Main Card Betting Odds and Predictions for UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

Main Card Betting Odds and Predictions for UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The UFC returns on Saturday with another dual-fight card weekend.

    UFC Fight Night 43 and UFC Fight Night 44 hit your screens this weekend with 21 fights in total.

    Headlining UFC Fight Night 43 in Auckland, New Zealand is a middleweight tilt between James Te Huna and former No. 1-ranked contender Nate Marquardt. At the top of the card for UFC Fight Night 44, No. 4-ranked contender Cub Swanson takes on No. 11-ranked Jeremy Stephens from San Antonio.

    The end goal of each fight preview is to help you make better informed decisions before you throw a few bones down on the fights. We will take a look at what the best plays are for the fights—and that includes just not making one if the odds are too out of whack.

    Let's get to breaking down the main card betting odds for each main fight.

    All betting odds provided by Odds Shark.

Robert Whittaker (-305) vs. Mike Rhodes (+235)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Robert Whittaker and Mike Rhodes meet in the first bout of the main card for UFC Fight Night 43 on Saturday, and both men are seeking to get back in the win column.

    Rhodes is a relative unknown fighter, and he will most likely return to obscurity after Saturday. This matchup feels like a way for the UFC to get former The Ultimate Fighter winner Whittaker back in the win column near his New Zealand home.

    What makes this exciting for you is that the odds are not that skewed. Whittaker is only a -305 favorite entering the fight.

    Take the former TUF winner. It should be a runaway for the New Zealand native.

    Prediction: Whittaker.

    The Play: Go all-in on Whittaker.

Hatsu Hioki (+160) vs. Charles Oliveira (-200)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The battle between Hatsu Hioki and Charles Oliveira may be the best of the month. It is stellar matchmaking.

    Both fighters are developing their striking well but are more inclined to grapple for the finish. If the fight hits the mat, we may be in store for some special scrambles between two of the best in the featherweight division.

    This is truly a pick 'em kind of fight, and you should side with whomever you are more comfortable with.

    I believe Oliveira's speed and athleticism will win the day. Hioki is a very live dog in this fight, but Oliveira will be able to hold his own on the mat should it go there, and his hands are a bit better overall. It should be enough to get the decision win.

    Prediction: Oliveira

    The Play: A small flier on Hioki won't hurt, but Oliveira seems like the right play.

Soa Palelei (+115) vs. Jared Rosholt (-145)

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    Chris Hyde/Getty Images

    Soa Palelei gets another fight close to home, but this one is a more steep climb.

    I am honestly surprised to see the odds so close in this matchup, but that is good news for you.

    Palelei has been on a good run as of late, but his biggest weakness as a fighter is his wrestling. It is an unlucky draw to get a Division I wrestler like Jared Rosholt.

    Rosholt is the favorite for a reason. If he gets in trouble, he should be able to just take Palelei down for three rounds and take the fight to the judges. Don't expect an overly exciting fight between these two heavyweights.

    Prediction: Rosholt.

    The Play: A solid play on Rosholt.

James Te Huna (-225) vs. Nate Marquardt (+175)

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    Jason Oxenham/Getty Images

    The main event of UFC Fight Night 43 pits James Te Huna against Nate Marquardt in a middleweight battle. Te Huna will be making his divisional debut, and Marquardt is coming back up in weight after a brief stint at welterweight.

    Marquardt has not done much of late that resembles his former self, but that could be contributed to his weight cut. We will find out on Saturday.

    Just as we will find out how the weight cut and pressure of fighting at home affects Te Huna.

    There are way too many unknowns for me to feel comfortable with this fight. If you do, great. It could just go either way, and the odds are not too enticing to take the risk with big unknown factors.

    Prediction: Marquardt.

    The Play: Take a backseat in this battle.

Joe Ellenberger (-260) vs. James Moontasri (+200)

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    Joe Ellenberger will make his UFC debut against fellow rookie James Moontasri on Saturday, but the story of this fight has been Ellenberger's struggle to find an opponent.

    Injuries have kept his opponents in a revolving door. Luckily, Moontasri has stepped up on short notice. A late-notice replacement against a 14-1 prospect only barely nudging the betting lines? You have to love that.

    Ellenberger should take this fight.

    Barring an upset, which has been frequent in 2014, this is your chance to kick off UFC Fight Night 44 in a big way.

    Prediction: Ellenberger.

    The Play: A big play on Ellenberger will return favorably.

Clint Hester (+125) vs. Antonio Braga Neto (-155)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The battle between Clint Hester and Antonio Braga Neto is one of the more intriguing on the main card of UFC Fight Night 44.

    Hester has looked stellar since coming off The Ultimate Fighter with three straight wins, and Neto has not lost a fight since 2008.

    This fight could be the launching pad for both men into the next tier at middleweight. The winner should earn himself a significant fight with a top-15 middleweight. Who wins?

    I have a gut feeling to go with Hester, but I cannot pull the trigger. It seems safer to stick with the favorite in this fight. Especially when the favorite has fight-ending ability if the fight hits the canvas. The odds are not steep enough on Hester to warrant an underdog flier.

    Prediction: Neto.

    The Play: A safe play on the favorite is your best bet.

Ricardo Lamas (-200) vs. Hacran Dias (+160)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Ricardo Lamas came up short in his title bid against Jose Aldo, but he was not finished by the Brazilian champion.

    Hacran Dias once had a lot of buzz surrounding him, but all of that cooled after a loss to Nik Lentz last May. He has been off for more than a year and now gets a former title contender in his first fight back. A rough draw.

    Dias struggled with Lentz's relentless pressure and wrestling, and Lamas offers up the same. The biggest difference between the two is that Lamas is more athletic and does more damage once the fight is on the mat.

    You have to love Lamas in this matchup, and the odds are also mouth-watering.

    Prediction: Lamas.

    The Play: Love the odds for Lamas.

Cezar Ferreira (-190) vs. Andrew Craig (+155)

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    Felipe Dana/Associated Press

    Cezar Ferreira was given the opportunity to take the next step up the ladder, but C.B. Dollaway kicked it over emphatically with a knockout victory. Now, Ferreira will try to regain some of his momentum against the game Andrew Craig.

    Craig is 2-2 in his last four bouts. He has not been inconsistent in the cage; rather, he has matched up poorly in his losses. His shining win thus far in his UFC career was his split decision over Chris Leben.

    The odds on this fight are interesting, but they offer you the chance to play Ferreira without the odds being too gaudy.

    Craig will be in the fight from bell to bell and often has a judge-pleasing style of winging punches. I don't think it'll be enough to get it done against Ferreira. I like the Brazilian.

    Prediction: Ferreira.

    The Play: A moderate play on Ferreira is the best play.

Kelvin Gastelum (-400) vs. Nicholas Musoke (+300)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    This is the biggest mismatch on both main cards, and it is clearly just a feeder fight for The Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum.

    Gastelum has been impressive both on and off the show. He most recently defeated Rick Story at UFC 171. Now, the UFC puts him back on free TV against a much lesser opponent in Nicholas Musoke.

    The bottom line of this fight is that the odds are not great. Musoke does not have much of a chance to topple Gastelum, and the favorite's odds are a bit too steep for a good return. It is best to just scrap this fight altogether.

    Gastelum rolls.

    Prediction: Gastelum.

    The Play: Skip the fight.

Cub Swanson (-260) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+200)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Cub Swanson, the No. 4-ranked contender, has been lobbying for a title shot in his post-fight speeches. Look for that to continue on Saturday night.

    No. 11-ranked Jeremy Stephens has looked fantastic at featherweight since making the drop last year, but this is a tall task.

    The matchup is an exciting one just by the styles these two employ. They love to strike, and both have big power. It does make Stephens a live dog in this bout. However, Swanson has looked outstanding as of late and has more tools to work with.

    This is really Swanson's chance to lay claim to the next featherweight title shot after Chad Mendes. He will have done everything he could have to earn that right. And the odds aren't too bad, either.

    Prediction: Swanson.

    The Play: Worthy of a solid play on Swanson.