While it won’t be the biggest combat sports event of the summer, UFC 214 is certainly the biggest MMA event of the season. On top of the Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier rematch, the card features two additional title bouts, contenders and entertaining fights throughout.
MMAOddsBreaker’s Brad Taschuk takes a look at where the betting odds have moved for all 12 fights since opening lines (indicated in brackets) were released, and he gives his thoughts on each matchup. All lines are courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Jon Jones (-280) vs. Daniel Cormier (+220): I had a sizable bet on Jones at -170 the first time these two fought, and I naively expected that the line would be similar this time around. It seems that Jones’ legal issues, run-in with USADA and layoff hasn’t had the effect I anticipated on the line. It’s hard to blame bettors either, Cormier is now 38 years old, has been through some tough battles since their first meeting, and Jones won every aspect of that first fight. I expect something similar — if not more dominant — this time around. I truly believe that regardless of how seriously he takes his preparation, Jones is the type of fighter who rises to the occasion like few others. To him, this is the ultimate occasion. Cormier is his biggest rival, and he has the chance to regain the belt he never lost against him. That combination will result in a tremendous performance from Jones, and I think he ends up dispatching Cormier to re-assert his dominance in the division.
Tyron Woodley (-210) vs. Demian Maia (+160): Much like the main event, this line hasn’t seen much movement. Given the contrasting styles, that’s not hard to believe. There’s a contingent of people who think that Woodley is going to starch Maia with the first punch he throws. They could very well be right. The other side of the coin are those who think that Maia is able to close the distance, latch onto Woodley like he has so many others, and just dominate with his grappling. They could be right as well. Personally, I think that Woodley’s tendency to back himself against the cage and play counter-puncher will be his demise here. Maia has gotten so good at entering the clinch when not under pressure that he should be able to make Woodley miss once. Even against a high-level wrestler the likes of Woodley, once Maia gets his hands on you, that’s a world of trouble. The Brazilian’s ability to initiate Jiu-Jitsu exchanges without hitting traditional takedowns is second to none (he’s perfected the single leg to back take), and Woodley being the type of guy who likes to explode out of positions will only hurt him once that happens. I’m kind of surprised that Maia by Sub pays an extra dollar (+275 as of Thursday morning), since Woodley won’t be able to survive 25 minutes of Maia engaging in the type of fight he wants to, and the other option is most likely a quick Woodley KO (+350 for the champ in Round 1, by the way).
Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (-1200) vs. Tonya Evinger (+600): This fight being bettable depends on what type of bettor you are. If you have no issue throwing a massive line in a parlay, the Cyborg moneyline (at nearly -1400) or Cyborg ITD (nearly -700) are almost sure things. That’s not really my style, nor is laying nearly 2-to-1 on a prop like Cyborg Round 1. The only case I can make for a play is based on Evinger’s resilience. She has taken damage in several of her fights and persevered, and while I don’t think she can come back to beat Cyborg in this one after a rough start, there’s an outside shot she can survive five minutes. However, even the prices for “Fight Starts Round 2” and Cyborg Round 2 have dropped considerably (down to +150 and +450, respectively), making them less attractive even to someone like myself who is always on the hunt for some round robin legs.
Robbie Lawler (-175) vs. Donald Cerrone (+135): It’s a shame this fight is taking place after both men have seemingly passed their peak in terms of durability, because a war with Lawler and Cerrone at their best would be something to behold. This fight will come down to distance management, and in-fight decisions. Lawler wants to be inside, Cerrone wants to be outside. The problem for Cerrone is that Lawler’s consistent pressure will eventually see him get inside, and at that point, I expect Cerrone to be far too willing to oblige him the war he’s looking for. While that will grant us the type of fight we want to see, I don’t expect it to end well for Cerrone.
Jimi Manuwa (-190) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (+150): I’m sorry, but if a guy who lost to Kelly Anundson five fights ago ends up winning here and getting a UFC title shot, I may have to seriously re-evaluate my love of this sport. Oezdemir is a decent kickboxer who fell into the UFC light heavyweight division at perhaps its weakest period in history. However, he’s now getting towards the top of that division, and I just don’t see him being able to hang. Manuwa is the cleaner, harder striker, a far better athlete, and he has the type of high-level experience that Oezdemir lacks. Manuwa should be able to get Oezdemir out of this one, but even if he doesn’t, he should be landing the demonstrably cleaner blows throughout a fight that will take place exactly where he wants it to.
Jason Knight (-130) vs. Ricardo Lamas (-110): Much like all five main card bouts, this line has barely moved since opening, just seeing the line tighten a bit. While Knight has improved immensely since his UFC debut, I can’t support him being the slight favorite over Lamas here. While many of Lamas’ victories come from being an excellent opportunist and jumping on openings to score finishes, he’s also capable of winning rounds with his striking or grappling. That will probably be necessary against Knight, who seems incredibly durable and has an excellent gas tank. Knight’s submission game can dissuade many opponents from taking him to the mat, but seeing as Lamas just submitted Charles Oliveira, I doubt that will be the case here. I think Lamas is able to replicate some of the success Tatsuya Kawajiri had in Knight’s UFC debut, although Knight no longer being willing to spend entire rounds on his back will make this a closer fight than that one was.
Renan Barao (-130) vs. Aljamain Sterling (-110): Finally, a line that seen a little bit of movement. Sterling is now a slight favorite in this fight. Even though he’s been competitive with solid strikers like Raphael Assuncao recently and has obviously made some strides on his feet, I can’t help but feel that he’s still somewhat uncomfortable there. Unfortunately, he’s going to have a hell of a time trying to fight Barao anywhere else. While we haven’t seen the best of Barao lately, I still feel like his kickboxing is superior to Sterling’s, especially in a fight where he won’t really have to worry about his opponent’s power. To me, that points to a Barao decision victory, and if the number on him creeps back up to the +120 we saw earlier in the week, I’ll bite.
Renato Moicano (-180) vs. Brian Ortega (+140): As frustrating as it was to watch, Moicano’s win against Jeremy Stephens showed excellent discipline and execution. The Brazilian will have similar height and reach advantages against Ortega, and he will need to put them to use. The problem he may run into is that Ortega fights at the type of absurd pace that opponents simply can’t sustain for 15 minutes (he even made Clay Guida look tired in the third round of their fight). The movement Moicano showed against Stephens will only do so much for you against a guy who continues pressing forward at the rate Ortega does for the entire fight. So while I think Moicano will have plenty of success early in this one, I expect Ortega to take over the second half of the fight, maybe scoring another third round stoppage if he can make grappling exchanges happen, or simply doing enough to swing the judges in his favor. I grabbed the Round 3 prop at +1700, and played Ortega straight as well.
Andre Fili (-310) vs. Calvin Kattar (+230): When Fili loses, it’s usually against extremely dynamic fighters, and it’s usually in impressive fashion. Dynamic isn’t exactly the first word that springs to mind in regards to Kattar, and I think that puts him in a lot of trouble in his UFC debut. Fili has a variety to his offensive game that Kattar hasn’t seen on the Northeast regional scene, and aside from trying to clinch up and get Fili to the ground, I’m not sure what he’s really going to be able to do in this fight. A stoppage wouldn’t shock me, although Kattar hasn’t been finished since 2008.
Jarred Brooks (-150) vs. Eric Shelton (+110): While his record looks impressive, I think Brooks is bound to struggle in the UFC unless they implement a strawweight division. His scrambling and submission game are very solid, but he’s simply going to be out-sized and -strengthed against legitimate flyweights like Shelton. Even against Pantoja in his last fight, Shelton was extremely competitive, and Pantoja is a better striker and submission artist than I believe Brooks is. I think this line is a carry over from Brooks getting support against Ian McCall (which in reality was simply people fading McCall), and I just don’t think he’s earned this sort of price against a guy we’ve actually seen take on a top flyweight and do well.
Alexandra Albu (-150) vs. Kailin Curran (+110): I honestly forgot that Albu had a fight in the UFC already. It was more than two years ago, but it’s important because she won by submission, and Curran loves to make mistakes in fights and get submitted. The combination of Albu’s layoff and inexperience make this extremely difficult to bet though, so I’ll be staying away. Albu also gets the edge in the twerking department, so that’s an important aspect of this fight to take into account if you do decide to bet it.
Drew Dober (-165) vs. Josh Burkman (+125): This line has moved more than any other, and while I understand what prompted that move, I’m not sure I agree with it. Yes, Burkman is over the hill and has struggled mightily in his most recent UFC tenure, but he’s faced guys who are: 1) Bigger than Dober; 2) Better than Dober; or 3) Bigger and better than Dober. If he looks the same in this fight as he did against Paul Felder or KJ Noons, I see no reason he doesn’t win. Dober is a decent kickboxer with decent takedown defense, not much of a ground game and good durability. Burkman can match Dober’s striking, probably has a slightly better wrestling game, and is more dangerous with submissions (particularly his guillotine). I see a relatively competitive fight here, where Burkman +3.5 might be the play considering his ML is so high.
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