Squeezing the Juice – A Sports-bettor’s Guide to Breaking Your Bookie — UFC Fight Night: Nelson vs Ponzinibbio

By:Lee Berthiaume

What’s shaking fight fans? It’s a great time of year for the sport of mixed martial arts as we are in the midst of 6 bettable UFC events in just 5 weeks time, not including Dana White’s Tuesday night Contender Series that launched this past week. After we crushed the bookies for more than 9 units over the last 2 weekends, we’re back with another set of calculated plays to help you pile up a few more stacks of cash as Dana White wraps up the Mayweather / McGregor media circus in London on Friday before strapping on his kilt and flying out to Scotland for a rare Sunday afternoon UFC event (12:00 Eastern time).
Forget about the regrets of the past week and step away from the stress that Monday morning will no doubt bring along with it. It’s time to focus on Sunday funday and the twelve enjoyable matchups that they have lined up for us. As always, the bookies have graciously set the betting lines a little off from where they should be, so it’s up to us to pick and choose our spots and turn a profit when the dust settles. So let’s get right into it so that we can cash those tickets.

Re-Cap of last Weekend

International Fight Week was good to us once again this year. Despite the main event being cancelled the morning of the fight, we still managed to turn a 4.5 unit profit, winning 3 out of our 4 bets, 2 of which were generously paying underdog plays in Justin Gaethje and Brad Tavares. Our only loss was a play on Travis Browne in which he had his 40 year old opponent on his last legs in the first round, only to tire himself out and give the fight away just a few minutes later in true Travis Browne fashion. The take-away from this fight is that some athletes have all the physical attributes in the world, but when their heart isn’t in it that loss is inevitable, regardless of stylistic advantages. It reinforces just how important the mental aspect is in this game. Fight IQ can often be the main determining factor in this sport and not every athlete performs as well as they “should”. I look forward to seeing him compete for the Bellator belt sometime in the near future.

This card may not be quite as stacked as last weekend’s pay-per-view, and it’s nowhere near the level of July’s closer that is scheduled for Anaheim on July 29th, but money is money. Who are we to complain about where it comes from? Cash is king and as long as we get paid and get to witness a few entertaining fights in the process, then it will have been a Sunday afternoon well spent. In the wise, yet mighty-cheesy words of Cuba Gooding Jr. — show me the money!

Playing the odds

In a matchup of 155 lbs striking-based athletes, Philadelphia’s Paul Felder will be flying into hostile territory to face off against Scotland’s own, Stevie Ray. After rattling off 2 straight wins to kick off his UFC career, Felder has gone 3-3 in his last 6 bouts. A hard-hitting slugger with power in all 8 limbs, Felder mixes up his striking nicely. He’s known for spinning elbows, heavy kicks and a solid chin, but at times can get stuck working off his back foot and get out-hustled and out-landed because of it, often giving away close, winnable rounds in the process.

The hometown athlete in this matchup, Stevie Ray, is an impressive 5-1 inside the eight-sided cage with his last 2 wins coming via close decision over UFC veterans Joe Lauzon and Ross Pearson. Ray could be the faster athlete who will be pressing forward and throwing more volume, but that’s not a definite. He may also be the one looking to take it to the mat to edge out close rounds, but whether or not his takedown ability is up to snuff or not remains to be seen.

In an evenly matched bout that has split-decision written all over it, we are looking to take advantage of the line movement in this one as the general public has pushed Felder to over a 1.5:1 underdog. Although going against the hometown favorite in a fight that is destined to be a razor-thin decision is always a difficult choice to make, the skewed line on this 50/50 fight dictates our play here.

2 units on Paul Felder to win 3 units

A Home Turf Coin-Flip

Joanne Calderwood is one of those fighters who is caught between divisions at the moment. She’s too big for 115 lbs but too small for 135 lbs, so to be competitive she has no choice but to dehydrate herself worse than Steve Martin in that famous desert scene from the 3 Amigos (if you haven’t seen this classic film yet, shame on you. It’s a phenomenal piece of cinematography on the level of other masterpieces like Police Academy and Revenge of the Nerds. Rush out and pick up a copy on VHS immediately).

This fight comes down to how effective Calvillo can be with securing takedowns. If Calderwood is able to keep the majority of the fight on the feet, she should be able to outpoint her aggressive opponent en route to a clear decision victory. If she finds herself on the mat, however, she will need to mind her “P”s and “Q”s or she’ll quickly find herself saying “uncle” as Calvillo locks in a 3rd submission victory in only 3 octagon appearances.

Calvillo has only been a professional MMA fighter since 2016 but she did also have 6 amateur fights prior to making the leap. She’s a young and confident fighter with a tenacious style, especially on the mat. She is also aggressive standing, but lacks her opponent’s striking ability and doesn’t necessarily have an extremely strong takedown game. Should she be able to secure top position early in any round, either through a clean takedown or by gaining the advantage in a scramble, she will have a good shot at handing Jojo her 4th submission loss (including the Namajunas kimura from TUF, which technically was an exhibition match).

Ultimately though, this fight is much closer than the odds indicate and we have to take the shot on the bigger, more experienced hometown fighter in Joanne Calderwood. We are looking for her takedown defence to hold up in at least 2 rounds and for her experience to help her survive any ground action and late fight exhaustion caused by a treacherous weight cut.

1 unit on Joanne Calderwood over Cynthia Calvillo to win 1.82 units

A Leap of Faith

Admittedly, Leslie Smith isn’t generally the caliber of fighter that yields bettor confidence when she is priced as a favorite, but the favorable stylistic matchup in this case cannot be ignored. She is the rightful favorite and will likely walk away with the win on Sunday. Smith used excellent output in her last outing against Irene Aldana to score a large upset victory, and Aldana is far better than anyone that Amanda has competed against up to this point. Leslie’s experience, height, reach, output and cardio will all aid her in securing the win. Although Smith has been underwhelming many times throughout her career, this is a spot tailor-made for her to excel against her overmatched debuting opponent. Lemos packs some power but had some close bouts on the regional level against sub-par competition and she holds no clear advantages that would indicate she is capable of getting the job done against an experienced vet like Leslie Smith. The first round could be somewhat close, but Smith’s pace will begin to wear on Lemos as she runs away with the fight in rounds 2 and 3.

Risk 3 units on Leslie Smith to win 1.78 units

It’s Only a Matter of Time

This is mainly being regarded as a striker vs grappler matchup, but Gunnar Nelson also has underrated standup and can likely hang on the feet for as long as it stays upright. He employs a very unorthodox, yet effective striking style that many opponents struggle to deal with. When you couple that with one of the heaviest and nastiest top games in the entire sport, his opponents quickly find themselves reluctant to engage due to the constant threat of the takedown. Their hands also tend to lower in anticipation of takedown attempts, which leads to openings that the crafty Icelandic fighter has been able to capitalize on in recent fights. He clipped two dangerous strikers in Brandon Thatch and Alan Jouban before following up on the mat with the inevitable submission finish. He is as dangerous as they come and one minor mistake is usually all that is needed for him to close the show.

Santiago Ponzinibbio is a very adept South American striker with solid takedown defense to complement that discipline nicely. He has made big strides in his game over the past few years and lined himself up for this main event showdown with a surging opponent. In a straight striking contest he would likely be the clear favorite, however when all of the facets of this beautiful sport are taken into account, it seems as though he will probably fall short of getting his hand raised when the dust settles. He very well may win the first round or two but once Gunnar settles into this 5 round contest he will either score a clean takedown or land a big shot standing and follow Santiago down to the mat. Once in his world, his dominance will quickly become apparent as he feeds his opponent some vicious ground and pound before the inevitable back-take leads to a rear-naked choke sometime towards the mid-way point of the fight. Ponzi has a bright future in the division, but he is likely to be on the receiving end of a patented Gunnar Nelson submission.

Risk 3.4 units on Gunnar Nelson over Santiago Ponzinibbio to win 2 units

Don’t Blink

In a classic striker vs grappler matchup, we have Khalil “The War Horse” Rountree taking on Paul “The Bearjew” Craig in what is sure to be a fan-friendly affair. Not much needs to be said about this play. Khalil is a powerful striker who scores most of his victories by early knockout, whereas the hometown fighter, Paul Craig wins more of his bouts by early submission. Both are clearly lacking in the defensive department of their weakest domain (grappling for Rountree and striking for Craig), so regardless of where this matchup takes place one of them will be out of their element and a finish will materialize quickly.

Risk 3 units on the under 1.5 rounds prop in the Rountree vs Craig matchup to win 1.68 units

So that’s our betting lineup for this Sunday’s Scotland card. We have some variety with 2 underdogs, 2 favorites along with an over/under play. Confidence is fairly high that we should be able to once again turn some profit this weekend. Good luck everybody. See you next week for the Long Island event headlined by Chris Weidman vs Kelvin Gastellum on a card where there are sure to be some lucrative spots that we can capitalize on.

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