A preliminary card set for UFC 173 is a three-round lightweight battle between “Raging” Al Iaquinta and Mitch “Danger Zone” Clarke. The current betting line for the fight at 5Dimes Sportsbook lists Iaquinta as a -360 favorite (bet $360 to win $100) while Clarke is a +300 underdog (bet $100 to win $300). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Iaquinta at -350 and Clarke at +250, and so far there has been slight action on the favorite Iaquinta. I agree with the action on Iaquinta as I’m picking him to get the victory over Clarke. Here’s why. Iaquinta (8-2-1) was a cast member on season 15 of TUF where he made it to the finals before losing via submission to winner Michael Chiesa. The 27-year-old has bounced back nicely since that loss, however, as he’s racked up three-straight decision wins over Ryan Couture, Piotr Hallmann and Kevin Lee to improve to 3-1 overall in the UFC. Iaquinta trains at Power MMA in New York alongside UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and just like the champ he has excellent wrestling and striking skills. However, unlike Weidman it’s Iaquinta’s ground game that is his weakness and is what has gotten him in trouble in the past. Still, he’s a solid lightweight and continues to improve every time we see him in the Octagon. And if he can defeat Clarke at UFC 173, I expect him to get a step up in competition. Clarke (10-2) saved his UFC career with a decision win over John Maguire at UFC 161, but that fight was 11 months ago and he hasn’t fought since. The 28-year-old Canadian is overall 1-2 in the Octagon with the win over Maguire and losses to Anton Kuivanen and John Cholish, both of whom have since been released from the promotion. In my opinion, Clarke is very lucky the UFC has kept him around so long and he will likely have to take out Iaquinta if he wants to remain on the roster. That’s easier said than done, though, as Iaquinta matches up very well against Clarke, who doesn’t have the best striking and whose wrestling is only average. That being said, Clarke does have an underrated ground game, but overall he’s just not the complete package and unless he’s improved significantly since his last outing, this is going to be a very tough fight for him to win. I think Iaquinta is going to top any of Clarke’s takedown attempts, keep this fight on the feet, and outbox his durable opponent en route to a decision win. Iaquinta should win this fight and at -360 he could be worth using in a parlay, although I would personally wait until fight day and see if the line drops closer to 3-to-1. The prop on the fight going the distance at -110 could also have some value as Iaquinta is more of a point fighter and Clarke is a tough guy, and I think the fight goes the full three rounds more often than not.
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