UFC 156 Takeaways, Betting Recap

Jose AldoWell… that didn’t go as planned.

UFC 156 ended up being a very entertaining card from top to bottom, but a nightmare for most bettors. Let’s take a look at what went down, and what went wrong for wallets on Saturday night.

The main event victor was who the majority of the public expected. Jose Aldo proved that he is a better, more economical striker than Frankie Edgar, and his effective speed (the stuff that isn’t Edgar fluttering about the cage) is faster. I don’t get the controversy behind the decision or the scorecards. I had it 49-46 Aldo, with Edgar taking the 4th round. In every other round Aldo landed the demonstrably cleaner, harder shots, even if Edgar landed more. Personally, I thought Aldo would be able to hurt Edgar in the early rounds in which he was so dominant, and then his finishing skills would end the fight. Edgar, to his credit, hung tough and managed to avoid being put in serious peril. I held off on betting this fight until Aldo’s line dropped all the way to -165, at which point I couldn’t pass it up any longer. That now makes me 2/2 when it comes to fights that I’ve done in-depth breakdowns on (Johnson/Dodson and this one), so hopefully we’re seeing a developing trend there.

Moving forward, Aldo has already been slated to fight Anthony Pettis in August, as the Lightweight standout thinks he stands a better shot than Edgar at unseating the champion. It’s obviously a fantastic fight, but my early prediction is that we see Aldo’s hand raised again. As for Edgar, it will be interesting to see how he fares in 3-round fights after competing in seven consecutive title bouts. A fighter who has become so synonymous with cardio and battling through the championship rounds will now have to get his work done inside of 15 minutes. When you’re facing the Matt Veaches of the world, that’s not a problem, but when Edgar starts to consistently face top competition, he won’t be afforded the luxury of those extra two rounds to come back.

Aldo/Edgar was exactly what it was supposed to be. A good, competitive fight between two of the best fighters on the planet. Prior to that, things were wacky though. Rashad Evans showed up at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday, and that’s all he did. He didn’t show up to fight, he didn’t show up to exert himself. He was just there. As a result, he ended up losing a unanimous decision to Rogerio Nogueira in a truly horrible fight. Very few people had reason to believe that Nogueira would win this fight, since the blueprint to beat him was already laid out and executed by lesser fighters than Rashad. I’m not sure if Evans was injured, didn’t care, or if there was some other explanation for his performance, but between him and his teammate Alistair Overeem, something is not right in the Blackzilians camp. Neither guy inspired much confidence in any future bouts they may have, but you still have to think Rashad has a better chance of beating top fighters in the division unless he is just completely done with fighting. Part of the reason I’m so frustrated with Evans is because I had him in several different plays, of which none cashed. He was certainly one of the two biggest players in my losing night on the books.

Alistair OvereemOne of the other surprising outcomes on this card was Alistair Overeem falling victim to a 3rd round KO at the hands of Bigfoot Silva. It wasn’t necessarily that Overeem got knocked out that was shocking (aside from a quarter unit bet in a hail mary parlay, I stayed completely clear of him), but how it happened. Overeem controlled the first two rounds in the clinch and from top position and seemed in no danger from Silva. In the third round, Overeem was either tired or just plain stupid, as he continued to fight with his hands down as he had done all bout. The difference was that Silva came out aggressive to start the third, put his hands on Overeem’s chin and started a quick downward spiral culminating in a devastating KO. This fight throws the Heavyweight division into complete disarray, as Overeem was tapped as the next challenger to champion Cain Velasquez prior to this bout. Bigfoot has already been brutally destroyed by Velasquez, so it would be difficult to sell that rematch as an interesting title fight. This leaves two options in my eyes: take Fabricio Werdum out of TUF Brazil 2 and book him with Velasquez, or jump straight to Velasquez/dos Santos 3. I’d prefer the former, while dos Santos and Overeem battle, since fans were all abuzz for that fight before Overeem was deemed ineligible for a license by the NSAC.

Just prior to that, we were treated to somebody getting ‘Fitch’d’. The surprising part is that it was Jon Fitch. Demian Maia exerted about as close to 100% control over another human being as you can get. I had questions about Maia’s cardio more at 170 than his wrestling game (taking down Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Chael Sonnen with ease prove that you have pretty good wrestling), but he more than answered those questions. Maia’s grappling allowed him to fight exactly the fight that he wanted to, and as long as he can control the wrestling at 170 — which is going to get harder at the very top of the division — he will continue to find success. Perhaps Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre will prove too much for him, but both are intriguing, and there are very few people ahead of him in the Welterweight division right now. As for Fitch, he’s in as tough a spot now as when he lost to St-Pierre. The UFC probably realizes he’s not going to get back to a title shot, so they’ll want to use him to build up young stars. The only problem is that Fitch will do what he normally does to most of them, meaning that inevitably he’ll get matched in meaningless fights to keep him busy. It won’t look a whole lot different than his string of fights against Akihiro Gono, Paulo Thiago, Mike Pierce and Ben Saunders follow his defeat at UFC 87.

Looking back, the Fitch bets that I made (Fitch straight up, and by decision) were the only ones I could have avoided had I paid more attention. Fitch had shown deficiencies defending the takedown in recent fights, being put in bad spots against both Erick Silva and BJ Penn, and as mentioned already, Maia has quality wrestling. I had warned others to not pick Frankie Edgar in the main event due to his intagibles or his cardio, and yet I did the exact same with Fitch. I assumed he would have the resiliency to survive whatever Demian could throw at him in the first round, and then his cardio would allow him to take over late. Three fights down the card from the main event, and I ignored my own advice. This was the other link in my night not ending so well.

In a fight that could produce the next Flyweight title challenger, Joseph Benavidez won a clear decision over Ian McCall. Benavidez was clearly the better fighter, but even then, McCall was a single takedown away from winning a decision. When I can make a bet @ more than +300 which relies on a good wrestler getting one more takedown, I think those are pretty good odds. The actual performance from Benavidez was much better than the close scorecards would indicate. He managed to stay off of his back for the most part, and only ended up losing the second round due to an awkward scramble. I don’t particularly like Benavidez’s chances in a rematch with Demetrious Johnson, but it’s hard to see any other Flyweight being worthy of a shot right now.

Undercard Bouts

  • Evan Dunham and Gleison Tibau went about as close to the script as a bout that competitive could. Tibau controlled early with his massivity (not a word, but I don’t care), but faded as he is ought to do. Dunham took over using his rangy striking and won the final two rounds on most scorecards. The best bet on this fight was for it to go the distance, even though the line was high. If Tibau was in slightly better shape or Dunham was slightly more passive — both of which have been known to happen — the fight could have gone the other way in terms of the winner, but there was very little chance it would be finished.
  • Tyron Woodley is now a certified bringer of the violence. I saw the Marquardt fight as an aberration, rather than what would become his MO, but he was even more aggressive against Jay Hieron, putting one of the night’s many brutal finishes together. I had picked and bet Hieron because the biggest flaw in his game has always been his chin, and I didn’t see Woodley testing it with the style we’ve become accustomed to from him. I was wrong. Woodley will be a much more interesting player at 170lbs if he can continue to be a threat with more than his wrestling. Hieron, well he just seems snakebit when it comes to the UFC.
  • Perhaps THE most shocking outcome of the night was Bobby Green tipping over Jacob Volkmann’s electoral apple cart. I don’t know of a single soul who bet on Bobby Green prior to the break between rounds two and three of this fight. Many people took advantage of the live betting odds which were as high as +480 after the second frame. I arrived late to the party and got Green at +385 in order to cover the parlays I was about to lose on account of Volkmann. If you’re in the right state of mind during the fights, live betting can provide some excellent value. As far as the actual fight, all respect due to Green for the comeback, but I’m just flabbergasted by Volkmann gassing after controlling the entire first round.
  • One of my better moments on the night (they all seemed to come very early on), was picking Isaac Vallie-Flagg to upset Yves Edwards, and getting juicy +240 odds on the bet. Vallie-Flagg’s aggressive style was well-suited to give Edwards — who historically has let his opponents dictate the fight — plenty of issues. I don’t think you’d get any arguments that Edwards was the lesser skilled fighter on the night (he was the cleaner striker and had obvious grappling supremacy), but sometimes skill doesn’t work against a superior style.
  • A fight I stayed completely away from was Dustin Kimura and Chico Camus. I’m glad I did. I picked Camus to win by decision, and I would have bet the same and then pulled my hair out due to losing money rather than just watching a fighter lose himself a fight. Chico certainly failed the fight IQ portion of this test. Kimura obviously has a nice grappling game, but he needs to work on both his striking and his ability to get the fight to the ground. If he wasn’t fighting someone who so repeatedly put himself in harm’s way, he likely would have had a blemish to start his UFC career.
  • In the opening bout of the night at least we got things off to a good start. Francisco Rivera put a beating on Edwin Figueroa in the second round after some dicey moments early. Figueroa didn’t look good on the scales and ended up fading, allowing Rivera to take control. Figueroa had not previously been finished, but Rivera’s power at 135 is truly something special. That combination pushed Rivera’s line to finish by KO/TKO @ +155, something I took advantage of.

So even despite some nice plays, I ended up losing money on the night due mostly to a poor performance by Rashad Evans, and a poor decision to back Jon Fitch. I had three separate bets worth about 4 units on Evans, and two bets worth about 5 units on Fitch. Had it not been for Rivera, Vallie-Flagg, some fortuitous circumstances involving Green, and Aldo’s line dropping so low, it could have been a very bad night. However, as I was discussing with one of the guys over at The MMA Analysis leading up to the fights, I prefer a volume style of betting, as it limits the risk on plays like Evans and Fitch. You’ll have fewer nights where you hit all your bets, but over the long run I trust my ability to pick fights right more often than not to lead me to a profit.

A week off from UFC action, but Bellator will still provide some betting opportunities on Thursday. We’ll get back to it next week however, with Bellator, MFC and UFC on Fuel 7, featuring an Interim Bantamweight title fight between Renan Barao and Michael McDonald. As always, you can keep track of all my bets over on my 2013 Betting History page.

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About bradtaschuk

An MMA enthusiast who also fancies himself a writer, I've been following the sport in depth since moving off to University in the fall of 2004 allowed me more free time than I knew what to do with. Quickly, an obsession with watching as much MMA as possible developed, which has continued to this day in the form of writing and editing articles for various MMA sites, and now to my own blog about my views on the sport.
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