Much to the delight of the portion of my neurochemistry that has become slave to highs and lows delivered by the cocktail of professional fighting and professional gambling, the internet gaming gods have bestowed upon us a slew of new betting odds for select fights of upcoming UFC events. The complete fight cards do not yet appear to be available for wagering, but the lines for the significant bouts of the next SIX UFC events have been posted and given the current state of interest rates you might as well invest your money in some good bets, even if you have to lock them in a few months in advance. Remember, these lines are subject to change at any point before the bout, so I suggest you act sooner rather than later, before the sportsbooks catch wind of this article and come to their senses (to clarify, the previous statement was a joke, if you are reading this you are a member of what is probably a very select fraternity of about a dozen people). And now, before I drain the excitement from this read- the bets!:
1) Paul Buentello (+375) vs. Cheick Congo (-550):
While these odds present a great opportunity in my opinion they don't necessarily surprise me. Paul Buentello has always been underrated in my opinion; his boxing, elusive head movement and surprising agility never quite getting the respect they deserve. Kongo has long been considered the best pure striker in the UFC's heavyweight roster (unfortunately his ground skills are reminiscent of a plane crash). So, in a battle of strikers the majority of opinion is going to side heavily with Kongo, as seems to be the case at the sportsbook. But let's take a closer look.
Kongo began began his ascent in the UFC in the post-Tim Silvia/Andrei Arlovski era, a time that saw the heavyweight division without a strong stable of striking talent. So, by comparison, his strikes seemed especially fearsome. In fact, the only notable MMA striker that Kongo has faced in his UFC career is Mirko Crocop and this battle came well past the prime of Crocop's career. It should also be noted that Kongo suffered a KO defeat to Gilbert Yvel (before coming to the UFC) and was most recently decked and dropped to the canvas by submission specialist Frank Mir. I know what you are going to say, Frank Mir's boxing has looked excellent lately, however, that opinion is probably based primarily on his dazzling KO of Nogueria- a performance I was less impressed by after, in the following weeks and months, it became clear that Big Nog had entered that fight with a serious leg injury, hampering his mobility.
I am not saying Kongo's striking is overrated...but I do think that it's rusty. Since fighting in the UFC Kongo has gotten used to having a significant advantage in the striking department and as a result I believe that part of his game has stagnated. This will also be the first time he has faced a striker like Buentello, who has a more traditional boxing style, big power in his hands, the ability to move in and out of range and the size to bully Kongo in the clinch or on the ground. Buentello is coming off a decision loss to Stephan Struve, an extremely close fight that could have gone either way, during which Buentello did a good job of closing the distance against a man far taller and lankier than Kongo. "The Headhunter" has a real shot here, definitely better than 3.75 to 1.
THE BET: PAUL BUENTELLO (+375), VIA 2ND ROUND TKO
2) Jon Jones (-285) vs. Brandon Vera (+225):
Allow me to cut through my normally long-winded ruminations and simply make this statement: Jon Jones is the future of the Light-heavyweight division. Jones, barely having emerging from puberty, is already one of the most complete fighters in the division. His striking, though a craft he is still relatively new to, is dangerous and versatile, his Greco-Roman wrestling is OFF THE CHARTS (see his complete manhandling of wrestling juggernaut Matt Hamill) and he appears to have maturity beyond his years- a trait he displayed in his graceful and humble acceptance of his DQ loss to Hamill. All this and he appears to be learning fast, a fact no doubt aided by his collaboration with Greg Jackson.
Ironically, many of the things I just said about Jones could be said of Vera, who is also a dangerous, lanky, versatile striker with very solid wrestling skills. However, I am convinced that there is nothing that the two do that Jones cannot do just a little bit better. I see Jones standing up with the more experienced striker (Vera) and fairing decently until deciding to seal the deal by taking the fight to the mat, via an expert Greco-Roman throw, and grounding and pounding Vera.
Despite his relative inexperience, Jones has the skill and the competitive focus to beat pretty much anyone at 205, except for the very cream of the crop (Machida, Rua and a few others). Even as a heavy favorite he is the smart bet here.
THE BET: JONES (-285), VIA TKO IN ROUND 2
3) Matt Brown (+105) vs. Ricardo Almeida (-135):
Moving on to the March 27th event, we have Matt Brown playing the role of Ricardo Almeida's first opponent at 170 lbs. Brown has looked really solid since his stint on TUF, displaying his impressive toughness and a very well-rounded skill set. Almeida, while a dominating wrestling and jiu-jitsu force at 185 lbs., will be having his first fight in a new weight class after what will be a nearly 8 month layoff. Brown has demonstrated serious improvement in his tenure in the UFC, having taken a quantum leap since appearing on Spike's attempt to create an even more violent version of VH1 programming. Come fight night we will be seeing the best Matt Brown ever. For Almeida, there are just too many question marks.
THE BET: MATT BROWN (+105), VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION