It’s going to be tough to follow last week’s event, and while the UFC 138 card isn’t packed with star power, it’s certainly filled with competitive match-ups. With a lot of new faces, this could be a tough one to make money on, but you know we’ve all got to try to outsmart the bookies. So, check out my comparison betting odds for this event, as well as any money-making props that catch my eye and let’s bring home the bacon together.
Now, onto the fights!
Mark Munoz -160
Chris Leben +130
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under (3.5), Munoz by Submission
The first non-title five rounder in history is an odd selection, as Middleweight monsters Mark Munoz and Chris Leben go to war. Both men have had ups and downs in the last couple years, but have climbed that ladder and are perhaps poised for a number one contender fight after this bout. Munoz is the naturally larger fighter, but faces someone with underrated takedown defense and very well-known KO power in Leben. With two similar fighters, game planning is going to be huge here, and as stupid as this will sound, I don’t think this fight happens on the feet. Look for Munoz to work a clinch and conservative takedown plan for a couple of rounds, and then pour it on later, hunting for arm triangles, RNCs and anaconda chokes on the iron-headed Leben. Betting wise, I have no idea where the break will be for the O/U, but betting under 3.5 rounds sounds reasonable to me. Also, the aforementioned Munoz by Sub should be at a premium line and well worth a small play.
Brad Pickett -130
Renan Barao EV
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over, Barao by Sub
An interesting prospect that’s made huge waves, Renan Barao finally gets a spot on the main card, taking on British product Brad Pickett. Barao has amassed a ridiculous 25 fight win-streak, mainly due to his vicious muay thai attack and top-heavy BJJ game, which has overwhelmed all three of his opponents under the Zuffa banner. Pickett is a totally different fighter than anyone Barao has faced in the past though, and brings a unique challenge to the table. Possessing lightning hand-speed, two helpings of toughness and a wrestling heavy game of his own, he’ll test Barao’s skills at every turn and bring him into deep waters. This is a close fight no matter how you slice it, but due to Barao’s lack of true opposition, I have to give Pickett the edge here. Look for a long fight, but one Pickett can snag on score cards with superior clinch control and takedowns. Betting wise, this could be a goldmine if Barao’s fans put their money behind him and Pickett straight, Over, and Barao by Sub makes for an attractive package.
Thiago Alves -160
Papy Abedi +130
Props: Alves Decision, Abedi Sub of the Night
Riding one of the largest hype trains we’ve seen in recent history, Papy Abedi will explode into the UFC, taking on former title challenger Thiago Alves in his debut. While not every fighter coming into the UFC deserves the praise they get beforehand, Abedi is clearly a talented individual. Using a sharp set of boxing skills and a judo background, Abedi fights primarily as a counter-puncher and grappler where he shows exceptional athletic ability and reflexive speed. While Abedi is certainly dangerous, I don’t think he’s Thiago Alves dangerous though. While Alves is coming off a hard loss to Rick Story, he remains one of the most feared strikers in the division, with KO power in both hands, cutting leg kicks and the takedown defense to shut down straight forward grapplers.
This is a fight with a great deal of intangibles that bear mentioning as well. In Alves case, it should be mentioned that he trains with Hector Lombard, who is one of the best judo players active in MMA today. His work with the larger Lombard will uniquely prepare him for a fight with Abedi’s judo game, and give him an edge in that field. Abedi has received similar training at Mike’s Gym that can help him deal with Alves muay thai arsenal as well though. The big factor here is that this is Abedi’s first WW tilt, first fight in a year, and first fight in a major promotion. That is a lot to put on any fighter’s plate, and this kind of physical and mental pressure can break a fighter. Betting-wise I have to give Alves an edge, but this fight can play out in a lot of different directions. For maximum value, the two props above should pay out famously if they hit, particularly the SOTN bet. If Abedi wins such a high-profile fight by submission, it’s a shoe-in for the award, not to mention that his sub of choice is a unique ten-finger guillotine choke which adds a bit of flair to the finish.
Cyrille Diabate -140
Anthony Perosh +110
Props: Fight Doesn’t start round 3
One of the best betting fights of the night, muay thai expert Cyrille Diabate takes on Aussie grappler Anthony Perosh. Diabate has been a terror at LHW for some time with his long striking and chopping leg kicks, but brings a slew of flaws with him into every fight with weak cardio and a sub-par ground game. Perosh has his own set of flaws, where his ground game is superb, but he lacks real takedowns and has been plagued by a glass jaw for his entire career. A straight bet would be a nightmare here, but look for any props for Inside The Distance, preferably Fight Doesn’t Start Round 3, as either guy can finish the other and will need to do so quickly before fading.
Terry Etim -200
Edward Faaloloto +160
Props: Etim Inside, Faaloloto by Decision
One of my favorite LW fighters will finally beat the injury bug and get back in the cage, as Terry Etim takes on the gritty Edward Faaloloto. Etim was on a tear early in his career, using his incredible reach and submission abilities to frustrate wrestlers and out strike some of the best kick boxers in the division. Having fought just once in the last two years, it’ll be interesting to see if Etim has kept ahead of the curve in the gym, and Faaloloto makes for an excellent tune-up fight. Faaloloto comes into a rare third chance fight under the Zuffa banner, having been dispatched by Anthony Njokuani and Michael Johnson in his previous two efforts. This is a tough call based on Etim’s inactivity, and Faaloloto’s being matched far too tough right off the bat, as it’s difficult to tell what skills he actually possesses. Considering most of what we’ve seen of Faaloloto is his wrestling and mid-level striking, I have to say Etim is likely another bad match-up for him and could make for a decent bet. Props wise, Etim Inside makes the most sense, although if you’re feeling froggy, a Faaloloto decision could be a fun play.
Justin Edwards -200
John Maguire +160
Coming off of an upset over Wand Fight Team prospect Jorge Lopez, Justin Edwards pulls a quick turnaround and hops into the cage with UFC newcomer John Maguire. Edwards isn’t going to win any awards for finesse, but his style of constant pressure wrestling, dirty boxing and power takedowns has done him well thus far in his UFC career. His opponent is of a similar style, as Maguire has muscled his way through a good deal of the UK talent in his division. The “power first” style of these two is where the similarities end though, as Maguire brings in some of the sloppiest wrestling I’ve seen at this level, but a surprisingly crisp striking game. Overall the killer for Maguire will be that he’s an ok wrestler entering a world of phenomenal wrestlers, and he’s going to find out how far beneath the bar he is against Edwards. This fight can play out a few different ways, but overall Edwards should have this one with a guillotine or decision.
Michihiro Omigawa -150
Jason Young +120
Props: Omigawa by Sub, Young by KO, Fight Of The Night
The sleeper fight of the night is buried deep in the undercard, as Michihiro Omigawa and Jason Young fight for their careers. Omigawa comes into this fight with a 0-4 record in his two-division UFC career, but due to the outrage over his decision loss to Darren Elkins, was given one last shot in the Octagon. Jason Young had a similarly controversial loss against Dustin Poirier in his first outing, losing based on a handful of ineffective takedowns in the fight while taking Poirier apart in the stand-up. Young has a clear advantage with his snappy punch combinations in the stand-up realm, but his relative lack of grappling skills will make him a gimmie on the mat against Omigawa. The value for this one might well be on Young though, and he certainly has a chance of putting Omigawa out with a vicious salvo of strikes early. Make sure you do your math on the above props, as I think you’ll avoid some juice on the ITD line by betting individual outcomes, and look for value in the straight bet.
Che Mills -240
Chris Cope +180
Che Mills has been on the hardcore fan radar even years before TUF 9, and will finally make his way into the UFC. Possessing excellent muay thai skills and submissions, Mills has busted heads in the UK for years, including two TKO wins over Marius Zaromskis. His opponent is Chris Cope, who comes off the abysmal TUF 13 set and will look to work his kickboxing skills against Mills here. While Cope isn’t a bad striker by any means, Mills has a definite speed and experience edge in this fight that could spell trouble for Cope here. Expect a fight similar to Cope vs. O’Neil but with rolls reversed, as Mills out lands Cope consistently for the eventual decision win.
Philip De Fries -300
Rob Broughton +220
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under, Fight Ends Inside 1st Round.
A fairly exciting addition to the HW division, Philip De Fries will make his Octagon debut, taking on fellow UK fighter Rob Broughton. De Fries comes into the division as one of a handful of elite grapplers of his size, using solid BJJ technique on the mat, and possessing surprising agility for a HW. His opponent is easily the weakest link in the HW chain, but Broughton always comes to fight and will make for a great introduction for De Fries. While Broughton doesn’t stand a chance on the mat here, he does pack a serious punch with deceptively fast hands, making his only out here an early KO. Bet the Inside here or find a Round 1 prop, as this one ends fast either way.