Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC Fight Night Hollywood: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

Apologies for the lack of content recently. I’m a little burned out on MMA at the moment and have been paying more attention to other sports-related things. There’s a two-week gap between this and the next UFC event, which will probably be enough for me to get back into it more. It helps that the next UFC event is UFC 189, which I won’t need help getting motivated for.

With that said, there is one very outstanding fight as the main event of this show: Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero. I’m surprised that Machida is back so soon after being decimated by Luke Rockhold, but Machida just turned 37, so perhaps he senses that he doesn’t have much time left to make a title run.

2015 PICKS

Last event: 6-5 (54.5%)

Year to date: 142-84 (62.8%)

I have to say, it’s a little surprising to see my picks percentage down a bit from last year. The statistical model has been so successful at degenerate gambling that I would have figured the straight-up picks percentage would be pretty high as well. Perhaps there have just been more upsets than usual this year?

UFC FIGHT NIGHT HOLLYWOOD – STATISTICAL MODEL ESTIMATES

Favorite % Underdog %
 Lyoto Machida 66.6% Yoel Romero 33.4%
 Lorenz Larkin 59.1% Santiago Ponzinibbio 40.9%
 Eddie Gordon 61.9% Antonio Carlos Junior 38.1%
 Thiago Santos 64.7% Steve Bosse 35.3%
 Levan Makashvili 53.7% Hacran Dias 46.3%
 Alex Oliveira 75.0% Joe Merritt 25.0%
 Leandro Silva 50.3% Lewis Gonzalez 49.7%
 Tony Sims 58.5% Steve Montgomery 41.5%
 Sirwan Kakai 72.7% Danny Martinez 27.3%

With the model being very high on Machida and just lukewarm on Romero in recent fights, I didn’t expect to see the model basically agree with the betting lines on this one. Machida and Romero are actually a fairly even statistical match. Romero gets the advantage in takedowns, and figures to enter as the significantly bigger and stronger man. Machida gets the advantage in striking, particularly in striking defense. Knockout power is about even. The biggest edge for Machida is his level of competition, as he’s been facing the very best fighters in the world. Romero has faced some tough opponents, but nothing like Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, or even Jon Jones.

Underdog picks for this event include Eddie Gordon, Levan Makashvili, Tony Sims, and Sirwan Kakai.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER – SEASON TWO

Last event: +$19.19

Current bankroll: $336.03

Total investment: $693.66

Total profit: $236.03

Return on investment: 34.0%

Last week was another winning one for the model, mostly thanks to Taylor Lapilus and his victory over Yuta Sasaki in Berlin. The model also got a big win with +170 underdog Arnold Allen.

For this event I have…

Sirwan Kakai +115: $16.07 to win $18.48

Eddie Gordon +165: $10.63 to win $17.54

Levan Makashvili +160: $5.51 to win $8.82

Tony Sims +120: $5.27 to win $6.32

Lewis Gonzalez +130: $2.08 to win $2.70

Santiago Ponzinibbio +185: $1.65 to win $3.05

I made an executive decision to reduce bet sizes for this event because of the shorter slate. The model was built for UFC events with 12 or more fights, but this event only has nine fights total. That causes the Kelly criterion to recommend some pretty high bet sizes, and I’ve decided it’s probably best to reduce exposure to this event. This way, I’m placing about 12 percent of the bankroll at risk (instead of the 24 percent recommended by the model), which I think is reasonable for an event with six bets.

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

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC Fight Night Berlin: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

No predictions post for this weekend’s UFC event, which I believe probably has minimal interest from MMA fans in general, and much less interest than tonight’s Kimbo-Shamrock Bellator match. That’s despite this event featuring a championship fight in the main event, which I will talk about briefly.

2015 PICKS

Last event: 7-4 (63.6%)

Year to date: 136-79 (63.3%)

The 7-4 record in picks for UFC 188 last week is decent, but it’s better than it appears, as my model was 3-0 in underdog picks. Betting favorites went just 4-7.

UFC FIGHT NIGHT BERLIN – STATISTICAL MODEL ESTIMATES

Favorite % Underdog %
 Joanna Jedrzejczyk 67.4% Jessica Penne 32.6%
 Dennis Siver 64.1% Tatsuya Kawajiri 35.9%
 Steven Kennedy 54.7% Peter Sobotta 45.3%
 Lukasz Sajewski 54.9% Nick Hein 45.1%
 Makwan Amirkhani 70.5% Masio Fullen 29.5%
 Mairbek Taisumov 58.8% Alan Patrick 41.2%
 Arnold Allen 58.1% Alan Omer 41.9%
 Niklas Backstrom 54.8% Noad Lahat 45.2%
 Scott Askham 58.4% Antonio Dos Santos 41.6%
 Piotr Hallmann 69.8% Magomed Mustafaev 30.2%
 Taylor Lapilus 59.2% Yuta Sasaki 40.8%

There’s a lot of disparity between my model’s estimates and the betting lines for this event. It begins with the main event, where my model has UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk as a 2-1 favorite while the betting lines currently have her closer to 8-1. I think the betting lines are badly inflated here. If Jedrzejczyk had fought Penne before humiliating Carla Esparza, would she have really been listed as an 8-1 favorite? I highly doubt it.

With that said, I do expect Jedrzejczyk to successfully defend her title, and she should have a massive advantage standing, as her overall striking technique is something a lot of men in the UFC could learn from. Even so, Penne is excellent on the ground, and if she’s able to do what Esparza couldn’t – take Jedrzejczyk down – we very well could see an upset here.

Underdog picks for this event include: Steven Kennedy, Lukasz Sajewski, Arnold Allen, and Taylor Lapilus.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER – SEASON TWO

Last event: +$29.48

Current bankroll: $316.84

Total investment: $639.23

Total profit: $216.84

Return on investment: 33.9%

Only four out of 11 bets were winners last week, but fortunately, my top three bets all came through: Cathal Pendred, Yair Rodriguez, and Efrain Escudero. Chico Camus also put up a terrific effort as a +900 underdog in a loss to Henry Cejudo.

For this event I have…

Taylor Lapilus +230: $12.35 to win $28.41

Piotr Hallmann -115: $9.42 to win $8.19

Arnold Allen +170: $8.77 to win $14.91

Steven Kennedy +210: $8.64 to win $18.14

Lukasz Sajewski +145: $5.45 to win $7.90

Jessica Penne +550: $4.46 to win $24.53

Noad Lahat +185: $3.22 to win $5.96

Antonio Dos Santos +190: $2.12 to win $4.03

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

Best of luck and enjoy the fights! (And by enjoy the fights, I mean Bellator, since you’re more likely to watch those fights this week.)

Bellator 138 Prediction: Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice

Mixed martial arts legend Ken Shamrock and YouTube street brawler Kimbo Slice were originally supposed to meet in the main event of an Elite XC show in October 2008. Shamrock suffered a cut while warming up and withdrew from the fight very shortly before it was supposed to take place. His replacement was former TUF 2 kickboxer Seth Petruzelli, who took the fight on literally a few hours notice. What ended up happening was nothing short of the most incredible victory in the history of mixed martial arts:

That was the last Elite XC event ever. What a way to go out.

Now, seven years later, Kimbo and Shamrock are once again set to do battle, this time in the Bellator cage. And because both of them have fought in the UFC, I can use my statistical prediction model to estimate each fighter’s chances of winning.

The one thing Kimbo was able to do fairly well in the UFC was land takedowns. He generally got takedowns by virtue of brute strength rather than technique, but he was able to land four takedowns against Houston Alexander and two against Matt Mitrione. Of course, Shamrock probably won’t mind if Kimbo takes him down; Shamrock’s best attack is leglock submission holds, and Kimbo had to fight off four submission attempts by Mitrione, who recently tapped out very quickly after being placed in a modified guillotine hold by Ben Rothwell.

The good news for Kimbo is that he’ll have the advantage standing, despite having a dismal statistical record in significant strikes. Kimbo was out-landed 58 to 16 in standing strikes in the UFC (I guess that should have been a sign that his boxing career wasn’t going to take off). That’s still better than Shamrock, who landed 25 significant strikes in six UFC fights after making his comeback in 2002. Rich Franklin landed 23 strikes to Shamrock’s zero in just over two minutes at the first Ultimate Fighter Finale.

Kimbo also has the youth advantage despite now being 41 years old. That still makes him ten years younger than Shamrock, who is now over half a century old himself.

Wait, why am I breaking down this fight? It’s a freak show! It’s the very definition of a freak show fight. It’s Scott Coker choosing to put aside any notion of MMA being an organized sport, and instead putting together the freakiest matchup he can. And I’ll admit that I don’t hate him for it.

So here’s what the model says about Kimbo vs. Shamrock in 2015: Kimbo 76.8%, Shamrock 23.2%. Not far off from the current betting lines.

But what I think is more interesting is to see what the model says about each of these fighters against current UFC heavyweights – like, for example, new heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum:

  • Fabricio Werdum 99.0%, Kimbo Slice 1.0%
  • Fabricio Werdum 99.7%, Ken Shamrock 0.3%

Oh my. Well, we can’t reasonably expect a couple of old men to do battle with the #1 fighter in the world. Let’s be more realistic and see how they would do against a mid-tier heavyweight like Shawn Jordan:

  • Shawn Jordan 89.6%, Kimbo Slice 10.4%
  • Shawn Jordan 96.4%, Ken Shamrock 3.6%

Somehow the model gets Kimbo up to 10 percent against Shawn Jordan, who is much better than Kimbo at everything. I would be hard-pressed to bet on Kimbo at +1200 against Jordan, even if my model said to do it.

Is there any UFC heavyweight these guys can beat?

  • Josh Copeland 63.9%, Kimbo Slice 36.1%
  • Josh Copeland 83.0%, Ken Shamrock 17.0%

No. The answer is no.

Well, that’s enough time wasted talking about this fight. I expect the fight to be shorter than it will take anybody to read this post. If you’re watching Freakator on Friday, then enjoy the fights, and I would stay far away from betting on Kimbo-Shamrock if I was you.

UFC 188: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

2015 PICKS

Last event: 6-6 (50.0%)

Year to date: 129-75 (63.2%)

When the biggest favorite on the fight card is just -200 (and that guy loses by KO in the first minute), I suppose going 6-6 on picks shouldn’t come as a surprise.

UFC 188 – STATISTICAL MODEL ESTIMATES

Favorite % Underdog %
 Cain Velasquez 85.8% Fabricio Werdum 14.2%
 Gilbert Melendez 68.7% Eddie Alvarez 31.3%
 Kelvin Gastelum 71.8% Nate Marquardt 28.2%
 Yair Rodriguez 59.5% Charles Rosa 40.5%
 Tecia Torres 60.4% Angela Hill 39.6%
 Henry Cejudo 67.7% Chico Camus 32.3%
 Efrain Escudero 61.4% Drew Dober 38.6%
 Alejandro Perez 64.8% Patrick Williams 35.2%
 Johnny Case 73.7% Frank Trevino 26.3%
 Cathal Pendred 65.7% Augusto Montano 34.3%
 Clay Collard 64.0% Gabriel Benitez 36.0%

If you’re wondering, the model had Albert Tumenov with an 80.1% chance of beating Andrew Todhunter. That fight got called off as Todhunter simply couldn’t cut the weight necessary to fight on short notice.

Cathal Pendred at 65.7% probably jumps out at you. I have to admit that when I watch Pendred fight, I don’t like what I see. His hands are painfully slow and he just doesn’t appear to be as good an athlete as most guys in the UFC. Pendred’s striking statistics rate as firmly below-average, with 115 significant strikes landed, 128 absorbed, and two knockdowns absorbed. The reason he’s favored by the model is that he’s had success with takedowns (eight in three fights) and he does have a number of wins against respectable competition on his record (Che Mills, Gael Grimaud, David Bielkheden, Nico Musoke).

Augusto Montano is 15-1 and looked good against Chris Heatherly in his UFC debut, but he just hasn’t beaten the same level of opponents as Pendred. The model sees Pendred as being the higher-level fighter and having a decisive takedown advantage, which is enough to make him the favorite. I now fully expect to see Pendred get out-boxed for three rounds, only to win by unanimous decision.

The other underdogs favored by the model are Yair Rodriguez and Efrain Escudero.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER – SEASON TWO

Last event: +$26.25

Current bankroll: $287.36

Total investment: $589.17

Total profit: $187.36

Return on investment: 31.8%

Even though last week’s picks went just 6-6, things went very well for my degenerate gambling. My top three bets – underdogs Jose Quinonez, Ben Rothwell, and Anthony Birchak – all emerged victorious. That healed most of the damage done by the big losses the week before.

For this event I have…

Cathal Pendred +140: $11.27 to win $15.78

Yair Rodriguez +195: $10.16 to win $19.62

Efrain Escudero +135: $7.85 to win $10.60

Chico Camus +900: $5.30 to win $47.70

Cain Velasquez -480: $3.44 to win $0.72

Gilbert Melendez -165: $3.31 to win $2.01

Angela Hill +255: $3.05 to win $7.78

Nate Marquardt +400: $1.84 to win $7.36

Frank Trevino +400: $1.37 to win $5.48

Gabriel Benitez +225: $1.31 to win $2.95

Alejandro Perez -165: $1.16 to win $0.70

Bets on every fight again! Unsurprisingly, the three biggest bets are on the underdogs the model picked to win outright – Pendred, Rodriguez, and Escudero.

No, I don’t have much faith in Chico Camus’s ability to beat Henry Cejudo. I’ll even go so far as to say that the model underrates Cejudo, since it doesn’t know about his gold medal in freestyle wrestling. But the odds are just crazy here. If Camus only needs to win over 10 percent of the time to return value, then sure, I’ll take a stab.

When I bet on Chris Weidman against Vitor Belfort, I was asked why I would bet him straight and not put him in a parlay. Now I’m betting on Cain Velasquez straight. For me, it’s all about the probabilities. Using parlays doesn’t increase the expected rate of return, it just mitigates risk. With my system, risk is already mitigated with the bet sizes recommended by the Kelly criterion. You’ll notice that my bet on Velasquez is relatively small. That was true when I bet on Weidman as well.

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

Best of luck and enjoy the fights!

UFC 188 Predictions

Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum

For the first time since October 19th, 2013, Cain Velasquez is going to enter the UFC cage to defend his heavyweight title, taking on interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. This, of course, assumes that Velasquez won’t get injured within the next two days. Injuries have limited Velasquez to just 14 fights in nine years of professional fighting. A torn labrum and a torn meniscus have taken a year and a half out of what should have been the prime of Velasquez’s career.

For his sake, I hope that Velasquez can put his injury woes behind him, because he might be the most dominant fighter in the sport of mixed martial arts when he’s actually competing. Velasquez fights have gone one of two ways – either Velasquez gets knocked out early (and this has happened exactly once) or Velasquez gives his opponent a severe and one-sided beating. This has been the case at every level of competition.

With that in mind, I can’t figure out why Fabricio Werdum has become a trendy pick to win this fight. I’ve seen a lot of people saying Werdum has a great chance of winning (they’re not betting on it, since Velasquez is a 5-1 favorite) and the only reason I can think of is that they’ve forgotten how good Velasquez is. Here are some cherry-picked significant strike totals from Cain Velasquez fights:

  • 123 to 46 (Dos Santos 3)
  • 18 to 1 (Silva 2)
  • 111 to 57 (Dos Santos 2)
  • 28 to 1 (Silva 1)
  • 31 to 9 (Lesnar)
  • 23 to 3 (Nogueira)
  • 62 to 3 (Rothwell)

You get the idea. Overall, Velasquez has been statistically dominant in a way no heavyweight ever has been. Calling him “Cardio Cain” really undersells his overall skill, his developed and fluid boxing, and his excellent wrestling. It’s the combination of top-notch fighting skill and freakish conditioning that makes Velasquez such a dominant and terrifying fighter.

Now, I don’t mean to put down Fabricio Werdum in any way. Werdum is a talented and skilled fighter, something that’s becoming increasingly rare in the heavyweight division. He entered mixed martial arts with world-class submission skills, but has also improved his striking abilities at a consistent rate for a very long time now. I wouldn’t have expected Werdum to knock out Mark Hunt with a flying knee or put on a striking clinic against Travis Browne, but Werdum did both of those things. He’s legitimately one of the better strikers in the division now.

So yes, it’s possible that Werdum will be able to knock Velasquez out, or even find a way to drag Velasquez to the ground and win by submission. It’s just that neither of those outcomes is terribly likely. Velasquez enters with massive statistical advantages in striking, takedowns, and knockout power. If this fight goes the distance, Velasquez will almost certainly be the winner, but I don’t think Werdum can take punishment quite like Dos Santos, so the pick has to be a stoppage win for the champion.

Pick: Cain Velasquez by TKO

Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez

There used to be something of a rivalry between Alvarez and Melendez. Alvarez was the lightweight champion of Bellator while Melendez was the lightweight champion of Strikeforce. There was plenty of discussion about them doing a “superfight” but that never materialized until now.

There are some similarities between Alvarez and Melendez. Both fighters like to get into high-paced scraps, both landing and absorbing more strikes than average. Both definitely prefer the striking game to the ground game. Alvarez packs more knockout power but gets knocked down more frequently as well. In the end, I think Melendez will prove to have tighter defense, better conditioning, and ultimately win this one on points, although I also expect it to be an entertaining scrap.

Pick: Gilbert Melendez by decision

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nate Marquardt

Gastelum is back to middleweight after failing horribly to make weight against Tyron Woodley earlier this year. Gastelum’s lackluster performance in that fight didn’t help matters either, but I’m generally optimistic about fighters who move up a weight class. Dustin Poirier’s recent success should serve as an example that weight class changes really don’t matter as much as people think. I think Gastelum will perform well at 185 pounds as long as he doesn’t use that as an excuse to bulk up too much.

His opponent will be an aging Nate Marquardt, who was once a top contender in the middleweight division but is now well past his prime. Marquardt’s chin has become a serious liability and his striking isn’t quite good enough to make up for that. At 36 years old, Marquardt’s skills have declined from above-average in all areas to just average in all areas. With Gastelum entering at just 23 years old, this feels like a classic changing of the guard type of situation.

Pick: Kelvin Gastelum by KO

Yair Rodriguez vs. Charles Rosa

Rosa is a wrestler/grappler type who lost his debut to Dennis Siver but came back with a submission win against Sean Soriano earlier this year. While Rosa’s ground game is a strength, his striking and takedown defense appear to be weaknesses, making decision wins unlikely for him. That’s where I think Rodriguez can capitalize. Even though Rodriguez appears to be a somewhat ordinary striker and wrestler, ordinary may be good enough to win this fight on points.

Pick: Yair Rodriguez by decision

Angela Hill vs. Tecia Torres

Hill’s ground game is a serious work in progress but she has really developed striking abilities, and that makes her an interesting underdog here. Tecia Torres is a striker as well and doesn’t go for takedowns very often. This fight will most likely become a striking battle, in which Hill should at least be very competitive against Torres. I have to pick Torres to win, as she’s the more accomplished and well-rounded fighter, but a Hill decision win would not shock me.

Pick: Tecia Torres by decision

PRELIM PICKS

  • Henry Cejudo over Chico Camus, although the odds are a little ridiculous
  • Efrain Escudero over Drew Dober
  • Alejandro Perez over Patrick Williams
  • Johnny Case over Frank Trevino
  • Cathal Pendred over Augusto Montano, and I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s degenerate gambling post
  • Clay Collard over Gabriel Benitez
  • Albert Tumenov over Andrew Todhunter

UFC Fight Night New Orleans: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

2015 PICKS

Last event: 6-6 (50.0%)

Year to date: 123-69 (64.1%)

UFC FIGHT NIGHT NEW ORLEANS – STATISTICAL MODEL ESTIMATES

Favorite % Underdog %
 Tim Boetsch 71.8% Dan Henderson 28.2%
 Ben Rothwell 55.0% Matt Mitrione 45.0%
 Dustin Poirier 70.9% Yancy Medeiros 29.1%
 Thiago Tavares 69.1% Brian Ortega 30.9%
 Anthony Birchak 55.5% Joe Soto 44.5%
 Alex Caceres 52.6% Francisco Rivera 47.4%
 Shawn Jordan 57.3% Derrick Lewis 42.7%
 Brian Ebersole 52.0% Omari Akhmedov 48.0%
 Christos Giagos 50.8% Chris Wade 49.2%
 Joe Proctor 58.3% Justin Edwards 41.7%
 Ricardo Abreu 54.3% Jake Collier 45.7%
 Jose Quinonez 61.2% Leonardo Morales 38.8%

Only four of the favorites have a better than 60 percent chance of winning according to the model. The model likes a whopping six underdogs, and that doesn’t include Shawn Jordan, who is currently listed at even odds against Derrick Lewis. Of course, many of the betting lines are very close and it’s possible that a few of these underdogs won’t be underdogs anymore by the time the fights start.

The underdog picks here are: Ben Rothwell, Anthony Birchak, Alex Caceres, Brian Ebersole, Christos Giagos, and Jose Quinonez.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER – SEASON TWO

Last event: -$39.81

Current bankroll: $261.11

Total investment: $543.28

Total profit: $161.11

Return on investment: 29.7%

Last week’s event was a bad one for my degenerate gambling. Only three of my 11 bets were winners, and those three were among my smallest bets. My largest bets were on Ericka Almeida, Nik Lentz, and Thiago Alves, but all three of those fighters got beaten decisively. The resulting loss of $39.81 broke what was a three-event winning streak.

For this event I have…

Jose Quinonez +150: $8.76 to win $13.14

Ben Rothwell +170: $6.40 to win $10.88

Anthony Birchak +160: $6.14 to win $9.82

Dustin Poirier -175: $4.01 to win $2.29

Christos Giagos +155: $3.77 to win $5.84

Thiago Tavares -165: $3.55 to win $2.15

Tim Boetsch -200: $2.92 to win $1.46

Jake Collier +165: $2.36 to win $3.89

Shawn Jordan -105: $2.28 to win $2.17

Brian Ebersole +120: $2.19 to win $2.63

Justin Edwards +185: $1.82 to win $3.37

Alex Caceres +110: $1.69 to win $1.86

Bets on every single fight! The bets to pay close attention to are the ones on Quinonez, Rothwell, and Birchak. If two of the three win then I’m in very good shape for the event as a whole.

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 New Orleans Predictions

I have to tip my cap to UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby. They’ve put together a fight card with a lot of fights that I have as virtual coin flips. This is reflected in the betting lines, where no fighter is better than a 2-1 favorite at the time of this writing. If you like competitive fights, you’ll like this UFC Fight Night event.

Tim Boetsch vs. Dan Henderson

Dan Henderson is back and once again attempting to defy the natural aging process of the human body. Henderson is now 44 years old, heading into his 44th professional MMA fight and is 1-5 in his last six fights (in fairness, fights against top-tier competition). Henderson has reached an age at which even athletes legendary for their career longevity have struggled to compete at a high level. It’s true that Randy Couture defended his UFC heavyweight championship against Gabriel Gonzaga at the age of 44, but that was probably the last time Couture could have been accurately described as a top-tier fighter.

Describing Henderson that way is becoming more and more difficult, to the point where I don’t think it can be done anymore. Henderson’s statistics – which have to be put into the context of consistently facing elite opposition – have gone from mediocre to just plain bad. Henderson enters with 358 significant strikes landed against 485 absorbed in the UFC. He’s been knocked down six times, and with two recent TKO losses, it can also no longer be said that Henderson recovers well from being hurt by strikes.

Henderson might have a history of excellence in Greco-Roman wrestling, but that aspect of his game is basically obsolete now. Since Henderson returned to the UFC after becoming the champion in Strikeforce, he’s landed a grand total of two takedowns in seven fights. At this point in his career, Henderson is a fighter who desperately swings his right hand at his opponent and hopes for a knockout. With the exception of poor Shogun Rua, Henderson hasn’t been able to finish opponents that way.

As much as I think it would be best for Henderson to hang up the gloves, he’s at least getting an opponent who isn’t in the top ten this time. As far as MMA is concerned, Tim Boetsch is a jack of all trades and master of none. He can strike a little and wrestle a little, but isn’t technically superior in either area. Boetsch’s biggest strength as a fighter is his ability to endure punishment – he hasn’t suffered a knockdown yet despite absorbing 448 significant strikes.

That’s bad news for Henderson, who has been relegated to searching for knockouts for a few years now. If this fight comes down to points, it’s likely to go to Boetsch, who is simply the more effective striker and wrestler than Henderson has proved to be recently. Chances are better that Boetsch – who possesses above-average knockout power – will clip Henderson and finish the fight by knockout himself. One of the saddest things about MMA is that some fighters don’t know when to quit. I hope that Henderson can figure it out before his long-term health is seriously compromised.

Pick: Tim Boetsch by KO

Matt Mitrione vs. Ben Rothwell

Ben Rothwell is basically a less extreme version of Roy Nelson. He’s defensively challenged (3.63 significant strikes absorbed per minute, adjusted for regression) but makes up for it by having a fantastic chin and knockout power. Rothwell also rates as having below-average takedown defense and a history of gassing out if he can’t finish the fight early. (Rothwell’s UFC 135 decision loss to Mark Hunt was particularly embarrassing.) Rothwell doesn’t get hit quite as much as Nelson, nor does he hit quite as hard, but the similarities are there.

Now, when Matt Mitrione fought Nelson, the fight ended in a first-round knockout loss for him. It’s good that it’s still Mitrione’s only KO loss but it also raises questions about how well Mitrione will do against a guy like Rothwell. Mitrione is the better athlete and better technical striker for sure; he’s a clear favorite to win if this fight goes the distance. But with guys like Mitrione and Rothwell, going the distance is highly improbable – they have a combined 43 career wins and only four of those were by decision.

If this fight comes down to who can knock out who first, I think Rothwell is the favorite in that scenario, but it’s very close. I have a little more faith in Rothwell’s chin than Mitrione’s, but in reality, this fight is probably just a coin flip.

Pick: Ben Rothwell by KO

Yancy Medeiros vs. Dustin Poirier

This is a battle of aggressive lightweights who have some sting in their strikes. Medeiros and Poirier are both below-average defensively as well, so this figures to be an intense action fight for as long as it lasts. Poirier has to be considered the favorite, as he lands strikes at a higher rate than Medeiros and enters as the more proven fighter overall. The biggest problem for Medeiros is that I can’t find an area where he can claim a clear advantage over Poirier, so this seems like a straightforward pick.

Pick: Dustin Poirier by TKO

Brian Ortega vs. Thiago Tavares

Gracie Academy fighter Brian Ortega is also known as “T-city” due to his talent and affinity for the triangle choke. He put his submission skills on display in a win over Mike De La Torre and promptly failed a drug test. Now Ortega is back from suspension and taking a massive step up in competition against Thiago Tavares. Ortega is the rising prospect while Tavares is the seasoned veteran, but with Tavares being the far more accomplished fighter and an excellent submission grappler himself, I’m skeptical that Ortega will be well-rounded enough to win this fight using other MMA skills.

Pick: Thiago Tavares by decision

Anthony Birchak vs. Joe Soto

This is a re-booking of a fight that was supposed to take place at UFC 177. Soto instead got called up to fight T.J. Dillashaw on a day’s notice, and was predictably out-classed (while showing great toughness in a respectable effort). For Birchak’s part, his UFC debut turned out to be a heel hook loss to Ian Entwistle, which says almost nothing about Birchak, other than his need to practice defense against heel hooks. This fight is really going to test the limits of how well my model can use statistical information to predict fights. But here goes…

Pick: Anthony Birchak by decision

Alex Caceres vs. Francisco Rivera

Rivera is coming off an eye poke loss to Urijah Faber, while Caceres was last defeated by Japanese slugger Masanori Kanehara. Rivera’s biggest edge will be in knockout power – his is excellent for the bantamweight division while Caceres “can’t bust a grape”. Caceres also can’t wrestle if his life depended on it, but he makes up for it with very good striking volume, movement, and a slippery/aggressive guard game. The model likes Caceres (barely) but I wonder if Rivera’s superior power will make Caceres think twice about engaging as much as he normally likes to.

Pick: Alex Caceres by decision

PRELIM PICKS

  • Shawn Jordan over Derrick Lewis, and I’ll be shocked if it goes the distance
  • Brian Ebersole over Omari Akhmedov in another super close fight
  • Christos Giagos over Chris Wade, as I risk being wrong about Wade for the third time in a row
  • Joe Proctor over Justin Edwards. I’m amazed that Edwards is still in the UFC.
  • Ricardo Abreu over Jake Collier
  • Jose Quinonez over Leonardo Morales

UFC Fight Night Goiania: Degenerate Gambler’s Corner

2015 PICKS

Last event: 9-2 (81.8%)

Year to date: 117-63 (65.0%)

UFC FIGHT NIGHT GOIANIA – STATISTICAL MODEL ESTIMATES

Favorite % Underdog %
 Carlos Condit 50.9% Thiago Alves 49.1%
 Nik Lentz 50.2% Charles Oliveira 49.8%
 K.J. Noons 57.4% Alex Oliveira 42.6%
 Ryan Jimmo 66.5% Francimar Barroso 33.5%
 Norman Parke 67.6% Francisco Trinaldo 32.4%
 Darren Till 58.0% Wendell Oliveira 42.0%
 Rony Jason 56.2% Damon Jackson 43.8%
 Wilson Reis 56.4% Jussier Formiga 43.6%
 Nicolas Dalby 72.0% Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos 28.0%
 Mirsad Bektic 63.0% Lucas Martins 37.0%
 Ericka Almeida 60.5% Juliana Lima 39.5%
 Tom Breese 68.6% Luiz Dutra 31.4%

If you like close, competitive fights, then you should like this fight card… at least, the model thinks so. The top two fights on the card are considered coin flips despite each fight having a -260 favorite (Condit, Charles Oliveira). Underdog picks for this event include Nik Lentz, K.J. Noons, Darren Till (barely an underdog), Wilson Reis, and Ericka Almeida.

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER – SEASON TWO

Last event: +$33.66

Current bankroll: $300.92

Total investment: $487.23

Total profit: $200.92

Return on investment: 41.2%

UFC 187 went extremely well, as underdog bets on Andrei Arlovski and Rafael Natal cashed, while third underdog Zach Makovsky gave John Dodson a very close and competitive fight. The result is a third straight winning event and breaking the $300 barrier for the first time.

For this event I have…

Ericka Almeida +180: $12.50 to win $22.50

Nik Lentz +240: $8.32 to win $19.97

Thiago Alves +240: $7.71 to win $18.50

K.J. Noons +125: $6.06 to win $7.58

Lucas Martins +420: $5.62 to win $23.60

Wilson Reis +120: $5.00 to win $6.00

Darren Till +100: $3.80 to win $3.80

Tom Breese -175: $3.15 to win $1.80

Damon Jackson +155: $1.63 to win $2.53

Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos +320: $1.16 to win $3.71

Francimar Barroso +235: $1.10 to win $2.59

Once again, I’m loading up on underdogs, led by the debuting and unproven Ericka Almeida. The model sees Juliana Lima’s below-average statistics and Almeida’s big youth advantage and gives Almeida the edge. Of course, I remember picking Larissa Pacheco under similar circumstances and that didn’t work very well. Hopefully things will be different this time.

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 Goiania Quick Picks

This Saturday’s UFC Fight Night from Goiania comes one week after a very exciting night of fights from UFC 187. It’s been tough for this show to build any buzz out of the shadow of last week’s event, but there are still some compelling fights and intriguing prospects on the card. As usual, my statistical model has very different opinions on the fights than the betting public, including picking against most of the Brazilian fighters, as has been the recent trend for fight cards in Brazil.

Thiago Alves vs. Carlos Condit

Condit is back after a 14 month absence caused by a torn ACL suffered in his TKO loss to Tyron Woodley at UFC 171 last year. He’ll be fighting Thiago Alves, who last survived a barrage of strikes to rally and score a TKO win against Jordan Mein at UFC 183. Alves and Condit are very similar in that they’re both strikers who rarely land takedowns. Condit has a number of advantages coming in, including superior striking defense to go along with a height and reach advantage. Alves counters with better knockout power, an excellent chin, and the home-cage advantage. This one looks like a coin flip on paper.

Pick: Carlos Condit by decision

Nik Lentz vs. Charles Oliveira

Oliveira was easily getting the better of Lentz in their original 2011 match, when an illegal knee from Oliveira caused a no contest. The fight was re-booked in September of last year, only for Oliveira to withdraw due to illness. Hopefully the third time will be the charm this weekend. Lentz is the superior wrestler and enters with a slight advantage in significant strikes. Oliveira is extremely slick on the ground and has better finishing skills, but also has a history of being finished in very sudden ways. Nothing would surprise me in this one.

Pick: Nik Lentz by decision

K.J. Noons vs. Alex Oliveira

Oliveira had a very impressive performance on short notice against Gilbert Burns in his UFC debut. Oliveira appeared to win the first two rounds with superior striking but Burns caught and submitted Oliveira late with his stifling jiu-jitsu. Oliveira enters this fight with advantages in both strikes and takedowns, but Noons is the far more accomplished fighter. This has the look of a closely contested striking match.

Pick: K.J. Noons by decision

Francimar Barroso vs. Ryan Jimmo

For all the concerns about how boring Jimmo could be before he signed a UFC contract, his fights have been fairly entertaining recently. Even so, Jimmo could find himself fighting for his job after a series of critical statements about how the UFC has done business lately. I think Jimmo will get the job done here against Barroso, as Jimmo is the superior striker and hits a lot harder. Barroso is more active with takedowns but will probably find it difficult to put Jimmo on his back.

Pick: Ryan Jimmo by KO

Norman Parke vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Parke is a low-power fighter who wins decisions with a combination of striking volume and the occasional takedown. Trinaldo is a skilled striker himself, but fights at a slower pace and his takedown defense is a liability. Trinaldo has superior knockout power but also enters at 36 years old, eight years older than Parke, whose chin has held up very well in his UFC career so far. It’s possible that Trinaldo will crack Parke’s chin, but it’s more likely that Parke will win on points as usual.

Pick: Norman Parke by decision

Wendell Oliveira vs. Darren Till

Oliveira’s only UFC appearance was a short one, as he blitzed Santiago Ponzinibbio and got knocked out in 90 seconds for his trouble. Oliveira now comes back against Darren Till, a debuting English fighter filling in on short notice for T.J. Waldburger. Till is a lanky striker with eight wins by TKO on his record. He’s undefeated at 12-0 but hasn’t fought a high level of competition. Even so, the model sees Till’s nine year youth advantage and Oliveira’s poor performance against Ponzinibbio as signs that the Brit deserves to be favored.

Pick: Darren Till by TKO

PRELIM PICKS

  • Rony Jason over Damon Jackson, whose grappling style doesn’t match up well with Jason’s abilities.
  • Wilson Reis over Jussier Formiga, primarily due to a greater volume of takedowns, but it’s a close fight.
  • Nicolas Dalby over Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos
  • Mirsad Bektic over Lucas Martins, with Bektic being a very strong favorite if it goes the distance
  • Ericka Almeida over Juliana Lima
  • Tom Breese over Luiz Dutra

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.

UFC 187 – STATISTICAL MODEL ESTIMATES

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…

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER – SEASON TWO

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!

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