Following up the biggest MMA fight of the year is a tough task, and it’s one a pair of fighters with no combined UFC main event appearances will be tasked with spearheading. It appears 23-year-olds Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno could very well be the future of the UFC flyweight division, and Saturday night will determine which one is closer to making the jump into serious contendership.
This will be uncharted territory in more than one way for both men. Pettis has been scheduled for one 25-minute bout in his career, and it ended in just 51 seconds. Moreno has never been scheduled for five rounds. Neither fighter has competed in Mexico City before either, as Moreno’s experience in his home country was limited to a trio of fights in Tijuana back in 2011 and 2012.
These are some of the unknowns which have combined with an interesting style clash to create a close betting line in the main event of UFC Fight Night 114. Tight odds are a trend that continue throughout the 12-fight card, as seven bouts currently have favorites under 2-to-1, including five of the six main card offerings. MMAOddsBreaker’s Brad Taschuk takes a look at each of the contests, and breaks down what has happened from a betting perspective thus far. Opening odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook are in parentheses.
Brandon Moreno (-150) vs. Sergio Pettis (+110): I still find myself confused on the public’s take of Sergio Pettis. On one hand, it seems that he gets overrated because of his family name. On the other, he’s improved so markedly since entering the UFC that some people seem to still see him as the mistaken prone youngster he was when he entered the UFC three and a half years ago. It could be argued that he’s a better technical striker than his brother, and I believe that’s the edge he’ll have to utilize in order to beat Moreno. The Mexican has shown a deadly submission game thus far, forcing submissions out of Louis Smolka and Dustin Ortiz. His striking has generally been busy, and he’s shown some power, but his defense leaves question marks. This fight comes down to whether Pettis can handle the pressure Moreno will exert, or if Moreno can turn this into a high-paced bout with wild exchanges. I think Pettis has evolved to the point where he can stick-and-move on Moreno, avoid takedowns and land the cleaner shots. Altitude may play a factor, but I believe it will be equal on both sides and Moreno’s style may be more difficult to sustain across 25 minutes. Since Pettis has moved up from a +110 underdog to +150, I feel like he’s worthy of a small play. Keep it small though; Pettis has been taken down in every one of his UFC bouts, and if Moreno can get him to the mat once, that might be all he needs to lock up a submission.
Alexa Grasso (-140) vs. Randa Markos (+100): This is a bit of a weird one from the UFC’s perspective. Grasso could be an important player for them in Mexico given her level of skill and looks, but they’re not making it easy for her. She struggled against Felice Herrig’s grappling at times in her last outing, and Randa Markos is capable of mixing up some takedowns (and arguably hasn’t done it enough recently) to go along with a solid stand-up attack. Grasso has an advantage on the feet with her speed and is the cleaner striker, but her biggest advantage in this fight is her cardio. Markos has slowed down late in virtually all of her fights, and with this one being in Mexico City I could see that resulting in a big third round for Grasso. That makes for some interesting possibilities here. Grasso to win in round 3 is +1700, which is definitely a possibility if she turns it up like she did against Herrig, and Markos fades more than normal. The other one is a bit trickier — and I’d wait to ensure that the updated judging criteria are being used before making it — but a big third for Grasso could turn into a 10-8 round and result in a draw if Markos takes the first two rounds. That price is +5500. Of course, those scenarios could be dependent on Markos winning the first two rounds, and that’s not by any means a given, which is why I favor Grasso overall in the fight and think she’s decent value even at -160.
Alan Jouban (-185) vs. Niko Price (+145): Price has scored two impressive stoppages thus far in the UFC, but to say he’s been efficient while doing so would be an incredible overstatement. At this point, I’ve seen Price as a guy who has had success more due to his ability to withstand punishment and take advantage of defensively deficient opponents than a fighter getting by on top flight skill. While it’s still possible he can develop those skills, I don’t think the six months since his last outing has been enough to get to the point where he’s ready for Jouban’s striking. We’ve already seen what Jouban is capable of against tough but sloppy opponents, and Price’s wrestling doesn’t appear to be enough for him to have to rely on anything but his overmatched striking here. He might be tough enough to last the distance, but I see this being fairly lopsided in Jouban’s favor.
Martin Bravo (-315) vs. Humberto Bandenay (+235): All of Bandenay’s fights have taken place in Peru, save for his most recent outing. During that time, he’s managed to get submitted four times. Now, facing the best opponent of his career, on short notice, at the highest elevation he’s fought at, I find it hard to believe he won’t suffer his fifth submission loss here. Before going too nuts on Bravo here though, remember that he hasn’t faced much in the way of high-level competition either, he simply seems to be at a higher level than Bandenay based on their previous performances.
Sam Alvey (-135) vs. Rashad Evans (-105): Maybe it’s because I was there live and it skewed my perception, but I actually thought Evans put on his best performance in years against Dan Kelly. The problem was that Evans might just not have the stopping power he used to, and if you can’t stop Kelly, he just keeps coming at you. On the bright side, Evans looked good from a physical perspective, and was far more willing to pull the trigger than he had been in several fights. If he can maintain a similar level against Alvey, I think he wins, as Alvey has never been the type of guy to take fights based on his volume. However, I just can’t trust Evans at this point and this price, especially since this is likely to be a stand-up fight against a guy with significant power, and that could keep him from having the same type of activity he had last time out.
Alejandro Perez (-140) vs. Andre Soukhamthath (+100): I was really hoping Perez would get some extra support here for being the local fighter, but this line has hardly moved. I think we see a stand-up fight, and Soukhamthath is the better, longer, more diverse, striker. I don’t like discrediting fighters resumes, but Perez’ really doesn’t look like much. A win over an inexperienced TUF opponent, plus stoppages of a past his prime Scott Jorgensen and leglock specialist Ian Entwistle don’t weigh too heavily in my books. Obviously, Soukhamthath doesn’t have any UFC wins to hang his hat on, but his work on the regional scene is as good as Perez’ in the UFC, and this style matchups suits him well. Also, +395 on Soukhamthath by TKO is a very nice line for a fighter who has seven of 11 wins by TKO.
Jack Hermansson (-175) vs. Brad Scott (+135): I bet on Scott. Once (against Claudio Silva). It was a terrible mistake, and I promised myself I wouldn’t back him ever again. So I can understand why Hermansson is now more than a 2.5-to-1 favorite here. Scott’s striking isn’t particularly good offensively or defensively, and he’s British, so you know the wrestling isn’t there. On top of that, his cardio has let him down in the past. He has a good guillotine, but I don’t see Hermansson leaving his neck exposed, or shooting for takedowns at all in this one. Hermansson’s forward pressure and striking should rule the day in this one, but I see Scott being tough enough to see the final bell.
Dustin Ortiz (-230) vs. Hector Sandoval (+170): Sandoval has impressed me more than I expected thus far in his UFC tenure, but Ortiz could cause some of the same problems he suffered in his debut to resurface. Even if Ortiz can get one takedown, he could advance position and put Sandoval’s takedown defense to the test. On the feet, Sandoval is more powerful and Ortiz has appeared more hittable lately, but I think those areas may have appeared more extreme for each respective man based on the competition they’ve faced lately. Ortiz getting Sandoval to the mat seems far more likely than Sandoval hurting Ortiz on the feet, so I expect an Ortiz victory. As far as props go, Ortiz by sub at nearly +700 would see to hold some value.
Rani Yahya (-270) vs. Enrique Briones (+190): Immediately upon opening, this line dropped drastically, with Yahya reaching -140 at one point, and settling around -160 for a while. It has since moved up to the -230 range, but anyone who played him while in that range got a fantastic number. The concerns about Yahya seem to be overblown by those moving the line early. Yes, Yahya is probably going to be tired if this gets to the third round, but he should have the first two well in hand (if not have the fight finished within them), and his durability is underrated. Briones’ best performance in his career was not getting completely pistol-whipped by current bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt, and aside from that he’s struggled with anyone close to “UFC-level.” Yahya is far more than that, and his skills align well with the weakness we’ve seen with Briones’ takedown defense. Even to someone who loves hunting for big props, and loves the third round gassing/altitude angle, I can’t even find value in Briones R3 at +1525.
Diego Rivas (-140) vs. Jose Quinones (+100): If you’re looking at the current odds, that opening number may strike you as strange, since Quinones is now a 2.5-to-1 favorite. Personally, I think people have gone a bit nuts to push him up that high. He certainly has an advantage on the ground in this fight, but Noad Lahat was a bigger, stronger, more technical grappler, and he was unable to put Rivas away despite having some dominant positions early in their bout. I’m not advocating betting Rivas either. We haven’t seen a whole lot out of him other than flashes of potential, plus he’s returning after an 18-month layoff and moving down a weight. At current numbers, this bout just screams pass to me.
Roberto Sanchez (-230) vs. Joseph Morales (+170): Two debuting fighters. Both have looked good on the regional scene lately, with a pair of recent wins over opponents on the brink of a UFC call (which actually means something at flyweight, where the UFC roster is still small enough that good fighters still exist outside of the Octagon). I was a bit surprised that Sanchez opened such a large favorite, but the public quickly acted and turn this into a near pick ’em. It’s been a bit harder to find footage of Morales because of the promotions that he’s fought for, but from what I have seen, I think his tendency to allow fights to become grappling matches could be his undoing here. Sanchez is fantastic on the ground, and I think he edges the youngster to pick up a victory. Morales certainly has the higher ceiling, and I can’t really blame those who took dog money on him.
Jordan Rinaldi (-245) vs. Alvaro Herrera (+175): So, apparently Herrera has fought twice in the UFC already. In the first, we learned that he has heavy-ish hands. In the second, we learned that he can’t wrestle and doesn’t offer much from his back. Both are applicable here, as he’s fighting a wrestler (who has a decent submission game) who doesn’t have great defense. Perhaps Herrera dropping to lightweight helps with his takedown defense, but I see it as a skill deficit that needs to be corrected rather than a size issue. He has been out for a year, so perhaps it has improved, but I can’t bank on that. Rinaldi is the pick. While I’m not rushing to parlay him, on a card that lacks a plethora of betting options, there are worse options.
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