Underground Blogger Jack Brown is "The Part-Time Martial Artist," offering a full-time fan's perspective on UFC and major MMA news, developments, and hypotheticals.
In his lastest Underground Blog, he breaks down his UFC 156 Weekend in Vegas with Bigfoot, Rogan, and a Little Help from Joey Bagels.
Friday, February 1, 11:42 AM - I'm sitting in my hotel room at the Luxor in Las Vegas, staring out the window at the mountaintops in the distance, when my phone rings. I know who it is, but it still makes me pause when I answer and hear the gravelly voice of the one and only Joey Bagels on the other end. He's calling me from his home down in Costa Rica, making time for a nobody like me during Superbowl weekend. We had arranged in advance for Joey to provide me with some gambling advice as I made my bets for UFC 156. Certainly we spoke quite a bit about the fights. We also spoke about family, friends, money, careers, and a lot more. Still speaking an hour later, I felt that I may be imposing, that I must be taking up this man's precious time. We ended the phone conversation with Joey assuring me that if I got into any "jams" in Vegas, he knew people and could help me out. My mind was still buzzing, but I was certain I had just made a friend for life. That's how things went this weekend. It was a UFC fantasy and I hope you'll indulge me once again as I tell you all about it.
Back in November - I was coming off my two Canadian UFC trips with my brother Bob (The-path-to-UFC-addiction-UFC-152-and-my-brother-Bob and UnderGround-blogger-takes-you-to-UFC-154/), and I was on the phone with my older sister, Nancy, during Thanksgiving, when she mentioned that she'd be going to Vegas for a conference during Superbowl weekend, the weekend of UFC 156. That was good enough an excuse for me to feed my addiction, and attend yet another live event. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I was all over the internet looking for flights and hotels. I ended up booking a deal later that day through Travelocity.com. For only 400 bagels I got round trip air from Boston to Vegas and three nights at the Luxor. It actually cost less to book with the accommodations than just the flight alone. You got to love Vegas.
I'd been to Vegas before, but never stayed for more than a day. The last time was ten years ago, before my wife and I had kids, when we flew in to camp in Zion and Death Valley. We had spent more time there than we wanted because our airline lost our camping equipment for a while. We just weren't in the mood for Vegas then. But this time, I thought it would be exactly the way I've always wanted to experience Vegas - going for the big fight, the superfight actually, Aldo vs. Edgar. There would just be a few preparations I needed to make in advance. One was to join the UFC Fight Club because I knew I'd want to attend the Q&A, and it also made purchasing this ticket and future tickets (Got my 158 and 159 tix sitting at home) much easier.
I also wanted to make sure to get a ticket to see Joe Rogan perform. I'd been to a dozen UFC events, but never arrived in the host city in time to see his show (And somehow I spaced on seeing him when he was out my way for UFC 118 in Boston). The final, but essential, piece of preparation was to plan my betting. I hadn't formally bet on MMA before, but when in Vegas...
One day back in January - It occurred to me that I should take a chance and try to get in touch with renowned MMA oddsmaker, Joey Oddessa, via Twitter. I was familiar with the affable and opinionated New Yorker from his regular appearances on MMAunkie Radio. I tweeted asking Joey to follow me so I could DM him. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by having him reject my request in front of my small but loyal group of followers. Within seconds, Joey followed me. Over the course of seven or so rambling direct messages I explained that I write a blog for the UG, was going to Vegas for 156, and wanted his advice about betting so that I could have fun with it and write about it, win or lose. Joey immediately replied that he was game, gave me his email address, and we agreed to talk again the week of the event.
Thursday - I packed up and headed to Logan for my 6 PM flight after work. Earlier in the week, Joey and I had exchanged a few emails about some of our initial thoughts about the fights, and we had also exchanged phone numbers, agreeing to have our main discussion on Friday. Before getting on the plane, I downloaded that day's episode of the radio show so that I could listen to Joey's picks as well as hosts, George and Goze, and guest, Joey Varner's. Before I listened to the show, I liked Aldo, Evans, Overeem, Fitch, JoBe, Tibau, T-Wood, Volkmann, and Yves to win. But after listening to their picks, I had changed my mind about Overeem. Their arguments, that it had been a long time off for Overeem and a much longer time since he fought a top heavyweight who would stand with him and was in good health, appealed to me. I knew that Bigfoot had been destroyed by Cain, but Cain just manhandled JDS too. Plus, I was at the Strikeforce event in New Jersey when Bigfoot toppled the hero, Fedor. Though I hated him for it, the big guy showed us something that night. So, thousands of feet up in the air, I was suddenly on the Bigfoot bandwagon.
Friday - I landed in Vegas just past midnight, but didn't get to bed until 2 a.m. PT (5:00 a.m. ET). In my sleepless trance I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of the Luxor as I checked in and made my way through the casino and up the pyramid diagonally to my room. When I did finally sleep, I was so thrown off by the travel and the time change that I was uncomfortably wide awake again at 6 a.m. So I tried to do a trick I heard on the Joe Rogan Experience, and worked out at the fitness center to kill my jet lag. The results were inconclusive, but I did get to watch UFC 22 on my iPod while peddling furiously on an exercise bike.
It was 11:30 a.m. when I called Joey, and I got his voicemail. Not long after that he returned my call and we had the aforementioned conversation. I already told you how great it was, but I didn’t tell you Joey’s big tip. In addition to Bigfoot, the other underdog he really liked was Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Joey had some solid info on him, and that was enough to sway me from picking sentimental favorite, Yves Edwards. So there was that, and there was much more that made it an hour well spent. It really was like talking to a friend or relative, but without the BS.
At 2:00 p.m., I actually stepped outdoors for a moment, something that I only did once during the weekend. This was before I realized that the Luxor and Mandalay Bay were connected indoors and that everything had been devised so that nobody need ever escape. So I crossed the street and headed over to Mandalay Bay to watch Benson Henderson do the Fight Club Q&A, followed by the weigh-ins. Bendo definitely was "smooth." He was coming straight from a trip through Asia, and, toothpick in, he answered the sometimes awkward fans' questions (I'm talking about you "massage before a fight guy") eloquently and sincerely. After that ended, there was some time so that the general public could file in before the weigh-ins. Eventually, Burt Watson came out and started off the event. It was even more fascinating in person, and I thought it would give me an edge with my bets to be able to see the fighters stand toe to toe. I was wrong, but more on that in a minute.
I met up with my sister, Nancy, and her friend, Mary, for dinner around 7:00 p.m. They both live in Huntington Beach, CA and were in Vegas for a business conference. They would be joining me to go see Rogan after dinner as well. I was a bit concerned about this for a few reasons. One was that they were both unfamiliar with Joe's comedy and his podcasts. Another was that I felt it might put me in a position to have to "look after" two females at what I assumed would be a largely male event. And the last reason was that my sister told me that this would be her friend's first night back drinking after her annual month of January dry spell. Despite my concerns, I thought, worst case scenario, at least it will make a good story.
Everything turned out well, as Mary behaved herself, there were plenty of other females, and both ladies enjoyed the comedy. Opening for Joe were Brian Redban, Bryan Callen, and Ari Shaffir. The latter two I was expecting, but Redban was a surprise. Redban’s set was short and exactly what anyone who has listened to the JRE would expect. Callen's set was also similar to his JRE persona, but he really brought it all together using his physicality. Callen, Rogan, and even Shaffir somewhat, made me realize how important the physical dimension is in a comedian's ability to engage the audience. Shaffir followed Callen and his comic timing really impressed me. He also had a great opening joke that set the perfect tone. And finally there was Rogan. He did not disappoint. Using new material, he still had the place in the palm of his hand. Certainly much of what he joked about could be connected back to themes from the JRE, but that was exactly what his fans wanted. I was a big fan before, but now it's ridiculous.
Saturday, Fight Day - I didn't get to bed until 1:00 a.m., and again I was wide awake at 6:00 a.m. I knew the other shoe would drop eventually, but I tried to push forward. So once again, I hit the fitness center and watched Chuck Liddell take care of Paul Jones. After that it was time to go online and lay some bets. I got some last minute consultation from Joey, and he said that he liked Dustin Kimura to beat Chico Camus. I told Joey that I didn't like Kimura's body language at the weigh-ins and that I was worried that something was wrong since he came in so heavy. But what I forgot is that I know nothing and he's Joey Bagels. Anyway, I ended up making seven bets online for a total stake of 145 bagels:
My prelim parlay - Camus, Vallie-Flagg, TWood, Volkmann, 25 to win 248.69 bagels
My main card parlay - JoBe, Fitch, Bigfoot, Evans, 25 for 214.07
My upsets parlay - Bigfoot and Vallie-Flagg, 20 for 248
My favorites parlay - Volkmann, Evans, Fitch, JoBe, TWood, 20 for 85.14
My dogs I don't like to win, but could see winning parlay - McCall, Maia, Hieron, 15 for 242.38
Prop bet for Bigfoot to win by decision, 20 for 180
Prop bet for Overeem to win by decision, 20 for 140
I thought I was especially clever with those last two prop bets. But, of course, they didn't hit, and neither did four out of the other five. So which one did? It was the one that I owe directly to Joey Bagels.
For good measure, and because that's just what you do, I went down to the sportsbook just before the fights and bet 50 bagels on the main event. That would have been fine if I wasn't as impressed with myself as a gambler. I bet Aldo, but since he was the favorite, I was greedy for a few more dollars. I decided to parlay him with the only "lock" I saw on the card, Rashad Evans. So that was 50 to get 90, and you know what that got me - nothing.
It was a nice easy walk back to the Mandalay Bay for the fights. I got there before most, just after the doors opened, around 3. On my walk over, I had a totally cliche Vegas sighting at the Mandalay Bay casino. No, not Carrot Top or Criss Angel Mindfreak. I saw Charles Barkley and his entourage gambling at a table. Like me, he'd later be at the fights that night. And thanks to my early entrance and my usual "upgrade" I got some VIP seats like Sir Charles. By the time the main event rolled around, I was sitting pretty right behind the current MMA first couple, Rose Namajunas and Pat Barry. I even tweeted to Rose that whoever the guy she was with looked like a Chippendale from a billboard at the airport. It earned a retweet. Also sitting nearby were fighters Clay Guida, Ricardo Lamas, John Dodson, Mike Pyle, and Michael Johnson. But I especially enjoyed seeing Big Country watching the heavyweights from his seat a little across the way.
As you know, it was a tremendous card with a number of great finishes and upsets. But nothing came close to Bigfoot’s knockout of Overeem. I jumped out of my seat as soon as he had him in trouble. I needed him to win, and along with Vallie-Flagg getting the split decision earlier, Joey's dogs came through. If I had just listened to him about Kimura, we might have been talking about some serious bagels. Rashad and Little Nog's fight was definitely a letdown after that, and by the time of the main event, the other shoe had finally dropped for me. My jet lag was hitting me hard, and I could barely focus on the featherweights' dizzying pace. I had picked it right, but I had no exuberance left for Aldo as I shuffled out and back to my room. After all, I had to be up again in six hours to get to the airport.
Sunday - So now, buoyed by airplane coffee and my desire to share my story with you, I'm typing this on the plane headed back to Boston. I should be home in time to give my kids their souvenirs and watch the Superbowl. Though I return home with only a few dozen more bagels than I left with, I’ve grown ever richer from the enjoyment that being a fan of this sport continues to give me.
PS - Thanks so much, Joey. You're a solid guy, a fascinating guy, and a nice guy. I hope everyone that reads this will tweet to Joe Rogan to have Joey Oddessa on the JRE. Why wouldn't he want to spend a few hours with an MMA oddsmaker living in Costa Rica with a million great stories to tell? He should have you on along with fellow big city OG, Joey "Coco" Diaz. The three Joes, make it happen UG.
Shout-outs to my new PTMA Twitter followers: @izofice - Glendale, AZ, @jaredhuet - Dublin, Ireland, @prebek - San Diego, CA, @FightArtsFandom - Vancouver, BC, @DallasViaLondon - London, England, @E_FIGHTWEAR_UK - Warwick, England, @Donnie_Fairburn - Boston, MA, @Kyle_Chris_MMA - NY, NY, @sportsrage - Las Vegas, NV, @LittleRainMan - London, England, @seanoleksewycz - Winnipeg, Manitoba, @RealMattConrod - Toronto, Ontario, and @MMAIowa - Des Moines, IA
And please follow me on Twitter to let me know where in the world you are too.
Thanks for reading,
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