We're headed back to where the mixed martial arts (MMA) magic happened this weekend.
On Saturday (Feb. 25, 2012), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will make its long-awaited return to Japan, lighting up the Saitama Super Arena with a bevy of fantastic match ups. Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will put his title on the line against the seemingly unstoppable Ben Henderson, while Pride FC mainstays Quinton Jackson and Mark Hunt will look to once again delight the crowds that made them icons.
Suffice to say, we've got some awesome fights lined up, and there's plenty of opportunities to delight your wallets as well as your eyes.
Join us after the break for an in-depth look at the odds behind UFC 144: "Edgar vs. Henderson" as we examine the betting lines for the upcoming MMA match ups this weekend in the "Land of the Rising Sun:"
UFC 144 Odds for the Under Card:
Tiequan Zhang (-300) vs. Issei Tamura (+230)
Takeya Mizugaki (-200) vs. Chris Cariaso (+160)
Riki Fukuda (-300) vs. Steve Cantwell (+230)
Takanori Gomi (-225) vs. Eiji Mitsuoka (+175)
Norifumi Yamamoto (-400) vs. Vaughan Lee (+300)
Thoughts: As much as I’d like to boast about how Gomi and "KID" Yamamoto will absolutely annihilate their opposition and are therefore worth a bet despite being considerable favorites, even I’m not that naive. Their inconsistency makes it a dangerous proposition to bet on them, but their indisputable knockout power makes it just as dangerous to bet on their opposition.
Mizugaki is a safer bet, but Cariaso is enough of a scrapper that I’d leave that one alone, too.
That leaves two fights worth betting on. Fukuda was a better bet earlier in the week at -250, but even now, he’s a fine parlay stuffer. I worry slightly about ring rust because of being out of the game for so long, but he’s fighting on his home turf against a man on a four-fight skid who just got dominated by an opponent with a very similar skill set to his own.
He should be able to grind out Cantwell without much trouble.
It seems like every time I tout someone as "the best bargain on the card," they get their asses handed to them. Because I have no sense of pattern recognition, I’m going to do it again: Issei Tamura is the best bargain on the card. He’s not that big, is fighting on short notice, and is coming off a loss, but he has the perfect skill set to beat Zhang anyway. Tamura is an incredibly strong top-control artist with powerful takedowns and solid cardio. In fact, you’ll probably never want to watch him fight again considering how inactive he is from the top, but he’s not going to stick his head anywhere that Zhang could capitalize on. Zhang is a decent grappler, but he’s got poor cardio, is vulnerable to having his guard passed, and doesn’t have much takedown defense. He’s a far cry from the guys who beat Tamura (wrestler Guy Delumeau and striker Taiki Tsuchiya), and he’s a lesser grappler than Gustavo Falciroli, who Tamura stifled with ease.
Go big on Tamura.
UFC 144 Odds for the Main Card:
Anthony Pettis (-250) vs. Joe Lauzon (+195)
Hatsu Hioki (-185) vs. Bart Palaszewski (+150)
Yushin Okami (-450) vs. Tim Boetsch (+300)
Jake Shields (-300) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (+230)
Quinton Jackson (-300) vs. Ryan Bader (+230)
Cheick Kongo (-300) vs. Mark Hunt (+230)
Frankie Edgar (-130) vs. Ben Henderson (EVEN)
Thoughts: Seven fights on the main card? I could get used to this. Let’s look a little closer.
This possible title eliminator ought to be absolutely crazy -- you’ll be hard-pressed to find two lightweights with the kind of intensity and technical skill Pettis and Lauzon bring to the table. While it will undoubtedly be an absolute slobber-knocker, it doesn’t strike me as one that’s wise to put money on. Pettis is understandably the favorite and, considering Lauzon’s tendency to gas in the later rounds, can probably win comfortably once he gets past the first. The issue is that there aren’t many fighters more dangerous in the opening five minutes than "Creepy Joe," and I could definitely see him pulling another crazy upset out of his hat.
That said, there isn’t enough of a profit to be made on Pettis nor enough certainty of a Lauzon upset to warrant putting money on either side. Leave this one alone.
In the words of one of the finest wordsmiths of our age, "y’all musta forgot." Hatsu Hioki, going into the George Roop fight, was the number two featherweight in the world. While the Roop fight was uninspiring, it was his UFC debut, and his first fight in a cage. The fact that he performed poorly against Roop, who can be pretty nasty when he’s on, doesn’t erase the fact that his resume at 145 pounds is second only to Aldo at this point. I picked "Bartimus" to upset Tyson Griffin, but looking at his skills, his best attributes are his toughness and big punching power. Unfortunately for Palaszewski, Marlon Sandro, Mark Hominick and "Lion" Takeshi all have those traits and couldn’t stop Hioki. Hioki’s chin is iron, so a knockout on the part of Palaszewski is unlikely, and I don’t see him winning without that. He doesn’t present the problems Roop did, being shorter than Hioki, and when he inevitably finds himself on his back, he won’t survive.
Not on Hioki’s home turf. Bet big on Hatsu.
I will be absolutely stunned if Okami doesn’t absolutely wipe the floor with Boetsch. His striking is on another level and he can most likely match Boetsch’s much-ballyhooed strength. There’s really not much to be said here -- Okami is a top-five middleweight in the world and Boetsch doesn’t offer anything Mark Munoz or Nate Marquardt didn't. Still, -450 is pretty hefty and Boetsch hits pretty hard ... I’d leave this one be.
If I knew that Akiyama had the gas tank to go three rounds, I’d advise betting on him. Shields remains absolutely hopeless on his feet despite his years of experience, and while Akiyama isn’t the most technical striker, he hits plenty hard. Further, his base has so far proven ironclad, sufficiently so that I expect him to stay on his feet while he’s fresh no matter what Shields attempts. The problem is that Akiyama’s poor gameplanning inevitably leaves him winded rather early, and I have no idea how the weight cut will affect that. I’d be surprised if Jake gets him down in the first round, but things should tilt in the American’s favor in the late going.
I would leave this fight alone, too, because of too many questions.
I’m not sure what’s happened to "Rampage." He hasn’t knocked anyone out in years and looked completely unwilling to close the distance or cut off Jon Jones in their fight. Bader has been kind of disappointing lately, but he still packs huge power in his right hand and a solid wrestling attack. Just like the last fight, there are simply too many questions for my taste, and so I recommend avoiding putting any money down here.
Perhaps this is the hopeless PRIDE fan in me (who really should have opened his mouth before I put the house on Rothwell) speaking, but Hunt strikes me as a bargain. Ever since the Frank Mir debacle, Kongo has been incredibly gun shy on the feet, even in cases where the technical difference was enormous (see: Browne, Travis). He hasn’t committed on a power punch, while completely conscious in recent memory and was slow to bring his takedown game to bear against Meathead despite a marked advantage there. Hunt’s takedown defense in the early going really surprised me against Rothwell, and while I have no clue how a fresh Rothwell compares to Kongo in the takedown department, it strikes me as a good sign for this bout. Don’t put too much on it, but I just can’t shake the thought of Kongo running headfirst into one of Hunt’s monster uppercuts and tasting canvas.
Put a little down on the Super Samoan.
Edgar made me the money against Gray Maynard their third time out and I truly believe he’s going to do it again here. "Bendo" has been on an absolute rampage lately, having honed his clinch work and ground-and-pound into lethal weapons. His problem, which is going to cost him against Edgar, is that he still gets hit a lot. Jim Miller and Clay Guida both dropped Henderson in their bouts, and while Edgar isn’t the hardest puncher, he throws and lands enough that Henderson will probably find himself on his rear at some point, probably more than once. Further, I don’t see Henderson taking down Edgar, who shut down Maynard’s wrestling like it was nothing.
Frankie will retain his title, so make sure you get some profit out of it.
Personal Best Bets for UFC 144:
- Parlay: Hatsu Hioki and Issei Tamura -- Bet $50 to make $204.19
- Single Bet: Mark Hunt -- Bet $25 to make $57.50
- Parlay: Frankie Edgar and Hatsu Hioki -- Bet $75 to make $125.74
- Single Bet: Riki Fukuda -- Bet $105.43 to make $42.17
- Single Bet: Issei Tamura-$100 to make $260
It's a shame we can’t expect any (condoned) soccer kicks or stomped, but heck, I’m excited anyway.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC 144 results this Saturday, 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 then, Maniacs.