Hey guys, it's fight week.
Actually, there's no such thing as fight week any more. It's just one long stretch of fight weeks, pressing out into the distance with no end in sight. And sometimes, that's going to be terrible. But sometimes—take this week's UFC Fight Night event from Australia, for example—that's going to be just fine with me.
This card—which airs on Friday night in North America but takes place Saturday in Australia (you do the math; it makes my head hurt just thinking about it)—has been flying under the radar. That's what happens when you put on too many events; the good stuff gets overlooked. But I like this card a lot, especially from a gambling perspective. There are at least two fights where I think the underdog should be a massive favorite, giving me an opportunity to make some serious cash.
So let's take a look at the card, shall we? I've got the lines for all five main card fights, with some analysis and my recommended plays for each.
Oh man, is this ever a delicious line, and I'll tell you why.
Take a look at this data table. That's from Reed Kuhn, the man behind Fightnomics and the first analyst to do Bill James-style sabermetric statistical analysis on mixed martial arts. It's what Reed calls the "Uber Tale of the Tape," and it's intended to give you deeper look into the key parts of a mixed martial arts fight, into the things that matter when determining who's going to win.
And boy, does this one ever reveal something startling: Mark Hunt has a significant advantage over Antonio Silva in just about every important category. People like to point at Hunt for his ground game, but the truth is that he's even better with his own takedown accuracy and takedown defense than Silva, and he even has more time in control on the ground than the mammoth jiu-jitsu black belt.
Take a look at the knockdown ratio, too. Hunt has three UFC knockdowns and has taken only two. Silva has four knockdowns of his own, but he's also been knocked down four times. This raises questions about his chin, and I think they're questions Hunt is going to definitely answer on Friday night. Or Saturday, if you're Australian.
I like Hunt here, and I like him big. There's a dramatic difference between how the market sees this fight and what the data is telling us. The data is telling us to go big on Hunt. With your money.
THE PLAY: Heavy play on Mark Hunt.
At first glance, it may seem weird that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is an underdog to James Te Huna. I can imagine how some of you will react to that news. Shogun's a legend! What's a James Te Huna, anyway?
The most surprising thing to me is that Rua is somehow still just 32 years old. He's the same age as Te Huna, only it feels like Shogun has been around for at least 25 years while Te Huna is some fresh-faced kid. In reality, Shogun started his professional career in Brazil just one year before Te Huna did the same in Australia.
The numbers tell us both men have strong chins, but Te Huna is far more susceptible to getting knocked down. Shogun has six knockdowns while being knocked down two times; Te Huna has two knockdowns of his own, but has been knocked down three times.
Both are fairly close in the striking department. The most effective weapon in the fight is Shogun's jab, which lands at a 48 percent clip. Te Huna's best chance of avoiding that jab lies in his takedowns; Shogun's 34 percent takedown defense is actively terrible, and that's something Te Huna can exploit.
Te Huna can win this fight, but I don't think he's going to. Rua's submission loss to Chael Sonnen was an outlier and not an indicator of his current performance levels. I think he still has what it takes to beat fighters like Te Huna.
THE PLAY: I don't recommend a play as heavy as the one on Hunt because I believe the lines here are fairly close to accurate, but Rua is a good underdog bet.
This is a weird matchup. Anthony Perosh is just over 41 years old. And yet, he manages to win against much younger men, so the age difference between he and Bader isn't as much of an issue as it could be. Perosh did beat Vinny Magalhaes in 14 seconds his last time out, after all.
The numbers tell us both men are not very good at striking, at least in the accuracy department. Bader has plenty of power, but he's only marginally better at putting his power punches on his opponent than Perosh. Both men have the ability to put you on the canvas when they do connect, however.
For all of his wrestling experience, Bader actually isn't all that great at takedown defense; he's only defended 60 percent of takedowns attempted on him. That's below the UFC average, and it borders on being downright awful. Luckily for him, Perosh is only successful on 21 percent of the takedowns he attempts. That's worse than having a mere 60 percent takedown defense.
THE PLAY: If you like big underdogs, throw a few bucks on old man Perosh here, if only because he has the ability to surprise while Bader has the proven ability to underwhelm.
This is a fight booked because it's probably going to be exciting, at least until one or both of them get tired. At that point, it will no longer be exciting.
In terms of numbers that stand out: Barry's Distance Knockdowns from Landed Power Strike percentage is quite good at 16.3 percent, as is his head strike defense at 82 percent. If the fight stays on the feet, Barry has an edge that he should be able to exploit.
Of course, that's a big if. Palelei will look to get the fight to the ground rather than standing and trading punches with a power kickboxer. For all his insufficiencies on the ground, Barry's takedown defense is actually decent at 80 percent.
THE PLAY: I think the market has these odds just about right, so I'm recommending you stay away from the moneyline. Instead, I'll recommend you take a look at the props for this one when they are released on Thursday or Friday morning; given the way both of their styles mesh, there's a very good chance this one is going the distance. If you see it available at plus money, take it and run.
We don't have FightMetric data on Correia, so I'm going more by what I've heard about her and what I've seen in watching various YouTube videos of her 6-0 professional career. Put simply, she is quite good and I'm shocked she's an underdog to Julie Kedzie.
Correia mixes excellent takedown defense with crisp counterstriking, mostly relying on short hooks. She's rarely, if ever, out of control and constantly maintains a technical striking stance that allows her to quickly stuff her opponents when they shoot. Oh, and she's built like a tank. Just watch this YouTube video of her last win over Erica Paes in June to see all of her skills on display.
I respect what Kedzie has done in her career. She's a women's MMA pioneer and an outstanding example of how to be an upstanding human being in a world sometimes filled with low-class athletes. She's also one of the nicest people you could ever meet.
But the truth is that she is, at best, an average fighter. Her 16-12 record reflects this. She's on the downward slope of her career and has lost three in a row. What I see here is an aging fighter being used to set up a potential new female UFC star who can be placed on Brazilian fight cards in the future.
THE PLAY: I like a big play on Correia. I think she's simply better than Kedzie, despite a huge experience edge for the Team Jackson fighter, and I think it will show here. The nerves that go along with a UFC debut may play a factor, but Correia is good enough to take this fight.