Dan Tom’s favorite bets from UFC Vegas 5: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan

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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+ 31 this weekend. 

After an overall winning experience in Abu Dhabi, we now track the UFC back to my backyard of Las Vegas, Nevada, where the UFC Apex will once again host the action. The Apex, of course, is notable for its use of the smaller, 25-foot cage, which traditionally encourages more action, as the average finishing rate saw an uptick of 8 percent during its recent month of use in comparison to the results that the 30-foot cage at Yas Island yielded. 

With that in mind, angles like unders (something I seldom play in MMA) may inherently be more potent during this stretch of smaller octagon shows. And despite none of the unders catching my attention at their current lines, I still believe that there are attractive angles involving fights not seeing the final bell that could be worth looking at on this card. 

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. 

The Line Movement MMA Betting Show w/Dan Levi & Dan Tom

Straight play: Bobby Green +130

Although I don’t blame anyone for avoiding Lando Vannata versus Bobby Green for the collision of closely-matched styles that it ultimately is on paper, I can’t help but see a betting opportunity that, oddly enough, has some principle behind it.

Green, who opened as an underdog to Vannata both times, arguably won rounds 2 and 3 in their first fight – a fight where I picked him to win outright. 

Their UFC 216 meeting, of course, ended in a draw on the scorecards, which was a perfectly defensible result. That said, seeing the line for their second affair trend away from even money does cause me to raise an eyebrow.

Sure, Vannata is the younger fighter with fewer miles and a high athletic ceiling, as he showed he has the scrambling savvy to hang with Green. However, unless he is able to dramatically catch the durable Green for a highlight-reel finish, then I suspect that the 12-year pro’s style will provide a particular kind of kryptonite in this environment. 

Green may not have the calf kicks or cage-pressing tactics that Drakkar Klose used to shut down Vannata, but the Strikeforce veteran does bring his own brand of verbal bullying and swagger that he uses to draw out his kind of fight (a tactic that I suspect is more effective in pandemic-era arenas). 

Between firing a jab that stings as frequently as his trash talk, to subtly and cleverly switching to a southpaw stance, I see Green being able to force Vannata into a style of high-paced action that ultimately ends with the New Mexican native wearing the worst of it. 

It’s not a cliff that I recommend you following me off of head first, but I do believe that Green’s number is trending in the wrong direction. 

May 16, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Kevin Holland (blue gloves) defeats Anthony Hernandez (red gloves) during UFC on ESPN at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Parlay pairing: Vincente Luque -(210) and Kevin Holland (-210)

As I always state before discussing any parlay opportunities, parlaying fight results in MMA is a madman’s game that most serious bettors typically try and avoid at all costs. 

That said, if you’re a casual or a degenerate who likes to keep things fun (I plead the 5th), then pairing two of your more playable favorites is a viable way of increasing the value of your play. 

In this case, I went with two of my longtime favorites in Vincente Luque (-210) and Kevin Holland (-210), whom I both favor from stylistic standpoints. 

Luque faces Randy Brown, a fighter with a lot of upside. Brown has the kind of chip on his shoulder that, coupled with his pinpoint placements, could help him shine in this spot.

However, unless Brown is able to knock out a fighter whose yet to be stopped by strikes, then I see Luque’s stylings (which are proven against tall and long opposition) forcing his Jamaican counterpart into the exact type of war he is trying to avoid. Brown has both stated in interviews and showed in his fights that he does not like it when things get hot and ugly, as I suspect the small cage favors Luque’s corralling leg kicks and left hooks.

I also added a second leg to this play with Holland (-210), who understandably doesn’t come off as “Mr. Reliable” when seeing a minus number next to his name. 

Nevertheless, I’m a big believer in styles dictating spots, as I see Holland rolling opposite of Trevin Giles. Not only does Holland have deceptive boxing chops to go along with a battle-tested chin, but 27-year-old has the attitude intangibles that I believe are quietly important for fighters taking short-notice spots. 

Add in the fact that this pandemic era often evens the playing field (e.g. Giles, a full-time police officer, who admittedly has had a hectic schedule in this lead-up), and it’s not hard to see Holland – who recently earned his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt – showing up here. Akin to my previous play on Green, Holland also has a healthy amount of smack talk to his repertoire, as he, too, will have a quiet arena to orchestrate within.

If you’re feeling me on these fights, then feel free to pair these two fighters for plus money at their current prices. And if there’s a leg here that you’re uncertain about, then perhaps Ray Borg at -255 is worth a look. 

Prop play: Jonathan Martinez “inside the distance” +195

Although Jonathan Martinez is also a fighter you could consider parlaying in his current range of -260, I believe that this plus money angle is potent to hit given the matchup at hand. 

Despite cashing a play on a 41-year-old lightweight last week, bantamweight is a completely different beast with a much steeper dropoff for me to be liking the chances of a 39-year-old Frankie Saenz. 

Saenz, who turns 40 within the next two weeks, has only made annual appearances since 2017, getting seriously stung or stopped 4 of his last 6 outings. The former collegiate wrestler does own an impressive victory over southpaw staple, Iuri Alcantara, but has struggled whenever opposition has flashed that stance since. 

Against Martinez, Saenz will be running into a fully-fledged southpaw striker who is coming into his own. Sure, Martinez doesn’t carry a great takedown defense percentage, but the 26-year-old talent shows improvements to his fundamentals each time out and scrambles incredibly well.

Working on his overall game at Factory-X Muay Thai in Denver, Colorado, Martinez has also gotten to work with a lot of Olympic-level wrestlers in their camp/area, as I suspect that will be great prep for this matchup. Whether it’s the obvious age gap or the fact that Martinez may have fallen victim to one of the worst decisions of 2020, the public is already moving in on the Pedro lookalike (“Napolean Dynamite,” anyone?).

If you’re following me on this angle then let me caution you on sprinkling heavier than you need to, as there are plenty of angles to find value in this fight.

Good luck, my friends!

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