The UFC heads to São Paulo, Brazil, this Saturday for a stacked card with lots of entertaining fights. From a betting perspective however, I hate this card. A lot of the favorites are disgustingly juiced and I’m not keen on many of the underdogs. Nevertheless, here are my breakdowns of the fights I’m interested in betting.
Thales Leites vs. Hector Lombard
Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Thales Leites, has been a competitive fighter in the middleweight division for a long time. Now 37-years-of-age, I believe he’s bowing out at the right time and has a winnable retirement fight against another fighter in the later stages of his career.
Although he has power, Leites has never been the most refined striker. It’s also worrying that he was finished with strikes for the first time in his career against Jack Hermansson, a fighter that severely damaged his leg earlier in the fight.
Everyone knows Leites is a serious threat on the mat, but he’s never possessed great wrestling. Sure, he looked impressive dragging Chris Camozzi to the mat and submitting him, but Camozzi has always struggled to defend takedowns.
Against Hector Lombard, a decorated judoka with a low center of gravity, I don’t anticipate Thales will have any luck grounding his opponent.
Now 40-years-of-age and on a five-fight losing streak since he tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2015, Lombard could be on his way out of the UFC. Still, if you look a bit closer, the Cuban wasn’t dominated in his losses.
He beat the brakes off Dan Henderson and Neil Magny before both opponents rallied to finish him. He also took two rounds from Anthony Smith, who now fights at light heavyweight, before gassing in the third and getting finished.
In his last fight against CB Dollaway, Lombard seemed to take a more measured approach with his energy management. Even if he does start to slow down, Leities doesn’t have great cardio to capitalize
Ultimately, I think the Cuban judoka has the sharper hands and will be able to keep the fight standing. I have some action on Hector Lombard at -125.
Ben Saunders vs. Sergio Moraes
Fresh off a highly questionable decision win over Tim Means, Sergio Moraes keeps racking up victories without looking particularly impressive. Despite his world class ground game, Moraes isn’t a good wrestler and his punching technique looks like something you’d see in a nightclub at 2am.
Still, he usually finds ways to win, even if he does need some help from the judges at times (especially when fighting in his native Brazil). You’re sure to hear the crowd react whenever he lands any shots on his American opponent.
A jiu-jitsu black belt under Ricardo Libório, Saunders is one of the few fighters that might be unafraid to go to the mat with Moraes.
While Saunders is known for his dangerous guard game, he looks to have an advantage on the feet. A lanky muay thai stylist, Saunders does his best work at kicking range. Given that Moraes will be at a reach disadvantage and is more boxing-centric, Saunders should be able to land shots at distance without being hit.
When opponents do close the distance to try and box in the pocket with Saunders, he’s usually able to drag them into the clinch, where he’s deadly with his knees. You can see Saunders do this against Court Mcgee and more recently against Jake Ellenberger.
Moraes may have the upper hand in pocket boxing exchanges, but Saunders has the upper hand in the clinch.
Given that both fighters are excellent on the mat but neither are good wrestlers, I think this will be a striking fight where I give the rangy American a much better chance of winning than his betting line indicates. I’m taking my chances with Ben Saunders at +250.
Gillian Robertson vs. Mayra Bueno
After scoring a slick ninja choke finish in the Brazilian Contender Series, Mayra Bueno has booked her ticket to the UFC.
Given the limited footage available, it’s difficult to fully ascertain her strengths and weaknesses. She appears to be an opportunist submission specialist, but the other facets of her game look raw. Her takedowns aren’t great and her muay thai technique appears labored.
Most of Bueno’s wins have been first round submissions against lower level competition and I don’t think she’s going to catch out a legitimate grappler like Gillian Robertson – who has been training at American Top Team for years.
Only 23-years-of-age, Robertson put in a veteran performance travelling to Liverpool, England, to choke out the hometown favorite, Molly McCann. Robertson was able compete against a boxing stylist on the feet and she dominated on the mat. I also like the wrestling takedowns of Robertson.
While I’m not sure exactly how good Bueno is, I think Robertson has tremendous upside and I had no hesitation in playing her at -120.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Sam Alvey
How is Nogueira still fighting? This dude has been around for a seriously long time.
A veteran of the legendary Pride promotion, Nogueira made his professional debut in 2001 – seventeen years ago. Known for his elite jiu-jitsu and solid boxing, Nogueira was one of the best fighters in the world at the higher weight classes at one point in time.
Now 42-years-of-age, it’s hard to know how much he has left in the tank.
Still, the UFC don’t like sending Brazilians to be slaughtered in front of their passionate fans, and I think this is a potentially winnable match-up for the shopworn Nogueira.
For older fighters, it’s often a challenge dealing with faster, more athletic opponents. Nogueira won’t have that problem here, as he faces Sam Alvey – the slowest and most unathletic fighter in the division.
Alvey is a powerful southpaw counter-striker, and little else. He can defend takedowns and has a good chin, but he’s extremely limited in terms of his offense. If you charge forward recklessly like Marcin Prachnio, you’ll get knocked out, but Alvey is very beatable if you fight him strategically.
In a battle of two southpaw boxing stylists, I think Nogueira is the superior technician and I’m tempted to play him as a +250 underdog. Perhaps the smart bet is not Alvey inside the distance at -115.
Eryk Anders vs. Thiago Santos
Former collegiate football standout, Eryk Anders, steps in on short notice to take on Thiago Santos in Brazil.
The first thing everyone says about Anders is how athletic he is, and it’s true. It’s rare for an explosive fighter to be so well conditioned. From a technical perspective, Anders is raw for a fighter in his thirties and looks like someone who didn’t start training fighting until relatively late.
Still, Anders is a dangerous southpaw with big power in his left hand. He also seems to have a phenomenal chin.
No one embodies the kill or be killed ethos quite like Thiago Santos. Coming from a muay thai background, the Brazilian has some of the most devastating kicks in the UFC. However, he doesn’t perform as well in boxing range – getting dropped by Jack Marshman and finished by David Branch (who is certainly not a power puncher).
Santos may look to take the fight to the mat where he has a presumed advantage, but Anders is a tough guy to hold down. On the feet, Santos is unquestionably the more technical striker but Anders has the better chin.
Unlike his fight against the evasive Lyoto Machida, Anders won’t have to go looking for Santos. Even if he has to absorb some shots, I think Anders lands a flush left hand at some stage to finish the fight. I’m not overly confident, but my pick is Eryk Anders at +130.
My Main Plays
- 1 unit on Hector Lombard at -125
- 3 units on Gillian Robertson at -120
- 0.5 units on Ben Saunders at +250
- 1 unit on Eryk Anders at +130
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