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.
The main event:
UFC Fight Island 5 will feature an important bantamweight battle between Marlon Moraes (+120) and Cory Sandhagen (-140).
The oddsmakers opened this fight with the Brazilian being favored, but the public has flipped the line, making Sandhagen your current odds-on favorite. For that reason, I don’t blame anyone betting on the underdog in this spot, as there’s definitely value on Moraes.
Although I’m officially picking Sandhagen to outlast Moraes, I fully acknowledge how sketchy things could get for the American in the early rounds. Sandhagen’s shifting offense may be nothing short of spectacular, but the 28-year-old is still culpable from a defensive standpoint – at least according to the numbers.
Against a heavy-hitter like Moraes, I would no be surprised to see Sandhagen’s usual high-volume approach more muted than normal. But if Moraes not able to score the knockout within the first two rounds, then the Brazilian’s suspect gas tank may make the live line on Sandhagen worth looking at for both hedging purposes and potential sharp opportunities.
Capturing the co-main event slot on Yas Island is a fun featherweight fight between Edson Barboza (-265) and Makwan Amirkhani (+225).
In this matchup, we have both a fun styles fight and a potential parlay leg.
Now, that’s no disrespect to Amirkani, who is a fighter I’ve been a fan of since cashing on him at underdog odds in his UFC debut. I just mean to say that the dynamic of this contest is a fairly clear one: Unless Amirkhani can catch Barboza with a submission early, then his suspect chin and gas tank will likely be at the whim to the savvy striking of Barboza.
Not only is Barboza a fantastic striker, but the Brazilian also wields underrated wrestling and grappling skills that should assist him in this matchup.
Even in losses against bigger, more proven wrestlers like Khabib Nurmagomedov or Kevin Lee, Barboza was still live late in the fight, landing spin kicks and defending shots deep into round three. And when Barboza is taken down, he has always had a good butterfly guard that he uses to create space for both safety and get-up purposes.
I don’t hate anyone for taking the plus-money angle of “Barboza inside the distance,” which currently sits in the neighborhood of +115. That said, I’ll be pairing him up with some of the fighters I’ve written up below, as I believe that the Brazilian makes for a solid parlay piece at his current asking price.
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 dog: Ilia Topuria +150
Although I initially came in leaning toward the Youssef Zalal (-170), I ended up taking a closer look at Ilia Topuria upon talking to the host of the Line Movement MMA Betting Show, Daniel Levi. And sure enough, after diving deeper into the footage, I ended up liking what I saw from Topuria.
Despite fighting out of Spain, Topuria appears to be well-schooled in MMA, bearing a gas tank that resembles fellow Georgian fighter Merab Dvalishivili. With grappling being at the heart of Topuria’s game, the 23-year-old shows submission savvy beyond his years (which makes sense if you read up on his background).
Indoctrinated into the grappling arts at the age of 4, Topuria is a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who can end someone’s night off of one mistake. Only time will tell us if Topuria’s finishing ability is truly in “game over” territory, but I’m still not sure Zalal can afford to get into the grappling exchanges that his fights tend to see.
Zalal, who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt in his own right, is a very well-rounded fighter that I see having a bright future in this weight class. I just suspect that, stylistically, Topuria presents a problem that could sneak up on many – including Zalal.
For that reason, I can see why this is lined so close, as I’ll be both siding and sprinkling on the underdog in this spot.
Potential straight play: Ben Rothwell -150
I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Heavyweights, Dan?”
Listen. I’m not gonna pretend that betting on heavyweight MMA is anything less than a cruel form of masturbation, at least from a gambling perspective; but that’s exactly what I’m doing here.
Although Marcin Tybura (+130) has adequate heavyweight power and legit submission abilities, I’m not sure he’s either strong or consistent enough to stop someone like Rothwell. “Big Ben” may be slow, but he’s the better submission fighter and heavier hitter who – even at this stage of his career – still appears more durable and driven than his Polish counterpart.
Rothwell may be a day late and a buck short as far as his title aspirations and athletic prime is concerned, but this is heavyweight, a land where older fighters are allowed to run their proverbial bar tabs. And with both men looking like they’ve had their fair share of brews, I’ll go with the more experienced body in Rothwell.
For a questionable entry point of -150, I feel like I have to play this line straight out of principle. You don’t have to follow me off any of these cliffs, but I also like the +127 I can get for parlaying Rothwell with another proven product in Barboza.
Playable chalk: Impa Kasanganay -250
It’s hard to get behind big chalk or recommend parlays in MMA with a straight face, but, nonetheless, people play these numbers week in and week out in this game.
So, with big favorites like Tom Aspinall (-580) or Tagir Ulenbekov (-410) being bet out of range by mid-week, I decided to take a closer look at Impa Kasanganay at -250.
Despite initially coming off as a fighter to fade (due to his lack of on-paper experience), Kasanganay leaves a massive impression with both his skills and fight I.Q. One of the smartest prospects I’ve come across in some time, Kasanganay doesn’t rely on his natural power or athleticism, as the 26-year-old appears to carry a solid process that involves bodywork and level-changing takedowns.
In facing a hard-hitting southpaw like Joaquin Buckley (+210), I suspect that those tendencies will serve him well. Buckley certainly has the power to end things with a well-placed check hook, but I don’t think that happens given Kasanganay’s stellar composure and wealth of southpaw training partners (like Bryan Barberena or John Salter).
I don’t know if Kasanganay can get a finish, but I trust him enough to mark him as parlay material. Feel free to combine him with Barboza for a conservative two-leg in the neighborhood of -120, or add him on to the previous pitch of Rothwell-Barboza for +218 if you’re feeling lucky.
Regardless of what you’re betting, bet responsibly, my friends!