Back to give it a whirl after a disastrous 0-3-1 at UFC 106. Nowhere to go but up, and, I obviously hope to cash in tonight like most other events – 106 not included! Handicapping The Ultimate Fighter Finales is always difficult for two reasons. First, traditionally, the lines aren’t released as far in advance of fight times as with other events which can impact the available time to research fights. Believe it or not, sportsbooks are often in the dark (like the rest of us) as to who advances and fights on the Finale. We wait and they scramble to get lines out. Second, outside of “comeback” seasons and a few exceptions here and there, The Ultimate Fighter series spotlights fighters trying to make it to the UFC. As a result, the bulk of their professional careers have occurred within smaller or regional MMA organizations. In these orgs, the quality of opponent can be difficult to gauge, as well as being able to see those fights for handicapping purposes. However, as with any MMA event, the savvy bettor can cash in on TUF Finales, and tonight is no different.
In lieu of some happenings this week, I really like a two plays on the card. Looking to make some extra Christmas cash? Head over to Bodog, open an account if you don’t have one already, and heed some sage advice. Enough chatter, time to get moving.
Moose’s Recommended Play: Brendan Schaub (+170) over Roy Nelson (-210)
Upset Special. Roy Nelson enters the fight at 13-4 riding a two fight losing streak (Arlovski, Monson) and is a former (and final) IFL heavyweight champion. A veteran of several mid-major organizations and a former Ken Shamrock-trained Lion’s Den fighter, the increasingly rotund Nelson holds a black belt in BJJ and can take a considerable amount of punishment, yet still hang in there. He’s shown solid takedowns throughout his career, and has decent strikes. He finished all three TUF opponents via strikes because of a well-applied crucifix (what some are calling the “crucifat”), and received very little damage during the show. Due to his size, his cardio may pose a problem. Inexperienced, but heavy handed, Brendan Schaub (4-0) has been billed as a former NFL player, yet readily admits that he never played a legit down while with Buffalo in his brief career. He sports a purple belt in BJJ and is also a former Golden Gloves boxing champ. Although his four professional wins have been in regional organizations, he splits time between Greg Jackson’s in New Mexico and training with UFC heavyweight contender Shane Carwin. One of the most athletically gifted fighters on TUF10, his training partners on the show and elsewhere rave about his striking and overall potential. He advanced to the Finale via three wins by Anaconda, KO, and KO. Money seems to be flowing in on Schaub primarily at Bodog – he opened at +190, and I agree with the public on this one. Schaub looked great at the weigh-ins, and has a solid camps / training partners behind him. Primarily a training loner, Nelson seems slightly overvalued due to the fact he was an IFL champion. Schaub’s athleticism, reach advantage, and overall striking should be the difference in the fight. If Schaub can avoid Nelson’s takedowns (and crucifat), he should own this one standing and pull a decision. Bet $250 to win $425.
Moose’s Recommended Play: Houston Alexander (-340) over Kimbo Slice (+260)
Houston Alexander (9-4-1) and Kimbo Slice (3-1) enter this potential slugfest looking to re-establish the juice that their careers once had. Alexander has dropped his last three fights in the UFC and is likely fighting to keep his job, while Slice is a newcomer to the organization. Both are sluggers with very little ground game. Alexander has shown decent cardio in previous fights while Slice’s cardio is questionable at times. The fight is taking place at a special catch weight of 215 lbs and that is having a significant impact on the likely progression of the fight. For the fight at 215, Alexander actually gained a few pounds, while Slice needed to cut. As reported here, Slice has been quoted as saying that his weight cut to 215 was awful and that didn’t feel well at all. Slice usually fights at a shredded 235 lbs, so any cut – let alone 20 lbs – could have a significant impact on his performance. Coupled with Slice’s arthritic knee (and the difficult cut being the first of his career) and Alexander bettors have to like what they’re hearing. For those that haven’t had the pleasure of a weight cut – it’s just awful. It’s a fatiguing battle – physically, as well as mentally, and isn’t something that a fighter wants to be doing for the first time coming into the biggest fight of their career. The betting public has bet the line up massively on Alexander. He opened at -260 and is now -340, and may go even higher by fight time if still “on the board”. A not-quite-himself Slice will show for the check and Alexander will get the TKO. Bet $250 to win $73.