This weekend the UFC makes its long-awaited return to the state of Louisiana, as the organization makes their first trip to the state since 2002. Set to be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, the UFC is bringing a card that is being somewhat over-shadowed by the huge boxing Pay Per View on the same night.
The “Battle on the Bayou” as it is being called is headlined by a Welterweight bout with an immediate impact on the title picture at 170 pounds, as Jake Shields takes on Jake Ellenberger. The four-fight main card takes place on Spike TV starting at 9:00 PM Eastern. The entire preliminary card will be streamed on Facebook.
Although the card might be somewhat lacking in name-power, there is still a number of interesting matches and several opportunities for bettors to lay their money down. There’s nothing that makes a fight more exciting to watch than having a little action on the side, so whether you’re beating your friends or your bookie, here is a breakdown of the night’s fights. As always, all betting lines are the current best available market lines from Best Fight Odds (www.bestfightodds.com)
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Jorge Lopez (-350) vs. Justin Edwards (+325)
Jorge “Lil’ Monster” Lopez is 11-1 and is a very highly touted prospect making his UFC debut. He is a member the Wand Fight Team where he trains under the tutelage of Wanderlei Silva and has been referred to by Wanderlei himself as his apprentice. Lopez is a former high school wrestling standout with a rapidly improving stand up game to match his wrestling skills. Lopez has finished five of his opponents in his career by TKO or KO. His lone loss was a close Split Decision loss in only the second fight of his career.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Lopez is a huge favorite in this one and he probably deserves to be. Edwards has shown very limited stand up ability in his career and Lopez has shown continually improving stand up skills. Edwards needs to get the fight to the floor if he has any chance of winning the fight, but doing so against a strong, athletic wrestler like Lopez may be too tall of a task. I don’t really like the line in this one, it’s just too much juice to lay with Lopez, so I’m going to stay away from this fight from a betting perspective. As for a pick, I’ll take Lopez to win via TKO late in the second round.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Robert Peralta (-145) vs. Mike Lullo (+140)
Robert Peralta is a Honduran-Mexican fighter who fights out of San Diego, California. He is a member of Team Kadillac and has shown strong boxing with decent wrestling skills in his career so far. He holds a professional record of 14-3, and is coming off the most impressive win of his career, in his last fight under the Strikeforce banner. In that fight he defeated DREAM Featherweight Champion Hiroyuki Takaya by Decision (he has defeated all of his other opponents by stoppage, 11 by KO or TKO and 2 via Submission.)
Mike Lullo is a former Lightweight fighter who is now making the cut to 145-pounds. He is a member of the Midwest Training Center fighting out of Illinois. He is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission wrestling fighter who has shown relatively mediocre stand up skills in his past few fights. In fact in his UFC debut he faced highly touted Edson Barboza and was defeated by TKO due to leg kicks after Barboza continually attacked with leg kicks and eventually left Lullo unable to stand.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: Peralta will likely have the stand-up edge in this fight. Luckily for Lullo, Peralta prefers straight boxing over Kickboxing, so he likely shouldn’t have to deal with quite so many leg kicks in this one. On the ground however, Peralta has shown some holes in his grappling game, looking somewhat clumsy and off-balance in extender periods on the ground. If Lullo is able to get this fight to the ground, he should be able to exploit some of those holes and earn a stoppage. Getting +140 with Lullo in a close bout is a worthy of a small bet here. Mike Lullo via Submission in round two.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: TJ Waldburger (-225) vs. Mike Stumpf (+210)
TJ Waldburger is a 23-year-old fighter from Temple Texas. He is a member of the Grappler’s Lair Gym, where is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under John Moore. Waldburger began his martial arts career training for MMA specifically. As such he is a fairly well-rounded fighter with skills at kickboxing and BJJ. Active as a professional since 2005, he has a professional MMA record of 13-6.
Mike Stumpf is a late-notice replacement for Daniel Roberts who was injured late last week. Stumpf is stepping into this fight with only six days’ notice. He is a member of Team Curran where he trains with current UFC fighter Jeff Curran and Bellator stand out Pat Curran. Stumpf is a submission fighter who has fought mostly for the XFO on the regional scene. He will need to avoid Waldburger grinding him down as the bright lights of his UFC debut, could prove to be a bit much for the young fighter.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: From a betting perspective, I’m not at all interested in this fight. Waldburger has a well-rounded game and needs a win here. Stumpf is a young fighter who is taking a big step up in competition, making his UFC debut and doing it all on only a week’s notice. All of those combined make Waldburger the favorite and I think the line is fairly well set. TJ Waldburger via Decision.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Seth Baczynski (-155) vs. Clay Harvison (+140)
Clay “Heavy Metal” Harvison is a thirty-year-old fighter from Marietta, Georgia. He is a kick boxer from the Iron Clutch Kickboxing gym. At 6’1″ he is a fairly tall Welterweight, with a 73-inch reach. He is best known for his stint on the last season of the Ultimate Fighter. He has amassed a career record of 7-1 and in his last fight he defeated fellow TUF alumni Justin Edwards via Split Decision. Harvison is a strong stand up fighter who uses his length to control the range of the fight and has shown strong takedown defense inside the cage.
Seth Baczynski is a fighter from Honolulu, Hawaii. Like his opponent he is a former cast member of the Ultimate Fighter, although Baczynski was on Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz season of the show. He is a member of the Power MMA and Fitness team in Arizona where he trains with the likes of Ryan Bader, C.B. Dolloway and Aaron Simpson. He is quite tall and lanky for a Welterweight, standing 6’4″ tall. He has compiled a professional MMA record of 13-6, winning all of his fights by stoppage. Training with the solid ground fighters at Power MMA, Baczynski is a strong ground fighter, with good wrestling and solid submission skills.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: The stand-up fight favors Harvison as he has the more technical striking abilities because of his kickboxing background, however, Baczynski is the more well-rounded fighter. While he may be slightly out-gunned on the feet, he will likely hold a significant advantage on the ground. His tall frame will also allow him to dictate the range and pace of the fight, which should allow him to control the cage and keep Harvison at bay. At -155 the price is probably pretty close to right, although there might still be a bit of value for a bet on Baczynski if you feel like it. Seth Baczynski via Submission in the third round.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Ken Stone (-155) vs. Donny Walker (+140)
Donny “Eagle Eye” Walker is an American fighter from Cleveland, Ohio. The 31-year-old fighter has been a professional fighter since 2004 and has over 20 fights on his record. He is a Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who trains with the Griffin Rawl MMA Academy. Walker holds a career record of 15-7, who has proven himself on the regional fight scene, but has struggled against some of the upper-tier fighters. In his last fight he made his UFC debut, but struggled against Jeff Hougland and lost a Unanimous Decision.
Ken Stone is a Jiu Jitsu fighter who was a highly-touted prospect until he fell on hard times in his last two fights. He is a member of the American Top Team out of Coconut Creek, Florida. He has a professional record of 9-3, stopping all of his opponents before the third round. Stone is going to be at a serious advantage on the ground, but may be over-matched on the feet. However, the second the fight hits the ground, it’s likely that Stone will be able to run a clinic on Walker.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I actually like a bet on Stone at the current price. Walker did not impress me in his debut and although he likely has a stand up advantage, it’s unlikely that he will be able to exploit it for very long. Stone will be able to earn takedowns, use ground and pound to batter Walker and wear him down en-route to a third round submission. Ken Stone via Submission in round three.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Matt Riddle (-185) vs. Lance Benoist (+175)
Matt Riddle is a former cast member of the Ultimate Fighter 7. He entered the Ultimate Fighter house with no professional record, but has had 7 fights all within the octagon. He is a former collegiate wrestler in 2005, when he wrestled for East Stroudsburg University. Riddle has made progress with his stand up abilities, but his skills remain raw and unpolished. His stand-up was exploited in his last fight against Sean Pierson, a fight he lost by Unanimous Decision. Riddle will likely want to return to his wrestling roots in this fight, unless he has vastly improved his stand up. Riddle is a member of the Throwdown Training Center in Las Vegas.
Lance Benoist is a fighter from Missouri. He made his professional MMA debut in January of 2010. Since then he has compiled a professional record of 5-0, stopping all of his opponents in the first round. During his time as an amateur he also compiled a 6-0 record with 5 KO’s. He has an impressive submission game, winning several of his pro fights within a couple of seconds of the fight hitting the mat. He will however be facing a significant step-up in competition when he takes on Riddle.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: This line seems a bit off to me, but I’m not really into backing Riddle. His performances have been sporadic at best. However, Benoist hasn’t really shown himself to be an expert standing, and Riddle has proven extremely tough to submit. It’s likely that this fight will see sloppy stand-up exchanges, before Riddle shoots for a takedown and takes this to the ground. Once there Riddle will likely work a ground and pound clinic, Benoist might earn a scramble or two, but will likely be unable to secure a Submission. But like I said, I’m done betting on Riddle. Matthew Riddle via Unanimous Decision.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Evan Dunham (-400) vs. Shamar Bailey (+350)
Evan “3-D” Dunham is a 29-year-old fighter from Eugene, Oregon. He is a BJJ black belt, with strong wrestling and good boxing. He is a member of the Throwdown Training Center in Las Vegas. After turning pro in 2007, he ran up an impressive 11-0 record, with impressive wins over Efrain Escudero and Tyson Griffin. He was a top-ranked prospect at Lightweight before losing a controversial decision to Sean Sherk and then being TKO’ed by Melvin Guillard. He is looking to rebound and get himself back on track and into contention in the very deep and very talented UFC Lightweight division.
Shamar Bailey is a 28-year-old fighter from Chicago, Illinois. He is a former Strikeforce fighter who was also a competitor on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Bailey is a former high school wrestler, where in his senior season he went undefeated. Since becoming a professional fighter he has compiled a record of 12-3. Bailey has shown very limited striking skills and will be looking to take this fight to the ground. However, that will not guarantee him a win by any means, as being on the ground with Dunham is not a cakewalk, as he is able to use his lanky frame to search for submissions constantly.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: There’s not a lot to say here. Dunham is the far superior stand up fighter. He should be able to control the distance and control the fight standing. On the mat Dunham’s defensive Jiu Jitsu should be enough to frustrate and sweep Bailey. However, with all of that said, I’m not interested in laying 4-to-1 on Dunham, or anyone really for that matter. So no bet for me on this one, but it’s a fight that Dunham should win. Evan Dunham via TKO in round three.
Preliminary Bout (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Cody McKenzie (+155) vs. Vagner Rocha (-165)
Cody “AK Kid” McKenzie is a 23-year old fighter. He is fairly tall for a Lightweight, as he stands at 6’0″ tall with a 74-inch reach. He is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and also has background in kickboxing. He compiled an impressive 11-0 record on the regional circuit, before joining the Ultimate Fighter Season 12. He is looking to bounce back from his only career loss in his last fight to Yves Edwards. McKenzie is a decent stand up fighter, but is not a world beater by any means. He has one of the most dangerous Guillotine chokes in MMA, nicknamed the “McKenzietine” he won ten fights in a row with the hold on the Regional circuit.
Vagner Rocha is a Brazilian born fighter from Rio de Janeiro. The 29-year-old currently trains in Pembroke Pines, Florida with the Pablo Popovitch BJJ Center. He is a BJJ Black belt but will be at a significant height disadvantage against McKenzie in this fight. He owns a professional record of 6-2, with 4 wins via Submission. He made his UFC debut in his last fight, taking a late notice fight against Donald Cerrone. He showed an impressive ability to hang in tough fights, as he showed in a mostly stand-up battle against Cerrone, where he managed to survive to the bell, despite being battered.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I would love to pick the underdog in this one, but I just can’t pull the trigger. McKenzie was soundly out-struck by Yves Edwards in his last fight and looked to tire significantly as the fight wore on. Against Rocha, it will be nearly impossible to secure a submission and Rocha showed the ability to at least hang in there with a strong striker in Cerrone. Vagner Rocha via TKO in the third round.
Main Card (Spike TV): Middleweight Bout: Alan Belcher (-265) vs. Jason MacDonald (+250)
Alan “The Talent” Belcher is making his return to the UFC after emergency eye surgery caused him to lose vision in his right eye, and leading to a 16-month layoff from competition. He is a strong Muay Thai kick boxer who also holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is a member of the Roufusport Fight Team, training under Duke Roufus in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is a fairly large Middleweight, with a bulky and compact 6’2″, 185-pound frame. He mixes his kicks and punches very well and is a very fan friendly fighter.
Jason “The Athlete” MacDonald is a veteran fighter from my homeland of Canada. Despite the fact that Belcher is the stronger striker, MacDonald will hold a 6-inch reach advantage come fight time. The 36-year-old is a veteran of the fight game, and this will be his 40th professional fight. He holds a record of 25-14 with 19 wins coming by way of Submission. He is a member of the Gracie Barra Fight Team in Calgary, Alberta where he is a 1st degree black belt in BJJ. MacDonald has decent stand up skills, but lacks the power and technical ability to hang with a striker like Belcher. His best chance is to take this fight to the mat and exploit his edge in grappling.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I actually like MacDonald, as a big underdog in this one. He is a crafty veteran with great submission skills and great conditioning. MacDonald is a veteran and should have no doubts about his best chance of winning this fight and will likely be looking to get the fight to the mat as soon as possible. Belcher’s condition coming into this fight is also cause for concern for me. He has shown suspect cardio in the past, and coming in after over a year layoff, who knows how he will look. Belcher should be the favorite, as he is the stronger fighter physically and is the better striker. He is also no slouch on the ground and possesses decent grappling skills. However, I think with the long layoff and the fact that MacDonald is Canadian, I’m going to back him with a small bet in this one. Jason MacDonald via Submission late in round three.
Main Card (Spike TV): Featherweight Bout: Jonathan Brookins (+180) vs. Erik Koch (-190)
Jonathan Brookins is a 26-year-old fighter and was the winner of the twelfth season of the Ultimate Fighter. The former Lightweight fighter is dropping to Featherweight for this fight. Brookins is from Portland, Oregon, but now trains with the Gracie Barra Fight Team in Orlando, Florida. The 6’0″ tall Featherweight has a reach of 74-inches but his stand-up is relatively basic and while technically sound is not his strong point. Instead, he uses his strikes to set up potential takedowns where he can work his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission game against his opponents. Fighting professionally since 2006, Brookins has compiled a career record of 12-3, with 8 wins via Submission. He is entering the fight after a bit of a layoff, this will be his first fight since winning The Ultimate Fighter on December 4, 2010.
Erik “New Breed” Koch is a 22-year-old fighter, who is a highly touted prospect in the Featherweight division. He is a kickboxing fighter, who also has a background in Tae Kwan Do. Koch is a member of the Roufusport Fight Team where he trains with the likes of Anthony Pettis, Matt Mitrione and Alan Belcher. Koch is a strong striker with under-rated ground skills. He has compiled a career record of 12-1, with his lone loss coming against the extremely talented and undefeated Chad Mendes in the WEC. Koch will be vying for his third straight “Knockout of the Night” bonus in this fight.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I actually think the line on this fight is fairly well set. Koch’s stand up is devastating and is beginning to get more and more creative. Koch also comes to finish fights and will move forward to press the action. Brookins is the better wrestler and he should be looking for takedowns constantly in this fight. Koch is no slouch on the ground, but Brookins is a good wrestler with a strong base who shouldn’t leave any openings for Submissions. For Koch to win he’s going to need some good Sprawl and Brawl to keep this fight standing for as long as possible. Overall, I think it’s going to be a close fight and Koch may hit a bump or two along the road, but he should take a late stoppage or a Decision. No bets on this one, but I’ll take Erik Koch via TKO in round three.
Main Card (Spike TV): Middleweight Bout: Court McGee (-160) vs. Dongi Yang (+155)
Court “The Crusher” McGee is a 26-year-old fighter and the winner of the eleventh season of the Ultimate Fighter. His life story was a focal point of the show, where it was revealed that he is a former heroin addict, who has recovered and been clean since 2006 when he picked up MMA. In his youth, McGee had competed in over 100 karate bouts, he also holds a professional boxing record of 2-0. McGee has an impressive career record of 13-1 with the lone loss coming to MMA veteran Jeremy Horn by Decision. McGee trains out of The Pit in San Diego, California under John Hackleman (the trainer of Chuck “Iceman” Liddell.) McGee has submitted both of his UFC opponents and is currently riding a 7 fight winning streak.
Dongi “The Ox” Yang is a 26-year-old fighter from South Korea. He has been a professional since 2007 and most of his early career fights were in Asian, before getting signed to the UFC. He is a Judo fighter, who also has a background in Tae Kwan Do. He is a member of the Korean Top Team Gym in South Korea. Yang has shown decent stand up skills and has shown a willingness to stand and bang with his opponents. Yang has a career record of 10-1, with 9 wins via TKO or KO and 1 via Submission. He is often looking to finish his opponents, but has shown a propensity to tire as the fight drags on, as he did in his lone career loss, a close Split Decision to Chris Camozzi.
Betting Analysis and Prediction: I like Court McGee in this fight. I think the line is close because of Yang’s last performance and his ability to stand and trade, where McGee has been outmatched before. However, despite Yang’s Judo base and his background in freestyle wrestling, McGee is still a better wrestler who always fights with a strong game plan. McGee will be looking to clinch up and get this fight to the ground as quickly as possible. On the ground, he is extremely aggressive, attacking from all angles and not allowing his opponents time to rest. This combination of takedowns and ground and pound will wear down Yang and set up McGee for another Rear Naked Choke victory late in the second round. At -160, I think there’s still a bit of value on McGee as well, so I’ll be placing a bet on him in this one. Court McGee via Submission in round two.
Main Event – Main Card (Spike TV): Welterweight Bout: Jake Shields (-175) vs. Jake Ellenberger (+170)
Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger is a 26-year-old fighter from Omaha, Nebraska. Ellenberger is a wrestler with rapidly improving stand up skills. Before becoming a professional fighter, Ellenberger was an NCAA Division II wrestler and is currently an assistant wrestling coach for the National Champion University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is a somewhat short and compact Welterweight who carries knockout power in both of his hands. Ellenberger has compiled a career record of 25-5 with an impressive 21 stoppage victories. Ellenberger is 4-1 in the UFC, with his lone loss coming via close Decision to Carlos Condit in a fight that he took on short notice.
Jake Shields is a veteran MMA fighter, from the Cesar Gracie Gym in California. Shields has been a world champion for a number of promotions including Rumble on the Rock, Elite XC, Shooto and Strikeforce. Shields is a strong wrestler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His stand up is fairly rudimentary as it is used to close the distance and set up takedowns. Shields like his opponent was also a former NCAA Division II Wrestler. He is making his return to the octagon for the first time since dropping a five-round Unanimous Decision to current Welterweight Champion GSP in his last fight. Although in that fight, he did break GSP’s streak of 33 consecutive rounds won, but snatching two rounds on a couple of judge’s scorecards. Still Shields has one of the most impressive resumes in MMA defeating a number of top-tier fighters including Dan Henderson, Martin Kampmann, Jason Miller, Paul Daley, Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami.
One other thing that I hate to bring up, but needs to be at least considered entering this fight is that last week Jake Shields’ father and manager Jack Shields died at the age of 67. I definitely commend Shields for deciding to stay on the card and fight in the main event, it’s hard to say how this will affect him. He could have a Brett Favre like performance (Favre’s father died two days before he was set to play the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. Favre decided to play and passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns.) Or he could be completely without focus and lay an egg in the cage.
I think he’s unlikely to completely melt under the pressure, as Shields has always been a strong mental fighter, but the timing along with the already close match up has me wanting to take a small flyer bet on the underdog Ellenberger. Jake Ellenberger via close but Unanimous Decision.
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