The Big Moves
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UFC on FOX 25 : MAIN EVENT PREVIEW + BEST BET

History will be made this coming Saturday night when the borough of Long Island, NY plays host to the UFC for the very first time. The UFC on FOX 25 card will be televised nationally and the promotion has done an excellent job of competitive match making once again. A quick glance at the betting lines show that 2 of the top 3 main card bouts opened with a favorite of -135 or less, and the third -205.

 

The main event features New York’s own Chris Weidman (13-3), who limps into the Octagon off three straight losses, against the scorching hot Kelvin Gastelum (14-2-0-1). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the opening betting line of Gastelum -135 is currently -155. And based on the pre-fight perception I’ve been confronted with while handicapping this bout, I’m confident the price to back the favorite will get even more expensive.

 

Now before we go out and piggy-back that early money bet on Gastelum and try to beat the closing number, let’s first break this fight down and confirm he’s the right side…Because I’ve personally got my doubts.

 

Just 4 years ago this month, Chris Weidman shocked the world of combat sports by knocking-out middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who had not been defeated under the UFC banner. He then went on to beat Silva for the second time in their rematch, though he was once again an underdog to do so. Weidman went on to hold the 185 lb title for over two years, appearing to improve with every bout.

 

But then in December of 2015 at UFC 194, challenger Luke Rockhold finished Weidman in the 4th round and the former champion has not looked the same since. Some chalk it up to injury, others to a lack of evolution, but for whatever reason the perception heading into Saturday’s main event is of 2 fighters whose careers are heading in opposite directions.

 

Although he’s had issues with both weight and weed in the past, there’s no denying Kelvin Gastelum is an extremely talented and well rounded mixed martial artist. Also, ever since I could remember fighters have stated the game is 90% mental and 10% physical, and right now the Yuma United MMA team member’s confidence is at an all time high. Since winning Season 17 of TUF as a significant underdog, Gastelum has continued to prove his doubters wrong, while rewarding his supporters, especially at the betting window. He has not suffered defeat since moving up to the middleweight division, but rest assured he’s facing his toughest opponent to date.

 

Both men come from a wrestling background, but their pedigree is very different. Gastelum won a state championship in high school and then turned pro after his first year in college. Weidman has a much more celebrated amateur wrestling background, having been a two-time Division 1 All-American at Hofstra.

 

Stylistically Gastelum has become a much more efficient striker, who hasn’t had to rely on his wrestling as much as Weidman has. Gastelum is a southpaw, with deceptively quick hands and feet. At this higher weight class even though he’ll almost always be the smaller man, he’s possessed an obvious advantage in speed to help level the playing field. Coupled with one punch knock-out power and an excellent gas tank, Gastelum has quickly earned respect in the middleweight division.

 

For Weidman, the concern and question going into Saturday is, what does he have left ? In his past few bouts he looked like the same fighter early on, but after 1 or 2 rounds the former champion appeared gassed. He’s only 33 yrs of age, but has endured some major injuries of late that undoubtedly have taken their toll. Weidman’s confidence also seems shaken when compared to the level demonstrated before his first loss.

 

Bottom line, some fighters are able to pick themselves up off of a devastating knock-out or loss, while others are never the same afterward. I believe that’s a perfect reflection of how a fighter’s mental state plays a major role in their results. In the case of Weidman vs Gastelum, I believe the conclusion has been drawn way too early.

 

Finally, it’s difficult to look past the simple fact that Weidman will have a 5 inch height and a 7 inch reach advantage against Gastelum. Plus being considered a big middleweight, I’m confident the former 185 lb champion will have the edge in strength too.

 

Simply put, I believe Weidman will be able to leverage his advantage in size, strength, and experience over Gastelum. Neil Magny, who also had a major height advantage over Gastelum gave him a lot of problems when they fought. I’m also confident the betting line is not accurate when compared to the win probability for Weidman, and instead is based more on perception. That’s when we as bettors can take a position that’s warranted.

 

Always keep in mind that isolating value does not guarantee positive results in the short-term, rather it makes one a mathematical certainty to turn a profit long term…by repeating the exercise over and over.

Errol Spence Jr, Anthony Joshua, and Tyron Woodley afforded us the opportunity to do just that in my last few columns, and win or lose, I’ll be backing up my opinion with my money once again on Saturday night.

 

BEST BET = CHRIS WEIDMAN