Niklas-Backstrom One of the main card bouts at UFC Fight Night 53 is a three-round featherweight out between Niklas Backstrom and Mike Wilkinson. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Backstrom is a -700 favorite (bet $700 to win $100) while Wilkinson is a +500 underdog (bet $100 to win $500). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Backstrom at -705 and Wilkinson at +435, and action has been in Backstrom’s direction as the lines have tightened. Based on the style matchup, Backstrom is deserving of being a huge favorite here as I believe he finishes Wilkinson in highlight-reel fashion. Here’s why. Backstrom (8-0, 1 NC) is one of the top featherweight prospects in the UFC and the promotion is giving the Swede a showcase fight here on home soil in an effort to grow his starpower. Just 25 years old, Backstrom is undefeated in his MMA career and proved he can win on the big stage as he submitted veteran Tom Niinimaki in impressive fashion in his UFC debut back in May despite taking the fight on very short notice. A teammate of UFC light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson, Backstrom is extremely well rounded with excellent striking skills to go along with lethal submissions on the ground. He is a finisher in the truest sense, and his ability to hurt opponents and pounce at the right time will be key to his success moving forward. So far we haven’t seen any flaws in his game, but as he moves forward in his career we’ll see what he needs to work on. For now, though, he seems excellent. I believe in Backstrom’s hype and think he’s going to be a top 10 fighter one day in the division, so not surprisingly I think he wins this fight in impressive fashion against a game, but overmatched opponent in Wilkinson. Wilkinson (8-1) was a cast member of TUF Smashes but didn’t make it to the finals of the show after he was injured during the taping. However, the UFC gave the 27-year-old Brit a chance in the UFC anyways, and he beat Brendan Loughnane in his debut at the TUF Smashes Finale. For his sophomore bout, though, he was submitted in quick fashion by Rony Jason, which was very disappointing. That fight was in June 2013, and Wilkinson hasn’t fought since then, so he’ll be coming into this bout off of an extremely long layoff, which is obviously a concern, and something which makes him an autofade in this spot, especially against a prime prospect like Backstrom. Wilkinson overall is a decent fighter with a nice ground game, but he has a nightmare matchup here against Backstrom and it’s not shocking he is a huge underdog in this fight as it just doesn’t seem like he has a path to victory. Backstrom is, plain and simply, a superior mixed martial artist to Wilkinson and this fight is undoubtedly a showcase matchup for the young Swedish prospect. Whether it be by knockout or submission — I lean submission — I see Backstrom winning this fight, and I see him doing so in devastating fashion. At -700, the price is high, but in my opinion it’s a fair price to pay for a fighter who is as close to a sure thing as you can get. Of course, it’s MMA and anything can happen, but I would genuinely be shocked if Wilkinson found a way to win this fight. There is also a prop here that I like, and it’s on the fight not going the distance at -270. I think the fight ends inside of 15 minutes so at the price that prop could be worthy of being put into a parlay.


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