Gambling Spotlight: UFC 95

1035_medium

Joe Stevenson

#24 Lightweight

 

vs.

Diego Sanchez

#7 Welterweight

+260 (5D) Best Line -315 (BOOK)
26 Age 27
5'7" Height 5'10"
29 - 9 - 0 Record 19 - 2 - 0
6 / 13 TKO / SUB 6 / 9
Cobra Kai Jiu Jitsu Camp University of Jiu Jitsu
L - Florian (SUB)
W - Tibau (SUB)
L - Penn (SUB)

Last 3 Fights
W - Fioravanti (TKO)
W - Bieklheden (SUB)
L - Fitch (SD)

I get the feeling Dana White and Joe Silva don't like Joe Stevenson.  After getting merked by B.J. Penn at UFC 80, they threw him one of the monsters at 155 in Gleison Tibau and then set him up for failure at UFC 91 with Kenny Florian.  It doesn't get any easier as he becomes a crash test dummy for the Diego Sanchez Lightweight Experiment.

I've always seen Joe as a poor man's Diego Sanchez - explosive and relentless with good-not-great hands and grappling.  He's always had problems with guys bigger than him (he lost to Josh Neer at Fight Night 14 and even in victory had a lot of problems with Tibau) or that can control position while grappling (Penn, Florian).  Diego just happens to be a mix of both.

Diego may have been a tad undersized at welterweight, but still climbed to establish himself in the top ten.  His two losses come to Josh Koscheck (a fight in which he had a lot of injury issues) and a split decision to consensus top three Jon Fitch.  That's impressive stuff.

Unfortunately for Joe, I see this being similar to the Penn and Florian fights.  Diego will push the fight, swarm, and at some point end up on top of Joe.  So long as he doesn't fall into a guillotine, and he's good enough to stay out of that, he should take this walking away.

I like a unit on Sanchez here.  I think this is Diego's fight to lose, but I think this will be the start of his march at the lightweight crown.

1034_medium

Dan Hardy

#17 Welterweight

 

vs

Rory Markham

+100 (5D) Best Line -105 (BOOK)
26 Age 26
6'0" Height 6'0"
20 - 6 - 0 Record 16 - 4 - 0
10 / 4 TKO / SUB 11 / 5
Team Rough House Camp Militech Martial Arts
W - Gono (SD)
W - Weichel (TKO)
W - Reiner (TKO)

Last 3 Fights
W - Farber (KO)
W - Ellis (SUB)
L - Cooper (TKO)

Joe Silva continues his underrated work as matchmaker with a fine bout between a couple of solid welterweight prospects.  Hardy's getting the Michael Bisping treatment, co-main eventing a card in his home country of England.

I like a unit on Hardy here.  He controlled the early portions of the Gono fight with solid boxing.  Gono ended up picking up on some of Hardy's tendencies and closed the distance in the last two rounds, but I don't think Markham will be able to exploit Hardy in the same way.  Additionally, Brodie Farber tagged Markham all around the ring before getting his head blown off with a right high kick.  Hardy still has some issues, but I don't think he'll be caught chasing with his hands near his waist.

1033_medium

Wilson Gouveia

#23 Middleweight

 

vs.

Nate Marquardt

#5 Middleweight
7 time King of Pancrase

+255 (BOOK) Best Line -270 (5D)
30 Age 29
6'1" Height 6'1"
12 - 5 - 0 Record 26 - 8 - 2
4 / 7 TKO / SUB 4 / 14
American Top Team Camp Jackson's Submission Fighting
W - MacDonald (SUB)
W - Jensen (SUB)
L - Reljic (TKO)

Last 3 Fights
W - Kampmann (TKO)
L - Leites (SD)
W - Horn (SUB)

Their first fight wasn't a great indication, but I think people sleep on Nate Marquardt as a guy who can dethrone Anderson Silva.  With that in mind, I think he's being undervalued here.

Gouveia looked awful in his fights with Goran Reljic and Ryan Jensen before taking care of Jason MacDonald quickly.  Jensen especially, before being caught in an armbar, took it to Gouveia throughout their fight.  Marquardt's a guy who's always been solid, but he showed immense improvement in his standup when he mugged Martin Kampmann.

Things are fairly evenly matched on the floor, but I expect Marquardt to push the fight to all corners of the Octagon standing up.  I think we see a TKO stoppage in round two.  Take Nate up to -350 to -400.

1032_medium

Chael Sonnen

#12 Middleweight

 

vs.

Demian Maia

#8 Middleweight

+235 (5D) Best Line -270 (DOG)
31 Age 31
6'1" Height 6'0"
21 - 9 - 1 Record 9 - 0 - 0
7 / 3 TKO / SUB 1 / 7
Team Quest Camp Team Brasa
W - Filho (UD)
W - Baker (UD)
L - Filho (SUB)

Last 3 Fights
W - Quarry (SUB)
W - MacDonald (SUB)
W - Herman (SUB)

Contrary to Sonnen's delusion, these two are not the best middleweights in the world. They aren't even the best middleweights not named Anderson Silva.

That said, Maia may be the best prospect in the division. After watching tape on him, I came away with a lot of good things to say. For starters, he's much better on his feet than most guys with a strict BJJ background. Which isn't to say he'll light the world on fire standing up, but he's aggressive, has OK technique, and he uses it well to set up his takedowns. That follows on the ground where he complements his world class grappling with an efficient positional transition - the punch in the face.

In addition, Maia refuses to relent when he wants to bring the fight to the floor. He does not give up on his singles and doubles, and if he is met with great resistance, he will not hesitate to fall back, pull guard, and work for sweeps.

Sonnen, on the other hand, represents your prototypical Team Quest guy - big, bulky wrestler with OK-to-solid hands. He poses some interesting problems for Maia. For starters, his wrestling presents a challenge for Maia to take the fight to the mat. If he can succeed in that fashion, he could repeat his destruction of "Saint" Paulo Filho.

Maia, however, is taller than Filho with a longer reach, and shouldn't have the same problems his Brazilian counterpart did. Also, Sonnen, and to a greater extent Team Quest, have never been known for their ability to create a game plan and stick with it. Sonnen has already said this fight will likely end up on the ground. And with someone with as many grappling deficiencies as Sonnen, it's only a matter of time before Maia grabs a limb or a choke.

I'm torn on picking a side in this one which is usually a sign that the market is fairly efficient. I give Maia a huge edge in ability to finish the bout, but I'm scared that Sonnen can keep the fight where he wants it. There's always a chance that Maia's striking has come along enough to win the fight there, but I wouldn't count on it. If I had to choose, I'd take Maia, but if you don't have a gun against your temple, just enjoy the fight.

Josh Koscheck

#4 Welterweight

 

vs.

Paulo Thiago

-515 (5D) Best Line +450 (BOOK)
31 Age 28
5'10" Height 5'11"
12 - 3 - 0 Record 7 - 0 - 0
3 / 4 TKO / SUB 1 / 3
American Kickboxing Academy Camp Unknown
W - Yoshida (KO)
L - Alves (UD)
W - Lytle (UD)

Last 3 Fights
W - Dutra Jr. (TKO)
W - Kheder (UD)
W - Cavera (SUB)

Koscheck hung at -450 just a couple days ago, so we've seen some line movement in the past 48-72 hours or so. The current best available  line seems a bit off as well. The linesmakers may be adjusting for inefficiencies they saw in Werdum/dos Santos type of lines, they may be worried about Koscheck's fight schedule, or maybe they know something about Paulo Thiago.

Unfortunately, the tape on Thiago doesn't offer us much. It looks like he has solid jiu-jitsu and an underdeveloped striking game. Yes, a Brazilian with good ground and bad standup. Shocking. Still, none of his opponents even touch the level of Josh Koscheck, so we don't really know how his skills stack up in that sense.

If you don't mind laying the chalk, I don't mind a play on Kos around -500. I wouldn't fault anyone for staying away due to Thiago's unknowns, however.

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