One of the prelims at UFC 178 is a three-round welterweight bout between John Howard and Brian Ebersole. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Howard is a -215 favorite (bet $215 to win $100) while Ebersole is a +178 underdog (bet $100 to win $178). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Howard at -180 and Ebersole at +140, and overall action has come in on the favorite Howard. I agree with the line movement in Howard’s direction and I’m picking him to win this fight. Here’s why. Howard (22-9) is a very well-rounded and consistent welterweight fighter. The 31-year-old American is on his second stint with the promotion and after gong 4-3 the first time around, this time around he’s 2-1 with wins over Uriah Hall and Siyar Bahadurzada and his lone loss coming to top prospect Ryan LaFlare. Since coming back to the UFC, Howard has shown an improved wrestling game to complement his already-stellar striking. He has a lot of knockout power in his hands, and with a high workrate on the feet he’s a tough guy to beat. His wrestling in the past has been his downfall, but it’s clear he worked on it after he was cut from the UFC the first time and he really does look like a different fighter these days. As well, he’s shown very strong cardio as of late and at 170lbs he’s one of the stronger fighters in the division. Howard is getting a very favorable matchup here against Ebersole, a fight where he should be able to dictate where it takes place, and that’s why he enters the bout as a betting favorite. Ebersole (50-16-1, 1 NC) is one of the most experienced fighters in the entire UFC. The 33-year-old American has fought all over the world in a number of different promotions and has been competing for the UFC since 2011, going 4-2 overall with wins over Chris Lytle, Dennis Hallman, Claude Patrick and TJ Waldburger and loses to James Head and Rick Story. Ebersole is a well-rounded fighter with solid wrestling, good submissions on the ground, unorthodox but somewhat effective striking on the feet, a good chin, good cardio and he commands a ring presence that helps him push the crowds in his favor. However, I think it’s clear he’s on a decline as I believe he’s already peaked in his career and is now on his way out of the sport. He hasn’t fought much at all the last few years and in his last fighting against Story looked much older than his age would indicate. He’s coming into this fight off of another 10-month layoff and he could look rusty against Howard, who has been much more active as of late and that long layoff, combined with his decline, and bettors are fading him in this spot, and I can’t say I blame them. Ebersole is a unorthodox fighter and is a hard guy to deal with, but I believe Howard has what it takes to edge him out and take the win. I have been very impressed with Howard so far since his return to the UFC, and while I am a fan of Ebersole’s style, I think he’s past his peak and is in a decline. That, coupled with a long layoff, and I think this is a good spot to fade “Bad Boy.” So at -215 I really like Howard here and I will be putting him into a parlay. I think he has what it takes to beat Ebersole standing and in the grappling department and win a decision, and at the price I think he’s definitely worth a play.
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