One of two bouts at UFC Fight Night 35 exclusive to Fight Pass is a lightweight bout between Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman and UFC newbie Beneil Dariush. The current betting line for this bout at 5Dimes Sportsbook lists Brenneman as a -170 favorite (bet $170 to win $100), while Dariush is a +150 underdog (bet $100 to win $150). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened Brenneman as a -245 favorite and Dariush as a +175 dog, meaning the betting public likes Dariush here. I disagree with the public coming in on Dariush here as I am picking “The Spaniard” to pick up the win here in his return to the Octagon. Here’s why. Brenneman (18-5) is returning to the UFC for the first time since a September 2011 loss to Kyle Noke. Since that loss to Noke at UFC 152, Brenneman dropped down to 155 pounds and he’s definitely found the ideal weight class for his frame as he’s gone 4-0 at lightweight on the regional circuit to earn his spot back in the UFC. The 32-year-old Brenneman is an excellent wrestler who is positionally strong from the top. He also has improving submissions. With a 4-4 record already in the UFC against some of the top welterweights in the world, Brenneman is very experienced against a high level of competition and he’s been successful at times, having earned victories over studs such as Rick Story and Jason High. Now that he’s fighting opponents his own size and not giants like Johny Hendricks and Anthony Johnson, I expect Brenneman to be much improved in his second UFC run and it all starts with his fight against Dariush this Wednesday night. Dariush (6-0) is making his UFC debut after racking up a pristine 6-0 record on the regional circuit. The 24-year-old is an excellent grappler with solid submission skills and he’s also coming along nicely as a striker as he’s racked up two of his last three victories by way of T/KO. And that could certainly prove to be his best route to victory against a fighter with a poor chin like Brenneman. My biggest corner with Dariush is that he just hasn’t fought the same level of competition that Brenneman has and it’s really hard to say just how good he is since he’s essentially been racking up wins over cans. At the same time, it’s clear this guy is a finisher and dangerous in both the standup and submission departments so he could very well perform at a high level once he gets tested by a fighter of Brenneman’s caliber, but I think it’s much more likely this is a great learning experience for Dariush and he uses what he learns in the fight with “The Spaniard” to become a better fighter and have more success in his next outing. I think this fight will mostly play out in the grappling department, and I believe that although Dariush is a solid grappler, Brenneman should have the wrestling advantage and should be able to get top position and control the fight. Although Dariush is a BJJ black belt, Brenneman has excellent submission defence and as long as he’s able to avoid a triangle or armbar from the bottom, he should be safe. As a comparison, I see this fight playing out like Brenneman’s upset win over Story from a few years ago. At -170, I see value in Brenneman and I will be playing him as the first leg of a two-team parlay with one of the bigger favorites on the card, although I’m not exactly sure who I will be pairing him with yet (maybe Alp Ozkelic). I feel like Brenneman has so much more experience fighting bigger and better competition, and since I capped him at 2-to-1, I feel like the line has come down enough to pull the trigger. I would be very surprised if Brenneman lost here, although I might hedge with the Dariush via T/KO prop as I see a knockout the only way “The Spaniard” loses this one due to his poor chin. But if the fight stays in the grappling realm like I expect it to, I don’t see Brenneman losing unless the judges royally blow things.
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