With MMA back in full swing, you can expect to see weekly betting articles from us here at Line Movement, as I’ll be providing you with a sample of plays I like for UFC on ESPN 13 this weekend.
Last weekend’s list of recommendations did alright results-wise(2-1), but as we saw, the travel and fight times involved with putting on a show in Abu Dhabi made for some strange performances all around. Though I tried to incorporate some of the speculative logic learned from last Saturday into this week’s plays, this feels like an extra risky card to bet no matter what sides you’re taking.
As per usual with content, I’ll offer my honest analysis as I try to explain my angles and attempt to add to your insight when it comes to both breaking down and betting on fights.
This article is for entertainment purposes only, as I stress to anyone that gambles to do so legally and responsibly.
Straight Play: Tim Elliott -125
Despite coming into this card looking to pick and play Ryan Benoit, I ended up siding with Tim Elliot, a fighter who I’ve never bet on before – nor ever thought I would (no offense, Tim).
A person on a three-fight losing streak isn’t exactly something that inspires confidence in a bet, but MMA outcomes tend to stem more from stylistic matchups than the select facts that are often used more for window dressing our arguments and perspectives.
Sure, Elliot is admittedly one of the least trustworthy fighters when it comes to performing to the levels of the usual betting lines placed upon him, and his last performance against Brandon Royval – where Elliot essentially scrambled himself into submission – didn’t help that stereotype. But luckily for Elliot, Benoit is also a fighter with a history of highly-questionable inconsistency (albeit in much different ways), as well as a sometimes-suspect gas tank.
Couple Benoit’s troubling risk management and decision making with the fact that his high school wrestling credentials have not really translated into his UFC career, and I see him being the one who is forced to work out of negative positions should he not score the knockout.
Yes, Benoit has some of the most impressive stopping power at flyweight, but Elliot is as stubborn and he is hard to stop with strikes, as history has shown that you need to have sharp submission chops to either complete a “club ‘n sub” scenario or stop the mad scrambler before he can get away.
I never bought into Elliot being a big favorite after his loss to Demetrious Johnson, but I am willing to bite on the more active man at the low entry point of -125, particularly against an injury-ridden fighter whose admitted that cutting to flyweight is a cause of a lot of said problems. You definitely don’t need to follow me off this cliff, I’m just taking a shot against some popular underdog action in what is a playable matchup for the price.
Prop play: Shore-Phillips over 1.5 rounds -120
As noted in the intro paragraph above, last Saturday’s UFC card provided us with some strange performances all-around given that the action was going off in the middle of the night/early hours of the morning for most.
Considering that the prelims seem to be hit hardest by this perceived trend (seeing everything from suspect officiating to some underwhelming action fights), it’s not hard to surmise that this card could be subject to similar lulls.
With that in mind, I decided to utilize a prop a play to target a matchup with money lines that are way too wide to touch for my blood.
Sure, Jack Shore is a big favorite who has only seen the scorecards once in his pro career, but that one time came against Vaughn Lee, who – like Aaron Phillips – is a deceptively experienced fighter that carries a respectable level of grappling savvy.
I don’t like Phillips’ chances when it comes to winning this fight, but the American fighter does deserve credit for making notable efforts to shore up holes since his first stint with the UFC. From slightly improved defense and composure from the cage to earning his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Phillips and his pesky leg dexterity may be harder to put away than the current betting spread will lead you to believe.
Couple the weird start time of this fight with the fact that seldom will you see over-under lines at bantamweight with this low of an entry point/price, and you can count me in on this contrarian prop play that will either look really smart or really stupid before night’s end.
Straight play: Liana Jojua +155
Although this could be another unpopular play, I believe seeing a fighter listed as an underdog – when you think they should be favored – constitutes some action out of principle.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t even think the line should even be as wide as it is now regardless of who you’re backing, but I do believe that Liana Jojua should be slightly favored over Diana Belbita.
Sure, I may have faded a Fight Nights Global champion on last week’s list, but I think that Jojua has already gotten her dreadful, UFC-jitter-filled debut out of the way. Fighting on the last Abu Dhabi card (something that has been an advantage for other fighters thus far being that the arena won’t be a thousand degrees this time around), Jojua looked almost like a deer frozen in the headlights, as I’m surprised she made it out of the first round in retrospect.
Now, no longer fighting a giant bantamweight in a division that she never really belonged in to begin with, Jojua gets a much more appropriate draw in Belbita.
The Romanian-born Canadian may have more fights than her counterpart on paper, but Belbita has lost handily to anyone with a near-notable name. The 24-year-old favorite relies heavily on her amateur karate and kickboxing skills, as she sets an aggressive pace that could be problematic if Jojua comes out shell shocked once again.
Nevertheless, even though the Russian’s “Master of Sports” title in grappling may be a little overinflated, both her accolades and ability to hit level-changing takedowns will likely come in handy against an aggressive fighter with poor positional awareness and some of the most suspect cage getups I’ve seen in some time.
For those reasons plus the underdog odds attached, I’ll be sprinkling a little bit on the Russsian fighter to find out if the recent line movement is right.