A look at the bouts and bets that are worth risking your pin money at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen, taking place Saturday, August 17.
When asked to do a betting column for UFC.com, I was initially excited. Far from any kind of expert or high roller, I'm a prizefighting nerd with an urge to a) earn “easy” money and b) add adrenaline to any fighting event. But whether you're in it for beaucoup bucks, to put your money where your mouth is or for the masochistic thrill of sweating out a fight, it turns out that UFC's debut on FOX Sports 1 is a tough outing.
Potentially interesting plays have been plagued by questions of injury, lack of proven experience or erratic performances. Massive uncertainty is a contributing factor both in some tight odds, and bookmakers have seemingly done their job too well: smartly made lines have meant little big-money activity on the card.
Odds are curated for us by FoxSports.com and while the UFC takes no responsibility for your lost earnings, please know that while I also take no responsibility, I will deeply empathize.
The Main Event
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (+105) hasn't won consecutive fights in nearly four-and-a-half years, and his physical health, fitness and general fight performance are always pre-fight questions. But he has uncommon one-strike power and a rarely-seen but surprisingly offensive grappling game. Rua has worked with former Chael Sonnen (-115) scream-inducer Renato “Babalu” Sobral for the bout and even hinted that he may try to leglock “The American Gangster.” Clearly Shogun has nightmarish stylistic elements for Sonnen, especially early on before fatigue kicks in. But most imagine Sonnen's unrelenting wrestling will wear the Brazilian down.
My first impulse is to save the units for another evening, but if you're a pathological sort who just needs to spice up a main event, clever props might be your remedy. The most likely outcome is Sonnen via UD and since ol' Chael P. isn't likely to stop Rua via strikes or sub, take the prop +180. In spite of his penchant for KOs, a Rua submission prop might be an enterprising flier at +510.
A Trusty Trio
Clearly there aren’t too many mortal locks on this card, Even the biggest favorite on the card, Uriah Hall (-435), is a mercurial enigma who could be his own undoing against an undersized-but-motivated hometown fighter in John Howard (+335). But a few standouts can likely handle their business in Beantown.
Bantamweight star Urijah Faber (-270) has a tough assignment in Brazilian upstart Iuri Alcantara (+210), but not only did Faber show the sharpest boxing of his career in June, he is one of MMA's best finishers. When Faber isn't facing a division's champion, he doesn't just beat contenders, he dominates them. “Marajo” might be a force in the future but Faber still makes mauling top-10 fighters routine.
Local flavor lightweight Joe Lauzon (-245) has a preferential style matchup against slumping Michael Johnson (+130). Johnson is the bigger hitter, but he leaves openings in the sub department and Boston's Batboy may well take another bonus back to his cave. (Hey, you can bet that prop, too!)
Irish wunderkind Conor McGregor (-270) actually wound up with a tougher matchup with Max Holloway (+210) replacing Andy Ogle, but it is still a fight in his wheelhouse. The featherweight has soundly improved his grappling with John Kavanagh and his ace boxing should prove too potent for the still-very-raw Hawaiian.
If there is security, it's in the trusty trio of Faber-Lauzon-McGregor, a parlay that pays approximately +167. If you're feeling bolder, drop McGregor and sprinkle in Manny Gamburyan (-130), bumping it up to +245. Provided the referee won't stand him up for snuggling Cole Miller, Manny gets his nuzzle off, you'll get your hustle off, and it's glasses of oghi for everyone.
Honest matchmaking means we may see a handful of
upsets. However, there aren't too many serious underdogs whose value
exceeds their number right now.
Once-beaten heavyweight slugger Travis Browne (+200) represents the best live dog on the card, squaring off with a slimmer, trimmer Alistair Overeem (-220),
who’s coming off of his upset to Bigfoot. A 6-foot-7 puncher like
Browne calls to mind Overeem's history of deflating KO losses. Bet the
hulking Hawaiian if you must; if he wins, it'll be by knockout, so take
the prop at +325.
If you bet, you probably have an
unequivocally passionate opinion of either Matt Brown (-160) or Mike Pyle (+130).
At 32 and 37 respectively, Brown and Pyle are on five- and four- fight
win streaks, also respectively, emerging as ever-improving (if unlikely)
170-pound contenders after years as gatekeepers. Though Pyle's
submission savvy could pay dividends, lanky Pyle loves to fight inside
where he can score takedowns and use his newfound striking. But the
phone booth is Matt Brown's violent sanctuary, making it less-than-ideal
for Pyle as a longshot.
The most popular dark horse bet so far? TUF 15 alum James “The Texecutioner” Vick (+150), who spent over a year dealing with an injury before signing to square off with Ramsey Nijem
at lightweight. Despite a brief four-fight career career prior to TUF,
Vick knocked Daron Cruickshank silly and gave eventual season winner
Michael Chiesa serious problems. Vick opened at +240 before being almost
instantly bet down. All limbs and power strikes, the 6-foot-3 Vick may
struggle to match Nijem's wrestling, but he's all limbs and power
strikes and should be able to defend Nijem's grappling attack well
enough to give himself 15 minutes to land a killshot.