It has been a little while since I've done one of these gambling pieces so for anyone new to them I'll refer you to the old pieces I did for events as proof that if you follow my advice you make money. Then again, if you follow my advice and lose money, that's not my fault. You shouldn't be gambling anyway, it's morally wrong.
Fun fact: Over the last 5 UFC events the favorites have gone 31-15-1 for just under a 66% win rate. And the favorite has lost the last three main events (Brock Lesnar at UFC 121, Nate Marquardt at UFC 122 and Lyoto Machida at UFC 123). So anyone that follows MMA gambling lines should be deeply annoyed when they hear people complain about how hard the NFL is to figure out. At least there you can look at point spreads or play the total (over/under). Those safety nets just aren't present in combat sports unless you get the occasional prop bet on how a fight will end, but even that is a complete crapshoot with the complexity of the sport.
And while I'm on a small pre-pick ranting streak, I hate the way that play money gambling sites like MMA Playground have warped many fans' ideas of how gambling should play out for the sport. Instead of finding the correct value in the odds it has turned into people rambling about how they bet $4500 on a parlay with three big underdogs. The murderously bad long-term idea of playing parlays in a sport with such unpredictability has become how many fans think you actually should move your money.
Stephan Bonnar vs. Igor Pokrajac - Currently Bonnar can be gotten for odds as good as -200 currently and Pokrajac is up to +205 at some sites. While Bonnar has been frustratingly inconsistent at times it's worth noting that his UFC losses are to Forrest Griffin (x2), Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Mark Coleman and Krzysztof Soszynski. While it was disappointing to see Bonnar not be able to deal with the "lay and pray" attack of Coleman and fight a stupid fight against Soszynski those names (outside of Soszynski) are all guys who at one point or another were at the top of the division. Well, aside from Jon Jones who will be there soon enough.
Meanwhile Pokrajac started his UFC career 0-2 against Vladimir Matyushenko and James Te-Huna before scoring a win at UFC Live: Matyushenko vs. Jones over James Irvin. The thing to note there is that Irvin had not won a bout in roughly two and a half years coming into that bout. The Irvin win, despite the circumstances remains the best win on Pokrajac's entire resume.
Bonnar could absolutely disappoint come Saturday night if he leaves his strategy at the cage door, and his tendency to cut is troubling, but he's still the far better fighter and is used to being in with much more talented men than Pokrajac. That makes Stephan Bonnar an easy play in my book at odds up to -240.
Demian Maia vs. Kendall Grove - Grove tends to have a good moment in each of his fights but often can't overcome adversity. In a lot of ways he is the typical frontrunner. It's conceivable that his length gives Maia some fits on the feet but his lanky, tricky submission game is going to be completely nullified by a much better grappler.
Demian Maia handled Chael Sonnen like a little kid back at UFC 95 and that win alone should make you feel comfortable taking him over Grove. Nate Marquardt's KO of Maia will always stick out to some people as proof of some sort of chin issue, but in reality it's simply that Maia made a stupid technical mistake and got hit...hard. He had the heart to hang in with Anderson Silva for 5 rounds and while Silva's striking was too much for him to overcome I still figure he'll be able to close the distance on Grove at some point and put the fight on the floor where he'll get the submission.
Still, the odds here are only as good as -350 on Maia. Given Grove's reach and decent striking I'm not comfortable going in at much worse odds than we've currently got. Still, the line did start out at -500 on Maia so we're seeing movement in the direction we want. Take Demian Maia at -350 or better. It might benefit you to continue to monitor the line movement and see if you can't catch some last minute money coming in on Grove.
Johny Hendricks vs. Rick Story - This is a very good fight. Hendricks is undefeated as a pro which includes four consecutive UFC wins. After dropping his first UFC bout to John Hathaway, Rick Story has gone on to win four straight bouts as well. Both men have a wrestling background got Hendricks' is more impressive.
Story is very tough but in his three UFC bouts which have gone to the scorecards he has not won a unanimous decision yet, losing to Hathaway, winning a majority decision over Jesse Lennox and then a split decision over Nick Osipczak.
Hendricks seems to have the better tools here and that's why he's the favorite. I like Johny to win, but in the interest of this being gambling and a search for value it's very tempting to get on the +185 line for Story. Still, I'd rather play it safe and pick the guy that I think matches up better here. Take Johny Hendricks at -205 or better. This is a line that opened at -365 for Hendricks and has only gotten better so that's where the "hidden value" comes into play. He opened as way too big of a favorite and in the end the line may overcorrect to where he's able to be gotten at better than -200.
After the finalists from the Ultimate Fighter are announced we'll update with a pick for that fight and once the lines are released for Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu we'll have a look at those odds as well.