With help from the statistical folks over at FightMetric, ESPN Insider marries betting with mixed martial arts and breaks down the money lines on four fights spotlighted on the UFC 144.
In the UFC's return to Japan, fans will be treated to a stacked main card consisting of seven big name fights. Featured will be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA, Frankie Edgar, defending his lightweight title against a similarly well-rounded contender in Benson Henderson. Also featured on the card will be nearly the entire stable of Japanese UFC fighters, who will finally enjoy the home-field advantage they have missed since joining the American promotion. With so many intangibles in play, we'll take a look at the stats behind the fights to see where the real value will be at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday.
Quinton Jackson (minus-250) vs. Ryan Bader (+210)
Light heavyweight (205 pounds): Though Quinton "Rampage" Jackson isn't a native of Japan, this will be somewhat of a return home for him since he spent the majority of his career making a name for himself in the Pride Fighting Championship organization. While Rampage will be looking to return to his winning ways after losing his title shot to Jon Jones, the younger Ryan Bader will be looking to put himself back into the top of the light heavyweight division rankings. Though both have had Jon Jones-related setbacks in their quest for the belt, neither fighter is a gatekeeper or an easy win. Rampage hasn't been knocked out since coming to the UFC in 2007 and Bader has never been knocked out in his entire MMA career.
With Rampage as the heavy favorite at minus-250 and neither fighter likely to get knocked out, there is a good chance that the second billed fight of the night will also end in a decision. Given that Jackson isn't exactly known for point fighting, it's not inconceivable that Bader will be able to outwork Jackson on the scorecards the way Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans did. For one, Bader has great strike defense, successfully avoiding a very high 76.1 percent of attempts -- the second-highest total in UFC history. Second, Bader lands 3.33 takedowns per minute compared to Rampage who lands just 1.69. While Rampage does have a very good 80 percent takedown defense, it only takes one key takedown by the former Arizona State All-American wrestler to win a round in a fight as close as this one. Given more than 2-1 odds, and with youth being on his side, the value will obviously be with Bader in this one at plus-210.
Insider pick: Bader