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To say UFC Fight Night 137 has undergone some changes and switches would be an understatement. It doesn’t mean we can’t make some money off of it, though.
Yes, even in an era rife with injuries, cancellations and re-bookings, UFC Fight Night 137 on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is a particularly embattled event. Even if certain Ultimate Fighting Championship offerings seem to simply bleed together in our fight-watching schedule, this one stands out. Our main event was originally slated to be a light heavyweight showdown between Jimi Manuwa and Glover Teixeira, which morphed into Thiago Santos moving to 205 pounds to take on Manuwa after Teixeira suffered a shoulder injury. Naturally, given the promotion’s luck, Manuwa landed in Brazil and then promptly suffered a torn hamstring while going for a routine run.
Now, the headliner will feature two middleweights at 205 pounds, as Santos faces once-beaten Eryk Anders, whose last trip to Brazil ended in a razor-thin split decision loss to former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. The main event is just one of seven fights that got switched before bell time, but perhaps we can use that to our advantage. Here’s how to bet on UFC Fight Night 137:
Straight Up Cash
Eryk Anders (+130)
Make no bones about it, it’s a less-than-ideal situation for Anders. He just fought a month ago, when had a tougher time than expected with journeyman Tim Williams despite getting a highlight-reel knockout; and despite 15 amateur bouts and now 12 as a pro, he still seems slightly like a great athlete learning on the job. However, even on a week’s notice, should he be the underdog to Thiago Santos? Not in my book.
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching Santos fight, and he’s exactly the sort of mid-card fighter for whom the UFC needs to endlessly pursue, rather than let skate to Bellator MMA, One Championship or Absolute Championship Berkut. However, what’s intriguing about Anders is the fact that he is such a brilliant athlete with a naturally well-rounded game that we expect him to keep fleshing out his skills and eventually become a Top-10 talent. Santos shows no growth; he is what he is. Whether he stays at 185 pounds beyond this fight or permanently bumps to light heavyweight, he will always be a vicious kickboxer capable of switching stances and delivering heavy punches and some of the most devastating body kicks in the company. No doubt, one roundhouse kick to the liver could crumple Anders. However, the former University of Alabama linebacker is a natural aggressor, constantly stalking and closing the distance on his opponents, which means he can cut off Santos’ natural and preferred kicking range. More than that, he packs pop in his punches and seemingly prefers to smother opponents into the cage before buying his takedowns, which is exactly the sort of game plan one needs to take Santos out of his rhythm.
Simply put, Anders is a blue-chip prospect who has maybe been slower to mature than we fickle fans would want. However, Santos is a mid-card action fighter with some particularly deadly tools. Anders already has five-round experience in Brazil, where he narrowly lost a split decision that many -- myself included -- thought he earned against Machida in the Brazilian’s hometown. Expect Anders to impose his athleticism and wear down Santos, who has demonstrated a shaky gas tank. At +130, this seems like a steal.
Straight Up Pass
Andre Ewell (+105)
I’ve seen a lot of people plunking cash on this line, and in all honesty, I get where their head is at. Barao is 1-4 in his last five bouts and has looked like a shell of his former championship self over the last three years. However, strength of competition is still a major factor in determining future outcomes in MMA -- think about people predicting the imminent demises of Jim Miller and Diego Sanchez a few weeks ago -- and frankly, Ewell has fought largely miserable opposition.
Ewell has been a pro fighter for barely three years. In that span, he has gone 13-4 against nearly entirely anonymous opponents, save for UFC veteran Willie Gates, who isn’t exactly the most submission-savvy cat on the block. Yes, being back at 135 pounds is going to take a toll on Barao physically, and it’s questionable how his gas tank is going to hold up. However, the former UFC bantamweight champ is an experienced veteran who is likely going to slow things down and fight at a pace commensurate with his shortcomings. Can Ewell go low kick for low kick with Barao? Is he a better wrestler, especially when Barao pins him to the fence and tries to create opportunistic takedowns? Is he a better jiu-jitsu player? The answer is no to all of the above.
Ewell is entertaining but hardly nurtured in the game. We view Barao as having fallen off a cliff because he has lost to Top-15 opposition for three years. Barao still has more than enough in his repertoire to stifle Ewell’s nascent fight skills and use his experience to grind out a possibly ugly but nonetheless legitimate victory. Skip this one.
A Prop-ular Pick
Francisco Trinaldo and Evan Dunham Goes to Decision (-160)
As I just mentioned, quality of competition is a major factor here. Is Dunham 36 years old and openly contemplating retirement? He sure is. Did he just get stopped with a vicious knee to the body from a fighter in Olivier Aubin-Mercier who is still learning the striking game to supplement his judo? Sure did. However, Dunham’s bout with Trinaldo being -155 to go the scorecards? I hop on that all day.
Eight years ago when Dunham nearly choked out former UFC lightweight champ Sean Sherk with a guillotine and wound up losing a questionable split decision, people looked at the Oregonian as a future title contender. Well, that never came to fruition; if anything, Dunham did himself a disservice, opting to face elite 155-pound competition while fighting it in a way least to his advantage. He made his own bed, and as his MMA career likely winds down, he has to lay in it. Regardless, whether or not you think Dunham has a sneaky underdog’s chance, he is more than good enough to go the full 15 minutes.
Keep in mind, Dunham’s only lost once in his last six outings in the Octagon. Trinaldo may be fighting in his home country and packs a surprising thump in his paws, but Dunham’s knockout losses have come to more accurate, explosive strikers, especially those willing to punish the body, which Trinaldo simply does not do. “Massaranduba” throws flailing overhands to set up his bullish takedowns, which Dunham’s wrestling game may stave off. Would I bet on a man who relishes wearing an Oregon Ducks hat? Nah, probably not, but Dunham is leather-tough and Trinaldo’s striking and takedown game is based more on pure power than precision. That alone should be enough to carry Dunham through three rounds for a payoff.
An Unprop-ular Pick
Sam Alvey vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira Goes to Decision (+125)
I think anyone betting gets what the gambit is here. “Minotouro” has won just a single fight in over five years and Alvey -- in the time since Nogueira bested Pat Cummins in 2013 -- has carved out a mark for himself in the Octagon as an indefatigable brawler. He has gone 14-6 inside the UFC cage since Nogueira even won an MMA fight. I fully understand why people think Nogueira is ripe for the picking and that Alvey is the able, promotional farmhand to pluck him.
Let’s not forget how the Nogueira brothers got their nicknames: being drunk and hungover during a day session at Brazilian Top Team and soldiering through it like nothing was wrong, to the amazement of Mario Sperry. Also, we have a tendency to view Rogerio through the lens of his more accomplished twin Rodrigo, even though Rogerio has always been more conservative in his output and a better natural boxer. Rogerio has never been the devil-may-care fighter his brother was in his prime. Even if the Brazilian’s chin has failed him against the likes of Ryan Bader and Anthony Johnson in the last four years, Alvey is not that kind of hitter, but then again, arguably no one in the history of MMA has quite cracked like Johnson. This is forgivable.
Nogueira is going to look to box and land counter combos off of Alvey’s wide swings. Not in a million years should you invest any straight coin on “Minotouro,” but Alvey is a one-dimensional brawler who has settled into his role as a UFC mid-card slugger. He has an affable personality and is married to an “America’s Next Top Model” winner; safe to say, he knows how his bread is buttered. He’s going to fight his fight, and it should be more than good enough to win. However, the Nogueira twins didn’t earn their nicknames for no reason, and Rogerio should be good enough to stick around for 15 minutes.
An Accumulation Contemplation
Eryk Anders (+130)
Sergio Moraes (-300)
Hector Lombard (-130)
Total Odds: (+443)
For reasons previously discussed, I think Anders is the best underdog we have on this card. It only makes sense that he’s the anchor of our class three-team parlay. As for the others? Not the soundest, but not the shakiest either, so bear with me. Santos matches up well with Anders’ skill set and should allow him to employ his rough-and-tumble clinch game, especially against less of a cardiovascular specimen. Have faith.
Moraes and Lombard? A little iffier, I admit. Moraes is facing a physically unique athlete in Ben Saunders, even if “Killa B” has seemingly wanted out of the MMA game for a minute and is actively contemplating retirement. Nonetheless, Saunders’ best offense comes in the clinch, where Moraes gets most of his takedowns. It doesn’t matter if he only gets you to your knees and you quasi-defend a takedown, he’ll hop your back and look to finish. On top of that, Moraes is a legitimate threat to register 10-8 rounds from purely grappling because of his mastery of position, especially when he teases back control for three minutes or more.
As for Lombard, well, there’s that left hand. Thales Leites isn’t much of a defender, nor or his takedowns particularly effective. Lombard is clearly long in the tooth and doesn’t have much more to offer the MMA world, but he is still an elite athlete; and given his aggressive stance, he is likely to put Leites on his bicycle, where to his own detriment he often dies on the judges’ scorecards. Lombard may not do much, but his ferocious, southpaw swinging will probably put Leites on his back foot and earn him a decision win.