UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler Fight Card Betting Odds and Predictions
If you've been hesitant to order any of the UFC's 2014 pay-per-view offerings due to underwhelming fight cards, UFC 171 might be the cure for the thing that ails you.
If three bouts featuring some of the top welterweights in the company aren't enough to whet your appetite, then surely the main event will be enough to plop you on the couch in front of the television on Saturday night. After all, a new welterweight champion will be crowned, and reigning kingpin Georges St-Pierre is not involved.
Yes, the UFC is moving on with the business of finding a new champion after St-Pierre lost his smile and decided to take an extended hiatus from the sport in December. And as luck would have it, the two combatants who were chosen to determine the next champion just happen to be two of the most exciting fighters in the division, not to mention two of the heaviest punchers.
It's a recipe for a good time. But what better way to add even more intrigue to a stellar fight card than by throwing down some hard-earned money on the fights?
As usual, I am here to break down the betting odds and give you my plays for the UFC 171 main card. And I'll give you the same speech I usually do: a big part of betting on sports is money management. If there is no value in betting on a particular fight, I'll tell you so.
But I know some of you want to bet on everything under the sun. For you, I'll suggest interesting prop bets that might be worth a small play. And as always, I'll close out the proceedings with my patented "Just for Fun (and $5) Parlay," where I give you a six-fight parlay with a big payout for a small investment.
After all, what is life without a good parlay to root for?
Let's get started.
Johny Hendricks (-400) vs. Robbie Lawler (+325)
This is a historic fight because it will crown a UFC welterweight champion not named Georges St-Pierre.
That is something to behold by itself. St-Pierre dominated the division for so long that we took him for granted, and the idea of two completely new people fighting for the right to hold the belt feels a bit weird.
It will take some time for the winner to be accepted by the fans as the real champion, of course. The shadow that is cast by St-Pierre looms large over both Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
I don't have a problem with Hendricks being such a massive favorite here; it is hard to tell if Lawler has experienced a run of good fortune, or if he has truly turned his career around.
Hendricks is a powerful puncher, but he is also a much better wrestler than Lawler. If he so chooses, "Bigg Rigg" could turn this into a grinding wrestling match. That is the smart way to go about things, after all.
But Hendricks doesn't always fight the smart fight. He's a country boy wrestler-type who fell in love with punching dudes in the face. And unlike others who have come down with similar afflictions, he is actually good at it. And so I'd be surprised if he elected to use his wrestling for anything other than keeping the fight standing.
And that's where he runs into a potential problem, and by "potential problem," I mean Lawler's fists. Lawler hits just as hard as Hendricks, and he is mighty crafty.
According to FightMetric data parsed by Reed Kuhn from Fightnomics, Hendricks maintains a slight advantage over Lawler in the accuracy department, but Lawler actually has a higher knockdown per landed strike percentage. Lawler also has slightly better striking defense than Hendricks.
If Hendricks elects to play this one smart and use his wrestling, he can probably execute the equivalent of maintaining possession in soccer. It wouldn't be pretty or definitive, but it would be enough to take home the belt. But we all know he prefers to get things done with his fists, and I believe that's going to cost him.
Hendricks will eschew his wrestling game in favor of standing with Lawler. It'll be an exciting fight, but Lawler will catch Hendricks and finish him to complete an improbable run to the UFC Welterweight Championship that began way back on May 10, 2002.
Robbie Lawler by KO/TKO.
Lawler is a huge underdog, and given my prediction above, I recommend a heavy play on him at +325. I also recommend taking a look at the "Lawler wins by KO/TKO" prop bet at +490.
Carlos Condi (-165) vs. Tyron Woodley (+145)
The second of three intriguing welterweight fights features former interim champion Carlos Condit attempting to secure another title shot as he faces fellow First Round Management stablemate Tyron Woodley.
Condit has been one of the best welterweights in the world for a long time, dating back to his days as the last-ever WEC welterweight champion. In recent years, his activity in high-profile fights has helped elevate him from virtual unknown to a solid main event fighter.
As mentioned before, a win here will give him the chance to face the winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler, so there is plenty at stake for the former UFC interim champion.
Woodley has devastating power in his hands; his 13.2 percent distance knockdown per landed power strike is above the UFC average. He throws with bad intentions and has been effective with his striking in his UFC wins over Josh Koscheck and Jay Hieron.
But Condit represents a massive level change in competition for Woodley. "The Natural Born Killer" is a smart fighter who can stick to a game plan when needed, but he's also known for standing in the pocket and putting on thrilling fights. In fact, he has won fight night bonuses in six of his last seven bouts, including two consecutive knockout of the night awards.
Woodley will likely want to keep the fight standing, as Condit has a very active and dangerous guard. The problem that Woodley faces is the sheer volume of strikes that Condit attempts; it can be overwhelming, and when coupled with his fantastic footwork and constant movement, I suspect it may be too much for Woodley to handle.
Woodley will want to set up a one-punch knockout, but I'm not sure he'll get the chance.
Condit will use movement and attack from all angles. He's not likely to finish Woodley, but he'll do enough to earn a decision and move on to fight for the title.
Carlos Condit by decision.
There is a tiny amount of value in Condit at -165, so I recommend a small play. If the line moves any lower, then stay away.
Hector Lombard (-210) vs. Jake Shields (+175)
After joining the UFC as one of the most-hyped free-agent signings in years, Hector Lombard promptly went 1-2. His 5'9" size, while never a problem in Bellator, was causing him trouble against bigger UFC middleweights, and so he finally made the drop to welterweight.
While we only have a small sample size (his one fight against Nate Marquardt), it appears Lombard made the correct decision. He's no longer faced with the problems that go along with being undersized, and he appears to have maintained his speed and power with the weight cut.
That makes him a scary opponent for anyone in the division.
Jake Shields was also a hyped free-agent signing. After stumbling against Georges St-Pierre and Jake Ellenberger, he has racked up four consecutive wins to return to the edges of contender status. One of those wins was overturned due to a mysterious drug test failure, but the point remains: Shields is back in contention.
His key in this fight is to survive what will likely be a brutal early onslaught from Lombard. If he's able to hold Lombard, control him and prevent him from attacking, Shields has a real chance of tiring out the former Bellator champion and taking control of the fight after the Cuban tires.
That is where Shields excels; he has one of the most exhausting grappling games in the sport. One of his training partners once told me that having Shields on top of you is "like having an 800-pound bag of sand. It's hard to breathe, much less escape."
Can Shields execute that game plan? I think he can. If he survives those early moments when Lombard is fresh, his odds of winning the fight will shift dramatically. I think that's exactly what we'll see on Saturday night.
Shields will clinch and control Lombard early, seeking to tire him out. Once he does that, he'll ride his way to a decision win. It won't be pretty, but it doesn't have to be; winning is the only thing he needs to focus on.
Jake Shields by decision.
With Shields as the underdog, I recommend a play on him.
Myles Jury (-175) vs. Diego Sanchez (+155)
After many years of brutal Octagon wars, Diego Sanchez is now claiming that he's done with the brawling style that has made him one of the UFC's most exciting fighters. Instead, he promises that he'll be a complete fighter in the cage.
It's one thing to say such a thing and another to shed a career that is built on brawling. If Sanchez is serious, and he's intent on fighting smart against undefeated Myles Jury, he has a chance to win. If he reverts to his familiar style, he could be in for a long night, because Jury is a complete fighter who has the skills to keep Sanchez at bay.
There is very little chance Jury will allow himself to be sucked into a war with Sanchez. It is not in his nature. Jury's game is built on the kind of intelligent striking defense that has the potential to make Sanchez miss wildly and look bad in the process. Jury's total distance head strike defense is a stunning 93 percent. That number is among the highest in the UFC.
The outcome rests on Sanchez. If he truly is changing his style and sticks to a game plan, he has a chance of edging out Jury. If he goes back to his old ways, this one won't even be close.
Jury will fight intelligently, making Sanchez miss with wild strikes and taking opportunities to put his opponent on his back when they are given. From there, he'll control Sanchez long enough to win a decision.
Myles Jury by decision.
My odds for the fight hew close to the public numbers, so I recommend staying away. If you must bet on the fight, take a look at Jury by decision at +140. That has some value.
Ovince St. Preux (-370) vs. Nikita Krylov (+310)
St. Preux, a former Tennessee Volunteers linebacker and defensive end, is a large man with a deft blend of power, athleticism and speed. For his third trip into the Octagon, he was supposed to face Thiago Silva; we all know what happened there.
Now, he faces Nikita Krylov, a former heavyweight who holds the title of Master of Sport in Kyokushin karate.
St. Preux's massive legs give him the ability to throw supremely powerful leg kicks, which he uses to damage his opponents and keep them at bay. He's much quicker than Krylov, and unless the Ukrainian fighter can get St. Preux to the canvas, he doesn't have much hope of winning the fight.
St. Preux is faster, stronger and more well-rounded than Krylov. As mentioned above, the only chance the Ukrainian has of winning the fight is to get St. Preux to the ground, and that will be easier said than done. Look for St. Preux to catch Krylov standing and then finish him with nasty ground-and-pound.
Ovince St. Preux by KO/TKO.
St. Preux is a heavy favorite, and there is no real value in betting him. The best value for people who feel compelled to bet on every fight can be found in the "St. Preux by TKO/KO" prop, which is trading at +105.
The Just for Fun (and $5) Parlay
Carlos Condit + Myles Jury + Ovince St. Preux + Rick Story + Jessica Andrade + Dennis Bermudez: $5 to win $71.45