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In this installment of the Handicapper's Almanac we'll talk about last Saturday's big UFC matchup between Royce Gracie and Matt Hughes, and look at some betting concepts for the NBA and NHL playoffs.

5/30


UFC BLOWS UP:

The Ultimate Fighting Championship #60 main event was surprisingly one sided, with Matt Hughes dominating Brazillian legend Royce Gracie. Despite the lack of drama in the fight, however, this event could go down as a historical day for the organization and for the sport of mixed martial arts in America. The PPV numbers haven't been released of this writing, but the event was sold out at Los Angeles' Staples Center.

With "boxing like" ticket prices ranging from a low end of $100 to a high of $1000, the gate receipts were obviously through the roof. The sports media is also beginning to treat UFC with a lot of seriousness, and the Gracie/Hughes fight result led the sports coverage in a number of mainstream newspapers (including the Las Vegas Review Journal and New York Newsday). Anecdotally, the Hughes/Gracie fight had considerable interest among the mainstream sports fans. I was out at some nightspots on Saturday after the fight, and when I was recounting what had transpired everyone listened with rapt attention. It seemed that every male between the ages of 20 and 50 was aware that the fight was going on, which is huge for something that had been considered to be a "niche" sport.

It's not all smooth sailing for the UFC, however. The Gracie/Hughes undercard was pretty week, and a problem with selling frequent PPV broadcasts built around a main event is that its easy to run out of big name matchups that fans want to pay for. While the UFC is clearly the #1 MMA organization in America, I rank them #2 world wide behind Japan's PRIDE organization and ahead of K1. Officials from both PRIDE and UFC recently dismissed any idea of a co-promotional arrangement, or even a talent exchange, but that would be to the benefit of both organizations. Saturday's fight was a turning point for the UFC and the sport of MMA--they've now arrived as a serious sport, but now the stakes get higher and challenges bigger.



NBA UNDERS STRIKE BACK:

In the last installment of the Handicapper's Almanac we noted that NBA totals were showing a strong over tendency in the playoffs to date. Since then, there was been some correction to the UNDER. In the 10 games since our last installment (through 5/28) there have been 3 OVER and 7 UNDER. That brings the playoff to date total to 41 OVER 33 UNDER and 4 PUSH, for a 55.4 winning clip (down from 59.3% OVER we reported in our last installment). My kneejerk reaction is that we'll see more movement to the UNDER as the conference finals conclude. Detroit/Miami has gone UNDER in all three games, and that's despite the Pistons not looking great on the defensive end. Phoenix/Dallas is always a threat to go OVER, of course, but the totals are getting so high you have to look UNDER. Also worth noting that 2 of the 3 games as of this writing have gone UNDER the very high posted total.

NHL PLAYOFFS WINDING DOWN:

The Edmonton Oilers are already in the Stanley Cup final, and we like the Carolina Hurricanes to join them there in the not too distant future. Buffalo has suffered a ton of injuries to their defensive corps, and rookie goaltender Ryan Miller has looked like a rookie at times during the current series. The Sabres could spoil our plans by coming back and winning this series, but we like Carolina to prevail in the Stanley Cup finals. We had pegged the 'canes as a threat to win since early in the season--they're one of the most versatile teams in the league and can win games at any tempo by outscoring opponents when they need to and playing good defense when they don't.

They've got two competent goalies and only one significant injury (Erik Cole, who's been out for several months) that has long since been compensated for. If you want to bet the 'Canes, you can get them right now to win the Cup at +105 (Olympic). You are assuming the risk that Buffalo might come back and win the series, but since in a potential series with Edmonton the Hurricanes will no doubt be favored this is probably the best price you'll get on the eventual Stanley Cup winner.

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