UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa Fight Card Betting Odds & Predictions

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterMarch 6, 2014

UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa Fight Card Betting Odds & Predictions

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    UFC Fight Night 38 represents the first true test of the UFC's new Fight Pass service. It's a card hardcore mixed martial arts fans won't want to miss, and so this important question will likely be answered: Are fans willing to subscribe to an Internet-only service in order to see one of the best fighters in the world?

    I'd wager they are. I am, anyway, and I think many will join me in tuning in to see Alexander Gustafsson take on Jimi Manuwa, especially with a potential title rematch at stake for Gustafsson.

    As always, here are my predictions and betting tips for the card. I'd like to remind you before we begin that money management is incredibly important in betting; we are looking for value plays here, and those are the only plays I will recommend. If I don't think we have an edge in wagering on a fight, I'll recommend that you stay away. But I know some of you just want to have fun throwing a few bucks down on a fight; for you, I'll include a few prop-bet selections.

    And at the end, you'll find my "Just for Fun and $5" parlay recommendation. Because, let's face it: There is nothing more fun than watching a winning parlay unfold throughout a fight card.

    Let's get to it.

    Betting lines are provided by Best Fight Odds and are current as of Thursday afternoon.

Alexander Gustafsson (-470) vs. Jimi Manuwa (+375)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Matchup: In taking light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to the limit in their UFC 165 main event, Gustafsson went from interesting prospect to legitimate title contender with a very real case for an immediate rematch for the championship.

    Unfortunately, Gustafsson isn't fighting for the title this time around. He's not even featured in a marquee pay-per-view event to build interest in a rematch later this year. Instead he's fighting on Fight Pass, the UFC's new subscription-based Internet feature.

    It's a big step down in visibility, to be sure, but the end result is the same: If Gustafsson can beat Jimi Manuwa, he will earn another crack at Jones. Unfortunately for Gustafsson, Manuwa is a much tougher matchup than many people are giving him credit for.

    Manuwa is a big light heavyweight with top-shelf power in his hands and feet. The left hook is his favorite punch, and he has used it to great effect during his run to 14-0. Of those 14 wins, Manuwa has finished all of them before the second round, with eight of them coming from punches. He throws everything with murderous intent, using leg kicks to keep his opponents guessing. And if he connects to the head, there's a great chance of his opponent going down.

    His striking defense is not great, however, and that could be a detriment against Gustafsson. I fully expect the Swede to play things safe in the first two rounds before opening up in the third round. At that point, Gustafsson will look to take the fight to the ground, where he'll work his way to a submission.

    As I noted, Manuwa is incredibly dangerous, and nobody should be shocked if he scores the upset with a big knockout early in the fight. But I believe Gustafsson will be careful, riding out the early rounds by picking and choosing his spots before handing Manuwa his first loss.

    The Prediction: Alexander Gustafsson by submission

    The Play: At the current odds, I cannot recommend a money line play on either fighter. If Manuwa's line creeps up to +400 or more, he will be worth a small value play, so keep an eye on his line. Instead, I'll recommend a play on the "Gustafsson by submission" prop bet, which is currently at +275.

Michael Johnson (-130) vs. Melvin Guillard (+110)

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Matchup: Former Blackzilian teammates Johnson and Guillard have history and bad blood. While we may never know the full story behind Guillard's departure from that camp, it's safe to say from viewing the public banter between the two that it wasn't amicable. They don't like each other.

    Johnson is on the best roll of his career, with two consecutive wins over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau. He volunteered to step in for an injured Ross Pearson and face Guillard. A win over his former teammate would inch him close to the top 10, which means better competition and opportunities. Needless to say, he has been preparing for this fight like a madman down in Florida.

    Guillard is 2-4-1 in his last seven fights and seems to be trending downward in his career. He packs devastating power strikes, as always, and is a constant threat on the feet. But Johnson is much more selective and is not likely to be drawn into the kind of wild slugfest Guillard prefers. He also has a reach advantage over Guillard and is a southpaw, which is an advantage in and of itself.

    The Prediction: Michael Johnson by decision

    The Play: The public odds hew close to my own percentages here, so I can't recommend a money-line play. After all, one of the most important parts of gambling on anything is bankroll management; if no value is presented, then the smart decision is to stay away. There are no prop bets available on this fight as of publication time, but keep an eye out for "Johnson by decision." If that line is +150 or higher, I'd fire on it.

Brad Pickett (-700) vs. Neil Seery (+500)

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    The Matchup: Brad Pickett's flyweight debut was supposed to happen against Ian McCall here, but the oft-injured McCall was forced to pull out of the fight. In his place steps Neil Seery, a journeyman fighter who makes his UFC debut with a 13-9 record. The only UFC-level competition Seery has faced was Phil Harris, and he lost that fight by unanimous decision.

    In short, this is a chance for Pickett to look good. He has a major grappling advantage over Seery, mostly because Seery has atrocious takedown defense and leaves himself open for takedown attempts by constantly exerting too much forward pressure. If Pickett fights a smart fight, he should win this one going away, possibly even with a submission finish.

    The Prediction: Brad Pickett by submission

    The Play: At -700, there is no value in betting on Pickett. Those of you who enjoy betting on underdogs might find Seery's +500 line mighty appealing, but I can only recommend taking a small flier on that number.

Gunnar Nelson (-325) vs. Omari Akhmedhov (+265)

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    Photo courtesy UFC.com

    The Matchup: Renzo Gracie blackbelt Gunnar Nelson impressed onlookers in his first two UFC wins over DaMarques Johnson and Jorge Santiago. But the Icelandic fighter has been on the shelf for more than a year, leading many to wonder if cage rust will be an issue.

    I don't suspect it will. Omari Akhmedov looked good in his UFC debut win over Thiago Perpetuo, but this is a big step up in competition. Akhmedov is susceptible to takedowns, and that's a major problem against someone like Nelson. Look for Nelson to pepper Akhmedov early before scoring the takedown and working for a submission.

    The Prediction: Gunnar Nelson by submission

    The Play: I'm inclined to believe Nelson should be an even bigger favorite than he is here, and I can recommend a small play on him up to -400. I would also recommend keeping an eye out for a "Nelson by submission" prop bet when it is released later in the week; any number in plus territory presents fantastic value here.


    The "Just for Fun and $5" Parlay: Gustafsson + Johnson + Nelson + Diabate + Barnatt + Gaudinot, $5 to win $52.85