Just one month through the calendar and some of the year end awards may have already been decided for 2015. The month of January saw four UFC events, one each from Bellator and World Series of Fighting, and a pair of AXS TV promotions put on cards. Not to mention the countless regional events that took place all across the globe every week. Expect the schedule to get even more packed as the year goes on. The biggest fights of the month — Jon Jones defeating Daniel Cormier and Anderson Silva earning a decision over Nick Diaz — have already been discussed in much greater detail elsewhere, so I’ll keep things in my wheelhouse. Obviously here at MMAOddsBreaker.com, our focus is on betting, so let’s start by taking a look at the recap of promotions that had lines on their fights. That always starts with the biggest MMA organization in the world, the UFC. The Octagon hosted 46 fights in January (putting the UFC on pace for a whopping 552 for the year). Favorites emerged victorious in 32 of those bouts, with underdogs picking up the other 14 (I’ll get a bit deeper into the expected win percentages at my mid- and year-end betting reviews). There have been a surprising number of large favorites thus far in 2015, with nine fighters closing with a betting line greater than -500. It seems the lines have been warranted however, as all nine took home the win. Viktor Pesta notched the biggest upset of the month, cashing at +380 against Konstantin Erokhin. Anthony Johnson (+260) and Paul Felder (+235) posted the next biggest surprises. Those are all based on closing lines from 5Dimes Sportsbook. Breaking things down by weight class, favorites got their hand raised in all nine middleweight bouts the UFC held during the month. Lightweight favorites also had good success, going 7-2 in their contests. On the other side of the scale, the underdogs won in both women’s bantamweight fights (Marion Reneau and Miesha Tate), perhaps showing that bettors still can’t make sense of the division. One new thing I’ll be tracking in 2015 are totals. Of the 46 January bouts, 31 were set with a total of 2.5 rounds, 13 at 1.5, with one each at 3.5 and 4.5. Fights went over in 28 instances and finished under 18 times. In the bouts set at 2.5, 18 went over and 13 ended under. For those expected to finish a bit earlier and set at 1.5, just 5 actually saw a stoppage under the 7:30 mark. A bettor who blindly chose the over in all of the contests set at 1.5 and bet a standard one unit would have profited 2.1 units across the month. In the other promotions with lined fights, favorites went 10-4. One of those upsets was the biggest of the month however, as Joe Condon came back from just about 14 minutes down to submit Johnny Nunez and cash as a +550 underdog at WSOF 17. The win could go down as the comeback of the year when all is said and done. That wasn’t the only comeback of the month though. Sean O’Connell got battered early in his bout against Matt Van Buren, but rallied to score a 3rd round TKO. Pesta, Tate, and Thiago Alves also recovered from being hurt in the first round of their bouts only to emerge victorious. Of course, the biggest “comeback” of the month has to go to Cathal Pendred, who was down 30-27 on the majority of onlookers’ scorecards after three rounds against Sean Spencer only to miraculously turn things around and win a decision. It was a remarkable performance by Pendred between the final bell and when Bruce Buffer announced the scores, which is almost certain to earn him robbery of the year come December. Another somewhat negative trend to keep an eye on for the rest of the year has to do with fighters missing weight. Kelvin Gastelum, John Lineker, Chidi Njokuani, and Mark Dickman (the latter two at RFA 22) all came in overweight. Gastelum’s struggles were well-publicized, as was his temporary hospitalization due to illness. The other three however seemed content to miss weight without struggling to cut the last few pounds (Lineker missed by 4lbs, Njokuani missed by 4.6, and Dickman missed by 9lbs) and all looked to be in good condition come fight night, going on to win their fights. Perhaps more fighters – especially on the regional circuit – will be hesitant to drain themselves the day before the fights and compromise their performance in the cage, especially when all they face is a small fine as a consequence. On a more positive note, January was host to some fantastic knockouts. The best of which in my opinion was Paul Felder’s spinning backfist against Danny Castillo. Earlier on the same card, Cody Garbrandt showed off his fantastic hands, stopping Marcus Brimage just shy of the final bell in his UFC debut. Lorenz Larkin’s starching of John Howard was equal parts surprising and violent as well. Outside of the UFC, Chuck O’Neil laid out Manny Walo in just seven seconds at CES MMA 27, Misha Cirkunov punted UFC veteran Rodney Wallace halfway across the cage at Hard Knocks 41, and WEC veteran Bendy Casimir won with his own spinning back fist against Curtis Demarce on the same card. Submissions were a bit hard to come by over the past 31 days, but there were a couple nice ones. Charles Rosa took his bout with Sean Soriano out of the judges’ hands by locking up a D’arce choke with just 17 seconds left in the fight. Nikita Krylov tried to follow Rosa’s lead by landing an anaconda choke on Stanislav Nedkov, but couldn’t quite figure out the technique, so instead just guillotined Nedkov in the Ukrainian’s typical hilarious fashion. Bubba Jenkins doesn’t have the best awareness on the ground, and he finally met an opponent who could make him pay for it. The end result was Jenkins unconscious due to the guillotine choke of Georgi Karakhanyan at Bellator 132. My favorite submission of the month has to go to Max Bohanan however. The 3-0 lightweight prospect out of Ricardo Almeida’s gym pulled guard against Leonard Simpson and locked up a calf slicer forcing the first round tap. One other note for the month of January: There weren’t many prospects in action (there will be plenty in February, assuming their fights don’t fall apart), but one of the brighter young lights at bantamweight, Julio Arce, upped his record to 7-0 with a third-round TKO of Bellator veteran Thomas Vasquez. Coming out of Team Tiger Schulmann – home of UFC fighters like Uriah Hall and Louis Gaudinot – it seems like Arce will be stepping into the Octagon soon himself.
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