Q & Anik is an article featured exclusively on MMAOddsBreaker.com which goes five rounds with UFC commentator Jon Anik discussing his betting tips and picks on some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. 1st Round Q: You made one of the boldest predictions ever by saying T.J. Dillashaw was a future UFC champion at bantamweight and publicly picking him at +650 to beat Renan Barao, who was an extra large -1000 favorite and unbeaten in his previous 33 fights before the two fought at UFC 173 back on February 1. Are you picking Dillashaw again, this time as a favorite at -150, and do they match up any differently now? Anik: This is exactly 14 weeks after they last fought, and clearly Renan Barao’s going to have to make some major adjustments. I think public perception differs as to exactly how Barao approached the first fight. Did he underestimate T.J. Dillashaw? I think we all lean towards the fact that he did, but I still believe in modern day Mixed Martial Arts, you don’t really discount anybody. So I sort of find it hard to believe that a guy who had sustained excellence for that long wasn’t going to be ready for a title defense. I just think not unlike Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn, I just feel like T.J. Dillashaw has his number. I think Brian Stann really made the best point about this rematch – and I wish he didn’t beat me to it – but the start for T.J. Dillashaw is absolutely key. He has to take advantage, as Stann put it, of the doubt in Renan Barao’s mind. Obviously, there is going to be doubt in Renan Barao’s mind based upon how the first fight went down (fifth-round TKO due to head kick and punches). Dillashaw has to take advantage of that, he has to get off to a good start. He has to command respect from Barao right out of the shoot, and then I think that sets the course for the rest of the fight, at least from his standpoint. If Barao gets off to a good start, his confidence gets going again, and then I think it becomes a Pick’em fight again. But I just think Dillashaw picked him apart, and you also wonder how a guy like Barao’s going to respond to the first time being finished. I think when you have a winning streak that goes on for the better part of a decade, and then you absorb a loss like this where we heard rumblings that a few days removed he didn’t even remember major segments of this fight. Obviously there was the seminal blow at the end of it, but he absorbed a lot of significant volume throughout that fight. And I’m not convinced that 14 weeks later, he can jump back in a 25-minute fight, have made all of the requisite adjustments and beat the No. 1 guy in the world. To me, Dillashaw continues to get more confident, he’s 28 years old, only now really entering his fighting prime. And as long as he didn’t over-train, which he has a tendency to do, as long as he is able to peak for the second time in 14 weeks, to me the value is on the guy who dominated the other guy. If you can get him -150 or anything below, I think you’ve got to pull the trigger. 2nd Round Q: I know it’s a different division, but this Dillashaw-Barao rematch reminds me a lot of Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva in the sense that Weidman was very confident he could beat Silva to become the middleweight champ and then do it again by just picking up where he left off. You beat a guy pretty good in the first fight and you just want to come out in the second one and make him believe that it’s just an extension of the previous fight. You put that doubt in his mind and break his spirit a little bit. Do you think that’s the case here, or does Barao really have the heart of a champion to take back the title? Anik: I agree with you. You also hear a lot of fighters say, the value of knowing that you can get beat up. I remember (former UFC bantamweight champ) Dominick Cruz had a fight early on in his career that nobody saw, and he won the fight by split decision, but he was able to take a beating and still get the win. Obviously, (UFC light heavyweight champ) Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson. Now, Renan Barao has taken a beating for the first time in his career, and I think that goes two ways. It’s either something that hurts him in the rematch because he’s only 14 weeks removed, or it’s something that gives him confidence knowing that he can still take a beating and hang in there until the end, which he did. I know he got finished late, but it’s not like he was looking for a way out. Again, we’re all still digesting that result a little bit. This is a massive spot for Barao. I think there’s some pressure on Dillashaw because it’s in Sacramento. You obviously don’t want your title reign to be interrupted before it really begins. But Barao is trying to prove everything he did for a decade, and I just think there’s a massive amount of pressure on him. Given the way the first fight went down, I know a lot of people were surprised that Barao was granted an immediate rematch. But T.J. Dillashaw really is a rare breed, which is why I have been championing his cause for quite some time. A lot of people in this situation would probably be like, “Why are they undercutting my championship reign before it even begins by making me rematch this guy when you have a guy in Raphael Assuncao right there as a worthy No. 1 contender?” And Dillashaw’s just like, “Dude, I kicked his ass once, I’m going to do it again, just tell me when to fight and where, and I’ll be there.” I just think that attitude that Dillashaw has is a huge reason for his success. Ultimately, I look for him to keep it going. I don’t expect it to be as easy as it was the first time, but I think Barao’s going to have a real hard time out-pointing him over 25. You have heard T.J. talk about just getting this win, and obviously there was less pressure on him the first time around. But now he’s the champion, and I hope it doesn’t take away from his aggressiveness. His focus is on keeping the belt, and if he gets an early lead, who’s to say whether or not he goes for it down the stretch. I think if you do have a finish on either side, I would lean towards another Dillashaw TKO. But I think this fight is destined for 25 minutes. 3rd Round Q: The co-main event between lightweights Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo has seen the biggest line movement of any fight on the UFC 177 card. Ferguson opened as a -215 favorite and has jumped to -250 with Castillo moving from +185 to +210. Who do you like in this fight and why? Anik: Danny Castillo I think we all know as a fast starter and a guy when he is on, he looks like he can hang with the Top 5 or 10 155-pounders in the world. The one thing I will say, he’s got seven UFC wins, I believe all seven of his victims are no longer with the promotion. So he really is in need of a signature win. And I feel like from a matchmaking standpoint, he doesn’t always believe that he has gotten a fair shake. I remember him complaining when he was on UFC Fight Pass a few months ago. Here you go kid, co-main eventing in your adopted hometown of Sacramento, California on a Pay-Per-View. It doesn’t get much bigger than this. And I think he’ll rise to the occasion. I think the crowd will be something that serves as a great motivator for him. So I do see some value on Danny Castillo. All of that said, I have long been the president of the Tony Ferguson fan club. I consider him to be the dark horse in this lightweight division. Here’s a guy who on paper has just had a very dominant UFC career. He is much more of a finisher, and he’s a guy who beats the guys he’s supposed to beat. I think you’ll probably find that he’s been favored in all but one of his UFC fights. He’s the guy who not only beats the guys he’s supposed to beat, but I think unlike Danny Castillo, he finishes the guys. I think he deserves the favorite distinction, I’m just surprised to see the price swell to that extent. And because it’s Castillo in this building at the height of motivation, I probably would have the number a little bit closer. I guess I see value on Danny Castillo, but I do think it’s Tony Ferguson’s fight to lose. 4th Round Q: Another interesting lightweight matchup has the loser of The Ultimate Fighter 13 to Ferguson – Ramsey Nijem – taking on a fighter making just his second UFC appearance in Carlos Diego Ferreira, who is a pretty solid favorite at -200. What’s your take on this main card bout? Anik: Nijem has definitely come into his own, physically and mentally. He’s another guy, not unlike Danny Castillo, I do believe when he’s on, he can compete with the guys in the Top 10. He’s a totally different fighter than he was in 2011, but I think they might have something special in this Diego Ferreira. Undefeated fighter, has had some American influence, so I can understand why he’s at that price. 5th Round Q: Headlining the preliminary card is a middleweight battle between two former Strikeforce fighters in Derek Brunson (-130) and Lorenz Larkin (+110), who is 1-3 in the UFC following a nearly perfect (13-0 with 1 No-Contest) start to his MMA career, including a win against No. 1 welterweight contender Robbie Lawler. Who do you like there? Anik: I guess I like Brunson as a slight favorite. Lorenz Larkin has struggled in the UFC. I think Brunson’s motivation is at an all-time high. In a matchup like this that is pretty close on paper, I sort of lean towards the more conditioned guy. And I think Derek Brunson has a cardio advantage over most guys at 185 pounds. He’s obviously an exceptional athlete. So I would lean towards Derek Brunson there. I think that might be a good value spot. Disclaimer: Mr. Anik is contractually prevented from wagering on UFC events. His betting tips and picks posted here are for information and entertainment purposes only.