This weekend features a 13-fight offering from the UFC on Saturday night (July 22, 2017) from Long Island. The UFC on FOX 25 broadcast is headlined by a middleweight bout between former champion Chris Weidman and budding contender Kelvin Gastelum. The card also features a large selection of New York-area fighters, many of whom are getting the first chance to fight on home soil. Since the odds have been released, we’ve seen them go every which way, and MMAOddsBreaker’s Brad Taschuk is here to break down some of the movement along with his thoughts on the bouts. Opening odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook can be found in parenthesis for each fighter below.
Chris Weidman (-135) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (-105): Remember when Weidman beat “The GOAT,” and then went on to beat him again, and then had a criminally underrated classic with Lyoto Machida? Those days are so far in the rear-view mirror that now facing a blown-up welterweight, he’s gone from a -135 favorite to a +150 underdog. To be honest, I can’t disagree much with the movement. We know that Weidman is going to be effective early, but his cardio has faltered on more than one occasion, and he’s scheduled to go five rounds with a guy who is tough to finish and just doesn’t stop. Even if Weidman wins round one, Gastelum is going to make him work for it, and I’m not sure Weidman will be able to win another round for the remainder of the fight. In fact, given Gastelum’s killer instinct, I doubt Weidman even sees the end of the fight. If you were one of the early ones who got Gastelum near even money, good for you. I think the young man has a breakout performance here.
Dennis Bermudez (-190) vs. Darren Elkins (+150): For a guy who has never gotten much respect (having been favored in just four of his 16 UFC appearances), this seems like a weird time for people to be giving Elkins respect. In his last fight, he was getting abused for 10 minutes to the point that people were calling for his corner to throw the towel, and then found a miracle finish againt a prospect who gassed himself out. I can’t see Bermudez gassing out here, and that means he’s going to be a far physically superior fighter (like Bektic was) for the full duration of this fight. Yes, Bermudez has been finished in all of his losses, but those losses have come against top fighters, and as tough as Elkins is, I don’t think he’s a top fighter, and I would be shocked if he scores another TKO like the Bektic one across the rest of his career, nevermind in this fight.
Gian Villante (-150) vs. Patrick Cummins (+110): This line has stayed relatively steady, and even though Villante landing one punch and crumpling Cummins is the most likely outcome, I get why it hasn’t gone further in that direction. Villante is the type of guy who you can feel pretty good betting as an underdog, but playing him as a favorite could result in a tense 15 minutes. If losses to Chad Griggs and chubby light heavyweight Lorenz Larkin in Strikeforce weren’t enough, this is the guy who gassed and got smoked by Fabio Maldonado for a 10-8 third round. There was the time he lost to Tom Lawlor a couple years back, or how about getting stopped by the corpse of Shogun earlier this year? Now, Cummins is easier to put away than any of those guys, and doesn’t possess the same sort of stopping power, but if Villante doesn’t get him out of there in the first, is Cummins getting takedowns and dominating really that hard to imagine? I’m passing on this one, thanks.
Jimmie Rivera (-140) vs. Thomas Almeida (+100): If Almeida isn’t one of your favorite fighters to watch right now, we’re probably looking for different things in this sport. That said, Rivera seems like a terrible matchup for him. Almeida has poor striking defense. Rivera throws crisp, tight combinations. Almeida is a slow starter while Rivera jumps out of the gates. Almeida’s get-up game is excellent, but his takedown defense leaves something to be desired. Before he was ever able to throw a punch, Rivera toiled on the regional scene with a reputation as a boring wrestler. I would love to see spectacular violence out of Tommy Al-Murda, but this just seems like Rivera’s fight, and the immediate line move to -200 (which is roughly where it sits now) speaks to that.
Lyman Good (-230) vs. Elizeu Zaleski (+170): I don’t really know what to make of this fight. The line has tightened and moved slightly towards Zaleski, and given Good’s two-year absence I can understand that. Good was seemingly rounding into form before this injury- and contaminated supplement-related break, but who knows how much to trust that now. Neither guy really has a signature win (although Good was the inaugural Bellator welterweight champion), so I’m interested if either seems capable of taking the next step in this fight, but as far as interest in betting it goes: There isn’t any.
Eryk Anders (-125) vs. Rafael Natal (-115): I miss the days when a good prospect would come into the UFC relatively unknown, face a mid-level guy, and be a +200 underdog. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case anymore. Even still, I put a small bet on Anders to pick up the win in his short-notice UFC debut. There are a few tenets I have long held when it comes to MMA betting, and one of them is: “Bet on the athlete.” Anders is what the UFC and MMA media would have had you believe OSP was when he was being hyped up. Anders was an impact player on a national championship Alabama team, and that athleticism has carried over into MMA. Given Natal’s questionable durability at times, this seems like a good recipe for Anders to make a big first impression.
Ryan LaFlare (-245) vs. Alex Oliveira (+175): I was shocked to learn that LaFlare has already fought once this year. Not because I didn’t watch the fight or don’t remember it, but just because two fights in a year is a staggering amount of activity for LaFlare. This fight is going to a decision, LaFlare will most likely win that decision, and people probably won’t care. More importantly though, LaFlare played D3 lacrosse, and since lacrosse is the best sport, I’m compelled to bet on him (remember that “bet on the athlete” thing? It goes double, or maybe even triple for the truest of athletes, LAX players).
Chase Sherman (-230) vs. Damian Grabowski (+170): It was a bit of a relief when early bettors took the +145 price of the Over 1.5 (aka Fatties Gonna Fatty) and drove it down to the current price of -110. At +145, I wouldn’t have been able to resist a bet, even though I think Sherman becomes the latest to finish Grabowski quickly. Now at -110, I no longer feel the need to represent my hashtag. The only time Grabowski hasn’t been finished in a loss was to the Dairy Man Cole Konrad, and I think Sherman might hit a bit harder than him. I also don’t expect Grabowski to get this to the ground, which is the only place he has an advantage over Sherman. Those factors add up to a quick TKO for Sherman.
Jeremy Kennedy (-245) vs. Kyle Bochniak (+175): Being Canadian, I’m probably supposed to support my countrymen. So with that in mind, I’m glad Kennedy has a 10-0 record that is likely to go to 11-0 after this fight. I’m not glad that he hasn’t finished a fight in nearly three years, and I don’t expect him to get one here. I don’t anticipate a whole lot of excitement out of this one, even though Bochniak will proably do his best to give the fight some life.
Brian Kelleher (-190) vs. Marlon Vera (+150): Vera warranted some consideration from me at the +150 opener, and then it went up, and up some more, eventually peaking at +215, and settling back down just under 2-to-1. That price has me very tempted, as I’m still not entirely sold on Kelleher outside of his guillotine. Vera has an advantage standing here, so it comes down to whether or not he can stop takedowns. I think he’s improved enough that he’s capable of it, so I’ll take a stab on Vera at the current price.
Timothy Johnson (-245) vs. Junior Albini (+175): Albini is my designated “I have no interest in doing tape study on this guy” fighter of the card. Part of that is due to looking down the dreadful competition on his record, and the other part is me thinking that better fighters haven’t been able to find success against Mr. Moustache Ride himself. Given Johnson’s durability, I think this line could be a bit closer than if the exact same type of fight happened at lightweight, so if I get a chance to look at Albini before the fight, it won’t take much convincing for me to side with Johnson.
Shane Burgos (-300) vs. Godofredo Pepey (+220): MR MAGMA (Pepey) is 5-4 in the UFC. He doesn’t have a great record. However, four of his five wins have come in the opening round. The man is electric in the first, and against a guy like Burgos who has been casual early in fights before, that’s a dangerous recipe. I’m a bit biased because of my love of fighters who may or may not intentionally inject themselves with performance-enhancing drugs, but for the sake of my Pepey Round 1 prop at +800, let’s hope this one is over in a hurry.
Chris Wade (-230) vs. Frankie Perez (+170): This probably isn’t the right fight to get the crowd in the best frame of mind for a fight card. Wade should be the bigger, more imposing fighter, and I believe he’s the better wrestler. Even his striking is pretty decent, but that’s also Wade’s problem. He does everything well enough to be successful but is also virtually non-descript in his performances. Speaking of which, the Over 2.5 opened at -230, dropped all the way to -175 (a fantastic price for those who snapped it up) and has now come back to a much more reasonable -240. It’s hard to picture this fight not seeing the judges’ cards.
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