Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC Fight Night Japan Predictions

Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson

Well, here we are again. Fantasy Fights nemesis Roy Nelson is back, and he’s in the main event of UFC Fight Night Japan, taking on Mark Hunt in the main event. To tell you the truth, I’m already mad. I’m mad because I know exactly what’s going to happen:

  • I’m going to break down this fight, see that Hunt is the far better kickboxer and has a good chin, and claim that Nelson isn’t going to win by knockout this time.
  • Roy Nelson is going to win by knockout.

Nelson is a terrible technical striker with zero defense. He’s an ineffective offensive wrestler. His ground game is decent but he never gets to showcase it because he can’t land takedowns. His conditioning is poor and sometimes a disaster. If you packaged Nelson’s skill set in a featherweight fighter, that fighter would be the worst fighter in the UFC.

Fortunately for Nelson, he’s a heavyweight, and heavyweight fights usually end up not going the distance. Nelson is only a viable heavyweight fighter because he has exceptional knockout power and a tremendous ability to absorb punishment. In a division defined by fights being finished, Roy Nelson is a finisher who doesn’t get finished – an enormous advantage that goes a long way towards making up for Nelson’s technical deficiencies.

Of course, some of Nelson’s knockout wins have come against opponents who are known for being knocked out relatively easily: Brendan Schaub, Stefan Struve, Dave Herman, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (sad that I’m putting Nogueira in this basket now). Mark Hunt is known for NOT being knocked out easily. Hunt’s reputation is one of having an iron chin, a reputation earned from absorbing strikes like Mirko Cro Cop’s head kick without being knocked down, let alone knocked out.

Stipe Miocic was able to batter Nelson and win a lopsided decision based on striking volume. Miocic is also known for having a good chin – so why can’t Hunt win the same way?

There are a number of factors that leave me very scared that Nelson will, in fact, knock Hunt out. Those factors are:

  • Hunt is not hard to hit. He’s had a high level of success in kickboxing but strike avoidance has never been his strong suit.
  • Hunt is now 40.5 years old. As he ages, his resistance to being knocked out is going to decline rapidly. Already Hunt has been knocked out by Melvin Manhoef and Junior Dos Santos.
  • Hunt was knocked down by Bigfoot Silva in his last fight… making that twice he’s been knocked down in his last two fights.
  • And now, per Kevin Iole, we find out that Hunt weighs 284 pounds as of today and began his training camp at 340 pounds. Having to cut an extreme amount of weight only increases a fighter’s risk of being knocked out. Not a good sign from a fighter whose motivation has been questioned in the past.

Nelson isn’t exactly a spring chicken either at 38 years old, but he hasn’t shown the same signs of a declining chin as Hunt. Nelson is definitely more likely to win by knockout, even with Hunt’s massive advantage in strikes landed.

So am I actually going to pick Nelson to win a fight for once? While there are some people I greatly respect who are doing just that… I can’t bring myself to do it just yet. I think there’s a pretty good chance Hunt wins by knockout here himself. As good as Nelson’s chin has been in his career, he has been knocked out before (by Andrei Arlovski) and he was knocked down by Dos Santos. Not only does Hunt hit hard, Hunt is going to land many more strikes than Nelson in this fight. That means more chances to get the knockout, even if Hunt’s probability of knocking Nelson out with each strike is a lot lower than Nelson’s chance.

And if the fight somehow goes the distance, it should be with Hunt as the winner almost 100 times out of 100. It’s easy to think that won’t happen, but I thought the same thing of Hunt’s fight against Bigfoot, and we saw how that turned out.

So I’m picking against Roy Nelson again. I fully expect to now see Nelson knock Hunt out in the first round, climb on top of the cage wall, and rub his belly in victory as I seethe in fury and frustration. Hopefully you enjoy it more than I do.

Pick: Mark Hunt by TKO

Takanori Gomi vs. Myles Jury

I’m going to warn you right now – I’m the conductor of the Myles Jury hype train. What I have to say here might not be the most unbiased package of thoughts.

With that caveat out of the way, what a terrible fight this is for the former PRIDE champion Takanori Gomi. Here he gets an opponent in Jury who is extremely difficult to hit and a very good wrestler with good top control and a good ground game. It’s like the UFC set out to find the single opponent who was the worst possible style matchup for Gomi.

In Gomi’s early career, he was known for having dynamite in his fists and one of the better overall boxing games in the lightweight division. In recent years, Gomi’s boxing has fallen apart. Gomi has adjusted by taking some heat off his strikes and becoming more of a volume striker. The problem is that Gomi’s defense remains below-average at best, meaning that he’s been going to close decisions against opponents like Mac Danzig and Isaac Vallie-Flagg.

Now Gomi faces Jury, an opponent who simply is not going to allow Gomi to step into the pocket and exchange. Jury is going to do one of two things: stay outside of Gomi’s punching range or shoot a very quick double-leg takedown. Jury has landed 70% of his takedown attempts in the UFC so far and there’s no reason to think Gomi is going to shut him down. It seems inevitable that Jury will eventually take Gomi down, land some hard strikes on the ground, and finish Gomi with a submission hold. Submission defense has been a problem for Gomi as well – he lost three of his first four UFC fights by submission.

The only thing that worries me is that Jury has had a couple of head-scratching performances. One was against Al Iaquinta on TUF and the other was against Mike Ricci. Sometimes Jury is a little too hesitant to engage… so I do wonder if the betting public is a little too quick to put Jury in parlays, as he is now up to -600. Then again, I have zero interest in betting on Gomi as the +450 underdog. This is a fight Jury really should win the vast majority of the time.

Pick: Myles Jury by submission

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Amir Sadollah

Akiyama… now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.

The same goes for Sadollah. Both fighters have been on the shelf for two years now, recovering from a variety of injuries. They’re both back, and they’re fighting each other on the main card of this show. It must be a welcome change for Akiyama, who previously was set to face absurd opponents like Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping.

If you told me going in that Akiyama was going to grapple Sadollah, I would happily pick him and place a bet on him at -165. Akiyama is the far more talented fighter and the much better overall grappler. The problem is that Akiyama’s tendency in the UFC has been to stand and strike, even though that’s easily the worst part of his game. The result: decision losses to Bisping and Shields, and a very quick KO loss to Belfort.

If Akiyama chooses to stand and strike with Sadollah, he’s asking for another decision loss. Sadollah’s striking isn’t on par with any of Akiyama’s recent opponents, but he lands strikes at high volume and Akiyama doesn’t. Akiyama would probably make it a close and competitive fight as Sadollah also eats a lot of strikes, but the fight would very likely end with Sadollah being the more effective striker overall.

I have to pick Akiyama to win this because he really should be smart enough to look for the clinch, take Sadollah down, and either grind out a decision or finish Sadollah by submission. However, I fear Akiyama’s lack of fight IQ enough to avoid any sort of degenerate gambling.

Pick: Yoshihiro Akiyama by decision

Rin Nakai vs. Miesha Tate

It’s obvious that fans aren’t taking Nakai seriously as a fighter. There are two reasons for this:

  • Nakai’s 16-0-1 record has been boosted by a series of fights against vastly inferior opponents.
  • Nakai has become infamous for appearing in videos that qualify as softcore porn.

And now Nakai is making her debut in the UFC against Miesha Tate? Easy loss!

Not so fast. Nakai does bring some actual skills with her into the UFC. For one, Nakai is a very physically strong fighter who is good at forcing her way into the clinch and slamming her opponents to the ground. Nakai is very good at maintaining top position and looking for submission opportunities. She is quick at taking her opponent’s back and has good transitions. She is very quick to go for armbars in particular.

The problem is this: if you’re looking for ways to beat Tate, takedowns and submissions are probably the most difficult. Even Ronda Rousey needed the third round to submit Tate in their rematch. Rousey has world-class Judo and amazing submission abilities. Nakai… doesn’t.

The best way to beat Tate is with striking, and Nakai doesn’t really have a polished striking game. She throws a lot of leg kicks and jabs, but doesn’t defend herself well and doesn’t throw strikes with significant power. Tate’s striking is a mess and she’s very easy to hit, but Nakai doesn’t have the skill set to take advantage of this.

I can’t shake the feeling that the UFC put this fight together because they know something we don’t. In other words, that Nakai will prove to be a tougher opponent than expected. Even so, I have yet to see Nakai forced to defend a single takedown, and her overall game is completely unproven at a high level. Nakai is the creative and adventurous pick… but Tate is the disciplined pick.

Pick: Miesha Tate by decision

Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Richard Walsh

Kunimoto is 2-0 in the UFC and coming off a surprising first-round submission win over Daniel Sarafian. Submissions are Kunimoto’s strong suit and he has a respectable overall grappling game. Kunimoto needs that grappling skill because his striking consists of jabs, leg kicks, and that’s about it.

Walsh is a grinder with a punishing striking game, and he’ll have the advantage as long as this fight is standing. The problem is that Walsh’s submission defense is a borderline disaster. Walsh will give up his back and try to escape the position without paying any attention to defending his neck. Hopefully Walsh can learn how to defend submissions, because he has the talent to be a quality UFC figher. Until he proves he has that submission defense, I have to pick him to lose against grappling types like Kunimoto.

Pick: Kiichi Kunimoto by submission

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Jon Delos Reyes

The MMA universe seems aligned in a belief that this is a showcase fight for Horiguchi. I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Horiguchi’s karate style and his excellent hand speed and timing. I think Horiguchi has the potential to become a title contender in the flyweight division if he can improve his grappling abilities.

Here’s the problem: Reyes is a brawler who hits very hard for a flyweight. Horiguchi’s open stance leaves plenty of opportunities for opponents to hit him. Trust me when I say Reyes is a bigger threat to knock Horiguchi out than Darrell Montague or Dustin Pague were. Reyes’s fatal flaw as a fighter is his submission defense, but Horiguchi doesn’t really do submissions. I certainly think Horiguchi should be favored, because he is the more talented and technical fighter, but Reyes is a “live” underdog whose knockout power should not be dismissed.

Pick: Kyoji Horiguchi by decision

Alex Caceres vs. Masanori Kanehara

This fight was originally Urijah Faber vs. Kanehara, which would have been a mismatch of epic proportions. As it is, “Bruce Leeroy” should be able to win this fight without too much difficulty. Kanehara is a journeyman fighter who likes to stand and strike with his opponents. He packs decent power behind his punches but has borderline awful striking defense (a theme throughout this card and seemingly a theme with Japanese fighters in general). Kanehara doesn’t move his head and now his chin is a huge concern as he’s been stopped by strikes four times.

Caceres is unlikely to finish Kanehara with strikes – he’s simply not a power puncher. What Caceres will do is score points rapidly with his arsenal of straight punches at distance and knees in close. Kanehara is an easy target to hit and Caceres is well suited to take advantage. If the fight goes to the ground, it’s conceivable that Kanehara can take advantage of the wildness of Bruce Leeroy’s grappling, but it’s more likely that the hyperactive guard of Caceres will compel Kanehara to just stand and make it a striking match again. This is Bruce Leeroy’s fight to lose.

Pick: Alex Caceres by decision

Katsunori Kikuno vs. Sam Sicilia

Kikuno is a Kyokushin karate fighter whose striking skills go far beyond anything Sam Sicilia is capable of. Kikuno has an excellent sense of distance control, sharp and technical kicks, accurate strikes, and a good sense of how to “create collisions,” as Jack Slack would say.

And yet, Kikuno gives it all away because he believes in the “way of the warrior,” and his interpretation of that is to get hit in the face on purpose. Somebody needs to tell Kikuno that he can show his warrior spirit without putting his hands by his knees. Tony Ferguson blasted Kikuno into oblivion and there’s no reason to think Sicilia won’t do the same if Kikuno fights the same way. Sicilia is a brawler, but he’s a brawler with knockout power, and that’s good enough if Kikuno fights like a moron again. I’m hoping Kikuno will have come to his senses… but how can I know for sure?

Pick: Katsunori Kikuno by TKO

Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Takenori Sato

I was very harsh about Sato leading into his short-notice fight against Erick Silva (in which Sato got steamrolled). After reviewing the tape again… you have to be kidding me. Sato does not belong in the UFC – not even close. Against Pancrase-level competition, Sato was a non-striker who struggled to land takedowns, and then had difficulty holding top position. Sato had to work to grind out wins in Pancrase. How is he supposed to win fights in the UFC?

There’s a reason Sato enters with 17 wins in 33 fights. He doesn’t belong here. Hyun Gyu Lim is going to stuff the takedowns and batter Sato standing, probably winning by knockout.

Pick: Hyun Gyu Lim by KO

Kyung Ho Kang vs. Michinori Tanaka

Kang is a fighter who dominates the takedown game, and loses anyway because he doesn’t produce much in the way of effective offense outside of takedowns. He has to be considered a threat to beat Michinori Tanaka though. I like Tanaka’s potential a lot – he’s a very well-rounded fighter – but what worries me is his tendency to give up bad positions. I could easily see Kang taking Tanaka’s back in a scramble and winning by submission. Overall, I think Tanaka is the more talented fighter and should win, but this is a tough fight for him.

Pick: Michinori Tanaka by decision

Johnny Case vs. Kazuki Tokudome

Case makes his UFC debut with an 18-4 record and 11 wins by KO/TKO. He has good hand speed and packs good power behind his punches but his takedown defense is a liability. That could be a problem against Tokudome, a fighter whose offense is mostly centered around takedowns. Tokudome has active hands but poor striking defense and isn’t very offensive on the ground at all. Tokudome has to be the pick to win this fight because of his ability to land takedowns, but Case isn’t going to make it easy to grind out a decision here.

Pick: Kazuki Tokudome by decision

Maximo Blanco vs. Daniel Hooker

Blanco is his own worst enemy. He’s a talented fighter with terrific athleticism and the ability to string together punches, kicks, and flying knees. He’s also a fighter who seems to either have no knowledge of the rules or a flagrant disregard of them. Hooker is a nasty striker with sharp elbows but he can’t match Blanco’s athleticism or talent. This is Blanco’s fight to lose… but Blanco has a way of losing fights that are his to lose.

Pick: Maximo Blanco by decision

TUF 20 Episode 2 Notes

Result: Joanne Calderwood def. Emily Kagan by decision (majority), 2 rounds

-It was not surprising to see Calderwood throwing a lot of kicks early on. Calderwood is clearly much more comfortable with her kicks than her punching techniques or boxing in general. There was at least one time where Calderwood visibly winced when Kagan was throwing a punch.

-Calderwood was much more comfortable and effective in the clinch, where she delivered some hard knees and did a nice job of combining a knee to the body with a punch to the head.

-I would have liked to see Kagan pressure Calderwood a lot more. Her coaches seemed to want her to move forward and look for takedowns, but instead Kagan settled for a striking match at distance in the first round. In the second round, it was Calderwood who initiated the clinch and landed the takedown. I think Kagan could have potentially scored an upset here if she moved forward more aggressively.

-By no means did Kagan win either round in this fight. She landed a few nice punches in the first round, but Calderwood matched those punches with hard knees and threw strikes at much higher volume. The second round was bizarre and mostly featured Kagan being stuck in an inverted triangle choke attempt by Calderwood. I would not have predicted that we would see inverted triangle choke attempts in back to back fights on this show…

-It’s hard to take away too much from this fight. The first round was mostly a tentative striking match and the second round stalled out because Kagan was stuck in the triangle. I want to see what happens when Calderwood faces a tougher opponent. No disrespect to Kagan, but she just didn’t put together very much offense in this fight. I feel like Calderwood will struggle with an aggressive opponent, but time will tell.

NFL Degenerate Gambling – Week 3

Last week I outlined a new and incredibly complicated way of making bets on NFL games – to look at who the CBS Sports “experts” thought would win against the spread, and then bet on the other team. The reason for this is simple: the CBS Sports records against the spread are terrible!

Doing this last week resulted in a 10-3 record against the spread and a cool $6.75 added to my degenerate gambling bankroll. So why not go back to the well and see if I can’t come up with some more winners? Except this time I’m risking $2 per bet instead of $1. Sorry to make you gasp.

Here is a link to the teams the CBS Sports “experts” like this week: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/features/writers/expert/picks/against-the-spread/3

That results in me making the following plays:

  • Tampa Bay +6.5 (+100)
  • Buffalo -2.5 (-110)
  • St. Louis -1 (-110)*
  • Philadelphia -6.5 (-110)
  • Houston -2 (-110)
  • Minnesota +10.5 (-110)
  • Tennessee +6.5 (-105)
  • Cleveland +1.5 (-110)
  • Detroit -2.5 (-110)
  • Jacksonville +6.5 (-105)
  • Oakland +14 (-110)
  • San Francisco -2.5 (-120)
  • Denver +5 (-110)
  • Kansas City +4 (-110)
  • New York Jets -3 (+100)

*I wanted to take St. Louis +1 -110 but was informed I couldn’t make the bet because the line had changed. Then I tried to take St. Louis PK -110 but once again could not because the line changed. So I have to settle for St. Louis -1 -110.

As always, the necessary disclaimer: I’m doing these bets for fun and whatever bets you make, you do at your own risk. I’m not actually recommending you place these bets.

Best of luck with your degenerate gambling this week! I’ll be back later tonight to recap TUF and picks for UFC Fight Night Japan will be up tomorrow.

Some NFL Degenerate Gambling…

And I mean it when I say “degenerate” this time. I was reading Bill Simmons’ week 2 NFL picks (hey, don’t judge) and one of his readers pointed out that when the CBS “experts” all agree on a pick against the spread, that pick is 0-9 dating back to the start of last year. So I went to the page just to see how these “experts” do long term, and… yikes. These guys combined for a 46.7% winning percentage against the spread last year, and are at 38.2% this year. That’s significantly worse than a coin flip! And they’re “experts”! Amazing!

So I have a new degenerate gambling strategy that I’m going to experiment with right now… and please, I beg you, don’t do this along with me unless you’re risking trivial amounts of money like I am. My new degenerate NFL gambling strategy is to take these eight “experts”… and pick the less popular team listed. That’s it! Each wager will be one dollar, because I’m just that much of a gambler.

Here is the link to who the “experts” like this week: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/features/writers/expert/picks/against-the-spread/2

That results in the following plays:

  • Carolina -2.5 (-115)
  • Buffalo -1 (-110)
  • Washington -6 (-110)
  • Dallas +3.5 (-115)
  • New York Giants +2.5 (-105): Every “expert” picked Arizona!
  • Minnesota +6.5 (-110): The line has moved 3 points since Adrian Peterson is out.
  • Cleveland +6.5 (-105)
  • Cincinnati -5.5 (-110)
  • St. Louis +5.5 (-110)
  • Seattle -5.5 (-110)
  • New York Jets +7.5 (-115)
  • Chicago +7 (-115)
  • Philadelphia +3 (-105)

This should make for an interesting little experiment here. I’ll check back next week to see how these picks did.

UFC Fight Night: Bigfoot vs. Arlovski Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

PICKS TO DATE

Last Event: 7-2 (77.8%)

Year To Date: 225-118 (65.6%)

Last week was good for my picks as both Joe Lauzon and Matt Mitrione won as underdogs.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

Last Event: +$1.95

Current Bankroll: $77.35

Total Investment: $268.22

Total Return: $27.35

Return On Investment: 10.2%

For this event I have…

Efrain Escudero +180: $3.00 to win $5.40 – If you had told me a few months ago that I would be betting on Efrain Escudero to win a UFC fight in 2014, I wouldn’t have believed you. But I like the way he matches up with Leonardo Santos. Santos certainly has a huge advantage on the ground and is very likely to submit Escudero if he can land a takedown. The problem is that Santos doesn’t have good takedowns; he’s only landed one takedown in two UFC fights so far. Santos also doesn’t have very good striking. I think there’s a decent chance that Escudero can keep this fight standing and win a decision with striking volume, perhaps even winning by TKO.

Paulo Thiago +160: $3.00 to win $4.80 – Everybody hates Paulo Thiago. I get it. He’s 2-6 in his last eight fights, so he’s lucky to still be in the UFC. Thiago certainly deserves a pink slip if he loses to Sean Spencer, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Thiago won’t match Spencer’s striking output, but I think he should be able to land takedowns, control Spencer on the ground, and potentially win by submission. Fighting in his home country of Brazil is just a bonus. I think Thiago is being very underrated here.

“Leans” for this event include Andrei Arlovski +365 (I think +300 is a fair price), Santiago Ponzinibbio at even money, Russell Doane +265, Godofredo Pepey -150, and George Sullivan +155.

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 Fight Night: Bigfoot vs. Arlovski Predictions

Andrei Arlovski vs. Antonio Silva

Arlovski had the chance to show that he had something left in the tank when he fought Brendan Schaub at UFC 174 in June… and failed. Somehow, Arlovski won by split decision despite landing a grand total of 12 significant strikes in 15 minutes. Now, Arlovski is facing a tougher opponent in Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Silva is unsurprisingly the heavy favorite. In their previous fight, Arlovski dropped a decision to Silva in 2010, and was already on the decline then.

So I get the Arlovski skepticism… and I pretty much agree with it. There aren’t any reasons to expect Arlovski to have a sudden career renaissance in 2014, not with 15 years of professional fighting in the tank, and not against a top heavyweight like Bigfoot in Brazil. The reality is that Arlovski is a heavyweight gatekeeper at best. He should beat the Anthony Hamiltons of the world, and might be able to find a win against an opponent like Shawn Jordan or Stefan Struve, but I wouldn’t pick him to beat anybody better than that.

Arlovski has never been a volume striker; he’s only landed more than 40 significant strikes in a fight three times. One of those times was against the infamous “Cabbage” Correira, one was in a five-round fight against Tim Sylvia, and the other was against the easily hit Ben Rothwell. Arlovski’s only plus skill at this point is knockout power. Bigfoot’s big chin has been cracked a few times, so there’s certainly potential for Arlovski to pull off an upset here. But Arlovski’s chin is just as bad, if not worse, and Bigfoot is likely to land strikes at much greater frequency here.

It’s always difficult to watch once great fighters when they’ve become a shell of themselves, but that’s where Arlovski is right now. I hope for his sake that he can put together a better showing against Bigfoot than he did against Schaub. The reality is that Arlovski doesn’t belong in this fight at this stage of his career.

Pick: Antonio Silva by KO

Piotr Hallmann vs. Gleison Tibau

I think I’m going to write this here, and leave it to copy and paste for every time Gleison Tibau fights: Tibau is an enormous lightweight and arguably the most effective wrestler in the division. He is almost impossible to take down and lands takedowns on a very consistent basis against his opponents. His ground game features heavy top control and crushing submissions but not a lot of striking. His striking at distance is very flawed and features a steady stream of arm punches that don’t pack as much power as a tank like Tibau should be able to generate.

Piotr Hallmann should easily be the better striker as long as he can keep this fight standing; he was out-pointed by Al Iaquinta but was very competitive in that fight. Hallmann’s striking defense needs work but it should be good enough to win a kickboxing match against Tibau. The problem is that Hallmann was taken down four times by the collection of Iaquinta, Francisco Trinaldo, and Yves Edwards. So even though Hallmann has displayed an impressive submission game, it seems inevitable that he’ll be taken down and controlled by Tibau, and eventually lose by decision here.

Pick: Gleison Tibau by decision

Efrain Escudero vs. Leonardo Santos

That’s right, despite being a mediocre UFC lightweight with problems making weight and being cut from the promotion twice, Efrain Escudero is back. He’s taking on Leonardo Santos, the TUF Brazil 2 winner and a fighter with an excellent submission game. Santos is also tall and lanky and can use that length effectively with strikes at times, but I have to wonder if he’s getting too much credit leading into this fight with Escudero.

Escudero’s takedown defense is a decent 68 percent, but Santos has landed a grand total of one takedown in 12 attempts in two UFC fights. He’s also down 72-48 in significant strikes, and came away with a draw he didn’t deserve (thanks to COMPLETELY unbiased Brazilian referee Wernei Cardoso) in his last fight against Norman Parke. If Santos can get Escudero down, it’s not hard to see the submission finish coming soon afterwards. But I think Escudero can keep this fight standing, and if that’s the case, I actually think Escudero is the better striker. With the caveat that this fight is in Brazil…

Pick: Efrain Escudero by decision

Wendell Oliveira vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

It’s hard to know what to make of Ponzinibbio. A broken hand forced him out of the TUF Brazil 2 finals, so his only loss under the UFC/TUF banner was to Ryan LaFlare, who has already established himself as a quality UFC welterweight. At the same time, that LaFlare loss was a total blowout and Ponzinibbio simply did not show the ability to effectively defend takedowns.

Wendell Oliveira steps in on short notice for an injured Sergio Moraes, and enters with a 24-7 overall record, including 6-6 in his first 12 fights and 18-1 since then. Oliveira is a power striker with a good takedown arsenal, but his ground game is a huge question mark (four submission losses) and his striking can be rough around the edges. I think Ponzinibbio is a better fighter than he showed against LaFlare and should be favored here, but Oliveira is a dangerous opponent for him.

Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio by TKO

Iuri Alcantara vs. Russell Doane

Alcantara enters this fight as the #5 UFC bantamweight in FPR at +3.29, one spot below Dominick Cruz and one spot above Michael McDonald. Alcantara is a very good striker with a slick ground game and good submissions. He’ll also throw in a takedown once in a while, but his ability to defend takedowns is not up to par with the rest of his game.

His opponent is Russell Doane, a well-rounded fighter who is good in all areas but great in none. Doane shares Alcantara’s weakness of having below-average takedown defense but probably won’t be quite as good as Alcantara at striking or submissions. Alcantara is the more talented overall fighter of the two, so he’s my pick but I think Doane will make it a competitive, entertaining fight.

Pick: Iuri Alcantara by decision

Jessica Andrade vs. Larissa Pacheco

It seems like Andrade has some momentum behind her with back to back UFC wins, but I have to be the party pooper here – Andrade isn’t very good relative to the rest of the women in this weight class. She landed 206 significant strikes in three rounds against Rosi Sexton, but check out any of Sexton’s recent fights and you’ll find that’s not unusual (and a sign that Sexton should really think long and hard about finding another hobby). Andrade was overwhelmed and battered by Liz Carmouche and arguably out-pointed by Raquel Pennington.

In this fight, Pacheco (who just turned 20 years old) replaces Valerie Letourneau on short notice. She was the Jungle Fight bantamweight champion but lacks a history of strong competition, although this is common for women in this sport. After watching Pacheco in action, she’s a wild striker with some submission skills – but her skill set is still developing. I think we’re looking at a wild striking match with a decision that could go either way.

Pick: Larissa Pacheco by decision

Dashon Johnson vs. Godofredo Pepey

Johnson had one of the most dismal UFC debuts imaginable against Jake Matthews. Matthews landed four takedowns and walloped Johnson on the ground, landing 60 significant strikes to Johnson’s 11. The problem with Johnson entering the UFC was that he was completely untested against even decent opponents. Johnson was 9-0 but had faced only one opponent with more than one career win. It’s not surprising that Johnson wasn’t ready for a much tougher opponent like Matthews.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this fight – it’s a battle between two of the worst featherweights on the roster. Pepey enters with a dismal FPR of -2.62 but that’s better than Johnson’s even more dismal FPR of -4.38. At this point I’m inclined to say that Pepey is probably better than Johnson at everything, until Johnson can prove otherwise. I’m not about to bet on Pepey as a -150 favorite in any UFC fight, even in his home country of Brazil, but it’s awfully tempting…

Pick: Godofredo Pepey by TKO

Igor Araujo vs. George Sullivan

Sullivan delivered a surprising decision victory in his UFC debut against Mike Rhodes. Before that fight, I saw Sullivan as a decent striker/scrapper with good finishing ability but very suspect striking defense and overall grappling. That grappling will be tested against Araujo, a fighter who likes to take it to the ground and enters with 17 career wins by submission.

The problem is that Araujo hasn’t shown even a decent takedown game yet in the UFC. He was thoroughly out-wrestled by Colton Smith on TUF and after two UFC fights has landed just one out of nine takedown attempts. I think he can find a little more success in dragging Sullivan to the ground and potentially winning by submission, but he has no margin for error here. If Araujo can’t land the takedown then Sullivan should easily be the better striker. I’m very cautiously picking Araujo to win, but I wouldn’t think about betting on him at -170.

Pick: Igor Araujo by submission

Leandro Silva vs. Francisco Trinaldo

For a little while I thought Trinaldo had the potential to become a top 15 fighter in the lightweight division, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to ever get there. In recent fights Trinaldo has looked old and stiff to me… a far cry from the powerful and well-rounded athlete I thought could be a menace at 155 pounds. He’s taking on the returning Leandro “Buscape,” who is on a five-fight winning streak since being defeated by Ildemar Alcantara in his only UFC appearance.

Buscape has a strong submission game and is a decent striker at distance, but lacks knockout power. Trinaldo has elected to stand and strike for the most part, but mixes in takedowns and grappling once in a while as well. I feel like Trinaldo should be able to win a decision based on a combination of striking and takedowns, with a pretty good chance of knocking Buscape out. However, if Trinaldo’s conditioning fails him, it wouldn’t be the first time. Trinaldo is the more talented fighter and should win, but there are reasons he’s not a bigger favorite than -180.

Pick: Francisco Trinaldo by decision

Sean Spencer vs. Paulo Thiago

When I watch Sean Spencer compete, I come away thinking he’s not a bad fighter… but FPR disagrees. There are a number of problems with Spencer as a UFC fighter. The biggest problem is that his entire offense consists of striking volume. He doesn’t strike with power and he doesn’t land takedowns. Spencer would still be a decent fighter if he could defend strikes AND takedowns, but he’s can’t defend either. Spencer has absorbed 4.46 significant strikes per minute and has been taken down 13 times in four fights.

Paulo Thiago isn’t going to beat Spencer with striking – he lands just 1.64 significant strikes per minute. Thiago has to win with effective grappling, but when I look at the matchup, I see no reason why this shouldn’t happen. Thiago has landed 37% of his takedown attempts against much tougher opponents than Spencer. Give me Thiago (+1.84 FPR) against Spencer (-3.43 FPR) as the +160 underdog in Brazil? Yeah, that sounds pretty good to me.

Pick: Paulo Thiago by decision

Johnny Bedford vs. Rani Yahya

I picked Yahya to beat Bedford in their April fight on the knowledge that Yahya is a phenom on the ground while Bedford has a whopping nine career losses by submission. Looking back, I think I miscalculated. Yahya’s problem is that he’s a complete non-threat as a striker and has a rudimentary takedown game. Bedford is far superior standing and should have the takedown defense to shut down Yahya’s attempts to grapple for the most part.

At the same time, I can’t favor Bedford very strongly because A) his takedown defense is more “decent” than “great” at 70% and B) he has nine losses by submission! I think the most likely outcome of this fight is that Bedford will mostly stop Yahya’s takedowns but will be forced to grapple for brief periods. Bedford should win on points with strikes here but if Yahya was able to take Bedford down and submit him quickly, I would be the least surprised person watching.

Pick: Johnny Bedford by decision

TUF 20 Episode 1 Notes

Since this season of The Ultimate Fighter is going to determine who the first ever UFC women’s strawweight champion will be, I thought it best to take notes about each of the fighters who compete as the season unfolds. I’m not going to make predictions on who will win – just take notes on each of the fighters so that I have a better idea of how good they will be in the UFC.

-Let me state first that I firmly believe whoever wins and becomes the strawweight champion is going to eventually lose to Claudia Gadelha… assuming that Gadelha can consistently make weight. Gadelha was not a part of this cast because of concerns about making weight repeatedly throughout a six-week time period. I see Gadelha as being very good in all areas of the fight game and a tremendous athlete on top of it. 

Fight Result: Randa Markos def. Tecia Torres by decision (unanimous), 3 rounds

-What won Markos this fight was a refusal to concede position despite being put in trouble on a few submission attempts. Markos stayed heavy on top and advanced into dominant position a couple times, scoring points with just enough meaningful punches and elbows to win by decision. After being clearly out-struck in the first two rounds, Markos was suddenly quite competitive standing with Torres in the third round. I believe that’s because Markos established the threat of the takedown, making Torres much more hesitant to throw kicks – a demonstration of why having a wrestling base is such an advantage.

-Markos has good takedowns and did a good job of maintaining top control, but her submission game needs a lot of work. Markos had to fight off a number of submission attempts, including an armbar, a kneebar, a heel hook, and even an inverted triangle choke. Having a wrestling base is great, but it’s only truly an advantage if the wrestler knows enough of the ground game to stay out of submissions and score points with strikes on the ground. Consider that Sara McMann nearly lost to Lauren Murphy because as good as her wrestling is, her ground game is very basic and rudimentary.

-Markos also didn’t show a highly developed striking game – it looked like she was wading in with punches. She looked very much like a wrestler who is learning mixed martial arts… and with a 4-1 professional record, that’s to be expected at this point.

-Torres had much crisper striking, landing cleaner punches and kicks throughout the fight. What Torres needs to learn how to do is control distance so that she can keep wrestlers on the outside. Torres was visibly smaller than Markos, so her best bet to avoid takedowns is to throw front kicks and side kicks to maintain that distance. Obviously I don’t expect Torres to be using Anderson Silva tactics at this point in her career, but I just don’t see her developing into an effective counter-wrestler.

Overall, I thought Markos did a great job of grinding out a decision victory against the #3 seed Torres, but there are too many holes in her game to feel confident that she can become the “shock” strawweight champion at the end of the tournament. At the same time, I felt the same way about Colton Smith on TUF 16, so I’m not going to count Markos out.

UFC Fight Night: Jacare vs. Mousasi Degenerate Gambling Play Added

Just a quick note that I’ve added Rodrigo Damm +450 ($3.00 to win $13.50) to my degenerate gambling plays this week. Al Iaquinta is now -600 to win, which is just lunacy in my opinion. Apparently nobody was watching when Iaquinta lost to Michael Chiesa and Mitch Clarke. They also must not have been watching when Kevin Lee came extremely close to submitting Iaquinta as well.

It seems like every time I think a betting line can’t possibly go any higher, it does. I thought -350 was already a very high price for Benson Henderson against Rafael Dos Anjos a couple weeks ago, but he made it all the way to -510. I’m sitting here thinking there’s no way Iaquinta goes above -600, but I’ve been wrong about this so many times… so expect to see Iaquinta at -1000 before too long.

And as usual: I don’t recommend you follow my gambling picks as I am not a betting professional. Any plays you make are done at your own risk.

Post-2001 FPR SRS Ratings

A few people have been asking recently about my attempt to re-create the Fighter Performance Rating metric using the Simple Rating System method. Check this post out if you’re wondering just what I’m talking about.

I wanted to show that I have finally started building these ratings and I have data through the end of 2001. I decided to post the ratings of each fighter as of 1/1/2002, but before I do that, a few caveats:

-There isn’t nearly enough data to draw firm conclusions here. These ratings only include fights from November 2000 to December 2001. As a result, most of the fighters listed have just two or three fights of data. This is a “just for fun” list, not to be taken seriously.

-I’ve listed each fighter according to the weight class I believe he belonged to at that time. This can get murky, especially with PRIDE fights, since PRIDE was very lackadaisical about weight classes.

-I am not listing any fighter with just one fight. Every fighter with two or more fights of Fight Metric data is listed. That still isn’t nearly enough information to have significance; for future lists, I want to include only fighters with five fights or more.

-Some of these numbers are funky because of the way SRS adjusts for strength of opponents on such a limited data sample. With limited data, the SRS calculation ends up giving fighters the “MMA math” treatment. Using the below numbers, you’ll find that:

  • Jens Pulver (+7.55) won by decision over Dennis Hallman (+6.13)
  • Hallman won by quick submission over Matt Hughes (+3.18)
  • Hughes won by slam TKO over Carlos Newton (-3.90)
  • Newton won by submission over Pat Miletich (-6.09)
  • Miletich won by knockout over Shonie Carter (-13.35)
  • Carter won by spinning backfist knockout over Matt Serra (-15.62)

This problem should be fixed with more data. If it’s not fixed then I’ll have to abandon the idea of SRS improving FPR.

So, with the knowledge that these lists aren’t going to be meaningful until I can include more fights/data, here are the FPR SRS ratings as of January 1, 2002:

HEAVYWEIGHT

  1. Randy Couture +11.63 (UFC champion)
  2. Pedro Rizzo +8.27
  3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira +4.90 (PRIDE champion)
  4. Josh Barnett +4.72
  5. Ricco Rodriguez +1.19
  6. Mirko Cro Cop +0.69
  7. Heath Herring +0.34
  8. Gary Goodridge -0.41
  9. Semmy Schilt -0.47
  10. Mark Coleman -0.49
  11. Bobby Hoffman -0.60
  12. Assuerio Silva -1.10
  13. Vitor Belfort -1.43
  14. Mark Kerr -1.47
  15. Igor Vovchanchyn -1.88
  16. Kazuyuki Fujita -3.46
  17. Masaaki Satake -5.22
  18. Andrei Arlovski -5.41
  19. Valentijn Overeem -5.46
  20. Yoshihisa Yamamoto -6.28
  21. Gilbert Yvel -6.51
  22. Pete Williams -6.60
  23. Yoshihiro Takayama -8.19

LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT

  1. Chuck Liddell +12.88
  2. Guy Mezger +9.74
  3. Wanderlei Silva +7.60 (PRIDE champion)
  4. Kevin Randleman +7.54
  5. Tito Ortiz +6.01 (UFC champion)
  6. Murilo Rua +4.23
  7. Vladimir Matyushenko +2.98
  8. Alexander Otsuka +2.89
  9. Shungo Oyama +2.87
  10. Kazushi Sakuraba +2.82
  11. Dan Henderson +2.80
  12. Ryan Gracie +1.63
  13. Evan Tanner +0.61
  14. Yuki Kondo +0.26
  15. Elvis Sinosic -0.75
  16. Renzo Gracie -1.86
  17. Quinton Jackson -2.14
  18. Daijiro Matsui -3.78
  19. Alex Stiebling -5.35
  20. Jeremy Horn -5.53
  21. Allan Goes -5.82
  22. Akira Shoji -6.43

MIDDLEWEIGHT*

  1. Matt Lindland -1.93
  2. Ricardo Almeida -5.22
  3. Phil Baroni -5.64

WELTERWEIGHT

  1. Anderson Silva +4.02
  2. Matt Hughes +3.18 (UFC champion)
  3. Tony DeSouza +0.64
  4. Johil de Oliveira -3.55
  5. Carlos Newton -3.90
  6. Pat Miletich -6.09
  7. Shonie Carter -13.35

LIGHTWEIGHT

  1. B.J. Penn +13.34
  2. Jens Pulver +7.55 (UFC champion)
  3. Caol Uno +6.55
  4. Dennis Hallman +6.13
  5. Din Thomas +5.01
  6. Fabiano Iha +4.57
  7. Matt Serra -15.62

*Dave Menne was the UFC middleweight champion but only had one fight in this time period.

Again, I have to stress… please don’t take these numbers seriously. It’s just a sneak peek at what FPR SRS is saying about these fighters after a very limited amount of data.

UFC Fight Night: Jacare vs. Mousasi Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

No need for a predictions summary since all of my picks are in the previous post. Instead, let’s get right into what everybody wants to see: the degenerate gambling.

PICKS TO DATE

Last Event: 6-2 (75.0%)

Year To Date: 218-116 (65.3%)

Every betting favorite won at UFC 177. Theoretically, I hurt my picks percentage every time I pick an underdog… but if I only picked favorites, then what good would I be? All I would have to do then is just link bestfightodds.com and be done with it.

 

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

Last Event: -$6.00

Current Bankroll: $75.40

Total Investment: $256.22

Total Return: $25.40

Return On Investment: 9.91%

My betting picks have been very cold lately and UFC 177 was no exception. Ramsey Nijem got knocked out (again) by Carlos Diego Ferreira and I added a last-second play on Lorenz Larkin… which ended up backfiring as Larkin had no answer for Derek Brunson’s wrestling.

For this event I have…

Gegard Mousasi +255: $3.00 to win $7.65 – Mousasi is the better striker than Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Nobody would question that. What people will question is how well Mousasi can defend Jacare’s takedowns and grappling. I don’t think Jacare will submit Mousasi, and his margin for error is very slim as the moment he can’t land a takedown is the moment Mousasi will take over. I can’t pick Mousasi straight-up but I think he has a much better chance of winning than this.

Matt Mitrione +140: $3.00 to win $4.20 - It’s a heavyweight fight against Derrick Lewis, and you have to think it ends by knockout one way or the other, right? But Mitrione is the more proven fighter (slightly) and has better striking volume while Lewis is much more likely to land takedowns. Tough fight to call but I think Mitrione deserves to be favored, and as a result is a betting value at +140.

Joe Lauzon +125: $3.00 to win $3.75 – Tough fight for both guys. However, Lauzon’s weakness is his striking defense and I just don’t think Michael Chiesa is the guy to take advantage of that. This is likely to be a battle between grapplers, but I think Lauzon has the more varied submission arsenal.

Leans: I have to think Ben Rothwell knocks out Alistair Overeem some percentage of the time. It’s tempting at +425 but Overeem has such a better skill set and is such a better athlete that a Rothwell bet is almost definitely a losing bet.

Rodrigo Damm is now +375 against Al Iaquinta. That’s a little too much love for “Raging Al” in my opinion but I can’t bring myself to bet on Damm here. Damm usually chooses to strike and that’s Iaquinta’s strength. If the line keeps climbing I might have to put a bet down on Damm.

Finally, people were willing to make Sean Soriano the favorite against Tatsuya Kawajiri, but now he’s +180 against Chas Skelly? Don’t get me wrong, Skelly is a good prospect, but so is Soriano. Again, if the line climbs just a little more, I might have to bet on Soriano here.

 

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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