With MMA in full swing since this summer, you can expect to see weekly betting articles from us here at Line Movement, as I’ll be providing you with everything from fight analysis to the potential plays I like for UFC’s offering in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
UFC 253 will feature a middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya (-170) and Paulo Costa (+150).
Despite the betting lines actually opening a bit tighter, I was admittedly somewhat surprised to see Costa get so much respect from the oddsmakers as an underdog.
Don’t get me wrong: Costa is absolutely a live dog who is worth looking at for anything north of his current asking price, I just have a hard time being confident in any fighter who is entering his first five-round affair off of a year-plus layoff. And even if you agree with the scorecards in his last outing opposite Yoel Romero (which was the Brazilian’s first time going the distance as a pro), it wasn’t exactly reassuring to see Costa tire as the fight wore on.
Still, regardless of my official pick, I do warn anyone who is writing Costa off as just another muscle-bound bully. The 29-year-old talent wields solid footwork fundamentals and does a great job of variating his timing and rhythm, punishing the body with impunity. If Costa demonstrates the ability to corral Adesanya toward the fence early and often, then any underdog bets (whether you’re playing Costa straight up or “inside the distance” at +242) could be sitting pretty in regards to potentially cashing.
But if Adesanya is able to survive the proverbial storm and show his superior length by the second round, then I suggest either hedging or doubling down on the live line – depending on what it’s listing at.
Although I’m picking Adesanya to find a finish around the fourth round, the unknowns of Costa and the potential adjustments and gameplans his team brings seem to be scaring me off from a betting perspective. The price on the champion is still at a low enough entry point to play straight if you’re more confident than I am in Adesanya retaining, but live betting may be one of the safer angles to incorporate if you can.
The co-main event on Yas Island features an interim title fight at light heavyweight between Dominick Reyes (-290) and Jan Blachowicz (+245).
Whether I officially pick him or not, I’ve always given love to Blachowicz as a live underdog. But at the risk of sounding dismissive, I don’t disagree with the betting spread above given that Reyes – outside of Jon Jones – may the Polish fighter’s most problematic matchup on paper.
Sure, Blachowicz may officially stand at 2-0 opposite UFC-level lefties (Luke Rockhold and Goran Reljic), but those fighters were arguably past-prime and carried much less savvy in the boxing department compared to his current southpaw foe in Reyes.
Reyes also seems to have a rock-solid chin and, more importantly, looks to be the better wrestler between the two. Blachowicz has made measurable strides to his wrestling and carries a higher rank in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but I don’t like his chances in regards to getting or keeping the athletic Reyes down.
For that reason, I’m picking Reyes to win, as I don’t hate anyone who is either making the 30-year-old a key parlay piece or playing the “inside the distance” prop at -105 (especially since “by TKO/KO” props are oddly listing higher at -110). And given that I’m officially predicting an early first-round knockout due to potential speed differentials, I may have to sprinkle on the under (2.5 rounds) at +110 out of principle.
But if this battle does end up going over the halfway mark, then things could get dicey given each man’s gas tank. For that reason, select your angles carefully when dealing with matchups that have a lot of potential ‘meat on the bone.’
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.
Live dogs: Brandon Royval +200
With the bankable chalk feeling more like a trap on this card, UFC 253 thankfully offers a lot of live underdogs that are tempting to take a shot on.
Hakeem Dawodu and Ludovit Klein are two dogs involved in some potentially-fun striking matchups this Saturday, as the public has seemingly piled onto both men early this week. You can still get Dawodu at plus money (+105) if you like his chances against Zubaira Tukhugov, but I’ll be officially picking the Russian for both his wrestling and the love he will likely get on the scorecards.
Klein, on the other hand, can no longer be found at dog odds as the Slovakian is now firmly installed as the favorite over Shane Young. Despite officially siding with Young, I’m not exactly surprised to see money come in on Klein given what I was able to see from the 25-year-old prospect.
Klein comes from a boxing base but appears to be an incredibly dangerous kicker and combination striker, showing all the signs of a fully-fledged MMA game. But despite a deceptive skill set and well of experience he draws from, I’m not sure I can count on him to style on the durable Young (especially on short notice). For that reason, I’ll be looking to see if Young, who currently sits at -105, drops to plus money by fight day.
That said, despite officially picking underdogs like Jeff Hughes at +250 and Danilo Marques at +135, I ended landing on a more proven product in Brandon Royval (+200) in regards to making a play.
Although I initially came in leaning toward Kai-Kara France, I was reminded as to why I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the City Kickboxing flyweight when reviewing the tape.
Arguable skill inflation aside, I have a hard time getting high on a flyweight or bantamweight who shows signs of gassing in three-round fights. Now, in France’s defense, he did show improved pacing and output in his last outing opposite Tyson Nam; but Nam is a notoriously low-paced fighter who mainly looks to throw hands.
Furthermore, you could also argue that fighters like France and Sergio Pettis are stylistic kryptonite for Nam, as I’m not sure how much stock to put into that performance. More importantly, France will be facing a completely different style matchup with Royval, who is a savvy southpaw striker that throws a lot of kicks.
When France last faced a tall flyweight who could competently kick in Raulian Paiva, we saw the New Zealand native struggle with both the range and the attacks to the body. I suspect that Royval can bring a similar potency of pressure to the table, that perhaps inadvertently forces France to wrestle with the dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Although I felt that the opener of +140 was fair to Royval, seeing the line skyrocket anywhere north of +200 constitutes a play in my book.
Regardless of what you’re betting, bet responsibly, my friends!