With Terry Martin’s victory on Saturday, my Public Bet History has improved, and this event could provide the opportunity to break back into the black and start making serious money.
Furthermore, the large number of squash matches will be a nice pad to my General Public Prediction Record.
All that aside, I’m very excited for another full-scale Japanese MMA show with all the pageantry and international talent associated with it. The very high-quality heavyweight matchup of Crocop and Alistair Overeem is guaranteed fireworks, and the winner of the 185-lb grand prix will immediately enter talks as a fantasy matchup for Anderson Silva and other UFC elite middleweights, although the far and away more likely next step for the champ will be Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Melvin Manhoef vs. Gegard Mousasi
Gegard is a pretty amazing fighter, not coming from any elite camp, instead honing his skills with a group of unknowns, but developing them to a level that makes him one of the best fighters in his weight class in any organization. He’s very well rounded, with excellent standup and very potent submissions, meaning he can usually attack one-dimensional opponents in the discipline they’re least prepared for.
Manhoef is the most electrifying fighter in MMA. With an unbelievable 95% knockout rate across 22 victories, Manhoef’s skills as a striker are clear, but he relies on athleticism and explosiveness to make up for the fact that he has almost nothing in the way of wrestling or ground game. He simply flexes his 5’8″, ball-of-muscle frame and tries to explode out of any takedown or submission, which works more often than it has any right to.
While Manhoef has the power to put anyone that steps into a ring with him down, Gegard has the range and kickboxing chops to not be in a desperate position on the feet. I expect him to use his skills standing simply to set up a clinch and takedown, where he will handily control Manhoef and likely submit him without much fuss. Even if Manhoef is successful in escaping the first couple of times he is caught or taken down, his go-for-broke style and reliance on huge bursts of energy to escape bad positions will wear him out in short order, opening the possibility of Gegard landing a kick on the feet and knocking him out, but most likely just making the takedown and submission come easier. Gegard Mousasi by submission round 1.
I feel at -155 Gegard is a good wager since he’s so heavily favored by the style matchup, especially given the fact that he has the ability to make the fight even or possibly win on the feet in addition to an overwhelming advantage should it hit the mat. I have placed 1 unit on him at -155.
There are questions about Jacare’s chin, and Galesic can bang, but other than that, the Croatian is hopeless in this fight, due to his poor wrestling and submission defense. Beyond having some of the best jiu-jitsu in the world, Jacare has a powerful takedown/throw game, so he will most likely come in, toss Zelg to the ground, and submit him within moments. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza by submission round 1.
Jacare so overmatches Zelg and this match’s outcome is so predestined that even at -345, I like Jacare for a unit, since Zelg doesn’t have the striking skills to knock him out before Jacare can drag him down.
Mirko “Crocop” Filopovic vs. Alistair Overeem
Mirko is not without his problems, but many people seem to forget that he has the incredible physical tools and talent to be a top-level heavyweight. Alistair Overeem is similarly gifted, but he has some unique problems that have hindered his career, and I expect will continue to do so.
Alistair’s biggest problem is staying power. Between bad gas, an apparently fragile chin, and a total inability to recover from being hurt, Alistair is in deep deep waters against Crocop, who is an excellent boxer with heavy hands, on top of his kicking ability. One brutal uppercut from the Croatian will put Alistair into a replay of his second fight with Sergei Kharitonov, which he dominated until the first clean punch he took.
Alistair can only win this fight two ways, as I see it. Crocop has a history of being hurt to the body, and Overeem has the ability to dish out extreme amounts of punishment with knees to the body, so it’s feasible that he could finish Crocop off that way. Furthermore, Alistair’s offensive wrestling and submission skills are consistently overlooked. When he’s fresh, Alistair has the ability to throw his opponents reliably into side mount, where Crocop would be in very big trouble. However, Crocop is as powerful and explosive as Alistair, and has fabulous defensive wrestling, so I expect he will be able to push Overeem off, and punish him with punches.
I don’t think Crocop will land the highlight kick in this fight, because it will be over as soon as he uncorks a punch combination that catches Alistair with his guard down, probably within the first five minutes. Mirko “Crocop” Filopovic by KO round 1.
Shinya Aoki vs. Todd Moore
This is a popcorn fight for the Japanese fans. Aoki was added to the card very late, simply as a ratings draw, and as such the powers that be have selected an opponent that does not represent a threat to one of their premiere talents. Aoki is fairly fragile, and Moore is a large opponent, having previously fought at 170, but Todd isn’t really known for his power. As a ground and pound wrestler, I don’t expect Moore to even begin to be able to get to work on the ground before Aoki locks him up and finishes the fight. Expect a submission in under two minutes. Shinya Aoki by submission round 1.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Masanori Tonooka
Like the Yoon Dong Sik fight, this is another case of a crossover Judoka that has become a true MMA talent facing off against a karate convert with no preparation. Akiyama has the submission acumen to dispatch Masanori with ease should he throw him down, which is what the style matchup would dictate. However, I expect Akiyama to flex his well-developed standup, where he has the power in his hands to knock Tonooka back to Mario Brothers 3, where his name fits better. Yoshihiro Akiyama by KO round 1.
Hayato Sakurai vs. Kuniyoshi Hironaka
Sakurai runs hot and cold depending on how committed he is to the fight game. He is one of the most talented guys to have ever fought, but that means he sometimes gets lazy and tries to get by on ability, coming in out of shape and unprepared. Hironaka is a very solid fighter, especially on the ground. While Sakurai should be able to escape anything he throws and simply knock him around for a finish, if Sakurai gets lazy, Nakamura has the ability to catch him in something and upset him.
By all reports Sakurai’s preparations for this fight have gone well and he is in excellent shape, having spent most of his time training in the United States rather than drinking in Japan. I expect him to stalk Nakamura until he can finally accumulate enough damage to spring upon him and finish things off. Hayato Sakurai by KO round 1
Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Masakatsu Funaki
Funaki should be in retirement somewhere, drinking beer and doing commercials. Minowa may not be an elite fighter, but he belongs in the ring and still has physical tools. Minowa’s insanity and unique weaknesses (lack of punching power) may make this fight more competitive than it should be, but Minowa should be able to beat up and TKO a very old, very shot Funaki. Ikuhisa Minowa TKO round 1
Hideo Tokoro vs. Atsushi Yamamoto
Tokoro’s biggest weakness is his chin and willingness to give up position and leave himself open, but Yamamoto doesn’t hit hard enough to take advantage of this. Yamamoto is difficult to finish, but Tokoro will simply outwork him and put him in danger more than he is put in danger. Hideo Tokoro via decision.
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Jimmy Ambriz
A late replacement for an apparently injured Mighty Mo Siliga, the enormous Ambriz should be an even easier fight for Sergei. The former powerlifter has become one of those unfortunate breed of ready-to-rock fighters that are always available as an extremely late replacement, but represent little more than a warm body. My only question – where was Gary Goodridge, king of the late replacements? Probably fighting in 3 local K-1 tournaments this week. Sergei’s biggest weakness now is that he is bulky and slow, and that he represents a very stationary target, absorbing all his opponents shots with a good chin. However no matter how good your chin is, if you eat everything thrown your way, you will often find yourself beat up, and Ambriz does have the power to potentially exploit this, he suffers from the same problem, and is much less dangerous on the feet. Furthermore, Sergei has a pretty agile submission game for a heavyweight, so he can trip Ambriz and take an armbar off of him pretty easily. This fight shouldn’t go long at all. Sergei Kharitonov TKO round 1.
Keita Nakamura vs. Adriano Martins
One of the more evenly matched fights on the card, it’s time for Nakamura to show that he was merely in a slump in his 0-3 stint in the UFC. Martins is a quality fighter, but he’s not a big finishing threat, and his skills deficit to Nakamura will become more clear as the fight goes on. Nakamura has the skills to find a submission, but I expect a more conservative control game from him, leading to a clear, if uneventful, decision. Keita Nakamura by decision.
Yoon Dong Sik vs. Andrews Nakahara
Yoon Dong Sik in a fight against a Karate guy with almost no MMA experience or training. Dongbar imminent. Yoon Dong Sik via submission round 1.
Hypothetical finals: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Gegard Mousasi
While Mousasi has the tougher opponent in the semifinals, Jacare’s conditioning has been suspect in the past, and he is at a stylistic disadvantage in this fight. While Jacare has the power to possibly force a takedown, it will be quite a lot of work, and Gegard, while not able to compete with Jacare on the ground, has skills sufficient to prevent a takedown from automatically constituting a loss. On the feet, Gegard’s striking is far far more dangerous than Souza’s, and his wrestling will prevent Jacare from getting the takedown unless he gets very deep on the attempt. I expect Jacare to be outworked and beat up on the feet, his takedown attempts becoming more and more desperate, until there’s simply nothing left in the tank and Gegard can put him down for the count. Gegard Mousasi KO round 2.
My Plays for this event:
1u on Jacare at -345
1u on Gegard Mousasi at -155
.22u on Zelg Galesic at +450
.5u on Melvin Manhoef at +200
1u on Minowa at -325
1u on Crocop at -200
update: Zelg opened against Jacare at +450 on bodog, so I have arbitraged out all my exposure to Jacare.
update: I have no arbitraged out my exposure to Mousasi, picking up Manhoef at +200
Thus, while I stand to gain only a small amount if my picks are correct, I lose nothing if they are wrong, for both fights in the MWGP. For score-keeping purposes, I will score each arbitrage as a single bet, counting it as a win only if I actually make money.