It’s been awhile! After a light week following UFC 281 and an off-week for Thanksgiving, the UFC is finally back with another offering as the move into their final stretch of events for 2022, and this one is quite good. UFC Orlando is headlined by a welterweight clash between former title challenger Stephen Thompson and rising star Kevin Holland, and backed up with 14 more fights, including a top 10 heavyweight slugfest. It’s a lot of fights and should be a lot of fun, so let’s get to the bets.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Tai Tuivasa, +190
This betting line genuinely perplexes me. Don’t get me wrong, Sergei Pavlovich is damn good, but Tuivasa has been a revelation in 2022. If surviving huge shots from Derrick Lewis wasn’t enough to convince you that Tuivasa is legit, him nearly clobbering Ciryl Gane in September should have earned him more respect than the books and the public are somehow giving him. This is the same Pavlovich who got beat by Alistair Overeem four years ago. Yes, he’s had a string of finishes, but he’s not an unstoppable monster. And when push comes to shove, I know that Tuivasa can eat Pavlovich’s best shots and keep going, but I have no idea if Pavlovich can do the same. I expected Tuivasa to be the favorite in this one and so I love a bet on him at these odds.
P.S. Since it’s basically the same to bet Tuivasa straight or by KO/TKO, this is the preferred bet, in case both men can take the big shots and we make it the full 15.
Michael Johnson, +260
Let me hit you with some stats here: Marc Diakiese is 2-5 in the UFC win scoring fewer than three takedowns in a fight. Michael Johnson has only given up three or more takedowns in a fight once since 2013 (Clay Guida, who shot seven times). I’m not here to tell you that Michael Johnson is a world-beater, but the man has fought some of the toughest competition the world has to offer for a decade, and he is a very solid defensive wrestler. Add in the fact that he’s a much more dangerous striker than Diakiese, he’s a southpaw, and that I simply do not trust Diakiese, and this has the makings of a value bet. Because Diakiese has never been knocked out (though he has been hurt), I’m not also recommending a bet on Johnson by KO at +800, but that line is also very interesting.
Scott Holtzman, -170
Another perplexing line for me. Clay Guida is 40 years old (turning 41 next week) going on 57. The man has not looked good in a fight since beating the desiccated husk of B.J. Penn in 2019. Credit to him for pulling out the comeback against Leonardo Santos, but that first round saw him batted around the cage like a beach ball. Yes, Holtzman is also old, but he has fewer fight miles on him and he’s looked fine recently. There’s no shame in losing to Mateusz Gamrot and Beneil Dariush, and the truth is, Holtzman is a good takedown defender and the more dangerous striker of the two. Guida’s gas tank and “never say die” attitude account for a lot, but this should be too much for him.
Stephen Thompson by Decision, +400
You may have noticed a theme with many of these fights and that is that this fight card is populated by aging (or just plain old) veterans, trying to turn back the clock, and nowhere is that more evident than in the main event. Thompson has struggled his past two times out, getting thoroughly outwrestled by Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad. And while those performances, and his age (he turns 40 in February) are cause for concern, the fact remains that Thompson is an incredibly difficult opponent to beat purely with striking. Sure, Anthony Pettis did it (probably Pettis’ last great performance) but Kevin Holland is a far cry from peak Pretty Tony. Holland is dangerous and fun and a top 15 welterweight, but I think he’s going to struggle to navigate the range Thompson sets and find consistence offense. And if Holland looks to wrestle, I’m not sure that will work out for him either. “Wonderboy” is a pretty good defensive wrestler, Muhammad and Burns are just good offensive ones, and we don’t have a ton of evidence that Holland is to their caliber in that regard.
I won’t be surprised if Thompson is simply too old to compete against a young, dangerous opponent, and gets blasted out of the cage by some big piece of violence, but I still think he’s got some juice left in favorable style matchups, and this appears to be that.
Francis Marshall by KO/TKO, Submission, or DQ, +140
I’m usually against betting on debuting fighters because you simply never know how young talents will react to the big stage, but I’m going to make an exception in this instance for a couple of reasons. The first is that I like Marshall’s game. He’s 6-0 as a professional and 5-0 as an amateur and he’s shown solid development each time out (I particularly like his use of the double jab). At 23-years-old, the man is full of potential. But the true reason I’m backing him Inside The Distance this week is that Marcelo Rojo simply loves to be finished. Outside of his time on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3, Rojo has not been to a decision since 2012. The man goes out there to get or get got, and lately, it’s the latter. This fight is set up for Marshall to face a winnable step up in competition, and I expect him to pass with flying colors.
Parlay of the Week
Since I’m on Thompson by decision, the first leg should be no surprise. I expect Wonderboy will keep the range and pot-shot for most of the fight, and if Holland can score takedowns, Burns and Muhammad couldn’t finish Thompson, so I doubt Holland will either.
Angela Hill has gone to a decision in 19 of her 26 career fights, including her past eight in a row. Ducote is only 10 for 18 on the career decision front, but she’s seen the cards in five of her eight UFC/Bellator fights.
Jonathan Pearce is simply much, much better than Darren Elkins at this stage of their careers. Not sure much more needs to be said. He’s the biggest favorite on the card for a reason.
Parlay these three bets together for +110 odds.
Long Shot of the Week
Parlay Bryan Barberena (+430) and Tai Tuivasa (+190) for +1437 odds
I know, I know, I’m breaking my own rules again, what with the parlaying underdogs, but Rule No. 1 is and always has been that gambling is supposed to be fun, and what could possibly be more fun that the “Bam Bam” Parlay?!?!
We already talked about Tuivasa so I won’t rehash that here, but for Barberena, I think he’s a somewhat live dog. Rafael dos Anjos is an all-time great and probably a bad style matchup for Barberena, but he’s also 38 years old, and we’re talking city miles. “RDA” has fought a who’s who of competition for a decade, and at some point, that catches up to you. If Barberena can survive what I imagine will be a tough first round and then ugly this fight up, then we can all sing Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran.
Since we took the week off for UFC Vegas 65, the last time we did this was UFC 281, and that was a good evening for us. We went 3 for 3 on prop bets plus hit on Ryan Spann at +185, and hit our All-In on Zhang Weili. Let’s shoot for a similar outcome this weekend.
Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!
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