The UFC invades my international vacation spot of Sweden for the first time, and brings a pile of great fights to the table. Sweden’s greatest MMA export will take a step up in competition in his homeland, as Alexander Gustafsson faces Brazilian monster Thiago Silva in a defining moment in both men’s careers.
This is a betting guide though, and you’ll notice some fights are missing below. When the UFC grabs up Euro talent and pits them against each other on the big stage, anything can happen, and these fights don’t make for smart bets. If I didn’t write about it, it’s not worth cracking the wallet open for. There’s plenty of value to be had on this card though, so don’t be shy about laying down on some of these gems. Now, onto the fights!
Alexander Gustafsson -200
Thiago Silva +160
Props: Fight Ends Inside The Distance
Stealthily moving up the ranks of the UFC LHW division, Alexander Gustaffson will have his first main event spot, taking on replacement fighter Thiago Silva. This is a rough match-up for Silva, who is coming off of a year suspension for a failed drug test against Brandon Vera. With Silva’s main issue being his chin, the prospect of walking into the 6’5″ boxer’s firing line with ring rust is a recipe for disaster here, leaving Silva few outs to win. Silva’s best chance comes with a rapid fire assault of strikes, takedowns and top control, but his fight smarts have proven to be a serious detriment at times as well, making me question how he’ll approach this bout. Overall, Gustafsson has shown he can take a hit and is a major pain in the ass to put on the ground, giving him a comfortable advantage in this fight. Betting wise, I don’t see Silva’s chin or potentially rusted out gas tank making it deep, making an ITD bet almost sure money. Otherwise, respect the straight line and don’t pay a high price for Gustafsson, as Silva can’t be counted out entirely here.
Brian Stann -280
Alessio Sakara +200
Props: Stann ITD
A fan favorite if there ever was one, Brian Stann will look to rebound from his loss to Chael Sonnen, taking on long time UFC veteran Alessio Sakara. Any time you have a Sakara fight, you’re obligated to mention his chin, but I’m going to go in a different direction and mention his lay-off. Having fought only three times in the last 4 years due to multiple injuries suffered in training, I can’t imagine Sakara hanging on at this level for long. With Stann showing improvement across the board, Sakara’s rudimentary skill set and lack of explosive power will make this a short night for him. With the finish being a mystery, hit Stann ITD for small money. Don’t be afraid to grab the Over though if it comes in at an unrealistic positive, as Sakara could stall this fight or even win a shaky decision in some circumstances.
Paulo Thiago -130
Siyar Bahadurzada EV
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under
The long-running Siyar the Killer bandwagon will finally roll into the UFC, as the Afgan kickboxer faces BJJ ace Paulo Thiago. I’m going to admit that I really don’t understand the hype behind Bahadurzada, as when you strip away his interesting life story, he’s really just an ultra-powerful striker. This isn’t to say he’s not a useful addition to the UFC, but I don’t see him walking through too many people in the Welterweight division, and Thiago presents a lot of issues here. Both men have dynamite hands and both tend to get hit far too often than they should, making the striking battle closer than it should be. The kicker here is Siyar’s lack of a real ground game; relying on pure strength to work out of positions. Thiago is simply too slick on the mat, and his judo-based takedowns can get this fight into his world time and again. Whether it’s a brutal KO for one man or Thiago slipping a choke onto Siyar, I don’t see this one making it to the bell. Hit the ITD prop or Under here if it’s at a solid value at 1.5 rounds and respect the straight line as well, as hype and bettors may drive this one all over the place.
Diego Nunes -160
Dennis Siver +130
Props: Fight Goes Distance
One of only a few fighters to compete in three weight classes in the UFC, Dennis Siver will drop to Featherweight to face elite fighter Diego Nunes. Nunes has cemented himself as one of the toughest fights at this weight class due to his extraordinary defensive abilities and varied offense. Any time you have Siver on the card, his ability to succeed or fail revolves around getting inside on his opponent and unleashing his tight striking combinations. With Nunes being one of the best elusive fighters in this division, this creates a problem for Siver, where he’ll have to work hard to close that gap, which may strain his newly trimmed down frame. Siver does have a chance of finishing this one, but I think this is going to the score cards and could easily result in a split decision. As such, take the Distance prop and don’t sweat those score cards.
John Maguire -130
DaMarques Johnson EV
Very few fighters have impressed me in their debut as much as John Maguire. A great combination of raw strength and lethal grappling acumen, Maguire hustled Justin Edwards for their entire fight, but will face a dramatically different opponent in DaMarques Johnson. Johnson comes into this fight having kept afloat against the bottom of the Welterweight barrel, but has the stylistic capacity to give Maguire real problems. This fight will boil down to Johnson’s ability to get off first, both in the striking and grappling departments, and avoid being put in compromising positions by the rugged Englishman. While Johnson could pull this off, his achillies heel has always been his cardio, and the travel overseas compounded with Maguire’s pacing may be too much for the American. This is a nightmare of a fight to bet as well, and unless you find some compelling odds on the O/U, I’d recommend leaving this one be.
Brad Pickett -185
Damacio Page +145
Props: Pickett by Sub
Once there was a time that Damacio Page was considered one of the best in the division, but long layoffs and injuries have cast doubt over his ability to crack the top crust anymore. Much like Sakara above, this fight will be Page’s fifth fight in a four-year period, and with such a rapidly expanding division, this is just short of a death sentence for his career. His opponent isn’t one to give him an easy time either, as Brad Pickett brings a lot of Page’s familiar tools to the cage in a battle-tested body. I’d call this one FOTN if I wasn’t fairly sure Page is going to be put out to pasture here by Pickett’s relentless grappling style. Failing Page bringing a massive punch to bare on the formidable chin of Pickett or using a very conservative wrestling attack, the Englishman holds all the cards here and should get this one over quickly. Trust Pickett to play it a bit safer than his last fight and hunt for a quick submission here, making for a choice prop bet.
Papy Abedi -160
James Head +130
Props: Fight goes over (1.5 rounds), Abedi ITD
A case of someone being matched too tough too soon, Papy Abedi will look to secure his first UFC win against the more manageable James Head. It’s hard to see how good Abedi really is at this point due to his dramatic leap in competition, yet he appeared to have some decent hand speed and accuracy with his punches against Thiago Alves. This fight may well showcase his judo background though, as Head will look to strike from the outside and pick his spots to work his entanglement-based grappling game. While we haven’t seen the best of Abedi, we have seen the best of Head, and I don’t think his style is one that can put another loss on Abedi’s record. Look for a near route by Abedi as he works his striking and forces Head onto his bicycle, but can’t finisher early due to Head’s underappreciated bottom game. For props, I think the Over makes sense if the break is at 1.5, but otherwise I’d hit Abedi ITD.
Tom Deblass -200
Cyrille Diabate +160
Props: Fight Ends Inside The Distance/Under, Deblass by KO
With Jorgen Kruth having bowed out of this fight with injury, UFC newcomer Tom Deblass will step in on short notice, taking on Cyrille Dibate. For those unfamiliar, Deblass is a NJ product who has cleaned up in the no gi BJJ world for the last several years. Having trained under Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie, he brings an MMA functional grappling style and a rudimentary striking style that’s brutally effective. While he’s yet to face any truly stiff competition in MMA, he’s shown himself to be a light year beyond most men on the mat regionally. While I don’t usually jump on UFC newcomers, this is a unique situation that Deblass can capitalize, as Diabate has spent an entire camp prepping for a muay thai fighter. Diabate isn’t a truly crushing puncher and will have his hands full trying to defend against Deblass and his relentless grappling attack. The straight line could pan out to be a profitable one, but the fight ending ITD is one of the best bets of the night. Also, keep an eye out for a Deblass by KO prop, as he tends to work ground and pound from certain positions and could sneak a stoppage in this fight. Considering the pedigree of both men, the KO prop should be at an outrageous positive, and well worth a little play.
Reza Madadi -160
Yoislandy Izquierdo +130
Props: Madadi by Decision, Izquierdo ITD
Two newcomers to the Octagon face off, as Sweden’s Reza Madadi takes on highly-touted prospect Yoslandy Izquierdo. Madadi has been lurking in the Scandinavian MMA scene for some time, but really popped onto the radar when he out grappled Rich Clementi in Superior Challenge. Izquierdo doesn’t have that kind of feather in his cap, but with six solid wins under his belt and obvious talent, he could make a great addition to the roster. Madadi brings a fantastic blend of wrestling, BJJ and cardio to the cage; putting fighters through the ringer for fifteen straight minutes. Conversely, Izuierdo has similar levels of activity, yet tends to string together offensive techniques, rather than Madadi’s constant control. This ends up leaving us with two props, as I don’t think Madadi can finish this fight, while Izquierdo’s best shot is a KO as Madadi moves in, or submission off his back. As with any fight between newcomers, bet small, as anything can happen here.
Jason Young -240
Eric Wisely +190
Confidence: Very High
A striker’s delight will kick off our event, as England’s Jason Young takes on American kickboxer Eric Wisely. Both men are primarily strikers, though of a completely different stripe, as Young favors power attacks and aggression to Wisely’s counter-striking and point-fighting style. This match doesn’t favor Wisely at all, as Young’s dynamic offense, size advantage and clinch control will, at worst, steal rounds from Wisely, and at best, knock Wisely silly. Look for Young to put Wisely on his bicycle, but the cage won’t offer any refuge as Young lands his sharp punches and puts Wisely to sleep.