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UFC 217 Best Bets
Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) will grace the Octagon for the first time in more than four years Saturday night when he challenges middleweight champion Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping (30-7 MMA) in the UFC 217 headliner at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

There are three title bouts on this epic 12-fight card. All 24 fighters made weight Friday morning. There are six current or former champs in action, in addition to two more fighters who have fought for a belt before (Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Ovince Saint Preux).

Best Bets

Mickey Gall -105 for SIX UNITS ( as of Friday night) to defeat Randy Brown: The unbeaten Gall is a 25-year-old rising star in the welterweight division. The New Jersey native is on his home turf and I’m expecting him to get the Prelims off to a roaring start with a submission victory in the first or second round.

James Vick +130 for THREE UNITS to defeat Joseph Duffy: Vick, a 6’3” lightweight with great range, is 7-1 in the UFC with three submissions and one knockout. ‘The Texecutioner’ is poised to belatedly break into the rankings after he dusts Duffy.

UNDER 2.5 rounds at +210 odds for 1.5 UNITS on ‘Wonderboy’ versus Jorge Masvidal: Thompson’s vast array of sick kicks have ‘night-night’ written all over them. If you don’t buy that, go ask Jake Ellenberger and Johny Hendricks about it. His kicks set up his punches that can also finish foes. Victims of those include current interim middleweight champ Robert Whittaker and Chris Clements. Masvidal packs plenty of power in his striking game as well. ‘Gamebred’ has finishes over the likes of top-flight fighters such as ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, Ellenberger and Michael Chiesa.

Oleksiy Oliynyk +300 for ONE UNIT to defeat Curtis Blaydes: Like a fine wine, Oliynyk simply gets better with age. The 40-year-old heavyweight has 52 career wins and is 4-1 since joining the UFC in 2014. The Ukrainian has submissions galore in his tool box, including Ezekiel chokes and scarf-hold headlocks. If Oliynyk can get this fight to the ground, Blaydes is in deep trouble.

UNDER 1.5 rounds for ONE UNIT at +120 odds for Oliynyk-Blaydes: Oliynyk has finishes in all four of his UFC victories, including three in the first round. Six of Blaydes’s seven career wins have come via knockouts.

Other thoughts…

-- I lean Bisping over GSP at pick ‘em in the main event. Obviously, four years of inactivity is a long time and the logical thinking here is that St-Pierre won’t just pick up where he left off in 2013, especially at a higher weight class. And hell, he got his ass kicked by Hendricks the last time we saw him in the Octagon (even though he was inexplicably given the decision despite sporting a face that appeared as if it had been battered by 20 heavyweights in a back alley). GSP’s game is to score a takedown and then hold, smother and cover to win rounds (I really haven’t missed this guy at all). However, Bisping has faced Chael Sonnen before, and Sonnen is probably the best wrestler we’ve seen in the middleweight loop. And with Chael juiced to the gills on steroids galore, he struggled like hell for 15 minutes to get takedowns against the Manchester native.

-- I like Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt to defend his strap for the first time against former Team Alpha Male teammate and now bitter rival, T.J. Dillashaw. However, the price in the -185 neighborhood is too expensive for my taste. I got some small change on the undefeated Garbrandt at -140 a couple of months ago. If by chance some silly/foolish money comes in on T.J. Saturday and the price dips south of -160, then I recommend a small play on Garbrandt. It just isn’t wise to play large amounts at prices north of -150.

-- Even though he’s fighting on short notice, I’m cool with a small wager on OSP to beat Corey Anderson as long as the odds are south of -150. I'm thinking Von Fluke choke.

-- Joanna Jedrzejczyk is way too expensive to bet, but she’ll tie Ronda Rousey’s record of six title defenses for a woman by starching ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas. Joanna Champion’s striking and stand-up skills will be too much for Rose. When Joe Rogan puts the microphone in front of Joanna in the post-fight Octagon interview, we’ll hear her classic line once more: “And again, and again, and again, and again AND STILL!”

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