If you’re looking for some solid value on Saturday’s UFC odds board, check out what should be a very interesting fight between up-and-coming lightweights Daron Cruickshank and Beneil Dariush.
Underdogs don’t win all that often in combat sports – there’s a reason that they’re underdogs in the first place. But when they do win, they cash out quite handsomely. And if you get a perfect storm of underdog winners on the same card, that’s usually bad news for the books. Just look at what happened last month at UFC Fight Night 61: No fewer than 10 of the 11 underdogs came through, soaking Bovada for a cool million on combo bets in the process.
Not that we’d normally recommend loading up a parlay card with 10 underdogs – or 10 of anything, for that matter. We’d especially advise against it this Saturday (10:00 p.m. ET) for the big UFC 185 card in Dallas; there won’t be very many live dogs in the Octagon this time, although we do happen to think Rafael Dos Anjos (+360) is worth a flyer in the main event. However, there is one underdog on the UFC odds board who we think will come out on top.
As you’ve no doubt already guessed, we’re talking about Beneil Dariush. The 25-year-old black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai is a +130 underdog for his Lightweight bout against Daron “The Detroit Superstar” Cruickshank, who checks in at UFC odds of –150 and higher. Cruickshank’s got the goods; he’s 29, he’s a black belt in taekwondo from a family of martial artists, and he was a competent NCAA Division III wrestler at Olivet College in his native Michigan. But we don’t think Cruickshank matches up well enough against Dariush at these odds.
The key difference between the two, perhaps surprisingly, is on the ground. Cruickshank (16-5, 1 NC lifetime) has the grappling experience, and he’s good at stuffing takedowns: 71 percent according to FightMetric. But Dariush (9-1 lifetime) also brings a 71-percent takedown defense rate to the Octagon, along with an array of submission holds. Five of Dariush’s nine victories were by submission, including UFC wins over Charlie Brenneman (–200) by rear-naked choke, and Tony Martin (–170) by arm-triangle choke.
Dariush is also two inches taller than Cruickshank at 5-foot-10, and he’s a southpaw to boot, although that shouldn’t be too problematic for the favorite – he’s capable of switching stances at a moment’s notice, and both fighters share the same 72-inch reach. For Cruickshank to win this bout, his striking needs to come to the fore; Cruickshank lands nearly three significant strikes per minute to Dariush’s 2.56, and he’s better at defending against them, 59 percent to 56 percent.
This is where we think the UFC odds are overly skewed toward Cruickshank. He’s got more sizzle as a fighter given his striking prowess, and he’s also a more familiar commodity, having performed 10 times in the Ocatgon after competing on The Ultimate Fighter: Live back in 2012. Dariush, the better-rounded fighter of the two, is a relative unknown by comparison, having made his UFC debut just over a year ago. He also worked his way through the indies with California-based Respect in the Cage, while Cruickshank took a more visible path through King of the Cage in Michigan.
Lastly, Cruickshank is coming off eye surgery after he got poked by K.J. Noons in their December bout at the TUF 20 Finale, which led to a no contest. The poke caused a torn tear duct in Cruickshank’s left eye. Will this be an impediment versus Dariush? Who knows, but it’s one more reason to be concerned about eating a mouthful of chalk this Saturday. We’ll throw our support behind Dariush for our UFC Picks at these UFC odds; the clash of styles is in his favor, and the advanced stats back him up, too.
Free UFC Pick: Take Dariush at Pinnacle