Q & Anik is an article featured exclusively at MMAOddsBreaker.com that goes five rounds with UFC commentator Jon Anik offering his betting tips and picks on some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. 1st Round Q: Both UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and challenger Alexander Gustafsson have recent common opponents in former champ Jon “Bones” Jones and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Cormier’s winning performance against Johnson was one of the strongest of his MMA career while Gustafsson seemingly choked under the pressure in losing to “Rumble” in his home country of Sweden. Does that give Cormier a significant mental edge heading into Saturday’s title fight versus Gustafsson? Anik: I don’t worry too much about Gustafsson from a mental standpoint. I will say, there is an avalanche of pressure on both of these guys. The winner of this fight sets themselves up, not only for one of the biggest fights and rematches the UFC can make, whether it’s Jones-Gustafsson II or Jones-Cormier II. But financially, it will change their lives if they get that one more Jones payday. There’s just so much pressure and so much at stake for the winner, given (presumably) that Jones fight on the horizon. I think DC is more likely to be able to rise to the occasion, given everything that he’s been through in his life professionally and personally. I think Cormier really wants to prove that he’s the undisputed champion by defending the title, and I think stylistically it’s a pretty good matchup for him. I think this is a fighter who he can bully a little bit, that he can take down, and a guy who I think he’ll be able to outlast over 25 minutes. I think Gustafsson is a really technical, fluid, smart, fun-to-watch striker who controls distance well and kicks with a tremendous amount of force. But as you know, I picked Anthony Johnson to beat Daniel Cormier, and if he was able to withstand that early onslaught, I just find it hard to believe that Gustafsson’s going to be able to get Cormier out of there. And Daniel Cormier’s never had more self-belief than he does now after beating Anthony Johnson. I think just the question is really the first 10 minutes of this fight. Can he get the takedown early and make it a long, suffocating night for Gustafsson? Even though I’m surprised that Cormier may close around -350, I can’t advocate a play on Gustafsson given DC’s current form and given what he was able to do on relatively short notice back in May. 2nd Round Q: In the co-main event, a pair of top welterweight contenders who have some history between them from their days as college wrestlers in the Big 12 square off, with former UFC champ Johny Hendricks taking on Tyron Woodley. While Hendricks got the better of their college wrestling matches, Woodley wanted this fight badly and believes he is the better grappler. Who do you think has the advantage in this fight? Anik: I can’t wait for this fight. For me, when I look at it on paper, I feel like Tyron Woodley as the underdog actually has a better chance to finish Johny Hendricks than the other way around. Six of Johny Hendricks’ last seven fights have gone the distance. Now, Hendricks could be riding a 10-fight winning streak. He’s 8-2 over his last 10, the only losses by split decisions to Georges St-Pierre and Robbie Lawler. And I think there’s a majority out there who believe he won both of those fights. I think he went 1-1 in those fights, but this guy has been at the top of the game for a long time and really seems to have mastered the weight cut now and how to take care of his body – he seems to be in the shape of his life. That said, I see some value on Tyron Woodley. And I think if you shop for a price, you can probably get him close to +280 and then if you take it a step further and play him on a knockout prop, I think you’ll obviously do much better than that. Woodley really wanted this fight, and sometimes when a guy campaigns for a fight, it makes you think they know something that we don’t. I don’t think that’s the case here, I think both of these guys, having wrestled against each other in the Big 12 tournament and having been relevant in the UFC for awhile, know each other quite well. I think they’re very evenly matched. Johny has said he’s going to wrestle and play to his strengths, and just try to make sure he doesn’t do anything reckless that would ultimately lead to a loss and take a future title shot away from him. But I just think Woodley’s time may be now. He’s not a volume guy but I think he has better finishing instincts, and I’m going to go with the underdog in a fairly major upset here. Note: This fight has since been pulled from the UFC 192 card due to Hendricks’ weight cut issues. 3rd Round Q: Another featured light heavyweight bout on the UFC 192 main card pits another former champ Rashad Evans against a fighter hungry for a title shot in former TUF winner Ryan Bader. We’ve seen the line plummet on Evans this week, and Bader has publicly questioned his opponent’s mental state. What do you think of the line movement in Bader’s favor, and does that change your opinion of who wins? Anik: I feel badly for Ryan Bader because I am in the group that believes he is worthy of a light heavyweight title shot right now. He had a main event scheduled against Daniel Cormier in June, that fight went away, and he wasn’t on the card at all. So here’s a guy who has not just had an extended training camp, but has been training for the better part of eight months for a fight. So I feel for Bader from that perspective. But I think if any camp is in a position to make sure that he has tapered off at times and still peaks and primes for this night, it’s Aaron Simpson and the guys at Power MMA. But it’s interesting because when the line opened, I would have said there’s all this value on Ryan Bader. I never like to play guys off of a long layoff, and Rashad’s been out since UFC 167 in November of 2013. But Evans is a world-class, special Mixed Martial Artist. Future UFC Hall of Famer. When you look at what he’s done, he’s put together one of the best resumes in the history of the sport. So all of a sudden now, layoff or otherwise, you see Rashad Evans at -165, there’s value there. Had you and I spoken four weeks ago, I think my tune would be entirely different. I just think Rashad’s combination of speed and power, wrestling and boxing ability is going to be too much for Ryan Bader over 15 minutes. I’ll never forget talking to Phil Davis’ teammates after Davis and Evans fought, and Evans ragdolled Davis. They had never seen Phil dominated to such an extent in training or otherwise. And I think sometimes we forget just how good an MMA wrestler Evans is, so I think in that -165 range you’ve got to take a long, hard look at him. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bader spring the upset. At all. Note: Evans has since fallen even further down to -135 at 5Dimes as of Friday after this interview. 4th Round Q: There are four Russian fighters on the UFC 192 card that all have excellent opportunities to showcase their skills on the big stage, including lightweight Islam Makhachev, welterweight Albert Tumenov, flyweight Ali Bagautinov and heavyweight Ruslan Magomedov. Three of them are favored (Makhachev, Tumenov and Magomedov) while the underdog of the group (Bagautinov) fought UFC champ Demetrious Johnson for the title in his last bout. Which of the four Russians do you think will turn in the most impressive performance on Saturday night in Houston and why? Anik: I think you’re going to only see more of this over the next three to five years in the UFC. The two guys who I’ve sort of planted my flag on are Albert Tumenov and Ruslan Magomedov, I think the ceilings are pretty high for both of those guys. Magomedov trains in a great camp, and he’s in the right division to make a run, maybe a little bit undersized. Then Tumenov I just like a great deal. I’ve had a chance to call a couple of his fights, and I just think mentally he really gets it. I’m excited to see how far he can take it but he’s got a tough test in Alan Jouban. On Magomedov, I think the price is actually kind of appetizing in that -155 range. But I have to say, betting the heavyweight division is such a risky proposition that I don’t know if I’m ever in a rush to bet a heavyweight fight. You can certainly see (Magomedov’s opponent) Shawn Jordan overpowering him and potentially taking him out. You just don’t know. 5th Round Q: While we now know your picks to win the biggest fights at UFC 192, what’s your best bet on the card? Anik: I actually think the lock of the card is Joseph Benavidez (against Bagautinov). And I would look for a prop on Joseph Benavidez to get the finish. He’s worked hard for a finish in his two fights against John Moraga and Dustin Ortiz, and they haven’t materialized. But I believe Benavidez will get Bagautinov out of there. Candidly, I’m surprised you’re not seeing Joseph closer to -450 or -500, so I’d be looking to throw Benavidez moneyline in with any straight wager I place this weekend. I think he’s the safest bet on the card, and I think the price is not right for whatever reason. He should probably be two dollars heavier. Disclaimer: Mr. Anik is contractually prevented from wagering on UFC events. His betting tips and picks posted here are for information and entertainment purposes only.
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