If taking advantage of coked-up Vegas odds makers who have yet to properly flesh out there understanding of Mixed Martial Arts is on your New Years resolution list then UFC 125 will provide ample opportunity for you to start 2011 off right. This Saturday night’s UFC 125, though not exactly packed with star power, provides a host of very interesting match ups. Not terribly significant events (the lightweight title aside), but close and intriguing contests. The great thing about cards like this is that they feature bouts that hard core fans can really appreciate, but that tend to somewhat baffle the Nevada gaming experts. This creates the opportunity for fans/small time gambling addicts like myself to crank the excitement level up even further by laying a few well-placed sheckles down on the correct side of slightly skewed lines created by guys who are distracted by the task of creating proposition bets for Lebron James’ next press conference. So, before the remaining sand drains from the hourglass of this year, lets prepare to do some wise gambling.
FRANKIE EDGAR (+115) VS. GRAY MAYNARD (-145):
Starting out at the top of the food chain we have a match-up that would be a lot more interesting if it hadn’t already been played out a few years ago. Back at UFC Fight Night 13, these two locked horns for three rounds and Maynard came away with a unanimous decision victory. I don’t see it going much differently on Saturday. Though the first fight was over two years ago, Edgar has not changed significantly as a fighter since that time. This is not a knock against Edgar, its just that he came into the UFC so fully-formed that there was less room for him to grow since we became aware of him. He’s always had great boxing and great wrestling. He had great boxing and great wrestling the first time he fought Maynard. Has he improved since then? Sure, but not enough to re-write the history that was their first meeting.
In fact, I believe it is Maynard who has improved the most since the first match-up, developing some very savvy boxing of his own (including some of the best footwork in MMA) to compliment his already awesome wrestling. Edgar’s problem in this fight is that he is going up against a guy with a very similar skill set, who has a significant size advantage and knows how to use it. This fight will look very similar to the first (plus 2 rounds), with Maynard controlling Edgar with his wrestling and size en route to a decision victory. Edgar, one of the most talented fighters on the planet, will then likely consider a smart move down to the UFC’s newly introduced Featherweight division. Edgar has always been an undersized Lightweight (though a very successful one) and his potential at 145 lbs. is something that deserves to be witnessed. Come Saturday, Maynard is going to give him a reason to do just that.
THE BET: Maynard (-145), via unanimous decision
CHRIS LEBEN (-160) VS. BRIAN STANN (+130):
Years ago, this fight might have been a cake walk for any Greg Jackson fighter willing to follow their guru’s Yoda-like game plan. Unfortunately for Brian Stann, Chris Leben has done a tremendous job in the past few years of tightening up every conceivable hole in his game and evolving from an awkward, yet dangerous slugger to one of the more well-rounded fighters in the Middleweight division. I just don’t see what Stann’s game plan is here. One would think that he hopes to avoid the Crippler’s power, but I don’t think he has either the wrestling to topple the newly improved take-down defense and grappling of Leben, nor the speedy footwork to pull a Michael Bisping. This leaves Stann with the option of doing what he does best: engaging in an aggressive stand-up war. Unfortunately, this also is (and always has been) Leben’s best option. Add to this the pure statistical weight of this being Stann’s first bout at 185 and, even at -160, Leben is looking like a pretty good bet. I see Leben surprising Stann by mixing up his stand up attack with some takedown attempts, clinching and dirty boxing, wearing down a dehydrated Stann before “crippling” him in the 3rd round with a big left hand. Stann has potential at 185, but its gonna be a bumpy start.
THE BET: Leben (-160), via 3rd round TKO
THIAGO SILVA (-140) VS. BRANDON VERA (+110):
Never bet on a guy who hasn’t fought in 9 months...unless his opponent has fought in 12. These layoffs belong to Vera and Silva, respectively, who meet Saturday in what should be a very entertaining bout, assuming they still remember anything about Mixed Martial Arts. I’m a bit mystified as to why Vera is the underdog here. It probably has a lot to do with him dropping 3 of his last 5 fights, however, one must remember that these losses included a very close split decision to the puzzle that is Keith Jardine, a highly controversial decision loss to the great Randy Couture and a completely one-sided thrashing at the hands of Jon Jones. Of the three, the Jones fight was the only one that wasn’t close and controversial and being on the receiving end of an uncompetitive beat down courtesy of “Bones” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not better than Thiago Silva, it means that you were probably born somewhere on planet earth and require a steady supply of oxygen for survival. Thiago is a talented light heavyweight with dangerous striking, but I think Vera has the technical skill to outclass him for three rounds. I think Silva is a better fighter than Krzysztof Soszynski, but I see this fight looking very similar to Vera’s bout with The Polish Experiment. Vera will use superior technique and speed to keep Thiago at range for jabs and leg kicks. If Silva gets too close for comfort, Vera should be able to utilize superior wrestling to weather the storm and control position before returning to picking his opponent apart.
THE BET: Vera (+110), via unanimous decision
CLAY GUIDA (-150) VS. TAKANORI GOMI (+120):
It would be great if Gomi really had returned to form and was properly motivated to be a key contender in the UFC’s lightweight division. And as Tyson Griffin performed a face plant on the canvas back in August it seemed like this was a real possibility. However, given the brief showcase that was that fight, I am not quite ready to overlook the embarrassing performance he had against Kenny Florian only months prior. I’m not saying the Griffin fight was a fluke, but if I had to bet on who will show up on Saturday (and I don’t have to, but I’m going to)-the Gomi who we saw against Florian or the Gomi who we THINK we saw against Griffin- then I am going with the former. The iron-jawed Tazmanian Devil that is Clay Guida will be able to avoid the KO power of the “The Fireball Kid”, while pestering him takedowns, jabs and leg kicks. Guida takes home another entertaining decision victory.
THE BET: Guida (-150), via unanimous decision