Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 179 Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

Picks I didn’t include in my predictions post include: Neil Magny over William Macario, Yan Cabral over Naoyuki Kotani, Wilson Reis over Scott Jorgensen, Andre Fili over Felipe Arantes, Gilbert Burns over Christos Giagos, and Tony Martin over Fabricio Camoes.

YEAR TO DATE

Last Events: 18-5 (78.3%)

Year To Date: 265-135 (66.3%)

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

Last Event: +$1.24

Current Bankroll: $57.34

Total MMA Investment: $267.35

Total MMA Return: $17.13

Return on Investment: 6.4%

For this event I have…

Chad Mendes +175: $0.70 to win $1.22 – I got greedy and hoped that Mendes would hit a price of +220 or better. No such luck. I think Mendes is going to make this fight very difficult for a potentially worn and weary Jose Aldo. Mendes is not the better striker and will have a tough time landing takedowns, but could potentially clinch and grind out a decision against Aldo, with an outside chance of landing a haymaker and winning by knockout. I do consider Aldo the favorite but see slight value on Mendes here.

Sadly, that’s all I have this time. Phil Davis is close to where I would place a bet, but I want him to be at +300 or better and he’s not quite there yet. I’m also curious about Carlos Diego Ferreira -220, William Macario +180, Andre Fili -130, and Tony Martin -105, but I haven’t done enough research on those fights to justify putting bets down. For now, I’m going to play it safe and keep Mendes as my only bet.

Mandatory disclaimer: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my plays in any serious way. I’m doing this for fun and as an experiment, not a livelihood. If you make any bets, you do so at your own risk.

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC 179 Main Card Predictions

So not only am I at Jason Somerville’s hangout in Reno (where guests include, but are not limited to, Martin Kampmann), but I’ve had to do work writing some NBA team previews. This wouldn’t have been a problem but I was offered the chance to write about an additional five teams on short notice. I’m happy to accept that assignment and the money that comes with it, but that seriously took away from the time I’ve had to study UFC 179… and the time I had was short in the first place.

So I’m offering a compromise: I’ll break down the UFC 179 main card only. I hate to limit myself to just the main five fights but there’s really no way I can find the time to do anything else.

Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes

It would be easy to look at this fight and see it as a situation where Aldo is just a horrible matchup for Mendes. Aldo is extremely difficult to take down, a fighter with tremendous balance and a great ability to deny opposing wrestlers the angles they need to finish takedowns. Aldo is also a very clean boxer with hard, snapping leg kicks. Aldo rarely gets hit cleanly to the head and has never been knocked down in the UFC.

Here’s the reason Mendes is a tough challenge for Aldo anyway. Aldo’s one issue is that sometimes he fights at a low pace, in an attempt to limit his opponent’s offense. However, Mendes is the kind of fighter who can clinch with Aldo and win rounds by simply out-working the champion. Mendes was arguably winning the first round against Aldo at UFC 142 for that reason alone.

Another concern for Aldo is his history of injuries and the length of time he’s been fighting in MMA and a champion in the UFC. There’s a chance he comes out flat – and if he does, Mendes will definitely take advantage. Make no mistake about it, Mendes is Aldo’s toughest possible challenge at 145 pounds. With Aldo’s superior talent and the fact this fight is in Brazil, I can’t pick against him but I do think he’s vulnerable in this fight.

Pick: Jose Aldo by decision

Phil Davis vs. Glover Teixeira

When Phil Davis fought Anthony Johnson earlier this year, I thought Davis would be able to land a takedown on Johnson at some point and then find a way to finish the fight by submission. What we saw instead was that Davis was completely unable to take Johnson down, and seemed scared to engage with Johnson standing.

Now Davis is set to face Glover Teixeira, who hits extremely hard and is also very difficult to take down. Davis’s best chance in this fight is to spam straight punches and win on points, but it’s much more likely that Teixeira will put pressure on Davis, land hard strikes, and end up shutting down most of Davis’s offense.

Pick: Glover Teixeira by decision

Fabio Maldonado vs. Hans Stringer

Wait a second… what happened to the pay-per-view worthy fights?

Maldonado is a boxer who strikes with great volume, but doesn’t hit particularly hard and doesn’t defend himself well at all. Stringer is a fighter who is proficient in all areas but not particularly good in any one area. Against Maldonado, Stringer’s best chance of winning is to go for takedowns and look to combine takedowns with strikes to take a decision. In Brazil, I have to side against Stringer but I think it’s a very close fight.

Pick: Fabio Maldonado by decision

Darren Elkins vs. Lucas Martins

While Martins had serious issues with defensive striking in his early UFC career, he seems to have cleaned that up in recent fights. Martins will have the advantage as long as his fight against Elkins stays standing, but Martins hasn’t really been tested by a grinding wrestler by Elkins either. Elkins is likely to succeed in taking Martins down, but he’ll have to work hard for three rounds to prevent Martins from scrambling back to his feet. It will be a tough grind but I think Elkins can get the job done.

Pick: Darren Elkins by decision

Beneil Dariush vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

I haven’t had a good read on Beneil Dariush at all. He seems to have slick submissions and decent striking, but the same could be said of Ferreira. I actually think Ferreira is a really good prospect at 155 pounds. In this particular fight, Ferreira should be a little better than Dariush everywhere. While Dariush does have some knockout power, I think Ferreira will land strikes with more volume and pick up a decision here.

Pick: Carlos Diego Ferreira by decision

NFL Degenerate Gambling – Week 8

UFC 179 content is coming tomorrow… I promise!

In the meantime, here are my picks for week 8 of NFL degenerate gambling. First, the statistics:

NFL Amount Risked: $123.47

NFL Amount Returned: $113.67

NFL Profit: -$9.80

NFL ROI: -7.9%

For this week I have:

PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers -3 (+100): $2.85 to win $2.85
  • St. Louis Rams +7 (-110): $3.14 to win $2.85
  • Washington Redskins +9 (-110): $3.14 to win $2.85

MONEYLINE PICKS

  • Atlanta Falcons +160: $2.85 to win $4.56
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers -150: $4.28 to win $2.85
  • St. Louis Rams +270: $2.85 to win $7.70
  • Jacksonville Jaguars +220: $2.85 to win $6.27

I also wanted to bet on the Washington Redskins moneyline, but that wasn’t offered when I placed my degenerate wagers. When it is offered, I’ll amend this post to include that bet as well.

As always, I do not recommend you copy my bets as I am not a gambling professional – I’m doing this for fun only.

NFL Degenerate Gambling – Week 7

I’m doing what I should have done this entire time: separate out my NFL degenerate gambling from my UFC degenerate gambling in my accounting. Overall, I’ve gained $17.13 betting on UFC (enough for two meals at McDonald’s. TWO!) and lost $13.59 on NFL.

I’ve put a total of $104.03 at risk on NFL betting and returned $90.44, for a ROI of -13.1%. Not great but we’re still dealing with a small sample of bets here.

Here are my NFL plays for this week. Against the spread:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars +6 -110: $2.97 to win $2.70
  • New York Giants +6.5 -110: $2.97 to win $2.70

And on the moneyline:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars +215: $2.70 to win $5.81
  • New York Giants +225: $2.70 to win $6.08
  • St. Louis Rams +235: $2.70 to win $6.35
  • Carolina Panthers +235: $2.70 to win $6.35
  • Atlanta Falcons +235: $2.70 to win $6.35

I’m headed to Reno for Jason Somerville’s hangout but I plan on providing full coverage of UFC 179 next week despite this. See you then!

Late NFL Plays Added

Just a quick note that I’ve added two plays to my NFL degenerate gambling this week. I have Tennessee -200 ($5.44 to win $2.72) and Washington +160 ($1.39 to win $2.22). I accidentally bet double what I wanted to on Tennessee… woops.

NFL Degenerate Gambling – Week 6

After making a cool $5.16 in profit from my 1/4 Kelly criterion method on NFL betting last week, I’m back with the same strategy for this week’s games. Fair warning: my picks this week are a little more gutsy than they were last week.

Here’s what I have:

  • Philadelphia Eagles -150: $5.24 to win $3.49
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers +160: $5.17 to win $8.27
  • Pittsburgh Steelers +108: $1.36 to win $1.47
  • Oakland Raiders +260: $1.22 to win $3.17
  • New England Patriots -150: $0.76 to win $0.51

Fighter Rating Update

After the success I had with my degenerate gambling this past weekend, I’ve been inspired enough to go into my new fight prediction model and try to fine-tune it. I took the top 20 heavyweights in FPR and gave each of them a full set of ratings. I then looked at every possible matchup among those heavyweights and estimated each fighter’s chances of winning in each matchup.

This is a “demo” of what fighter ratings might look like using this system. In this particular case, the rating of the fighter represents the average winning percentage of that fighter against the other 19 heavyweights.

I’m pretty happy with the results:

Rank Fighter Rating
 1 Cain Velasquez 88.7
 2 Junior Dos Santos 80.9
 3 Fabricio Werdum 61.1
 4 Alistair Overeem 57.6
 5 Antonio Silva 57.3
 6 Stipe Miocic 56.6
 7 Mark Hunt 55.9
 8 Travis Browne 54.4
 9 Josh Barnett 53.1
 10 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 48.6
 11 Frank Mir 48.1
 12 Roy Nelson 46.2
 13 Brendan Schaub 44.6
 14 Gabriel Gonzaga 43.9
 15 Andrei Arlovski 43.1
 16 Ben Rothwell 42.2
 17 Matt Mitrione 39.6
 18 Fabio Maldonado 27.5
 19 Shawn Jordan 26.8
 20 Stefan Struve 25.0

Yes, Maldonado is listed at heavyweight, because his last fight was in that weight class – if it could be called a “fight.”

As for specific fights that are coming up:

  • Cain Velasquez 86.7%, Fabricio Werdum 13.3%
  • Travis Browne 61.3%, Brendan Schaub 38.7%
  • Junior Dos Santos 84.9%, Stipe Miocic 15.1%
  • Alistair Overeem 73.8%, Stefan Struve 26.2%
  • Gabriel Gonzaga 55.6%, Matt Mitrione 44.4%

What I like the most is that this model adjusts based on the way two specific fighters match up. For example, Junior Dos Santos is listed as having a worse chance of beating Matt Mitrione than he has of beating Stipe Miocic, despite Miocic being the much better fighter overall. The reason is because Dos Santos is expected to out-point both fighters, but Mitrione has better KO power than Miocic, and therefore an increased chance of winning by knockout. (Of course, both Mitrione and Miocic would be huge underdogs against Dos Santos).

I’ll keep you updated as I continue to update and refine this system.

UFC Saturday Doubleheader: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

I wouldn’t take my predictions too seriously for the fights I didn’t cover in the predictions post yesterday. With that said, my picks to win for this weekend are:

UFC Fight Night Stockholm

  • Gunnar Nelson over Rick Story
  • Max Holloway over Akira Corassani
  • Ilir Latifi over Jan Blachowicz
  • Niklas Backstrom over Mike Wilkinson
  • Magnus Cedenblad over Scott Askham
  • Nico Musoke over Alexander Yakovlev
  • Dennis Siver over Charles Rosa
  • Cathal Pendred over Gasan Umalatov
  • Krzysztof Jotko over Tor Troeng
  • Mairbek Taisumov over Marcin Bandel
  • Zubaira Tukhugov over Ernest Chavez (although I have the nagging feeling that Chavez is better than people think)

UFC Fight Night Halifax

  • Rory MacDonald over Tarec Saffiedine
  • Raphael Assuncao over Bryan Caraway
  • Chad Laprise over Yosdenis Cedeno
  • Elias Theodorou over Bruno Santos
  • Nordine Taleb over Li Jingliang
  • Mitch Gagnon over Roman Salazar
  • Daron Cruickshank over Anthony Njokuani
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier over Jake Lindsey
  • Jason Saggo over Paul Felder
  • Patrick Holohan over Chris Kelades
  • Albert Tumenov over Matt Dwyer
  • Pedro Munhoz over Jerrod Sanders

YEAR TO DATE

Last Event: 8-3 (72.7%)

Year To Date: 247-130 (65.5%)

I know, that’s a lot of chalk I’m picking to win this weekend. It’s a chalky kind of weekend – only two of the favorites fighting in Halifax are less than -200. Let’s make up for this with some degenerate gambling.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

Last Event: -$4.40

Current Bankroll: $49.57

Total Investment: $357.63

Total Return: -$0.43

Return on Investment: -0.1%

I mentioned the other day that I’m moving to a 1/4 Kelly criterion betting system for NFL, and I’m doing the same thing for UFC. This could be great or it could be a disaster… but with degenerate gambling in general, “disaster” is the more common outcome.

For this event I have…

Bryan Caraway +275: $1.81 to win $4.98 – My gut reaction is probably the same as yours: that Raphael Assuncao should be able to out-box Caraway at range and stuff Caraway’s takedowns. However, Caraway is a very determined wrestler/grappler, Assuncao’s takedown defense statistics were built against mediocre competition, and Assuncao’s overall ground game isn’t his strongest asset. More than anything, the price on Caraway is great at +275. I’m pretty sure this is a good value bet but not as sure about just how good Caraway’s chances of winning are.

Jan Blachowicz +210: $0.74 to win $1.55 - Ilir Latifi’s wrestling is going to be very tough for Blachowicz to deal with. At the same time, Blachowicz is skilled on the ground and should have the advantage standing up. There’s a real chance Blachowicz beats Latifi on points with strikes, especially if Latifi is hesitant to actually shoot for takedowns (a problem Latifi has had in the past).

Rick Story +318: $0.67 to win $2.13 - The case for Gunnar Nelson winning largely relies on him dragging Rick Story to the ground. It’s more likely than not that Nelson will successfully do that at some point. However, if that doesn’t happen, Story is the much more aggressive and effective offensive striker. Nelson is pretty good at evading strikes but doesn’t out-point opponents standing. He arguably lost a round to Zak Cummings last time out. +318 is a pretty good price for Story all things considered.

Anthony Njokuani +150: $0.63 to win $0.95 - I’m surprised to see so many people saying Daron Cruickshank will have the striking advantage here. Striking has never been Njokuani’s problem, wrestling has. At the risk of going all “MMA math” on you, Njokuani out-struck John Makdessi 73-39, and Makdessi out-struck Cruickshank 86-51. I still think it’s a coin-flip fight but the value is on the underdog in that situation.

Mandatory disclaimer: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my plays in any serious way. I’m doing this for fun and as an experiment, not a livelihood. If you make any bets, you do so at your own risk.

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC Saturday Doubleheader: Some Predictions

As far as my UFC predictions and degenerate gambling go, last week was the “final straw” for me. It became clear that what I was doing was unsuccessful for long enough that it’s worth trying a different approach to predicting the fights.

Earlier this week, I had a sudden burst of creativity, and decided to create a model that would estimate each fighter’s chances of winning a fight. This model would take numerical inputs in ten categories: striking volume, striking defense, knockout power, chin, takedown volume, takedown accuracy, takedown defense, submissions, submission defense, and level of competition. Each fighter would be rated on a scale from 1-5 in each category. The model would take those inputs and spit out each fighter’s chances in a 3 round fight and in a 5 round fight.

The model I’ve come up with requires some fine-tuning, and I’m not about to suggest that it’s a finished product yet. What I am going to do is use it and see how it holds up. If it turns out to be accurate… then let’s just say I might end up developing a new fighter rating system to replace FPR, based on this model.

Unfortunately, the time I put into building this model has taken away from my time to actually study this weekend’s fights. With 23 fights taking place, I wouldn’t have had time to break them all down anyway, but that problem has now been exacerbated.

The result is that I’m going to provide detailed coverage of a handful of select fights only. I believe it’s probably better to give quality coverage of a few fights instead of giving poor coverage of all the fights. Since there’s a three-week gap between this weekend and the next UFC event (UFC 179 on October 25th), that should give me more than enough time to not only cover all the fights on that card, but develop a lot of fighter ratings as well.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get into some of the fights taking place this weekend:

Gunnar Nelson vs. Rick Story

Model estimate: Gunnar Nelson 64%, Rick Story 36%

The biggest problem for Rick Story leading up to the main event in Stockholm is that this is a five-round fight. That means Gunnar Nelson gets 25 minutes to find a way to submit Story… and that has to be considered the most likely outcome of this fight.

That might sound surprising, given that I usually argue there’s betting value on Rick Story. This fight is no exception, since Story is a large underdog at +300, but this really is not a good style matchup for him. Story is a punishing offensive fighter but his ground game can be a bit shaky at times. Story isn’t terrible on the ground by any means, but he doesn’t have polished positional grappling and is known to give up his back on occasion.

Demian Maia punished Story for giving up his back, and there’s no reason to think Nelson won’t do the same. In fact, Maia might be a really good comparison for Nelson overall: a fighter whose striking and takedowns are limited, but whose ground game is so good that it changes the way his opponents fight. Opponents don’t want to take Nelson down because they know what he’s capable of on the mat.

The question is: if Story has no desire to take Nelson down, can Nelson take Story down instead? It’s interesting because Nelson doesn’t really spam takedown attempts. In fact, Nelson often chooses to stand and strike with his opponent until that opponent makes a mistake and leaves a giant opening for Nelson to land the takedown.

It’s likely that Story will give Nelson that opening. Story is an aggressive and punishing striker who likes to constantly move forward and force his opponent’s back to the fence. However, Story’s takedown defense (62%) isn’t nearly as good as his offense. With Nelson’s prodigious talent on the ground and Story’s flawed submission defense, it seems likely that one takedown will be all it takes for Nelson to eventually force Story into a tapout.

Pick: Gunnar Nelson by submission

Rory MacDonald vs. Tarec Saffiedine

Model estimate: Rory MacDonald 81%, Tarec Saffiedine 19%

Tarec Saffiedine broke into the top ten in the welterweight division by winning the Strikeforce welterweight championship in an impressive kickboxing display against Nate Marquardt. For many, it seemed like Saffiedine had “arrived” as a legitimate UFC title threat at 170 pounds.

Here’s why I’m so pessimistic about Saffiedine’s chances on Saturday against Rory MacDonald. It appears strongly that Saffiedine’s performance against Marquardt was by far his best to date – and that Saffiedine normally does not perform so well in fights. In his lone UFC appearance so far, Saffiedine engaged Hyun Gyu Lim – a talented fighter but by no means a title contender at this point – in a slugfest. Saffiedine landed 120 significant strikes but Lim landed 122. I don’t like my title contenders absorbing 122 significant strikes in a fight (Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler excepted).

For the most part, Saffiedine has delivered “good” performances against fighters who would be on the fringes of the UFC. 67-53 in significant strikes against Roger Bowling. 46-28 in a split decision win over Tyler Stinson. 21-20 before winning by TKO against Nate Moore. 51-41 against Seichi Ikemoto.

This is the reason Saffiedine is a big underdog: he’s taking a big step up in competition to face arguably the division’s best fighter in Rory MacDonald. Saffiedine has clear defensive striking liabilities while MacDonald is typically good at limiting his opponent’s offense.

By no means do I think MacDonald is going to dominate Saffiedine, but it seems very likely that MacDonald will land more strikes, mix in a couple takedowns, and win this fight by decision. Saffiedine might take a round somewhere with his (very good) volume striking but it’s hard to see him winning three rounds out of five.

Pick: Rory MacDonald by decision

Raphael Assuncao vs. Bryan Caraway

Model estimate: Bryan Caraway 50%, Raphael Assuncao 50%

I’m not buying the narrative with Raphael Assuncao. No, winning an incorrect decision against T.J. Dillashaw in Brazil doesn’t automatically make Assuncao an elite bantamweight. It’s easy to emphasize what Assuncao does well – boxing, takedown defense – and ignore what he doesn’t do well. Namely, Assuncao is not a significant threat to finish fights against high-level opponents… unless you consider Vaughan Lee and Issei Tamura to be “high-level.”

Bryan Caraway is not going to beat Assuncao in a kickboxing match but that’s not his style anyway. Instead, Caraway is a relentless wrestler/grappler who is excellent at taking his opponent’s back in scrambles. It will be tougher to take down Assuncao but Caraway has been able to land two or three takedowns very consistently in the UFC.

Caraway is also very good at finishing fights by submission; 17 of his 19 career wins are by that method. It’s easy to think Assuncao’s ground game is too good for him to lose that way, but he was submitted by Urijah Faber and is down 5-8 in submission attempts in his combined UFC and WEC career. There is definitely potential for Caraway to win with takedowns and effective grappling.

Even so, my pick would be Assuncao if my life depended on it. Assuncao is easily the better boxer and defends takedowns well enough that he should at least make Caraway’s job difficult. I think Assuncao is a decent/good bantamweight whose stock is way too high right now, but the most likely outcome is that Assuncao will out-point Caraway with strikes and takedown defense and win by decision.

Pick: Raphael Assuncao by decision

Akira Corassani vs. Max Holloway

Model estimate: Max Holloway 83%, Akira Corassani 17%

Corassani is a striker who is extremely easy to hit and has a glass chin. Obviously that’s a terrible combination of attributes, but even more so against Max Holloway. Holloway is an excellent volume striker who also has a bit of sting behind his punches. Unless Corassani can find a way to knock Holloway out (and Holloway has not been as much as knocked down yet in the UFC), he’s in serious danger of losing by TKO for the fifth time in his MMA career.

Pick: Max Holloway by TKO

Jan Blachowicz vs. Ilir Latifi

Model estimate: Ilir Latifi 56%, Jan Blachowicz 44%

Latifi is a bull of a human being and a powerful wrestler, but he’s not a very prolific striker. Blachowicz makes his UFC debut after a successful run as the KSW light-heavyweight champion. He’s a better striker than Latifi but his takedown defense and striking defense are average at best. Blachowicz has a pretty good submission game but it will be difficult to beat Latifi that way. Latifi’s problem is that he often hesitates to shoot for takedowns – if he hesitates too much in this fight then he’s likely to lose a decision based on striking volume. I think Latifi can land enough takedowns and control top position enough to win but this is a competitive fight.

Pick: Ilir Latifi by decision

Daron Cruickshank vs. Anthony Njokuani

Model estimate: Daron Cruickshank 50%, Anthony Njokuani 50%

That’s right, the model has Cruickshank-Njokuani a 50-50 fight. Njokuani should have the advantage standing, as he’s the better volume striker and is significantly taller and longer than Cruickshank. However, Njokuani’s takedown defense and overall grappling are major liabilities. Cruickshank can potentially make up for a striking deficit with well-timed takedowns. It’s just enough to pick Cruickshank to win outright, but a bet on Njokuani at +145 is awfully tempting…

Pick: Daron Cruickshank by decision

Niklas Backstrom vs. Mike Wilkinson

Model estimate: Niklas Backstrom 82%, Mike Wilkinson 18%

Backstrom is a very talented prospect with brutal knees, sharp kicks, and an ability to catch opponents in sudden submission holds. He’s also a very tall and lanky featherweight with questionable striking defense/boxing and vulnerable takedown defense. He’s facing Wilkinson, a grappler and volume striker who struggles badly to defend strikes or land takedowns of his own. Backstrom is far ahead of Wilkinson as a prospect. I expect Backstrom to hurt Wilkinson badly with clinch strikes and finish the fight by TKO.

Pick: Niklas Backstrom by TKO

All other picks for this weekend will be shared in tomorrow’s degenerate gambling post. See you then!

TUF 20 Recap Episode 4 Notes

The first segment of this episode of The Ultimate Fighter featured Urijah Faber as a substitute coach for Anthony Pettis. It showed Faber teaching the fighters some techniques… and it was compelling television. Here I thought – maybe, just maybe, TUF is going to focus more on the fighting and more on the contestants as fighters. It was good stuff.

Then it went back to the house, where they explained why Angela Hill likes farting in the house. I wish I was making that up.

Result: Carla Esparza def. Angela Hill by submission (rear naked choke), round 1

Hill was described as a Muay Thai kickboxer, and she certainly seemed to have some sting behind the one kick she threw (zero head movement, but that isn’t such a critical flaw for an offensively gifted striker). Of course, Hill was also described as an MMA rookie with a 1-0 professional record, so it was easy to assume that Hill would struggle on the ground.

And struggle she did. Hill had learned enough jiu-jitsu to initially defend the rear naked choke, and she actually scrambled somewhat well in spots, but ultimately her ground game is still way too rough around the edges. Esparza dominated position from the moment Hill threw that one leg kick. It’s really damning with faint praise to say “well, Hill at least knows how to defend the choke a little bit.” As for Esparza, her takedowns and grappling looked on point, but obviously Hill isn’t going to be her toughest challenge in the tournament. Esparza also showed a little bit of nice striking at range. As of now, there’s no reason to think Esparza isn’t the favorite to win this tournament.

Overall, this episode was just interesting enough to get me to watch the next one. Here’s hoping TUF continues to offer bits and pieces of compelling television for the remainder of the season.

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