The last time the UFC was in Japan, Tito Ortiz won a fight with a neck crank. The sport has come a long way. To reintroduce the Japanese market to American MMA, the UFC has brought a title fight to their shores; pitting Frankie Edgar against Benson Henderson is a FOTY candidate. Why not make some cash while we’re enjoying the fights though?
Below is my comparison betting odds, valid props for this event, and my general confidence level in my lines. This is a card with some decent value, so don’t be afraid to dive in and take some chances. Now, onto the fights!
Benson Henderson -130
Frankie Edgar EV
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
One of the most highly anticipated bouts of my year anyways, champion Frankie Edgar will take on former WEC champion Benson Henderson in defense of his title. This is one of those fights that I had a knee jerk reaction to take Henderson, and all the tape and time in between then and now have done nothing to change my mind. Edgar has heavily invested in an incredible boxing game that he used to take the title and hold it thus far, but I feel Henderson’s size and speed will be the recipe to take Edgar back to the mat in this fight. Something that was seen in Henderson’s fight with Guida and Ebersole’s fights in the UFC is the inability to be choked, and how that factors into fighting. Henderson can shoot on Edgar with no fear of being caught in a guillotine, which happens to be Edgar’s preferred defense to a takedown. This is something that will be hard to unlearn and will allow Henderson to get takedowns repeatedly throughout the course of this fight. Combine this with his size advantage and superior clinch grappling, and we have a recipe for an upset here. Edgar could still take this on points, and the Over or some form of bet detailing a long fight should be the one that pays out no matter what.
Quinton Jackson -200
Ryan Bader +160
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
A perfect example of a young lion looking to take out an old one. Bader has done fairly well for himself in his UFC career, but having come up short against Jones and shockingly against Tito Ortiz, will need a big win to get back in the title picture. For Jackson, I think we’ll be seeing his decline, but I’m fairly sure he’s still too much for Bader at this point. The main hang-up is Jackson’s very underrated takedown defense, which has stuffed all but the best wrestlers in the division. While Bader might be a great wrestler on paper, his overall game hasn’t developed to the point it needs to be at to put Jackson on his back for three rounds. I see this fight being close to start with, but slowly going the way of Jackson as he lands better strikes and starts to impose his own will against the cage, taking a decision win. Wager wise, I couldn’t begin to guess where the O/U will be, but I think the Over is not only the most likely outcome, but will also be the value line. Hit it if it’s a positive number for sure.
Cheick Kongo -185
Mark Hunt +145
Props: Hunt by KO
In an old UFC vs Pride dream match-up, Cheick Kongo will come to Japan and look to put another nail in Mark Hunt’s MMA coffin. Hunt has defied the odds in his UFC run thus far, going 2-1 against two wrestlers none-the-less, and will look to work his power punching skills against Kongo here. This is a fight that Kongo should realistically dominate with his superior skills, reach and takedown ability, but one that could go horribly wrong. The fact remains that Kongo is sometimes chinny and that Hunt has potential to flatten him if he can get on the inside. As such, while I favor Kongo to win this fight outright, I feel the strongest prop available is a Hunt KO.
Jake Shields -185
Yoshihiro Akiyama +145
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
It’s odd to think Jake Shields and Yoshihiro Akiyama would be fighting for their careers here, but having gone 1-2 and 1-3 respectively, that seems to be the case. This is a great match-up for grappling fans, as Akiyama brings his high-level judo takedowns into this bout and could give Shields fits on the mat. Akiyama’s best shot at victory is in a sprawl and brawl tactic, where he can bring his heavy hands to bear against Shield’s recently cracked chin, and may have the size to implement this style of fight. Overall, Shield’s track record against judokas and other grapplers in general is far too strong, and Akiyama’s gas tank has never been up to the UFC gold standard. A play on Akiyama by KO is interesting, but I don’t think we’ll see strong enough odds to warrant it. Instead, the Shields straight line and possible Over makes the most sense here, although don’t be afraid to back away if the lines are out of touch with reality.
Takanori Gomi -240
Eiji Mitsuoka +190
In what is likely Gomi’s last shot at UFC victory, he returns to Japan to take on fellow shoot wrestler Eiji Mitsuoka. For those unfamiliar, Mitsuoka has been a staple of Japanese MMA for years and has had mild success against the various fighters that ply their trade in the Orient. The issue for Mitsuoka is that Gomi is and was the best Japan has to offer in the Japanese shoot wrestling world. Factor in that Gomi also brings a heavy set of hands into this fight and a great deal of size, and it leaves little room for Mitsuoka winning this fight. A lot of different outcomes present themselves there, and I’d be uncomfortable with a prop bet. Instead, hit the straight line if it looks nice, or leave the fight alone all together.
Yushin Okami -200
Tim Boetsch +160
Props: Okami by Decision
Coming off a highlight reel loss to Anderson Silva, Yushin Okami will step back into the cage, facing the new wrestling terror of Tim Boetsch. Okami has fought the same way for years and has a fairly predictable pattern; Losing to ace wrestlers or boxers and beating all the rest. While Boetsch has looked good at MW, he’s far from “ace” though and I can’t see him pulling off a win here. The hang up is, of course, how Okami recovers from being humiliated in a title fight and if his head is screwed on straight. I don’t see that as something that would ruin Okami in most cases, and I can see him outpointing Boetsch here with relative ease, making the Decision prop a strong one at the right price.
Hatsu Hioki -240
Bart Palaszewski +190
Props: Hioki by Submission, Hioki SOTN
A controversial yet successful debut in the UFC finds Hioki working his way into the title picture, taking on sturdy veteran Bart Palaszewski. Bart has never been the best at anything, but being simply good everywhere has helped him in his career, when opponents have chosen to take him lightly. Hioki brings a far superior ground game and size advantage into this fight, which will make life difficult on the smaller Palaszewski and his chances of getting inside. It’s the classic case of Palaszewski having to over commit to land shots on Hioki, who can then clinch and execute his own game. While I don’t see much value happening with straight odds, Hioki tends to bust out some very slick subs, making a SOTN play enticing.
Anthony Pettis -160
Joe Lauzon +130
Props: FOTN, Lauzon inside 1st
Poised at the cusp of the division elite, Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon will attempt to use the other as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. This is easily the most exciting fight on the card as Pettis and Lauzon have fast and furious grappling styles, as well as enough power and finesse to do harm to the other. Pettis has shown improvement every time out, and while not a perfect fighter, is a serious threat to Lauzon and upper tier fighters. The killer in this fight is Lauzon’s weak cardio, which always seems to shoot his chances in the foot outside the first round, and keeping pace with Pettis might do him in. Forget the straight line, because if Lauzon can’t get it done early, he’s not getting it done period. Expect a fast fight that turns into a route for Pettis late, as he lays into Lauzon for a late TKO or decision win.
Kid Yamamoto -140
Vaughn Lee +110
Props: Yamamoto by KO
Not many fighters have crashed and burned in their career like Kid Yamamoto, but having gone winless in the UFC thus far, he’ll need to pull out a victory in Japan. His opponent is an interesting character in England’s Vaughn Lee, who brings a submission grappling background and flashy kickboxing style into the cage. Lee is both incredibly fun to watch and confusing to his opponents; Wildly transitioning and lashing out with submission attempts at every turn. Yamamoto brings aggression and naturally heavy hands to bear in this fight, but could easily find himself biting off more than he can chew in exchanges here against such a diverse offensive fighter. Overall, the deciding factor here is that Lee gives up defense for offense and tends to get tagged a lot in his fights. Kid’s KO power could come in handy here and makes for the smartest prop bet of the night as his chances of tagging Lee and hurting him are decent.
Riki Fukuda -120
Steve Cantwell -120
A make-or-break fight is stressful enough, but taking such a fight after a serious injury is another beast all together. Having been involved in a car accident that put him out of the game for a year with a knee injury, Fukuda has a tough road to UFC redemption, facing kickboxer Steve Cantwell. Cantwell is a tricky fighter to handicap, as he’s talented but sometimes wilts under pressure in a fight. Overall, I think Cantwell costs himself this fight by backing up in the face of Fukuda’s forward movement, losing by a close decision. With so many variables, this is one to avoid betting on unless something ridiculous occurs with the straight wager.
Takaya Mizugaki -120
Chris Cariaso -120
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over, FOTN
One of the funniest fights of the night pits Japanese brawler Takaya Mizugaki against American muay thai champion Chris Cariaso. Mizugaki has been matched tougher than almost anyone in the sport, yet has put together enough wins to keep him in the Octagon. Cariaso has been similarly matched since his debut, but is constantly impressive in his bouts and brings one of the most unique technical striking styles you’ll see in this division. This is a difficult fight to handicap, as Mizugaki brings the superior takedowns and top positioning into this, while Cariaso is the superior technical striker. I’d have to give Mizugaki the slight edge in his ability to control this fight from the clinch and top position, but Cariaso has the accuracy and surprising grappling acumen to take this fight away from Mizugaki. Betting wise, I’d take the Over if it comes in at a positive number, and make a small play on FOTN, as this bout should be fireworks.