UFC on Fox 6 Takeaways, Betting Recap
Apart from some glaring mistakes in its production, the first big card of 2013 really did feel like an important event. More importantly than the feel of the event going in, the fights were interesting, relevant, and ended up being entertaining. Multiple young fighters saw their exposure shoot up based on their performances Saturday night in the United Centre.
On their biggest stage yet, the Flyweights delivered a complete MMA fight contested at a very high level. For the fans who always like to gripe about the 125ers having no power, there was John Dodson getting into his striking rhythm over the first ten minutes of the bout. In those early rounds, Dodson dropped defending champion Demetrious Johnson three times with some of his big hooks. For those who prize resilience, ‘Mighty Mouse’ immediately bounced back from being hurt each time, and even started to shift the momentum in his favour towards the end of the second stanza that saw him hurt so badly. Finally, for those who like to see a fighter break his opponent down over the course of a fight, there was Johnson using the old adage of “pushing the pace”. On its own, “pushing the pace” still means nothing, but coupled with the champion’s incredible technical and tactical skill, he was close to finishing Dodson (who has never been finished while fighting much of his career at 135 and 145) in the fifth round.
I won’t lie. I expected the win to be a bit more lopsided in Johnson’s favour, but I underestimated Dodson’s ability to not only match his speed, but create his own angles and read those the champion was using to get into the pocket. We always knew that Dodson had power, and we knew he could land against slower fighters whom he controlled the pace of the fight against. He surprised me in his ability to still land those shots against someone who was his equal (or perhaps even his superior) in speed. However, as much danger as Johnson was in during periods of the second round, I had confidence that my bet on Johnson via Decision @ -140 – my biggest play of the night – would still cash as soon as Dodson didn’t follow up immediately. Even towards the latter portion of that round, the fighters settled into the pace of Johnson pushing Dodson back at such a pace that he wasn’t able to land those big shots any more. Finally, when Dodson was taken down in the third round and didn’t immediately spring back to his feet as he normally does, there were signs that he was beginning to slow. I won’t say he fatigued because he was still moving at an incredible rate, but he looked far less dangerous from the third round on, and his output obviously dwindled in the fifth round.
The co-main event was that in name only, as Glover Teixiera’s decision win over Quinton Jackson was actually the least relevant bout on the main card. Despite being a clear 30-27, the fight was actually more competitive than I had anticipated. That was mostly because Teixiera fought as much to what strengths Rampage has left as possible. For the first few minutes of each round, Jackson was just barely missing Glover’s chin with hooks and uppercuts. As the round wore on, without fail, he would tire and lose ground due to the more well-rounded game of Teixiera. At one point in the third round, Rampage was so tired that when Glover merely bent over at the waist and grabbed one of his legs he toppled over like a poorly aligned game of Jenga. When a performance that includes something like that is better than people had expected from a former champion, you know that fighter has fallen mightily. Glover’s line was always way too high for me to bet (except his line to win by decision, which given Jackson’s recent performances wasn’t a lock), but late steam on Rampage took it to -235, which I couldn’t pass up, and ended up winning a unit on.
The most surprising result of the night to me was Anthony Pettis coming back after nearly a year off, and absolutely steamrolling Donald Cerrone. Most people had this pegged as the ‘Fight of the Night’, and for good reason. Both guys are aggressive, durable strikers who don’t have a ton of wrestling skill, but are dynamic in their submission games. On paper it looked like an incredibly competitive fight, but once they got inside of the Octagon things were different. Pettis kept Cerrone off balance early by at times moving around and keeping distance, and then pushing Cerrone back as Nate Diaz had done. At one point when Cerrone was backed up against the fence, Pettis even landed a “Showtime Knee” which wasn’t as devastating or spectacular as the kick of the same name, but still awe-inspiring. Eventually, Pettis’ primary weapon became clear, as he zeroed in on Cerrone’s body with a series of liver kicks that caused him to double over in pain, allowing the Roufusport product to swarm with punches for the finish.
The only “upset” of the main card came with Ricardo Lamas continued to stake his claim as the most underrated fighter at 145lbs. This was another close fight in which the general public leaned towards Erik Koch, but that sentiment was tempered by his extended layoff, and the fact that Lamas was the best fighter he’s faced up to this point in his career. Early on, it seemed that Koch had picked up right where he left off against Jonathan Brookins, as he was able to stuff the takedowns of Lamas and land the better shots on his feet. The second round looked to be more of the same, with Koch snapping Lamas’ head back with some stiff shots early in the round. A slip by Lamas provided the impetus for Koch to rush in to take advantage, but ended up with him being put on his back. From there, Lamas looked every part his nickname, as he just stood over Koch and rained down heavy punches and elbows. Koch’s face went from showing no damage, to a Joe Stevenson blood-spurting mess in mere seconds and then finish came right after. I expected Koch to be the better striker and avoid the ground game, and he looked capable of doing so but made a single mistake that ended up costing him the fight. Luckily, a huge run of Koch bettors took Lamas’ line all the way up to +205 prior to the fight, and I placed a small wager at that price to cover any losses on Koch.
There wasn’t a big drop in the quality of fights on the preliminary portion of the card either. The two headlining bouts on FX saw TJ Grant absolutely massacring Matt Wiman en route to a first round KO, and Hatsu Hioki outworking the wasted ball of energy that is Clay Guida, only to be predictably denied the decision by the judges.
I had pegged Grant to win against Wiman, and like the Pettis/Cerrone bout I expected it to be competitive. My wagers on that fight were Grant to win straight up, Grant to win by decision, and the fight to go to decision. Obviously I ended up losing the latter two bets. TJ Grant has seen some of the most improvement of any fighter since his UFC debut. He used to be an adequate striker with a solid grappling game, and he has transformed into a rather devastating striker with some nice traditional Muay Thai (as evidenced by the elbows he repeatedly cracked Wiman with from the Plum). Even the smallest details of Grant’s striking were impressive in that performance. One of the things he did from close quarters was to clear his opponent’s forearms, which created a slight bit of forward momentum on Wiman’s head to increase the impact of the elbows. Truly beautiful violent stuff from the rapidly rising Grant, and the type fight that I don’t mind losing a bit of money on at all.
On the other hand, the Hioki/Guida fight is the type that I stayed away from completely. The reason? It is exactly the kind of fight that you can do everything correctly from a handicapping perspective, see the fight play out in the manner which you forecasted, but still get the bet wrong. There are not a lot of people who think Clay Guida (who I have taken to calling ‘Clay n Pray’) won that fight. Unfortunately, two of the three people who matter inexplicably scored the fight for Clay n Pray and his unique style of energetically doing nothing, one of them even having the audacity to score the bout 30-27 in his favour. I saw unanimous scores of 10-9 Hioki in the first round. He landed the better (re: only) strikes, picking Guida off as he bounced around like an idiot, and when Guida took him down he threatened with submissions from the moment his back touched the canvas. The second round was much of the same, only this time Guida had his only highlight of the fight, a slam which preceded more of him defending Hioki’s submissions and accomplishing nothing. At the end of the second, Hioki staggered Guida with a solid left head kick, presumably sealing that round (as we later found out, had the fight been stopped after two rounds it would have been a split draw, which makes me shake my head). The third round is really the only debatable one, as despite winning the striking Hioki spent more time on his back and was less active than the previous two rounds. You might be able to give that one to Guida, but with zero effective offense, the furthest I could go was a 10-10. Still, the judges found a way to award the fight to Guida, crushing those who had correctly bet on Hioki as a +200 underdog. I’m glad that due to Hioki being one of my favourite fighters, I stayed away from this bout completely to avoid any sort of bias in my bet, because I would have been livid had I lost money on that fight.
And here’s a run-down on the rest of the fights:
- Pascal Krauss showed off some much improved striking in scoring a unanimous decision victory over Mike Stumpf. Krauss’ problem has been, still is, and seems like it will always be his wrestling. This fight was an easy one to pick and Krauss was good parlay fodder, but I’ll keep an eye out for some favourable lines betting against him in the future against wrestlers. As soon as he steps up to face the winner of a bout like Tyron Woodley/Jay Hieron, he’s going to end up on his back for longer periods of time than he did in this bout and likely lose a decision.
- Ryan Bader did what a big favourite is supposed to do, and simply walked through Vladimir Matyushenko. Bader landed the same big left hook that he caught Keith Jardine with a few years ago, and then followed up with a sort of, kind of, modified guillotine/inverted arm-triangle… thing. Like Krauss, easy parlay fodder as a straight bet. Bader’s next step is a mystery though, as he’s now been dominated by the only two elite Light Heavyweights he’s fought (Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida), but is still better than the majority of the division.
- Shawn Jordan’s cardio was a pleasant surprise in his comeback victory over Mike Russow. True to Heavyweight form however, Russow’s cardio looked as bad as his physique (which was tucked away nicely in some trunks that looked like they were made from that material maternity jeans come in). Russow looked like he was shot out of an extremely low-powered cannon to start the first round, wading in and tagging Jordan with all kinds of punches. After those first couple of flurries however, Russow was spent, and Jordan did as he pleased in the second round. I talked about staying away from betting Heavyweights in my UFC on FX 7 recap, and this is exactly why. Russow is the more skilled fighter, but you just can’t trust these guys to show up in shape, fight smart, and be consistent.
- Rafael Natal got a very favourable match-up here, and although it took him a few minutes to get going, he took advantage. Perhaps in an effort to not gas as he normally does, Natal was measured in the first round, with Sean Spencer winning the majority of the frame, aside from the last minute when Natal took him down and gained mount. The second and third followed a similar pattern to that last minute, with Natal eventually gaining dominant top position, and doing damage prior to tapping Spencer with an arm triangle halfway through the third. If Natal can get his cardio in order on a consistent basis, he could be a good fighter in the Middleweight division, but I still think he fades against the better 185ers out there.
- In the lone Facebook fight, David Mitchell and Simeon Thoresen were sucked into a black hole due to horrible time management between the UFC and Fox. With about 30 seconds left in the third round of their fight (one that I picked and bet to go to decision), the stream cut out, and we got a montage of random visuals before the production team recovered to actually start the FX broadcast. I really didn’t see a way that either guy would win this fight, and aside from an awkward shot landing on Thoresen’s ear in the second, neither guy was particularly close to finishing. I’ve made a habit of fading these European fighters who have built up big records fighting lesser skilled opposition both outside and inside the UFC (Thoresen’s one UFC win coming against Swede Besam Yousef). They are in a similar position as fighters coming from Japan these days. The level of competition in the Western Hemisphere is just far better, and fighters who look good in Europe don’t necessarily look good until they adapt. Unfortunately for me, the ‘Goes the Distance’ bet was the only one I made on this fight, as I respected my fellow bettors and their support of Thoresen a bit too much and stayed away from Mitchell near +200.
Good night on the books, buoyed primarily by my Demetrious Johnson decision play netting me 2.5 units. The rest of my bets added an additional 1.31 units to the night’s tally, but this just shows the value in zeroing in on the lines you’re most confident in and playing them big.
I added a couple of late plays on Glover Teixiera and Ricardo Lamas based on line movement throughout the day. Teixiera’s odds were longer than -300 in most of the build up to the fight, but dropped to -235 just prior. With how much I favoured him against Rampage, I had to play those odds. Likewise, Lamas’ line had sat around +130 leading up to the fight, but shot up to +205 right before the fight. Just as I felt compelled to make the play on Teixiera, the long odds on Lamas were too much to ignore.
The other bets I had placed prior to the event which cashed were Mitchell/Thoresen GTD (even though I picked Mitchell to win, I ended up making this bet rather than betting Mitchell outright @ +200 due to nearly all of the betting opinions I value siding with Thoresen), a bet a thought was nearly certain to cash despite being at +105. Another very confident play was a parlay between Ryan Bader and Pascal Krauss at -163.
Interestingly, that Bader/Krauss parlay was my only parlay which actually hit. Each of the four bets that I didn’t win on the night were parlays. Perhaps a lesson to step back a little bit on my bets and not include so many moving parts in my bets. If I’m going to make a parlay, keep it simple, don’t start adding props in on top of already needing multiple fighters to win. The more variables you’ve got, the tougher your bets are going to be to hit. On the year, I’m 3-9 on parlay bets and 9-9 on single outcome bets. If I took all of my parlay bets out of the equation, I would have another 1.75 units in my bankroll on the year.
Moving forward, more discretion in parlay bets will definitely benefit my overall bottom line.