It’s been a good few weeks of wagering, and I’m looking to keep that train moving this week. There wasn't a ton that jumped out to me on Wednesday’s card, with just too many questions about too many fighters, but below are my favorite bets, along with a couple leans I think are worth a look.
Here we have two fights that I don’t really like betting straight up (maybe Salas—more on that below), but put together in a parlay they offer good value.
Cerrone is an outstanding kickboxer with great submissions and always underrated takedown defense. I think the line on him should be closer to -300 for the simple reason that it’s difficult to see a way that Jim Miller can win the fight. Miller is a classic grinder with above-average boxing. The problem, though, is that he won’t be able to impose his game plan on the surging Cerrone.
I think this fight will look close to Cerrone’s fight with Evan Dunham, with Cerrone successfully defending takedowns and punishing his opponent every time he gets close. As I said above, Cerrone has extremely underrated takedown defense, and if he is on his back, he’s probably one of the most active fighters in the UFC and will immediately look for submissions (see, e.g. the fight-ending triangle against Dunham). Cerrone likes to throw knees in open space, which will dissuade Miller from leg takedowns, and Cerrone’s clinch grappling is technical and active, if Miller looks to engage in a clinch battle.
At the technical level, Jim Miller likes to duck his head when moving forward, particularly when he throws a right hook. Look for Cerrone to use one of his best weapons—a left switch-kick—to take advantage here. Miller’s durability is arguably one of his best weapons, but no man can withstand a clean shin to the head. Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter, but even if Miller comes out of the gates with guns blazing, his attack will largely be grappling-based, which Cerrone will be able to at least neutralize initially. Additionally, the fact that this is a five round fight plays to Cerrone’s favor, as he can afford to give up the first two rounds if he must (Cerrone likely would have beaten Rafael Dos Anjos in a 5-rounder).
I’d be surprised if Cerrone gets the finish here, but I think the damage he can do on the feet, along with his wrestling acumen will slow down Miller enough to win a unanimous decision victory. Simply put, outside of a surprise submission, Miller doesn’t have a clear path to victory. However, with Cerrone creeping close to a 3-to-1 favorite, the risk on a straight up bet isn’t worth it for me, so I’m putting him in a two-team parlay with Salas.
The other half of this two-teamer is Justin Salas (-140) over Joe Proctor. Obviously, this is a much closer fight, but I still think Salas is undervalued.
Salas is a wrestler at heart, but will use active footwork to dance around at distance and leap in with pot-shots or a double-leg shot. He possesses a good counter right hook, and as we saw in his last fight against an outmatched Ben Wall, knockout power. He has excellent timing on his takedowns, but rarely uses them to establish control or do much damage.
Proctor is also a grappler at heart, but much more of the grinding, submission-oriented type. His striking is serviceable and relies heavily on straight, basic punches to setup a double leg or clinch against the cage. He has great back-takes and opportunistic chokes once on the mat. Outside of grabbing a guillotine choke when Salas leaps in for a takedown, though, I don’t think Proctor will be able to impose his will and clinch-heavy game on Salas.
Salas does like to circle around the outside, often with his back against the cage, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Proctor will be able to pin him against the cage. Quite the opposite, I think this means Salas will be comfortable when he’s close to the cage and will use his speedier footwork to stay out of clinches and takedown problems. From the outside, Salas can use his superior kickboxing to pick apart the much slower Proctor. I certainly give Proctor the overall edge in grappling, but Salas might actually be the better takedown artist, and he uses those takedowns intelligently to help him win rounds. Once Salas has established a threat of his own takedown, Proctor’s forward pressure will be slowed, allowing Salas to land punches and kicks from the outside. On top of that, I think Salas will be able to counter Proctor’s straight punches with his right hook counter.
Much like the Cerrone/Miller fight, I don’t think the underdog has a clear path to victory. Proctor’s game is based on straightforward pressure and submission oriented grappling. However, Salas’s constant motion and own grappling offense should shut down Proctor’s game plan.
I love the value in the two-team parlay of Cerrone and Salas, and I’ll be making a moderate play here. I’m also pretty high on Salas and I’ll be watching the line closely. Proctor’s guillotine is a real threat in the fight, so I’m tentative to throw too much coin on Salas straight up and I think there’s much more bang for my buck if I back it up with the Cerrone parlay. That said if the line moves closer to even I’m certainly going to make a wager on Salas straight up.
These two flyweights look to bounce back after losses. I wouldn’t typically write much about a wager on such a big underdog (it’s close to the "flier" category for me), but I think Ozkilic is a very live dog here, and Lineker’s reputation has greatly skewed the odds.
Apltekin Ozkilic is an extremely skilled wrestler, and really looks like and fights like a typical flyweight. He’s fast on his feet and with his hands, has explosive double-leg takedowns, and tends to keep a fast pace. On the mat, he’s not the most gifted guard passer or ground-and-pound artist, but he’s certainly active enough to prevent a referee standup, if he can hold down the typically squirmy flyweights he fights. On the feet, he has a tendency to brawl a bit, but smartly attacks the body. In his last fight he looked a bit lost in the Thai clinch, but in a traditional wrestling clinch, his trip takedowns are incredibly effective.
Lineker, on the other hand, is not by any means your typical flyweight. For once, Joe Rogan’s hyperbole seems to be accurate when applied to Lineker. In his last fight, Rogan said that "it’s like he’s cheating" in regard to Lineker’s punching power. Linker will plod forward with his feet planted in a relatively wide stance, load up on punches, and threaten a knockout with every single one of them. Understandably, this kind of power, even if it doesn’t result in a knockout, can greatly slow his opponent’s attack, just by the threat of a knockout. Linker has a habit of missing weight, sometimes significantly so, and his cardio is suspect. His takedown defense is not great, and once on the mat, he’s shown some questionable fight IQ, aimlessly attempting submissions without good position or simply holding on.
Ozkilic has the skills to eek out a victory here. Ozkilic is certainly not as good a fighter as Ali Bagautinov, who most recently beat Linker, but Ozkilic does have the ability to duplicate Bagautinov’s strategy against Linker. Unsurprisingly, Bagautinov looked to take the fight to the mat against Linker, and Ozkilic definitely has the wrestling chops to do this. For a fighter that relies so much on his punching power, it was frustrating to see just how easily Bagautinov could take down Lineker, and if Ozkilic is disciplined (and brave in moving forward), he should be able to get enough takedowns to win a decision.
Importantly, Ozkilic likes to time his takedowns by ducking under punches. Lineker’s body punches can dissuade this type of level-change, but Lineker telegraphs his punches so much that Ozkilic should be able to duck under Linker’s hooks to the head to earn a takedown and wear down the Brazilian.
Moreover, Lineker won’t be able to replicate the game plan of the last man to beat Ozkilic, Louis Smolka. Smolka relied on his volume striking, activity off his back, and good use of his height in the clinch. This is not at all Lineker’s game. Especially if he doesn’t land his powerful body shots, I don’t think Lineker will test Ozkilic’s cardio.
Since his last fight was ostensibly a number one contender’s bout, and due to his scary reputation, I think the betting public is over-valuing Lineker. The value here is on Ozkilic. At +220, I’m taking Ozkilic to beat Lineker for a small play, and I’ll probably be taking that all the way to +200.
As of right now, those are the only two bets I’m confident about on this card, but there are two other fights I would suggest taking a look at, and I may end up wagering on them myself.
At +120, I like Healy here. He has exactly the type of style to win an ugly fight against Tibau. He might be able to use his forward pressure and grinding style against the cage to wear down the Brazilian en route to a decision victory. I’m hesitant, though, because any day now I suspect Healy’s vaunted chin to start to give. Out of his southpaw stance, Tibau has an underrated counter straight left, and Healy tends to charge forward with wide punches and an exposed head. Additionally, Tibau has fantastic takedown defense and very technical counter wrestling against the cage; he’s constantly looking for underhooks to shrug off any takedown.
This is really a dog or pass situation. Healy does have the size and style to control Tibau, but I’m not entirely sold as Healy’s place as a top lightweight, particularly given his porous striking defense.
Jerrod Sanders v. Yosdenis Cedeno
The only reason I’m not confident in this fight pick is the lack of tape on Sanders. At -140, I think Sanders is probably pretty significantly underpriced, and he’ll likely use takedowns and top control to dominate Cedeno, who looked absolutely lost on the mat in his last fight. I base this assumption almost entirely on Sanders’s wrestling credentials. The former Oklahoma State Sooner wrestled alongside top MMA fighters Jake Rosholt, King Mo, and Shane Roller. Against the (presumably) less talented wrestler Ernest Chavez, Cedeno had no answer whatsoever for takedowns or top control.
I like Sanders quite a bit at -140, but I base this wager almost entirely on credentials, without seeing much fight tape at all. Cedeno does have good kicks, and he’s probably the best fighter Sanders has faced yet. All these questions are holding me back from making a confident wager on Sanders, but if you’re looking for the action, I’d recommend a bet here at -140.
Last event I wrote about, UFC 175:
Overall a winning event, thanks to two underdog picks.
Stefan Struve by submission: push. Bummer, I was looking forward to the fight.
3-fight parlay: Camozzi, Weidman and Faber (1u earns 1.48u): I lost. Camozzi was the weak link here. I had predicted his knees would do more damage, and underestimated Santos’s durability.