With one of the greatest events in mixed martial arts history in the books, it's time to turn our gaze towards Manchester and this Saturday's "UFC Fight Night 30: Machida vs. Munoz" fight card.
The event, which airs on Fox Sports 2 (formerly Fuel TV), is notable for one specific thing: the middleweight debut of former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
The event was originally scheduled to feature a main event between Michael Bisping and Mark Munoz. But a severe eye injury to Bisping forced him to withdraw from the fight. Machida was slated to face Tim Kennedy at the Fight for the Troops event in November but was pulled from the card and inserted into a fight with friend and training partner Mark Munoz.
As is typical with most free television cards, the rest of the card doesn't exactly feature the biggest names in the sport. With that in mind, I'm focusing my betting preview for the event on the top three fights. After we take in-depth looks at those bouts, I'll give you predictions for the rest of the fights.
As always, I won't be recommending a betting play on every fight; my goal here is to help you maximize your value, and if I don't see good value in a fight, I won't suggest you make a play on it. But there are a couple of possible plays on this card, so let's get started.
Lyoto Machida and Mark Munoz are friends and training partners. Munoz is Machida's wrestling coach, as a matter of fact, which makes this an intriguing bout on many levels.
Munoz has said that he doesn't want to fight Machida, but is doing so because he has no other choice. One can assume Machida feels the same way. With all the long-time furor from fans who want to see training partners "man up" and face each other, it's both interesting and disheartening to see two men, who trained together until two days before their fight was announced, forced to step in the cage to fight.
But fight they will.
The most interesting story line of the bout is that it's Machida's middleweight debut after years as a perennial top contender in the light heavyweight division. He's been a champion and has wins over some of the most notable names in the division, but even during the midst of the short-lived "Machida Era," he was always undersized for the division.
Now, he's in his natural weight class, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against men his own size. His speed and fluid counter-striking, coupled with his unorthodox style, should still serve as his greatest asset.
Munoz is a strong wrestler with one of the more powerful ground-and-pound attacks in the sport. He cannot compete with Machida in a striking battle, and so must look to get the fight to the ground as early and often as possible. That's much easier said than done, however, as Machida is simply excellent at avoiding takedowns.
The market has Machida winning the fight nearly 80 percent of the time, and for good reason. He's the better fighter and has the ability to frustrate Munoz for all five rounds. In the end, I have Machida with a 70 percent chance to win the fight, which means there's no value for me in a straight-up play on Machida.
With that in mind, we'll look to the props to find our value. Machida by decision currently stands at +250, and given his history and the fact that he's not likely to finish Munoz, that's the play I recommend.
PLAY: Lyoto Machida by decision (+250)
Melvin Guillard is just 2-4 in his last six Octagon appearances. He's switched training camps during that time, leaving his home at the Blackzilians for the Grudge Training Center in Colorado. To the outsider, his life appears to be one of unrest, never staying in one place for any lengthy amount of time.
But Guillard still has some of the most dynamic striking and power in his division, as evidenced by his knockout of Mac Danzig in his last fight. If Guillard puts his hands on you, there's a very good chance you're going to drop. And his hand speed gives him an advantage over nearly every opponent he faces.
That's bad news for Ross Pearson, who makes his living as a striker. The key to beating Guillard has always been to take him down and look for submissions; Pearson hasn't won a fight by submission since 2008. His greatest strength is in the striking department, and that's an unfortunate thing for him heading into this fight.
I believe you're going to see a quick fight, and I think it's going to be violent. I also think it's going to end with Pearson unconscious on the canvas. Guillard's speed and power will be overwhelming for Pearson.
There is value here. The market has Guillard with a 60 percent chance to win. I believe that number is closer to 80, thus I can recommend a straight bet on Guillard.
PLAY: Melvin Guillard to win, -150
Jimi Manuwa is a monstrous striker. All but one of his 13 wins have come by knockout, and his last fight (against Cyrille Diabate) proved that he can strike with fighters who are considered to be very good at the art.
Ryan Jimmo is not undefeated, but he still rocks a sporty 18-2 record. He scored "KO of the Night" honors in his UFC debut win over Anthony Perosh, but historically he's known as a grinding—and somewhat boring—fighter. He has plenty of power, but he's outgunned on the feet by Manuwa.
Jimmo is very good at creating stalemates and frustrating his opponents, however, and that gives him a better chance of winning this fight than some might think.
But Manuwa is still the favorite. The market has Manuwa with a 67.74 percent chance of winning, and I've got him pegged at 60 percent. That means there's no value in a straight up play on Manuwa, and at the time I'm writing this, there are no props to pull the trigger on.
By Friday, we should have prop bets available. But right now, I can't see any area where I'd recommend a play here. Stay away from this one.
PLAY: No play
Here are my quick predictions for the rest of the card. Remember to weigh in below with your own predictions, and enjoy the fights on Saturday.
Norman Parke vs. Jon Tuck: Parke
John Lineker vs. Phil Harris: Lineker
Alessio Sakara vs. Nicholas Musoke: Sakara
Al Iaquinta vs. Piotr Hallman: Iaquinta
Luke Barnatt vs. Andrew Craig: Craig
Rosi Sexton vs. Jessica Andrade: Sexton
Cole Miller vs. Andy Ogle: Miller
Jimy Hettes vs. Robert Whiteford: Hettes
Brad Scott vs. Michael Kuiper: Kuiper