One of the prelims at UFC Fight Night 59 is a three-round light heavyweight bout between Sean O’Connell and Matt Van Buren. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, O’Connell is a -165 favorite (bet $165 to win $100) while Van Buren is a +145 underdog (bet $100 to win $145). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up O’Connell at -140 and Van Buren at +100, and the betting public leans toward O’Connell so far. I also like O’Connell and think he will win this fight by knockout. Here’s why. O’Connell (15-6) has had two fights in the UFC, going 0-2 with losses to Ryan Jimmo and Gian Villane. Despite that poor mark, the 31-year-old American was competitive in both fights and earned himself a third chance in the UFC, and he’s being given a winnable fight here against Van Buren. O’Connell has good knockout power (seven career T/KO wins), an underrated submission game (three submission wins) and he’s a gritty fighter who doesn’t make it easy for his opponents. He doesn’t have good defence and his chin isn’t very good, so he’s always at risk of being knocked out himself, but he does have good striking and is a fun fighter to watch. This looks like a good stylistic matchup for him against Van Buren and that’s why he is a slight favorite entering the fight despite a worse showing on paper in the UFC than his opponent. Van Buren (6-3) appeared on TUF 19 and made it to the finals of the light heavyweight tournament where he fell to Corey Anderson via strikes. The 26-year-old American is primarily a striker with good knockout power and good height and reach for the division, but he has some of the worst striking defence in the UFC and he does not have a good chin. He has already been brutally knocked out twice in his career and he has some really bad losses on his resume already. I don’t really think he is a UFC-caliber fighter and think this is going to be his last fight in the organization. He does not defend strikes properly and fighting an opponent like O’Connell who has knockout power, this has all the makings of an early night for Van Buren. If he wants to win he will have to either catch O’Connell early on or possibly eat some early strikes and then get a comeback finish like he did on TUF. But neither of those scenarios seems very likely and that’s why he is the underdog here. I don’t see this fight lasting very long. Both guys have really bad defence and mediocre chins, and both guys have a lot of knockout power. Both guys also have cardio issues, making it more likely the fight ends inside the distance. I think O’Connell is a better striker and I think he has the better chin, so I am going to pick him to beat Van Buren by knockout in the first round. But as for a bet, I actually prefer the UNDER 1.5 rounds at -105 over betting on either fighter. O’Connell should win, but the UNDER is a safer play and a better price, too.
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