The Big Moves
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INSIDE the RING : PACQUIAO vs VARGAS…Plus BONUS UFC

It’s been a slow few weeks for the fight game, but that is all about to change as some greatly anticipated bouts are scheduled for the final two months of 2016 in both boxing and mixed martial arts. The action kicks off this coming Saturday night when Mexico City Arena in Mexico plays host to UFC Fight Night 98…then right here in Las Vegas, the Thomas and Mack Center showcases a return to the ring for Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KO’s).

 

“Pac-Man” aims to win yet another world title when he meets current WBO Welterweight Champion Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KO’s) in a bout scheduled for 12 round. Odds makers installed the Filipino boxing icon as a heavy betting favorite to capture his 11th championship strap, opening the line as high as -1000. Currently the Westgate has Pacquiao listed at -700, with the take-back on Vargas +500.

 

Simply put, to warrant a wager on the favorite at that price a bettor must conclude he has upwards of an 88% chance to get his arm raised for the bet to offer value. On the flip side, a bet ticket on the underdog would be justified if one concludes the chance of victory exceeds 17%.

 

Personally, I don’t see much betting value on either fighter at the current price, but I do believe we’ll find some on the “Total Rounds Prop” once it’s on the board. As we go to print I have yet to see any sports book put a line up for the over/under, but rest assured as we approach fight night, placing the wager won’t be difficult. In fact, we can expect to see several different betting options besides simply choosing the winner.

 

Obviously I want to already have my own strong opinion of what the “true line” should be, and based on the difference between my line and what the sports books offer will ultimately confirm a wager and help to determine bet size.

 

I’m always hoping the sports books choose to put up a “fair line” in an attempt to split the betting action rather than to try and split the result, since those are the instances where we bettors are able to get the best of it.

 

In this bout between Pacquiao and Vargas I am confident the “true line” for Over 9.5 rounds is -400 and Over 10.5 is -300. Therefore when they put a line up and open the betting for “Total Rounds”, I’ll be looking to lock in a wager at a price that offers me value based on those conclusions.

 

Bottom line, though both Manny and Jesse are extremely efficient and highly skilled boxers, neither possesses one-punch finishing power going into this fight. Even though the perception of Pacquiao reflects he’s a power puncher, the last time he knocked an opponent out was in November of 2009. In Vargas’ case, the stoppage in his last bout was the first since 2011 and a close look at his overall record shows a knock-out ratio of 36%, which is very low. More importantly those finishes came against less than stellar of opposition, unlike the level of fighter he’ll be facing in Las Vegas this weekend.

 

Even at 37 yrs of age, Pacquiao is still a top level fighter as he proved against the much younger and very talented Timothy Bradley in his last bout. Manny may not throw as much volume as he did earlier in his career, but he still has excellent hand and foot speed. He’s able to throw punches from all angles and works well behind a quick jab, which he likes to double up. His southpaw style, coupled with continuous movement of body and head is very difficult to prepare for and emulate in training. This is why most opponents have not been able to start quickly against him.

 

Pacquiao will have a disadvantage in both height and reach against Vargas, something he’s had to conquer throughout his career. And as he’s shown against Margarito, De La Hoya, and Algieri just to name a few opponents who held those edges, they could be overcome.

 

I expect Pacquiao will start slow, by mostly boxing and countering early on and then gradually increase his combinations and volume as the fight progresses. Though his trainer Freddie Roach is predicting a knock-out, I don’t think his slick southpaw pupil will get reckless and take the type of risks needed to ensure a finish.

 

For the 27 yr old Vargas, he’s displayed a high ring IQ by being an aggressive boxer but not a careless one. He’s a technician with solid fundamentals, who works both the body and the head of opponents well. Vargas can throw all the punches but his best weapon is the straight right hand…which is what’s needed to give a southpaw problems.

 

Jesse has a skillful defense that he keeps tight, making it difficult to land flush punches against. He’s shown exceptional stamina and a gas tank that maintains him well into the championship rounds as was on display in his lone loss against Bradley.

 

Finally, Vargas is not a big puncher but he’s proven to have a very solid chin that’s afforded him the ability to take his opponents most powerful shots and remain upright so he can continue to outbox and outpoint his way to victory.

 

In closing, I feel confident there is a very high probability the outcome of Pacquiao vs Vargas will be left in the hands of the judges. It may sound cliché, but “styles do make fights” and the styles of these two men make it extremely likely that neither man will be able to finish the other inside the distance.

 

PICK = OVER TOTAL ROUNDS

 

 

Bonus UFC Selections :

For UFC Fight Night 96, a handful of match-ups jumped off the board at me immediately upon sports books putting up a betting line…

 

Charles Oliveira vs Ricardo Lamas : I believe Oliveira -110 is the right side at the right price in this bout. He should be able to push the pace and constantly out land Lamas throughout the fight. Oliveira has a superior submission game also, and as long as he’s able to avoid Lamas’ one-punch knock out power, Oliveira should get a bounce back win here.
Erick Perez vs Felipe Arantes : The line on Perez has dropped from -210 down to -180 and I’m hoping that trend continues and I’m able to get an even better price on the favorite. Perez will undoubtedly have the Mexico City crowd behind him as he aims for his 3rd straight win inside the Octagon. He continues to improve each time out and keeps adding more weapons to an already dangerous striking game. Arantes has a Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do background, and holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jistsu, making him a very well rounded opponent. Even so, at this time in their careers I believe Perez to have the advantage standing, in the clinch, against the cage, and on the mat.
Alexa Grasso vs Heather Clark : Simply put, this will be a “coming out party” for Mexico’s Grasso, who is making her UFC debut. The 23 yr old is a top prospect who comes over from Invicta with a perfect 8-0 record as a pro. Though the price to back Grasso is steep, opening up at -400 and climbing, she’s a “must include” on parlays. At 36 yrs of age and with a 7-5 pro record, Clark just doesn’t have the necessary tools to pose much of a threat of ruining the debut for Grasso, who’s expected to become a future bantamweight star within the UFC.