UFC 133: A Bettor’s Guide

Written by: AJ Hoffman

UFC 133 is light on star power, but heavy on competitive fights. Obviously that makes the card a little tougher to handicap than most, and honestly I don’t know how much real value is to be had. This isn’t a card I feel extremely confident on, so wager with care if you are taking my advice. I have been wrecking shop on the undercards lately, but have had my share of trouble with the main cards, namely with the main events (and Tito has already hurt me recently). The card is handicapped below.

PRELIMINARIES

Paul Bradley
(-125)
VS Rafael Natal
(-105)

Natal has proven to be competitive inside the octagon, but has yet to seal the deal and get a win. Bradley was a cast member on season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter, and has amassed an 18-2 record as a pro. His only losses have come against current UFC fighter Mike Pierce and Strikeforce standout Luke Rockhold. Look for Bradley to control the fight with his wrestling, and likely give Natal his walking papers.  BRADLEY DEF. NATAL BY DECISION

Mike Brown
(-225)
VS Nam Phan
(+175)

Mike Brown is wildly frustrating. This is the same guy that beat Urijah Faber in his prime and looked like a young Matt Hughes. He has now lost 4 of his last 6 fights and is probably facing walking papers. Phan lost a controversial decision to Leonard Garcia, and will look to prove that he belongs in the UFC. Phan is quick with his hands and good on the ground, but Brown should be able to put him down and control the fight there with his ground and pound. If not, I won’t have to worry about handicapping any more Brown fights in the UFC. BROWN DEF. PHAN BY DECISION

Johny Hendricks
(-140)
VS Mike Pierce
(+110)

This might be the closest fight of the night on paper. Both of these guys are outstanding wrestlers and have used that strength to grind out wins against some very good fighters. Both of them happen to have lost against very good wrestlers as well. (Pierce to Jon Fitch, Hendricks to Rick Story) I expect this to be really competitive, and probably be a split decision type of fight. I think Pierce is a really underrated fighter, but Hendricks is easily one of my favorite prospects in the sport. A win here could put him in line for some big fights. HENDRICKS DEF PIERCE BY DECISION

Ivan Menjivar
(-165)
VS Nick Pace
(+135)

Menjivar, to put it simply, is a bully. He is going to look to smash on Pace and finish him with his hands. He destroyed Charlie Valencia back in April. Pace has not yet proven exactly how good he is, but a win against a veteran fighter like Menjivar would solidify his status as one of the top young fighters in the game. My prediction is that Menjivar lands some big shots but eventually gets taken down and steals a submission.  PACE DEF. MENJIVAR BY SUBMISSION

Alexander Gustafsson
(-170)
VS Matt Hamill
(+140)

Speaking of prospects, Alex Gustafsson is definitely in that boat. He has blitzed through some heavy handed guys in the UFC so far and proven himself to be a great young talent. His lone loss came against Phil Davis, a world class wrestler. Matt Hamill is a world class wrestler. After a frustrating defeat at the hands of Rampage Jackson, Hamill is now on undercard duty, and clearly will be looking to improve his standing. Gustafsson’s time will come, just not against Hamill, who will get back to his old ways of grinding opponents down with his wrestling.  HAMILL DEF. GUSTAFSSON BY DECISION

Chad Mendes
(-650)
VS Rani Yahya
(+425)

Mendes was in line to get a title shot against Jose Aldo on this card, but Aldo’s injury forced Mendes into a warmup. This really shouldn’t be much more than that. Yahya is excellent with submissions, but will probably be dominated by Mendes’ ever improving standup and has little chance of getting the wrestler to the ground.  MENDES DEF. YAHYA BY TKO (RD 2)


MAIN CARD

Rory MacDonald
(-275)
VS Mike Pyle
(+215)

MacDonald is a superb striker for being only 22 years old. Pyle is a wily veteran who has proven that experience can still beat hype (See his fight with John Hathaway). MacDonald will have to avoid being taken down, but with his reach keeping Pyle at a distance is very do-able. I like MacDonald to win the fight, but at anything better than +200, I wouldn’t be afraid to put down on Pyle. MACDONALD DEF. PYLE BY TKO (RD 2)

Jorge Rivera
(-155)
VS Constantinos Philippou
(+125)

This is a really tough fight for me to call. You won’t ever find me laying meaningful money on Jorge Rivera. He is far too inconsistent. His back is against the wall here after being stopped by Michael Bisping. Philippou lost his first UFC fight, a catchweight (195) bout with Nick Catone. At 39 years old, I don’t think Rivera has enough in him to make another run at it. It will be a war, but I think Philippou pulls out a close one. PHILIPPOU DEF. RIVERA BY DECISION

Brian Ebersole
(-115)
VS Dennis Hallman
(-115)

Of course this line is even. I would have just said to bet on the guy with more favorable odds, but I guess that is out the window. This is a matchup of two veterans who are running hot right now. Ebersole will have the advantage in wrestling, but Hallman is dangerous on the ground. I will take Ebersole to ride the momentum of his win over Chris Lytle and take this fight in a fairly boring matchup. EBERSOLE DEF. HALLMAN BY DECISION

Vitor Belfort
(-370)
VS Yoshihiro Akiyama
(+280)

Again, not a lot of value in the line, but it is about right. There is a very slim chance that Akiyama is going to be able to compete with the speed/power combo that Belfort presents. Sure, he got kicked in the face by Anderson Silva, but Akiyama isn’t Anderson Silva. Akiyama will try and get inside and take Belfort down, but Belfort will be much better if the fight goes there too. Belfort’s fight to lose. I don’t see it happening. Side note: My play on this fight will be Belfort inside the distance at -120.  BELFORT DEF. AKIYAMA BY TKO (RD 1)

MAIN EVENT

Rashad Evans
(-400)
VS Tito Ortiz
(+300)

Despite Tito Ortiz making me foolish his last time out against Ryan Bader, where I almost lost my kid to the mafia, I am not going to change my tune. Ortiz is not on the level of the top guys today. Evans bores me to tears, and I wish there was a way that they could both lose, but I am a realist. Ortiz would have won the first fight had he not held on to the fence multiple times. Evans couldn’t do any damage when he had Tito down, but Evans has evolved as a fighter since then. I think Evans finishes Tito with his hands this time, proving that Tito is not in the upper tier of 205ers. EVANS DEF. ORTIZ BY TKO (RD 2)

SAFEST PICKS MENDES, BELFORT
RISKIEST PICKS EBERSOLE, MACDONALD
CONSERVATIVE PARLAY MENDES, BROWN, EVANS, BELFORT- PAYS 3/2
MODERATE PARLAY BROWN, MENDES, MACDONALD, BRADLEY- PAYS 3/1
AGGRESSIVE PARLAY HAMILL, PACE, BRADLEY, PHILIPPOU- PAYS 24/1
LOTTERY TICKET PARLAY ALL 12 FIGHTS- PAYS 289/1

(all head shots used courtesy of UFC.com)