One of the preliminary card fights at UFC 167 that I’m most excited for is a bantamweight contest between Erik Perez and Edwin Figueroa. The current betting line at 5Dimes Sportsbook lists Perez as a -350 favorite (bet $350 to win $100) while Figueroa is a +260 dog (bet $100 to win $260). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened Perez at -380 and Figueroa, meaning the line has stayed ballpark since it was opened Monday night as the public isn’t sure who to bet on here. Personally, I’m surprised that more action (especially from parlays) hasn’t come on in on Perez, as I fully expect him to win the bout, and do so in impressive fashion. Here’s why. Perez (13-5) was 3-0 in the UFC with finishes of John Albert, Ken Stone and Byron Bloodworth when the UFC took a gamble and decided to risk their rising Mexican prospect in a tough bantamweight bout against veteran Takeya Mizugaki. Although Perez fought to a competitive level, the judges decided that Mizugaki was the winner and Perez lost the fight via split decision. It was a disappointing loss not only for Perez but also for the UFC as well, as they were going to promote Perez as a top contender for their expansion plans to Mexico in 2014 had he won the bout. Instead, Perez lost and now the UFC has to rebuild the 23-year old, and so they have matched him up against one of the division’s lower-tiered fighters in Figueroa in an effort to get Perez back on track. Figueroa (9-3) is 2-3 in the UFC with victories over Alex Caceres and Jason Reinhardt and losses to Michael McDonald, Francisco Rivera and Roland Delorme. But even in those losses, Figueroa was able to hang around for the most part and make them competitive. The performance he had against McDonald is particularly impressive as “Mayday” is one of the best bantamweights in the world and Figueroa fought him so close that the bout was awarded “Fight of the Night” at UFC Fight Night 24. Since the McDonald fight, Figueora has posted a 2-2 record, which looks good on paper but when you look closer it’s not as impressive. The first win came over Reinhardt, who is not a UFC calibre fighter, and the other win, against Caceres, came only as the result of a ridiculous two-point point deduction for low blows to Caceres by referee Herb Dean. And while he did fight both Rivera and Delorme tough, he lost both those fights. In both efforts, he just didn’t have enough to win, and in the Rivera fight his chin and cardio were exposed. Against Perez, I think Figueora will be able to hold his own early on but soon enough Perez is going to start turning it on and get the stoppage victory, either by knockout or submission. At -350, I definitely like Perez for parlays as I expect the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn product to get back on track with an impressive victory and reaffirm his status as one of the top bantamweight fighters in the world.
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