The UFC scoured the earth and used the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter to find an opponent for UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. They found one as Tim Elliott wound up winning the tournament.
The fight will headline The Ultimate Fighter 24 finale in Las Vegas on December 3rd. But while the idea was innovative, what does it mean for the betting community?
The episode with Elliott being declared the winner of the tournament aired on Wednesday night and the betting lines opened Thursday with Elliott as +650 underdog while Johnson is the favorite at -1000. There are a number of reasons for this. For one, Johnson is the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world and hasn't lost a fight since facing Dominick Cruz as a bantamweight in 2011. As a flyweight, he is 10-0-1 with five finishes. As time progresses, he's only gotten better. The finishes have been coming fast and furious and he's established his dominance over an entire division to the point where the UFC had to look outside of the promotion for competition.
The another reason is that Elliott was once in the UFC and exited on a three-fight losing streak in 2015. After being cut, Elliott immediately became the flyweight champion for Titan FC and has won three fights in a row before entering the TUF tournament. Clearly, he hasn't excelled against elite competition in the UFC and facing Johnson doesn't exactly bode well for the 29-year-old Elliott.
The line is justified and Johnson would be a shoe in any other galaxy. Except, this is 2016 and weird things have been happening all year. That's about the only chance I give Elliott and it's not a real one. Steer clear of this one.
To find betting value on this card you'll have to look at the Jake Ellenberger vs. Jorge Masvidal fight. Masvidal is listed as up to a -280 favorite while Ellenberger is as much as a +220. The fighter is known as Gamebred his a frustrating case of a fighter who has yet to reach his potential. When he's on, he's a handful for any welterweight. However, he's managed to be more off than on. He's 2-3 in his last five and is coming off of a unanimous decision victory over Ross Pearson. But he's had frustrating losses to Benson Henderson, Lorenz Larkin, and Al Iaquinta. All were split decisions and debatable, but they all were losses. Ellenberger hasn't cut his decisions as close but he's able to finish a fight at a moment's notice. He recently crushed Matt Brown back in July. However, he's 2-5 in his last seven and is dire need of a victory.
With Ellenberger's power and the fact that he was once a top 10 welterweight gives me enough reason to place a few dollars on him against Masvidal. The line for under a round and a half is +180. It's worth a shot.
The other fight that holds some intrigue is the co-featured bout between Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo and top contender Joe Benavidez. Both have Demetrious Johnson as the only blemish during their respective flyweight tenures. So it only makes sense for these two to face each other. Benavidez is listed as up to a -200 while you can find Cejudo as a +170. The line is a little wide for my liking although I understand that Benavidez has only lost to Johnson and UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz during his career. But Cejudo's wrestling credentials could present a problem for Benavidez on fight night. At +170, it's certainly worth a chance as Cejudo could potentially ground Benavidez for the duration of the fight. You can hedge the bet with Benavidez but take the fight to go under 2.5 rounds, which is at +195. Benavidez has a lot of power in the flyweight division and could surely test Cejudo's chin.
Cejudo at +170 is worth a swing. But if you're going to roll with Benavidez, take him at your own risk at -200 but also take a long look at the under at +195 for your betting pick.