In the wake of the disaster that was UFC 151, the UFC will look to rebound with a stellar card, featuring two title fights and several potential number one contender bouts at UFC 152. Jon Jones will be the star of the show, though his star is certainly tarnished as of late, as he takes on the always game Vitor Belfort. Also, we’ll close out the UFC Flyweight tournament, as Joseph Benavidez takes on Demetrious Johnson to crown the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion.
At this point I’m sure your bankroll is growing dusty, so let’s put that money to work and have it do what it does best: Multiply. Below is my comparison betting odds, any props that tickle my fancy, and the confidence level in my numbers where X-factors are concerned. Now, onto the UFC 152 fights!
Jon Jones -600
Vitor Belfort +400
Props: Fight Ends Inside Distance/Under 2.5 rounds
Confidence: Very High
More confusing than compelling, Jon Jones will look to defend his strap against a decided step down in competition as he takes on aging middleweight Vitor Belfort in the UFC 152 main event. No matter how you want to paint this, Belfort comes into this bout with his only method of victory being his blazing straight punches, but must close range on Jones to use this. Closing the range has proven to be more problem than it’s worth for many fights in the last few years, and overall I feel Belfort lacks the foot work to compliment his hands, leaving his best weapons stuck outside of his effective range. The straight line isn’t worth the wager, but the Under on this one is sure to pay off, as we’re not likely to see the second round.
Joseph Benavidez -150
Demetrious Johnson +120
Props: Fight goes over 2.5 rounds
The obvious FOTN pick, two former Bantamweight title challengers will look to be the first Flyweight champ in UFC history. This is a difficult fight to cap due in part to Mighty Mouse and his sponge-like ability to absorb skills in the gym, but he faces someone who brings all the hallmarks of past losses. Benavidez combination of explosive punching power and top-level wrestling are exactly what is needed to give Johnson fits, yet that transparency allows Johnson to work these elements tirelessly in the gym, making for a diminished gap in skill. This is one I think we’ll be seeing the second half of easily, yet Benavidez brings superior punching power and is a bit heavier on top, making him my pick to take a close fight. A hedge with Benavidez straight and Over 2.5 should be money, thought don’t be afraid to leave this one alone if the odds are way out of wack.
Michael Bisping -140
Brian Stann +110
Props: Bisping by KO
A hard fight to call and an important one to boot, Michael Bisping will bring his tireless offensive game to the cage against the constantly improving Brian Stann. This fight has a great deal of elements involved, as both men are far more multi-faceted than they sometimes receive credit for, yet we all know they’re striking specialist first and foremost. This fight is nearly even provided it stays on the feet, as Bisping has a technical striking edge while Stann has far more reliable power and the audacity to push forward in this bout. I have to give an edge to Bisping here due to his ability to hit sharp takedowns and his tireless striking game, which has potential to finish Stann inside the distance. This is the prop for me, as Bisping doesn’t have any real power, but lands such a volume of shots that Stann could find himself rattled and stopped later in this fight. Look for that heavy value play, or opt for the safer ITD wager if you’re hoping Stann rips Bisping a new one early.
Charles Oliveira -130
Cub Swanson EV
With Aldo on ice for a bit and a log jam forming near the top of the division, Oliveira and Swanson will lobby for the next title shot here. Both fighters have had stellar bouts in their Zuffa career and bring an incredible background in martial arts, with Swanson’s more wrestling based grappling and traditional boxing verses Oliveira’s bottom game BJJ and straight muay thai skills. There are two major X-factors here that make this one a nightmare to bet: Oliveira’s chin and Swanson’s occasionally lackluster outings. Of these two factors, I’m far more confident in Oliveira’s ability to eat a punch than Swanson’s ability to keep his head screwed on once the pressure is on him. Overall, Oliveira brings the slightly tighter game and his takedown defense should allow him to dictate this fight, giving him a minor edge to take home the win.
Igor Pokrajac -140
Vinny Magalhaes +110
Props: Pokrajac by KO
Long out of the spotlight, Vinny Magalhaes makes his return to the UFC, yet draws a vicious opponent in Igor Pokrajac. Magalhaes is and will always be one of the true elite of BJJ, yet he’s someone who I don’t think has the mindset for full-contact fighting. While he’s shown an ability to scrap in a few fights since his release, he’s also shown many of those holes still exist in his game today. Anyone stupid enough to dive into his guard will surely wish they hadn’t, but Pokrajac has developed into a crafty fighter and brings the dynamite in his hands to put Magalhaes away. The major factor here is how Pokrajac handles Magalhaes kicking offense and if he’s smart enough to block and dodge kicks rather than catch them, as much of Magalhaes grappling offense comes off that set-up. A straight wager on Pokrajac should come in at a great number, while the KO prop only sweetens the pot.
Evan Dunham -130
TJ Grant EV
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
One of the sleeper fights of the evening for myself, grappling gurus Evan Dunham and TJ Grant will look to put on a show for the fans. This is a great stylistic match-up, as both men use the fast shots and defensive tactics of wrestling, but have slick submission skills from the BJJ world, making them counter-wrestling wizards. As such, I’m thinking this plays out more as a striking bout than a grappling one, as neither man will be comfortable being the one to shoot on the other. Grant packs a punch and has some fast hands, but Dunham makes great use of his range and fires missile-like straight punches, giving him the edge in landing strikes and holding range. This is a toss-up, but a fight I see Dunham edging with a bit more finesse everywhere the fight goes. Depending on odds, the Over might be a bit more attractive than a straight wager, but don’t go too heavy on that O/U, as this could end in a hurry as well.
Lance Benoist -240
Sean Pierson +190
Props: Benoist Inside Distance
One of the most exciting fighters to come into the Welterweight division in some time, Lance Benoist will take on Canadian wrestler Sean Pierson in a pivotal fight in both men’s UFC career. Benoist brings an incredibly diverse fight game and a true fighter’s mind; allowing him to react to his opponents with the right moves at the right time. Although he’s coming off a loss to the massive Seth Baczynski, he looked great considering the ring rust, and I fully expect him to walk over Pierson here. Pierson himself isn’t a bad fighter, but his slower pace and lack of tools makes him a sitting duck here. Benoist straight is a fantastic bet, but Benoist Inside seems to be the money play here as Pierson should be beaten soundly anywhere the fight goes.
Marcus Brimage -150
Jimy Hettes +120
Props: Fight Ends Inside 1st Round
A true test for both men and a great undercard scrap await us, as Marcus Brimgage brings his striking and raw athletic ability to the cage against mat wizard Jimy Hettes. Brimage has improved the most out of everyone on TUF 15, having patched his takedown defense holes and implemented a vicious striking game, grabbing two wins inside the Octagon thus far. Hettes himself has put together two wins against strong competition due to his natural grappling talent and seemingly unstoppable takedowns. Once either man ends up in the others world, this fight will be over, as the disparity in skill is massive between both men, and for this reason I have to side with Brimage to get the finish fast. Hettes, for all his grappling prowess, enters clinch and takedown range fully upright and Brimage has the hand speed to take advantage of that stiff entrance and land power shots every time. It might take more than one, but Brimage has the best chance of a quick finish here, though an Inside 1st Round prop makes for a great hedge.
Mitch Gagnon -160
Walel Watson +130
One of the more impressive fighters to come out of Canada in some time, Mitch Gagnon will have a quick turnaround in the search for his first UFC win, taking on Walel Watson. Watson has struggled as of late, but the potential is there with his high-octane striking game and reach. Gagnon is a raw fighter, but one with great instinct and functional strength, having given grappling expert Bryan Caraway fits on the mat in their last bout. While Watson’s reach is a blessing on the outside, it turns into a curse on the inside and Gagnon can wrestle Watson to the mat almost at will. While Watson can struggle and work his own game at times on the feet, I expect Gagnon to control this fight for as long as it lasts, with the potential of a decent straight bet to be had.
Charlie Brenneman -185
Kyle Noke +145
Props: Fight Goes Distance/Over
Two lifelong grapplers meet at Welterweight in a fun curtain jerker of a fight. Brenneman brings some of the best pure wrestling in the division, though little else to tie his game together, yet he may need nothing further to beat his opponent. Noke has gone from an elite level fighter to something of a mid-card relic, having been unable to keep up with the rising tide of talent at this level. What we have is a fight where Brenneman should be able to control this entire fight, and Noke’s faulty gas tank and lack of expert finishing skills could sink him here. While Noke does have an outside chance to finish this with his unorthodox striking or a fast submission, the clock is ticking against the grinder, and I see Brenneman pulling off a decision win.
Look for UFC 152 predictions and main card breakdowns in the coming days.