With as many trips as the UFC is now making to Brazil (on a seemingly monthly basis), it would be easy for a few of these free televised fight cards to get lost in the shuffle.
Rightly so. Some of them, as the experts say, are just no good.
But this isn't one of them. Sure, the preliminary card is filled with fighters most of us have never heard of. There are perhaps a couple of unknowns on the main card, as well.
But the importance of those fights doesn't really matter, because the top two bouts on this card? They're both intriguing, and they have the potential to shake up the top of the middleweight division. The division Anderson Silva ruled with an iron fist a year ago could find itself in an even greater state of flux after Saturday night.
Lyoto Machida. Gegard Mousasi. Ronaldo Souza. And, to a lesser extent, Francis Carmont. All of these fighters are important to the top of the 185-pound division, and all have a state to either draw a line in the sand (in the case of Machida, Mousasi and Souza) or vault into the upper stratosphere of the division (Carmont).
No matter what the rest of the card looks like, that's well worth watching. But since we're here, let's go ahead and pass our gaze over the rest of the UFC's latest offering from Brazil. We'll look at the odds and try to determine if there are any valuable plays we might be able to make.
A word of warning, though: There are some absolutely crazy lines on this card. Those of you who have begged me for the last six months to include some underdog betting picks? You might want to pay attention here.
Note: As per usual, all statistics used in this preview are courtesy of Reed Kuhn at Fightnomics. Give him a follow on Twitter.
The line on Machida opened up at -310 and has continually dropped ever since. That's the historical trend with Machida; he'll open as a sizable favorite, the betting public will jump all over his opponent, and then on fight day, all of the money comes in on Machida.
The casual public bets against Machida because it doesn't realize just how good he is, or it hates his style, or any number of other dumb reasons. And then the big fish, the ones who make their living gambling on fights, jump in on the final day and make massive bets on Machida because they know what the rest of the world should know: Machida is very, very good.
Though he has a reputation as a casual counter-point fighter, the reality is that Machida is one of the more fearsome strikers in the history of the UFC. His Distance Knockdown per Landed Power Strike is 11.5 percent, which is on the extreme upper end of numbers in the UFC. This means that Machida's significant strikes, as measured by FightMetric, have a great chance of actually knocking his opponent to the canvas.
Machida is accurate with all of his strikes. We know this from watching. But the numbers back up our eyeballs; Machida lands 42 percent of his jabs and 38 percent of his power shots to the head.
He also does not go exclusively to the head. Of his strikes, 58 percent are aimed at the dome of his opponent, but he also has an even split between body strikes and leg strikes.
Mousasi's largest advantages are chin, jab and grappling. His grappling is almost completely negated by Machida's excellent takedown defense, however, and so Mousasi will be reliant upon his quicker pace and jab to keep Machida moving backward. If he's able to do that, and if he's able to avoid being knocked to the canvas (or out cold), Mousasi has a chance of taking this fight to the judges and scoring a decision.
Will it happen? I don't think so. I peg Machida's chances at winning this fight at roughly 80 percent or so. The public line gives him a 70.15 percent chance to win, so I'm giving Machida a little more credit than the odds.
Machida is worth a big play here. But in order to execute that play, you're going to need to get him in the next 24 hours. After that, the sharks come out to play, and he'll become a heavy favorite once again, thus rendering his value obsolete.
Play: Heavy play on Machida
Carmont has a size and reach advantage, and he also has the ability to completely nullify any and all action taken by his opponents by stuffing them up against the cage and sending the entire arena into a boredom-induced stupor.
That makes Carmont something of a live underdog, then, especially if the money continues to roll in on Souza. When I started taking notes for this column three days ago, Souza was at -475; today, he's at -550, and there's no reason to think he'll be at -600 or more come Saturday.
Make no mistake about it: I still believe Souza wins this fight. But he is not nearly the favorite the lines are making him out to be, and so we must keep our eye on Carmont's line and decide if it presents enough value for us to make a play. I think it does, so long as Carmont stays at or above +425.
Anybody with Carmont's size, winning streak (11 in a row) and ability to nullify the talents of his opponent is a force to be reckoned with. In this case, he may not beat Souza, but he certainly has a much better chance than the public is giving him.
Play: Play on Carmont at +425 or above
We don't have the kind of data on Sato that we do on Silva. Because of that, it's very hard to determine just how much of a chance Sato has of winning this.
But here's what we do know: Sato is a well-traveled veteran of the sport that has been around since 2004. He should probably be the underdog to Silva, but the current line makes him one of the biggest underdogs in the history of the UFC.
I have something I like to tell people when they ask me about massive underdogs, and it is this: If somebody is +500 or more in mixed martial arts, it is worth putting a flier on them. Doesn't matter whom they are. The nature of MMA being what it is, +500 has value even in the most ridiculous of one-sided matchups.
Because of that, I urge you to throw some money down on Sato. Because, at the end of the day, you just never know.
Play: Small play on Sato
Oliveira is the rightful favorite here, but Ogle is absolutely a live underdog. "Do Bronx" has a slight advantage in the striking game, which is interesting; when I think about this fight in my head, I imagine Oliveira being a far better striker and grappler than Ogle.
And perhaps that is why Oliveira is such a dramatic favorite here. Sure, he's the favorite for a reason. But this is one of those lines that seems a bit off. That's fine by me, because we're going to exploit the line by putting a heavy play on Ogle.
Remember: We are still looking for value. And this line is major value, even if Oliveira ends up winning.
Play: Heavy play on Ogle