Below are my favorite picks for UFC Fight Night 38. Tell me why I’m wrong, and why I’m right, but mostly just let me lead you to free money…
Nilsson is a UFC-debuting Swedish fighter, while Barnatt is making his third appearance in the Octagon, where he looks to remain undefeated.
I like Barnatt to finish the fight by KO or TKO here. Nilsson is a position-first, submission-savvy grappler that relies on his top control and pressure to create submission opportunities. Barnatt is an opportunistic grappler himself, with three submission finishes in just seven pro fights. Barnatt, though, represents a real threat on his feet, not only because of the difficulties his height creates, but also because of his patient, technical striking.
Whether he’s being offensive or defensive, I think Barnatt has a real opportunity to finish the fight, probably in the second or third round. Defensively, Barnatt’s brand of takedown defense relies heavily on the threat of a knee to the noggin when his opponent is shooting for a takedown; he uses his height particularly well in this regard. The threat of knees allows Barnatt to stand his full 6’6" and makes any grappler tentative to dive for the legs. Unfortunately for Nilsson, his favorite way to create a ground fight is the double-leg. He does have a strong double-leg off of the cage and some clinch takedowns, but typically getting the fight where he wants means wading through Barnatt’s knees. To his credit, Nilsson does a good job of setting up his shots with two or three punches, but the height difference makes that particular set-up significantly more difficult. That is, if Nilsson wants to attack Barnatt’s head with punches to force his hands up then shoot for a takedown, the difference in height means Nilsson will have to make a drastic change in levels to attack the legs. That extra split second spent changing levels on the taller man could be the difference between a deep shot and a knee knockout.
Offensively, Barnatt will rely more on his timing than raw power, and although he only has one (pro) knockout to his credit, he showed great improvement in this area in his last fight against the tough-as-nails Andrew Craig, dropping him twice. Nilsson’s striking is serviceable; he’ll throw relatively disciplined straight punches. However, Nilsson tends to hold a static high guard when receiving punches, often freezing in place, waiting for his opponent to finish a combination. Barnatt has developed the great habit of finishing his combinations with hard kicks to the body or legs, and he’ll feast on Nilsson’s defensive tendencies. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barnatt hurting Nilsson or even dropping him with strong body kicks.
Due to the threat of a Barnatt knee and Nilsson’s defensive tendencies on the feet, I like the value in Barnatt by KO/TKO. I’m taking under 2 ½ rounds at -105 for a decent size play here.
Roland Delorme v. Davey Grant (I know this fight was just cancelled but I already wrote this and well… feel free to tell my why I’m wrong in the comments.)
Grant is coming off a submission loss in The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale against Chris Holdsworth, while Delorme looks to bounce back after a split decision loss to Alex Caceres. To be honest, I’m surprised by how close the odds are on this fight, as I see Delorme running away with this one.
Grant holds an impressive finishing record with seven submission wins in the first or second round out of eight total victories. Grant’s impressive finishing ability, though, might say more about his level of competition more than anything else. In his final fight before joining the TUF cast, Grant faced the 7-34 (25 losses by submission) Danny Welsh. Looking closely at Grant’s fights, we see that his defensive and positional grappling leaves something to be desired, and I fully expect Delorme to take advantage.
At this point in his career, Delorme is a legitimate UFC veteran with five fights inside the Octagon. He is an aggressive grappler that will use a variety of takedowns, particularly single leg attacks and judo throws, to get the fight to the mat. Once there, he will immediately look to pass and ultimately take the back. Against Edwin Figueroa, we saw Delorme drag the fight to the ground directly into back control. From there he’ll control, apply steady ground strikes, and look for the choke. Additionally, he’s aggressive off of his back, threatening submissions to create scrambles and ultimately end up on top.
Against Holdsworth, Grant showed strong counter-wrestling for the first round, defending takedowns against the cage. Early in the second round, however, Grant was taken down and exposed his back in an attempt to stand up. This is exactly how I see the Delorme fight playing out. Even in his quick submission victories, Grant’s wild scrambling often leaves him in undesirable positions. Delorme’s top control and back-taking is superb, and he’ll pounce on this opportunity. The striking likely edges to Grant, but I think both will cancel each other out. Delorme wades forward with lunging power punches in an effort to get into a clinch or force the fight against the cage. Grant appears a bit more technical, but hasn’t shown any ability to really capitalize on a wildly rushing opponent. Moreover, Grant tends to leave his chin exposed in exchanges.
A couple of x-factors to consider here: First, how will Delorme respond to fighting in Europe? At this point, he’s a seasoned UFC professional and I suspect the travel won’t come into play much. Second, due to his relentless aggression on the mat, Delorme tends to fade late in the fight. However, Grant has never seen the third round, so cardio may be an issue late in the fight for both fighters.
I see a great deal of value in Delorme, and I’m likely going to take him for a big play at -115, and would advise taking him all the way up to -160.
If you’ve got the cherries, you’ll lay some coin on a Melvin Guillard fight. I’m not going to say much about either fighter, since we already know pretty well what both men do inside the cage.
The fight opened up essentially even, with Johnson as a slight underdog at times. I like Michael Johnson all day. Johnson has age (both years alive and amount of punishment received fighting) and momentum on his side. More importantly, Johnson’s brand of rangy striking he’s shown lately should be Guillard’s kryptonite. To be sure, Guillard packs a booming punch that could easily turn off Johnson’s lights, but Johnson lacks no power himself.
Moreover, while Guillard can be good at covering ground quickly to jump in with thudding punches, he does have a tendency to plant his feet and throw heavy, often winging punches. When he does this, Johnson should feast. The name of Johnson’s game is long, straight punches, particularly the left straight from his southpaw stance. In that split second after Guillard misses short with a power shot, he’ll have at least one hand down, and I suspect Johnson will destroy Guillard in those moments. Johnson’s footwork and sticking and moving should keep him out of trouble long enough, and his straight punches to Guillard’s body and head will limit Guillard’s ability to lunge forward.
To be certain, I’m not a bit nervous betting on this fight. Guillard hits like a truck, and in this orthodox v. southpaw matchup, the chances of a power shot landing go way up. Also, in his fight against Joe Lauzon, Johnson showed the rather troubling habit of circling into the orthodox right hand. He stayed out of trouble, though, by using every inch of length in his left hand to stay out of Lauzon’s range. If he can continue to use this similar technique against Guillard, I like Johnson up to -150.
Parlay: Gustafsson (-500), Barnatt (-300), Scott (-180): 1 unit to win 1.49 units.
Gustafsson is better than Manuwa in all areas, especially on the ground where I think he’ll finish the fight in the middle rounds. Manuwa is a powerful guy, but his last two wins in the UFC were… weird. He’s not ready for the step up in competition.
Barnatt: See above. BigSlow is going to roll.
Scott: He should be fighting at welterweight, but so should his opponent. Da Silva hasn’t fought since October 2012, and he didn’t look all that impressive then. He won’t be able to catch the younger Scott in any submissions, and he’s in trouble when the fight is standing.