Five sports, five bets: What to wager on this weekend

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Opponents Kamaru Usman of Nigeria and Jorge Masvidal face off during the UFC 251 official weigh-in inside Flash Forum at UFC Fight Island on July 10, 2020 on Yas Island Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Opponents Kamaru Usman of Nigeria and Jorge Masvidal face off during the UFC 251 official weigh-in inside Flash Forum at UFC Fight Island on July 10, 2020 on Yas Island Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Sat, Jul 11, 2020 (2 a.m.)

No one enjoys tying up their money for a long period of time.

That’s part of the reason why, for this week, I’m going all current with the, “five sports, five bets,” column. Future bets have been included in most previous editions — and they’re somewhat of a necessary evil for well-rounded sports bettors searching for value — but there’s nothing wrong with wanting all immediate results every now and then.

Major League Soccer became the most recent league to return from a coronavirus interruption this week, so let’s welcome it back with a play alongside the English Premier League for a pair of picks on the pitch. That might make the following more “five leagues, five bets” than the actual title, but all that really matters is if the wagers cash.

And I think I’ve found some winners this weekend.

Read below for this week’s picks. Records are attached individually by league with the monetary figure calculating the success of a hypothetical bettor placing a $100 wager on every pick that’s run in the column. Odds are the best currently available in Las Vegas at publication time.

PGA Tour (2-0-1, $192): Hideki Matsuyama minus-142 to beat Kevin Streelman in the third round of the Workday Charity Open at Circa Sports

Streelman used a first-class putting heater to steam up to second on the leaderboard after 36 holes in Dublin, Ohio.

But here's the thing about putting heaters: They don't tend to last. Streelman is playing well elsewhere, but not well enough to be a contender to win the tournament unless he can improve off the tee and in the fairways to offset a highly-likely incoming regression on the greens.

Matsuyama, conversely, looks dialed to have all aspects dialed in except his putting, which isn't uncommon for the Japanese veteran. He's a real threat to win, however, with a proven track record at Muirifield Village in Dublin, Ohio.  

His first PGA Tour win came there six years ago in the Memorial. A case could have been made that Matsuyama should have been the favorite this week — he closed a 16-to-1 fourth choice in pre-tournament odds — and there's no reason to back off him now that he sits tied for fourth and four strokes from the lead.

UFC (2-2, -$74): Kamaru Usman minus-220 vs. Jorge Masvidal at William Hill

This might sound like a big price to pay in one of the most anticipated fights of the year. It’s not.

Usman deserves to be a more sizable favorite. Not only is the champion a stylistic nightmare for the challenger, but he’s also had the benefit of a full training camp.

Masvidal accepted this bout, which will take place halfway across the world from his South Florida home in Abu Dhabi no less, with a week’s notice. His ascent to becoming one of the biggest draws in the UFC via wins over Nate Diaz and Ben Askren is the only reason this line is so compressed.

Masvidal has three straight knockouts, but that’s his only path to victory against Usman, who’s never been knocked out. Usman is strong and well-rounded enough to win in a number of ways, though it’s most likely he’ll use his wrestling and wear Masvidal down long-term.

Look for both champions to keep their belts in the debut of Fight Island as I already locked in what now looks like a value price on Alexander Volkanovski to defeat Max Holloway last week.

MLS (0-0, $0): Columbus Crew minus-110 vs. FC Cincinnati at Circa Sports

Cincinnati was a complete disaster in its inaugural MLS season a year ago.

The team won only six of 34 regular-season games and had a minus-44 goal differential. It’s brought in reinforcements and retained some young talent to provide more hope in year two, but there’s no underestimating the gap between the squad and the contenders in the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando.

Columbus is one of the contenders. Sure, the Crew weren’t great a year ago either, but they put together the best offseason in the league, highlighted by signing Lucas Zelarayan.

Columbus outscored Cincinnati by two goals across two meetings last year, and it’s much better this season. Look for Columbus to use a win over Cincinnati to springboard itself into winning Group E and making a deep run in the competition.

NASCAR (4-1, $376): Kyle Busch minus-120 to beat Martin Truex Jr. in Alsco 300 at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

It’s taken 13 months, but the betting market finally seems to have slightly soured on Kyle Busch. That means it’s time to buy low on one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The Las Vegas native hasn’t won since last June but he won’t stay down much longer. With NASCAR moving to Kentucky Speedway this week, Busch will be more in his comfort zone.

It’s the first track in weeks that’s more standard, mile-and-a-half oval. It’s the type of track Busch has routinely dominated in winning 55 races and two championships throughout his career. Truex is no slouch himself with one title and 27 wins in the Cup series, but he’s also five years older than Busch.

Truex has one win this year, but his season has been just as disappointing as his teammate Busch’s campaign. This matchup should not be hovering around pick’em.

Buy into Busch before it’s too late and he’s back buried beneath big odds each week.

English Premier League (1-1, -$14): Tottenham pick’em/draw no bet vs. Arsenal minus-110 at Circa Sports

Three weeks ago, Tottenham would have never been available at these odds going into the North London Derby.

Stock on the Spurs was up after the first two matchdays of the restart where they defeated West Ham and drew with Manchester United. The Gunners, meanwhile, was the butt of jokes after they lost to Manchester City and Brighton by a combined 5-1.

A lot has changed since then. Arsenal has looked impressive in going unbeaten in its next five games, including a FA Cup victory against Sheffield United.

Everyone has stopped overreacting to Arsenal’s mediocre stretch and moved on to doing the same with Tottenham. The Spurs have gone only 1-1-1 in their last three while looking listless on offense.

Don’t panic over a three-game blip as part of a long season. These two teams have been evenly-matched all year — they drew 2-2 in their first encounter — and Tottenham arrives closer to full-strength this time around.

Tottenham is worth a look at plus-160 in the three-way market, but I’ll play it a bit safer here in a continued attempt to keep building the column bankroll.

Lifetime column record: 12-6-1, $547

Previous, pending bets: NC Dinos will not win KBO Series at minus-230; Calgary Flames to win series against Winnipeg Jets at minus-120; Indianapolis Colts over 9 wins at minus-125; Kiwoom Heroes to win KBO Series at plus-600; Alex Volkanovski to beat Max Holloway at minus-185; New York Jets to win the AFC East at 9-to-1

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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