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Gambling Spotlight: UFC 87

Ufc87_mediumGeorges St. Pierre (-335) vs. Jon Fitch (+295)

Georges St. Pierre owns a 16-2 (7 [T]KO/5 SUB) record.  Fighting out of Greg Jackson's camp, St. Pierre recovered from a loss to TUF 4 winner Matt Serra with victories of Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, and the return fight with Serra.  He brings a wide-variety of skills into the cage, including some of the best effective wrestling in the sport and successfully translated Kyokushin karate standup.  He enters the fight as Sherdog's number one welterweight and number two pound-for-pound fighter.

Jon Fitch sports a 17-2 (4 [T]KO/5 SUB) record.  Fitch fights out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California and currently holds a 15 fight win streak (and it tied with Royce Gracie for most consecutive UFC wins at 8).  He sports a good overall MMA game, complementing his wrestling base with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and solid kickboxing.  His last three fights are victories over Roan Carneiro, Diego Sanchez, and Chris Wilson.  He enters the contest as Sherdog's number two welterweight in the world.

The crux of this fight rests on the notion that, while Jon Fitch is a very very good MMA fighter, Georges St. Pierre is just a little bit better in almost every aspect.  While Fitch has a great wrestling pedigree through Purdue University, GSP's athleticism and undying workrate in the gym have made him one of the best wrestlers in the sport.  Furthermore, that same athleticism and strength give him a huge edge when he finds himself on top.  Using the most basic of techniques, he was able to pass Matt Serra's guard simply at will in April.

To his credit, Jon Fitch is no slouch himself.  He has one of the most well-rounded skill sets in the sport and will be tough enough to keep this fight close.  I believe his best route to victory is on the feet where his bigger stature and more technical standup could bring him a repeat of GSP's first fight with Matt Serra. 

However, the market has pushed this line to a pretty efficient settling point.  Unless you hopped on GSP early at -220, this fight is a no play.

Detailed breakdowns of the other two main events, brief analysis of the undercard, and my picks after the break.

Brock Lesnar (-230) vs. Heath Herring (+210)

Brock Lesnar, with his 1-1 (1 [T]KO) record, exploded onto the MMA scene in the summer of 2007 with a victory over Korean Min Soo Kim at K-1's Dynamite! USA show.  He proceeded to sign with the UFC and fought one of the more inspired 1:30 submission losses you can find.  Total, we have about 2:40 of fights to work with.  Here's what we know for sure about Lesnar: he's a former NCAA Division 1 Heavyweight Champion wrestler, he trains at a great camp in the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, he might be the most intimidating combination of size, speed, and athleticism, and he hits like a Mack Truck.

Heath Herring holds a 28-13 (7 [T]KO/16 SUB) record.  He has been known as a bit of a training nomad, but I believe he currently or last trained out of the Las Vegas Combat Club and has been seen at Xtreme Couture.  Herring will bring experience, KO power, and a solid ability to scramble in this fight.  He hasn't been extremely impressive in the UFC, winning a split decision over French kickboxer Cheick Kongo, losing a lopsided decision to current UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion "Minotauro" Nogueira, and a decision win over Brad Imes.

There has been much discussion and debate about this fight here at Bloody Elbow.  If you've been paying attention, you know that I'm on Lesnar here.  Simply put, I think this fight mostly boils down to the fact that Heath Herring is just not that good of a fighter.  He doesn't have any wins on his record that jump out and impress you.  Outside of one lucky headkick to Nogueira, he hasn't shown any form of brilliance in the Octagon.  The argument against Lesnar largely revolves around the unknown.  But with Herring, we have a very good idea of what he brings to the table.  He has some power.  He's scrappy and tough.  But he's also very sloppy.  There's no guarantee that he comes into the fight in shape.  And he doesn't always come in with a great gameplan (um...why would you want to stand and trade with Cheick Kongo?).

Admittedly, a bet on Lesnar is a bet on his potential.  I think there's a certain guarantee that at some point Lesnar will get this fight to the ground.  I believe that Lesnar will be able to get it there, and even if he doesn't keep it, he'll be able to do it over and over again.  Herring struggled to stay on his feet against Jake O'Brien, and Lesnar is much larger and more explosive than him.

What we don't know about Brock is how much punishment he can take and how much gas he has in the tank.  With the former, with no information either way, I think the only fair thing to do is assume he has an average chin.  With the latter, I believe that as a former NCAA champ and training with such a cardio freak as Sean Sherk (questions about his methods aside), he probably has a pretty good gas tank.  His body has certainly taken punishment on the road as a pro wrestler (and his alleged/probably steroid use), but he was only active in the WWE for 3 years and his tenure with New Japan Pro Wrestling was no where near as brutal.

As I stated, I'm on Lesnar pretty large at -200.  Personally, I think there's still value at -230.  However, there is a huge risk here with the unknowns about some of Lesnar's peripherals such as his chin and gas tank.  Stylistically, though, I don't think Herring poses a large threat.  His striking is dangerous but not technical and he will have trouble keeping the fight standing.  Those with an aversion to risk, stay away.

Roger Huerta (+135) vs. Kenny Florian (-145)

Roger Huerta has a 20-1-1 (10 [T]KO/4 SUB) record.  Huerta has reportedly trained out with Greg Jackson's camp for this fight.  He's finished his last three fights including a come-from-behind rear naked choke victory in his last outing over Clay Guida.  Huerta has an all-out style which can be a benefit and a hindrance.  At his best, he overwhelms his opposition with a high volume of strikes.  When he's off, he puts himself in bad positions, though up to this point, he's been able to scramble and escape.

Kenny Florian owns a 9-3 (3 [T]KO/6 SUB) record.  Florian arguably has made the most of his time on the Ultimate Fighter show, including earning a shot for the lightweight title against Sean Sherk.  He lost that fight, but has gone 4-0 since.  If you didn't know, he finished every fight.  Florian is a prototypical well-rounded fighter, a guy who isn't really great at anything, but who is good at all aspects of the game.  Intangibly, he's one of the smarter and harder working guys in the industry, a result of a lack of natural athletic ability.

I'm torn on how I think this fight is going to play out, though I think that's to be expected with near-pick'em fights.  On one side you have the overwhelming offensive assault of Roger Huerta.  On the other, you have a fighter known for his technical acumen and exploitation of his opponents' mistakes.  Also, while Huerta's style may put himself into trouble, it also might throw Kenny off his game.

Stylistically though, I think the edge does favor Florian.  If he can mount or take Huerta's back, I think he has a good chance of maintaining position and inflicting damage, if not finishing the bout.  Much like the inevitability of Lesnar taking Herring down at some point in their fight, I believe Kenny will take a dominating position at least once here.

All in all, though, I think the line is fairly efficient.  However, if the line moves in either direction, I might hop on the other fighter.  Huerta at anything above +150 and Florian anywhere near -120.

Everything else:

I usually like to do writeups for at least the 5 main card fights, but outside of the big 3 fights, there isn't much value or many interesting fights.  Fighters you may want to look at are Jason MacDonald, Tamden McCrory, and Steve Bruno.

MacDonald may tire out Maia and grind out a decision or finish with a late KO.  If the fight goes to the ground, however, Maia showed how dangerous he is on top or bottom in his fight with Ed Herman.  He did look to significantly slow down in round 2, however, which is the big concern here.

McCrory should be able to use his reach advantage to control Cummo.  Luke's a tough guy, but he's a pretty mediocre fighter.  Also, I think I heard he did some fasting leading up to this fight, which isn't something I want to hear about a fighter.

Team Quest's Chris Wilson looked really good in his last fight with Jon Fitch.  Still, Bruno fights out of American Top Team, and I don't fell like he should be this big a dog.  The current line of +265 puts him at a 29% break even rate.  I think it's realistically more around 35%. 

My Plays:

Brock Lesnar -200 9.25u to win 4.65u
Georges St. Pierre -220 3.3u to win 1.5u
Steve Bruno +265 1u to win 2.65u

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