UFC 174 Bader-Cavalcante
June 14, 2014
Light Heavyweight Matchup: Ryan Bader vs Rafael Cavalcante
The pivot spot of the main card at UC 174 features two ranked light heavyweights who look similar on paper. Each are coming off dominant victories, but #9 ranked Ryan Bader is currently the betting favorite over #12 Rafael Cavalcante.
The line on Bader is currently -145, with the comeback on the underdog “Feijao” +125. With such a close line, we should form an opinion of who has the edge.
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Tale of Tape Matchup:
The Tale of Tape is close to a wash, with only an slight age difference favoring Bader. The two men are similarly sized, and both over 30 years of age in a division that will age you quickly if you spend much time standing and trading bombs. These guys both have. If there’s any edge here it goes to Bader, but both men will be on equally shaky ground in the striking department once the bell rings.
Power, more power, and some very susceptible chins to with it. Bader and Cavalcante have racked up more knockdowns than any pairing on the card, and yet they’ve also each received a few knockouts of their own. The difference in the striking performance metrics is that although both look good, Bader’s strength of schedule has been much harder. He’s been in with top guys, and has only lost to champion and contender caliber opponents. His game continues to improve, but he’ll always be at risk against another hard hitter.
Feijao has the more accurate hands, and punch for punch the bigger bombs. But Bader is the more measured fighter, keeping pace with his opponents and avoiding more strikes than Cavalcante. We saw glimpses of great boxing from Bader against former contender Glover Teixeira, right up until he rushed for a finish and got caught and dropped. Bader is smart enough to learn from his mistakes, and should take a more conservative approach against such a big power striking threat as Cavalcante. As long as it stays standing, however, this is anyone’s fight – specifically, anyone who lands the first hard punch.
The ground game will favor Bader’s wrestling, which boasts NCAA D1 pedigree from Arizona State University. His takedowns come frequently, and he has spent the vast majority of his ground minutes in control, despite the high level of opposing competition. Although Cavalcante’s takedown defense is pretty solid, his stamina may not withstand Bader’s onslaught. If the fight goes to ground, it’s most likely Bader that will be the one on top using ground and pound more than submissions.
As the fight wears one, Bader’s top control could result in an early finish if Feijao tires under the pressure. Cavalcante has never won by submission, despite boasting a BJJ blackbelt. He lives and dies by strikes, and has never once been to a decision. As the fight wears on, Bader should get more of an upper hand controlling each round and working ground and pound.
Reed’s Pick: Bader to win (click for latest MMA odds)
Reed’s Recommended Play:
The odds are fairly close, and there’s certainly risk involved playing Bader against a slugger like Cavalcante. But Bader is the more well-rounded fighter, with more paths to victory in this matchup. The close odds make a straight up play reasonable. Cavalcante has never once been to a decision, and if this one goes the distance it will likely be Bader in control.
The Over/Under of 1.5 rounds makes for an unusually tight total, and no doubt reflects both the power, and the susceptibility of both men. Taking the Under at +100 seems reasonable given these factors, but Bader Inside the Distance returns +175 and makes for a more attractive play, that also doesn’t put as much of a time limit on the outcome. Should Bader play it safe early one and look to grind and tire Feijao, he still has finishing potential via strikes or chokes later on. Focus on the win, but consider a share of the bet on the Inside the Distance play at -215 (which hedges against a Cavalcante finish), or Bader ITD at plus money. Props on a late finish for Bader have even higher returns for those looking for small plays with big potential.
For more analysis of this week’s matchups, see my feature over at ESPN Insider. Membership is required to see the whole piece.