The main event of Titan FC 31 is a three-round lightweight bout between Mike Ricci and Yoshiyuki Yoshida. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Ricci is a -420 favorite (bet $420 to win $100) while Yoshida is a +300 underdog (bet $100 to win $300). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Ricci at -475 and Yoshida at +325, and so far the action has come in on the dog Yoshida. After Ricci missed weight — which changed this from a five-round title fight to a three-round non-title fight– I can see why bettors are playing the dog, but I do think Ricci deserves his favorite status heading into this fight. Here’s why. Ricci (10-4) was once a star on the Canadian regional circuit, defeating the likes of Jordan Mein and Jesse Ronson. The member of TriStar Gym eventually was scouted by the UFC and made it to the TUF 16 welterweight finale, but lost to Colton Smith via decision. After that, Ricci went 1-1 with a win over Colin Fletcher and a loss to Myles Jury and was cut by the UFC because his performances weren’t entertaining. The 28-year-old Canadian then signed with Titan FC and he’s looked great so far in the promotion, going 2-0 with a knockout win over Jorge Gurgel and a decision win over George Sotiropoulos. He was originally set to fight Yoshida for the Titan FC lightweight title in this fight, but missed weight by two pounds, which could ultimately cost him the chance of a UFC callup. As far as skillset goes, Ricci is a talented striker with good knockout power in his hands. He also has an underrated ground game and decent wrestling. As well, he’s a big fighter for the weight class. I like Ricci and think he has good potential in the sport if he can get his head together, as he’s admitted to dealing poorly with the pressure of the big show in the past. It’s possible his nerves got to him and that’s why he missed weight, but regardless he’s a favorite for a reason in this matchup as based on the style matchup he should win this fight. Yoshida (17-6) has been fighting since 2005 and has competed all around the world but the majority of his success came in his native Japan. He did have a UFC stint back in 2008-2010, but went 2-3 and was released by the promotion. Since being released by the UFC, he has gone 6-1 overall and has won his last six fights in a row, including a knockout win over Phil Baroni. He also has wins over War Machine, Dan Hardy and Luis Santos from earlier in his career. He’s a solid grappler with a background in judo and he has won six fights by submission in his career. But he also has stopping power in his fists, as his seven career T/KO wins attest to. However, his striking overall is not great and his chin has let him down in the past as he himself has been knocked out three times. Yoshida is making a bit of a comeback, but at 40 years of age you have to wonder at what point he slows down. He hasn’t been fighting great competition and Ricci represents a big step up from the guys he has been fighting. He has a chance to win this fight if he can get it to the ground, but if it stays standing he’ll be in trouble, and based on the fact Ricci has solid takedown defence and should be able to keep this fight standing it makes sense he is the underdog heading into it. I like Yoshida and his resurgence has been nice to see, but this looks like a pretty bad matchup for him on paper. Ricci has the takedown defence to keep this fight standing and on the feet he’s a much better striker with good power. Yoshida may be able to survive the three rounds if his chin holds up, but that’s no guarantee as we’ve seen him get knocked out on numerous past occasions. Either way, I think Ricci outstrikes him and wins the fight. However, after he missed weight, Ricci makes for a very risky play, especially at the high price of -420. My pick is Ricci by decision or TKO, but missing weight is a bad sign and I can’t recommend playing him anymore.
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