Israel Adesanya (C) vs Sean Strickland (middleweight title)
Adesanya is coming in as a massive -700 favourite and it’s hard to disagree with that line.
With his elite kickboxing pedigree the only two real ways to beat him at 185 seem to be either an explosive knockout or explosive takedowns, of which Strickland possesses neither. He does have good striking metrics but his flat footed style leaves him open to leg kicks, which is Adesanya’s specialty. He also overreacts badly to feints which could get him into big trouble against a striker like Adesanya.
He does have takedown ability but only averages 1 per 15 minutes which won’t be enough and we have seen him choose to strike in fights where it’s obvious he needed to wrestle, such as in the Pereira fight. We have also seen Adesanya defend takedowns from more explosive wrestlers such as Brunson.
With the way Strickland overreacts to feints and struggles with kicks, I expect Adesanya to find an opening for a knockout at some point but we have seen him be more than willing to coast to a decision in 4 of his last 5 wins so it’s difficult for me to trust him to get it at the current line.
Tai Tuivasa vs Alexander Volkov (heavyweight)
Fun heavyweight match-up with Volkov coming in as the -244 favourite.
Tuivasa has big power so always has a punchers chance at heavyweight and he might be able to get an early knockout, especially if he can compromise Volkov with his leg kicks. Other than that Volkov has the reach advantage, volume edge, more dynamic & varied striking and better ability to fight over 3 rounds. Tuivasa is also coming off 2 knockout losses in a row.
I’m not interested in paying heavy juice at heavyweight but I expect Volkov to get it done more often than not and the price feels about right.
Manel Kape vs Felipe dos Santos (flyweight)
Kape is the heavy favourite coming in at -385. He was supposed to fight Kai Kara-France who pulled out. In steps Santos on short notice and I think it’s going to be too much too soon for the young prospect.
Santos is only 22 years old with just 8 fights while Kape has a wealth of experience at 29 years old with 24 fights, with a lot of them being against high level competition including the current UFC champion.
Santos has a classic aggressive Brazilian chute boxe style, which I expect to play into Kape’s counter striking style and leave openings for him to land with power. Santos doesn’t mind taking shots in order to land his own and we’ve seen him in bad positions on the ground against lower level competition. Kape also has great body work and Santos likes to hold a high guard which leaves his body exposed.
Kape has finished 16 out of his 18 wins and has shown finishing ability on both the feet and ground. Santos also slowed down in his last fight and now has to fly from Brazil to Australia.
Kape does like to admire his work sometimes and the young Santos may be able to take a beating, but we’ve already seen Kape dispatch historically durable fighters with more experience. Dvorak is the only fighter in the UFC he failed to finish in a win and he had over 24 fights and a way more conservative and defensively responsible style compared to Santos – yet he was still extremely close to being finished and had to survive being badly hurt with knockdowns and fully locked in submission attempts.
With Kape’s 88.88% finishing rate, the massive experience gap, the short notice for Santos and his aggressive style, I expect there to be openings for Kape to find the finish more often than not and see value in the under 2.5 rounds at -180.
Justin Tafa vs Austen Lane (heavyweight)
Low level heavyweight match-up.
Tafa is the deserved favourite as he has more high level experience in the UFC and is 6 years younger, but we’ve seen him slip on banana peels against mediocre competition and there is more variance than usual when you’re dealing with low level heavyweights so I want nothing to do with this fight.
Tyson Pedro vs Anton Turkalj (light-heavyweight)
Low level light heavyweight match-up but it should be a fun, scrappy fight and there is strong live betting potential.
Pedro is live for an early finish but he has never won a fight that got out of round 1 and his cardio looked worse than ever in his last fight where he appeared to gas around 3 minutes in. It has been so consistently bad that looking to bet against him live if it goes late has become a must.
Turkalj is a technical mess that leaves openings with questionable fight IQ, but he has shown good cardio, heart + the ability to fight through adversity as well as a high takedown rate.
It’s hard to tell who wins pre-fight so pick’em odds feels about right, but if Pedro can’t get Turkalj out of there early there’s a good chance Turkalj will take over and I will be hoping for a playable live line as long as he has not taken too much damage and looks fine.
Carlos Ulberg vs Da Woon Jung (light-heavyweight)
Fun striking match-up.
Ulberg has been looking good lately and this is a good fight for him on paper but I’m not interested in betting him in the -265 range. We bet him at near pick’em odds against Negumereanu who was a much easier opponent. The market has now adjusted and is pricing Ulberg more accurately.
I once had high hopes for Jung when he first arrived in the UFC but we have now seen him struggle against Sam Alvey and knocked out in the first round by Dustin Jacoby who is more of a volume striker and doesn’t possess the explosive power Ulberg has. And although Devin Clark is a different style to Ulberg, the way Jung lost was concerning as he showed bad fight IQ and failed to pull the trigger enroute to losing all 3 rounds as a -250 favourite. I don’t see a reliable path to victory for him here unless Ulberg punches himself out going for the finish and gasses like he did in the Kennedy fight, but that was a while ago now in his UFC debut and it’s very hard to see Jung taking the damage Kennedy did and still standing.
We’ve seen Jung take opponents down, but with Ulberg’s style and footwork I think it will be difficult for him to close the distance consistently without getting clipped. He was walking into the same predictable check hook over and over against Alvey, and Ulberg has an excellent check hook that we’ve seen him put opponents down with. I expect Ulberg to be too fast, explosive and accurate with his strikes and get another knockout win.
Jack Jenkins vs Chepe Mariscal (featherweight)
This should be a fun fight. Mariscal is quite a sloppy but tough fighter who likes a dog fight while Jenkins is the more technical of the two.
I expect this to be a competitive fight that likely goes to decision but Jenkins has slightly more tools in his repertoire and more ways to win so he is the deserved favourite.
I think Jenkins is the one more likely to get top time and his leg kicks and body work should serve him well in this match-up. I just don’t see much margin for value in the moneyline in the -210 range with his lack of finishing potential in past fights and can see a scenario where Mariscal keeps it competitive enough on the scorecards as Jenkins can sometimes find it difficult to separate himself and make rounds clear.
Jamie Mullarkey vs John Makdessi (lightweight)
Mullarkey is the deserved favourite as Makdessi is now 38 years old and has been inactive the past few years. However Mullarkey is coming off a KO loss to a debutant just 3 months ago and although Makdessi doesn’t have much power, Mullarkey’s striking defence and fight IQ is just too poor to trust him with a price tag like -265. This fight is a total pass from a betting perspective.
Nasrat Haqparast vs Landon Quinones (lightweight)
Nasrat comes in as a heavy -500 favourite. He is another prospect that never panned out like many thought he would, but he should be able to win this fight.
Quinones is making his UFC debut after bowing out of the last season of TUF with a round 1 submission loss to Jason Knight. He is a scrappy pressure fighter but still inexperienced and I think he will struggle with Nasrat’s speed and counters.
Out of all the heavy favourites on the card Nasrat is probably the one I’m least confident in due to his inactivity and some questionable performances but he has only lost to high level fighters and this is a huge step down in competition.