The coming week will be an extremely busy one in MMA, as the Friday and Saturday schedule includes cards from the UFC, Bellator, WSOF, Cage Warriors, RFA, and ONE FC. The Octagon will be returning to Brazil on Saturday night for UFC Fight Night 51, which is headlined by a heavyweight rematch between Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and Andrei Arlovksi. Naturally, the card also features a plethora of Brazilian fighters. Matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby have also returned to its old policy of bringing in a foreign fighter to take on a Brazilian in every bout on this card except for two. Those matchups have been friendly to Brazilians in the past, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues on this card. Currently, odds have only been released for the main event, and they see ‘Bigfoot’ as a -400 favorite (bet $400 to win $100) to pick up his second victory over the former UFC heavyweight champ. Arlovski is a +325 underdog (bet $100 to win $325) for those who think he’s poised to run his UFC record to 2-0 since his return. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the remaining betting lines for UFC Fight Night 51 today at Several Bookmakers. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 8pm ET) Antonio Silva -260 Andrei Arlovski +180 Gleison Tibau -190 Piotr Hallmann +150 Leonardo Santos -150 Efrain Escudero +110 Santiago Ponzinibbio -165 Wendell Oliveira +125 Iuri Alcantara -230 Russell Doane +170 Jessica Andrade -140 Larissa Pacheco +100 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 5:45pm ET) Godofredo Castro -175 Dashon Johnson +135 Igor Araujo -165 George Sullivan +125 Francisco Trinaldo -190 Leandro Silva +150 Sean Spencer -150 Paulo Thiago +110 Johnny Bedford -125 Rani Yahya -115 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Piotr Hallmann has already gone into Brazil and beaten a Brazilian, and he could very likely do it again. He’s going to hold a cardio advantage over Gleison Tibau, much like he did when he faced Francisco Trinaldo. While Tibau won’t gas to the point of Hallmann finishing him, I can see the Brazilian dropping the final two rounds. It’s a tricky play to make, since Tibau will have a wrestling advantage and will be on home soil, but I lean towards the activity and improvement of Hallmann here. When I heard that Efrain Escudero was going to be coming back to the UFC, I didn’t think there were many winnable fights for him in the promotion. I was wrong, as Escudero can certainly hang with Leonardo Santos. On the feet, Escudero may even have a slight advantage, although Santos has made small strides in his own striking. The worry for those looking to back Escudero is that he is far too willing to fight from him back, and while that’s a difficult way to win a fight at the best of times, it will be even harder in Brazil. That’s the biggest factor keeping me from playing Escudero here, but if the line shifts too far towards Santos, the TUF 8 winner could be worth throwing in a round robin. UFC newcomer Wendell Oliveira has only lost once since 2010, but it was also against the only fighter of any repute that he’s faced, Guillherme Vasconcelos. We saw how woefully unprepared Vasconcelos was for the UFC when he lost a lopsided decision to Luke Zachrich. With that as a measuring stick, I think Santiago Ponzinibbio gets the job done here. He’s suffered his only two losses – to fighters at the UFC level as well – and possesses the more well-rounded game of the two. Oliveira is a solid striker, so if the Argentine chooses to just stay on the feet and trade this could get dicey, but if he uses his grappling he should find his first UFC victory. Russell Doane just went tooth-and-nail with Marcus Brimage, a far inferior bantamweight to Iuri Alcantara. Alcantara brings far better grappling and more dangerous striking to the Octagon than Brimage, and most people thought Brimage handily beat Doane in their encounter earlier this year. I really don’t understand this matchmaking, as Alcantara isn’t being booked like a fighter ranked seventh in his division by any means. That will hopefully change following another successful outing for him here. This one should be good. We’ve already seen that Jessica Andrade normally has entertaining bouts, and newcomer Larissa Pacheco is exactly the same. Both like to come forward, and neither has an issue getting in a firefight. Where this fight turns for me is that Andrade is the better, faster athlete, which should especially come into play if this hits the mat, where Pacheco is a bit slow in scrambles and setting up her submissions. Pacheco does have the superior cardio and has scored multiple third round stoppages in the past however, so if Andrade fades as she normally does expect the former Jungle Fight 135lb champ to come on strong late. The pick will be Andrade, but if I bet anything here it may be a flier on Pacheco in R3, or just straight if the line climbs high enough. So in his debut, Dashon Johnson has to go to Australia to face a prospect in Jake Matthews, and now he has to head out on the road again. Granted, his matchup is easier this time around and in a better weight class for him, but still not an easy task. Johnson will be the better athlete in this fight, but I struggle to see him getting past the better overall skills of Pepey, who can do damage on the feet with his aggressive striking, and is certainly more advanced on the ground. George Sullivan doesn’t seem like he’s getting due credit for his UFC debut win over Mike Rhodes, and that will likely be amplified once he loses a decision to Igor Araujo. Araujo is far from the most exciting fighter in the world, but he is an effective, underrated grappler. That’s important as Sullivan has historically had his biggest issues with grapplers, and still is at his best in gritty striking matches. If you’re not feeling as confident about Araujo as I do, the over should still be a bet that cashes in this fight and the price should be similar. Leandro Silva looked completely lost against Ildemar Alcantara in his UFC debut. That fight was on short notice and up a weight class, but I see nothing in his game (or his recent five-fight winning streak on the regional circuit) that makes me think he can beat Trinaldo. He’s going to be at severe striking and wrestling disadvantages here, and his only shot is if Trinaldo’s cardio fails him once again. It seems like the bulky Brazilian has improved his staying power in fights however, so even that doesn’t seem like a great path to victory. Since his 3-1 start in the UFC (including stoppage wins over Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick) Paulo Thiago has gone 2-6. It’s safe to say he’s fade material if you can still get a decent price on his opponent. Thiago is going to struggle to take Spencer down and get pummelled on the feet. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense that Thiago is still on the roster, but bettors should take advantage because it won’t last for too much longer. My memory failed me a bit when it came to the first fight between Johnny Bedford and Rani Yahya. Before going back and watching it, I was under the impression that Bedford asserted himself far more than he actually did. Essentially there was one shot from extremely far away by Yahya (which was stuffed) and then a pair of exchanges which resulted in the no contest. I still believe that a dog price on Johnny Bedford has to warrant a play, but can understand passing at even money or if he stays a slight favorite. He did stuff Yahya’s one takedown with ease, and definitely has the more polished and powerful striking of the two. Bedford’s submission defense is always a bit of a concern, so don’t go nuts, but the current scenario warrants a bet in my opinion.