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Another weekend offers another chance to make a cool buck. Better still, we cashed on every level last week. Let’s take a transatlantic flight for UFC Fight Night 147 and figure out how to make some pounds sterling. Or Euros. Insert your own Brexit jokes.
Jokes aside, UFC Fight Night 146 on March 9 was easily the worst Ultimate Fighting Championship offering of 2019 so far. This Saturday looks to be an appropriate antidote, especially due to the headliner between Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal, which at the worst will be a technical, striking-oriented popcorn fight, and if we get lucky, it maybe one of the better fights we get this year. However, we have a full 13-fight slate here, so we have some extra action to spare. Moreover, all of the Western world watchers get to rock the card in the afternoon and go about their business at night. Regardless of your time zone, there’s no reason we can’t put a little sweat on this card.
Besides, if you’re looking to have some fun and flex on a Saturday, all the better to put a little money in your pocket. Here’s how to stack your chips on UFC Fight Night 147 in London:
Straight Up CashLeon Edwards (-135)
We can’t go with the main event every time, and frankly, while Masvidal may be one of the most stylish strikers that MMA has to offer, it’s a career-long trope that judges are going to rip him off. As such, we should invest our money elsewhere just to be safe, so let us skip to our co-headliner.
Other than Gregor Gillespie, Edwards is probably the most unsung talent on UFC roster. Obviously, he’s at a deficit fighting in either the best or second-best division in the entire sport, where you need to post double-digit wins to even get into the title picture. That notwithstanding, it’s not as though Gunnar Nelson is an untalented fighter. He is a legitimate world-class grappler; the problem is that his martial arts background doesn’t make for a formative MMA game. Yes, he is a fantastic submission stylist, and yes, he has striking ability, but they don’t really coincide. Nelson is an archetype of how certain skill sets don’t really jive with one another, and I think Edwards takes advantage of that.
While he is an accurate striker, Nelson lands a shockingly low 1.93 significant strikes per minute, his efforts predicated on his awkward, herky-jerky karate background. The Icelander has an offbeat karate style that doesn’t pair well with his primary skill as a submission grappler. He also absorbs 3.72 significant strikes in a minute, so Edwards’s smooth, savvy boxing is going to play well here. By all means, if Nelson can get an early takedown and flex his top-position skills, this could make me look like a fool, but Edwards is a buttoned-up, high-level boxer who is going to stay as far away from Nelson as possible and just try to piece him up for 15 minutes in order to slide his way into welterweight title contention. To my mind, this is the definition of styles making fights, and while Nelson might be the superior “martial artist,” it’s not going to play in the cage. I see Nelson flicking low-percentage kicks or rushing obvious takedowns while eating jabs and combos from the Brit. At -135, I think Edwards is a steal.
Straight Up PassDarren Till (-230) or Jorge Masvidal (+190)
We are all excited for this fight, as it’s the main event for a reason. That being said, this fight is a classic case of not being worth a bet. No matter who you have your flag on, just kick your feet up and enjoy the fisticuffs.
In a 25-minute fight, I fully like Till to win. He’s the longer, rangier striker, and Masvidal’s overall downfall throughout his career is his staggering, upsetting level of tactics and fight IQ. I don’t think any of this is going to change and should lead the Scouser to victory, but at the same time, strategy is not the total extent of a fight. Do you really think Till is a more sound boxer than Masvidal? Is he really cleverer in a scramble? This is why Masvidal is both a diehard MMA fan favorite and one of the most frustrating fighters in this sport’s history. When Masvidal can land that brutal body-head banger combo or transition into a scramble, you know it’s lights out, but can we actually get there?
That’s why your money is better kept off this fight. Coming off of his championship loss, Till is probably going to work the distance-based kickboxing game he tried to flex on Stephen Thompson. Masvidal, owing to him approaching every professional fight like he is sizing up a dude in the Miami boatyard, will likely indulge him. “Gamebred” will land the sassier, classier boxing combos, but Till is going to accumulate and rack up strikes to curry favor with the judges.
If you’re reading this thing and you’re not from Liverpool, I imagine that you’re going to hope Masvidal figures out a way to land a six-piece banger combo and gets this over with, but that’s not something you want to bet on. Till knows his place on the UFC roster and is going to play it safe, use his length and exploit Masvidal’s “you didn’t hurt me bro” mentality. Till by decision is the likely outcome, though we all will be waiting for Masvidal to size him up. Either way, save your doubloons and just enjoy the knuckling.
A Prop-ular PredictionDominick Reyes Wins Inside the Distance (-150)
Admittedly, this isn’t a hot, underdog-type line. Still, I think this is definitely worth a bet, and I believe we’re looking at a future UFC title contender.
I’m not going to act like Volkan Oezdemir isn’t a legitimate fighter. However, he lucked into a wishy-washy split decision win over Ovince St. Preux in his UFC debut, then followed up by clobbering Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in a combined 70 seconds. However, when you watch how hapless he was against Daniel Cormier in his title challenge at UFC 220, you see everything come out in the rinse. Oezdemir is a clever counterpuncher, and really, his gift is excelling off of his back foot. He can be moving backwards, circling and only needs to land with a lead hook to drop his opponent. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think Reyes is that guy.
Reyes has two inches of height and reach on Oezdemir. More than that, he is the superior athlete. He was a Division I football player as a defensive back, no less, which is a little unexpected. He isn’t a classically trained striker, but he is super-fast with his feet and puts his punches together in combos, and even though he’s a Joe Stevenson student, he doesn’t present as much as a grappler but can certainly finish an opponent that he drops. More than that, Reyes works his leg kicks expertly and can go upside your dome with both legs, which has garnered him multiple knockout wins. Oezdemir is a little on the chinny side, and I think Reyes tags him in the first two rounds and finishes him on the floor. I don’t think Reyes is a future champion per se, but at bare minimum, he’s closing in on a righteous title shot; and in this particular engagement, I don’t think it takes all 15 minutes.
An Unprop-ular PredictionTom Breese-Ian Heinisch Finishes Inside the Distance (-110)
In terms of a straight fight pick, I can see this going either way. Breese has had issues with injuries and Heinisch is a mean, bully of a fighter. With that said, I can see how people could be tempted by this line; Breese has only had one of his career wins go to the scorecards, but even if he ends up getting his hand raised here, I think Heinisch neutralizes him enough to ride this out for three rounds.
Breese is the more talented fighter. Even moving up to middleweight, he is a physical specimen at 6-foot-3 and a skilled, distance-oriented boxer. Obviously, it’s a concern that Breese has had one fight in nearly three years due to injuries, but he is a smart striker and defends takedowns at a 72 percent clip -- a number that is prejudiced by Keita Nakamura securing three takedowns on him. Heinisch wants to throw hands, muddy things and clinch up on his way to a hopeful takedown. I don’t think he gets that far.
Breese may indulge Heinisch a little bit and let himself get pressed against the fence, but I think he’s schooled enough to dig an underhook and not give up the ghost. The Englishman is the craftier striker and will use his reach advantage against Heinisch, who will repeatedly try to rush in and close the distance without much of a setup. Even if Breese is the smarter grappler and has a chance to polish off the former Marine, I think he plays it safe, works a range-based standup game and puts himself back in the win column.
An Accumulation ContemplationLeon Edwards (-135)
Nathaniel Wood (-260)
Dan Ige (-140)
Total Odds: +313
I already made the case for Edwards, and frankly, if anyone is going to bust this parlay, it’s going to be Nelson. There’s a reason they call it a “gamble,” right? You need to take a chance to make some dollars, and I stand by my analysis that Edwards is going to keep his distance and exploit Nelson in the striking department. If Nelson can beguile Edwards and buy himself an early takedown, this could submarine our three-team parlay, but -135 is still a strong number for a fighter who should be a bigger favorite, so we need to play that.
As for Wood, well, he’s our safety pick. When he was fighting in Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, he was happy to flex his striking, but since landing in the UFC, he has changed his approach and started putting his grappling game on display. He’s not a future bantamweight title contender in my mind, but at the minimum, he’s an offensively gifted, entertaining talent, and in this case, he is being put up against a sub-average roster fighter in Jose Alberto Quinonez, who was a castoff from “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America.” Owing to injury, Quinonez has only fought three times in nearly four years. Wood is a London boy and the biggest favorite on the card. This fight is made for him to win, and considering this is a bit of a shoo-in, -260 isn’t a bad price. He is a solid parlay anchor.
Ige isn’t a world beater, but he’s really upped his game since moving his training camps out to Las Vegas and hooking up with Xtreme Couture. He’s not a classically dynamite wrestler, but what he lacks in an explosive double-leg takedown, he makes up for with his chain wrestling. Ige’s game is to box his way into distance, stifle you against the fence and figure out how to get you to the mat. Danny Henry is slick. He can surprise you on the feet and is a smart grappler, to boot. With that said, I think his 2-0 UFC record is predicated on the fact that he caught both Daniel Teymur and Hakeem Dawodu by surprise. However, he hasn’t had to work much of a wrestling game in the Octagon. I like Ige here with his combination of dirty boxing and transitions into his grappling. On top of that, -140 is a great line for the fighter that is the better wrestler and top-game artist. Let’s just cross our fingers and knock on wood.