In a marathon of UFC cards, we get the best for last with dual title fights headlining UFC 136. First up, the Featherweight strap is on the line, as Jose Aldo faces a 3-time title challenger in Kenny Florian. Whether you think Florian deserves a title shot or not, this is still a fight you can get behind for pure entertainment value. The icing on the cake is the rubber match, and perhaps one of the best fights of the year, as Frankie Edgar once again faces Gray Maynard in defense of his Lightweight title.
Where is the value in this card though? Below are my comparison betting odds and some valid props for this fight card to help you cover PPV costs and get you a few bragging rights. Now, onto the fights!
Frankie Edgar -160
Gray Maynard +130
Props: Edgar by Submission
I’ll say up front that I’m firmly against immediate rematches, but can’t wait for this fight. In their last epic outing, Edgar and Maynard traded heavy shots, wrestled to a stand-still and had a razor-close bout that ended justly in a draw. What’s going to be different this time though? The main issue I have here is that while Maynard was able to get to Edgar with a lunging left, Edgar was able to get to Maynard with just about everything he threw. This matters greatly in the realm of training, as Edgar has a small hole in his defense to patch, while Maynard has to rework his entire game to stop Edgar in this rematch. This is still a close fight due to the heavy hands of Maynard and the potential for Maynard turning into a blanket, but overall this is one I have to give to Edgar. Betting wise, this fight isn’t worth touching with the exception of Edgar by submission. Edgar has a vicious guillotine that nearly did Maynard in last time out, and his striking isn’t powerful enough to straight out KO Maynard. With so much uncertainty in this fight, the line for this prop should be spectacular.
Jose Aldo -300
Kenny Florian +220
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
A fight that illustrates the one drawback of a definitive ranking system in MMA, Kenny Florian quick steps his way into a title shot, taking on Featherweight mauler Jose Aldo. Florian looked good in his Featherweight debut, using his newfound size advantage to work a wrestling game plan against Diego Nunes, though with some difficulty in the beginning and end of the bout. Aldo is coming off a tough fight of his own; having gone five rounds with Mark Hominick in a classic striking battle, and stands ready to defend his title again here. This is an interesting fight in that I think Florian can win it, but I’m not entirely sure he’d go outside of his typical fighting style to do so. If Florian works a wrestling game plan using ground and pound from the top, and can stay out of danger with his submission defense, Florian could find himself wearing a strap for the first time in his career. I can’t count on Florian abandoning his muay thai base at this point though, and see Aldo chopping Florian down, either finishing late in the fight, or notching another decision. The Over strikes me as the best wager here, as Florian has seldom been finished and will either drag this fight deep with grappling, or stay on his bicycle and work striking from the outside.
Chael Sonnen -240
Brian Stann +180
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance, Sonnen by Decision
Love him or hate him, but Chael Sonnen is back and hunting for a title rematch. His opponent is no slouch though, as the rock-steady Brian Stann will look to capitalize on his Middleweight run in what may be a number one contender fight. When discussing Sonnen, the only thing you need to know is if his opponent can do anything to him once they’re on the ground. With Stann being unable to stop the takedown, he’ll be left trying to land KO shots in the opening moments of each round and hunting for submissions off his back, which has seldom worked well against Sonnen. For props, I’d recommend Hammer and Anvil, taking Sonnen by Decision as your Anvil, paired with the guaranteed positive number for Fight Ends Inside Distance. The payout won’t be amazing, but considering Stann has no ability to win a decision here, it’s easy money if either man gets the finish.
Melvin Guillard -200
Joe Lauzon +160
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under
A fighter that has truly evolved in this sport, Melvin Guillard will take a bit of a sidestep towards a title shot, facing Joe Lauzon in the most explosive fight of the night. Guillard has always been a physical force in the cage, but having added a level of maturity and game planning to his assets, he may be too much for the majority of the division. I’d like to say Lauzon won’t roll over for Guillard here, but the fact of the matter is, he’s a one round fighter against one of the best one round fighters in the business. While I have Guillard winning this one handily, the Inside Distance/Under prop is the best value I’ve seen in a very long time. Lauzon’s best shot is to counter attack Guillard with takedowns and get the quick tap, while Guillard will look to flatten Lauzon with his fierce inside striking. It’s Lauzon’s garbage cardio that will spell his doom here, as Guillard will continue his assault and finish long before that final bell.
Demain Maia -240
Jorge Santiago +180
Props: Fight Goes the Distance/Over, Maia by Submission
Perhaps the most valuable betting bout on this card, along with being an exciting match-up to boot. Maia is coming into this off of a tough loss to Mark Munoz, but has shown a tremendous amount of growth in his career. Jorge Santiago has shown similar growth outside of the UFC, but suffered an embarrassing loss to Brian Stann in his return to the UFC, being knocked silly repeatedly in their fight. While it might be tempting to think this is a striker vs. grappler match-up, the level of skill separating the two in the grappling arena is far larger than in the striking department. Maia has put the effort into the gym to build a solid fundamental striking game that can keep him safe in the pocket, hold range and set up his underrated takedowns. Santiago will have one chance to finish this fight, but don’t count on Maia getting KO’d before he gets the takedown and submission here. The safe money is with Maia by submission, as well as the Over to cover a dominant Maia ground game or sprawl and brawl Santiago game.
Anthony Pettis -185
Jeremy Stephens +145
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under, Stephens by KO
Having felt the sting of defeat at the hands of Clay Guida, Anthony Pettis will attempt to rekindle his fiery ascent up the LW ranks, facing Jeremy Stephens. Pettis has shown us a lot of his skills in his rapid climb in the title picture in the WEC, but Guida showed that he’s still got a bit to learn if he’s looking to trade in the WEC belt for the UFC title strap. Stephens has been in this game quite a bit longer and faced the better opposition, but will have his hands full against such a multi-faceted fighter. On the wager front, this fight is going to be tough to cash in on, as both men have power and submission skills, as well as three round cardio. The above two props are going to be your best value, but I couldn’t blame anyone for folding your wallet up for this one.
Joey Beltran -185
Stipe Miocic +145
Sometimes I watch footage of a UFC newcomer and just don’t “get it”. Am I missing something? Does this guy have some sublime ability that a talent scout caught, but I missed? Welcome to the UFC, Stipe Miocic, who falls firmly into that “I don’t get it” category. A fairly large fighter, but one that could fight at LHW if he chose to, Miocic brings heavy, yet sloppy hands, almost no defensive skills and a lack of real grappling to the cage. With what we have before us, the UFC seems to have picked the worst possible opponent for him in Joey Beltran. Beltran comes into this fight off a surprisingly entertaining fight against Aaron Rosa, and has shown an ability to walk through harm with relative ease, all while pushing the pace. Aside from the unknown, Beltran seems like a solid bet here, although props will be tough to calculate for this one considering how large of a step up this is for Miocic.
Zhang Tie Quan -200
Darren Elkins +160
Props: Quan Inside Distance, Elkins by Decision
A hot prospect that’s had ups and downs thus far in his Zuffa career, Zhang Tie Quan will face off with boxer/wrestler in a sleeper fight of the night. Quan brings pin-point striking and a deadly submission before position style of grappling to this fight, which should mesh nicely against the solid fundamentals of Elkins one-two striking and wrestling takedowns. While I think Quan has the outs to win this fight, Elkins showed he can take decisions based on his forward movement and ability to consistently land punches. Betting wise, this is going to be an issue due to the controversial nature of Elkin’s last fight, as there tends to be a backlash with gamblers where unpopular decisions are involved, meaning Quan will be getting a lot of backing. Hit Quan early if he comes in at or around the above line and those two props should see you to some decent money in this bout.
Nam Phan -130
Leonard Garcia EV
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under
Wasn’t I just talking about unpopular decisions? Well, speak of the devil, Leonard Garcia is in the house and looking to prove his split decision win over Phan wasn’t a fluke. Both men are potentially on their last leg with a string of losses and close fights, and you’d think at this point that Phan will avoid the judges at all costs here. That, I feel, is where the money may be here, as just like the Korean Zombie, Phan will be pulling out all the stops to get this over with early. Aggression creates openings in both fighters though, and I see this ending in the first round, with Phan having a slight edge due to his mixed attack and superior ground work. Avoid the decision and straight bet traps, and lay down on the Under here for a solid positive number.
Aaron Simpson -300
Eric Schafer +220
Props: Simpson by KO
Stalwart veteran Aaron Simpson will face off against Eric Schafer in what is the safety bet of the night. Simpson hasn’t seen the main broadcast in quite a while, but has been doing well for himself on the undercards, with back to back wins over Mario Miranda and Brad Tavares. His opponent is a short notice replacement in Eric Schafer, a former UFC LHWthat’s taking a stab at the Middleweight division. Aside from a bit of size, Schafer really has nothing going for him here, as his shoddy stand-up and questionable heart has seen him falter in high-level fights before. Simpson’s jackhammer punches and wrestling pedigree make this a difficult fight for Schafer to win, and one where Simpson should coast to a victory.
Steven Cantwell -200
Mike Massenzio +160
Props: Fight starts 3rd round/Over
Two fighters on their last leg in the UFC, the last WEC LHW champion Steven Cantwell faces Mike Massenzio in a Middleweight bout. Cantwell had the ring-rust beat out of him in a brutal match with Cyrille Diabate last time out, but will look to make a fresh start at Middleweight. MW could be a good fit for Cantwell, where his power might come to equal his speed and reach, and his opponent is one that is manageable in Massenzio. While Massenzio is dangerous on paper, his utter lack of conditioning and fight smarts have seen him win just one of his four UFC bouts, and I’ve long since stopped believing in his mat game. Cantwell has enough skill to avoid Massenzio’s early submission attempts and will be able to punish him on the feet once his cardio fails him, making this a solid betting opportunity for Cantwell. The finish is up in the air here, and I’d be nervous about picking a decision here. Instead, bet straight at smart odds and look for an Over 2 round prop, or the Over itself, as I see this ending late in the 3rd round with a flurry by Cantwell.