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UFC 138: Odds and betting guide for 'Leben vs Munoz in Birmingham

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Anarchy in the U.K.? Maybe not, but UFC 138, which will take place at the LG Arena in Birmingham, England, on Nov. 5, 2011, is still a fine card for wagering.

Ultimate Fighting Championship is packing its bags and heading overseas this Saturday night for its first British event of the 2011 fight season, trusting the always-exciting Chris Leben and Mark Munoz to usher in a new era of five-round, non-title fights.

Also making an appearance are hometown favorites Terry Etim and Brad Pickett, as well as brutal beatdown artists Thiago Alves and Papy Abedi.

And where there’s absurd quantities of violence, there’s money to be made. Let’s examine the odds and lines for this weekend’s myriad match ups:

Undercard

Justin Edwards (-125) vs. John Maguire (-105)
Michihiro Omigawa (-340) vs. Jason Young (+260)
Philip De Fries (-150) vs. Rob Broughton (+120)
Che Mills (-225) vs. Chris Cope (+175)
Chris Cariaso (-180) vs. Vaughan Lee (+150)

Thoughts: A few too many debutants for my taste, but there’s still some value here. If you want to bank on hometown judging, Jason Young might not be a bad idea. This is probably just the JMMA fanboy in me speaking, but I personally don’t think Young offers anything Omigawa hasn’t faced and overcome before. Still, +260 is awful tempting, and Michi’s boxing hasn’t looked as sharp as usual in the UFC.

A pick in which I have more confidence, and one that I’m actually willing to put my own money on, is Cariaso over Vaughan. Considering Cariaso’s recent competition compared to Lee’s, as well as the fact that he should have walked away with a win the last time out, I think the -180 line is a good bargain. None of Lee’s past three opponents have had winning records. And while he’s shown some fancy kicks, there’s a big difference between lighting up scrubs and facing down a seasoned striker like Cariaso. Lee actually got high mount against one of them and just let him up -- that’s how bad the guy was. I’m banking on the massive jump in competition being too much for several of these guys, and this fight’s no exception. Cariaso is a good addition to any parlay.

Main Card

Cyrille Diabate (-400) vs. Anthony Perosh (+300)
Terry Etim (-600) vs. Edward Faaloloto (+400)
Renan Barão (-135) vs. Brad Pickett (+105)
Thiago Alves (-300) vs. Papy Abedi (+230)
Mark Munoz (-260) vs. Chris Leben (+200)

Thoughts: Interesting line up. Let’s break it down and see if there isn’t some profit hidden in there.

I’m an outspoken advocate of pure strikers and generally lean toward the guys without incredibly laughable nicknames, but Perosh’s odds caught my eye. Yes, the guy’s career highlights comprise getting split open by Cro Cop and flattened by James Te-Huna. And, yes, he’s actually older than Diabate. However, while Diabate looked beastly against Steve Cantwell, he looked pretty darn fragile against Luis Cane and Alexander Gustafsson. Plus, he’s been submitted three times, and for all of Perosh’s faults, he’s a darn good grappler. I do think Diabate will win this one, but at +300, Perosh is worth a few bucks on the side just in case.

I’m going to be blunt: There is no value in the second fight. Faaloloto has spent the entirety of his ZUFFA career getting beaten into the ground. He’s only had four total fights, and he’s lost the last two. He’s being fed to Etim, and even with so much time between Octagon appearances, Terry should obliterate him.

I’m loving Barão vs. Pickett because it should be a fantastic scrap. And the fact that Pickett is the underdog only makes it better. To put it bluntly, Pickett is the best British fighter in the UFC. While his nickname may be a bit misleading, his boxing is incredibly slick, and his outwrestling of Demetrious Johnson should lay to rest any concerns that he’s one-dimensional. Plus, he looks like Wikus Van de Merwe. How could you possible pick against that?

Barão’s streak, incredible though it may be, is built mostly on subpar competition, and while his wins over Cariaso and Leone were impressive, the trouble he had with an aging Escovedo raises questions about his ability to handle the upper echelon of the bantamweight division. Pickett, on the other hand, has proven his mettle on multiple occasions, and even with his long layoff, I think he’ll do so once again in Birmingham. Put down some dough on the Brit.

Abedi is a hell of a prospect and Alves has lost three of four, but this fight raises some serious red flags. Let me make a list:

  1. He’s fighting Thiago Alves
  2. He’s making his UFC debut
  3. He’s making his welterweight debut
  4. He hasn’t fought in a year
  5. He’s fighting Thiago F**cking Alves

Rick Story fight notwithstanding, I firmly believe Alves is still a beastly fighter. His striking is far above Abedi’s, his takedown defense is more than adequate, and if I’m not mistaken (Editor’s Note: He is), trying to implement a clinch-based gameplan against Alves is legally classified as suicide in South America unless your jaw is made out of the rare material known as markhuntonium. Alves’ timing with his knees is brilliant, and I fully expect Abedi to discover this in dramatic fashion sometime in the second round. Stick Alves in a parlay -- he’s not quite worth a straight bet.

Were this a three-round fight, I’d be calling for a Munoz victory, but 25 minutes is a long time to avoid one left hand. Mark’s wrestling is solid, but it’s not at the level it should be given his credentials. And the man is incredibly hittable -- Demian Maia and Yushin Okami have both rattled him badly, and neither hits with the insane concussive force of Leben. Further, Leben is a squirmy bastard off his back, and demonstrated some vastly improved defensive wrestling in the Aaron Simpson fight.

Yes, the Brian Stann fight was worrying, but I buy the explanation that Leben was sick. He was moving horribly, even by his standards. If Munoz gets room to operate on the ground, he can end anyone’s night, but I just don’t think Leben is going to give him that. Munoz might have some success getting him down early, but he’s not avoiding that left hand for very long. Put down a straight bet on Leben if you’re feeling lucky.

My current bets

  • Single bet: Chris Cariaso -- $36 to make $20
  • Parlay: Thiago Alves and Anthony Perosh -- $10 to make $43.33
  • Single bet: Chris Leben -- $25 to make $50
  • Single bet: Brad Pickett -- $28.57 to make $30

It ain’t the most stacked card in the world, but there are some seriously good fights in store this weekend. And hey, free is free.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC 138 results this weekend, which is as good a place as any to talk about all the action inside the Octagon, as well as what you've got riding on the sportsbook.

See you Saturday!

Photo by Josh Hedges via Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

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