Welcome MMA bettors, speculators, and gambling lurkers! Back at it again for another week of comprehensive gambling analysis from your friends at MMAFighting.com. This weekend, we have a card filled with competitive, fun fights headlined by a title eliminator to find out who gets to challenge Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight strap.
For those of you who are new here or those who have forgotten, this aims to be an exhaustive preview of the fights, the odds, and my own personal breakdown of where you can find betting value. The number after the odds on each fighter is the probability of victory that those odds imply (so Shevchenko at -155 means she should win the fight 61 percent of the time). If you think she wins more often than the odds say, you should bet it because there’s value in the line.
As always, all stats come from FightMetric and all the odds are from Best Fight Odds. Net Value means how much money you would have made if you bet $100 on that fighter in every one of his/her fights that odds could be found for. Doubly as always, I’m trying to provide the most thorough guide I can for those who want to legally bet or who just enjoy following along. If you are a person who chooses to gamble, only do so legally, responsibly, and at your own risk.
Now with all that out of the way, let’s go.
Valentina Shevchenko is primarily a striker and the best pure one in the division. While she’s a decorated Muay Thai practitioner and kickboxer, her game pared down to the essentials, relying heavily on jabs, straight lefts, and right hooks. She’s almost entirely a counter fighter, relying on distance management and footwork to slow the pace to her preferred single shot selection attack. When she does throw in combination, it’s organic and effective. Shevchenko’s biggest weakness on the feet is her reliance on counters and slow pace which can make fights look closer than her skill advantages would suggest.
Shevchenko’s striking is supplemented by a strong clinch game. She can go to work with knees and elbows from different angles as well as a tricky footsweep that can catch her opponents off guard. From a grappling standpoint, she’s not a whiz but she is competent and possesses excellent takedown defense which keeps her off her back for the most part. She’s also small for the division and when the UFC finally opens up a 125 pound women’s division, Shevchenko is the presumptive favorite to be champion.
Julianna Peña is the inverse of Shevchenko, a big, aggressive grappler who excels at ground and pound. Unlike Shevchenko’s methodical striking game, Peña wants to overwhelm her opponents with her physicality and power. Her game is built around pressure and imposing her top position grappling. She’s an excellent and relentless wrestler and once on top she has arguably the best ground striking in the division, with her only competition being Amanda Nunes. On the feet Peña’s limited and defensively lacking but her power and aggression cover some holes and she willing to engage even if she’s still developing real technique.
This is a classic striker versus grappler matchup. If Peña can secure takedowns, she should be able to keep Shevchenko down and work her over on top. If Peña can’t, she’s in for a long night of counter right hooks. The latter is far more likely as Shevchenko excels at distance management which helps keep her firmly on her feet. Shevchenko was able to weather the early storm against Nunes (a better all-around fighter than Peña) and may well have won a decision had that fight been five rounds instead of three. Shevchenko won’t face such limitations here and I expect she will box Peña’s ears as she comes charging in, winning a clear decision. I also like a bet on her at the current odds.
Since moving to welterweight Donald Cerrone has looked better than ever, and not just because he’s winning and winning impressively but because he is making substantial technical improvements. For a long time, Cerrone’s game revolved around his rangy kicking but he was always defensively porous and underutilized his boxing. Since he didn’t have the best boxing game, Cerrone was often susceptible to a consistent pressure game. But now Cerrone’s become much more comfortable with exchanging in the pocket and is much more aggressive in his use of duck under takedowns which he finishes well. He’s also has tightened up his footwork and pivoting making him much harder to exploit, and he’s developed a really crafty intercepting knee that serves as an effective deterrent to closing in on him. Cerrone is also an underrated wrestler and on the floor he’s the same dynamic finisher he always has been with excellent top control and crafty back takes.
Jorge Masvidal is a great counter fighter with good power who can operate at all ranges. He has sneaky ways to hurt incoming opponents and possesses a diverse array of attacks on the feet. He’s also got an offensive wrestling game that’s better than average and his timing on single legs is tricky enough to be successful. Masvidal is also a very good grappler (after all, he tapped Michael Chiesa which is nothing to sneeze at) and he’s got above average ground and pound. Masvidal’s biggest weakness is a general lack of volume and a sense of operating at a level that is a mite too defensive, letting fights come to him. However, in his most recent fights he appears to have moved past this tendency to operate in second gear, putting it on Jake Ellenberger and finishing him early.
Many people view this as the unofficial main event of the card and with good reason, this is one heck of a battle. Both are excellent, all-around technicians who have been surging since moving to welterweight in part because they’ve adapted out of some old flaws. Masvidal is the better boxer and better defensive fighter but Cerrone is the more diverse and potent offensive threat. To me this comes down to the range of the contest. Cerrone’s improved footwork should let him operate at the longer kicking distance he wants to work at and while Masvidal’s newfound aggression may make this harder than it would’ve been a year ago, now Cerrone also has a more complimentary boxing game to hold his own should Masvidal get inside consistently. I think this is an extremely close and competitive fight but I like Cerrone more diverse striking attack and blended wrestling to take a decision.
Andrei Arlovski is a striker with a game built almost entirely around his right hand and the devastating power that it carries. Previously that mostly meant jabbing to set up a kill shot but as he’s gotten older, Arlovski’s developed a myriad of ways to connect his power punch while maintaining the hyper athleticism and speed required to just force the issue sometimes. Arlovski can throw his right hand moving forward or backwards, on the counter or on the lead, or even in a combination of repeated right hands where he varies speed and tempo to sneak it through.
On the other side of that though, Arlovski’s reliance on his right hand makes him easier to game plan for and limits his offense in predictable, unfortunate ways. This is made all the more dangerous by the fact that Arlovski, never the stoutest of chin, is now nearing 40. Heavyweights hit hard and though he’s done a much better job of limiting his exposure to big strikes from opponents (probably been the single biggest factor in Arlovski’s revitalization), he’s still been knocked out in two of his last three losses.
If MMA had a combine, Francis Ngannou would score very well in all the tantalizing metrics. He has excellent size for the division, exceptional reach, he throws well in combination, and he throws with big-time power. He’s one of the best athletes in the division and he shows a knack for adaptation and development. He’s still raw but Ngannou has shown tremendous upside in his craft as well, improving his skill markedly between fights.
Ngannou is mostly a striker and a good one. He keeps distance well and shows an aptitude for timing his strikes to attack openings from far outside. He has good footwork and shot selection and operates well on the counter. Because he is judicious with his strikes, his cardio also appears to be a plus which is impressive considering the power every punch is thrown with. Outside of striking, Ngannou is good in the clinch where his physicality lets him establish control, and he’s good defender of takedowns. Ngannou is even showing the beginnings of a submission game with his most recent finish of Anthony Hamilton.
Ngannou is the best heavyweight prospect in years and he’s finally making the jump up to facing real top-10 heavyweights; granted, Arlovski is well past his prime but this is still a massive leap up in competition for Ngannou. That being said, you can’t feel confident in Arlovski going up against someone who can match him for athleticism and who hits as hard as Ngannou does. It’s entirely possible Arlovski lands a clean right hand and finishes Ngannou or even just out guiles him for 15 minutes but the more likely scenario is that eventually Ngannou times Arlovski coming in and puts the lights out. The pick is Ngannou by knockout but given the width of these lines, I would never suggest a bet on him. Honestly, I don’t even hate a tiny bet on Arlovski just because the numbers are so far apart, though it’s understandable if you don’t want to throw you money on that particular horse. After all, this is heavyweight MMA and it’s much safer to not bet on the big boys.
Alex Caceres is a strange bird. He’s an unorthodox striker who has grown up before our very eyes in the octagon. He works best at range, throwing long kicks and punches to pile up points on his opponents. He’s not a huge finisher but his throws good volume and he works at such a long range that he doesn’t get his as much as his volume would suggest he should. He’s not a great wrestler but he’s solid off his back, looking to sweep or sneak to the back more than attack guard submissions.
Jason Knight has been affectionately dubbed “Hick Diaz” and for good reason. He’s an aggressive, all-action fighter who is equally happy to throw hands as he is to throw up submissions from his back. From the outset, Knight pressures opponents backwards, throwing hard combinations to the head and body. He’s also a good wrestler when he chooses to do so, but he doesn’t do that much because he’s so content to strike or work from his back. On his back he has a very active guard, going for triangles and submissions aggressively.
This is a fight between two very similar fighters. Both men are lanky grapplers and active strikers. The difference here will be Knight’s pressure game and underrated wrestling. I expect Knight’s edge in power on the feet will overwhelm Caceres volume and kicking, opening up takedowns for Knight. Once on top, Caceres is a fine grappler but Knight should be good enough to control and punish before sneaking to the back for a choke. The pick is Jason Knight and I like him for a bet as well.
Nate Marquardt (+125/44%) vs. Sam Alvey (-145/59%)
Alvey is a slow-paced southpaw with big power and outstanding takedown defense. Somewhat like Shevchenko, he relies almost entirely on the counter which can cost him against durable fighters who throw a lot of volume. Marquardt is a long-time veteran and formal title challenger who is skilled in every phase of the game. He’s also 37 years old and his chin is a major concern these days as is his fading volume. He still packs big power though and has a complimentary wrestling game to make things difficult.
Marquardt is definitely the more talented, diverse fighter but his durability is a serious problem. Alvey may well give up minutes of the fight early due to inactivity but eventually I expect he’ll land the counter hook to put Marquardt on skates and then finish him off with strikes. The pick is Alvey by knockout and a small bet on Alvey Inside the Distance at +130.
Raphael Assuncao (-145/59%) vs. Aljamain Sterling (+125/44%)
In the interest of full disclosure, I train out of the same team as Assunção (not with or under him, but he is around the gym frequently and my coaches are tight with him) which is enough of a conflict for me to not make any predictions about this fight.
That being said, this fight is gangbusters. Assunção is a well-rounded veteran who is good on the counter and Sterling is a…sterling prospect, an athletic grappler with an emerging striking game. The winner here is moving up the ladder and not terribly far away from a title shot.
Bobby Nash (+100/50%) vs. Li Jingliang (-120/55%)
Nash is a quality prospect making his UFC debut on short notice. He’s a good athlete, having wrestled at Michigan State, and his striking is sharp and powerful. Li is a well-rounded fighter who’s all offense and little defense. He throws hard on the feet and goes for submissions on the floor.
This fight depends on a lot of X-factors. If Nash uses his wrestling, he should be able to ground Li and take a decision. If he chooses to box though, Nash is in for a tougher battle. Couple in the fact that Nash is coming in on short notice and making his debut and that makes me favor Li. The pick is Li by decision but never bet on fights with debuting fighters nor on short notice fights.
Henrique da Silva (+175/36%) vs. Jordan Johnson (-210/68%)
Da Silva is a wild man, throwing huge haymakers from the hip with little regard for his own safety. He’s not a good wrestler though and his cardio isn’t great since he puts everything into his punches. Johnson is a former collegiate wrestler and a strong submission grappler. This seems pretty formulaic: da Silva can’t wrestle that well and Johnson can. Johnson secures a late submission, but don’t bet on UFC debutants.
Eric Spicely (-110/52%) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (-110/52%)
Spicely is an all-arounder who is decent at range but prefers to work on the inside and from top position. He’s a sneaky grappler and fair control artist as well. Di Chirico also has skills everywhere and he’s steadily improving every time out. This is a very close fight but I favor Di Chirico to pick up the win based on his athleticism and continued improvements. No bet though because the odds are perfect.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-145/59%) vs. Jeremy Kimball (+125/44%)
De Lima is another all-action fighter. He throws haymakers at range and from top position and lets the chips fall where they may. Kimball is a rugged brawler who likes to smother opponents in the clinch. If de Lima can put together offense early, he should stop the short notice and debuting Kimball but I think it’s more likely that Kimball forces the issue in the clinch and tires out de Lima, whose cardio was already suspect before he missed weight. I like Kimball by decision but, as always, don’t bet short notice or debuting fighters, even if they’re underdogs.
Alexandre Pantoja (+110/48%) vs. Eric Shelton (-130/57%)
Pantoja is probably already one of the 15 best flyweights in the world. He’s a blue-chip prospect with finishing skills everywhere and a dynamic grappling game. Shelton is also a prospect, turning heads by outperforming his projections on TUF 24. He’s a classic wrestle-boxer and a top shelf athlete. Shelton’s athleticism and improvement make this fight close but Pantoja is the more well-rounded, dangerous, and experienced fighter in all phases. I like Pantoja to win and if he remains at plus money I like him for a bet.
Jason Gonzalez (+115/47%) vs. J.C. Cottrell (-135/57%)
Gonzalez is a tall southpaw kickboxer with a good jab and a strong front headlock series. Cottrell can do a bit of everything and is a good athlete but he’s also technically limited. If Cottrell can work takedowns, he wins this fight. I think it’s more likely though that Gonzalez keeps it standing and uses his size and striking advantage to win a decision. Don’t bet on this fight though as this is the lowest level of MMA you’re gonna find in the UFC and thus far more unpredictable.
That’s all folks. Enjoy the fights everyone and good luck to those who need it. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew
(Editor’s note: All of this advice is for entertainment purposes only.)
Source:: mma fighting