Welcome MMA bettors, speculators, and gambling lurkers! We’re back at it again for another week of comprehensive gambling analysis from your friends at MMA Fighting. This weekend is probably more anticipated for the boxing bouts on Saturday evening, but before that the UFC is putting on a deceptively interesting card and one in which I see a lot of value.
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 Belfort at +315 means he should win the fight 24 percent of the time). If you think he 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. 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 to it.
Two top-10 light heavyweights (even before the exodus of talent out of the division) meet in an excellent but uninspiring main event. The winner of this bout looks well earn a crack at the top of the division with title implications on the line.
Despite being 37, Jimi Manuwa is one of the better athletes in the division. Predominantly a striker, Manuwa walks opponents down before throwing hammers in the pocket. His athleticism also lets him explode through distance and his power is one-shot KO stuff. He can also kick a little bit and his footwork is serviceable but unspectacular.
Beyond striking, Manuwa can also do work in the clinch. His long arms let him get good leverage and his power allows him to control while working opponents over with knees and elbows. He’s not a great wrestler though, and while he can defend himself on the ground, if he’s grappling he is probably not winning the fight.
At 27, Corey Anderson is one of the few young prospects in the stagnant light heavyweight division. He’s a well-rounded fighter with skills in all areas and he improves every time out. On the feet, Anderson is a volume boxer who works at a tremendous pace for the division. His pace and lack of defensive fundamentals make him hittable, but he has a good chin and he’s constantly moving (although not always with purpose).
Anderson’s real bread and butter is wrestling. He can shoot singles or doubles and excels at chaining the two together once he pushes an opponent against the fence, relentlessly pursuing the takedown. Once on top, Anderson is a handful, landing heavy shots early and often. He’s not a traditional controlling grappler though, so a resolute fighter can often get back to his feet if he’s willing to eat the punches on the way up.
As is the case with many fights on Saturday, this is an either/or fight: either Manuwa can defend the takedown and he knocks out Anderson, or Anderson finishes the takedown and he pounds out Manuwa. The relentlessness of Anderson’s takedown attempts combined with the competent but not great takedown defense of Manuwa make me think the latter is more likely. The pick is Anderson by stoppage in the championship rounds and I like a bet on him at plus money.
The bet: Corey Anderson at +130.
Gunnar Nelson takes on Alan Jouban in a fight between two well-respected welterweights looking to make a run up the division. The winner of this fight will earn themselves a crack at a top-10 opponent in a division currently in flux.
Nelson is a peculiar bird. A quick and athletic fighter, he employs a karate-based style of striking on the feet, bouncing at range before leaping in with kicks and punching combinations. He has decent power and elite speed and timing which make him fairly dangerous for anyone, but he is also counter-able and prone to stretches of inactivity that lose him rounds.
While Nelson’s striking is formidable, it’s his ground game that has made Nelson a known commodity. Nelson took home silver at the 2009 Mundials in the Brown Belt category and finished fourth in the absolute division of the ADCC that same year. On the floor he is smooth, technical, and smothering against all but the most elite grapplers in the world (read here: Demian Maia).
Jouban is a powerful southpaw striker with a variety of skills on the feet. He can fight going forwards or backwards and he can operate at range or on the inside. He has thudding kicks and powerful boxing combinations, and he’s willing to engage in a bit of a brawl if the occasion calls for it. He works at a tremendous pace and he has an excellent chin, which covers up for the fact that he is pretty hittable.
Outside of striking, Jouban is solid if uninspiring. He’s an above average defender of the takedown and thoroughly competent in grappling exchanges, but those areas, particularly in this fight, shouldn’t be seen as avenues of victory for him.
If Jouban can defend the takedown, the fight becomes pretty bad for Nelson pretty quickly. On the feet, Jouban has the power and volume advantages and his preference for coming forward should stifle the offensive creativity of Nelson. However, if Nelson can get the takedowns, there are very few people that can hang with him on the ground. The Rick Story loss is indicative of what Jouban needs to do here, and ultimately, I think the American can do so. The pick is Jouban by decision and I certainly like him for a bet at these odds, which are way off even if you believe Nelson will win.
The bet: Alan Jouban at +285.
One of the better fighters to never compete for a major MMA title, Brad Pickett steps into the cage for the last time on Saturday, taking on short-notice replacement Marlon Vera at a catchweight of 140 pounds due to Vera being unable to make 135 pounds with only a week to prepare.
Pickett is a seasoned veteran of MMA, and as such, he can fight in all phases and ranges. On the feet, Pickett is a talented combination boxer who works well in the pocket and wins mostly on volume, despite his "One Punch" moniker. He's solid defensively, but at 38, he's ancient for the division and his chin doesn't appear to be what it once was.
Pickett's best attribute is his grappling. He's a good wrestler with crafty takedowns from the clinch and a solid, controlling top game. Similar to Chris Lytle, it's really the grappling game which has been the basis for Pickett's success historically and he has more submission wins than TKOs.
Vera is a young southpaw with good size for the division. On the feet he is competent, but he is prone to stretches of inactivity which gives away rounds and he rarely throws in combination. He’s not a takedown artist either, but he’s a fair defensive wrestler. Vera’s strength lies in his grappling game, where he is an aggressive submission hunter, especially off of his back.
This fight is tailor-made for Pickett to retire off a win in his hometown. On the feet his volume and skill should win the rounds and Vera isn’t a good enough wrestler to consistently take Pickett down. Plus, if Pickett does choose to take Vera down, he’s a good enough grappler to stifle Vera’s sweeps and submissions. The pick is Pickett by decision and I like him for a bet despite his advancing age.
The bet: Brad Pickett + Tom Breese parlay.
The main card is opened by a matchup of two exciting young southpaw prospects in the featherweight division. A win for Makwan Amirkhani could portend big things for the charismatic young man out of SBG Ireland, while a win for Arnold Allen would be the first signature win on the well-traveled 23-year-old’s resume.
Allen is a well-rounded fighter with a pressuring style on the feet. He snaps a good one-two, but he prefers to back opponents up and then counter when they lead. He’s an excellent clinch fighter with good positioning and trips, and once on top, he’s a problem. The ground is Allen’s best area, able to blend control, punishment, and passing beautifully.
Amirkhani is a great athlete who is big for the division and has explosive wrestling. He is relentless with his takedowns, and his variety of entries and finishes make him successful more often than not. He particularly excels at chaining wrestling attacks together. On top, he is quick to pass and he floats beautifully, pounding opponents as they move underneath. On the feet, he’s willing though perhaps a bit too cavalier, but his preference to stay at range and work his wrestling from far outside makes him tough to hit cleanly.
This feels like a true two-outcome fight: if Allen can defend the takedown, he wins; if not, he loses. So far his takedown defense has been good, and if that holds up, Amirkhani’s tendency to shoot from too far out will make it easier on Allen to defend. On the feet, Allen is the crisper, more technical fighter and that should give him the edge, especially against the aggression of Amirkhani, which plays into Allen’s preference for countering. This is a razor close fight but I like Allen to win a narrow decision, and as such, I like a bet on him at plus money.
The bet: Arnold Allen at +100.
Joe Duffy (-625/86%) vs. Reza Madadi (+475/17%)
Duffy has well-rounded skills but he does his best work on the feet as one of the best pure boxers in the division. He has a crisp, quick jab that he can throw in different ways and his right hand packs power. Madadi also has skills in all phases, but his best area is as a wrestler, grinding opponents in the clinch and with top position. This fight exists almost purely to judge Duffy’s clinch wrestling defensive skills, which have, so far, been a big vulnerability. If he can show improvement in that area, Duffy has real upside for the UFC and will likely be on his way to a better contract. If he can’t the UFC may let the original Conor McGregor killer walk away. The former seems far more likely and the pick is Duffy by KO in the second round; however, these odds are absurd and going small on Madadi for value isn’t a bad bet.
The bet: Reza Madadi at +475.
These two men fought last November with the bout being ruled a No Contest due to an accidental head-butt against Barroso. Both men are grinders who prefer to work from top position, but Stewart is 10 years younger, stronger, and much more athletic. I like Stewart’s pace and aggression to win a clear decision here, but the odds are fine, so I’d stay away.
Daniel Omielanczuk (+150/40%) vs. Tim Johnson (-175/64%)
Omielanczuk is something of a rarity, a technician of a striker at heavyweight. He sticks on the outside, throwing powerful single shots and occasionally forces his way into the clinch. He’s a small heavyweight though and his takedown defense is not great. Johnson is a good sized heavyweight with a background in collegiate wrestling, which he uses to clinch and grind opponents. Omielanczuk isn’t a great wrestler and he’s fighting a D-II All-American. This is academic. Johnson by TKO in the third round, but the odds are good so I’d avoid a bet.
Edward’s came into the UFC as predominantly a striker but showcased an evolved skill-set in his last fight, taking down and submitting Albert Tumenov. Luque is the opposite, a guy mostly known as a submission grappler who has turned into a dangerous striker as well, with powerful kicks and pocket-boxing. Luque’s lacking defensive wrestling is cause for concern here against the improved takedowns of Edwards, but Luque should have more opportunities to win. He has good takedowns and he works at a higher pace on the feet. The pick is Luque by decision and I like him for a bet at these odds.
The bet: Vicente Luque at -125.
Diakiese is one of the bluest-chipped prospects in the UFC. A great athlete with top-shelf speed and power, he’s still settling into his game a bit. His best skills are wrestling and ground-and-pound, but on the feet he is also dangerous, though wild. Packalen is a big lightweight who can do everything fairly well but prefers to grapple. This is a step up in competition for Diakiese, who is still very young at 23. Packalen is a worse athlete but he’s a bigger man and can compete everywhere with Diakiese. In the end you have to favor the young hyper-prospect (by decision), but Packalen has a great chance to sneak an upset here and I like a bet on him at these odds.
The bet: Teemu Packalen at +185.
Tom Breese (-285/74%) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (+235/30%)
Breese is a big, technical southpaw with great hand speed. He’s also an excellent grappler with excellent ground striking from top position. Bamgbose is an excellent athlete with an astonishing reach (6’ 6” wingspan versus his 5’ 11” frame). He’s more of a brawler on the feet and he’s a poor defensive wrestler though. This should be a showcase bout for Breese in his first foray at 185 pounds. The pick is Breese by submission in the first round and Breese is fine parlay fodder.
The bet: Tom Breese + Brad Pickett parlay.
Remember Ken Shamrock’s quote: “I’m a brawler and a leg-lock man?” That’s Entwistle, only without the brawling. He legitimately even lists his favorite striking technique as a heel hook. Johns is a well-rounded prospect with good cardio and top control. Johns is bigger, longer, more powerful, has more avenues to win, and didn’t miss weight. Never discount the sneakiness of a good leg-lock attack, but Johns should cruise here. The pick is Johns by KO in the first round, but the odds are too long to feel good about.
Scott is a fighter who can do everything reasonably well, but he relies on his pace and pressure to win fights. Askham is a southpaw striker who likes to stick front kicks and jabs at range, but who also has sharp knees in the clinch. Askham also has an aggressive guard game off of his back and he can sweep or submit. This is a close fight. Askham’s step-in knees and quirky ground game could give Scott problems, but Scott’s pressure and volume is the more reliable round-winning strategy. Scott takes a close decision and I like him for a bet at plus money.
The bet: Brad Scott at +125
Lina Lansberg (-315/76%) vs. Lucie Pudilova (+260/28%)
Lansberg is a talented striker of some accomplishment on the European Muay Thai circuit who throws good combinations and can work in the clinch as well. Pudilová is also a striker and one who wants to operate at range, where she can work her frequent jabs. These two have fought before, with Lansberg taking a wide unanimous decision in 2015. In that fight, Lansberg pressed the issue and dominated in the clinch, and there’s no reason to believe anything different will happen here. The pick is Lansberg by decision, but there is no way you should lay money at these odds.
That's all folks. Don’t forget it’s an European card so the fights are earlier than normal for the American crowd. Enjoy the fights 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.)