Some thoughts on the UFC Vegas 25 main card from a betting perspective.
Poliana Botelho vs Luana Carolina
Opening up the main card we have a women’s flyweight bout, and I have no idea why it’s on the main card.
Botelho has decent kicks but is low volume on the feet overall. She showed a solid body lock takedown against Mueller, but Mueller is very low level and it was still a competitive fight. Like many Nova Uniao fighters, she has slowed down later in fights.
Carolina on the other hand is one of the most awkward fighters you will see in the UFC. Her technique is all over the place, but she at least throws at a high rate. Physically, she’s very weak and easy to take down. The bizarre submission loss to Lipski really wasn’t a good look at all.
Botelho is the much more technical fighter and should be able to get takedowns here if she wants them. The body lock she hit against Mueller should work against Carolina. But her cardio and volume is iffy enough to where you have to stay away at her current line. This fight is terrible.
Prediction: Botelho via decision
Merab Dvalishvili vs Cody Stamann
Up next we have an interesting bantamweight bout.
Merab is on a 5 fight win streak since the weird loss to Ricky Simon, while Stamann is coming off a loss to Jimmie Rivera.
I’m not as high on Merab as others are. Yes, the pace he fights at is insanity, and he gets a ridiculous amount of takedowns per fight (which is great for DraftKings) but that just means his top control is lacking, even against lower level fighters like Lopez. The main issue with him is he does absolutely zero damage in his fights, so will always have to rely on the judges which, if you’re betting him as a big favourite, is a worry with how especially bad they’ve been this year. We’ve already seen his style get him bit in the ass by judges in the Saenz fight and it can happen again.
On the feet he’s improving, but still sloppy and wide open for counters. Unless he improves his striking and submission grappling, it’s only a matter of time before he hits a wall in this stacked bantamweight division.
Stamann is going to be the most physical fighter Merab has fought. His takedown defence and get ups are very good, and he has good takedowns himself. His striking is also improving, and he will be the more technical striker in this fight. The issue is Stamann has dropped 3rd rounds in multiple fights, so you have to think with Merab’s pace it’s likely that he’ll drop it here as well, meaning he may have to take the first 2 to win.
I’m going to go with Merab to stick to Stamann enough and for his pace to see him through, and maybe he does dominate as some expect. But for the reasons stated there’s no way I can bet him as this big a favourite as really you’re trusting the judges, and for a while now they have hated fighters who just control and do no damage. If he controls Stamann for extended periods but Stamann does a bit of damage at the end of the round, don’t be surprised if they side with Stamann. Clear dog or pass for me and I can’t fault anyone for taking the shot on Stamann at big dog odds.
Prediction: Merab via decision
Sean Strickland vs Krzysztof Jotko
Up next Strickland looks to keep his win streak going since his return from a motorcycle accident, while Jotko is coming in with a 3 fight win streak since his two rough back to back KO losses to Brad Tavares and Uriah Hall.
I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Strickland since his return. He’s a great boxer, staying active with a strong jab while working in his right hand and combos at a consistently high rate, with good head movement in the pocket to boot. Because of Brendan Allen’s fight IQ we didn’t get to see his takedown defence at middleweight, but it’s been good overall at 81% and he’s looking very strong at 185. His cardio has always been great, and he packs some power as well.
Jotko is someone I’ve never really been that high on. His volume is very poor at just 2.98 slpm with a large sample size. He doesn’t wrestle at a high rate either with an average of just 1.27 takedowns landed per fight. His chin is also very questionable, he’s the only guy Tavares has KO’d since Phil Baroni in 2011 which obviously isn’t a good look at all. He has also slowed down in multiple fights.
For me Jotko likely needs a KO here and he only has one in the UFC, which was 5 years ago over Tamdan McCory, who got KO’d by a shot to bits Marquardt in the fight after and never fought again. He could make the fight a stinker like he has in others by killing enough time off the clock with control to get a decision. However I think it’s much more likely it plays out on the feet where more often than not Strickland should be able to outwork and outland him without much bother.
Jotko has put together a streak of underwhelming decision wins over middling fighters since the back to back KO losses, but I think that ends here and he takes his 3rd UFC KO loss if not a clear decision on volume.
Prediction: Strickland via KO/TKO
Ion Cutelaba vs Dustin Jacoby
Up next we have a fun light heavyweight bout. Cutelaba is coming off a KO loss to rising prospect Magomed Ankalaev, while Jacoby is coming off an underwhelming split decision win over Maxim Grishin that could’ve gone either way.
This is a hard fight to call. Jacoby is the sharper and more varied striker technically, but showed in his last fight that he can struggle with having the power disadvantage and pressure. Though flash knockdowns can happen in any fight with 4oz gloves, getting hurt badly by someone like Grishin wasn’t a good look. Cutelaba is a wild man who’s technically sloppy, but he does pressure and pack a lot of power. That power doesn’t last long though, as he consistently slows down after the first round. Jacoby’s calf kick could be a good weapon here with the way Cutelaba heavily plants on his lead leg to load up on his power shots.
Cutelaba’s cardio has been a big talking point this fight, but I’ve seen Jacoby slow down in fights as well. Plus this is short notice for him. If it goes past the first round, it might just come down to who’s less gassed. Cutelaba has shown he can get takedowns, but it’s hard to see where Jacoby’s takedown defence and get ups are at, and how long Cutelaba can maintain that sort of gameplan if he doesn’t get a finish.
For the pick, I’m going to ever so slightly lean toward Jacoby to avoid getting finished in the first round and pick apart Cutelaba with kicks down the stretch, especially the calf kick. But there’s a lot of question marks on both sides here and it’s a tough one to get a good read on prefight.
Prediction: Jacoby via decision
Giga Chikadze vs Cub Swanson
In the co-main we have a very interesting prospect vs veteran match-up. Swanson showed he isn’t done just yet with an impressive KO win over Daniel Pineda in his last fight, while the credentialed kickboxer Chikadze looks to be coming into his own after an underwhelming start to his UFC career.
Chikadze will enjoy a significant height and reach advantage in this fight. His kicks are excellent and his striking technique is elite across the board. Earlier in his UFC career, his cardio was very suspect as well as his takedown defence and his volume wasn’t the best, but against Omar Morales he showed he’s making big improvements out of Kings MMA and looked great.
Swanson is now 37 years old and is obviously on the backend of his UFC career. However, he still throws at a high rate and packs power. He’s going to need to close the distance consistently here and make it into a dogfight. Can he do that? It’s hard to tell. We’ve just not seen Chikadze tested by a high volume striker who packs power in MMA yet. Swanson is capable of taking fights to the ground, but at an average of just 1 takedown landed per fight it’s hard to trust him to come in and test Chikadze’s takedown defence.
I’m going to pick Chikadze to keep it at range and pick an aging Swanson apart, but it’s still a big step up and I’m really interested to see if Swanson can test Chikadze and drag him into a high paced fight or get takedowns.
Prediction: Chikadze via decision
Jiri Prochazka vs Dominick Reyes
Finally in the main event we have an absolute banger on our hands. Jiri is coming off a brutal KO win over Volkan Oezdemir in his UFC debut, while Reyes is coming off a brutal KO loss to the champ Jan Blachowicz.
Offensively, Jiri is a nightmare to deal with. He has a unique, awkward style that I imagine is impossible for opponents to replicate in the gym. He packs legitimate one punch power, with 24 of his 27 wins coming by KO. But as we saw in his debut, he takes risks and leaves himself open defensively. He has a great chin, but you just can’t rely on that at light heavyweight.
Reyes is a counter striker who also packs big power. He’s much more conventional than Jiri, mainly leaning on the same few tools – the left straight, check hook and uppercut with the occasional kick. I personally thought he clearly lost the Oezdemir fight, and if you take away that win his strength of schedule in the UFC has been pretty weak, with an old, fragile OSP being the only real light heavyweight he has beat as Weidman and Cannonier had no business being at light heavyweight. I won’t talk about the Jones fight as it’s a completely different style and Jones isn’t a big puncher.
This fight could just come down to who lands clean first. They both pack big power, and are both there to be hit. But there are a lot more intangibles leaning toward Jiri’s way. There’s no shame in getting KO’d by the champ, but the way Reyes looked was very concerning. He looked totally lost and off from the get-go. Fighting an unpredictable madman with true one punch power off a performance and damaging KO loss like that is a tough ask mentally and I’ll be impressed if he overcomes it and rebounds with a good performance. Reyes is also used to having the reach over his opponents, but will be at a 3″ reach disadvantage here.
Again, either guy can get KO’d here and it might happen quickly. But I trust Jiri more if the fight gets extended, and unless Reyes can land a counter bomb I think there’s a good chance Jiri’s unpredictable style gives him fits before he finally succumbs to the pressure and eats a big shot.
Prediction: Prochazka via KO/TKO