For wagering purposes, this card will make me sweat. I typically like to bet on slight favorites, but there are just too many attractive underdogs here. For that reason, I’m not too confident in too many favorites, so I don’t see many valuable parlay combinations. Let’s get to it.
Both longtime veterans here are coming off victories over talented opponents. I see great value in Shields as the dog.
First, I’m not entirely sold on Lombard at 170. For some guys, dropping a weight class means improved cardio—the fighter might have lost his spare tire that he should have lost years ago. I don’t think this is necessarily the case for Lombard, who looked emaciated even at fight-time in his welterweight debut against Nate Marquardt. We didn’t get to see much of Lombard’s cardio in that fight, though, as he used his crushing power to pick up the early KO. Nonetheless, for my money, Lombard fails the eye test at 170. I think the massive weight cut will only exacerbate the well-documented cardio problems Lombard has experienced in the past.
Second, Shields has a clear path to victory, and that’s in a typical Jake Shields fashion. Oh how easily we forget that Lombard was controlled for two rounds against Yushin Okami and even mounted in the second round. Granted, that fight was at 185, but Shields is a huge welterweight himself, and see the above paragraph for my concerns about Lombard’s cardio. Additionally, Okami was able to put Lombard on his back using relatively basic single leg attacks both in open space and against the cage. Shields is more skilled than Okami in these types of takedowns, and I suspect he’ll be able to mimic Okami’s takedowns to plant Lombard on his butt. Once on the mat against Okami, Lombard was able to get up to standing in the first round, but was utterly pinned in the second. Again, this plays into Shields’s strengths: he loves holding opponents down, slowly advancing positions and using his incredibly taxing style to zap fighters of the energy and will to stand back up.
Third, Shields is well equipped and experienced in dealing with absurdly powerful fighters like Lombard (See e.g. Tyron Woodley, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, and Jake Ellenberger whom he lost to shortly after his father’s death). While not the most appealing striking to watch, Shields’s tactics on the feet serve his style well. He’ll constantly flick out lead-leg body and leg kicks. These kicks don’t do much damage, but they do interrupt his opponent’s offensive flow and keep him out of the middle range where heavy punchers do the most damage. Also, by throwing a quick lead-leg kick, Shields decreases the time it takes to throw a kick, which decreases the chances that his kick is caught and countered. In an annoyingly boring fight, Shields used exactly these types of kicks to stay out of Tyron Woodley’s punching range until he was ready to rapidly close the distance in the clinch, where he was able to get deep on Woodley’s legs multiple times. Lombard is no Tyron Woodley in the takedown defense department, so expect to see Shields using his kicks to maintain the distance, then close the distance to use his leg attacks to drag the fight to the ground.
Let’s be clear: this is a close fight. I just see value in Shields as the underdog. I could be wrong about Lombard’s cardio at 170. Moreover, Okami had some success on the fee against Lombard in part because he was a southpaw just as is Lombard. Shields is an orthodox fighter, which puts him in immediate danger of a concussive right hand from Lombard. Finally, even though Shields is on a bit of a winning streak right now, he hasn’t looked all that impressive. It’s hard to put money on somebody that has been anything but inspiring in his last few outings.
So long as Shields is in plus money, I’m taking him. I’ve seen him above +180 in some places and I love those lines. At +170 I’m taking him for a moderate play.
Sanchez is coming off a fight of the year candidate loss to top lightweight Gilbert Melendez, while Jury is looking to put on a show after a supremely uninspiring decision victory over Mike Ricci. Once again, I’m going with the underdog—Sanchez—here.
I think that all-too-often we, as intelligent MMA fans (if you’re reading this, you’re probably in that category), scoff at a fighter that tends to throw caution to the wind and wildly swing punches from his hip in pursuit of a fight night bonus and approving tweet from Dana White. That’s what we think of when we think of Diego Sanchez; we picture him standing with his feet square, wildly swinging hooks and eating punches to his likely bloodied face. We’d often like to think that this style cannot win fights. That said, dealing with this style of wanton aggression is very difficult to deal with and respond to for even the sport’s best fighters. An indomitable will to win and fearlessness in the face of danger are legitimate skills that someone like Diego Sanchez uses to his full advantage in the cage.
With that in mind, I don’t think that Jury, in his relatively young MMA career, will be able to properly handle the pressure and gameness from Sanchez. Against Ricci, we saw a fighter that appeared utterly disinterested in winning and displayed little to no urgency. Sanchez will force him into a fight. Having not been locked in a cage with someone as ferociously aggressive as Sanchez, I suspect Jury to fold under the pressure.
Perhaps due to his interesting persona and gunslinger style, we often forget about Sanchez’s technical skills, which I think he’ll be able to use effectively against Jury. First, fighting out of the southpaw stance, Sanchez has always had a decent left kick, and had some success with left body kicks against both Melendez and Takanori Gomi. These obviously were fight-finishing blows, but the thudding shin to an opponent’s liver will slow the attack. Additionally, against Ricci (a southpaw), Jury essentially froze or stepped back against a left body kick. He simply cannot afford to do this against Sanchez. If Sanchez can get off on his left body kicks, he’ll greatly slow the rangy kickboxing attack of Jury.
Second, it’s easy to forget that Sanchez is legitimately talented on the mat. He will, at least once, put Jury on his back, and it’s unclear exactly how the young prospect will react there. Jury’s ground game isn’t anywhere near the level of Sanchez’s, and if his entire bottom game is to stand back up, he’s in immediate danger of getting his back taken and choked. I give Sanchez a strong edge on the ground, and just a couple takedowns could be enough for Sanchez to be given a decision, which he seems relatively adept at earning.
I think Jury is a little over-valued here because he showed that he can knockout a rushing opponent when he blasted Ramsy Nijem. History shows that Sanchez can and will be caught rushing in wildly with punches, but Sanchez also has eaten those shots against far superior strikers (Melendez, Kampmann) and continued to move forward. It seems certain that Jury will use his clean striking to catch Sanchez rushing in, but I’m not sold on the idea that he’ll be able to put Sanchez away, or even continue to catch Sanchez when faced with the other-worldly pressure that Sanchez presents.
This one will probably be a nail-biter, but that’s what makes gambling fun. I’m taking Sanchez for a moderate play at +150.
My typical betting strategy is relatively risk averse; I like betting on slight favorites, but the lines here a just a bit too difficult to stay away from the underdogs.
I’m putting money on Pennington for essentially one reason—her size. Andrade is the more skilled and experienced fighter, and probably more athletic with a brighter future in the sport. That said, she is 5’2" and likes to throw Wanderlei-esque hooks in close punching range. Pennington, on the other hand, is 5’7" and seems to throw exclusively jabs and crosses. As someone who enjoys breaking down the technical aspects of fights, it’s frustrating to watch Pennington’s limitation to simple 1-2s, but it can be effective against a much smaller opponent. Moreover, Andrade does show some serious deficiencies in defending punches—she moves straight back, hands down, with her head straight up in the air. For her sake, I hope she fixes this habit, but for my bankroll’s sake, she can eat straight punches all night.
Size should also be an issue if the two women grapple. Against Liz Carmouche, Andrade was outmuscled and completely throttled on the ground for an entire round. She is skilled, and even came close with a guillotine against Carmouche, but the size and strength difference was simply too much for the Brazilian to handle. I don’t think Pennington is anywhere near Carmouche’s level on the ground, but her size and strength advantage could help her gain dominant position or stay out of difficult positions if needed. In her TUF Finale fight against Roxanne Modafferi, we saw Pennington get the better of the more skilled Modaferri on the ground, in large part due to her athleticism.
I don’t make many of these, but at +240, I like Pennington for a small play.
Very briefly, I think this fight will end in a finish. Bermudez’s record of decisions belies his ability to actually finish the fight. I understand that he’s a pretty severe reach disadvantage against Hettes, but Hettes was absolutely throttled on the feet against Marcus Brimage. I think Bermudez’s all-violence all-forward strategy, coupled with his solid wrestling base, should lead to a knockout.
If Bermudez doesn’t get the knockout, he tends to put himself in serious submission trouble. Against Steven Siler, Bermudez left his neck out for a guillotine time and time again. Bermudez’s penchant for trying to slam his way out of submissions won’t help much against Hettes, who’s a supremely tight, technical grappler.
Either way, I like Bermudez by KO or Hettes by submission, so I’m betting that the fight won’t go the distance at +140.
Barnatt v. Nilsson under 2 ½ rounds at -105—hit. As I predicted, Barnatt’s striking and Nilsson’s static defense led to a KO.
Delorme v. Grant, Delorme at -115—push. Still bummed this fight was cancelled.
Johnson v. Guillard, Johnson at -130—hit. Close, but thanks Melvin for forgetting to be aggressive.
Parlay: Gustafsson (-500), Barnatt (-300), Scott (-180), 1 unit to win 1.49 units—miss. Brad Scott, you’re killing me here. Do you even game plan, bro?