One of the main card bouts at UFC Fight Night 52 is a three-round welterweight matchup between Yoshihiro Akiyama and Amir Sadollah. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Akiyama is a -165 favorite (bet $165 to win $100) while Sadollah is a +145 underdog (bet $100 to win $145). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Akiyama at -185 and Sadollah at +145, and the lines have generally remained steady as this fight isn’t drawing much betting action. I guess I can see why Akiyama is a slight favorite in this fight, but I’m actually going to pick Sadollah for the upset and think he could have some value as an underdog. Here’s why. Akiyama (13-5, 2 NC) is one of the most popular Asian fighters on the UFC roster but he hasn’t fought in nearly three years. The 39-year-old South Korean is 1-4 in the UFC with his only win coming over Alan Belcher and his losses coming to Chris Leben, Vitor Belfort, Jake Shields, and Michael Bisping. He has fought only once at welterweight, in his loss to Shields at UFC 144, and at 39 years of age you have to wonder how hard the weight cut is going to be for this fight against Sadollah. As far as skillsets go, Akiyama has excellent judo and his throws are probably his best weapon. His striking is ok, but nothing special, although he does have a great chin that allows him to stay in the pocket and eat shots. Akiyama hasn’t really done anything in the UFC and in my opinion, lost to Belcher and should be 0-5 overall. He’s only on the roster because of his name value, and while the UFC is giving him a winnable fight here against Sadollah, if he can’t win this fight he’ll likely retire. And despite him being the favorite here, I don’t think this is as easy a fight for Akiyama as some may think. Sadollah (6-4) won TUF season 7 as someone without a pro fight and has since gone on to achieve a 6-4 record in the UFC overall with wins over Jorge Lopez, DaMarques Johnson, Peter Sobotta, Brad Blackburn, Phil Baroni and CB Dollaway, and his losses coming to Dan Hardy, Duan Ludwig, Dong Hyun Kim and Johny Hendricks. The 34-year-old American is a solid muay Thai striker with a high volume attack and a solid chin that allows him to go the full three rounds (his only knockout loss came to the champion Hendricks and it was somewhat controversial). His wrestling overall is mediocre, but his takedown defence has improved over the years. He is coming into this fight against Akiyama off of a two-year layoff, which is concerning, but if his striking is still up to par and he can stop the takedowns against Sadollah, he absolutely has the ability to earn the upset win in Akiyama’s backyard. If Akiyama can get takedowns for three rounds, then he could win a decision, but I just don’t see it happening. Sadollah has solid takedown defence and on the feet, while Akiyama does have a great chin, there’s no doubt in my mind Sadollah will be the more effective striker. I think Sadollah can stop the takedowns of Akiyama for the most part, keep this fight standing, and light up Akiyama with volume striking for the decision win. The fact both fighters are coming off of very long layoffs is a huge variable, but if anything I think it will impact the older Akiyama far worse. At +145 I do find slight value in Sadollah, but I think the best bet here is OVER 2.5 rounds at -165 as I see this fight going the three-round distance regardless of who gets their hand raised, and I think that total should be priced closer to -250. I also think there’s value in the Sadollah by decision prop at +304.
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