I don’t usually get too surprised when I look at the betting lines for UFC fights. Even if there’s a line I didn’t necessarily expect, it doesn’t take long for me to figure out why my expectation might have been off. For example, Walt Harris was at one point a -410 favorite against Nikita Krylov. I would have never expected that but because Krylov really is not a UFC-caliber talent, I understand why people would want to bet against him.
With that said, I was genuinely surprised to see Donald Cerrone listed as only a -200 favorite to beat Adriano Martins. Cerrone is a big name in the lightweight division, a fighter who competes frequently against top talent and routinely puts on entertaining fights. His opponent in Martins is just 1-0 in the UFC and 1-0 in Strikeforce, a relative unknown who has never defeated an opponent nearly as good as Cerrone. How is it that Martins is getting so much respect from the betting public?
To answer the question I decided to go back and watch Martins’ debut victory against Daron Cruickshank. Martins definitely looked impressive in the fight. My first impression was that Martins is a big lightweight who likes to move forward. He seemed to pick and choose when to throw strikes, but he was accurate and hit hard. After a period of striking, Martins engaged Cruickshank from top position on the ground, where he calmly passed guard and looked for a series of submission holds before forcing Cruickshank to tap out due to a straight armbar from the kimura grip.
That was certainly a great debut for Martins, but consider that Cruickshank is an average at best UFC lightweight. There’s a large gap between the fighting ability of somebody like Cruickshank and an opponent like Cerrone.
From watching Martins on tape and examining his 25-6 MMA record, I’m comfortable saying that Martins is a quality fighter who should stick in the UFC lightweight division. It’s not often a fighter enters with genuine skill in striking and submissions, but Martins has that. Even though he only has three career wins by submission, Martins showed truly impressive guard passing and submission skills in his win over Cruickshank.
What I don’t think people respect enough is how difficult it is for a fighter to transfer his skills into a fight against a top ten caliber opponent. We saw this happen earlier this month when Sean Soriano took on Tatsuya Kawajiri. Soriano looked hugely impressive on the regional circuit, which caused people to believe he would beat Kawajiri – they believed this strongly enough that Soriano actually became the betting favorite. When the fight actually went down, Kawajiri’s relentless takedown game eventually overwhelmed Soriano as Kawajiri earned a second-round stoppage victory.
I feel a similar dynamic with this fight even though Cerrone remains the betting favorite by a significant margin. Defeating Cruickshank is one thing but defeating Cerrone is quite another. It’s true that Cerrone tends to absorb too many significant strikes (3.64 per minute) and has inconsistent takedown defense but again, Cerrone has been competing at a very high level for a while now.
I think we’re going to find that fighting Donald Cerrone is just a different kind of challenge. For the most part Cerrone makes up for his weaknesses with very good volume and an excellent submission game. If this fight stays standing, I think Cerrone will land strikes with better volume, and if the fight goes to the ground, Cerrone’s aggressive and high-level submission game should make him very difficult for Martins to deal with.
Pick: Donald Cerrone by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I can’t help but think I’m walking into a trap here. Everything I look at suggests Cerrone is a good bet at -200. It doesn’t make sense for the line to be that low… which makes me wonder if Martins is a better talent than I’m giving him credit for. Or perhaps there’s some inside information about Cerrone I’m not aware of? Either way all I can do is go by my numbers, and my numbers say Cerrone -200 is a good bet… so I’ve risked $3.00 to win $1.50.
Mandatory disclaimer: I am not a betting professional and I do not recommend following my picks in any serious way. Whenever you make a bet on any fight, you do so at your own risk.