Q & Anik is an article featured exclusively at MMAOddsBreaker.com, going 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: There’s no doubt that Stipe Miocic has earned this heavyweight title shot at UFC 198 against champion Fabricio Werdum. But do you believe he could be out of his element in this spot, fighting Werdum on his home turf in Brazil, and how much do you think the location may impact the result? Anik: To dismiss the location and the magnitude of the stadium show as factors is not necessarily fair. But Stipe Miocic is such an even-keeled guy, and he’s headlined for the UFC four times, he’s headlined a show in Brazil. Granted, it wasn’t for the heavyweight title in front of 45,000 people. He’s been in a lot of big spots, but this is a completely different animal. This is the title shot he has longed for forever, and it’s coming in Brazil against a Brazilian. It’s the biggest show we’ve ever done in Brazil, so I do think that there will be a different set of butterflies for Stipe as he makes the walk to the Octagon. All of that said, I think once they touch gloves and once the first strike is thrown, you can throw all of that stuff out the window. As for the price, it has moved closer because of Miocic action…I don’t know if there’s any rumor or injury that is forcing some of that movement. But to me, given the high level championship experience that Fabricio Werdum has accrued already, the fact that you can get him at -160 against Stipe, I would think would entice a lot of bettors. I think there was value on Stipe (as a bigger dog), and now the value is on the other side. Werdum is deceptively good and, despite all he has accomplished, I’m still not sure he gets the credit he deserves. Anybody who looks at Werdum’s resume can tell you that he’s only been finished once, that was by Junior dos Santos in 2008. He’s re-invested in his career and in his cardio. Here’s a guy who people buried at times in his career, and he has now put together some of the best heavyweight credentials of all-time. He really can do it all, not a guy who you want to mess around with on the ground. But look what he did to Mark Hunt on the feet. The set-up and finish was really high level stuff. And while not as fast as Stipe, I think Werdum is another one of those heavyweights that has speed, he can hurt you with every different limb. So I definitely see value on Werdum in that -150 to -160 range. 2nd Round Q: The co-main event at UFC 198 offers Jacare Souza another chance to make his case for a middleweight title shot versus Luke Rockhold, who defeated him for the Strikeforce belt nearly five years ago. How does he match up with fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort, and what do you expect to happen? Anik: I feel like Jacare Souza is the more known quantity right now, and I think it’s unfair for Vitor Belfort that’s he’s sort of taken all of the bullets for the TRT era in the UFC. But when you look at the guy in 2013 that was knocking out Dan Henderson, Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping, and then you look at the guy who fought Chris Weidman for the title, he seems a totally different guy. So knowing that he had an exemption to use the substance before and doesn’t have it now doesn’t make me in any great rush to bet on him. All of that said, there’s no denying that his skills have improved tremendously, and I think it’s unfair to chalk up everything he did in 2013 to a performance-enhancing drug. He’s added a lot of dimensions to his striking. So looking at him in that +250 to +260 range is somewhat intriguing, I guess. But I just feel like Jacare has so many more ways to win (versus Belfort). We talk about the striking improvements that Vitor has made, how about Jacare? I mean, his hands are on a completely different level than they were when he was in Strikeforce, and even in his early days in the UFC. He’s largely been untouchable in the UFC; a lot of people thought he did enough to beat Yoel Romero. Had the decision gone his way that night, he’d likely be fighting Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. So I do think it’s Jacare’s fight to lose. I’m not racing to the window to bet (Jacare) north of -300, but I just think that he’s going to take Vitor down, and Vitor’s going to have a hard time getting up. I do think that because both of these guys are finishers, I don’t expect the judges to be needed for this fight. I think somebody’s going to get finished, and the winner’s obviously going to emerge as the top middleweight contender. 3rd Round Q: Cris Cyborg will finally make her highly-anticipated debut against Leslie Smith at a catchweight of 140 pounds. The last time most bettors saw Smith, she nearly lost her ear in a second-round stoppage loss to Jessica Eye at UFC 180. Does the massive underdog have any shot at pulling off the upset? Anik: The one thing about Leslie Smith is that she’s battle-tested, and she is tough as hell. She did just fight Rin Nakai in Australia back in March, so this is a very quick turnaround for her. The good news is that she stayed in shape, she didn’t absorb a ton of damage that last time out. But certainly a huge ask for her to go to Brazil and beat Cyborg in her UFC debut. Smith has a lot of tools, but I can’t see anything that she does better than Cris Cyborg. And honestly, of all the things that make me excited about this fight card, far and away, I am most excited to see Cyborg make that walk. She is the fighter that got so many of us into women’s MMA. If you talk about Jon Jones being must-see TV, everything Cris Cyborg does is must-see television. It’s a good showcase for her and an opportunity to make a statement. It’s always interesting when you have a favorite priced in this range because a decision isn’t good enough. For Cyborg, she’s got to go in there and get the finish, so I’m not even looking at this as parlay fodder. I think if you do want to play this fight, maybe you try to find an inside-the-distance prop, or maybe even Cyborg in the first or second round gives you a decent price. As tough as Leslie Smith is, she’s just not on Cyborg’s level. 4th Round Q: Shogun Rua is one of the few Brazilians on the UFC 198 card that is an underdog. Rua will be taking on rising star Corey Anderson, who won TUF 19 but will face the toughest test of his young career. In what is a big fight for both light heavyweights, who do you think has the advantage and why? Anik: Corey Anderson’s one of the hardest workers in the sport, and certainly you can only get by on cardio and will for so long. Certainly, he’s developing a lot of skills, working with Mark Henry and others at Frankie Edgar’s longtime camp. But this is an interesting spot because Shogun, of course, was supposed to fight Rashad Evans. He was banged up, so got delayed a little bit into this spot. I do see some value on Shogun Rua in that +200 range. He can still finish with the best of the light heavyweights. He’s a Curitiba native, so he’s certainly going to be buoyed by the crowd. I really think you’re going to see Shogun turn back the clock a little bit potentially with a throwback type of performance. Adrenaline’s a powerful thing and emotion’s a powerful thing, and I think you’re going to see Shogun pull out all the stops and really try to come through with a vintage performance. I’m not somebody who usually bets based upon the venue, but because of where this fight is happening with the stadium show, I think there is some definite value on Shogun. His takedown defense and cardio will be tested. 5th Round Q: We will be treated to an awesome headliner on the UFC 198 preliminary card, as Demian Maia looks to extend his winning streak to five against Matt Brown in a battle of top welterweight contenders. What do you think of Brown’s chances considering he always seems to put on a memorable performance? Anik: If I had to pay to see one UFC fighter fight live, it would probably be Matt Brown because he is just so tough and full of heart, and that toughness keeps him in fights. I remember two years ago when he fought Erick Silva, how he survived that and came back to finish Silva in the third round was one of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen live. Now, I remember telling your readers I saw some value on Matt Brown when he fought Johny Hendricks, and certainly that night didn’t go his way. I do like Brown’s confidence going into this matchup, he is certainly aware of what Demian brings to the table. (But) fighting Demian Maia in Brazil is where all welterweight win streaks go to die. It just makes for such a suffocating night at the office. I think there are few more frustrating places to be in MMA than to be on the canvas with Demian Maia on top of you. And that’s what I think makes this fight so intriguing. If I had to pick one fighter to run through Hell with, it would be Matt Brown. So if Hell in MMA is being on your back against Demian Maia, then give me Matt Brown to try to get out of Hell. The one thing that gives me hope for Matt Brown is he’s so conditioned. I think for a lot of guys, they spend five minutes dealing with Demian Maia on the ground, and they’re rendered defensive the whole time, and they have to exert so much energy to just stay in the fight. Then Round 2 rolls around, and they’ve got nothing left. With Matt Brown, he can hit a next level when it comes to the cardio. And again, let’s not forget, this is a guy who’s only a couple years removed from a seven-fight win streak when he took on the best welterweights in the world. I can guarantee you Matt Brown’s performance will not be adversely affected by the stadium show, or Brazilians chanting that he’s going to die. As tough and as game a fighter as I have ever met. If you can get that type of guy at +250 or +275, it might be worth a small wager. But fading Demian Maia during this run in 2016, do so at your own peril. 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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