A busy weekend for MMA fans and bettors is finally here, and from my perspective, there are plenty of solid options for bets across the two UFC cards that will be taking place in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday.
Let’s take a look at Friday’s TUF 25 Finale first. For starters, yes, I’m as shocked as you are that TUF is still a thing. Apparently this season featured veterans from previous seasons of the show, most of whom spent time in the UFC following their first appearance in the TUF house. In that spirit, Jesse Taylor (0-1 UFC) will be taking on Dhiego Lima (1-3 UFC) in the tournament finale. However, despite the name of the card being “TUF,” the real attraction here is the main event between lightweights Michael Johnson and Justin Gaethje, so let’s dive in (opening odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook and listed in parenthesis)…
Justin Gaethje (-130) vs. Michael Johnson (-110): This will certainly be the toughest test of Gaethje’s career, but it is one he is well-equipped to win. When I look at Johnson, I struggle to see a Top 5 fighter (which is where he’s currently ranked), and I think his UFC successes and failures are reflective of that. His 9-7 record in the Octagon has been littered with just as many disappointing performances as standout ones, and his fights rarely go to script (underdogs have been victorious in 11 of his 16 UFC contests). I expect this one to make it 12 of 17, as Gaethje’s chin will hold up against Johnson’s suddenly overrated power early, and the former WSOF champion will drown Johnson from the midpoint of the second round until he earns a stoppage. I agreed with the opener, but the line movement has thrown me for a bit of loop. Johnson has struggled to stop fighters who have shown less of a chin than Gaethje, and his cardio has consistently failed him against fighters who can pressure him standing (Diaz, Dariush), take him down (Nurmagomedov, Jury) or simply survive against him (Madadi). Gaethje can do all three. I already took him at +135 and wouldn’t be opposed to adding if the number keeps rising.
Jesse Taylor (-265) vs. Dhiego Lima (+185): I often find fights in the TUF house to be misleading in regards to breaking down TUF Finale bouts, so forgive me for not watching this season. I’ve also seen enough of Taylor and Lima through the years to understand the dynamics of this fight without watching them take a bunch of short-notice fights in the house. Taylor is all about his submission game, for better or worse (he has 16 career wins by sub and 14 losses) while Lima’s main goal since discovering his shaky chin (four of his five career losses have come by TKO) has been to avoid being knocked out. The style matchup actually favors Lima in my eyes. There has been one TKO in Taylor’s last 35 fights, and that was a now 50-year-old Murilo Bustamante quitting between rounds. More recently, Taylor has gone 3-6 in his last nine fights, getting submitted in all six losses. While Lima doesn’t have a submission on his record since 2011 (although he did score a pair in his first TUF run in 2013), he has a capable ground game and Taylor has a knack for getting caught. The props were just been released for this card, and Lima by Sub was listed at +420 as of Thursday night. That would be the type of play I’d be willing to throw in a round robin.
Marc Diakiese (-265) vs. Drakkar Klose (+185): This is a tricky one because it’s the first time Diakiese will face someone who can actually wrestle, and well… he’s British. The track record isn’t great there. Diakiese has shown better wrestling than the majority of his countrymen thus far, but I struggle to trust him here. Klose was underwhelming in his UFC debut, and if he tires against Diakiese like he did versus Devin Powell, he likely won’t be seeing the final bell. However, if he’s more prepared this time, he could make life difficult for Diakiese in the clinch, potentially score a couple takedowns, and maybe walk out with a win and a different perception. There are just too many big question marks on both sides of this fight for me to feel comfortable betting it either way.
Jared Cannonier (-380) vs. Nick Roehrick (+260): The combined record of Roehrick’s seven opponents at the time he fought them: 18-19. The only fighter he’s faced above .500 was 9-5 Danny Babcock, who he took a split decision against, and he only has finishes in three of his seven fights. All of those things are warning signs in their own right, but factor in taking your UFC debut on short notice? This number seems low to me. Maybe Roehrick can get a takedown or two, as Cannonier’s takedown defense can generously be described as porous, but we know Cannonier is tough to finish on the mat and he can sling some heat on the feet. Unless Roehrick comes in and shows off a great chin (that we have no idea exists), it would be surprising if Cannonier doesn’t get a stoppage. Cannonier seems like a good parlay piece, and that’s coming from a guy who generally hates parlaying.
Elias Theodorou (-175) vs. Brad Tavares (+135): I have no idea who is going to win this fight, but that has no bearing on how anyone should be betting it. Bet the over, get things around the house done (possibilities include: walking the dog, making food, laundry, etc.), and come back in about 20 minutes to see the decision get read. Even better, considering this is going to be on FS1, you can just block out from the end of the Johnson/Fortuna fight until about 9:55 p.m. (ET) to get stuff done.
Jordan Johnson (-270) vs. Marcel Fortuna (+190): If Fortuna didn’t score a KO in his UFC debut, I get the impression that this number would be in the -400 range. Considering Fortuna got that KO against Anthony Hamilton, I still think the number should be that high. Johnson is better on the feet, and is more than capable of taking Fortuna down and nullifying his ground game. I don’t expect Johnson to have any qualms about doing the latter and working his way to another decision victory. This could be the parlay piece to go with Cannonier, and that combination pays close to even money.
Angela Hill (-245) vs. Ashley Yoder (+175): This all comes down to whether or not Yoder can get Hill to the ground. If she does, a sub is likely as her ground game is very tricky. If not, Hill is going to pick her apart for 15 minutes on the feet. I lean towards Hill keeping the distance and keeping this standing (something she got much better at during her Invicta tenure), but I’m not going higher than -300 based on the current odds with such an obvious path to victory for her opponent.
James Krause (-350) vs. Tom Gallicchio (+250): Gallicchio is capable of surprising with his submission skills, but beyond that, he can’t match the offensive tools Krause brings to the table. However, the worry those backing Krause should have is his lack of success defending takedowns throughout his career (just 26-percent success across his UFC and WEC career). Gallicchio should be well aware of this, and he should pursue takedowns from the outset. If he does this, he has a legitimate shot of either spending enough time in top position to earn a decision, or perhaps he even finds the submission. Either way, that glaring weakness from Krause should be enough to steer most clear given the current price.
Clarence Byron (C.B.) Dolloway (-155) vs. Ed Herman (+115): Dolloway hasn’t fought in over a year-and-a-half, which I guess makes sense. If you get knocked out by Nate Marquardt in 2015, you should probably take some time to re-evaluate things. Herman has also been out a year, but I don’t see the long layoff being a negative for a pair of fighters who have been getting stopped more and more often in their most recent outings. Dolloway should be the side here, as he’ll have a significant speed advantage and can fall back on his wrestling if necessary, but given his chin, the safer route seems to be betting on the fight not to see the final bell at -160.
Aspen Ladd (-135) vs. Jessica Eye (-105): There was a time when Eye was sort of considered a contender in the women’s bantamweight division. Now she’s being used as the stepping stone for the shy high-school girl who works evenings at your local grocery store. Ladd has been mostly impressive against inexperienced competition, so it’s a smart booking decision by the UFC to make her step up in competition against someone who will absolutely let her dictate the pace of the fight. I wouldn’t even be shocked if Ladd stops Eye, who looks like she hasn’t cared about winning in several years.
Teruto Ishihara (-175) vs. Gray Maynard (+135): The UFC keeps booking these matchups with Maynard that tempt me to back him. So far, I’ve largely been able to avoid taking the bait, but I might not be able to help myself this time. Sexyhara laid an absolute egg against Artem Lobov, looking completely disinterested in the fight aside from a single flurry. If he has the same sort of effort against Maynard, he could very well find himself on his back for 15 minutes. However, that single flurry could also be enough to stop Maynard. Perhaps if the parlay crowd goes nuts fading Maynard, and I can get upwards of +300, I’ll take the shot. But as it stands based on the current odds, I’ll pass altogether.
Tecia Torres (-270) vs. Juliana Lima (+190): Torres opening nearly 3-to-1, so getting bet up was not surprising in the least. However, seeing Torres by Decision open at -136 was shocking. Every Torres victory has been by decision, and even the lone loss of her career many people feel she won (by decision, naturally). Of course, that line has already moved up to -185, so there’s not much use harping on it at this point. Based on what’s on the board at the moment, Over 2.5 even though it’s all the way up to -430 is probably a better play than Torres straight. Torres struggled in the TUF house with wrestlers Carla Esparza and Randa Markos, and even though Lima is supposed to be a striker, she’s a wrestler. A very decision-y wrestler (10 of her 12 career fights have gone to decision).
The real question is, If each fight happened 1,000 times, which pairing would garner fewer finishes: Torres and Lima, or Theodorou and Tavares?
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