There is no question that Strikeforce is well below the UFC on the mixed martial arts odds pecking order in terms of popularity and betting action. However, one Strikeforce fighter, Fedor Emelianenko, the world’s top-ranked heavyweight, can match the star power of just about any UFC fighter, and Emelianenko returns to action on Saturday night against UFC and Pride veteran Fabricio Werdum at an event co-promoted by Strikeforce and M-1 Global in San Jose, Calif. The card will be televised by Showtime.
Many consider Emelianenko the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world and maybe the best ever in MMA. Last year the Russian turned down a contract offer from the UFC and decided to stick with his own promotion, M-1 Global, and fight on co-promoted cards with Strikeforce.
Why did he do that? It’s all about money as M-1 said this week he’s the highest-paid fighter in all of MMA — although obviously M-1 can’t really know what UFC guys are making.
This bout was supposed to take place in April and earlier this month in Los Angeles but contract issues got in the way. Emelianenko is 31-1, a record that ranks among the best winning percentages in MMA history.
In his Strikeforce debut in November, Fedor won a vicious fight by second-round technical knockout of then-undefeated Brett Rogers. “The Last Emperor” has finished each of his past eight bouts via submission or knockout and has 21 first-round finishes overall. He hasn’t gone to a decision since beating Mirko Cro Cop five years ago.
Emelianenko is currently a big -800 favorite on Bodog’s MMA betting lines against Werdum (13-4-1), who is considered somewhat of a journeyman and is the +500 underdog. The Brazilian is a jiu-jitsu specialist, with seven of his victories coming via submission and he has only been finished once in his career. He is on a two-fight winning streak, coming over Mike Kyle and Antonio Silva.
Werdum holds submission victories over Emelianenko’s younger brother, Aleksander, and reigning Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. Werdum was just 2-2 in his brief UFC career.
For the most part Strikeforce matches see significantly less betting action at Bodog’s online sportsbook than even a preliminary UFC matchup. But the exception to this rule is when Emelianenko is fighting as he ranks fifth on our list of all active fighters in terms of handle in his matches. So we expect to see action comparable to a UFC main event bout on this one (although not as big of a handle as next week’s Brock Lesnar-Shane Carwin UFC 116 heavyweight fight).
Fedor easily is the most popular fighter among the betting public who is not currently in the UFC – that organization has made several attempts to sign Emelianenko, but negotiations fell through in 2007 and 2009. It will probably try again as UFC president Dana White continues to express his interest.
We opened Emelianenko at -1100, but heavy betting on Werdum moved the bout to where it is now. The fight is now seeing two-sided action at this number but the book is still holding a small decision based on the earlier +600 number on Werdum, who is fighting as an underdog for the first time since UFC 85 in June 2008 when he beat Brandon Verra with a first-round TKO. That improved Werdum to 2-0 in his career as the betting dog.
Emelianenko opening at -1100 was the highest opening number of his career. It also made him the biggest betting favorite in the fairly brief history of Strikeforce. Fedor is 4-0 when he is the betting favorite.
Bodog will have odds up on the undercard bouts – Cris Cyborg (considered the world’s top female fighter) vs. Jan Finney, Scott Smith vs. Cung Le and Josh Thomson vs. Pat Healy — on Thursday.