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UFC FN 135 - Best Bets
The moment 10th-ranked lightweight contender James Vick (13-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) has been waiting for has finally arrived. On Saturday night in the UFC Fight Night 135 headliner at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., Vick will take on seventh-ranked Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje.

As of late Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Vick installed as a -140 ‘chalk’ with Gaethje at +120 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $120). The total was 2.5 rounds (‘under’ -140, ‘over’ +120).

Vick has won four consecutive fights since suffering his lone career defeat by first-round knockout to Beneil Dariush in June of 2016. ‘The Texecutioner’ bounced back to post three straight finishes over Abel Trujillo (third-round submission), Polo Reyes (R1 KO) and Joseph Duffy (R2 KO) before beating Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision his last time out in February.

With his 6’3” height, Vick has great size for a 155-pounder. He has a 76-inch reach which gives him a six-inch reach advantage over Gaethje.

Gaethje (18-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) became the World Series of Fighting lightweight champ back in January of 2014. The 29-year-old slugger successfully defended that strap five times in a row before inking a deal with the UFC.

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Gaethje might be disappointed in his 1-2 record in the Octagon, but MMA fans and the UFC brass have been absolutely thrilled with his performances. His debut came at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in the main event against Michael Johnson.

Bleacher Report and Bloody Elbow dubbed Johnson-Gaethje as the 2017 Fight of the Year. This was a back-and-forth war from the heavens. Gaethje was hurt and in serious trouble multiple times in both rounds, but he turned it on late in the second stanza and scored a KO with only 12 seconds remaining in the round.

Gaethje bagged an extra 100 large in bonuses with a Performance of the Night and FOTN honors. Nearly five months later, he took on Eddie Alvarez on the main card of UFC 218. Gaethje was having his way often during the scrap, causing grotesque swelling on Alvarez’s face. Nevertheless, ‘The Underground Warrior’ dug deep and caught Gaethje with a thunderous knee that put him out for a third-round KO. Again, both fighters were awarded FOTN honors.

Gaethje faced Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier in the UFC Calgary headliner on April 14. To this minute, the only competition this battle faces in terms of 2018 Fight of the Year candidates is the war waged by Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero that ended with Whittaker prevailing by split decision at UFC 225.

Gaethje’s ferocious leg kicks had Poirier in trouble early in Round 2. Poirier was winning most of the boxing exchanges, but his legs were constantly being peppered by ‘The Highlight.’ In the end, however, a close fight ended early in the fourth when Poirier closed the show with a barrage of punches that put Gaethje out.

Prediction: As this space has noted many times previously, I’m a big believer in Vick. For whatever reasons, he hasn’t been treated fairly by the promotion. This is his first main (or co) event and he’s never even fought on the main card of a pay-per-view. Hell, he only got this opportunity because Al Iaquinta pulled out of this fight. I like Vick here, but I have too much respect for Gaethje to lay a price of -140 or more. There’s a -135 price right now at 5Dimes.eu, though, so I’ll go with one unit on Vick at that rate. Let’s go with another unit on Vick to win inside the distance for a +110 return. And finally, I’ll go with Vick for one unit to win by KO/TKO for a +255 return (5Dimes).

**Other Picks**

--In the co-main event, I’ll go with Michael Johnson for two units for a +105 payout (5Dimes and Pinnacle). Johnson is 1-5 in his past six outings, but that’s so misleading. He was robbed – seriously, second-worst MMA decision in the history of the sport behind only Diego Sanchez’s unfathomable win over Ross Pearson – in a split-decision setback to Dariush. Johnson gave current lightweight kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov a lot of trouble when their fight was standing in much of the first round. Johnson might be fighting for his job and that spells trouble for Andre Fili.

-- Give me one-half unit on James Krause, who is on a four-fight winning streak, to upset Warley Alves as a +325 underdog (Wynn). Alves lost to Bryan Barberena as a -600 ‘chalk’ not too long ago.

-- Lastly, Two Units on Eryk 'Ya Boi' Anders to beat Tim Williams in Round 1 at -110 price (5Dimes).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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