Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 172 Quick Picks: Benavidez vs. Elliott, Gomi vs. Vallie-Flagg, Correia vs. Duke

After driving from Portland to central California and then wasting time researching a preliminary fight that ended up being cancelled (Joe Ellenberger vs. Vagner Rocha), I’m just not in the mood to write about the rest of the preliminary fights at length. Here are some quick picks instead. Tomorrow I’ll write at length about all five main card fights.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Tim Elliott

My Fighter Performance Rating statistic likes Tim Elliott a lot, rating him as the number four flyweight in the UFC behind Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez, and John Dodson. Elliott has shown some of everything including volume striking, effective wrestling, and threatening submissions. However, he’s also been primarily successful against low-level UFC opponents like Louis Gaudinot and Jared Papazian.

At the same time, Elliott did have a very competitive fight against Dodson, an indicator that perhaps FPR knows what it’s talking about. That’s not to say Elliott should be favored to beat Benavidez, a well-rounded fighter with underrated finishing ability by flyweight standards. Benavidez hits harder than Elliott and is more proven against tough competition.

With that said, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to suggest that Elliott could win on points here. Elliott maintains a high pace and could arguably be the more effective wrestler of the two. Benavidez has only landed 15 takedowns in 16 UFC/WEC fights while being taken down 20 times. I think Benavidez will probably be able to win on points in the end but this is a more competitive match than it’s getting credit for.

Pick: Joseph Benavidez by decision

Takanori Gomi vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg

Is this what Takanori Gomi is doing now? The former PRIDE champion and #1 lightweight fighter in the world is relegated to a preliminary bout against the scrappy Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Gomi was once a fighter with punishing boxing, heavy body shots, and solid wrestling on top of it. Now Gomi is more a fighter who takes a lot of strikes and hopes to land more than he takes. It helps that he has an excellent chin.

The potential is here for Vallie-Flagg to steal a decision with volume, but his defense is probably worse than Gomi’s and he doesn’t have the same power as Gomi either. It’s a fight Gomi really should win, but at this point in his career, there’s a real chance he could be completely shot.

Pick: Takanori Gomi by decision

Bethe Correia vs. Jessamyn Duke

It’s hard to know what to make of Jessamyn Duke after her decision victory against Peggy Morgan on the TUF 18 Finale. On the one hand, Duke was fairly dominant in that fight, but on the other hand, Morgan clearly lacked the skill set necessary to be competitive in the UFC. Duke will take on a much tougher opponent this time in Bethe Correia, who is coming off a split decision victory over Julie Kedzie.

I think Duke’s considerable height and reach (5’11” with a 73” reach) can give Correia some real problems, although I’m also concerned about Duke’s ability to counter takedowns. I’ll pick Duke to win with striking volume but I’m not confident.

Pick: Jessamyn Duke by decision

UFC 172 Prediction: Charlie Brenneman vs. Danny Castillo

It’s often said that wrestling is the best base for mixed martial arts. The idea is that a wrestler can select whether to keep a fight standing or take it to the ground. If the wrestler builds a great striking arsenal, he can focus on defending takedowns and keep the fight standing. If the wrestler builds a polished submission game, he can take the fight to the ground and overwhelm his opponent there.

The problem is that the success of a wrestler depends on him doing one of those two things. When a wrestler fails to develop either his striking or his submissions… well, then you get Charlie Brenneman.

Consider that Brenneman has landed just as many significant strikes as he’s absorbed in the UFC: 112 strikes landed, 112 strikes absorbed. Now consider that Brenneman has landed 19 takedowns while his opponents have landed just two. Brenneman has spent the bulk of his time in the UFC in top position on the ground, but is even in significant strikes with his opponents anyway. Whatever advantage he gains in striking by being in top position is completely given back as long as Brenneman is standing.

To make matters worse, Brenneman has been knocked down five times for a ratio of 22.4 significant strikes per knockdown. To put this in perspective, Shane Carwin landed 32.8 significant strikes per knockdown in the UFC. Brenneman has such a glass jaw that it’s imperative for him to land takedowns quickly or risk being seriously hurt by strikes, as he was against Beneil Dariush, Kyle Noke, Erick Silva, Anthony Johnson, and Johny Hendricks.

Brenneman has one realistic path to victory against UFC-level opponents: land takedowns frequently and grind out a decision victory with exhaustive top control. To Brenneman’s credit, he did showcase a more polished submission game before his return to the UFC, but he has yet to even attempt a submission in nine UFC fights while his opponents have attempted 13 submissions despite just two takedowns.

It’s unclear if Brenneman will have a decisive edge in takedowns against Danny Castillo. On the surface, Brenneman and Castillo are nearly equals in terms of how accurately they land and defend takedowns. Brenneman has landed 42 percent and defended 71 percent; Castillo has landed 44 percent and defended 71 percent. They’re both good enough offensively to be capable of landing a takedown against each other.

However, those numbers need to be put in context. While Castillo has been fighting mostly non-wrestlers at lightweight, Brenneman has taken on a series of very tough wrestlers at welterweight. Castillo’s takedowns have been against opponents like Tim Means and Paul Sass while Brenneman has taken down opponents like Rick Story and Johny Hendricks. That’s enough for me to give Brenneman the edge in takedowns in this particular matchup.

Of course, this would hardly be the first time Brenneman has the edge in takedowns, and that hasn’t always served him well in the past. At the very least, Castillo should prove difficult to take down, and if Castillo can keep this fight standing for any length of time, there’s a very good chance he hurts Brenneman with strikes. Castillo is no knockout artist – he has just two knockdowns landed in his UFC/WEC career – but Brenneman has a way of making fighters look like they have serious knockout power.

At this point, Brenneman is just too fragile for me to pick him to beat any opponent who can adequately defend takedowns. As long as Castillo can keep the fight standing, it’s very likely that one of his strikes will drop Brenneman and lead to a finish, or that Castillo will have a decisive edge in points at the very least. Brenneman’s path to victory is too narrow for me to consider him a favorite to win.

Pick: Danny Castillo by TKO

UFC 172 Prediction: Chris Beal vs. Patrick Williams

This is not an easy fight for me to break down because I don’t have nearly as much footage on Patrick Williams as I would like. I was only able to find three minutes of tape featuring wins against Rafael Dias and Gabe Maldonado. All I could really establish from that action is that Williams is a fighter who likes to move around the cage a lot and throw wild punches with a lot of effort. I’m also aware that Williams wrestled at Arizona State University alongside Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway, and Aaron Simpson, but that doesn’t mean a lot to me until Williams proves he has adapted well to MMA.

It’s clear that the best information I have regarding Williams is his professional record. Unfortunately, Williams’ record of 7-3 is poor for a fighter making his UFC debut. It’s even worse for Williams because his TKO win over Dias is the only time he’s beaten a fighter with more than two career wins. Meanwhile Williams has lost to 9-5 Pablo Alfonso, 10-8 Ralph Acosta, and 5-1 Justin Linn. That means Williams is 1-3 against opponents who have shown they’re at least somewhat serious about even being MMA fighters.

Just from looking at records, Chris Beal seems like a much better prospect to me. Beal is undefeated at 8-0 and although he hasn’t taken out any highly ranked opponents, he has at least fought a series of experienced opponents without losing. Beal did lose to Chris Holdsworth on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but that was technically an exhibition bout and doesn’t count on Beal’s record. Even if you include that loss, Beal clearly enters with the stronger professional record.

I was also able to find much more tape on Beal than I found on Williams. What I saw of Beal in his early career was mostly rough around the edges. His standup game wasn’t very polished; he threw a lot of power punches with no setup and didn’t land them with high accuracy. Beal’s ground game was also very suspect as he had to fight his way out of numerous submission holds despite being in top position on the ground. Beal’s biggest strength was his ability to land takedowns and then land strikes from inside his opponent’s guard.

As would be expected, Beal’s overall MMA game has developed as he’s become more experienced. He’s done a much better job of throwing straight punches in recent fights, which has led to his power strikes being more effective as well. Beal has morphed from a fighter who gets beat standing and needs to land a takedown to make up for it to a fighter who can compete standing and mix in a takedown on top of it.

That’s not to say Beal is a finished product. His overall defense and head movement in particular need work and he also needs to prove that he can advance position and stay out of submissions on the ground. Being submitted by guillotine choke against Holdsworth is not a good sign as far as his overall submission game is concerned.

Evaluating a fighter is like solving a 100-piece puzzle. If I only have a small part of the puzzle solved then I can’t say with much confidence exactly what a fighter brings to the UFC. I wish I had more information on Williams in particular but I don’t. What I do know is that Beal enters with a stronger record and a decent skill set. When that’s the best information I have, that’s what I have to use to make my pick.

Pick: Chris Beal by decision

UFC on Fox 11 Predictions Summary

Here are my picks:

  • Travis Browne over Fabricio Werdum
  • Miesha Tate over Liz Carmouche
  • Donald Cerrone over Edson Barboza
  • Yoel Romero over Brad Tavares
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov over Rafael Dos Anjos
  • Thiago Alves over Seth Baczynski
  • Jorge Masvidal over Pat Healy
  • Estevan Payan over Alex White
  • Caio Magalhaes over Luke Zachrich
  • Jordan Mein over Hernani Perpetuo
  • Dustin Ortiz over Ray Borg
  • Chas Skelly over Mirsad Bektic
  • Derrick Lewis over Jack May

PICKS TO DATE

Last Event: 10-3 (76.9%)

Year to Date: 84-44 (65.6%)

My one underdog pick was a winner as Chad Laprise showcased polished striking skills against the inexperienced Olivier Aubin-Mercier. However, I did also pick Sam Stout to defeat K.J. Noons; Stout lost by knockout in 30 seconds and subsequently tried to choke the referee in his stupor. Stout and Noons were each at -105 so I was on the wrong side of that coin.

My underdog pick for this event is Yoel Romero, who I’m surprised is the underdog against Brad Tavares. I thought that the hype Romero had behind him would cause him to be favored against Tavares, but perhaps Tavares is the more recognized name. Both fighters are capable strikers but Romero packs a lot more power and I think that’s going to give Tavares some real trouble. I also don’t think Tavares has good enough ground control to defeat Romero with takedowns and grappling. It’s a competitive fight but I think Romero wins.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

Last Event: -$1.72

Current Bankroll: $55.51

Total Investment: $128.57

Total Return: $5.51

Return on Investment: 4.3%

My picks might have done well but my degenerate gambling did not. Three of my four bets were winners: Chad Laprise, Elias Theodorou, and George Roop all proved to be sound investments. However, my biggest bet by far was on Kyle Noke, who I felt could keep up with Patrick Cote standing and easily out-maneuver him on the ground. Noke held up his end of the bargain on the feet but it was Cote who landed takedowns and controlled Noke on the ground. Cote has almost never landed takedowns in the past so I certainly didn’t see him doing that here. No points to Noke for having a game plan involving A) zero takedown attempts despite Cote’s history of being submitted, B) opting to attempt submissions from the guard instead of getting to his feet, and C) not having a sense of urgency in the third round.

As frustrated as I was with Noke, it was a bad bet and I have to admit that.

For this event I have:

Yoel Romero +125: $2.00 to win $2.50

Rafael Dos Anjos +195: $2.00 to win $3.80 as I believe his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov is very competitive.

EDIT: I have added plays on Donald Cerrone +120 ($1.00 to win $1.20) and Pat Healy +200 ($1.00 to win $2.00) as I feel the line has moved enough on both fights for there to be value.

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 on Fox Prediction: Travis Browne vs. Fabricio Werdum

I have to admit, Travis Browne’s rise to title contention has surprised me quite a bit. For a while I thought of Browne as the fighter who was out-performed by Cheick Kongo and looked sloppy in wins over opponents like Rob Broughton. It didn’t help that Browne was knocked out by Antonio Silva in a fight that seemed to confirm Browne as simply a mid-tier UFC heavyweight (although if I remember correctly, I may have picked Browne to win that one).

Now, not only is Browne in a top contender’s fight, he’s in a fight that looks like it could be a really good style match for him. Browne’s opponent is Fabricio Werdum, a fighter known for world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also a fighter who’s developed into a very good all-around mixed martial artist. The problem is this: can Werdum successfully take Browne to the ground? If he doesn’t, can he survive five rounds without being knocked out?

The answer to the first question is “probably not.” Despite being a relatively tall and light heavyweight (6’7″, 230 pounds), Browne’s takedown defense has been a perfect 8-for-8 in the UFC so far. I don’t think Browne’s takedown defense would remain perfect against Cain Velasquez, but he’s not fighting Velasquez, he’s fighting Werdum. And Werdum’s takedown offense has been underwhelming as he’s landed just 34 percent of his takedown attempts overall.

I’m sure a lot of people remember Werdum repeatedly failing to take down Alistair Overeem in their Strikeforce match. Werdum resorted to begging Overeem to enter his guard, a request Overeem wisely refused to accept. I’m not sure if Browne’s ability to stuff takedowns will be as good as Overeem’s in the long run, but I’m willing to bet that he can keep his back off the canvas in this one.

The thing about Werdum’s performance against Overeem is that he quietly landed more strikes in the fight than Overeem did. I’m not sure if it was because Overeem had no respect for Werdum’s power, or if Werdum was simply good at landing straight punches, but Werdum landed 43 significant strikes to Overeem’s 32 in the fight. In his last three matches since returning to the UFC, Werdum has landed 154 significant strikes and his opponents have landed 43. It’s clear that Werdum has some serious striking abilities.

Meanwhile, Browne has absorbed more strikes than he’s landed in the UFC, has absorbed an above-average rate of 3.10 significant strikes per minute, and has defended strikes at a very poor 47 percent rate. He’s very vulnerable to being hit, as shown in his improbable comeback win against Overeem and knockout loss to “Bigfoot.”

So it might sound as if I’m setting up an upset pick. I can’t do it. The reason is that this fight is scheduled for five rounds in the heavyweight division, where decisions are not the norm. Browne in particular has shown big power throughout his career. He’s won by TKO in five out of nine UFC fights and 12 out of 18 MMA fights overall. He’s landed four knockdowns in 150 significant strikes, for a very low ratio of 37.5 strikes per knockdown. His elbows have been a particularly devastating weapon, something Werdum will have to be mindful of if he attempts a takedown.

I can’t see Werdum succeeding in taking Browne down more than once. I also don’t think Werdum can strike with Browne for five rounds without being knocked out. It’s certainly possible – after all, Cheick Kongo went three rounds with Browne and his chin is anything but sturdy – but if we’re talking about a heavyweight fight, I have to expect a finish. Browne is simply the more likely fighter to deliver the finish in this particular matchup.

Pick: Travis Browne by KO

UFC on Fox Prediction: Liz Carmouche vs. Miesha Tate

My analysis on this blog has not been particularly kind to Miesha Tate. I picked Ronda Rousey to beat her (not that I needed to be Nostradamus to make that pick), I picked Cat Zingano to beat her, and I picked Marloes Coenen to beat her. Two out of three ain’t bad I guess.

In this matchup I think I’m finally ready to pick Tate to win a fight, but it’s not because I see her as an overwhelming favorite. Tate is a very flawed fighter, particularly where her striking is concerned. Overall, Tate has landed 167 significant strikes and absorbed 286. She’s been knocked down three times – the only other current UFC women’s fighter to be knocked down even once is Sara McMann, and that just happened two months ago.

It’s clear that Tate needs to land takedowns to win fights. Fortunately, Tate sticks to that game plan relentlessly, constantly pursuing takedowns and submissions. She’ll need that tenacity to beat Liz Carmouche, who profiles as the better overall striker, although striking isn’t her strong suit either.

Like Tate, Carmouche is well known for her wrestling ability and her ground and pound in particular. Her strikes from top position helped her earn stoppage victories over both Jessica Andrade and Jan Finney. She’s landed 12 takedowns in seven fights and at least one against every opponent not named Ronda Rousey.

So who will have the advantage in takedowns when Carmouche faces Tate? It’s almost impossible to say. Both fighters have shown the ability to land takedowns, but neither has shown the ability to defend them. Carmouche has been taken down five times in eight tries, while Tate’s takedown defense is a dismal 23 percent. In Tate’s case, that number is virtually meaningless because almost all of the takedowns landed against her were by Rousey.

The only fair thing to say is that a takedown can go either way – but there is serious evidence to conclude that Tate is the more effective grappler. While Carmouche has landed 12 takedowns and passed guard 20 times, she’s only attempted two submissions in the UFC and Strikeforce. Her opponents have attempted four submissions against her and she’s lost by that method twice, against Rousey and Coenen.

(Moments like this are when I fully appreciate what a terror Rousey has been in this division.)

Tate has to be considered the more effective submissions fighter, and as strange as it might sound, I would point to her second fight against Rousey as evidence. Tate is the only fighter to show any ability to defend Rousey’s submissions – it took some real adaptation by Rousey to figure out how to finish Tate. Tate has won six fights by submission overall, and put a lot of pressure on the ground to opponents like Cat Zingano as well.

I don’t think striking will be much of a factor in this fight, because Tate will make sure it’s not a factor. It’s certainly possible that Carmouche can win the takedown battle and the fight, but since I think Tate is at least equally good at takedowns and better at submissions, I consider her the slight favorite to get the win in this one.

Pick: Miesha Tate by submission

TUF Nations Finale Predictions Summary

This is one example of a UFC event where my knowledge of most of the participants just isn’t up to par. My picks are therefore mostly based on the betting markets:

  • Michael Bisping over Tim Kennedy
  • Kyle Noke over Patrick Cote
  • Elias Theodorou over Sheldon Westcott
  • Chad Laprise over Olivier Aubin-Mercier
  • Dustin Poirier over Akira Corassani
  • Sam Stout over K.J. Noons
  • Sarah Kaufman over Leslie Smith
  • Ryan Jimmo over Sean O’Connell
  • George Roop over Dustin Kimura
  • Mark Bocek over Mike de la Torre
  • Nordine Taleb over Vik Grujic
  • Richard Walsh over Chris Indich
  • Mitch Gagnon over Tim Gorman

PICKS TO DATE

Last Event: 4-3 (57.1%)

Year to Date: 74-41 (64.3%)

My picks for the UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi might have had a “PRIDE NEVER DIE” feel to them. I had Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira beating Roy Nelson and Tatsuya Kawajiri beating Clay Guida. I wasn’t surprised that Nelson won by knockout, but in retrospect, I probably should have predicted that outcome as Nogueira has been getting knocked down on a routine basis in recent years. I was surprised at Guida’s ability to out-strike Kawajiri, an advantage that changed the dynamic of the fight in Guida’s favor.

As it turns out, simply picking chalk was the way to go for that event outside of Ramsey Nijem’s win over Beneil Dariush. I’m mostly avoiding underdog picks for the TUF Nations Finale but I am taking slight underdog Chad Laprise to defeat submission specialist Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

Last Event: -$2.00

Current Bankroll: $57.23

Total Investment: $122.24

Total Return: $7.23

Return on Investment: 5.9%

Like the degenerate gambler I am, I appear to have bet on Kyle Noke at the worst available price so far. I placed a $3.75 risk to win $3.00 on Noke as a -125 favorite as I believe he’s just a better mixed martial artist than Patrick Cote is. I feel that the worst-case scenario for Noke is to stand and bang with Cote, and that Noke should be very competitive with Cote standing. Noke is clearly the superior grappler and is a serious threat to finish if he takes the fight to the ground. Perhaps I’m massively overrating Noke or underrating Cote, but this seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

And because I’m feeling particularly degenerate today, I’m placing bets on fighters I know little about completely based on market fluctuations:

-A minimum bet on Elias Theodorou at -155, risking $0.78 to win $0.50. Theodorou opened at -270 but quickly dropped all the way to -110 before bouncing up to his current price. Usually the sportsbooks have at least a decent idea of what the price on a fight should be… I’m assuming that there’s a reason they opened Theodorou as the strong favorite to win.

-A minimum bet on Chad Laprise at +105, risking $0.50 to win $0.53. I’m using the same logic here – Laprise opened up at -150 and is now the underdog. That takes Laprise from an expected 60% chance of winning to an expected 49% chance of winning. Again, I feel like the books opened Laprise as the favorite for a reason.

Finally, I have a bet on George Roop at -130, risking $1.30 to win $1.00. His opponent is Dustin Kimura, a fighter I feel is far too one-dimensional to succeed in the UFC long-term. Kimura is a submission specialist with below-average striking and almost no offensive wrestling. It seems like Roop should be able to keep the fight standing and win either on points or by TKO.

So, to summarize:

Kyle Noke -125: $3.75 to win $3.00

George Roop -130: $1.30 to win $1.00

Elias Theodorou -155: $0.78 to win $0.50

Chad Laprise +105: $0.50 to win $0.53

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!

TUF Nations Finale Prediction: Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy

Michael Bisping is easily the single fighter other fighters love to call out the most. It makes sense. Bisping is a well-known name, good enough that beating him places a middleweight squarely into title contention. He isn’t a particularly scary opponent because he doesn’t have much knockout power and isn’t a suffocating wrestler. Bisping is beatable and the reward for beating him is high.

But Bisping has a way of winning against most opponents he’s matched up against. He’s one of the best volume strikers in the UFC, a fighter who will constantly stick straight punches in his opponent’s face and beat them with superior conditioning. Bisping has landed 4.62 significant strikes per minute, including 93 against Alan Belcher, 64 against Brian Stann, 102 against Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and 118 against Yoshihiro Akiyama.

Bisping’s opponent is Tim Kennedy, a military hero who has made no secret of just how little respect he has for Bisping’s punching power and overall ability, mocking Bisping in various videos. The problem for Kennedy is that when I look at how he matches up against Bisping, I see him losing the same way others have.

In contrast to Bisping, Kennedy isn’t much of a volume striker. He’s performed fine in periods of striking against opponents like Rafael Natal and Roger Gracie, but it’s clear that Kennedy doesn’t have the same natural talent for striking that Bisping has. Bisping just seems to flow better on the feet than Kennedy does.

Kennedy does his best work with takedowns and grappling. He has submission victories in four of his last nine fights and has won a decision against Robbie Lawler due to effective grappling as well. Kennedy often has to work hard to land takedowns (37% accuracy) but once he’s on the ground, he does a very good job of transitioning from effective striking to submission offense.

The problem is that Bisping has historically been very difficult to control on the ground. Bisping has been taken down 25 times in the UFC but only had six submissions attempted against him. None of them forced Bisping to tap out. More often, Bisping is able to quickly work back to his feet and continue his attack.

Bisping has lost to two kinds of fighters in his career: fighters with serious knockout power (Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson) and fighters with overpowering wrestling (Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans). Kennedy certainly doesn’t pack enough KO power to be a favorite to beat Bisping that way. Instead, his best path to victory is with takedowns and ground control. However, I don’t think Kennedy is effective enough with takedowns to win on points that way.

The biggest concern I have about Bisping is that I’m not sure he’s going to perform at his best in this fight. Bisping has quietly grown old in fight years; he’s been competing for ten years now and eight of those years have been in the UFC. He’s 35 years old with 29 professional fights on his record and hasn’t competed since his decision victory against Alan Belcher a year ago. There’s definite potential for Bisping to under-perform in this fight.

As for Kennedy, he made his debut in 2001 but didn’t start fighting MMA full-time until 2006. He’s no spring chicken but he doesn’t have the same fight mileage as Bisping.

I think Kennedy will be a very tough opponent for Bisping but in the end I see Bisping’s advantage in strikes out-weighing Kennedy’s advantage in takedowns. The fact that it’s a five-round main event only helps Bisping’s cause.

Pick: Michael Bisping by decision

TUF Nations Finale Prediction: Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke

Patrick Cote is a fighter living on borrowed time in the UFC. He was cut from the promotion after losing to Tom Lawlor at UFC 121, a fight in which Cote managed a grand total of six significant strikes in three rounds. Cote returned as an injury replacement against Cung Le at UFC 148, losing a competitive decision. In his last two fights, Cote won by disqualification to Alessio Sakara (in a fight Cote was well on his way to losing) and skated by with a questionable decision victory over Bobby Voelker.

Cote is at his best when he’s allowed to stand and strike, but even then, he’s a fighter who is more likely to get in a brawl than pick apart his opponents with precision. By UFC standards, Cote’s striking is merely adequate and his grappling is among the worst in the promotion. The reality is that Cote could easily be on a six fight losing streak in the UFC right now.

Despite this reality, Cote opened as the betting favorite to beat TUF Nations counterpart Kyle Noke. This surprised me quite a bit because I probably have a higher opinion of Noke than most people. Noke ranks 15th in the UFC welterweight division in FPR because of the following statistics:

  • Significant Strikes: Noke 134, opponents 67
  • Knockdowns: Noke 2, opponents 0
  • Takedowns: Noke 8, opponents 2
  • Guard Passes: Noke 11, opponents 3
  • Submission Attempts: Noke 4, opponents 3
  • Finishes: Noke 4, opponents 1

Noke has out-struck, out-wrestled, and out-grappled his opponents in the UFC so far, leading to an FPR rating above fighters like Matt Brown, Josh Koscheck, and Tarec Saffiedine. Not bad for a fighter who was merely an also-ran on the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Of course, these statistics need to be put in context. Noke’s victories have come against Josh Bryant, Rob Kimmons, Chris Camozzi, and the glass-jawed Charlie Brenneman. He lost a decision to Andrew Craig and was submitted by Ed Herman. FPR attempts to adjust for the strength of a fighter’s opponents using historical Fight Matrix data, but in cases like Noke’s it’s quite possible the opponent adjustment just isn’t strong enough.

In any case, I feel like this is a terrific style match for Noke. If Noke is as aggressive in takedowns and grappling as usual, he should be able to take Cote to the ground without too much difficulty – Cote’s takedown defense is very poor at 49 percent. On the ground, Noke has to be considered a serious threat to finish Cote by submission, as Cote has three submission losses in his UFC career.

Even if Cote gets his way and is able to engage Noke in a striking match, I’m not convinced Cote should be a large favorite in that scenario. Cote’s been very easy to hit in his recent career, and Noke has shown very respectable hands throughout his UFC fights. I think Noke has serious potential to out-point Cote with strikes here.

So why is Noke only the slightest of favorites to win (at the time of this writing, which is well before it will be published on this blog)? There are two factors that jump out at me. As Martin Jacobson pointed out on Twitter, the fight is in Quebec and a judges’ decision is likely to be biased in Cote’s favor. Another factor is that Noke hasn’t fought in about a year and a half and is likely to experience “cage rust.”

Those factors are enough to make me think it’s possible I’m walking into a trap. The betting public may be more sophisticated than I am in regards to this fight. But from the evidence I’ve seen, I just think Noke is the superior fighter and should be able to get the job done in this one.

Pick: Kyle Noke by submission

Degenerate Gambler’s Corner: UFC Fight Night Abu Dhabi

For the last UFC event, I said that I made two underdog bets, on Dan Henderson at +190 and C.B. Dollaway at +185. Both fighters won, but as it turns out, I’m a goof and only actually placed the bet on Henderson. This is the second time I’ve done this since starting my degenerate gambling. The first time was what should have been an underdog bet on Gegard Mousasi before his loss to Lyoto Machida. At least now instead of benefiting from my incompetence, I’m hurting because of it… so hopefully I won’t do it again.

I really should have paid more attention, because an avalanche of money bet on Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira pushed the price on Dollaway all the way up to +340. It would have made for a great betting opportunity if I was on top of it.

As it stands, I made $1.90 from my bet on Henderson and now have a bankroll of $59.18.

Last Event: +$1.90

Current Bankroll: $59.18

Total Investment: $120.24

Total Return: $9.18

Return on Investment: 7.6%

For tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi event I have just one bet: a $2.00 risk on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at +130, to win $2.60. That price isn’t available right now; Nogueira is currently somewhere between +100 and +110. I don’t think Nogueira should be the underdog against Roy Nelson. It’s true that Nelson has big power and Nogueira is vulnerable to being knocked out, but I just don’t see Nelson winning if he doesn’t get that knockout early. I think +130 is a good price to get.

I also want to bet on Tatsuya Kawajiri but I want the price to be +130 or better, and right now the best price on the board is +115. If Kawajiri becomes a larger underdog then I might add him as a small play.

I’m also tempted by Jim Alers -255 because I loved what I saw of him on tape, but it’s probably not a good idea to pay that steep a price on a fighter making his UFC debut.

The last bet that has my interest is Trevor Smith at +410. Smith opened at +265 so the line has moved quite a large amount. It seems like there might be some value on Smith now, but when I look at how he matches up with Thales Leites, I feel like he really shouldn’t be able to win. The prudent decision is to just pass… but if Smith reaches something like +500 then I might put a flier on him.

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!

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