Time has not been on my side these last few weeks nor will it be in the near future. In fact, I'm going to have to wait nine days to catch this pay-per-view (PPV) event. Regardless, I managed to whip-up some analysis for the fine bettors here at UFCmania.
This write-up a little lighter than usual -- I've condensed the information and match up analysis. But, it should hopefully give you some insight on the lines heading into this weekend. More important, it should help you cash-in on the great action.
Let's get to it.
There are a few dogs I'm sniffing out for UFC 74. In this case, the double-dog bet is definitely risky; therefore, let's just lay down the lines and you all can play what you like.
Here are the "Smart Bets" for UFC 74:
Main card picks:
(Note: + = Underdog, - = Favorite)
Randy Couture -105 (Bet $100 to win $95.24)
Georges St. Pierre -220 (Bet $100 win $45.45)
Kurt Pellegrino +225 (Bet $100 win $225)
Alberto Crane +300 (Bet $100 win $300)
Kendall Grove -260 (Bet $100 win $38.46)
Preliminary card picks:
Marcus Aurelio -110 (Bet $100 win $90.91)
Renato Sobral -210 (No action)
Thales Leites -290 (No action)
Frank Mir -155 (Bet $100 win $64.52)
As always — if you are going to bet — only play with what you are willing to lose.
The best value on this card is a chalk bet on St. Pierre at -220. The best probability for an underdog win is with a bet on Randy Couture at -105 followed by the bet on Aurelio. The other two chalk bets on Mir and Grove will produce solid returns, too.
The double dog bet is a single bet spilt between Pellegrino and Crane. This bet is a significant risk and is based on Pellegrino and Crane being undervalued. If I had to make straight picks in these fights I would go with the favorites, but there are signals the at least one of these two are due for a loss, so I'm in for a little risk.
Now onto a more detailed breakdown of the fights for those bettors who require a little more reassurance:
Randy Couture (-105) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (-125)
Most sportsbooks have current UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture listed as the underdog against Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga. That's right, the champion is not favored to win. "The Natural" is on the wrong side of 40, which is perhaps the reason oddsmakers favor the much younger Gonzaga in this bout
But here are the key differences: Stamina and style.
Gonzaga has not gone much past the five-minute mark in any of his fights, bringing into question his ability to go 25 minutes if the fight lasts that long. On the flip side, Couture just endured 25 minutes locked inside a cage with a man twice his size ... and he manhandled him.
Although Gonzaga has improved considerably in his stand up, his ability to control fights on the ground is his bread and butter. His best chance to win this fight is to get Couture to the ground and control him there, working out a submission or possibly end the fight with a little ground and pound.
However, when was the last time you saw anyone control Randy Couture on the ground?
Perhaps a case can be made for Josh Barnett or Ricco Rodriguez way back when — both of whom also had significant size advantages (and "The Baby Face Assassin" even tested positive for steroids after the fight). But that seems like eons ago, and Couture just recently held his own in a grappling match with probably the best grappler on the planet, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
Put simply, he is a world class Greco Roman wrestler with a wide array of takedowns, roughs opponents up in the clinch and boasts a great defensive game. He also knows a thing or two about working dudes on the mat, pounding out figthers Pedro Rizzo, Chuck Liddell, Kevin Randleman and Vitor Belfort, among others.
Randy's best chance to win this one is to use a similar plan to the Sylvia fight — stay busy from the outside using a very active/technical standup, change levels and then pounce when Gonzaga provides and opening. From there, Couture can soften him up and score a possible late round technical knockout or take it by decision.
This is a very tough fight for Couture, with some interesting obstacles on the ground (Randy's words). Naturally, anything can happen. But I'll take Couture's conditioning, experience, and excellent game planning to remain champion.
Remember, too, that Couture relishes the underdog role and has won 10 of 11 career fights in that capacity (Liddell II the lone exception).
No doubt about it, if the betting lines stay close to this, Couture to win is a very smart and perhaps profitable bet.
Prediction: Couture via late technical knockout
Georges St. Pierre (-220) vs. Josh Koscheck (+180)
Most fans and sportsbooks predict that St. Pierre will come away with the win. Let's dig a little deeper to try and find the smart bet on this match up.
Koscheck is an insane wrestler -- we all know that by now. He's not just a wrestler, however, not now, anyway. Since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Koscheck steadily improved his standup. Those skills were probably best displayed in his most recent fight with Diego Sanchez.
In fact, watch the replay if you fell asleep during the fight — Koscheck landed some hard, crisp punches during that bout. And although he did not finish that fight, he did show tight jabs and, of course, his favorite overhand rights. He utilized good footwork and movement to score steadily through each round.
But does he have the tools to finish a fighter of George St. Pierre's caliber?
"Rush" is coming off of a devastating (at least mentally) upset loss to Matt Serra via technical knockout at UFC 69. His physical gifts are undeniable; however, his mental toughness is often the topic of much debate. Prior to his most recent loss, St. Pierre ripped through a "Who's Who" of top 170-pound fighters such as Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Karo Parisyan, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg, Jason "Mayhem" Miller, etc.
At just 26-years-old, he's got all the experience and talent to become champion again sometime soon ... at least on paper.
Koscheck has a great jab and a predictable overhand right. On the ground, he's definitely outclassed in terms of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he does have the wrestling skills to defend well and put St. Pierre on his back. From there, his only chance for a finish is to catch him quickly with a big punch or elbow because St. Pierre will work hard to escape.
St. Pierre has faced many world class wrestlers/grapplers and handled their take down attempts well and put every one of them on their back. His dominant performance over Sherk clearly shows that he knows how to beat good wrestlers.
Then again, Kos is on a different level and will more than likely be able to secure more takedowns than most. But, once the fight hits the mat he is going to have a hell of a time keeping it there — St. Pierre rarely finds himself stuck in bad positions.
So let's finally try and sort this out.
St. Pierre finishes most fights — only three of his wins have come by way of decision. Since 2003 (Karo), he's fought top-level competition and finished all of them in convincing fashion (sans BJ Penn). On the other hand, Koscheck does not have the skill set to finish this fight nor is he proven against top competition.
Without a doubt, this has all the makings of an incredible, fast-paced fight. St. Pierre will have to bring his "A" game to handle Kos, but a prepared GSP should win this fight 80 percent of the time.
The current odds (-220) from Bodog.com indicate that there is a smart value bet on St. Pierre. However, as the fight gets closer, we're seeing the line get bigger on this one.
Therefore, pull the trigger as soon possible if you want to put a little action on St. Pierre. It's a solid bet right now. And if you can find it for less than -220, then you got yourself a sweet deal.
Prediction: St. Pierre via technical knockout (strikes)
Joe Stevenson (-285) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (+225)
Poor "Batman" never gets any respect. It's a shame, too, because Pellegrino boasts a technical, aggressive ground game that reminds me of the chess match-type of fighting you see with Jon Fitch.
However, he's in against Stevenson -- a very talented and skilled fighter who brings his own brute brand of ground skills. "Daddy" has a mean ground-n-pound and is on a submission win streak his last two times out. There is a ton of pressure on his shoulders, however, to perform well this time out.
In fact, it's widely believed that with a win he will secure a future title shot -- perhaps as soon as this year if current 155-pound champion Sean Sherk gets suspended for steroids. By the same token, Pellegrino will be fighting with a lot of emotion, dedicating this fight to his mentor, friend and recently suspended UFC fighter, Hermes Franca.
This is the classic battle between strength and technique. And as BJ Penn says, technique is what allows the smaller opponent to find victory. A mushy story doesn't hurt, either.
Prediction: Pellegrino via submission
Roger Huerta (-450) vs. Alberto Gonzales Crane (+300)
This is a tough bet for me to make. I really like Huerta's style and ability to control every fight in which he's appeared.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, the odds and timing indicate he may be due to make a mistake. And that's not something that bodes well against a fantastic Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter who comes in with an unbeaten record (much like Huerta did 2006). Let's not forget to mention, Crane is also a "King of the Cage" Lightweight Champion.
Therefore, even though Crane is unknown to most UFC fans, he is a legit opponent.
If Heurta makes a mistake, Crane is the type of fighter who is technically able to take advantage of it and pull off a very surprising finish. I want to reiterate that I'm only making this bet and the Pelligrino bet because they're so undervalued (22 percent chance for Crane and 28 percent for Pelligrino).
Having said that, in all likelihood only one of these upsets will happen, so I've split a single bet between the two ... Ugh.
Prediction: Crane via submission
Kendall Grove (-260) vs. Patrick Cote (+200)
Let's just get right to it: Grove has the answer for everything Cote can offer inside the Octagon.
Cote is a relatively one dimensional fighter who continues to struggle with anyone that has solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu or clinch games. Throw in the fact that Grove has a very significant reach advantage and I think you can put a bow on this as a solid chalk bet.
Prediction: Grove via submission
Marcus Aurelio (-120) vs. Clay Guida (-110)
Clay "Captain Caveman" has an impressive overall record (21-8) and demonstrates a relentless brawling style that fans love to watch.
Unfortunately, his two toughest tests in the ring resulted in losses. However, Guida's most recent loss was so tight and could be argued either way.
His uber-aggressive style leaves him open to more technical fighters -- especially on the ground. Although he has significant experience on the mat he's not up to par with Marcus Aurelio (14-4).
Aurelio -- who trains with American Top Team -- saw his toughest fights in PRIDE FC, including two showdowns with lightweight champion, Takanori Gomi. The first he finished with a submission and the second he dropped a split decision. Aurelio's biggest knock is that he has been out for about 10 months, but aside from that, he is a very sharp technical ground fighter who has seen a wide array of tough competition ... and beaten most of them.
Prediction: Aurelio via submission
David Heath (+180) vs Renato "Babalu" Sobral (-220)
This fight really does nothing for me. "Babalu" is a character with sensational Brazilian jiu-jitsu abilities, but he's missed the boat after his losses to Chuck Liddell and "Sausage Tits" Lambert.
David Heath, on the other hand, puts me to sleep -- his voice, his fighting, his ... zzzzzzzz.
Prediction: Babalu via decision
Antoni Hardonk (+125) vs. Frank Mir (-155)
This is the perfect match for the former heavyweight champion, Frank Mir, right now. He needs a win against someone who has a legitimate chance of knocking him out, but in the end offers no real challenge once the fight goes into his realm on the ground.
There will likely be one or two close calls for Mir, but if he's in shape he takes this one home. The current odds also make this is a pretty decent chalk bet.
Prediction: Mir via submission
Ryan Jensen (+230) vs Thales Leites (-290)
Leites will fight his fight this Saturday and completely dominate Jensen in this bout. Jensen has well rounded skills, but in all aspects, he is suprpasses by the Brazilian grappler. Jensen will put in a good enough preformance to continue with the UFC, however.
Prediction: Leites via technical knockout
That about does it for this installment of betting tips and advice. UFC 74 is a fantastic card that does offer some intriguing betting options.
Remember to bet smart.
Enjoy the fights and good luck.