One of the prelims at UFC Fight Night 59 is a three-round welterweight bout between Lorenz Larkin and John Howard. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Larkin is a -150 favorite (bet $150 to win $100) while Howard is a +130 underdog (bet $100 to win $130). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up Howard at -125 and Larkin at -115, and the public has flipped the opening line and Larkin is now the favorite. This is a tough fight to call, but I slightly lean towards Howard for the pick. Here’s why. Larkin (14-4, 1 NC) was once a top prospect at 185lbs in Strikeforce after defeating Robbie Lawler in 2012, but he has really struggled since coming to the UFC, going 1-4 overall in the Octagon with losses to Derek Brunson, Costas Philippou, Brad Tavares and Francis Carmont with his lone win coming over Chris Camozzi. The 28-year-old American has very good technical striking with solid knockout power (eight career T/KO wins) but for some reason he has struggled to pull the trigger in the UFC and has paid for it with a really bad record. He used to have good takedown defence, but it looked horrendous against Brunson. The UFC could have cut Larkin but they are giving him one more chance to prove his worth and he is dropping down to welterweight for the first time in an effort to save his career. Considering this is a guy who used to fight at light heavyweight, the cut to 170lbs will likely be very tough on his body and there is no telling how the weight cut will affect his already-declining chin or his cardio. It’s possible the cut is just what the doctor ordered, but without any proof, it’s hard to back him, and that’s why you see Larkin coming in as only a small favorite against Howard whereas in the past he likely would have been a much bigger fav. Howard (22-10) is 6-5 overall in the UFC with wins over Uriah Hall, Siyar Bahadurzada, Daniel Roberts, Dennis Hallman, Tamdan McCrory and Chris Wilson, with losses to Jake Ellenberger, Thiago Alves, Matt Brian, Ryan LaFlare and Brian Ebersole. The 31-year-old American comes from a muay Thai background and overall is a solid striker with decent power (nine career T/KO wins) in his hands, although he only has two knockouts in his UFC career. He has an underrated wrestling game as well as an underrated ground game (six career submission wins) and overall is a well-rounded fighter. Howard doesn’t excel in any one area of the game, but he combines the different facets of mixed martial arts together and the results so far in his career have been solid, although not great. Howard enters this fight with Larkin on a two-fight skin and needs a win to save his job. Most thought he did enough to beat Ebersole in his last bout, but the judges didn’t, and with a roster crunch, Howard will have to separate himself from the pack with an upset win here over Larkin in his home state of Massachusetts, and despite being the underdog, I think he has a good chance to do just that. This is going to be a really competitive fight and I think it almost assuredly hits the scorecards. I think both men will have their moments throughout the fight and I am expecting a close decision (possibly a split), but I think Howard’s wrestling advantage and his proven ability to go 15 hard minutes at 170lbs will guide him to victory here. Having said that, maybe Larkin might look amazing at welterweight, so it’s really hard to bet on Howard here, even as a slight dog. If anything, the OVER 2.5 rounds total at -260 is probably the best play here. It’s a bit too juiced up for my liking, but if you want action on the bout, the total is likely safer than betting on a side.
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