Some quick thoughts on the early prelims of UFC 261 from a betting perspective.
Ariane Carnelossi vs Na Liang
In the first fight of the night we have a low level women’s MMA fight. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of recent tape on Liang. Her record is red flag city, though. Any time you see a women’s MMA record littered with round 1 armbars over very low level competition, you know they’re most likely not going to have much success in the UFC (see Julia Stoliarenko).
On the tape I did find, Liang looks to be a very single-minded grappler. She’ll go for the takedown early, often shooting from way too far out, and if she can’t get it she will get desperate and pull guard. Any time she’s not got the round 1 finish, she has gassed out and been finished.
On the other hand we have Carnelossi, who we have plenty of tape on over 3 rounds. She’s pretty much just a lesser version of Jessica Andrade who fights later on in the co-main, in that she’s built like a fire hydrant and comes forward throwing wide hooks while being easy to hit in the process.
That will probably be enough against Liang, whose win condition and skillset seems to be really limited. All Carnelossi likely needs to do is survive the initial grappling onslaught and put some hands on her, and she can probably get her out of there.
Carnelossi opened -150, which even with the question marks surrounding Liang, was probably worth the risk. At the current line of -220 though, it’s an easy pass and I would stay well away. The under 2.5 rounds opened +200 on BetOnline which was a crazy opener considering both girls have strong finishing potential, and if you got any sort of plus money you got a good bet. But again, at the current line of -170 I would personally stay away.
Prediction: Carnelossi via KO/TKO
Jeff Molina vs Qileng Aori
This is another fight where there’s a lack of recent tape on the Chinese fighter. I couldn’t find any tape on Aori since 2018. From what I have seen, he likes a good brawl and will really load up on power punches from the hip, and I’ve also seen him shoot some takedowns, but he lacks top control. There’s nowhere near enough data to get any sort of read on this guy though. Plus he will be making the drop down to flyweight for the first time.
We’ve seen much more of Molina, who is fighting out of Glory MMA and Fitness under James Krause, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite coaches in MMA.
Molina is just 23 years old but you can already see the Krause influence in his game. He’s a high volume outfighter with a good variety of kicks and straight punches, and likes to switch stances often. He does leave himself open with naked kicks sometimes, but at just 23 years old and at a great camp it’s likely we will see him improve fight to fight. He’s also a purple belt in BJJ and has shown decent submission grappling on the regional scene.
The betting line is a pick’em, which makes sense. There’s just no way to get a strong read on this fight. I will lean toward the fighter we’ve seen much more of out of a better camp. But I will be sitting back with no money on the line and hoping for a good live bet spot, as well as more data on both guys that we can use in the future.
Prediction: Molina via decision
Zhu Rong vs Rodrigo Vargas
Up next we have another Chinese prospect, and this time there’s much more tape. Rong has only just turned 21 (allegedly) but is very experienced already with 20 fights. His striking is definitely impressive considering his age, and he looks to pack some power. However, his competition has been very low level thus far so it’s another fight that’s tough to get a strong read on.
Vargas on the other hand is approaching 36 years old and has been very inactive. He will be at a disadvantage on the feet in this fight. He’s shown he has offensive grappling in his game, but he’s gassed after the first round in the past, and the only guy we’ve really seen him grapple in years is Brok Weaver, a dog abuser with zero grappling, before he got himself DQ’d with an illegal knee.
I won’t be surprised if Vargas can have some success early with pressure and takedowns, but considering his inactivity and past cardio issues it’s hard to have much confidence in him.
Rong currently sits at -250, and I’d personally stay well away. With the striking and cardio advantage, he deserves to be the favourite but it’s definitely dog or pass from a betting standpoint. You’ve got to remember the kid has only just turned 21 years old and has only beat very low level competition, so at this stage the jury is still out on him.
In the end I’ll lean toward Vargas’ past cardio issues coming into play again, and pick Rong to take advantage and get another finish, but with no real confidence. Could be a good live betting spot in this one.
Prediction: Rong via KO/TKO
Danaa Batgerel vs Kevin Natividad
Closing out the early prelims, we have a Fight Of The Night contender between two guys who like to stand and bang. On the regional scene, Natividad looked like a decent enough brawler with some pop in his punches, but under the bright lights of the UFC in his debut against Miles Johns, he looked really flat and predictable. He threw a lot, but struggled with accuracy, was very hittable, and ultimately succumbed to a brutal uppercut in the third round, which knocked him out cold.
The UFC are doing him no favours matching him up with Batgerel in his very next fight, who can really crack. Batgerel has shown he can be hittable himself in the Alateng fight, so I won’t be surprised if Natividad can land and possibly hurt him. But Alateng has shown a lot more to like, with a more well rounded skillset and higher ceiling, while Natividad has yet to show much to write home about.
I expect Batgerel to have the advantage on the feet. We’ve seen him throw way more volume, with a wider variety of strikes, and seems to be much more explosive. We have seen Natividad shoot for takedowns on the regional scene, but he doesn’t seem to have much drive and has struggled to finish them against low level competition, so we’re likely looking at a striking match.
Batgerel deserves to be the favourite and I lean toward him getting another finish in this one. Natividad could look better now that he’s got his debut out the way, but it was only two fights ago he was going to split decision with a 7-7 fighter. I’m just not very high on him overall, and it’s a tough ask fighting a high volume striker with power after coming off such a flat striking performance and KO loss. If he can’t hurt Batgerel, who has never been finished, I expect him to get outvolumed enroute to his 3rd career KO loss.
Prediction: Batgerel via KO/TKO
I have multiple prefight bets up for this card, which I will also be commentating from a betting perspective in the RBB Premium Discord and hopefully cashing some live bets! If you would like to get in on the action, you can use code “APRIL” at checkout for 15% off any package