Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 187: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

2015 PICKS

Last event: 6-6 (50.0%)

Year to date: 108-61 (63.9%)

At last week’s UFC Fight Night in Manila, I got the first six fights wrong (including Yao Zhikui, who my model liked but I didn’t) but got the last six fights right. There’s something to be said for improved accuracy with more data.


Favorite % Underdog %
 Anthony Johnson 67.6% Daniel Cormier 32.4%
 Chris Weidman 88.1% Vitor Belfort 11.9%
 Donald Cerrone 81.6% John Makdessi 18.4%
 Andrei Arlovski 58.1% Travis Browne 41.9%
 Joseph Benavidez 81.0% John Moraga 19.0%
 Zach Makovsky 51.5% John Dodson 48.5%
 Dong Hyun Kim 67.4% Josh Burkman 32.6%
 Rafael Natal 54.7% Uriah Hall 45.3%
 Rose Namajunas 65.7% Nina Ansaroff 34.3%
 Colby Covington 53.2% Mike Pyle 46.8%
 Islam Makhachev 59.6% Leo Kuntz 40.4%
 Justin Scoggins 78.2% Josh Sampo 21.8%

The model likes four underdogs to win at this event, and three of them are MASSIVE underdogs. One is Andrei Arlovski, who is listed at +380 against Travis Browne. One is Zach Makovsky, listed at +435 against John Dodson. The other is Rafael Natal, listed at +340 against Uriah Hall. Of the three, I could only bring myself to pick Natal to win.

The model also believes that Covington-Pyle is a much closer fight than the betting lines suggest.

As always, my degenerate gambling will be based on the model percentages, whether I subjectively agree with them or not. Speaking of which…


Last event: +$17.55

Current bankroll: $267.26

Total investment: $454.76

Total profit: $167.26

Return on investment: 36.8%

My three biggest bets last week – Neil Magny, Yao Zhikui, and Yui Chul Nam – were all winners. I also won a bet on underdog Mark Munoz while losing bets on Roldan Sangcha-an, Royston Wee, Dhiego Lima, and Tae Hyun Bang.

For this event I have…

Andrei Arlovski +380: $7.49 to win $28.46

Rafael Natal +340: $5.94 to win $20.20

Zach Makovsky +435: $5.69 to win $24.75

Anthony Johnson +100: $4.57 to win $4.57

Chris Weidman -500: $3.37 to win $0.67

Mike Pyle +265: $3.07 to win $8.14

Leo Kuntz +320: $2.34 to win $7.49

My success will be largely tied to the fate of the three big underdogs my model likes to win: Arlovski, Natal, and Makovsky. If any one of the three wins, I’m in good shape. If they all lose, then it will be a losing event for me overall.

And yes, that’s a straight bet on Chris Weidman at -500.

MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my bets. Any bets you make are done at your own risk.

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC 187 Predictions

As disappointing as it was to see Jon Jones and Khabib Nurmagomedov dropped from this card, this is still a lineup I can really get behind. Any card with Chris Weidman, Daniel Cormier, Rumble Johnson, Donald Cerrone, and a top ten heavyweight fight is a card I’ll be excited to see.

Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson

A lot is made of Cormier being an Olympic wrestler (justifiably so) but I’m not convinced that his skills have translated very well to MMA, at least from an offensive takedown standpoint. Cormier has landed 1.91 takedowns per 15 minutes with 42 percent accuracy, numbers that rate as just slightly above average. I’ve speculated in the past that this is partly due to Cormier facing a series of submission fighters he didn’t want to take down, but I still find myself wondering about Cormier’s ability to take down opponents who are particularly tough to take down…

…like Anthony Johnson. “Rumble” enters with 85 percent takedown defense and gets taken down less than one time per 15 minutes overall. Johnson has proven to be excellent at moving forward and putting enormous pressure on his opponents while still being in position to defend takedowns. It helps that he has such pure knockout power and the ability to potentially win with a single clean strike.

It seems that the conventional wisdom coming in to this fight is that Cormier is going to grind Johnson down, wear him out, and end up winning this fight by slowly breaking Johnson down. I don’t see this fight going that way at all. I think it’s a terrible stylistic matchup for Cormier, a fight where Johnson will mostly be able to remain standing and then take control of the distance striking match with vastly superior power to go along with a significant height and reach advantage.

What Cormier has going for him is a combination of a good chin and very good striking defense. If Rumble comes out and fights too aggressively, it’s possible that he’ll tire himself out, leaving an opening for Cormier to suddenly break through with takedowns and perhaps score a TKO finish. However, what I’ve seen with Johnson in his recent fights is a guy who fights at a measured pace, walking his opponent down, landing big punches and kicks, and finishing fights by knockout.

If Johnson knocks out Cormier, he would become the first to do so. But with Cormier being 36 years old, coming off a particularly grueling fight against Jon Jones, and taking this fight on short notice, he’s probably more ripe to be finished than ever.

Pick: Anthony Johnson by TKO

Vitor Belfort vs. Chris Weidman

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I love me some Chris Weidman. You also know that I have a history of picking against Vitor Belfort and being wrong. But in this fight, I’m really not that worried. I simply don’t think this is a very competitive match.

Let’s focus on Belfort first. He’s now 38 years old and has been fighting for literally half his life. He hasn’t fought since November 2013, when he knocked out Dan Henderson. He’s failed multiple drug tests in his career and no longer has a TRT exemption. Of course, that doesn’t prevent him from trying to cheat the system again, but I have a lot of questions about Belfort’s ability to retain his freakish athleticism coming into this fight.

Regardless, I hate this matchup for him. Belfort has historically struggled against top-tier wrestlers. Part of this is because his takedown defense is merely above-average, but another part is that he still plays an old-school guard game instead of looking to get back to his feet. It’s a fine/defensible strategy if there is no time limit in fights, but the ten-point must system and five-minute clock really give fighters an incentive to avoid fighting off their back. Belfort just doesn’t get up quickly enough, a problem that will be exacerbated against a wrestler like Weidman.

Weidman enters with massive statistical advantages in significant strikes and takedowns. It might also surprise you to hear that my model gives Weidman the edge in ability to win by knockout as well. Even though Belfort definitely hits a lot harder, he also has a much worse chin. Belfort has been finished by knockout three times and is 38 years old; Weidman is 30 and has never been knocked down – that’s after fighting Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida.

I see Belfort as being reduced to a puncher’s chance here. Belfort’s puncher’s chance is better than almost anybody’s, so I’m not going to count him completely out. At the same time, it seems inevitable that Weidman will close the distance, take Belfort down, and grind out a stoppage victory, with Belfort providing very little resistance off his back.

Pick: Chris Weidman by TKO

Donald Cerrone vs. John Makdessi

I’m sad that Khabib Nurmagomedov is off this card, as I think a fight between him and Donald Cerrone would be three rounds of pure fun. Nurmagomedov has been replaced by John Makdessi, who might have better pure striking but is easily worse at every other aspect of MMA. The one thing I’ll say for Makdessi is that Cerrone gets hit a lot, and there is a window open for Makdessi to potentially out-point Cerrone in this match. It’s far more likely, however, that Cerrone will be able to mix things up and get this fight to the ground. If that happens, Cerrone’s submission game should prove to be far superior to Makdessi’s relatively limited ground skills.

Pick: Donald Cerrone by submission

Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne

It wasn’t long ago that I was dismissing Arlovski as a credible threat in the UFC heavyweight division. That was probably one of my worst calls in recent memory. He’s scored wins over Brendan Schaub and Antonio Silva, and finds himself in a match against Travis Browne now. Arlovski has better KO power but has been knocked out a whopping seven times in his career. The model says Arlovski but I can’t bring myself to make that pick.

Pick: Travis Browne by KO

Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga

Moraga initially got a title shot against Demetrious Johnson on the strength of a come-from-behind submission win against Chris Cariaso. Since then, I’ve seen people count Moraga among the better flyweights in the UFC, and I’ve never understood that. In fact, Moraga rates as slightly below-average in striking, takedowns, and knockouts. Benavidez enters with statistical advantages everywhere and should be considered a heavy favorite (and he is).

Pick: Joseph Benavidez by TKO


  • John Dodson is a huge favorite to beat Zach Makovsky but my model has Makovsky the slightest of favorites. Dodson’s striking defense is not great but Makovsky isn’t much of a striker. I have to overrule my model again on this one. Dodson by decision.
  • Josh Burkman is coming off a bizarre performance against Hector Lombard; I still have no idea what the UFC was thinking booking that match. Dong Hyun Kim is a more appropriate opponent but still probably a bit above Burkman’s pay grade. Kim by decision.
  • Uriah Hall is once again a heavy favorite to beat a respectable opponent, and he probably shouldn’t be. He’s improved for sure but his takedown defense remains questionable. Rafael Natal is a step up in competition for him and I think Natal is well-suited to attack Hall’s weaknesses. Natal by decision.
  • Rose Namajunas got quite a bit of TUF hype after her run to the finals, but Carla Esparza exposed her takedown defense as a serious weakness in her game. However, that’s something I don’t think Nina Ansaroff is ready to take advantage of. At some point, talent takes over. Namajunas by submission.
  • Mike Pyle will be a massive step up in competition for Colby Covington, but Covington deserves it after easily out-grappling Anying Wang and Wagner Silva. Pyle has a tricky submission game but he’s also 39 years old and probably at the tail end of his career. Covington by decision.
  • Leo Kuntz is making his debut against the newest import from Dagestan, Islam Makhachev. Kuntz has a strong record at 17-1-1, but Makhachev is undefeated, eight years younger, and figures to be the clear favorite coming in. Makhachev by decision.
  • Justin Scoggins built a very impressive statistical resume against some fringe UFC opponents in Richie Vaculik and Will Campuzano. Scoggins didn’t perform nearly as well against Dustin Ortiz or John Moraga, leaving me skeptical of the numbers. But for once, the numbers agree with the betting public, especially because Josh Sampo’s numbers aren’t great. Scoggins by decision.

UFC Fight Night Manila: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

2015 PICKS

Last event: 8-4 (66.7%)

Year to date: 102-55 (65.0%)

Picks went well last week as I correctly predicted three underdogs to win in Sean O’Connell, Ben Nguyen, and Brendan O’Reilly. I also correctly predicted Brad Scott to win in a toss-up fight against Dylan Andrews.


Favorite % Underdog %
 Frankie Edgar 80.5% Urijah Faber 19.5%
 Gegard Mousasi 84.4% Costas Philippou 15.6%
 Mark Munoz 54.6% Luke Barnatt 45.4%
 Neil Magny 82.2% Hyun Gyu Lim 17.8%
 Yui Chul Nam 76.0% Phillipe Nover 24.0%
 Levan Makashvili 72.6% Mark Eddiva 27.4%
 Jon Tuck 51.3% Tae Hyun Bang 48.7%
 Zhang Lipeng 51.6% Kajan Johnson 48.4%
 Dhiego Lima 67.5% Li Jingliang 32.5%
 Royston Wee 58.2% Ning Guangyou 41.8%
 Roldan Sangcha-an 59.5% Jon Delos Reyes 40.5%
 Yao Zhikui 62.5% Nolan Ticman 37.5%

The thing that jumps out most here is probably Neil Magny at 82.2% to beat Hyun Gyu Lim. I definitely think Magny is the favorite to win that fight, and will probably win if the fight goes the distance, but that still feels like an overestimate to me. The model also likes underdogs Mark Munoz, Zhang Lipeng, Royston Wee, Roldan Sangcha-an, and… Yao Zhikui. I picked Nolan Ticman to beat Zhikui in my predictions post, because Zhikui’s record is 1-2 and it’s hard for me to justify picking a fighter like that to win in the UFC.


Last event: +$44.59

Current bankroll: $249.71

Starting bankroll: $100.00

Total investment: $428.22

Total profit: $149.71

Return on investment: 35.0%

The three underdogs from last week – O’Connell, Nguyen, and O’Reilly – also happened to be my three biggest bets. The fourth biggest bet was on Daniel Hooker at +260, and that came through as a winner also. The result is my single biggest gain so far.

For this event I have…

Neil Magny -120: $9.02 to win $7.52

Yao Zhikui +245: $5.19 to win $12.72

Yui Chul Nam -165: $3.32 to win $2.01

Roldan Sangcha-an +165: $3.12 to win $5.15

Royston Wee +130: $2.05 to win $2.67

Mark Munoz +145: $1.76 to win $2.55

Dhiego Lima -145: $1.49 to win $1.03

Tae Hyun Bang +130: $0.59 to win $0.77

MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my bets. Any bets you make are done at your own risk.

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC Fight Night Manila Predictions

Frankie Edgar vs. Urijah Faber

The UFC has engaged in some unorthodox matchmaking to give Manila a main event featuring former champions Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber, and I’m for it. Weight class differences don’t mean as much as they get credit for; fighters frequently move up or down a weight class with minimal impact. I like the idea of top bantamweights facing top featherweights, or top flyweights facing top bantamweights. It opens up a lot more possibilities for compelling fights to happen.

With that said, even though Edgar vs. Faber has been assigned the label of “superfight,” it doesn’t feel like one. The fight itself hasn’t generated a lot of “buzz” and there are reasons to think it won’t be a particularly close fight.

Edgar enters with statistical advantages in every area except knockout power. He lands strikes more often than Faber, gets hit less often, and lands takedowns more frequently. Faber has consistently fought some of the toughest fighters in the world at bantamweight and featherweight, but the same could be said of Edgar at featherweight and lightweight.

It’s very difficult to envision Faber winning a five-round decision against Edgar. To do so, Faber will need to win at least three rounds due to superior striking output or ground control. Neither of those seems likely; Edgar is fast, tough to take down, and is very good at exploding back to his feet when he does get taken down. Faber is a terrific scrambler but Edgar probably won’t give him many opportunities to do so.

Faber’s most realistic path to victory is to finish Edgar, but even that seems pretty unlikely. Faber’s most common way to finish an opponent is to hurt them with standing strikes and use that as an opportunity to finish them with a choke of some sort. But Faber does not have exceptional knockout power, and Edgar has never been finished before.

I expect this to end up looking like Faber’s UFC 132 match against Dominick Cruz, or his UFC 149 match against Renan Barao. In those fights, neither Cruz nor Barao could be described as dominant, but they consistently won rounds due to superior striking volume and on-point takedown defense. I believe Edgar will defeat Faber in very similar fashion.

Pick: Frankie Edgar by decision

Gegard Mousasi vs. Costas Philippou

If styles make fights, then this is a pretty wretched matchup for Philippou. He’s a boxer who will be facing an opponent in Mousasi who is a kickboxer – and the statistical evidence suggests that Mousasi’s striking is far more effective than Philippou’s. Philippou actually enters with a significant strike deficit while Mousasi has superior volume and far superior defense.

If I was advising Philippou, I would encourage him to try a plan B and look to take Mousasi down, forcing him to be judicious with his kicks and keeping him off-balance. Philippou’s history, however, is to engage his opponent in a striking battle, and eventually win or lose at standing distance. I expect him to do the same against Mousasi, in which case I see Mousasi winning all three rounds comfortably.

Pick: Gegard Mousasi by decision

Luke Barnatt vs. Mark Munoz

Munoz’s downfall has been pretty difficult to watch. At one point, Munoz was widely considered a top five middleweight in the UFC, on the strength of wins over Demian Maia, C.B. Dollaway, and Chris Leben. Munoz was subsequently given a series of fights against top-tier opponents, and got mostly destroyed by Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida, and Gegard Mousasi. In his last fight, Munoz finally got a more appropriate opponent in Roan Carneiro, but it only took 1 minute and 40 seconds for Carneiro to put Munoz to sleep.

If Munoz was still at the top of his game, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him to beat Barnatt. In his current state, it’s a much tougher call. Barnatt is a very tall and slow middleweight who uses his length to land strikes at a very high pace, but also struggles to defend strikes well, a common problem in very tall fighters. I believe Munoz can out-point Barnatt with strikes over three rounds, but Munoz also has a glass chin. This feels like a fight where either Munoz will win by decision, or Barnatt will win by very early knockout. I hate this pick, but…

Pick: Mark Munoz by decision

Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Neil Magny

My statistics have Magny as one of the ten best welterweight fighters in the UFC. After adjusting for regression, Magny lands 3.57 significant strikes per minute and absorbs just 1.88. He has a very good close-range, clinch striking and takedown game that he uses to pressure opponents and keep them off-balance. Magny’s opponent is Hyun Gyu Lim, an aggressive striker with big knockout power but a tendency to absorb a lot of strikes as well. Lim’s power should make this an exciting fight to watch, but in the end, I believe Magny’s pace and well-rounded game will be enough to earn a decision victory.

Pick: Neil Magny by decision


  • Yui Chul Nam over Phillipe Nover
  • Levan Makashvili over Mark Eddiva
  • Jon Tuck over Tae Hyun Bang
  • Zhang Lipeng over Kajan Johnson
  • Dhiego Lima over Li Jingliang
  • Royston Wee over Ning Guangyou
  • Roldan Sangcha-an over Jon Delos Reyes
  • Nolan Ticman over Yao Zhikui

UFC Fight Night Adelaide: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

I got sick last night, so no commentary this time, just the stats.

2015 PICKS

Last event: 8-4 (66.7%)

Year to date: 94-51 (64.8%)


Favorite % Underdog %
 Stipe Miocic 56.9% Mark Hunt 43.1%
 Brad Tavares 55.7% Robert Whittaker 44.3%
 Sean O’Connell 62.5% Anthony Perosh 37.5%
 Jake Matthews 68.0% James Vick 32.0%
 Hatsu Hioki 60.1% Daniel Hooker 39.9%
 Kyle Noke 51.4% Jonavin Webb 48.6%
 Sam Alvey 67.5% Daniel Kelly 32.5%
 Bec Rawlings 57.2% Lisa Ellis 42.8%
 Brad Scott 53.3% Dylan Andrews 46.7%
 Kailin Curran 62.1% Alex Chambers 37.9%
 Brendan O’Reilly 60.7% Vik Grujic 39.3%
 Ben Nguyen 58.0% Alp Ozkilic 42.0%


Last event: -$21.34

Current bankroll: $205.12

Starting bankroll: $100.00

Total investment: $378.16

Total profit: $105.12

Return on investment: 27.8%

For this event I have…

Sean O’Connell +130: $11.47 to win $14.91

Ben Nguyen +170: $11.28 to win $19.18

Brendan O’Reilly +110: $7.52 to win $8.27

Daniel Hooker +260: $4.56 to win $11.86

Mark Hunt +200: $3.88 to win $7.76

Jake Matthews -170: $3.56 to win $2.09

Daniel Kelly +355: $3.53 to win $12.53

Lisa Ellis +165: $2.00 to win $3.30

Alex Chambers +190: $1.25 to win $2.38

Brad Scott -105: $1.01 to win $0.96

MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my bets. Any bets you make are done at your own risk.

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC Fight Night Adelaide Predictions

As has been the trend for a while now, the UFC is shipping a lackluster lineup to an overseas fight event. This UFC Fight Pass event features a compelling heavyweight main event with Mark Hunt and Stipe Miocic, a solid middleweight fight between Brad Tavares and Robert Whittaker, and a whole bunch of fringe UFC fighters on the card behind them.

Mark Hunt vs. Stipe Miocic

These heavyweights have a reputation for being particularly durable, but I’m not sure that label applies to Hunt any longer. Hunt has been knocked down four times in the UFC now, and was most recently knocked out by interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Hunt is also 41 years old and has a long history of taking abuse in both MMA and kickboxing. I’m really wondering how much longer Hunt can compete at a high level, although not many heavyweights can match his technical striking ability.

The good news for Hunt is that Miocic doesn’t strike with a lot of power. He trades power for volume and pace, often scoring stoppage wins due to an accumulation of strikes as opposed to a one-punch knockout. This style works because Miocic has an excellent chin, although I’m worried about the lingering effects of Miocic’s five-round war with Junior Dos Santos. Miocic doesn’t defend strikes particularly well and it’s only a matter of time before his ability to absorb strikes falls apart.

With that said, Miocic has some key advantages in a match against Hunt. He’s nine years younger, six inches taller, has a longer reach, and should be much better equipped to compete for five hard rounds. Miocic should also enter with the better takedown game, although Hunt is pretty tough to take down. Miocic’s ground and pound rates among the best in the heavyweight division, so if he can get Hunt on his back, it could result in a miserable night for the “Super Samoan.”

The reality is that most heavyweight fights don’t go the distance, and with both fighters in this main event having endured brutal wars, I think they’re both ripe to potentially get knocked out in this match. Even though Hunt certainly hits a lot harder than Miocic, I have to think he’s more likely to be the one losing by knockout, due to his advanced age and recent history of being badly hurt by strikes in the UFC.

Pick: Stipe Miocic by TKO

Brad Tavares vs. Robert Whittaker

Whittaker is a very good offensive striker who packs both volume and power, and has defended takedowns very well in the UFC. He’s a fighter on the rise but will take a step up in competition by battling Brad Tavares. Tavares has had a rough recent run in the UFC, losing to a tank named Yoel Romero and being knocked out by Tim Boetsch in a fight Tavares was winning.

The biggest advantage Whittaker has here is in knockout power, as Tavares is a guy who “can’t bust a grape.” Tavares has landed a total of 461 significant strikes in the UFC but only has a single knockdown to show for it. Tavares counters with much better striking defense and a stronger level of competition faced. Whittaker has the home advantage and takedowns are relatively even. Overall, I favor Tavares if the fight goes the distance, but I think Whittaker is more likely to win inside the distance.

Pick: Brad Tavares by decision

Sean O’Connell vs. Anthony Perosh

I miss the days when the UFC would never even think about having a fight like this on a main card. O’Connell’s striking defense is a disaster, but the same could be said of Perosh’s striking in general. Perosh’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is by far the best of either fighter’s skills, but he also enters at 42 years old and with a very questionable chin. Perosh has the potential to make O’Connell look bad, but he could also lose by knockout in the first minute.

Pick: Sean O’Connell by TKO

Jake Matthews vs. James Vick

Matthews is just 20 years old, but has looked very good with his wrestling/striking skill set in the UFC, albeit against weak competition. He’ll be facing a tougher opponent this time in James Vick, a lanky striker with tricky submissions and a questionable chin. Matthews isn’t likely to knock Vick out but should be able to land takedowns on a fairly consistent basis. I like Matthews to grind out a decision here.

Pick: Jake Matthews by decision


  • Remember when Hatsu Hioki was considered a top five featherweight? All of a sudden he’s nothing more than a mid-tier fighter in the UFC. He should be good enough to beat Daniel Hooker, but he’s pricey on the betting markets at -300. Hioki by decision.
  • Kyle Noke is a well-rounded fighter with good striking and submissions, but finds ways to lose. He’s far too content to play the guard game. I have his fight against the debuting Jonavin Webb as a coin flip. Noke by decision.
  • Sam Alvey is widely expected to beat Australian judoka Daniel Kelly, but let’s not forget that Alvey doesn’t defend strikes or takedowns well. Alvey’s the better striker and hits a lot harder, but -400? Really? Alvey by TKO.
  • Neither Bec Rawlings nor Lisa Ellis rates as an above-average strawweight, but Rawlings is younger while Ellis has a troubling history of getting taken down and losing by submission. Rawlings by submission.
  • Dylan Andrews is coming off two TKO losses, one by doctor stoppage and one by knockout. This is not a good trend. Brad Scott isn’t a better fighter, but he’s ten years younger and much more likely to improve. Scott by decision.
  • Alex Chambers is 36 years old, has a professional record of 4-2, and didn’t impress on TUF. Kailin Curran is 12 years younger and at least showed off a decent takedown game against Paige VanZant. Curran by decision.
  • Vik Grujic didn’t impress on TUF either and is 38 years old. He’s well below average in both striking and takedowns, but his opponent is Brendan O’Reilly, who looked bad against Zhang Lipeng. The UFC really shouldn’t have fights like this. O’Reilly by decision.
  • Alp Ozkilic has a good takedown game but doesn’t fight in an energy efficient manner and has porous striking defense. I know nothing about Ben Nguyen except that he’s 13-5, which isn’t really a great record to take into the UFC. Even so… Nguyen by decision.

UFC 186: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

Sadly I’ve decided to pass on watching this event. I can deal with a pay per view show that has a lopsided title fight, or has a lackluster undercard, but not both. I sincerely hope the show ends up being great entertainment for the fans that have purchased tickets to see it live.

2015 PICKS

Last event: 7-4 (63.6%)

Year to date: 86-47 (64.7%)


Favorite % Underdog %
 Demetrious Johnson 76.6% Kyoji Horiguchi 23.4%
 C.B. Dollaway 56.9% Michael Bisping 43.1%
 Quinton Jackson 55.8% Fabio Maldonado 44.2%
 John Makdessi 55.9% Shane Campbell 44.1%
 Thomas Almeida 64.5% Yves Jabouin 35.5%
 Joe Riggs 53.4% Patrick Cote 46.6%
 Sarah Kaufman 67.6% Alexis Davis 32.4%
 Bryan Barberena 51.5% Chad Laprise 48.5%
 Olivier Aubin-Mercier 52.2% David Michaud 47.8%
 Nordine Taleb 75.2% Chris Clements 24.8%
 Valerie Letourneau 69.0% Jessica Rakoczy 31.0%
 Aisling Daly 54.7% Randa Markos 45.3%

As usual, the model thinks many of the fights on this card are more competitive than the lopsided betting lines would suggest. It thinks C.B. Dollaway will upset Michael Bisping, and has Quinton Jackson having just slightly better than a coin flip’s chance against Fabio Maldonado. On the prelims, it likes Joe Riggs to upset Patrick Cote and thinks TUF Nations finalists Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier are both being badly overrated.


Last event: -$15.05

Current bankroll: $226.46

Starting bankroll: $100.00

Total investment: $350.77

Total profit: $126.46

Return on investment: 36.1%

I placed a huge bet on Lyoto Machida last week (huge in relative terms) and got wiped out. Luke Rockhold not only got the win, he really out-classed Machida in the process. It didn’t shock me that Rockhold won, but it did shock me that he beat Machida so badly. Rockhold’s top position ground game is terrifying.

For this event I have…

Bryan Barberena +345: $5.14 to win $17.73

David Michaud +320: $3.94 to win $12.61

Joe Riggs +185: $3.37 to win $6.23

C.B. Dollaway +135: $2.85 to win $3.85

Fabio Maldonado +248: $2.38 to win $5.90

Valerie Letourneau -155: $2.29 to win $1.48

Aisling Daly +240: $2.12 to win $5.09

Yves Jabouin +380: $1.95 to win $7.41

Nordine Taleb -240: $1.61 to win $0.67

Kyoji Horiguchi +635: $1.11 to win $7.05

Shane Campbell +150: $0.63 to win $0.95

Thankfully, there isn’t any one fight that’s a must-win for me like Machida was last week. Instead, my risk has been spread out among a number of underdogs on the prelims, most notably Bryan Barberena and David Michaud. The way this event breaks down is simple – if there aren’t many upsets, then it probably won’t be a good night for me.

MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my bets. Any bets you make are done at your own risk.

If you’re a hardcore enough fan to purchase this show, then best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC 186 Predictions

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Demetrious Johnson

In yet another display of how thin the UFC flyweight division is, Demetrious Johnson will next be defending his title against karate stylist Kyoji Horiguchi. To be clear, I’m supportive of Horiguchi getting this title opportunity; he’s one of the better fighters in a division that has nearly been cleaned out by the champion. At the same time, wins against Dustin Pague, Louis Gaudinot, and Jon Delos Reyes can hardly be seen as proper preparation to be fighting one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters.

With that said, Horiguchi has produced excellent statistics against that competition, with a +1.24 significant strike margin after regressing to the mean. He’s excellent at using distance control to manipulate his opponent, staying out of range of lead strikes while leaping in with hard punches, kicks, and knees. His timing is outstanding and his karate style is something Johnson has likely not faced before.

As much as I’m pro-Horiguchi, that’s where the enthusiasm has to end as far as this fight is concerned. Johnson has a better regression-adjusted significant strike margin of +1.46, and that’s after facing a series of top-tier flyweights in the UFC. Johnson’s speed, footwork, and ability to cut angles leave his opponents a step behind, and his ability to mix in lightning-quick takedowns makes it nearly impossible to defend all of his attacks.

It’s very unlikely that Horiguchi will be able to consistently maintain distance or attack without being countered or taken down. It’s also quite possible that his style will hold up poorly against Johnson, who will be a far tougher opponent than any Horiguchi has faced to this point.

I do think Horiguchi’s chances are better than the long-shot odds he’s getting from betting markets, but I’m not ready to go to bat for him like I have with T.J. Dillashaw in the past. He’s a skilled and successful fighter, but one who has been rushed into a title shot due to a lack of alternatives. I would love nothing more than for Horiguchi to shake things up by scoring a huge upset, but Johnson is just too good and too consistent.

Pick: Demetrious Johnson by decision

Michael Bisping vs. C.B. Dollaway

When Bisping was matched up against a tough wrestler in Tim Kennedy, my metrics indicated that Kennedy was the favorite… but I picked Bisping, who I thought could out-strike Kennedy standing and neutralize Kennedy’s takedowns. That is exactly what didn’t happen. Kennedy scored takedowns, kept Bisping on his back, wore him out, and made Bisping’s volume striking a moot point.

Dollaway is neither the top position grappler nor the overall fighter that Kennedy is, but he is a wrestler and that’s a style that has clearly given Bisping some problems. Dollaway has also made improvements as an overall fighter, becoming a capable striker with knockout power. Dollaway’s history of suspect cardio and a suspect chin are unlikely to be a problem in a three-round fight against Bisping, who generally doesn’t have what it takes to put opponents to sleep.

The fact that Bisping is now likely in the twilight of his career only further leaves me to believe that an upset is brewing here. I think this is a tough fight for sure, but Dollaway is the younger fighter and the better wrestler. That’s enough for me to think he’ll grind out a decision in this one.

Pick: C.B. Dollaway by decision

Quinton Jackson vs. Fabio Maldonado

Yes, it’s Quinton “Rampage” Jackson back in the UFC. No, it’s not the Jackson of old, not even the Jackson who became a low-volume striker searching for one-punch knockouts against opponents like Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, and Jon Jones. Jackson has faded badly, a fact that hasn’t gone away with a knockout of Joey Beltran and controversial decision win over King Mo in Bellator.

My point is this – Jackson is ripe to be beaten. Fabio Maldonado will never reach the heights that Jackson once reached, but he’s a high-volume boxer with a tremendous amount of toughness. Since Jackson is unlikely to go for takedowns (even though he really should in this fight), this should be a battle between Jackson’s power and Maldonado’s volume and pace.

As much as I want to pick Maldonado here, I can’t bring myself to do it. I have too much respect for Jackson’s power and his extensive accomplishments in his career. In all likelihood, Jackson will find a way to finish the fight, since Maldonado isn’t exactly a defensive specialist. As for a bet on Maldonado as a +250 underdog? Sign me up.

Pick: Quinton Jackson by TKO

Shane Campbell vs. John Makdessi

John Makdessi is a fun striker to watch, and his opponent is the debuting Shane Campbell, who has very good skill as a striker himself. Campbell is likely to be the much bigger fighter in the cage, but he has also taken this fight on short notice and lacks the high-level experience that Makdessi brings with him. This is the kind of fight that doesn’t have the name value to justify being on a pay per view main card, but should be a really fun fight when it happens.

Pick: John Makdessi by decision

Thomas Almeida vs. Yves Jabouin

Patrick Wyman prospect extraordinaire Thomas Almeida is set to lead off the pay per view main card against bantamweight striker Yves Jabouin. Almeida is an aggressive striker on the rise, while Jabouin is on the decline – and was never anything more than a mid-level bantamweight at the best of times. It’s the kind of fight that appears to be purely a showcase for Almeida, although the -450 price on the betting markets is a little grotesque.

Pick: Thomas Almeida by TKO


  • Joe Riggs over Patrick Cote
  • Sarah Kaufman over Alexis Davis
  • Chad Laprise over Bryan Barberena, although my statistical model disagrees. Being at home and a 4-1 betting favorite is enough for me to overrule the model on this one.
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier over David Michaud
  • Nordine Taleb over Chris Clements
  • Valerie Letourneau over Jessica Rakoczy
  • Aisling Daly over Randa Markos

UFC on Fox 15: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

2015 PICKS

Last Event: 7-4 (63.6%)

Year To Date: 79-43 (64.8%)


Favorite % Underdog %
 Lyoto Machida 72.7% Luke Rockhold 27.3%
 Ronaldo Souza 88.5% Chris Camozzi 11.5%
 Max Holloway 57.4% Cub Swanson 42.6%
 Paige VanZant 54.3% Felice Herrig 45.7%
 Beneil Dariush 62.6% Jim Miller 37.4%
 Ovince St-Preux 53.0% Patrick Cummins 47.0%
 Corey Anderson 81.2% Gian Villante 18.8%
 Aljamain Sterling 59.9% Takeya Mizugaki 40.1%
 Tim Means 55.9% George Sullivan 44.1%
 Jimy Hettes 51.0% Diego Brandao 49.0%
 Eddie Gordon 66.6% Chris Dempsey 33.4%

Yes, that’s underdog Lyoto Machida listed as a 72.7% favorite to win tomorrow’s main event against Luke Rockhold. I explained why the model likes Machida so much in my predictions post. The short version: Machida has better striking defense and a better chin in a striker vs. striker matchup. The model also likes underdogs Max Holloway, Ovince St-Preux, and Jimy Hettes.


Last Event: +$27.68

Current Bankroll: $241.51

Starting Bankroll: $100.00

Total Investment: $290.65

Total Profit: $141.51

Return On Investment: 48.7%

All I have to say about last week is… Maryna Moroz! Not many people thought she had much of a chance against Joanne Calderwood, but she came through with a flurry of strikes and an armbar in the first round to cash as a 6-1 underdog.

For this event I have…

Lyoto Machida +145: $27.13 to win $39.34

Max Holloway +135: $8.09 to win $10.92

Takeya Mizugaki +325: $6.43 to win $20.90

Jimy Hettes +150: $5.21 to win $7.82

Chris Dempsey +375: $4.31 to win $16.16

Corey Anderson -360: $3.63 to win $1.01

Ovince St-Preux +110: $2.66 to win $2.93

George Sullivan +155: $2.03 to win $3.15

Chris Camozzi +1000: $0.63 to win $6.30

We have a new biggest bet of the year! The success of this event pretty much hinges on whether or not Lyoto Machida is able to beat Luke Rockhold. If Machida loses, I’ll need wins by either Takeya Mizugaki or both Max Holloway and Chris Dempsey to end up making money.

MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a betting professional and I do NOT recommend you follow my betting picks in any serious way. Any bets you make are done at your own risk.

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC on Fox Newark Predictions

Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold

When this fight was first announced, my initial reaction was the same as it was for most people. I saw Machida and Rockhold as two of the top five fighters in the middleweight division and thought the fight itself would be very tough to call. Betting markets currently have Rockhold as the -160 favorite, a number that has nudged upwards from an opener of -140. It’s easy to see Machida as the old stalwart who is about to be passed by against the younger Rockhold.

That’s why I was so surprised to put this fight through my statistical model, and come away with an estimate that not only is Machida the favorite to win, but he’s actually a fairly substantial favorite.

To illustrate why this is, I want to highlight two key factors. The first is the number of significant strikes Machida and Rockhold both absorb. The statistic I use to estimate this is called “regressed significant strikes absorbed per minute,” or rSAPM for short. This is more predictive than the SAPM number found on Fight Metric due to using data from UFC fights only and regressing that number to the mean:

Fighter rSAPM
 Lyoto Machida 1.68
 Luke Rockhold 2.84

Rockhold’s striking defense is above average, but he’s never been able to shut down his opponents in the same way Machida has. Rockhold will have height and reach advantages, but Machida is arguably the best fighter in the sport at controlling distance and manipulating his opponent’s movement.

The second factor is how well each fighter absorbs strikes. It should be noted that both of Rockhold’s losses were by TKO, against Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut and against Tony Rubalcava in his second professional MMA fight. Being knocked out by Belfort is forgivable, but it’s much more of a red flag that Rockhold was knocked out by a relative unknown in his early career. To date, Machida’s only been finished by TKO once, in his famous title loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2010. Here is each fighter’s regressed knockdown absorbed rate:

Fighter rKDAR
 Lyoto Machida 0.58%
 Luke Rockhold 1.00%

Historically, Machida’s biggest problem has been that he gets so focused on defending his opponent’s strikes that he neglects to land too many strikes of his own. This cost him in decision losses to Phil Davis and Quinton Jackson, and nearly cost him against Dan Henderson. If Machida goes all five rounds against Rockhold, it’s easy to envision another decision loss if he doesn’t pick up the volume.

Even so, this profiles as a striker vs. striker match, and one in which Machida is the much better defender with the much better chin. Subjectively, I think Rockhold’s chances are better than my statistical model gives him credit for, but Machida’s recent performances have been strong enough for me to feel good about picking him to win despite being the underdog.

Pick: Lyoto Machida by TKO

Chris Camozzi vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

It’s deeply disappointing that Yoel Romero was forced to withdraw from this match, as a fight between him and Jacare was every bit as compelling as Machida-Rockhold in my view. Chris Camozzi has stepped up on short notice to fight Jacare for a second time; all I can say is that Jacare vs. an overmatched opponent is better than no Jacare at all.

This is just a brutal stylistic matchup for Camozzi. His takedown defense is mediocre at best and he tends to struggle on the ground. Camozzi is at his best when his opponent is willing to engage him in a striking match, but even then, Camozzi lacks power and relies on volume to win decisions. To be blunt, I would favor Jacare to win this fight even if he never attempted a takedown, but Jacare’s world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game, strong takedowns, and aggression should be far too much for Camozzi to handle. My respect goes to Camozzi for doing what it takes to earn another UFC contract, but this is not a competitive fight.

Pick: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza by submission

Max Holloway vs. Cub Swanson

Swanson is a good featherweight who rode a hot streak into title contention, only to be humiliated by Frankie Edgar when he reached the verge of a title shot. He’s back to face Max Holloway, a boxer who absorbs a lot of strikes, but makes up for it with great volume, decent power, and an excellent chin. Holloway should be vulnerable against wrestlers; it could be argued that he’s been coddled for not having fought a wrestler since his loss to Dennis Bermudez. Swanson is not that type of fighter, though. He’s a guy who will mix in a takedown once in a while, but will otherwise engage with an aggressive and diverse striking arsenal. I’m anticipating a split decision in this one.

Pick: Max Holloway by decision

Felice Herrig vs. Paige VanZant

Deserved or not, Paige VanZant has received a tremendous amount of attention for winning her UFC debut match against Kailin Curran five months ago (which I suspect has very little to do with her actual fighting). Her striking activity was great in that match but she failed to defend any of Curran’s five takedowns. My expectation is that VanZant will have the striking advantage against Felice Herrig, who will have the grappling advantage against VanZant. VanZant’s nine year youth advantage is enough for me to pick her to win, but I’m not confident.

Pick: Paige VanZant by decision

Beneil Dariush vs. Jim Miller

This is a quick turnaround for Dariush, who is coming off a big win against Daron Cruickshank just last month. He’s taking a short notice fight against Jim Miller, a veteran fighter who has competed at a high level, but has turned in middling to poor performances against his toughest opponents. Miller’s strength is on the ground, but that’s Dariush’s strength as well, and I believe Dariush has developed a better overall takedown game. If this fight took place a year ago, I would never have made this pick, but today…

Pick: Beneil Dariush by decision

Patrick Cummins vs. Ovince St-Preux

This is a very intriguing fight. Cummins has been statistically dominant in the UFC, but only against a relatively low level of competition. St-Preux’s statistics aren’t particularly remarkable, but he’s proven himself against much tougher opponents. Cummins should have the clear advantage in takedowns, but I expect St-Preux to be tougher to take down, and more dangerous both standing and on the ground, than Cummins’ previous opponents. I’m very curious to see if Cummins’ game will work against an opponent as tough as St-Preux, or if Cummins has managed to expand his skill set. For now, I have to see this as a coin flip fight.

Pick: Ovince St-Preux by TKO

Corey Anderson vs. Gian Villante

As dismal as some of Villante’s performances have been, he should consider himself lucky to still be on the UFC roster. Villante’s striking defense is porous and his conditioning is a huge question mark. He serves as proof that training with a fighter like Chris Weidman can only take a fighter so far. As it stands, Villante looks like he’s being used as a low-level gatekeeper to test a much better prospect in Corey Anderson.

Pick: Corey Anderson by TKO

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Aljamain Sterling

I’ve been keeping my eye on Sterling as a fighter who could break into title contention in the bantamweight division. The problem is that everybody else has been keeping an eye on him too. Sterling is currently a -350 favorite to beat Mizugaki, a number consistent with a top-tier bantamweight, not a fighter who we simply know has the potential to make it to the top tier. Sterling is good everywhere but Mizugaki is well-rounded and should be his toughest opponent yet. I’m not about to pick Mizugaki here but the underdog price is awfully enticing…

Pick: Aljamain Sterling by decision

Tim Means vs. George Sullivan

Sullivan is a pressure fighter who looked good in wins against both Mike Rhodes and Igor Araujo, but now faces a tougher opponent in Tim Means. Means will likely want to keep the fight at distance and pick Sullivan apart with punches, while Sullivan is likely to clinch and make this more of a brawl. Neither man has the talent to make a true run at 170 pounds but this should be a good action fight at the very least.

Pick: Tim Means by decision

Diego Brandao vs. Jimy Hettes

This is a re-booking of a fight that should have taken place in January, and it remains very tough to call. Hettes is a submission wizard but the ground game is Brandao’s strength as well. Brandao’s power advantage should make him the more effective striker, but his suspect cardio and poor defense could open the door for Hettes to win with a greater volume of strikes. It’s a weird matchup of skills; no outcome of this fight would surprise me unless Hettes somehow knocks Brandao out.

Pick: Jimy Hettes by decision

Chris Dempsey vs. Eddie Gordon

This is the one fight on this card that doesn’t really interest me too much. Dempsey got trucked by Ilir Latifi in his UFC debut and may not have what it takes to fight at this level of competition. Gordon looked a lot better against Josh Samman before getting knocked out. I have to think Gordon is the better prospect although the -450 betting price is really pushing it.

Pick: Eddie Gordon by TKO


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