Outside of a couple fights, UFC 175 is a relatively evenly matched card. For me, I think it’s a decent wagering card, and below are my favorite bets for this Saturday.
Both of these welterweights have so far failed to really find their groove in the UFC, but nonetheless are both looking to put together a two-fight win streak this weekend. Robertson is a slight underdog, but I actually think the odds are off, and will be taking him for a moderate play.
Kenny Robertson is a former Division I wrestler and understandably uses his grappling as his primary weapon. He’s a bit more submission and jiu-jitsu oriented than other top-level wrestlers as he’s lighting quick at taking the back and has shown a knack for winning scrambles using a crafty submission game. He has excellent clinch entries and takedowns from clinch control against the cage. Robertson’s striking is below-par for the UFC; he lacks head movement, feints, and discipline in his punching attack. With that said, Robertson knows where his bread is buttered, and will stand at distance, only to lunge in seeking to begin a grappling exchange.
After bursting onto the scene with a quick win as a light heavyweight, Alcantara has been a bit of a disappointment in the UFC. Even in his wins, the Brazilian has shown problems with cardio and overall offensive output; he doesn’t seem to know how or when to push on the gas pedal. He’s a well-rounded fighter that will show flashes of skill in all areas, but will often fail to string together strikes on the feet, attack with sufficient ground and pound in a dominant position, or complacently lay on his back when taken down. Perhaps his strongest skill is his clinch timing and takedowns from the clinch. He likes to duck under punches and drag opponents to the mat. Additionally, he’s big for the weight class and can use his size well when he’s on top.
Robertson is a bad style for Alcantara. Alcantara likely won’t be able to impose his grappling top game against the superior wrestler, nor will he be able to take advantage of Robertson’s weakness on the feet because Robertson consistently moves forward and Alcantara won’t have the energy to take over the fight on the feet. Moreover, Alcantara does not react well at all to ground strikes. Instead of tying up his opponent or covering and scrambling to standing, Alcantara has a tendency to flail his arms, uselessly reaching for his opponent’s wrists. This deficiency was on display against Igor Araujo. If Robertson is smart, he’ll follow Araujo’s path to victory and control the fight on the mat, frustrating Alcantara as the fight goes on.
I was pretty excited about Ildemar Alcantara when he came into the UFC, and especially following his surprise victory in his first fight, but he has been underwhelming since. I’m not saying that Robertson is a world-beater; he certainly has massive holes in his game. Robertson, though, has the skills to shut down Alcantara’s paths to victory, and I think he’ll be able to use his dominant grappling control to get the win.
After breaking down the fight I figured Robertson would be a slight favorite, but I was surprised (and pleased) to see that Robertson is an underdog. Right now Robertson is sitting at +130, and I like him for a moderate play at that value. If the line drops to even or as Robertson as a favorite, it’s probably not worth any action.
Rob Font v. George Roop
Again, I’m taking the underdog. Based on skills alone, I think it’s fair to expect Font should win the fight. However, there’s a large gap in the experience and level of competition between the two bantamweights, which is moving Font close to +200. That said, this is gambling, and I like the value of Font as a +170 dog.
Font is debuting in the UFC after 9 straight victories. As I alluded to above, he has a mix of competition that is generally against tough regional fighters. Of note, he owns a victory over 6’1" Bellator fighter Saul Almeida. Font is a surprisingly technical striker that packs serious, one-punch knockout power in his hands. He’s pretty defensively sound on the feet—he has above-average head movement and footwork that he’ll use to not only avoid punches, but to keep himself in good cage positioning. He understands distance well and can move just out of the way of punches, only to counter with his own. His grappling is serviceable, if untested. He can use his understanding of distance on the feet to duck under punches and get an offensive takedown here or there, but it’s clear he currently lacks the grappling chops to dominate a UFC-level fighter on the mat. Font is extremely well coached, fighting out of Team Sityodtong, and has a surprisingly high fight IQ.
When thinking of George Roop, a couple of things will always be discussed: his height, and his chin. Roop is freakishly tall for the weight class, and is always getting just a little bit better at fighting to his height. He possesses great head kicks and a front kick, which is always a smart tactic against a shorter opponent. However, as is the case with many tall fighters, Roop likes to stand with his chin up, head on the center line, largely because being so much taller he feels like he’s out of danger even when he’s close to his opponent. This bad habit has given Roop the (rightfully earned) reputation of having one of the worst chins in the UFC. Three of Roop’s four UFC losses are by way of KO/TKO, and even in victory against Brian Bowles, Roop was badly hurt by a right hand in the first round. It’s important to remember that these knockouts are happening at the lower weight classes, where the finishing rate by strikes is much lower than light heavyweight or heavyweight.
I think there’s a good chance that Roop’s bad habit of standing and trading with his chin up will catch up to him here, leading to Font pulling off the debut upset. To be clear, there are a number of questions about Font. This is a huge step up in competition against the veteran Roop, and this will be Font’s first fight at bantamweight. However, Font fights out of a world-class training camp, and I suspect he’ll be well prepared for the bright lights and weigh cut. Roop may be more talented on the mat, but Font is probably athletic enough to stay out of trouble on the ground, and I think the grappling in this fight will overall be a wash if it does go there.
I’m looking for Font to hurt Roop with a right hand over the top and continue to use punching variety and combinations, along with the occasional takedown throughout the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory. Font’s defensive technique on the feet should keep him out of trouble with Roop’s kicks, which are still his best weapon. It’s a close fight with a number of questions, but I like the value of Font at +170 and I’ll probably take him up to +160 for a small play.
Simply put, Stuve is great at submitting lesser grapplers, and Mitrione has been controlled by lesser grapplers than Struve. A submission is Struve’s clearest and most likely path to victory here. If Struve doesn’t quickly get the takedown (which I think he can, despite Mitrione’s athleticism and speed), he’ll gladly pull guard and intelligently take advantage of his advantage on the mat.
Mitrione’s grappling, while improving, is still crude. We saw this against Brendan Schaub, where once Mitrione was taken down and in half-guard, he overcommitted to an underhook he used to stand up and failed to recognize Schaub’s d’arce choke. Once in the choke, Mitrione essentially stopped and waited for the choke to take effect. Using an underhook in half-guard bottom is something any grappler learns on day one, but on day two, he learns that overcommitting the underhook can create problems. Struve has the tools and fight IQ (as shown against Lavar Johnson and Pat Barry) to get the fight to the ground and submit the aging Mitrione.
I think the only reason I don’t want to touch the money line here, and the only reason that the odds are so high for a Struve submission, is Struve’s long layoff and well-documented health problems over the past year. Additionally, Struve has a suspect chin, getting knocked out four times against the division’s strongest punchers. By that same token, Struve has avoided a KO against notoriously powerful strikers, so I think he’ll be able to stay out of trouble against Mitrione.
I see great value in Struve by submission at +245. Without much investment you can get a decent payout here, so I’ll be taking this bet for a small play.
Parlay: Camozzi (-230), Weidman (-190), Faber (-740): 1 unit earns 1.48 units
Briefly on each fight:
Chris Camozzi v. Bruno Santos: Bruno Santos is a short, stocky grinder with little to no finishing ability. He is plodding and has cardio problems. His game relies on being able to muscle opponents against the cage and control them on the mat. Despite this strategy, he lacks technical chain wrestling, or for that matter, a plan B. Camozzi is a technical, if slow, kickboxer. He has above-average combinations and forward pressure, and is relatively skilled in escaping a clinch with his back to the cage. Camozzi’s best weapon is perhaps his knees, which he will fire off both from the clinch and in open space. Camozzi will outwork and outpoint the plodding Santos en route to a decision victory, if not a TKO started by a reactionary knee.
Chris Weidman v. Lyoto Machida: If you’ve read this far and don’t know about these two, I don’t know what to tell you. Weidman is technically impressive in all facets of MMA. His wrestling and takedown timing is, for my money, top-3 in the sport. Once he’s on the mat Weidman is extremely technical with his ground and pound, guard passes, and submission threats. Machida has an advantage over Weidman in open-space striking, but anywhere else he’ll be losing. Even when Machida spends the entire fight on the outside, judges have been unlikely to award him decisions. I think Weidman will do surprisingly well at boxing range, and be able to overwhelm Machida in the clinch and on the ground, perhaps leading to the decent of Machida’s career.
Urijah Faber v. Alex Caceres: I was probably going to throw Faber in any parlay for this card, regardless of what other fights were involved. Faber is technically and physically huge jumps ahead of Caceres. Caceres’s best bet is to pot shot the shorter Faber from the outside for 15 minutes, a strategy that will likely fall apart when he realizes just how fast Faber can cover ground and close the distance. I think this is the safest lock on the card and expected Faber to be much more of a favorite than he already is. I’ll take the value he adds to this three-fight parlay.
Last event I wrote about, UFC Fight Nights 43 & 44:
Gambling is about allocating value. Despite a losing record on the night (with some questionable decisions), I was still plus more than 2 units on the night.
Jake Matthews v. Dashon Johnson: I picked Matthews and won. This was the largest wager I’ve placed this year. I ended up putting even more money on Matthews closer to fight time when I saw the line moving in my favor. A little research creates a ton of confidence in a wager, and a decent payout.
2-fight parlay, Matthews and Antonio Braga Neto: I lost. Another close decision that I thought went in my favor. I still think with this was a smart bet with good value, and despite the close decisions, I’ve also been the beneficiary of questionable decisions in my wagers, so I can’t complain too much.