Gambling Spotlight: UFC 107

The Bad Beat Express hit me pretty hard when Jon Jones tried to surgically remove Matt Hamill's eyes from his face last week at the Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale.  A happy trigger finger on the "Confirm" button added a couple additional units to the play (that I wasn't thrilled about, but wasn't exactly sweating), making the swing sting that much worse.

It's always disappointing to be on losing end of these sorts of things, but take solace: Jones's performance qualified a bet at even the worst odds you might have been stuck with.

That being said, let's try to right the ship at UFC 107

B.J. Penn

#1 Lightweight
UFC LW Champ
Former UFC WW Champ

vs.

Diego Sanchez

#7 Lightweight
Ultimate Fighter Winner

-280 (Bodog) Best Line +250 (5Dimes)
30 Age 27
5'9" Height 5'10"
14 - 5 - 1 Record 21 - 2 - 0
5 / 6 TKO / SUB 6 / 9
B.J. Penn MMA Camp The Arena
W - Florian (SUB)
L - St. Pierre (TKO)
W - Sherk (TKO)
Last 3 W - Guida (SD)
W - Stevenson (UD)
W - Fioravanti (TKO)

B.J. Penn is severely undervalued.  Take a look at the best closing Penn lines since his fight with Jen Pulver: -330 vs. Pulver, -280 vs. Stevenson, -221 vs. Sherk, -230 vs. Florian.  Penn didn't just beat those four guys; he dominated each fight bell-to-bell.

It would be redundant to fondle Penn's junk in print.  We all know what he brings to the table: a preternatural sense for jiu jitsu, one of the top boxing games in all of MMA, a chin that Arlovksi would die for, and skin that would make Fedor superhuman.

But I do want to highlight one part of Penn's skill set (and take a stab at Mike Goldberg at the same time).  Penn not only has great hands, but he has fantastic striking defense.  Unlike what a certain UFC play-by-play man will say, good head movement does not involve tossing your head about willy-nilly two steps out of striking range.  Effective head movement should be so subtle as to go unnoticed to all but the most careful of viewers.  Penn utilizes his whole body to move just fractions of an inch away from incoming blows, giving him the balance and control to unload a counter combination in return.

Kenny Florian had it right in his prediction on D.C. radio.  B.J. Penn does everything that Sanchez does, but better.  I cannot envision a scenario in which Diego finishes B.J. - Penn has an iron chin if his defense were to be penetrated, and the idea of him being submitted by anyone at 155 must be laughed off, which puts him at a severe disadvantage in a five round fight.

Sanchez's lone advantage will be in the cardio department, which isn't enough to carry you to victory and will probably be overstated by fans and pundits alike.  Penn may still visibly tire as the fight wears on, but watch his fights at lightweight and tell me he isn't as effective in round four with Kenny Florian as he was in the opening period.  Sanchez will come out like a bat out of hell, but he doesn't keep that pace going throughout the fight. 

Penn is as dominant at 155 as Fedor at heavyweight, Anderson at 185, and GSP at 170.  For whatever reason, the linesmakers don't seem to grasp that (and apparently the betting public hasn't either, the line hasn't moved as far as I would expect).  So, unload as much as you can tolerably risk.  Stick him in parlays.  Take the KO or submission props over at Bookmaker.  If there's a bet to be had and Penn is involved, hand over you money.

SBN coverage of UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez

Frank Mir

#4 Heavyweight
Former UFC HW Champ

vs.

Cheick Kongo

#17 Heavyweight

-190 (5Dimes) Best Line +190 (Bodog)
30 Age 34
6'3" Height 6'4"
12 - 4 - 0 Record 14 - 5 -1
2 / 7 TKO / SUB 9 / 2
Team Sityodtong Camp Wolfslair MMA
L - Lesnar (TKO)
W - Nogueira (TKO)
W - Lesnar (SUB)
Last 3 L - Velasquez (UD)
W - Hardonk (TKO)
W - Al Turk (TKO)

I have a favor to ask the Bloody Elbow nation.  Please bring me the head of any soul who refers to this fight as a "classic striker vs. grappler matchup".  Regardless of the level of truth behind the statement, it's one of the most boring and tired cliches in MMA, and a sign of lazy journalism.

With that out of the way, this is your classic striker vs. grappler matchup in its purest form (no, it isn't). This fight will hinge on one aspect: Mir's ability to drag the fight to the floor.  And I'm not so sure he can do it with any regularity.

Kongo's takedown defense is getting unfairly criticized for the Velasquez fight.  You'll never mistake him for a B.J. Penn, but using a fight against an elite wrestler and a short training camp as a frame of reference is a mistake here.

Now, if it does hit the floor, Mir will submit Kongo more times than not as long as he can obtain dominant position.  But Mir doesn't have the strongest shot in the world, and that ability will diminish the longer the fight goes with Kongo peppering Mir with leg kicks.

I don't believe Mir for a second that he's willing to stand with Kongo, but if he does, he'll get smashed.  His striking, simply stated, is not good.  He stands straight up, his form is stiff and awkward, and he doesn't move particularly well.  A kickboxing match featuring Kongo and Mir would see Mir getting stifled at range for fifteen minutes.

All told, I like a unit on Kongo here. My thoughts on Mir aside, this kind of fight will always favor the grappler barring some supreme ability in a secondary skill.  I have a lot of issues with Mir's ability to take this to the floor, and if Kongo starts to tee off on Frank, he may shut down and call it a night.

Kenny Florian

#4 Lightweight

vs.

Clay Guida

#18 Lightweight
Former Strikeforce LW Champ

-205 (Bodog) Best Line +180 (5Dimes)
33 Age 28
5'10" Height 5'7"
15 - 4 - 0 Record 25 - 10 - 0
3 / 7 TKO / SUB 4 / 12
Tri-Star Gym Camp Jackson's Submission Fighting
L - Penn (SUB)
W - Stevenson (SUB)
W - Huerta (UD)
Last 3 L - Sanchez (SD)
W - Diaz (SD)
W - Danzig (UD)

If I were managing your typical UFC lightweight, the last guy I would want my fighter to fight is Clay Guida.  Even when you win, you lose, as you often win in very ugly fashion.  Throw in Guida's relentless wrestling game and a fifteen minute fight, and you have the recipe to be beaten by a guy that might not have the same dynamic skill set you possess.

Which is exactly the position Kenny Florian finds himself in.  He assuredly has a more varied attack, but it will be for naught if he can't stop Guida from taking him down.  That being said, Kenny's a very smart fighter.  He and his camp know, even with Guida's time with Greg Jackson, that Clay's going to try to push the pace and smother Kenny on the floor.  I expect Team Florian will come in with a plan to create distance, avoid the fence, and pick Guida apart on the feet.

I'm staying away from this fight, though (not completely, though).  If Kenny can't finish the fight, you're looking at a very high variance decision given Clay's go-forward smother style.  I think the current line accounts for this pretty well.

I did however take Florian to win by KO, TKO, or DQ at +400 on Bookmaker.  I feel a bit square taking it, but I feel Kenny's propensity for the elbow and Guida's propensity to get hit may lead to bad consequences.

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