UFC Fight Night 38 Fight Breakdown: Gian Villante (-130) vs. Fabio Maldonado (+120)

Fabio-Maldonado One of the main card bouts at UFC Fight Night 38 is a light heavyweight tilt between Fabio Maldonado and Gian Villante. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers lists Vlilante as a -130 favorite (bet $130 to win $100) while Maldonado is a +120 underdog (bet $120 to win $355). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Villante at -155 and Maldonado at +115, and there has been back-and-forth betting action so far as the line has tightened. I agree this is a tough matchup to call but I am going to lean slightly towards Maldonado to get the win in his native Brazil. Here’s why. Villante (11-4) is the main training partner of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and like the champ he is a wrestler at heart but has solid power on the feet to go along with it. 1-1 overall in the UFC, the 28-year-old Villante is coming off a big knockout win over Cody Donovan at UFC 167 that got him back in the win column after a disappointing decision loss to Ovince St-Preux at UFC 159. In the fight with Donovan, Villante looked poor early as he was getting picked apart on the feet, but once Donovan started to fade in the second Villante was able to crunch his noggin’ with a big punch and earn the victory. Although I questioned Villante’s toughness after his loss to Chad Griggs in Strikeforce, he has looked solid overall in the UFC and he won me over after coming back against Donovan. But even still, although he is improving he seems like a fighter with some significant flaws in his striking defence and that could spell trouble going up against a solid striker in Maldonado. Maldonado (20-6) is one of the better boxers in the UFC and is known for his accurate jab as well as his ability to attack his opponents’ bodies with vicious body shots. The 34-year-old is also known for his iron chin and is considered one of the toughest fighters in the UFC, which is really saying something. Overall Maldonado is 4-3 in the UFC, but his wins have come over bottom of the barrel fighters and when Maldonado has stepped up in competition he’s faltered, although to be fair some of his losses were close decisions. Either way, Maldonado is someone who can never be counted out of any fight because of his ability to take a punch. But with his mediocre takedown defence, poor ground game, and non-existent fight IQ, he’s a difficult fighter to back from a betting perspective, and it’s understandable he’s the underdog in this spot. But he’s a guy who has shown that he’s a fan favorite in Brazil, and since he’s always in close fights that go the distance, you can never count him out. With the Brazilian fans’ positive reactions to anything Maldonado does, and them cheering against anything Villante does, it makes the prospect of a controversial decision in this bout very likely. The fight should be closely contested both on the feet and in the grappling department. I believe Villante will look to shoot for takedowns and take advantage of Maldonado’s ground game, but Maldonado has decent takedown defence against the fence and should make it hard with his clinch work for Villante to take him to the ground. In a close fight in Brazil, I have a feeling the crowd cheering for Maldonado’s strikes and booing Villante when he wrestles is going to sway the judges and the Brazilian will end up winning a close and possibly controversial decision. This is a close fight, and while there is slight value on Maldonado at plus money, I still can’t recommend a bet here on either fighter because it’s just too close to call. However, I do think both guys are extremely tough and I really like the total of OVER 2.5 rounds, which is available at -160. Most of Maldonado’s bouts go the full distance and I can’t see Villante stopping him so this is the play I like on this particular matchup.

Written by Adam Martin.

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