I've been absent for a hot second, busy watching collegiate wrestling and making awful decisions in the midst of celebrating my birthday. I think there's some strong picks and money to be made on Saturday's card. Let's get into it.
This featherweight tilt pits a UFC-debuting up-and-comer against a veteran that likely has his continued employment inside the Octagon on the line. Even without a ton of information on newcomer Alex White, I’m taking him as a slight underdog.
Both fighters are relatively well-rounded with a preference toward throwing punches. Payan is 0-2 in the UFC and is probably only being given one more shot because his debut was against the ultra-tough Jeremy Stephens, and he was in a fun scrap in his second fight against Robbie Peralta. Against Stephens, Payan was simply outclassed and outwrestled time and time again. He’s not a dead fish off his back, but never presented a real threat with Stephens inside his guard, typically aiming just to get back to his feet where he did find some success landing an overhand right. Against Peralta, Payan was clearly winning, but showed some questionable fight I.Q. when, very early in the third round, he was drawn into a brawl and knocked out. He was able to show some offensive wrestling against Peralta, but that may say more about his opponent than Payan’s actual skills.
Alex White is young, athletic, and skilled in all areas. For me, that alone makes him worth a wager, especially since he’s at plus odds. He is likely giving up a speed advantage against Payan, but I suspect White’s age—and hence cardio and durability—will be a key factor in this fight. To be sure, White is very hittable, but based on what little video is available, he’s calm and composed, and always game. Importantly, the aging Payan has been knocked out in three of his five professional losses and White has shown decent power for a featherweight. Alex White has a patient, measured striking style, which should draw Payan into exchanges. In these exchanges, I’m betting on age, chin, and raw athleticism to win out.
The real x-factor here (and what’s preventing me from putting more money on White) is the ground. Payan is far from an ace on the ground, but he showed against Peralta that he’s more than willing to take a fight to the ground, and he’ll be especially more likely to take this route considering that his employment in the UFC is on the line. My guess is that White will be strong enough to fend off most takedown attempts, particularly as the fight wears on.
I like the debuting fighter here. I think he’s being a little undervalued because not much is known about him, but I know enough about Payan’s shortcomings to make a moderate play on Alex White at +125.
I want to say this first: if you aren’t excited for this fight we probably can’t be friends.
Breaking down this fight something became very clear to me: the things that get Barboza in trouble, Cerrone doesn’t do, and the things that get Cerrone in trouble, Barboza does. Stylistically Barboza should win this fight, and I’m betting him all the way.
First, let’s talk about Barboza’s weaknesses and how I don’t think Cerrone can exploit them. Against Jamie Varner and Danny Castillo, Barboza was tagged and hurt by hard-charging wrestler-boxers throwing powerful right hands. It’s no secret that Barboza is most troubled when his opponent can back him up; it’s hard to whip those powerful Thai kicks when your feet are moving back. He needs a static opponent. Cerrone’s striking style, while supremely technical, provides Barboza with exactly the type of target he needs to unleash his Muay Thai arsenal. Cerrone is good in a straight kickboxing fight, but Barboza is just a split second quicker, and this should make all the difference. Moreover, Cerrone is not the type of fighter to bulrush his opponent with heavy leather—he prefers to stand, feint, and pick his kicks and punches. The second he stands and feints, Barboza will unload.
Barboza is presumably less talented than Cerrone on the ground (at least offensively), but I think Barboza’s active footwork on the outside will make any Cerrone takedown difficult to accomplish. Barboza showed some great awareness and level-headedness when he escaped choke attempts from Danny Castillo only moments after having his brain rattled. Cerrone’s (probable) slight edge on the ground will likely be negligible, even if he can get it to the ground.
Next, if we look at Cerrone’s weaknesses, we see that Barboza can exploit those weaknesses. Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter. Barboza shoots out of the gates and will probably throw a leg kick in the first ten seconds (why can’t I bet on that?). Additionally, we’ve seen Cerrone get tagged with body kicks, which is really just as much of a Barboza specialty as are his leg kicks. Barboza’s lead-leg switch kick to the body will likely do some serious damage to Cerrone. In addition to being stopped by a body kick from lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, Adriano Martins and even Melvin Guillard hurt Cerrone to the body early in their fights. Cerrone can’t afford to get hit in the body more than a few times against Barboza, perhaps the division’s strongest kicker.
I understand that there’s been some serious movement on this fight. I believe it opened up close to even, but more and more people seem to be seeing the same things I do, as wagers are coming in for Barboza. I picked up Barboza for a large wager at -130, and would probably take him all the way up to -150.
I’ll be brief here: I think Travis Browne will easily beat Fabricio Werdum. He’s much more athletic and bigger than Werdum, and nothing has led me to believe that Werdum will be able to get this fight to the mat. In almost all situations, it’s unwise to bet that a heavyweight fight will go the distance, but presented with the odds, I’m betting that the fight doesn’t have a finish at +400.
Do I think that is the most likely outcome? No. However, do I think that Werdum has enough veteran savvy and willingness to aimlessly rely on his ground game to avoid any sort of exchange with Brown on the feet? Absolutely. Let’s not forget the Werdume/Overeem fight with Werdum literally begging Overeem to engage in his guard. Dear God I hope that doesn’t happen, but it’s a legitimate possibility. The odds of the fight going the distance are just too good for me to pass up, and I’m making a very small play here.
2 fight Parlay: Browne at -240 and Masvidal at -240: Risk 1 unit to win 1 unit.
I like this small parlay. As I explained above, Werdum shouldn’t offer much of a fight for Browne, who I actually think is undervalued, but I don’t have the plums to bet on him straight up. As far as Jorge Masvidal over Pat Healy, Masvidal is simply way too fast on the feet, with very strong counter-wrestling. Masvidal is a much grittier fighter than people give him credit for (re-watch his battle with Michael Chiesa), and I don’t think Healy will be able to bully him. I like Masvidal winning all three rounds by outstanding boxing and tight take down defense.
Last event (that I wrote about):
This was a tough one to swallow…
Dennis Bermudez v. Jimy Hettes, fight will NOT go distance at +140: Hit. Finally. As I predicted, Bermudez throttled Hettes.
Follow me on Twitter @BenjaminAbrigo