Post UFC 88 Notes

By Nicholas Bailey (

I have certainly gotten off to an ignominious start with my Public Bet History (-1.52 units so far) and General Public Prediction Record (4-5 or 44.44%). However, that means there’s lots to learn. It’s important to go back over ones betting decisions (not just sides taken, but fights passed over, and amounts wagered) if one seriously wants to make money wagering on MMA.

Overall this event had everything one could want from an MMA event – some impressive knockouts, some submissions, some wars, lots of divisionally important fights, stars being born, established fighters reminding the world why they are established, and at least one major shakeup. Toss in a side of the music from Conan, courtesy of Tim Boetsch, and you have a success.

Rashad Evans vs. Chuck Liddell

Well, this was a bit of a shocker. I don’t think this is a case of Chuck getting old or being past it. He looked exactly the same as he has in every fight for the past several years. Chuck is like one of those moths with the 12 inch long tongue that can only drink from a certain type of flower. He’s very specialized, but he’s great at what he does. He circles, he protects his bubble of personal space, not allowing anyone to touch him, and he keeps his eyes wide open to target his big punches. It’s not like Wanderlei Silva or Randy Couture didn’t know this going in. He still beat them.

Rashad made Chuck chase him, and the ice in Chuck’s veins seemed to melt, as he got angry and chased Rashad around a bit and stretched too far with his strikes. Before the final big shot, Rashad threw several big overhand counter rights that whiffed or slapped Chuck’s shoulder, so really Chuck has no excuse for getting caught with that. He should have seen it after the third time Rashad responded to an attack with that. Still, with Chuck’s power, I expect he has a few more big knockout wins ahead of him.

Rashad is very fast and explosive, but I don’t think he’s going to become the standup king of the LHW division anytime soon. Chuck has long been very hittable for a counter fighter, relying on the combination of his excellent chin and phenomenal power to let him win any exchange (to his detriment against Rampage and Guy Mezger, although he eventually won that last fight). Rashad is difficult to get a hold of, but he also has a hilariously poor workrate (check out his FightMetric performance rating) he just has a real gift for making sure the other guy can’t get anything done either. I think he will continue to have flashes of brilliance where all the pieces come together and he channels all of his considerable power and speed into a single strike, slam, or takedown, but don’t expect it to be a regular thing.

I think that my call not to bet on either side was correct, if conservative. There are a lot of unknowns when a fighter is on a losing streak. They may never perform up to spec again, or they may bounce right back. Avoid getting involved with a bet on a Chuck Liddell fight (on either side) for the foreseable future. One force many bettors (including myself) may be consistently underrating or ignoring is that in modern MMA, with modern trainers and training camps, fighters can improve previously weak aspects of their fight games immensely. Rashad may have had to get in a slugfest with Brad Imes and been outpointed by Tito’s generally impotent standup, but here he was able to stick and move on one of the best counterfighters in the division. This sort of quantum leap in performance should be remembered going forward.

Rich Franklin vs. Matt Hamill

Hamill looked awful in this fight. It’s always worrisome when a fighter sticks so stubbornly to an obviously losing gameplan. Maybe the armbar scared him, maybe he didn’t really have his heart set on beating Rich. Either way, he showed, the hard way, that he has a great chin and will to fight . Rich looked very good at the weight and might see a temporary resurgence in his fortunes in the UFC.

Betting-wise, this was a good pick to go heavy on. I felt like I had a very good handle on the fight, and it went exactly the way I expected it to. If only they could all go that way for me.

Dan Henderson vs. Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares

This was an impressive fight from Hendo. This was the most controlled he’s ever been and the most intelligently he’s fought. He might be old and have been fighting even before MMA’s ‘golden age’, but he’s aged like a fine whiskey. It has more depth than ever before, as well as quality seasoning, and of course the 100-proof right hand.

Palhares also looked good, as expected. He showed a good chin, and a strong fighting spirit (although he gassed and his butt-flops at the end of the third round were sad). Still, he managed to find ways to drag Henderson to the mat, and found openings to threaten several times. His striking needs enormous amounts of work, and he sets up his takedowns with strikes like he’s drilling it and bored. It’s very mechanical and predictable. Fortunately he seems agile for such a stump of a man, and maybe those crazy ninja kicks will serve him in good stead if he sharpens up his striking.

Betting-wise, I think I made the right call in laying off the fight. Henderson was a terrible stylistic matchup for Palhares, but the newcomer still found ways to threaten, as I expected. If he’d gotten a little deeper on one of those leglocks, Henderson might have been on crutches. I’m going to subjectively score this as a “win” in terms of predicting the fight (the ‘SPA’ column in my predictions), as it played out much the way I expected. If you don’t like that, just ignore that column and go purely by my non-subjective win/loss record. I’ve included the subjective column so I can self-score how well I am doing in handicapping fights. If you’re a bettor, I suggest you do the same. One shouldn’t be too results-focused, especially as a bettor. For example, if you placed money on Kevin Burns as the underdog to Anthony Johnson, thinking perhap Burns could expose Johnson’s ground game and find a submission, Burns’ eye-poke-tko victory does not indicate you accurately predicted the fight.

Martin Kampmann vs. Nate Marquardt

While it appears that this loss will send Kampmann down to welterweight, I think Marquardt’s weight had very little to do with it. Within a reasonable range, anyone of any weight headkicking you is going to mess your day up. I’m impressed that Kampmann didn’t get starched by that shot or the many follow-ups, instead just collapsing under the punishment. The guy must have a great chin (which will sadly be useless to him as he faces the nightmare progression of top-position grapplers that is the UFC’s 170 lb class). Marquardt’s boxing looked very sharp, which doesn’t say a whole lot given he was basically working a punching bag after that kick. Still, his ‘seasoned veteran’ status really showed in the way he intelligently picked his shots and dilligently worked his way to the finish, rather than just going buck and hoping to knock off Kampmann’s head through his guard. As he said in his post-fight interview, he remained calm and focused on landing accurately. If Marquardt can keep improving at this rate and maintain his incredible physical condition without injuring himself, I suspect he’ll be fighting for the title again in short order. If the matchup happens, I think he can take Henderson. Kampmann has much more to offer than he showed in this fight. I hope he doesn’t become a wasted talent spending his entire career at 170 on his back getting roughed up by the Jon Fitches and Josh Koschecks of the world.

Like the Rich Franklin fight, this was a case where I made a smart play and correctly wagered a large sum, because of the confidence I had in Nate, although I certainly didn’t expect him to be able to crush the Dane like that.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. Thiago Tavares

Tavares has a lot of work to do before he lives up to the potential he has. Granted, he started this fight off on the back foot, getting his face caved in by the recently improved standup of Pellegrino. It might be hard to see at first, but coming back from that kind of beating to win a round and remain competitive really shows that Thiago is something special.

Kurt may really be a force to be reckoned with if this represents the level of his fight game in his future fights. He has a very good skill-set, although he’s fighting in a division full of well-rounded incredibly talented guys.

As far as betting goes, I think staying away was the right call. I underestimated Kurt in my analysis, but I think it would have been unreasonable to expect this kind of a performance from him.

Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch vs. Mike Patt

Boetsch has one of the most appropriate nicknames in the sport. This fight didn’t go long enough to evaluate his stamina, but he looked in the best shape yet, and his punches landed, unlike the Hamill fight, where he connected about as often as Paul Konerko on a cold streak. We didn’t really learn anything new about Tim here. When his punches land, he hurts people. Good to know the fight against Heath wasn’t a fluke. Hopefully the UFC gives him smart matches, because he could be an awesome gatekeeper and fan favorite. I know I love him for his meat-and-potatoes fighting style. As for Patt… getting punched in the face and knocked down isn’t really a good basis for analyzing his skills. Better luck next time, Matt.

While Boetsch made it look like he could beat 10 Mike Patts in a row, I think staying off this bet was the smart play, since they’re both such unknown commodities.

Matt Brown vs. Dong Hyun “Stun Gun” Kim

The fight game is a funny one. Few people gave Brown any chance in this fight. I certainly didn’t. Kim really did outclass him, too. Kim’s flurry of attacks in the first round and Brown’s inability to do anything other than survive showed why so many had so much faith in the Stun Gun. However, Dong’s poor strategy (not setting up his punches or throwing combos, trying the same judo trip a billion times, trying to submit immediately instead of just punishing with elbows) gave Brown a chance to demonstrate the benefits of serious, professional, top-level MMA conditioning training, as he fought hard from bell to bell, while the technically superior Kim had to find ways to contain a more energetic opponent.

The decision was the right one; despite being fresher, Brown couldn’t get anything done, and could only reasonably be given the second round. Staying off the fight, betting-wise, was still the right call. I think going forward Dong Hyun Kim will be undervalued as backlash for this performance, and Matt Brown will be overvalued because he’s a fan favorite and people regard this fight as closer than it actually was because Brown was expected to just get hosed. Keep an eye on future lines involving these two.

Roan “Jucao” Carneiro vs. Ryo “Triumph United” Chonan

Jucao won this fight clearly. It was a close fight, but the correct scoring was obvious. Roan takes the first round, Ryo the second. The third round was close and had little action, but Roan obviously controlled the bulk of it. He spent more time in dominant positions and actualled advanced position, while Ryo, in the shorter amount of time he spent in dominant positions, could not advance position and was unable to effectively deal damage with ground and pound. Thus the third round should have gone to Roan.

Ryo looked much improved in this fight. His striking still looked solid if not overly powerful and threatening, but the big improvement was his grappling. For lack of a better word, Ryo has often looked wimpy on the ground or wrestling. His opponents have pushed him around and bullied him, which I expected the bigger Jucao to be able to do. Chonan has put on some muscle and developed his defensive wrestling. I still don’t see him wearing a title belt, but he still has the tools to win fights or at least not get embarassed against top competition.

Jucao at least erased the blot of being triangled by Kevin Burns and giving up vs. Fitch by holding it together long enough to go to a decision without flaking out and giving up.

I think picking Carneiro at the odds I did was the right bet. He wasn’t as dominant as I expected, but he was still able to perform in the fight in the manner I expected. I perhaps sized the bet too large, given the unknowns after the Kevin Burns fight, even if those worries didn’t play out in the fight.

Jason Lambert vs. Jason MacDonald

Here’s my biggest mistake of the night. Not only did I call the fight almost perfectly wrong, underestimating my fighter’s opponent and overestimating my fighter, but I also make some bad mistakes in bet sizing.

I grossly overestimated Jason Lambert’s wrestling. While the Rashad Evans fight should have made me very nervous about Lambert’s ability to actually control fights, I had written it off as Rashad being a phenomenal wrestler. MacDonald’s takedowns had previously appeared impotent, but in this fight he dictated where the fight took place very impressively.

While I still think that if Lambert had gotten on top and landed a few shots on MacDonald, he would have been able to beat him up for a finish, I overestimated Lambert’s own toughness, since he seemed to be hurt pretty badly by the first clean shot or two MacDonald hit him with. I don’t expect much from Lambert in the future, either. I think that what we saw in this fight is basically all he has to offer, regardless of weight division.

While MacDonald’s aversion to getting hit and weak standup will prevent him from being a top-tier fighter, he has the skills, especially if he can keep putting his opponents on the mat, to keep racking up wins in the UFC over opponents like Lambert.

This fight really demonstrates the importance of being disciplined in your bankroll management. Yes, I predicted the fight woefully incorrectly. However, the damage this error did was greatly magnified by lack of discipline in my bet sizing. Despite expecting Lambert to win, I knew he was a flawed fighter and that MacDonald was a dangerous opponent. I was much more comfortable with my Franklin and Marquardt picks, yet, because I felt I was getting favorable odds here, this fight ended up being my largest bet of the night. While no man is made of stone, letting my excitement to see the line shift to +150 overrule prudence has undone the good work I did in handicapping the other fights of the night. So the lesson goes beyong never relying on Jason Lambert again-it’s time for me to re-think how seriously I take risk management. Perhaps you can learn from my mistake.

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?