Does anyone else remember when the UFC wasn’t allowed to hold events anywhere EXCEPT the Deep South? Probably not. Regardless, the UFC returns to Louisiana for a Fight Night full of competitive bouts. This could be a tough one to turn a buck on, but never fear, as my comparison betting odds and valid props are here to help you root out some juicy wagers.
Now, onto the fights!
Jake Shields -185
Jake Ellenberger +145
Perhaps the best pound-for-pound submission grappler on the planet, Jake Shields comes into this fight with a heavy heart, taking on the dangerous Jake Ellenberger. We can’t know how Shields will react to the passing of his father in this fight and avoiding a wager here wouldn’t be the worst idea. Taking into account that all is well with Shields though, this is a solid betting opportunity for Shields to take this bout. Ellenberger is a murderous offensive fighter, switching between forced stand-up bouts and ground and pound tactics, but has proven to be ineffective off his back in grappling scenarios. Shields is one of the best takedown artists in the game and if he can put Ellenberger on his back, he can keep him there to win. I’d call this about a 50/50 chance of a submission/decision win for Shields, so bet straight at smart odds.
Court McGee -200
Dongi Yang +160
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
One of the least heralded TUF champions, Court McGee will make his return to the cage, taking on Dongi “The Ox” Yang. This fight is one of two similar styles, as both men are strength-based grapplers with heavy punches and ground and pound, but McGee tends to be a bit more fluid on the mat than his Korean counterpart. Betting wise, this one isn’t likely to be a money-maker on the straight bet, but I don’t see either guy getting an early finish here. Bet the Over here for maximum value, as these two monster Middleweights grind out a decision win.
Erik Koch -130
Jonathan Brookins EV
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under, Koch by KO, Brookins by Decision
There was a time when TUF winners were given a few “soft” opponents to build their star power, but those days seem to be behind us. After an exciting fight against TUF 12 finalist Michael Johnson, Brookins finds himself back at FW and taking on another rising star in Erik Koch. Both men have the makings to be champions in the future, with Koch’s impeccable timing, KO power and ferocity and Brookins’ flawless transitional skills and iron chin. These two make for a fairly even fight and it really comes down to whether or not Brookins can consistently work takedowns and take the win. My concern is that Brookins stand-up defense is flimsy at best, and Koch will check his chin repeatedly in this fight. While Brookins can certainly take a shot, being caught on the feet with Koch for the entire fight is a short road to a loss. This is nearly an even fight, although I give the slight nod to Koch here due to his finishing skills. The value here is in the string of props above, which covers you for everything but a Koch decision if they all come in at decent positive numbers.
Cody McKenzie -130
Vagner Rocha EV
One of my dark horse betting favorites for the foreseeable future, Cody McKenzie looks to make an impression in his 3rd UFC bout, taking on Vagner Rocha. McKenzie is one of those guys who is a simple fighter, but that people tend to have a lot of difficulty dealing with. While on paper Rocha should have the skills on the mat to take this fight, he has to deal with the freakish strength and pace of McKenzie, which may be too much for the BJJ ace. Couple that with McKenzie’s training with Jackson MMA and Donald Cerrone, and we have a recipe for a close, but winnable fight. I’m not comfortable with any props on this one as there are far too many questions about Rocha, but watch the line and hope McKenzie flies under the radar.
Evan Dunham -260
Shamar Bailey +190
Props: Dunham Inside Distance
One of the best prospects at Lightweight will look to stop his major backslide, as Evan Dunham takes on TUF 13′s Shamar Bailey. Despite an amazing grappling ability and a sizzling straight left, Dunham has found himself on the wrong side of a split decision and of Melvin Guillard’s fists as of late. Luckily, the UFC has decided to sacrifice the cast of the worst TUF season ever, sending Shamar Bailey into a trial by fire. Bailey is a fairly one-dimensional fighter and his wrestling isn’t even close to the top-tier grapplers in this division, making this a predictable fight. My only concern here is Dunham’s injuries and stacking losses, but given the opportunity, he should easily dispatch Bailey inside the distance in this fight.
Lance Benoist -120
Matt Riddle -120
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over, Benoist inside Distance
One of my favorite scrappy Welterweights in the division, Matt Riddle will look to bounce back from losses and injuries, taking on undefeated prospect Lance Benoist. Benoist comes into this fight with piles of potential, as he has a seamless offensive game, using long-range strikers and counter-wrestling submissions to dispatch opponents. This is going to be a tough fight for both men, as it’s clearly a step up in competition for Benoist against a clinch grappling specialist with big fight experience. For Riddle, he will have to contend with a fleet-footed striker that has the ability to work submissions off his back, as well as sweep and scramble with the best of them. Betting wise, you can definitely cover bases here by betting the Over, as well as Benoist inside Distance if your book allows it. Failing that, Benoist straight should yield a decent positive number and could do you some favors if the prospect comes up a winner.
Ken Stone -140
Donny Walker +110
Props: Fight Goes Distance
While I’m legitimately worried for the longevity of Ken Stone’s career following two brutal KO losses, he finds himself pitted against a fellow grappler, with both in search of their first UFC win. Both Stone and Walker have wild transitioning styles on the mat, hunting for constant submissions during scrambles. While this is a closely contested fight, I have to give the slight edge to Stone, who has a great deal of control with his lanky limbs, and who I feel has the best chance of scoring a stoppage win. This might be one to keep your wallet closed for, but look for the distance props, as this could easily go to decision due to a grappling stalemate.
Clay Harvison -150
Seth Baczynski +120
A fight that could actually pan out to be fairly exciting, TUF 13′s Clay Harvison faces TUF 11 cast member and late replacement Seth Baczynski. Like the majority of TUF 13′s cast, Harvison was what I’d call a “can crusher”, as he has a few dangerous facets of his game, but also has glaring holes. Lucky for him, Baczysnki isn’t exactly the guy to capitalize on these things, as a fairly generic submission grappler with cardio issues. I’m not impressed with either guy in general, but Havison has the best combination of striking and bottom game submissions here, making him a favorite in my book.
Mike Lullo -140
Robert Peralta +110
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
10th Planet BJJ fighter Mike Lullo will take on late replacement and hot prospect Robert Peralta in another tough scrap to call. Lullo has a style that will cost him a lot of decisions at this level of competition, but he faces someone who I’d consider a bit outside UFC-caliber talent. While the underground is high on Peralta at the moment due to his win over Takaya in Strikeforce, I’m just not seeing much beyond strength and some decent striking. Lullo is a fast fighter with a full training camp for this fight and should give Peralta all he can handle on the feet and with his vicious bottom game. Look for the straight odds to bring some value to Lullo and hedge your bets with the Over, as Peralta will have trouble finishing this fight before the bell.
Jorge Lopez -160
Justin Edwards +130
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
Yet another new signing graces this card, as the highly touted Jorge Lopez faces TUF 13 fighter Justin Edwards. Lopez comes to us from Wand Fight Team and has all the fistic credibility you’d expect from someone out of that camp, with a stellar record against decent competition. Edwards isn’t drawing dead here exactly, as his power-style wrestling and aggressive striking can give Lopez trouble, but when you boil it down, Lopez is essentially a better version of Edwards. The problem with prospects are that the line for this fight will likely open out of reach for Lopez, but this makes the Over an attractive offering, as both men aren’t known to be outstanding finishers at this level.