UFC 144: Four Fights Previews and Predictions — Betting Preview Part I

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Kong is favored at -300 over Mark Hunt
I’d like to take a look at four of the fights later in the event here. All four are excellent values for betting and should all provide top notch excitement as well.

All betting odds are taken from Bovada.lv

Yushin “Thunder” Okami (-450) vs. Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch

Okami has lot a lot of fights very badly, but he has lost them to premier opponents, such as Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, and Rich Franklin. When he lost to Franklin, five years ago, Franklin was then at the height of his powers as an MMA fighter.

Okami won with only a 25-21 advantage in significant strikes against Nate Marquardt and against Mark Munoz it was 22-16. He tied Mike Swick 28-28, but was taken down four times in that fight while landing none himself.

Okami dominates poor fighters though, like Lucio Linhares, Dean Lister, and Jason MacDonald.

Boetsch has some good strengths as a fighter that will enable him to exploit a few of Okami’s weaknesses. He’s a big middleweight who packs a lot of power and he is great with takedowns. He’s a better than average striker, and that’s not his forte anyway, he does his damage on the ground. If Boetsch can get Okami to the ground, he takes this one, no two ways about it. The issue is that Okami has an 83% takedown defense.

This is a great value bet for an upset, because I think Boetsch may be able to get this to the ground. I’m hardly saying it’s likely, but the odds are great enough to entice me to lay a smaller unit speculative bet on Boetsch.

Jake Shields (-300) vs. Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama (+230)

Sometimes you have to looker closer at a guy’s victories to get a real gauge on what kind of fighter he is. We have the records to compare, but you have to go beyond the mere W’s and L’s and look at how the fighter in question defeated certain opponents. Akiyama has not settled matters in short score with inferior competition. He barely beat Katsuyoir Shibata who was then only 2-4 and he needed 6:34 to successfully submit him. He needed another 6+ minutes to take down Masanori Tonooka, and he just must beat bad fighters like this with greater ease for other fighters to take him seriously.

Akiyama is 1-3 and his only win over Alan Belcher wasn’t that impressive either. He lost to Chris Leben by submission and he’s only fighting a better fighter here in Jake Shields. Akiyama has dropped down to the 170 pound weight class.

Shields lost quickly in KO to Jake Ellenberger, tough Ellenberger packs a lot of KO power. Shields has defeated Dan Henderson, Yushin Okami, Carlos Conduit, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, and Mike Pyle. Those victories are the kinds that make a fighter go down as legendary, and Shields will destroy Akiyama to the point that people question whether Akiyama belongs in the UFC at all.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (-270) vs. Ryan “Darth” Bader (+210)

Jackson has fought 41 times in pro MMA and has gone 32-9. He was the UFC light heavyweight champion and he won the PRIDE Title by beating Dan Henderson at UFC 75. He has said he doesn’t want to past age 35, and is now 33, and in this fight against Ryan Bader, he finds himself a heavy favorite. Jackson has competed in UFC 11 times, but he fought in PRIDE 17 times and took on Silva twice, “Shogun” Rua, Ricardo Arona, Murilo Bustamante, and Chuck Liddell.

Jackson at one time was a raw wrestler, but he has developed his ground game and his striking since that time, and his technique now uses little wrestling at all. His main focus now is on getting knockouts while the fight is standing, and he has what it takes to deliver a KO to Bader.

Bader does, though, have KO power in his own right. He’s just not as accurate with his strikes. He knocked out Jason Britz at UFC 139 and has also notched KO wins over Jardine and Vinny Magalhaes. He lands 2.46 significant strikes per minute, which is a little better than average for someone in his weight class.

Jackson has awesome takedown defense and defends 80% of attempts made at him. And Bader’s BJJ is not the greatest anyway, so it’s not like he has some huge advantage there. He’s likely to get KO before he ever has a chance, Jackson takes this fight easily.

Cheick Kongo (-300) vs. Mark Hunt (+230)

Mark Hunt began his career against Wanderlei Silva and Cro Cop. He is now 7-7 and he has fought some tough opponents, to say the least. His 14 fights encompass what seems to be far more, due to due to the quality of his opponents.

Hunt has a lot of KO power and decent striking technique, and he will put people face to the mat if they try to out strike him. However, he is weak if taken to the mat, and could easily be submitted by a good submission artist.

Kongo is actually mainly a striker, too. They will look to duke this one out most likely.

However, there is the possibility that Kongo actually wants to take this one to the mat. He doesn’t go for a lot of submissions but may seek to try to work him on the ground. He likes to take his opponent down and strike on the ground, and Kongo might do so, if he can’t immediately submit Hunt.

Hunt is probably a better striker if this fight stays standing, but Kongo has better numbers and is known not to absorb hits that well, to say the least. Kongo is best getting this on the ground, but he’s not going to let Hunt do what he wants either way. Kongo should prevail, it will just be a much closer fight than people seem to be giving Hunt credit for.

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