UFN 18 Picks and Predictions: Put the Good Fights on TV Next Time

By Nicholas Bailey (

Ultimate Fight Night 18 breaks a now-unusual dry spell of several weeks for high-level North American MMA. It also serves as an object lesson for the gift and the curse of the Zuffa era.

MMA fans should celebrate the ability to watch a fight between Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit on free tv in a mainstream setting. That is fantastic, beautiful stuff for any MMA fan. Unfortunately, this beauty queen is not without her blemishes, and the Miss Teen South Carolina microphone meltdown in this case is having to put up with Junie Browning and Ryan Bader being promoted above and beyond fights like Stephens vs. Tibau, Horwich vs. Almeida, and Rivera vs. Osterneck.

That said, all relationships require compromise, and that’s double true of relationships involving Dana White. One must take what is offered, and then sneak behind her back onto the internet to check out the quality fights you were denied. Lets just hope the good times can keep rolling, rather than collapsing like some vast, overextended metaphor.

Carlos Condit (-103) vs. Martin Kampmann (-110)

This is the perfect fight to main event a tidy little event like this. Both fighters are well-rounded and action-oriented, so this promises to be a high-quality scrap. With each guy being a very tough competitor and neither possessing one-hitter-quitter type power in his strikes, this fight could be the kind that develops over several rounds and stands as a fantastic exhibition for MMA.

Condit is coming off of a very hard-fought victory of Hiromitsu Miura, the last time he’ll defend his now-retired WEC welterweight belt. While not a technical wizard on the level of a Demian Maia, Condit has the type of sudden snatch-and-snap submission skills that pay dividends in MMA. Remember, Miguel Torres is not nearly as decorated a grappler as Rani Yahya, but it was Torres, not Yahya, that managed to tap out Chase Beebe. Condit is also a good striker, although it must be noted that Miura is no world-beater and was able to give almost as good as he got when exchanging with Condit.

Kampmann is a fantastic Danish fighter who was well on his way to a title shot at middleweight before a severe knee injury that led to a fifteen month layoff and the freight train that Nate Marquardt has become derailed his divisional plans and bumped him down to welterweight, where he is a much better fit. Kampmann is a very technically savvy kickboxer, although he doesn’t have the sheer stopping power of an Anderson Silva, relying instead on outworking and wearing down his opponents with accumulated strikes.

Unlike so many other European fighters from kickboxing backgrounds, Kampmann is also quite skilled on the ground, with several excellent submission wins to his name and a strong defensive guard.

This bout will primarily play out on the feet, where it will be competitive but Kampmann’s technical superiority will quickly become apparent. Neither one of these guys is a very good wrestler, although Kampmann can trip and sprawl a bit and Condit can execute a judo throw when he has to. When his disadvantage on the feet becomes apparent, I think Condit will have a hard time closing the distance on Kampmann, let along taking him down. Should Condit put Kampmann on his back, I think he will have a hard time holding the position or getting work done. Each man has the skills to secure a quick finish if the other makes an error, but it’s unlikely that mistake gets made in the absence of a healthy beating.

In the end, class will show through and Kampmann will control the fight to a clear-cut decision victory, with a bloodied but unbowed Condit establishing himself as someone who truly belongs in the upper echelons of the UFC. Martin Kampmann by decision.

Kampmann opening at +155 is one of those aberrant lines MMA bettors talk about around the water cooler. Luckily, he’s still available at -110, where he is an excellent play for a double-sized play. He’s being undervalued because of his decisive loss to Nate Marquardt, with Condit being overvalued because of impressive, dominant victories over lesser opposition.

Ryan Bader (-425) vs. Carmelo Marrero (+350)

Bader redeemed his reputation with his shellacking of paper tiger Vinny Magalhaes and the man with the best nickname in MMA is being given a bit of a gift here in Carmelo Marrero. Marrero is a solid fighter, with better wrestling and grappling than most, and he could threaten Bader if he can put the ASU product on his back. Unfortunately for Marrero, when two wrestlers meet, even in MMA, the better wrestler usually wins. In this case, that’s Bader.

Bader looked awful against Eliot Marshall, but that was because he couldn’t work on the feet or the ground. Bader’s power is more than enough to threaten Marrero’s mediocre standup, and Marrero certainly won’t have the ability to lock Bader down in his guard like Marshall did.

In all likelihood, this fight will consist of Marrero being overwhelmed by Bader’s wrestling and punished on the ground. In most weight classes, Bader’s mild aggression wouldn’t be enough to stop fights on the ground, but with the kind of power a light heavyweight can put behind a punch, I think Marrero will be worn down and stopped. Ryan Bader by TKO round 2.

It’s tempting to put a flier on Marrero, since he is a legitimately skilled fighter, even if he’s barely Zuffa-caliber and Bader’s other skills lag far behind his wrestling. Bader certainly doesn’t deserve to be a -425 favorite, but there are better bets on the card than putting money on Carmelo here.

Rafael dos Anjos (+350) vs. Tyson Griffin (-410)

Tyson can get the takedowns and control if he wants, since he can defend against dos Anjos’ submission attack, or he can use the rare opportunity of having a striking advantage to give his hands a workout. Either way, it will be a decision, since Griffin is one of those rare fighters with the ability to constantly stay active and on the offensive, but almost never seriously threaten to stop his opponent. Tyson Griffin by decision.

Betting on Griffin here is probably safe, but with such little return on investment it’s not worth the risk.

Junie Browning (+110) vs. Cole Miller (-135)

This is the best bet on the card. Browning only really has shown enough skill to overcome total cans, but Miller is a quantum leap in competition. He has a decided advantage over Junie in every aspect of the game except for attitude and toughness. Aside from catching him with a wild haymaker, which will be hard given Cole reach, Junie has very few paths to victory in this fight. Miller is likely going to frustrate Junie’s standup until Browning gets frustrated and loses his composure, which will only end with Junie gassing out and getting submitted. Cole Miller by submission, round 2.

This is a fantastic value bet given the skills disparity and the style matchup. Don’t bet the house, but bet three units.

Jeremy Stephens (+145) vs. Gleison Tibau (-160)

Tibau has taken this fight on short (three weeks) notice, which is worrisome since he carries so much muscle and cuts so much weight, but this is a very favorable matchup for him. Gleison flashed improved standup against Rich Clementi, but Stephens’ hands are an entirely different ballgame than what Rich brings into the octagon. That said, Stephens has problems with grapplers that can put him on his back, which is what Tibau excels at. Coming to jiu-jitsu (and then on to fighting) from a wrestling background, Tibau is Stephen’s worst nightmare. Tibau’s skills can put him as one of the top three or five guys in the division in the next twelve months, and most are just starting to realize that. This fight will be very ugly for Stephens, who is a talented fighter but cannot continue to compete at this level with those kinds of holes in his game. Gleison Tibau by submission round 1.

If you can get Tibau for -160 or better, he’s good for a play.

Ricardo Almeida (-295) vs. Matt Horwich (+245)

This is an interesting matchup. Almeida, widely respected for his grappling achievements, returned to fighting after several years away, with great fanfare and expectation after his summary handling of then-undefeated (although also unheralded) Rob Yundt. However, much of this excitement dissipated with a lackluster decision loss to Patrick Cote, who is normally seen as hopeless on the ground.

Horwich is a sharp grappler in his own right, although he certainly lacks Almeida’s pedigree. He has a good chance of scoring an upset if he can defend Ricardo’s early attacks, gas him out, and steal the second and third rounds. This is a tall order, since Horwich really can’t wrestle or strike, and it’s going to be very hard for him to wear out a superior grappler off his back. Ricardo Almeida by decision.

Horwich’s odds look enticing, and he’s the most likely big upset on this card, but only bet him if you really just want some big underdog action.

Brock Larson (-500) vs. Jesse Sanders (+375)

Sanders has a decent record on the face of it, but it’s massively inflated from cracking open the proverbial tomato cans of the fight world, so the most likely outcome is Larson body checking him so hard his head detaches. Brock Larson TKO round 1.

Nissen Osterneck (+120) vs. Jorge Rivera (-135)

This fight has a nice little storyline: grizzled veteran journeyman seeks to rage against the dying of his personal light while young up-and-comer tries to make a name for himself on the back of another man’s broken dreams. This, not some kind of manufactured rivalry or reality-show shenanigans, is the compelling sort of drama that is one of fightsport’s most appealing features. Regardless of who wins the Superbowl, everyone on the field walks off a millionaire, but for these men, winning or losing this fight can change the way they live.

Osterneck is getting this shot after showing that, while Jake Rosholt can’t avoid a punch to save his life (or face), he has a great chin and heart. If he can land those kinds of shots on Rivera, who doesn’t have that kind of toughness, ‘el Conquistador’ will quickly become ‘el vencido’. Fortunately for old man Rivera (and his hungry children), he can throw down quite a bit more skillfully than Rosholt.

If Osterneck can put hands on Rivera’s chin with power, he could run away with this fight in short order. However, to do that he’s going to have to contend with the fact that Rivera has and impressive arsenal of potentially fight-ending strikes. If Rivera can avoid being put on his back (by a takedown or a punch) then he should be able to drop Osterneck and chalk up another victory for experience over youth. Jorge Rivera by TKO round 2.

Osterneck’s potential is being greatly overvalued with Rivera only at -135. He did kick Rosholt’s ass for the first minute of their fight, but it’s important to remember who ended up having their hand raised (over a massively swollen face, yes, but raised nonetheless). Rivera at -135 is good for a play, possibly even two units.

My Plays:

3u Cole Miller over Junie Browning at -125 to win 2.4u
2u Martin Kampmann over Carlos Condit at -110 to win 1.82u
1u Gleison Tibau over Jeremy Stephens at -145 to win .69u
1u Jorge Rivera over Nissen Osterneck at -135 to win .74u

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?