It’s fight week for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I just like to write out each word sometimes. It takes me back to when I was a youth of 14 years, and I stumbled upon a new release VHS of UFC 1 at a favorite mom and pops movie rental spot in my hometown in Virginia.
My life has never since been the same. I was hitting arm drags, taking backs, and putting the hooks in all before I stepped foot on the mats.
Before the UFC, all I had was Jean Claude Van Damme movies like Lionheart, Kickboxer, and the infamous Bloodsport!
Before JCVD, the Hollywood martial arts hero was Daniel-Son the Karate Kid landing a crane kick to defeat the evil Cobra Kai team.
Yes, these are movies and most of the techniques used in them don’t translate very well to a real-world life and death physical encounter or the cage, really.
What these movies have instilled in me, though, is a belief in the underdog. Every one of these films tells the story of the hero. Maybe they aren’t Vegas odds, but the odds are undoubtedly stacked against them every time.
Betting on the underdog should never be the staple of any successful gambler. Most of your money is going to be made around the -130 to -170 marks. These are teams or competitors that are expected to win but aren’t too expensive. So if you lose one of these bets, it doesn’t completely empty your wallet.
The men and women who make the odds for online sportsbooks have improved tenfold over the years in their understanding of the sport of mixed martial arts along with a much deeper comprehension of how hundreds of fighters in the UFC conduct business inside the Octagon.
MMA betting has become much more difficult in the past 5 years or so because of this.
Check back later this week as I’ll be picking fights against the betting odds on the entire main card along with a few preliminary contests.
Today, I want to focus on what underdogs I believe can pull off the upset on Saturday in LA.
BetOnline has odds on each contest including several appetizing lines on a couple sleepers.
Let’s break down a few of the fights where I feel the underdogs have the best chance at victory.
Matt Sayles (-125) vs Sheymon Moraes (+105)
Even with the massive main and co-main event this Saturday from the Staples Center in LA, the rest of the card is littered with small names and a few fighters fighting on a pay-per-view UFC event for the first time.
I had to get my money’s worth out of my UFC Fight Pass in preparation for this blog. There are so many fresh faces fighting in the UFC today! I had to take a refresher course but luckily for you, all of the information is still in the forefront of my mind.
I may or may not be picking upsets in the main and co-main events. You’ll just have to be patient with me and continue reading.
After watching tape on nearly every fighter on the card, I couldn’t help but like the favorites in most of the contests. That makes sense, though. More favorites are going to win than underdogs. The art and science of this betting thing are each rooted in locating those underdogs in a sea of favorites that can pay you out sometimes double or triple your initial investment.
This fight is a very interesting one considering Matt Sayles will be fighting in his first UFC event after winning Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The Alliance MMA product is trained by super coach Eric Del Fierro with countless world-class sparring partners to work with.
He has beaten a couple friends of mine who I hold in very high regard as martial artists and fighters, but he still hasn’t faced the level of competition that his opponent Sheymon Moraes has seen.
Sheymon has 2 losses in his professional career. His first loss was to the potential UFC future champion, lights out striker, and his namesake Marlon Moraes. Sheymon challenged Marlon for his World Series of Fighting 135 lb belt, but was, of course, unsuccessful.
Sheymon’s other loss was in his only UFC fight. He had the unlucky “opportunity” of fighting Zabit Magomedsharipov. I know I just said Marlon could be the future UFC champ, but Zabit is the probably the best mixed martial arts talent I have ever seen.
Marlon Moraes and Zabit both train together at Mark Henry’s gym in New Jersey, so this could get very interesting in the next couple years.
Zabit was sent off to a Russian MMA boarding school as a child by his parents. The rest is history or it will be history I should say. I could write an entire blog just on this guy, but let’s stick to Moraes and Sayles.
Think about how much fighters improve after they fight someone who is on another level than them. There aren’t many of these special talents out there, but we have seen in the past the improvement in a fighter’s mental as well as physical game following a loss to one of the worlds best.
For example, Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, and Dustin Poirier all went on tears after losing to “The Notorious” Conor McGregor.
I expect the same from Moraes this weekend. He will have a tough opponent that has serious power, but Sheymon’s 70-inch reach is long for the weight class and could keep him out of harm’s way long enough to kick his way to victory.
He isn’t a massive underdog with a ton of value but outside of the main and co-main events, I think Moraes has the best chance to win out of all the other dark horses on the card.
Demetrious Johnson (-480) vs Henry Cejudo (+380)
Blasphemy, I know! Picking against the baby GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) is not intelligent. It’s about as smart as picking against Floyd Mayweather even if Conor can sell water to a well.
This is a rematch, and DJ won with a clinch knee to the liver the first time they fought at UFC 192 in April of 2016 for the Flyweight title.
Yes, DJ finished him in the first round. So, why would I expect anything different to happen?
Well, maybe just maybe Henry got caught and we didn’t get to see him use a particular set of skills against the champ. Henry Cejudo was an Olympic Gold Medal winner at 55 kg in wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It is highly difficult for even the best debaters to attempt to sell the fact that Demetrious Johnson isn’t the most well-rounded mixed martial artist in the UFC today. DJ’s MMA IQ is unquestionably off the charts and has been for a long time.
I don’t know, though, if DJ has improved as much as Cejudo has since they last fought. Henry was still a little green in MMA in their first contest. He had only just started training his striking at the famed CSA Academy in San Jose, California.
This gym is home to countless world champions in Muay Thai and kickboxing with American superstars now fighting for Bellator, Kevin Ross and Gaston Bolanos. You will likely see Gaston in the UFC very soon.
It should be noted that Henry has been training since the beginning of his MMA career with the newly minted champ-champ Daniel Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy also in San Jose, CA.
As great as “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is, staying on top of the UFC for title defense after title defense is one of the hardest things a human can do. I would liken it to climbing Mt Everest, K2, and Denali each once a year for several years.
Something has to give. If a younger and potentially hungrier Olympic Gold Medalist who trains with the best MMA wrestlers and Muay Thai kickboxers in the world can’t do it, then only DJ can beat DJ.
Yes, DJ should be the favorite here, without a doubt.
I don’t know if he’s really a 5-1 favorite, and I definitely don’t think Henry Cejudo is a 4-1 dog. I would handicap this fight at -230 for the champ and +250 for Henry.
Oddsmakers are focusing too hard on the result of the first contest. I promise you that Henry is the number one contender, and DJ is more concerned with him now than he was with the majority of his opponents in the past.
Henry has the power to hurt DJ and the depth in his striking game to potentially surprise the champ. I don’t think the majority of the fight will take place on the ground. My prediction is Henry will outstrike DJ while using his Gold Medal wrestling to keep the fight where he wants it.
Cejudo doesn’t have to beat Johnson everywhere, only in a striking match. His wrestling should cancel everything else out.
TJ Dillashaw (-114) vs Cody Garbrandt (-106)
Well, the odds on this fight look about how the last fight played out. If you missed it, most of the first round was a feeling out process as both guys respect each other’s abilities quite a bit. Near the end of the round, Garbrandt caught Dillashaw with a good shot that dropped the current champ.
Just as Cody followed up with punches looking for the finish, the bell rang. Ugh!
TJ recovered like the warrior he is, came out calculated in the second round, rocked Cody with a head kick and finished him with punches.
The bad blood between the two didn’t have a chance in Hades of going away as Cody stood up still very dazed right into the face of an absolute roar from TJ Dillashaw.
I have to admit that TJ is the larger fighter with quite a few more tricks in his bag as he mixes up his striking just as good as anyone in the UFC.
Cody Garbrandt has that “It” factor, though, and without the help of the round ending, we would all still be on his bandwagon. Cody’s most hated photo of all-time seen above would have never even happened.
Garbrandt has serious serious power in his hands and elite boxing level quickness to go along with that crack.
This fight is pretty evenly matched, and TJ won the first fight.
How awesome would it be to see another war this weekend, Cody come out on top, and a trilogy set for the New Year’s or Super Bowl cards.
I promise I am not thinking with my heart here. TJ is used to being faster than his opponents, but I believe Garbrandt has him beat when it comes to punching speed and power for that matter.
I think the fight goes longer than it did before as both men know the other guy can drop them. I like Cody to slip the switch kick and land his patented left hook on the chin of Dillashaw. This time around, there will be time enough for the finish.
UFC 227 features a pair of main events both being rematches for the title.
World number one ranked pound-for-pound fighter Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (-480) is the only man in history to call himself the UFC’s Flyweight Champion.
This fact could change very quickly as a much-improved Henry Cejudo (+380) will challenge him on Saturday night at the Staples Center.
Henry’s outcome in the second fight can’t get much worse as he lost via TKO of round 1 the first time these two men collided over 2 years ago at UFC 192.
Many of the undercard fights don’t feature the most well-known combatants, but I did my research and found you guys a good underdog pick.
Sheymon Moraes (+105) has a good opportunity to upset Matt Sayles (-125) this weekend. It’s too bad his odds don’t offer a ton of value, but I believe in his chances to win.
Moraes has fought better competition and has actually fought in a UFC event in his career.
Matt Sayles is a good prospect, though, as he is coming off of an emphatic win at Dana White’s Contender Series.
As for the main event, like you, I am incredibly excited to see these two men lock horns for another battle.
The first fight could have gone either way, and the same goes for their upcoming second meeting. TJ (-114) will likely have more tools in his bag as it is one of the deepest in the UFC, but Cody Garbrandt (-106) will likely hold the speed and power advantage in his hands.
I believe the range the contest is fought at will determine your winner. Cody can’t stay on the outside looking to slip punches and land a big counter. TJ will just throw a same-side head kick behind one of those punches and Garbrandt will slip right into a shin bone.
It is a great strategy when fighting a boxing stylist. That’s exactly what happened to Daniel Cormier in his previous defeat at the hands of Jon “Bones” Jones.
There you have it, folks, 3 underdog bets to play with on Saturday night.
Check back in a couple days as I will be writing a betting preview for the entire card, and going into even more detail on the main and co-main events.