Desert Dog back again with picks and smart bets for UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion" this Saturday, March 1, at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
It's a fantastic line up of fights with several juicy betting options from which to choose. Therefore, focus on the fights that you're most interested in and play it smart.
Remember that MMAmania.com is running a BetUS.com-sponsored "Motivator" contest leading up to the pay-per-view (PPV) event. And to be eligible to win the top prizes BetUS.com accounts need to be created BEFORE the contest expires on Friday.
That means NOW is as good a time as ever to create a BetUS.com account right here so you don't miss out on some free betting money, which you can turn into even more free money.
Let's see if we can help you get a bettors edge this weekend right now — there is tons of value in several of the match ups.
Here are the "Smart Bets" for UFC 82:
(Note: + = Underdog; - = Favorite)
Anderson Silva -145 (Bet $100 to win $68.97)
Cheick Kongo -155 (Bet $100 to win $64.57)
Jon Fitch -600 (No action)
Evan Tanner +160 (Bet $100 to win $160)
Chris Leben -130 (Bet $100 to win $76.92)
Andrei Arlovski -400 (Bet $100 to win $25)
Dustin Hazelett +350 (Bet $100 to win $350)
David Bielkheden +350 (Bet $100 to win $350)
Luke Cummo -150 (No action)
Jorge Gurgel -250 (No action)
NOTE: MMAmania.com recommends BetUS.com to place wagers (FREE $75 play with a deposit of $50 or more if you join today -- you actually make money!). However, Bodog.com is also a good place to bet and compare odds.
I've laid out seven fights out of the 10 booked that have solid betting value, meaning there are plenty of options on this card. It's important for everyone to understand that the picks and bets listed here don't represent my actual bets or amounts wagered.
Accordingly, how much you wager on an event is up to you and should be determined with what you're willing to risk.
For what it's worth, when I place bets I typically look for one or two anchor bets – those with the highest probability for success. The wagers on the anchor bets are used to cover my more speculative bets.
Here's a simple example using $10 (yes, you can wager as little as $10 to make things more interesting) as you're base wager and odds from BetUS:
- Bet $80 on Arlovski (-400) to win $20
- Bet $5 on Hazellett (+350) to win $17.50
- Bet $5 on Bielkheden (+350) to win $17.50
I prefer that my anchor bet (Arlovski) has odds a bit closer to -200 but of course the easiest fights to pick will have the heaviest odds. Finding an anchor bet with which you're comfortable is the key to a successful night.
This style of betting improves your chance of building your bank roll over time and gives you a chance to pay for your next trip to Vegas to see the action live.
Wouldn't that be nice.
Let's now onto a more detailed breakdown of the fights for those bettors who require a little more reassurance.
Main card bouts:
Anderson Silva (-145) vs. Dan Henderson (+115)
We've all been rumbling about this one for months and the time is finally near. This is a huge test for both fighters and no matter how much I grind over details of their styles, it all comes out the same:
These two are set to beat the snot out of each other.
Anderson Silva is one of the most impressive fighters I've ever watched. He leaves no question of who won at the end of a fight. "The Spider" never looks to dance around and out score someone -- he is out to destroy.
In fact, most of his wins are almost always jaw dropping highlights.
Silva has Liddell's ability to end any fight with a punch with the added bonus of some sick jiu-jitsu just in case opponents want to get cute on the ground. He has only shown one slight chink in his armor and it's been getting taken down and controlled on the ground.
It was seen briefly against Travis Lutter (before Lutter tapped out) and somewhat against Yushin Okami (before Okami was knocked out by an illegal up kick). The other thing we haven't seen from Silva is his conditioning for a five round fight.
He hasn't gone past the second round since 2004!
If there's anyone who can take advantage of Anderson's slight flaws, however, it's the Greco Roman wrestling wrecking machine, Dan Henderson. Not only does Dan possess the iron chin needed, but he also has the ability to out work Silva in the clinch and put him in his world on the ground.
Henderson's amazing grappling and power will give him a distinct advantage on the ground. He has been submitted by the Nogueira brothers (who Silva got his black belt from), but in all likelihood Dan will be able to avoid the submission attempts and do some serious damage on the ground.
Remember also that Henderson has dangerous power on his feet with the crushing right hand. But he needs a fighter who's willing to trade shots for him to be effective. Silva is far too skilled of a counter striker and versed in using distance to his advantage for Hendo to win with straight up brawling.
I see the first two rounds as survival rounds for Henderson who will be pushing hard but likely feeling the sting of Silva's Muay Thai. It is very possible, however, if the fight makes it past round two that Silva will begin to lose confidence and steam.
Henderson's style lends itself to grinding opponents down and his power could finish anyone on the ground. But, something tells me if it goes to a final round it will be all out mayhem. These two have the inner fire every fighter should aspire toward and if they both see it's down to a single round they aren't leaving it to the judges.
I can only go with my gut on this one. Silva hasn't shown me any reason to bet against him so I won't start now. I think every iron chin can succumb to the likes of Silva and at some point he will be able to put together a combination that even Henderson can't withstand.
Prediction: Silva via technical knockout Click to BET NOW!
Cheick Kongo (-150) vs. Heath Herring (+125)
Cheick Kongo has been training with Juanito Ibarra, which is great for working his overall game, attitude and standup. But I sure hope he has some serious Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling training going on up in the Big Bear mountains.
Kongo's five UFC fights have shown both his strength on his feet, as well as his glaring weakness on the ground. In his last fight with Mirko Cro Cop he looked more comfortable on the ground, but that could just be him feeling Mirko was not a threat there.
Put simply, Kongo only has two ways to beat Herring: outwork or knockout.
Herring is definitely a veteran with 40 fights behind him in nearly 11 years on the mixed martial arts circuit. Recently, he's struggled in the Octagon, facing some very tough match ups. Of course, we all remember his last fight in which he dropped his biggest potential win yet to Minotauro Nogueira.
Herring is able to withstand a great deal of punishment and his power makes him dangerous at any time. His biggest flaws have been fading after the half way point of a fight and not sticking to his game plans.
He has stated he has new management and feels his training and mindset are refocused and he will be the aggressive bastard of old. A solid game plan and an iron will are what Heath is going to need to pull out a win in this match up.
Cheick's stand up is plain and simple superior to Herring's and both fighters know this; therefore, Herring should focus on the weakness we've all seen in Kongo. The game plan for Herring should be to engage on the feet, drive to the clinch, take down and control. Heath's submissions aren't great but if he keeps Kongo's legs in mind, there will be opportunities for a submission.
The question is can Heath get past just engaging in a standup battle? If Herring chooses to stay on his feet the odds of him coming out on the winning side are very poor. I'm betting that his training has focused on taking advantage of Congo's apparent weakness on the ground. Whether or not it is still a weakness and if Herring will test it will not be seen until next Saturday.
The betting line for this fight is fairly tight and only slightly off of the "real" odds. There is slight value in a bet on Herring at +140 or better. Myself I can't quite give Heath the call. I think he's got a real shot, but in the end I'm afraid he'll revert to his standup and get out worked.
Prediction: Congo via decision. Click to BET NOW!
Jon Fitch (-600) vs. Chris Wilson (+400)
Jon Fitch is one of the top five welterweights in the world, is on a 14-fight win streak, and apparently is set to fight his little brother.
Chris Wilson was selected as the replacement for an injured Akhiro Gono. No disrespect to Wilson because he is well trained at Team Quest and is building a solid record; but making your UFC debut against someone with Fitch's record and current standing doesn't make any sense.
I don't bet against Fitch so the odds leave me no reason to discuss this fight in extreme detail.
Wilson's height and reach will make for some interesting challenges for Fitch. Look for Fitch to control this fight on the ground and finish it there before the end of round two. Hopefully, Wilson takes full advantage of this opportunity and gets a chance to come back to the Octagon – he's good, but this is too tough a first test.
Prediction: Fitch via submission Click to BET NOW!
Yushin Okami (-180) vs. Evan Tanner (+160)
A comeback in the fight game is never easy, but stepping in against a fighter like Yushin Okami should get the old juices flowing for one of my favorite nutballs, Evan Tanner.
And I mean that in the best possible way -- Tanner is not the prototypical MMA fighter obsessed with being the best or tracking where he fit's into the mix.
Tanner has been training at Hard Knocks Muay Thai and the Xyience Training Center in Las Vegas, as well as at Absolute MMA in Salt Lake City with Josh Burkman. Physically, he looks to be coming back well. Mentally, he appears to have the drinking demons behind him and is back to focusing on his very simple lifestyle and his joy of the battle.
Okami will be an extreme test of Evan's current conditioning. Both fighters are known for their strength and have proven very difficult to put away. Okami's strengths are actually very similar to Tanner's with Okami being slightly more dangerous on the ground and Evan having the edge on the feet.
I'm not going to over analyze this fight because it is a bit unpredictable given Tanner's long layoff. In short, both guys have the tools to win in several possible ways and in the end it will come down to who can impose their will. My sense is Okami's looking past this fight and Tanner has nothing else on his mind.
The current odds have Okami as a fairly significant favorite over Tanner. The heavy chalk on Okami is due to a mix of current name recognition (yes people forget in just two years), and the fact that this is Tanner's first fight back from oblivion.
In reality with both of these guys in shape it's an even match up. For me this is a dog bet I can't leave alone and besides I love to support guys like Tanner.
Prediction: Tanner via technical knockout. Click to BET NOW!
Chris Leben (-130) vs. Alessio Sakara (+100)
This is a very tight fight to call both men like to stand both have the power to finish a fight in a split second.
Sakara has been through some tough times in the 205-pound division (3-3) throughout his UFC career. His last fight with James Lee was an important reminder of his punching prowess, but my question has always been where is the rest of his game. Other than going three rounds with Elvis Sinosic the rest of his UFC fights have ended early in the first round.
This makes it tough to determine how he'll respond to anything other than a striking exchange.
Leben looks to be really enjoying his training in Hawaii. His last fight with Terry Martin was a testament to his chin and the old Leben "button." I also saw that his game is much more well rounded relative to Sakara's. His kicks, movement and ground work all look to be solid. Leben has been hinting that he wants to take this fight to the ground and work a game plan that's a little different than his full on brawl style. I think it's a smart move and he should be able to find a way to prove he's in a class above the Italian.
Prediction: Leben via submission Click to BET NOW!
Andrei Arlovski (-400) vs. Jake O'Brien (+300)
First off, Arlovski should be on the main card fighting Kongo and O'Brien the "Irish Wet Blanket" should be in a homeless shelter keeping someone warm. Unfortunately, this is Arlovski's last fight on his current UFC contract. Hopefully, a win here will give him some serious bargaining power and UFC President Dana White will remember what a huge draw he can be.
The last time I saw O'Brien fight Herring I was actually booing at my television along with the crowd. It was the most painful three rounds of wet blanket I have ever seen and I hoped the UFC would just drop him off at the corner. Now after watching Jake's latest prefight interviews it appears he's planning on more of the same.
As long as Arlovski isn't tentative, he has O'Brien soundly outclassed in every aspect of this match up. Plain and simple I see ending this fight in the first five minutes with Andrei's hand raised.
The odds are putting Arlovski at about a 78 percent probability of winning, which is actually a bit of an underestimate in my books. And although I don't like betting with odds this large, I like the value.
Prediction: Arlovski via technical knockout. Click to BET NOW!
Josh Koscheck (-500) vs. Dustin Hazelett (+350)
Dustin Hazelett is a smart submission specialist who has had his best success against aggressive wrestlers and strikers. His skill set on the ground plays into Koscheck's ground game. Hazelett is very proficient at avoiding damage on his back and then slapping on the submission. On his feet he's as good as Koshcheck and his slight reach advantage should help him out, too.
Even without the odds, I would actually lean toward Hazelett as my straight pick in this fight. Koscheck is a great athlete and he can use his strength to get out of many bad situations, but in this fight I don't think it will save him. I see Hazelett's superior technique as the deciding factor.
Prediction: Hazelett via submission. Click to BET NOW!
Diego Sanchez (-550) vs. David Bielkheden (+350)
David Bielkheden trains with Brazilian Top Team and that alone tells you he comes ready for a war. "The Scandinavian Lion" holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu, has good takedowns and some very strong ground and pound. Watching David's highlight reels you can see how his aggressive style, strong standup and strength on the ground could hand Diego his third consecutive loss.
Diego's in a corner right now and of course he's going to come out with a vengeance. His loss to Koscheck may have been because of his physical condition, but in his loss to Jon Fitch he was simply beaten by a better fighter for three rounds.
Now out of the Jackson camp, Diego trains at the University of Jiu Jitsu (UNIJJ) under Saulo Ribeiro. I really don't know what his game plan will be for this fight. He's actually out classed on the Jiu-Jitsu side and on the feet I'm not certain how the two stack up. I imagine Sanchez will work with his own strengths and see where the fight goes when it comes time to scramble.
Bielkheden's chances are definitely good enough for a bet, but his losses have been to fighters with slick technical styles. And when Diego is on he can definitely stay a step ahead of his opponent. We'll just have to see if Diego is on or not.
Prediction: Bielkheden via technical knockout Click to BET NOW!
Luke Cummo (-150) vs. Luigi Fioravanti (+120)
This is an interesting match up between the unassuming Cummo and the up-and-down Fioravanti.
Luigi has had some struggles in the UFC getting called up in 2006 to face Leben -- a fight that he dropped but his tenacity landed him a contract down the road. After tearing up former UFC middleweight champ, Dave Menne, people took notice. He was then handed Jon Fitch, who has become the common denominator in many fighters' loss columns.
He dropped his last UFC fight to Forrest Petz in a decision. Luigi continues to train with American Top Team and still favors his powerful striking. Although he hits hard he's going to have to get inside Cummo's slight reach advantage to be successful.
Cummo is drinking his pee and pounding his training partners. Joking aside, Cummo is a very skilled fighter and stepping in against B level fighters like "Smurfy Haynes" and "Crocata" showed he's definitely a step above. Now he's faced with someone who has a very accomplished standup game and I think it's unlikely that Cummo will pull off another technical knockout.
However, I can see him outscoring Luigi on the feet with his speed and reach. If the fight hits the ground, Cummo could actually have his best chance of finishing his fight from his back. I think this will be a back and forth battle fought primarily on the feet and Cummo should be able to out work Luigi.
This one is very tight and although I like Cummo There's other fights I want to put my money on.
Prediction: Cummo via decision Click to BET NOW!
Jorge Gurgel (-250) vs. John Halverson (+190)
John Halverson got to fight in the Octagon for all of 15 seconds in his debut fight against Roger Huerta in early 2007. Since that time he returned to the lower ranks to string together three submission victories against some really poor competition. It doesn't mean he sucks, it just means he hasn't been tested recently.
Unfortunately, his strengths on the submissions side will be easily trumped by the skills of Jorge Gurgel.
Gurgel is coming off of a sound pummeling and is looking to make his own impression this time. Prior to his UFC career, Gurgel submitted everyone he met with one exception. Since fighting in the UFC his fights have all gone to decision four times and lost two of those. His weakness has been dropping his game plan and getting into standing exchanges.
Gurgel has a great opportunity in this fight to finish someone off in impressive fashion and keep his place in the UFC. And of he can make this "his fight" it should be a short night for Halverson.
Prediction: Gurgel via submission Click to BET NOW!
That about does it for this installment of betting tips and advice. Remember to bet smart.
Betting is not for everyone. But if you want to take a stab at it head over to BetUs.com (Sign up today and get a FREE $75 play) or to compare competitive MMA lines visit Bodog.com.
Enjoy the fights and good luck. Feel free to leave predictions and other thoughts in the comments section below.