UFC 168 Fight Breakdown: Siyar Bahadurzada (-150) vs. John Howard (+130)
One of the featured preliminary card bouts at UFC 168 is a welterweight fight between strikers Siyar "The Great" Bahadurzada and John "Doomsday" Howard.
The current betting line for the fight at 5Dimes Sportsbook sees Bahadurzada as a -150 betting favorite (bet $150 to win $100), while Howard is a underdog (bet $100 to win $130). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Bahadurzada at -170 and Howard at +130, meaning so far the betting public has slightly sided with the dog Howard here.
I also like Howard here and am picking him straight out to collect the win as the dog against Bahadurzada. Here's why.
Bahadurzada (21-5-1) is one of the most powerful punchers in the UFC welterweight division. The 29-year-old native of Afghanistan has 11 career KOs to his credit, including a stunning finish of tough veteran Paulo Thiago at UFC on FUEL TV 2. And while Bahadurzada looked great in that fight with Thiago, he followed it up with a stinker of a loss to Dong Hyun Kim, where he was absolutely dominated on the ground for three rounds at UFC on FUEL TV 8. Yes, Kim is one of the best wresters in the UFC welterweight division, but I haven't seen someone controlled on the ground like Bahadurzada was in that fight in quite some time. Bahadurzada -- one of the most injury-prone fighters in the game -- has also been out the last 10 months, and after such a long layoff, who knows how the member of the Blackzilians will perform?
Howard (21-8) is currently riding a three-fight win streak and he has won seven of his last eight fights overall, including a solid win over Urijah Hall as a middleweight in his return to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 26. The 30-year-old Howard, who is 5-3 in the Octagon over two stints, is a boxer at heart, but he showed in the fight with Hall that he's been improving his wrestling and that can only bode well in this matchup against Bahadurzada, who has poor grappling. Although Howard likely feels he can hold his own in the striking department, he has a clear advantage in the grappling here, and if he can take Bahadurzada down to the ground he should be able to pull off a decision win here.
Although most will be expecting a striking battle here, I actually see Howard using his wrestling to get Bahadurzada down to the floor, where he will use his control and ground and pound to pick up points and win a decision on the judges' scorecards.
I capped the fight with Howard as a +120 underdog, so at +130 I see a bit of value in him in this spot. I don't think you can go too crazy on Howard here because Bahadurzada does have that insane KO power, but this fight is clearly dog or pass, in my opinion, so I definitely wouldn't be laying the juice on Bahadurzada here. I also think the prop on Howard by decision, which is available at +294, might be worth a flier.