Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — Some of you might remember hockey. Yeah, it’s been a while, but taking a hockey term and folding it over to the UFC. Here’s your winning hat trick for tomorrow’s UFC card from Vegas.
Aljamain Sterling vs Cory Sandhagen Pick
Starting with the Aljamain (Funk Master) Sterling vs Cory (The Sandman) Sandhagen. Funk Master, a name I LOVE, is -115 or -120 depending on where you shop, while The Sandman is basically EVEN money.
Before we get to the geeky stats, I have a YUGE problem with Sandhagen calling himself The Sandman. As we ALL know, and anyone who follows baseball knows, there is ONLY one Sandman, and that’s the GREAT, the FABULOUS, the HISTORIC Mariano Rivera. So, YO Cory, PLZ change the nickname IMMEDIATELY, or face the WRATH of Yankee fans around the globe.
OK, now that I’ve calmed down, let’s go to the tale of the tape. Aljamain is 30 years old from Uniondale, New York. He tips the scale at a buck 35, is five-foot-seven and has a 71-inch reach. His MMA record is serious at 18-3, with only two wins coming by KO, nine by decision and seven by submission. The Funk Master, I smile every time, rolls in on a 4-0 run but hasn’t fought in almost a year. But he grew up with seven full siblings and at least 12 half-siblings, so he knows how to rumble, and is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Sandhagen is 28 years old from Aurora, Colorado, tips the scale at a buck 35, is five-foot-11 and also has a 71-inch reach. His MMA record is gorgeous at 12-1, with four wins coming by KO, five by decision and three by submission. The Sandman, actually, we’re gonna call him Sandy, comes to the party with a 7-0 PERFECTO in his gym bag and hasn’t lost in almost three years. Despite my problems with his nickname, can’t really shoot any poison arrows his way, because he works part time at a trauma center for children.
Should be a very close fight but gonna tip my toe in the Sand.
Cody Garbrandt vs Raphael Assuncao Pick
Next up it’s Cody (No Love) Garbrandt vs Raphael (sadly has no nickname) Assuncao. No Love is a medium-size favorite at -145, with NO Nickname at +125.
Wouldn’t be allowed to publish this if I didn’t rock the tale of the tape. Mrs. Ecks & Bacon is looking over my shoulder, so here we go.
Garbrandt is 28 years old from Uhrichsville, Ohio. He tips the scale at a buck 36, is 5-8 and has a 65.5-inch reach. His MMA record is 11-3, with nine wins coming by KO and two by decision. However, plz note that his 11 wins came at the start of his career, and he has not won a fight (three straight losses) since December of 2016. And all three losses came by KO, TKO and TKO. OUCH!
Assuncao is 37 years old, 38 in another month, from Recife, Brazil. He hits the scale at a buck 35, is 5-5-ish and has a 66.5-inch reach. His MMA record is 24-7, with just four wins coming by KO, 13 by decision and 10 by submission. Raphael comes in on a downward slide as well, losing his last two fights, and has not been inside the Octagon in almost a year.
No Love Garbrandt couldn’t find love after dropping out of college. According to his Wiki page, he sold weed, worked as a bouncer and eventually completed coal miner training in order to work in the field familiar to his family. His early struggles gave him a ton of confidence, as you can tell by this quote: “When I’m on, no one in the world can beat me. I know that my life is good, it’s in order and I can let that savagery out in the Octagon.” OK, Cody, I ain’t gonna block your path, baby.
Throwin’ some love and a handful of chips at No Love.
Amanda Nunes vs Felicia Spencer Pick
Say hello to the ladies, and what, according to the oddsmakers, is the biggest mismatch of the evening. It’s Amanda (The Lioness) Nunes vs Felicia (Feenom) Spencer. Nunes is mostly around -650 with the take-back on Spencer around +425. If you are looking to bet the underdog, we have seen her as high as +500.
The Lioness is 32 years old from Pojuca, Bahia, Brazil. She tips the scale at a buck 45, is 5-8 and has a 69-inch reach. Her MMA record is 19-4, with 13 wins coming by KO, three by decision and three by submission. However, you can forget about those four losses. She hasn’t been on the wrong end of a fight since 2014, winning 10 in a row, beating down everyone in her way, and that’s why she is considered the GREATEST women fighter in MMA history.
Feenom is 29 years old from Montreal, Canada. She hits the scale at a buck 44.5, is 5-6 and has a 68-inch reach. Her MMA record is 8-1, with just two wins coming by KO, two by decision and four by submission.
If we were handicapping by IQ, then Spencer, who teaches sixth-grade algebra, would be the choice. But nobody is asking Nunes to solve any equations. However, my kids asked me to help with this and solve for x...
If you can solve it, WITHOUT a calculator, send me your answer for x, and you will win absolutely NOTHING!
Not prepared to lay over $600 on the Lioness, but will drop my biggest pile of chips on Nunes to win in the first round by KO or TKO. BANG!!!
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his [email protected].