Phil Davis was Bellator's first free-agent steal, and he's the favorite on the MMA odds board to take the Light Heavyweight strap off Liam McGeary Friday night.
Record: 10-3 ML, 1-1 Totals, 10-3 Props (+11.29 units)
It isn't every day that Bellator shows up on our MMA odds board. But this California-based promotion has been carving out a bigger and bigger piece of the combat sports pie, especially since the first Bellator pay-per-view in 2014. Some familiar faces from the Octagon have made the leap; the latest batch of free agents includes Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen and Rory MacDonald. Not bad.
This Friday's Bellator 163 card (9:00 p.m. ET) will be on Spike TV, not PPV, but it still gives us our first chance here at the ranch to make an MMA pick that doesn't involve the UFC. The main event sees Bellator's first refugee from the Octagon, Phil Davis, challenge Liam McGeary for the Light Heavyweight title, and at press time, Davis is a substantial –250 favorite. Are bettors overlooking Bellator's homegrown champion?
The sharp ones aren't. McGeary (11-0 lifetime) opened as the +185 underdog last Thursday, and by Friday morning, he was bet down to +145. The tide quickly turned from there; McGeary was pegged at +205 by Friday night, and he's a +215 underdog as we go to press. If the early birds thought the champion was the right pick, we're inclined to agree.
You might remember Davis (16-3, 1 NC lifetime) for his dominant 2010-11 run through the UFC, where he quickly racked up wins over Brian Stann (+235), Alexander Gustafsson (+425) and Antonio Rogerio Noguiera (+210). However, things started going awry in 2012 when Davis lost to Rashad Evans (–190) in a Light Heavyweight title eliminator. His 2013 victory over Lyoto Machida (–250) was widely ridiculed as a poor judges' decision, and more losses would follow at the hands of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (+220) and Ryan Bader (+175).
Wow!!! I had Machida winning all 3 rds but that's what happens when u leave it up to the judges!— Dana White (@danawhite) August 4, 2013
Davis has won all three of his fights since joining Bellator last year, including both his fights at the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. He may deserve to be the favorite, but McGeary is four inches taller at 6-foot-6 with a two-inch reach advantage, and the champion has yet to taste defeat in 11 MMA fights. We'll buy that for a dollar.