving up four inches of height and six inches of reach to Brown, who also has more power. Moreover, Brown is better in the clinch and can hit takedowns if need be. The pick is Brown by decision, and I like a bet on him.
This is a weird fight. Reis had a title shot until Demetrious Johnson got injured, and now he’s fighting an opponent who’s 2-2 in the UFC. Reis is a slick, dangerous grappler with explosive takedowns and fair striking. Sasaki is huge for the division and has a six-inch reach advantage. He’s also a good grappler and he’s strong in the clinch as well.
Reis is a much better fighter than Sasaki and that should be enough to carry him here, but it won’t be easy. Sasaki has a massive size advantage here and is a willing striker. He isn’t a great defensive wrestler though, so I expect Reis will be able to land takedowns eventually and find his way to the back for the submission. The pick is Reis, but the odds are way off and you should definitely not have money down here.
Makhachev is the long time training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and he fights like a guy who has been grappling with Khabib for most off his life. He’s a stifling wrestler/top control artist who excels in the transitions between the phases of the game. Lentz is also a grinding top control artist but one who also likes to scramble. He can strike a bit but that is definitely not his best facet.
Both guys want to grapple and, as Chris Wade found out, spending prolonged amounts of time on the floor with Nurmagomedov’s lifelong grappling partner is not a winning strategy. On top of that, Makhachev is also the more dangerous striker and will have a slight size advantage. The pick is Makhachev by decision, but the line is high. If the line drops to -250 or so, he would be a fine parlay include though.
McCall is a grappler by trade with a variety of trips and takedowns and excellent scrambling. He’s also a solid, high-volume striker, but he’s been out of action for two years and he’s been open about his many injuries that have hampered him. Jarred Brooks is a hot-shot 23-year-old who is making his UFC debut on short notice. He’s a good wrestler and passer and a willing, powerful striker but he’ll be small for the division having competed at 115 pounds before.
I have no idea what to expect here. McCall, at his best, is several steps up in competition for Brooks, but he’s also been out for a long time and is open about his close proximity to retirement due to injuries. The pick is McCall by decision based on his skill set and experience but there’s no real confidence and you should definitely not bet this one.
Glenn is a tall guy for the division who doesn’t always use his length to his best advantage. He prefers to walk opponents down and maul them in the clinch, where he can use his long frame to great effect. Nover is an anomaly in that he can do everything decently, but he never seems engaged and his lack of urgency often costs him.
Nover likes to operate at range and Glenn’s game is built around denying his opponent space. I expect Glenn’s preferences will prevail here and he will overwhelm the stagnant Nover, earning a late stoppage. The pick is Glenn by TKO, but don’t bet on this one.
“Jucao” Carneiro is my BJJ coach and a friend, and as such, I’m going to refrain from speaking on this fight. But I am very excited for the match-up and believe it will be a good one.
That's all folks. Enjoy the fights everyone and good luck to those who need it. If you've got any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew
(Editor's note: All of this advice is for entertainment purposes only.)