We’re just about a week and a half away from UFC 173: Barao vs Dillashaw and we’re here with our full predictions and bets for the somewhat weak (might as well be honest) UFC Pay-per-view offering which goes down Saturday, May 24 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In terms of betting, the card looks to be pretty similar to UFC 172: Jones vs Teixeira, where we decided laying money on the favourites in the form of parlays would lead to a more profitable event than trying to pick underdogs. For The Fight Predictor, we will be looking to make it 6 straight profitable events for the first time in our history (around a year and a half now). You can check out our full betting track record to see all the details, but in summary, for every hundred dollars you bet following our predictions, you will profit $29. By the way, we’re about a month away from probably the most anticipated MMA video game of all time, EA Sports UFC. Stop by Amazon to preorder your copy!
In the main event, Renan Barao will be defending the UFC Bantamweight title against TJ Dillashaw. Like pretty much everyone else, we give Dillashaw little chance to defeat Barao and take the belt. Our model agrees and has Barao winning the vast majority of the time. Barao hasn’t lost since his first career fight back in April, 2005 and it will take a special fighter to end that run. It’s kind of surprising Dillashaw is even getting the title shot at 173 as he is only 1-1 in his last 2 fights. Originally, UFC 173 was supposed to feature Chris Weidman vs Vitor Belfort, but Belfort’s TRT exemption was denied (and TRT banned altogether) so Lyoto Machida stepped in as a replacement. Shortly after, Weidman had to have minor knee surgery so his bout with Machida was moved to UFC 175, thus vacating the main event spot at UFC 173. To fill the spot, UFC officials scrambled and put together Barao vs Raphael Assuncao (a more worthy contender on a 6 fight win streak). Unfortunately, the injury bug bit again and Assuncao was knocked out of the fight with a rib injury. This left UFC officials scrambling again (we’d imagine) and with noone else willing to step up, TJ Dillashaw got the title shot. To be fair, Dillashaw is the #4 ranked UFC bantamweight so it definitely could be far worse. One interesting thing about this fight is the majority of the Fighmetric Stats favour Dillashaw. Obviously, we are not ones to blindly look at stats. They have to be taken in context. Dillashaw has 100% takedown defense, but has yet to face a really solid wrestler. We can go even further than that, his entire stat line is misleading because he only has 2 of his 7 statistically recorded fights against guys who are in the UFC top 15 (and both were losses). We are very confident Barao will remain UFC bantamweight champion Saturday night, but with the line getting very steep, we will hold off on placing a bet. It’s unlikely we will even add him to a parlay at the current line of 1.11 (-900).
In the co-main event, light heavyweights Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier will collide. Henderson opened as the 4.05 (+305) underdog, but it seems like everyone in the betting public is putting their money on Cormier as Henderson has climbed to 8.25 (+725) at BetOnline. Hendo is a legend of the sport and had one of the most impressive come back wins of all time in his last fight against Shogun Rua. For 2 rounds, Rua pounded on Henderson, but Henderson somehow survived and landed the H-Bomb near the beginning of the third round, taking a TKO victory. Even though he’s now 43 years old, Henderson has shown over the last couple years that he has the ability to compete with the best. Before suffering a first round TKO loss to Vitor Belfort in November, 2013, Hendo had lost 2 very close split decisions in a row to top contenders Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. We like toying with the idea that Hendo can pull off one more victory in order to earn a title shot, but our goal is obviously to make profit through betting. That said, the most likely outcome in this fight by far is Cormier pressing Hendo up against the cage for 3 straight rounds, landing enough dirty boxing to keep the refs from splitting them up and taking a unanimous decision victory. At 1.10 though, the value in betting Cormier just isn’t there. We won’t have an official play for this one, but if you wanted to lay a unit on Hendo while he sits at 8.25 (+725), it is likely a positive expected value play.
In the middle of the main card is a welterweight tilt between knockout artists Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger. Lawler has a record of 22-10 with 18 of his 22 wins coming by TKO. He was on a 3 fight win streak in the UFC before losing the fight for Georges St Pierre’s vacated title against Johny Hendricks at UFC 171. Ellenberger enters the fight with a career record 29-7 with 18 of his 29 wins coming by way of TKO. His most recent fight against Rory MacDonald was pretty a pretty lacklustre performance as MacDonald controlled the action en route to a unanimous decision victory. We believe Lawler is the better fighter in this match-up and expect him to be able to take care of business assuming his motivations haven’t changed since losing the fight for the title. Lawler will be the first leg of a parlay bet. We also expect this fight won’t last very long. The current over/under line is 2.5 rounds and at even money, we see big value there. We placed a 2 unit bet on this fight being under 2.5 rounds at 2.00 (+100) at 5Dimes.
Prior to the Lawler/Ellenberger fight, we will see a bantamweight tilt between Takeya Mizugaki and Francisco Rivera. Mizugaki enters the fight on a 4 fight win streak with 2 of 4 of those wins against top 15 guys. Rivera would have been on a 6 fight win streak had he not had his KO win over Roland Delorme overturned for using a banned substance. The primary difference though is the fact that none of those 6 opponents Rivera has beaten have been ranked in the top 15. If we go back to Rivera’s initial WEC/UFC stint which only lasted 2 fights, it took just over a minute for Erik Koch to finish him by TKO and Reuban Duran 3 rounds to lock up a submission. Quality of opposition tends to be huge in MMA (look at all the 30-0 guys from Brazil who get smashed in their first UFC fights) and Mizugaki will be a huge step up for Rivera. As such, we are pretty confident in Mizugaki being able to earn a decision victory. We decided to add him to a parlay along with Robbie Lawler for a bet of 3 units on Lawler and Mizugaki at 2.11 at 5Dimes.
Kicking off the main card will be a lightweight fight between Jamie Varner and James Krause. This fight, like Lawler and Ellenberger features two guys who either finish or crash and burn. Varner sports a career record of 21-9 with 18 of his 21 wins coming by submission or TKO and 5 of his 9 losses coming inside the distance. Krause’s career record stands at 20-5 with 18 of his 20 wins coming inside the distance. The under 2.5 rounds line, which currently sits at 2.30 (+130) may hold some value, but the issue is, as is the case with most guys who have lots of finishes, the finishes are common against lower level competition, but far less common against higher level opposition. We will hold off on placing the bet, but if the line climbs to the 2.50 (+150) to 2.75 (+175) range, we will definitely place a bet. In addition, we see Varner as the far more likely winner here so we will be looking to add him to a parlay in our full picks post which should be out mid-week next week.
That’s all for now, unfortunately, not a lot of bets yet, but there are definitely some spots we will be looking to lay some money on on the undercard so stay tuned for our full picks and bets post which will be out next week. By the way, we’re about a month away from probably the most anticipated MMA video game of all time, EA Sports UFC.