UFC 181: Betting Q & Anik

UFCUltimateInsiderJohnAnik_051_crop_northQ & Anik is a new article featured exclusively at MMAOddsBreaker.com that goes 5 rounds with UFC commentator Jon Anik offering his betting tips and picks on some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. 1st Round Q: Robbie Lawler came very close to upsetting Johny Hendricks in their fight for the welterweight title at UFC 171 back in March as a bigger underdog than he is now for the rematch at UFC 181. Do you consider Lawler a live dog this time around even though Hendricks was reportedly injured going into the first fight, and what key betting factors do you believe are working in his favor? Anik: I think the big variable in this is Lawler’s activity versus the layoff for Johny Hendricks. I think for a lot of us, we don’t really know how much that injury affected Johny Hendricks the first time out. Clearly, I think in the latter rounds Johny points to the fact that Robbie starts to connect with great effect, and I think Johny chalked a lot of that up to the fact that he really wasn’t able to do much defensively or offensively with that right arm because of the torn bicep. Hendricks said from all his years of wrestling, he knows his body so well that he knew it was serious, he knew something was wrong. But he certainly wasn’t going to pull out of the fight. It definitely was a factor in that first fight, I think we won’t know the extent to which it was a factor until we see this fight this weekend. I feel like Robbie Lawler was closer to getting Johny Hendricks out of there than Hendricks was to getting Lawler out of there, so if I’m forecasting a finish on one side or the other, I think it’s Robbie Lawler who has the greater potential to finish Johny Hendricks. I’ve seen this line move all over the place, not that it’s really going down too low, but I saw Robbie Lawler at one point at +170 and I saw him as high as +220. To me, I think it was a close fight the first time around. Bruce Buffer told me he would have been happy going into that Octagon and announcing either guy as the winner. I think the line’s a little bit exaggerated, I think there’s value on Robbie Lawler if you can get +200 or higher. Obviously, what a story it would be if he could break through, a guy who made his pro debut in 2001. Really just a remarkable resurgence and sort of second wind in his MMA career, he’s just a much tighter, more comfortable striker in and outside the pocket. I just feel like he’s so motivated and hungry right now, and I think he knows that if he’s going to get it done, it’s got to be this weekend. So slight lean in the direction of the underdog, but Johny Hendricks obviously is installed as the favorite for a reason. Round 2 Q: Lawler has just six months on Hendricks in terms of age, but you would think he is much older based on his MMA experience. You mentioned Lawler’s activity since he last fought Hendricks, but could that work against him at all? Also, do you think he has an edge over Hendricks if this bout goes to the championship rounds again? Anik: I think that you can make the argument that Lawler is the fresher body here. I think that the wrestling miles are more taxing and the wrestling maintenance is more taxing. I feel like Lawler’s going to be fighting well after Johny Hendricks retires. I hope to be wrong on that, but Hendricks is pretty beat up, and I think this is a real litmus test to see where he’s at physically. There’s no denying that when he’s on, he’s one of the top two welterweights in the world. But I think it will be interesting to see where he’s at physically. For Robbie Lawler, he’s fought seven-plus outstanding rounds since Johny Hendricks was last in the Octagon. Not that I always put a ton of stock in Octagon or ring rust, but to me I definitely lean towards the more active guy. I think that’s something that Robbie Lawler’s going to derive a lot of confidence from, the fact that he was the fresher fighter late against Johny Hendricks and that he went five hard rounds with Matt Brown not all that long thereafter. I think that’s definitely something that will give Robbie Lawler confidence. I also think it was a learning lesson for Johny Hendricks not making the weight, and then eventually making the weight. But Hendricks doesn’t make it a secret, he says if weight cutting was abolished from the sport, he would fight at light heavyweight. So this is a guy who does cut a tremendous amount of weight. If you’re trying to figure out which way to bet on this, I don’t think there’s any reason to try to plunge early. I would wait, see Johny Hendricks on the scale, see Lawler on the scale and make your bet shortly thereafter. Round 3 Q: Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is finally getting his golden opportunity to win a UFC title and may be one of the most underrated fighters in the organization. Do you think he has a shot against UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, and what do you like most about his fight game? Anik: He certainly has a chance. For Gilbert Melendez, my biggest takeaway from him is just toughness and heart. He’s a guy who has 25 pro fights. Now it’s one thing to say that you’ve never been finished in an MMA fight, but it’s another thing to say you’ve never been finished when stylistically you fight like Gilbert Melendez. Because there is nothing conservative about the way Gilbert Melendez fights, and yet he still hasn’t been finished. He perpetually puts himself in harm’s way, he always fights with reckless abandon, he’s always the aggressor, he’s always moving forward, he’s certainly willing to take a punch to land one of his own. And yet still, that chin has held up in some wars. To me, he is a historically underappreciated lightweight, and this is his real chance to break through. I think that as a former Strikeforce champion, he doesn’t really have to prove anything to anyone, but I think internally Gil really believes that to prove his worth as an all-time great lightweight and an elite lightweight, this is the spot in which he needs to break through. I think that if there’s any guy who can sort of be the elixir to Anthony Pettis, maybe it is Gilbert Melendez because he’s going to go for it or try to make it a dirty, ugly fight. I just see Anthony Pettis’ kicks as being a huge factor, I see him having a technical advantage. I can’t necessarily advocate a play on Gilbert Melendez, but you can be sure that he’s going to leave it all in there and really go for it in what in all likelihood could be his final crack at the UFC title. Round 4 Q: This will be the first title defense for Pettis, who is viewed by many as one of the rising stars in the UFC. However, MMA bettors and fans have kind of forgotten about him over the past year outside of his coaching stint opposite Melendez on The Ultimate Fighter because he has been rehabbing a knee injury. How do you see this UFC lightweight title fight playing out, and will there be a new champ? Anik: I don’t see the value on Melendez that I see on Lawler necessarily. So much has been made of Anthony Pettis’ layoff, which dates to August of 2013. But let’s also not forget that Melendez hasn’t fought since October of 2013, so to me, as far as the layoffs are concerned, it’s a wash. I just have been sort of blown away by Anthony Pettis, not just inside the Octagon, but just the way he’s carried himself in what has been a very trying year for him. Certainly, he had The Ultimate Fighter, but he has maintained his confidence and obviously worked on other parts of his game when he was not able to kick even in training for six months because of the knee. He just carries himself like someone who fully expects to go in there on December 6 and get Gilbert Melendez out of there in less than 10 minutes. One thing I would say, both of these guys are very hard to put away, neither guy has been finished. (But) I don’t think we’re going to see the judges’ scorecards involved in this one. You’ve got 25 minutes obviously to decide it and two guys who have never been finished, but I think one of these guys gets finished for the first time. I feel like Pettis is almost approaching this as, I want to establish myself not just as the UFC lightweight champion in this first title defense, but I want to be the pound-for-pound guy. I want to be an all-time great, and I don’t get to that status by eeking out a decision against Gilbert Melendez as a 3-to-1 favorite. I’ve got get this guy out of there quickly, and I think that’s what’s going to happen. Round 5 Q: There is also an intriguing heavyweight bout on the UFC 181 main card pitting No. 3 contender Travis Browne against Brendan Schaub, who is a hit on social media but has yet to take his MMA career to the next level. In fact, Schaub kind of reminds me of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in that his good times outside the sport are well-documented, making it easy for critics to question his dedication to MMA. Is this as big of a mismatch as the betting line suggests for two guys coming off losses? Anik: To me, I just see a discrepancy here in overall MMA talent. Schaub might have the second-best Jiu-Jitsu in the heavyweight division to Fabricio Werdum. I do think that Schaub’s cockiness rubs a few people the wrong way. He’s definitely committed to the sport. He’s definitely cockier than Rob Gronkowski, who I really think is more confident than he is cocky. Obviously, if Schaub’s social media accounts are any indication, he is treating this fight as he should, like the fight of his life. Appears to be in phenomenal shape. But he’s fighting a guy who’s 6-foot-7 and most people believe is a future No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division. Most people thought he was going to get through Fabricio Werdum and fight Cain Velasquez. This is put-up or shut-up time for both of these guys, but really for Travis Browne to prove that he is still an elite heavyweight. I never like to lay a price close to -400 when all the pressure is on that guy, and of course normally the pressure is with the favorite anyway. But April 19th against Fabricio Werdum was a massive, massive wake-up call for Travis Browne. He was the favorite against Fabricio Werdum and largely got dominated that night, so it’s always interesting to see how a guy responds from a setback like that when it’s not just getting knocked out quickly. When you sit there and absorb that type of beating for 25 minutes, that stays with you. And I think Travis Browne really needed to dig deep and regroup, I know that loss hit him hard. He switched up his training camp from Albuquerque, New Mexico with Jackson/Wink and now training under Edmund Tarverdyan at Glendale Fighting Club. Schaub is obviously very familiar with that team and that camp. So maybe that gives Schaub some insight into some of Travis Browne’s new wrinkles. I think when this fight was announced, a lot of people were surprised that Schaub was so into the matchup and thinking maybe Schaub knows something that we don’t here. But I certainly lean towards Travis Browne. He obviously has the size advantage, he has the reach advantage, he is the far superior striker. I think it’s his fight to lose. I am just curious to see where he is at mentally and if Schaub can get a few things done in the early portions of this fight, how does that affect Travis mentally? But I think Browne’s a mentally tough guy, and I’m not going near Schaub at +260, but I don’t know that you want to lay that price with Travis either. If you do like Travis Browne, as most people do, I think Travis Browne and Urijah Faber are probably the safest two bets on the card. So maybe you take some of your straight wagers and you throw Faber and Browne in there and make it a three-leg parlay and see if you can sweeten the pot a little bit. 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.

Written by Matty

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