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 Fight Island 2: Figueiredo vs Benavidez
We were able to squeak out another solid betting sheet last Wednesday (going 2-1 with an underdog hit), but as we saw, strange trends from suspect scorecards to surprising performances continue to be sprinkled into these pandemic-era cards. I tried to talk about and incorporate some of these trends below – whether I’m riding with or against them.
As per usual with my 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.
Editors note: Last week these picks went 2-1, let’s keep the momentum going
Straight play: Kelvin Gastelum -105
In an opener that I agreed with at -150, it’s hard to ignore the recent line movement in the evening’s co-main event that now lists Kelvin Gastelum at -105 in comparison to the newly-minted favorite (at least at the time of this writing) Jack Hermansson at -115.
Even if Gastelum shoots back up to the -110 or -115 range (which was the neighborhood I grabbed him at), I still believe there’s some logic to taking a stab at the money line.
I’ve been a big fan of Hermansson since seeing him on the Cage Warriors scene, and can see why he initially garnered support as an underdog. If you’re looking for a common thread in Gastelum’s losses, then it’s not hard to see or surmise that he’s typically struggled with wrestlers and/or competent clinch fighters.
Although that’s a bit of a broad and unfair brush to paint with when looking closer at some of Gastelum’s losses, you cannot deny that Hermansson gets after it in close quarters, as his Greco wrestling and top game can be problematic once getting going. But with Gastelum’s last level-changing grappling threat coming over two years ago (in a winning effort over Jacare Souza that saw him defend 8/9 takedowns), I’m not sure how fair it is to hold old losses over the Mexican-American’s head that happened when he was south of 25-years-old.
Since his last appearance, Gastelum has earned his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he’s also had a knee surgery that could provide as a possible intangible in this contest. That said, Gastelum appears to have spent the better part of 2020 recovering and appropriately easing into training, as he seems to be in a good physical and mental space heading into this contest.
Ultimately, I see Hermansson having some initial success in pressing his type of fight; but if he doesn’t demonstrate the ability to secure position and/or a submission early in the first, then I see Gastelum being able to scramble to safety and get his game going on the feet. For the low entry points listed above, I believe that Gastelum is worth looking at given the perceived probabilities and pathways to victory.
Straight play: Marc Diakiese -160
Albeit a slightly higher point of entry, there’s an argument to be made that the current line between Marc Diakiese and Rafael Fiziev is a bit off.
Although I’m a fan of muay Thai stylists like Fiziev, as well his camp Tiger Muay Thai, I can’t help but scratch my head when doing the math on the native of Kazakhstan’s paths to victory. Sure, Fiziev has enough pop on his punches to stun anyone in this division, but Diakiese has yet to be seriously hurt or stopped by strikes.
Furthermore, when it comes to stopping power, Diakiese has demonstrated that he has a high ceiling in that department as well, as I could see his hard kicks and counters giving some pause to the pace that Fiziev seems to prefer.
Don’t get me wrong: whether he elects to strike longer than he should or decides to trade leg kicks with a muay Thai specialist, Diakiese could find himself in some high-paced quicksand if he’s not careful. But with Diakiese’s shown strength and acumen from the bodylock, it’s hard not to see the 27-year-old talent reach into his back pocket for a grappling-infused game plan.
For that reason (and price), I’ll take a straight shot on the fighter with the more rounded game and bigger well of experience to draw from.
Parlay: Alexandre Pantoja (-190) and Arman Tsarukyan (-200)
I’ll be the first person to tell you that parlaying MMA outcomes is a dangerous game to play, so always exercise caution when humoring these types of bets.
Nevertheless, I’d be lying to you if I said that I never played them, as parlays can be a fun way of maximizing value for fighters that are out of your preferred range for straight plays. In this case, I find myself backing two fighters I really like, as they both set breakneck paces in their contests.
Alexandre Pantoja, despite being technically priced cheaper, may be the more solid anchor between these two legs. The Brazilian takes on undefeated Askar Askarov, who made his name over in ACB (now ACA) before coming over the UFC stage. Since his debut against Brandon Moreno (a fight that I scored 30-27 Moreno), Askarov has not impressed me with his overall process or decision-making, as I see Pantoja’s improved striking and stellar scrambling being enough to dictate pace and pull away down the stretch.
Secondly, I decided to attach a similarly priced fighter in Arman Tsarukyan, who takes on another grappling talent in Davi Ramos.
At first glance, I can totally see how some could surmise that this will be a bad matchup for Tsarukyan, who traditionally implements a heavy takedown game. Between going move-for-move with Islam Makhachev (who handily beat Ramos) and already defeating an experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in Olivier Aubin-Mercier, it’s clear that Tsarukyan didn’t receive his master of sports in wrestling and MMA from the back of a Cracker Jack box.
Still, not all black belts are created equal, as Ramos – a third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and ADCC winner – is certainly at the top of the food chain. The potential problem, however, is that simple math could be misleading here, as Ramos – in both MMA and submission grappling – tends to make most of his money from top position. If Tsarukyan’s wrestling and grappling are as good as I think, then this could be a long night for Ramos, who tends to either tire or get into staring contests standing as the fights wear on.
Tsarukyan will also be finally getting to face another orthodox fighter, as I see his kicking game also having a lot of space for play in this matchup. However, with all fighters who previously fought in Abu Dhabi earning wins on this recent Fight Island run (Lerone Murphy, Liana Jojua, Muslim Salikhov, etc.), I don’t blame anyone for taking a ‘dog or pass’ attitude here.
If that’s the case, then perhaps Grant Dawson at -230 can be an option for you, as he should also be the grappler who is controlling terms in his contest. Either way, pairing any of these fighters up in this price range will earn you plus money on the other side – should you enjoy living dangerously.