After a highly profitable Fight Night 135, I’m back on the hunt for cash as the UFC heads to Dallas, Texas, for an epic welterweight title clash. Here are my breakdowns for the UFC 228 fights that I’m interested in betting.
Jim Miller vs. Alex White
If you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance you’re a Jim Miller fan – I certainly am. However, every dog has its day and Miller has been looking underwhelming in recent fights (albeit against good competition).
Miller is a lethal jiu-jitsu black belt and is always threatening on the mat. His striking isn’t bad either, but he lacks concussive power and is usually fighting with a reach disadvantage.
Now 34-years-of-age with a tonne of mileage on his body, I’m not sure how much Miller has left in the tank. Against a powerful southpaw striker, Francisco Trinaldo, Miller had a good first round before visibly wilting in the second and third.
If Trinaldo can find a home with his left hand, Alex White can too.
Against Canadian grappler, Mitch Clarke, White looked great in the striking exchanges, landing an abundance of straight punches and elbows in the clinch to finish his opponent.
In his last fight with savvy veteran, James Krause, White also dominated the striking. However, he made some dreadful grappling mistakes that cost him the fight. It seems that defensive wrestling has played a major role in White’s camp for this contest, which gives me some confidence.
On paper, this is a winnable fight for Miller. He could either score a submission or grind out White in the same way that Krause did.
In reality, I don’t think Miller’s cardio will support a grinding strategy for three rounds and I also don’t think Miller can take anywhere near the damage that Krause did. Miller by first round submission is entirely possible, but I think he’s more likely to get knocked out in rounds two or three.
Takedown defense is obviously a concern, but I played Alex White at -137. I think he’s still a decent bet around the -150 mark.
Diego Sanchez vs. Craig White
The craziest fighter in MMA is back. Well past his prime at 36-years-of-age, Diego Sanchez has struggled to collect wins in recent years. While he legitimately defeated Polish jiu-jitsu phenomenon, Marcin Held, his wins against Jim Miller and especially Ross Pearson were questionable.
Still, he’s been facing good competition and no disrespect to Craig White, but this is a huge step down for Sanchez.
“The Nightmare” took horrible knockout losses to Matt Brown and Al Iaquinta, but those guys are technical strikers who can stuff takedowns. Craig White is a pure brawler and will give Sanchez the bloody battle that he wants.
White is much bigger than Sanchez, but doesn’t use his reach well and is unlikely to outmuscle the former high school state champion wrestler in the clinch. In fact, White’s size advantage could become a hindrance. The Welshman cuts a huge amount of weight and has been known to gas.
Sanchez has excellent cardio and will keep coming unless you detach him from his consciousness.
White has a number of submission wins on his record, but Sanchez is a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt and was never in trouble in the ground exchanges against Marin Held.
Call me crazy, but I think this is a very winnable fight for the shopworn Albuquerque native. I placed a small wager on Diego Sanchez at +195.
Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson
This looks like one of the closest fights on the card, and the odds reflect it.
Despite his terrible knockout loss to surging Brazilian striker, Marlon Moraes, Jimmie Rivera is usually very reliable. The stocky New Jersey native is known for his relentless boxing-centric attack and has a great wrestling game in his back pocket.
Rivera rips the body and the head well, throws high volume and has a sneaky left hook that catches opponents by surprise. He can score takedowns, although his opponent, John Dodson, is notoriously hard to wrestle to the mat.
There are some question marks about Rivera’s chin, but he usually recovers quickly after being rocked. Against Moraes, he ate a flush head kick to the temple and was still in the game. It was the following strikes on the ground that finished the fight.
He’ll have to be careful against John Dodson who is a smooth, powerful striker.
Based on his style, you’d never know Dodson comes from a wrestling background. Like his teammate, Diego Sanchez, Dodson was a champion high school wrestler in the state of New Mexico.
Training at the world renowned Jackson’s MMA, Dodson mainly uses his wrestling defensively and prefers to fight standing.
Unlike his opponent, Dodson is more selective with his strikes and has been prone to periods of inactivity. This can make rounds closer than they should be and if you’ve ever bet on Dodson, it’s usually a stressful experience.
While Dodson is the more dynamic striker, Rivera has the volume advantage. I favor Rivera by the slightest of margins, but I’m not rushing to play his -125 moneyline.
If you’re looking for value, John Dodson by decision at +249 isn’t a bad bet. However, I think fight goes to decision at -265 is probably the smart bet for this fight.
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Niko Price
This fight is likely to be extremely violent and extremely short. When two power punches with shaky defenses collide, whoever lands the first bomb usually wins.
Considering his extensive judo background, it’s hilarious that Alhassan’s fighting style primarily consists of winging power punches like a maniac. The Ghanaian has a huge right hand and if it lands flush, Niko Price will find himself astral projecting, lying face down on the mat.
Alhassan’s previous opponent, Omari Akhmedov, has a titanium block for a head and a strong wrestling base. These two factors proved to be significant as Akhmedov was able to absorb strikes and repeatedly take down the decorated judoka. Although he was able to work his way back to his feet, I wasn’t impressed by Alhassan’s skills off his back.
After getting taken down by Sabah Homasi, Alhassan was fortunate that the referee inexplicably stood the fighters up – despite his opponent being in a dominant position. Shortly afterwards, Alhassan won the fight with a destructive uppercut.
Things could get very interesting if Niko Price is able to drag the judoka to the mat. Price certainly has a jiu-jitsu advantage and it wouldn’t surprise me if the crazy Floridian added another submission victory to his record.
While the striking looks close in terms of skill, I think Price has the cardio advantage. Alhassan puts steam on every shot and I don’t think that’s sustainable for three rounds. We’ve seen Price take a beating and then stage heroic comebacks against both Randy Brown and Alex Morono.
Honestly, I don’t see how anyone can confidently predict the outcome between these two. There may be some value on Niko Price as a +135 underdog, but I’d personally stay away from this fight.
If you’re a total degenerate and can’t resist a wager, fight won’t start round 3 at -168 seems fair.
Charles Byrd vs. Darren Stewart
After scoring two consecutive submission victories in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Charles Byrd finally booked his ticket to the big show.
In his UFC debut against Welsh power puncher, John Phillips, Byrd refused to indulge his opponent in a standing brawl. As soon as the fight started, Byrd successfully shot a double leg and then advanced positions to eventually secure a rear-naked choke.
Against another British power puncher with limited ground skills, I expect Byrd to take the same approach. Byrd is a solid striker and could win this fight standing, but clearly his biggest advantage is on the mat.
Darren Stewart isn’t the most fundamentally sound striker, but he packs a punch. He throws a lot of spinning techniques and other low percentage shots. He’s also hittable and has suspect cardio.
In his last bout, Stewart was able to knock out jiu-jitsu specialist, Eric Spicely. However, he still took damage and I think Spicely was foolish for taking a K-1 approach against a heavy hitter.
Stewart has a puncher’s chance, but he’s likely to get taken down and outclassed on the mat. I played Charles Byrd at -200, which I think is generous.
If you like prop bets, I think Byrd by submission at +140 probably hits.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Stamann
For a long time, Aljamain Sterling was known as a supremely athletic grappler with weak striking. Perhaps this stereotype was confirmed when he was viciously knocked out by a switch kick from hell, courtesy of Marlon Moraes.
Despite this loss (which was a little flukey, as Sterling was level changing onto the shot), Sterling has definitely made strides in his striking in recent years. In his last few fights, he’s shown good lateral movement and high competency at kicking range. His hands are getting sharper too.
It’s mystifying Sterling was at pick ‘em odds against Welsh prospect, Brett Johns, who he handled with ease. Johns, whose style is primarily a blend of judo and boxing, was outclassed at range and in the grappling exchanges.
Both fighters are 28-years-of-age, but Sterling has been facing elite competition for years. Cody Stamann still looks a bit green to me.
A prototypical wrestle-boxer, Stamann has performed well in his three UFC fights. In a close fight against crafty veteran, Bryan Caraway, Stamann was a bit lucky to win the decision. In my opinion, Caraway’s late rally in round three won him the fight.
Against French prospect, Tom Duquesnoy, Stamann kept the fight competitive on the feet but he ate a lot of shots at range – particularly kicks. While Stamman’s wrestling won him the contest, he won’t have that advantage against Aljamain Sterling.
I feel that Sterling’s length, lateral movement, and kicking attacks will be too much for the short-limbed Stamann – whose main weapons are his hands. There is 7-inch reach discrepancy, which is pretty crazy for a bantamweight fight.
I played Aljamain Sterling at -110. I still like him at -130.
Nicco Montano vs. Valentina Shevchenko
I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. This is a complete mismatch.
Nicco Montano isn’t a bad fighter. She’s well-rounded, but doesn’t excel anywhere. In her extremely sloppy fight against Roxanne Modafferi, she ate a lot of strikes on the feet but ultimately proved herself to be the superior combatant over five rounds.
She can’t afford to eat a lot of strikes against arguably the best pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet in Valentina Shevchenko.
An extremely accurate counter-striker, Shevchenko is a delight to watch. Despite a huge size disadvantage, she landed the cleaner strikes against bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, and was robbed at gunpoint by the judges.
Dropping down to her natural weight class, Shevchenko dominated her first opponent at flyweight. It should be noted that Priscila Cachoeira is a much lower caliber fighter than Shevchenko is used to facing.
Perhaps due to the poor judging decision in her fight with Nunes, Shevchenko showed more urgency to finish against Cachoeira. This might be an interesting insight if you’re looking for a prop bet.
I have a futures bet on Valentina Shevchenko to become the flyweight champion by the end of the year, so I have no other action on this fight. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend Shevchenko at -1200, yet I wouldn’t even take a gamble on Montano at +700.
If you’re compelled to play this fight (I recommend you don’t), I’d go with fight doesn’t start round 5 at -125.
Tyron Woodley vs. Darren Till
A terrific wrestler with a huge right hand, Tyron Woodley cemented his legacy after taking the welterweight belt from former champion, Robbie Lawler, by way of first round KO.
His subsequent performances have not been great. Against Stephen Thompson, Woodley had the big moments in both fights, but neither were dominant performances.
Sure, he got the better of Demian Maia, but that was perhaps the most stylistically favorable matchup in the entire division.
Proclaiming himself as the best welterweight of all time while simultaneously putting on boring fights doesn’t endear Tyron Woodley to the UFC fans. This hasn’t gone unnoticed and I think the UFC are sending Darren Till, a much more marketable and exciting fighter, on an assassination mission.
A dangerous southpaw kickboxer, Till has destroyed many fighters with his left hand. With good footwork and distance control, he’s able to keep opponents at the end of his strikes.
Although he fought conservatively in his last bout, I believe Till will come out aggressively this time. He’ll back Woodley up against the fence, feint in order to draw out that big overhand and then land devastating counters.
Woodley could land a haymaker, but Till’s chin seems good. I think Woodley’s best path to victory is with his wrestling, but I’m not convinced he has the cardio to do it for five rounds.
Darren Till is the younger, fresher, more technical striker and I believe he’s got a very bright future in the UFC. Woodley is now 36-years-of-age and can’t remain at the top of the mountain forever.
I played Darren Till at +120 and feel good about it, but if you’re late then go ahead and play him at -105.
I feel confident the brash Englishman takes this one.
If you’re from Europe or Canada, you can actually bet on Darren Till to make weight at the generous price of -166 (click Special Bets). Even though he’s missed weight before, I can’t see him screwing up this opportunity.
My Main Plays
- 1.5 units on Alex White at -137
- 0.5 units on Diego Sanchez at +195
- 2 units on Charles Byrd at -200
- 2 units on Aljamain Sterling at -110
- 0.5 units on Valentina Shevchenko to become the flyweight champion in 2018 at +400
- 2 units on Darren Till at +120
Come talk to me on Twitter and let me know who you’re betting on!
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