With the UFC heading to Gdansk, Poland for the first time, and bringing a card garnering a tepid response with it, I’ll do my best to avoid terrible puns with the word Gdansk involved. No promises though. As far as the event goes, the Polish crowd will have seven of their own to cheer for, which should at least make for an engaged atmosphere. How well they know their countrymen outside of Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Jan Blachowicz (a pair of KSW staples) remains to be seen however. The rooting interest won’t be carrying over to the main event, but Donald Cerrone and Darren Till should provide enough action to make that a moot point. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 5Dimes Sportsbook opening odds, where they’ve moved to, and what value might be found on the card. Time to Gdansk!
Donald Cerrone (-165) vs. Darren Till (+125): If you think that Cerrone is done, and Till is the prospect the UFC wants you to believe he is, +135 is now out there on him (this line has barely moved, the margins have simply tightened closer to fight time). Personally, I think Cerrone looked quite solid in his last outing against a far more dangerous and far more versatile striker in Robbie Lawler. Eventually Till is going to figure out that he needs to do something to at least pretend the right side of his body is a threat in a fight. He hasn’t shown that yet, but he’s been able to get away with it against the likes of Bojan Velickovic and Jessin Ayari. I expect to see lots of right head kicks from Cerrone to keep the left hand of Till occupied on defense, and that will leave the undefeated prospect without a lot of weapons. Maybe one of them slips through and clips Till, or perhaps Cerrone drags this fight to the ground (need I remind you that Till is British) where he has a significant advantage. Either way, this is just too much of a jump for a prospect against a guy who isn’t as far gone as he needs to be. Method is a tough call here because he can do it in so many different ways, but I like Cerrone, and he’s relatively cheap.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (-350) vs. Jodie Esquibel (+250): Now at -500, I have no interest in betting Kowalkiewicz. The one thing Esquibel can do pretty well is wrestle, and Kowalkiewicz has been taken down in all but one of her UFC bouts. I expect Kowalkiewicz to be fine and to outpoint Esquibel on the feet, but at -500 (and with the decision prop up above -150), I’m not seeing anything I like in this one. Also, I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the fact that Esquibel isn’t a late replacement and the UFC planned to book her in a co-main event slot in her debut from the start.
Devin Clark (-150) vs. Jan Blachowicz (+110): Thus far, Clark’s two UFC wins have been borderline unwatchable, and most of Blachowicz’ losses follow the same pattern. Lucky for viewers, the most likely outcome is Clark by decision, which would almost certainly continue that trend. Clark struggles to get a takedown, gets takedown, doesn’t do a ton on top, Blachowicz makes virtually zero attempt to stand or effect any offense from his back. Rinse, repeat. I really hope it doesn’t go that way, but Clark doesn’t have much power and aside from the shocking Blachowicz body kick to Ilir Latifi, the last time he stopped someone with strikes was 2010.
Oskar Piechota (-210) vs. Jonathan Wilson (+160): It seems like it’s been forever since Wilson last fought, but it’s only been a year. Given that he’s making the move down from light heavyweight to middleweight, hopefully the extra time means he’s done it properly rather than just making a bigger weight cut. If he’s actually gotten smaller, perhaps that will allow him better cardio and a greater activity level, because those were the two things that were really holding him back. Rarely do we see the best out of a fighter in their debut at a new weight however, and even though he’s facing a newcomer, Wilson doesn’t have an easy test. Piechota should be good enough on the feet to hang with Wilson, and he has a big edge in the grappling department. I was actually a bit surprised to see the submission prop was priced so much higher than the TKO prop for Piechota, as it seems to clearly be his best attribute. I’ll take the +340 and toss it in a round robin, as long as I can find a few other lines to go with it.
Marcin Held (-405) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (+285): The combined number of victories held by the first six fighters Haqparast beat: 0 (don’t tell me the German MMA scene isn’t strong). Since then he’s beaten two guy who actually fought in MMA prior to facing him, and also won those. He’s not ready for this. The moneyline of -400 on Held is actually pretty reasonable here, as was the opening price of +190 by submission (it’s down near even money now though). I’m just not seeing how a guy who hasn’t fought anyone is going to stick around with a guy who has fought so many tough opponents.
Adam Wieczorek (-165) vs. Anthony Hamilton (+125): I have so many questions about this fight. Didn’t Hamilton just get flatlined by a guy with no power like last weekend? Does he not have people who love him? Why is he fighting again so soon? Can we just replay Jonathan Wiezorek and Wade Shipp instead of watching this? Even though Wieczorek has more subs (5) than TKOs (3) on his record, and the prop prices do not reflect that (+380 and +155, respectively) it’s hard not to take a long look at anyone facing Hamilton by TKO. I probably won’t bet it, and then I’ll probably regret it. Sometimes you’re Gdansked if you do, and Gdansked if you don’t.
Brian Kelleher (-175) vs. Damian Stasiak (+135): Based on their body of work, I actually think Stasiak has more to offer in this fight. Kelleher has a nice guillotine, but Pedro Munhoz has a significantly better one (not to mention a better all-around game), and Stasiak gave him far more of a fight than anyone expected. The opener of +135 would have been a play for me, but it was quickly snatched up and the fight is now essentially a pick em. The Polish fighter should be more effective on the feet, and Kelleher’s tendency to go for his guillotine and give up position will hurt him in this one. Perhaps Stasiak can find his back in a scramble and score a sub, or maybe the combination of his work on the feet and winning said scrambles will carry him to a decision victory. Either way, I like Stasiak here, and even at a less desirable price I may end up playing him.
Sam Alvey (-150) vs. Ramazan Emeev (+110): So Alvey took this one on short notice, had a massive weight cut, and missed weight. Maybe that means we get conservative Sam instead of balls to the wall Sam. So… two punches per round instead of three. That said, Emeev is likely to spend the majority of his time in this fight in the clinch looking for takedowns which will be difficult to come by, so Alvey’s activity level may not be the biggest concern here. I picture this playing out similarly to Alvey’s fight against Elias Theodorou, except Emeev doesn’t have the kicking arsenal that allowed Theodorou to get off without answer in that contest. It will be close, and even though the movement has all been towards Emeev thus far, I may have to hop on the other side, especially if Alvey missing weight pushes the line even further (Emeev is currently -160).
Andre Fili (-210) vs. Artem Lobov (+160): We can all see that Fili is a more talented striker than Lobov, but this fight remains a tricky one to call. Fili has a history of: a) Getting clipped and/or stopped in fantastic fashion, and b) Slowing down as fights progress. For all of his faults, FLObov is durable and knows how to keep the cardio flowing for the entire fight. I could easily see this being a live betting opportunity (if such lines exist for these prelims) as Fili likely wins the first going away, but Lobov could creep back in after that. A Lobov stoppage would be surprising, as he has limited power, but a decision wouldn’t be all that shocking, and if the fight plays out like I expect, Lobov will probably be available around +300 after round one.
Warlley Alves (-315) vs. Salim Touahri (+235): On a card with a ton of injuries and late replacements, this is the latest of them all, and I haven’t even had a chance to look at Touahri. Based on his record, he seems like the type of guy who is used to having his fights finish quickly, so he may not have the grinding ability necessary to overwhelm Alves in the later rounds. That’s all speculation though. Unless a line on Alves by sub is north of +200, I’ll be sitting this one out.
Josh Emmett (-270) vs. Felipe Arantes (+190): Emmett is now -335, and Arantes is +275. I don’t get the Emmett love. He struggled against Scott Holtzman, and was an unwarranted favorite against Des Green (in a bout he lost). Arantes isn’t a world-beater, but he should be aware that all Emmett really offers on the feet is an overhand right, and he’s tricky enough on the ground to create scrambles and perhaps even catch Emmett as he tires later in the bout. This is also Emmett’s first fight at 145 since some of his earliest MMA bouts, so the extra weight cut could also impact his cardio and lead to some sloppiness on his part. As you all know, I’m a sucker for a big number, and Arantes by sub at +1000 seems a little too likely for me to pass up.
Aspen Ladd (-265) vs. Lina Lansberg (+185): I liked the matchup with Jessica Eye far more than I like this matchup for Ladd. Eye was just going to stand around and get punched without offering much of a response. Lansberg will also get punched, but she won’t go away, and she’ll force Ladd to grind in the clinch and on the ground. Lansberg’s only losses in MMA have come to opponents who were able to match her physically, and I don’t see Ladd being able to do that. So unless Ladd lands a killshot, I think she’s going to be in for a tough 15 minutes, and Lansberg by decision at +330 is tempting.
Round Robin: I’ll be keeping an eye out for a fourth leg based on how things move before fight time, but the clubhouse leaders at the moment are: Piechota Sub (+340), Arantes Sub (+1000), and Lansberg Dec (+330).
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