On this side of the Pacific, the combat-sports action will be dominated by UFC 219 on New Year’s weekend. But if we hop on a flight to Japan, we can find more fight action worth looking at and, potentially, wagering on.
If you are a long-time fan of MMA, you will remember the epic New Year’s Eve cards that would take place in Japan under the PRIDE banner. PRIDE was bought out by the UFC back in 2007, but the tradition continues with Rizin Fighting Federation, which is putting on a three-day festival that includes a two-night MMA event — Rizin FF 8 — headlined by the “World Bantamweight Grand Prix.”
FF 8 will actually feature the quarterfinals of the bantamweight tournament (which started last summer) on Dec. 29, followed by the semifinals and finals on Dec. 31.
The FF 8 card also features an eight-woman super atomweight tournament and a four-man flyweight kickboxing tourney. There are also a few super-fights highlighted by Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic vs. Tsuyoshi Kosaka and Takanori Gomi vs. Yusuke Yachi.
If you are interested in watching the telecast, which is available on FITE TV, you will need to get up at 1 AM ET. Or you could just throw down some bets and check the results when you wake up.
In other odds and ends, GLORY Kickboxing has an advance moneyline available for GLORY 51 Badr vs Hesdy II on March 3. If you’re ok with tying up some of your bankroll for a few months, there is some early value. More on that below.
On that note, let’s take a look at the best (non-UFC) combat-sports bets available at the moment.
Rizin Fighting: FF 8
Kyoji Horiguchi (-715) vs. Manel Kape (+400): FF 8 Semifinals
The semifinals are set for December 31 and the final four combatants are as predicted. On December 29th, Kyoji Horiguchi dominated undefeated Brazilian Gabriel Oliveira in the quarterfinal inside the Saitama Super Arena and made it look like an easy stroll in the park. Currently, Horiguchi is the massive favorite to win the entire tournament; can Manel Kape continue to cause “upset havoc” in this tourney?
Going into the Bantamweight Grand Prix, Horiguchi (21-2) was the favorite to win it all and the bookies still see the former UFC title challenger as the man to beat. However, he will have his hands full with a young Portuguese fighter in Manel Kape (9-1) who is fast, well-polished, and possesses an overall physical advantage against everyone in the tournament field.
Although I agree that Horiguchi is likely to win the fight, and the entire tournament, Kape is a live underdog worth a minimal bet.
My bet: $20 on Manel Kape at +400 (available at 888 Sport)
Potential profit: $80
Outside of Kape, I wouldn’t jump on any other underdogs for this event. As for the super fights, again, not much value there. Kosaka (+500) vs. “CroCop” (-900) will be fun because it will be cool to see CroCop on the Japanese stage again doing what he does best: head-kicking someone into oblivion. He’s the clear-cut favorite and the bookies agree.
As for Takanori Gomi (+400) vs. Yusuke Yachi (-600), the fave should be able to control and finish Gomi.
GLORY 51 Futures
Badr Hari (-305) vs. Hesdy Gerges (+215)
Early odds have been released on the huge GLORY 51 card on March 3 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Kickboxing bad-ass Badr Hari (106-13, 92 KOs) returns to the ring to face GLORY veteran Hesdy “Fighterheart” Gerges (50-19-1, 23 KOs) in a rematch that should provide a plethora of fireworks. Normally, GLORY odds don’t come out until a few days before fight-night so it’s nice to see a moneyline this far in advance.
There is no love lost between these two heavyweights. In their 2010 match, tensions ran high when Hari knocked Gerges down and kicked him while still grounded, leading to Hari’s disqualification and Gerges being named the heavyweight champion.
Seven years later, a highly anticipated rematch has finally been made. Will Badr “The Golden Boy” Hari get his revenge?
Currently, 888 Sport has Hari at -305 and Gerges at +215. If you are looking to take Hari, take him now as those lines will only increase as the money comes in closer to the fight. He’s definitely the favorite and, if he can keep his cool, should be able to pick Gerges apart.
My bet: $100 on Badr Hari at -305 (available at 888 Sport)
Potential profit: $32.79