I can remember when the UFC was traveling from Birmingham to Dothan, Alabama and then following on Augusta, Georgia.
No disrespect to these fine cities. The great Hulk Hogan and Morpheus himself, Lawrence Fishburne are both from Augusta while Birmingham is home to the Rolling Crimson Tide.
And Dothan…well that’s the self-proclaimed “Peanut Capital of the World.”
Things have changed, though, in a major way.
Mixed Martial Arts almost died before Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar saved the company and the sport in one fight on April 9, 2005, from Las Vegas, NV.
I started training MMA a month later and haven’t stopped since.
Why am I getting all up in my feels talking about the past right now?
Well, it helps illuminate just how unlikely and extraordinary of a rise it has been for MMA and the UFC.
I mentioned the Army town in Georgia and the college town of Alabama to assist us in putting the sport where it currently is into perspective.
3 weeks ago, we previewed a UFC card from Montevideo, Uruguay. Less than a week ago, the Ultimate Fighting Championship crowned their first Chinese champion in Shenzhen.
This Saturday night, the Octagon lands in Abu Dhabi. Then we are off to the Pacific Northwest to visit Vancouver followed by a trip south to the mountainous metropolis of Mexico City.
Then the show sails to Copenhagen and down to Melbourne. These are all back-to-back weeks!
Before the end of 2019, the world’s leading fighting organization travels to Singapore, Moscow, Brazil, and South Korea.
It’s just amazing to me.
With that said, this week will be another difficult one for me.
Last week, I had to do quite a bit of research to familiarize myself with several debut fighters, a few of which were from China, Russia, and South Korea.
With the fastest growing sport in the world comes more and more high-level fighters from every inch of the globe.
This week, with Khabib Nurmagomedov headlining the main card, there are several fighters of Russian-descent fighting on the show as the organization attempts to increase their visibility for fans tuning in their part of the world.
The best UFC betting sites have already released the odds for this week, so let’s do a quick recap of last Saturday’s picks from China followed by a breakdown of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
UFC China Recap
See Pick Here: UFC Fight Night 157 Predictions (August 30th, 2019)
- Damir Ismagulov was easily the best pick of the night on the minus money side of things.
- The (-105) betting odds proved to be excellent value for him to win by decision. The fight was never really in danger of being stopped.
- This guy is very very good and we may very well target him in the future.
- Anthony Hernandez (-150) had me a bit worried early on as he was getting popped by punches while pushing his own.
- He was relentless with his wrestling after Park continually got back to his feet.
- The grappling of Hernandez eventually proved too much for the South Korea fighter as he tapped to a rear-naked choke.
- We took a chance with the much larger Chinese fighter, Wu Yanan (+130), to bully Japanese star Mizuki Inoue.
- It was a very close fight but the forward pressure of Inoue was scored higher by two judges than Yanan’s significant strike edge of 35%.
- I thought the hometown cooking from the judges would help but the two who scored the fight in favor of Mizuki had Western names.
We lost the co-main, main event, and Su Madaergi vs Andre Soukhamthath. While I was, of course, initially very disappointed, these outcomes taught me that I should trust myself a little more than I’ve been doing the past month or so.
In June and July, I was above 80% picking fights and that’s averaging over 5 bets per card. Most pros are doing 2, maybe 3.
This past month, I have been “trying too hard” and have been a victim of “paralysis by analysis”.
I’ve also been listening to leaders of the MMA betting world this past month in attempts to “keep getting better” and while I’ve learned from them, I also learned that I follow this game pretty closely too and need to trust my instincts.
I was very, very impressed with Su Madaergi in his first fight even though he was ground, pounded, and submitted. Soukhamthath has never impressed me, at all. Bad choice and compounded by the fact that Andre was the favorite.
In the co-main, Li Jingliang smoked the smaller man with far weaker footwork, power, and basic technique. I knew Li was a bad matchup for almost anyone at 170 pounds who doesn’t possess world-class wrestling. On top of this, Li was a (+220) underdog. Shame on me.
Now, almost everyone I know picked the main event wrong and hindsight is 20/20 but Zhang is the truth, and Andrade has really only been able to pick on smaller fighters or taller lankier women whose crotch is already near shoulder level for her vintage slams.
Straight punches almost always beat looping ones and Jessica’s striking is elementary at best. I’m sorry for the bad week, guys.
Let’s have some fun with this UFC, and war Khabib!
UFC 242 Undercard
Ottman Azaitar (-225) vs Teemu Packalen (+185)
Ottman is a member of the endless entourage of Khabib Nurmagomedov, although he isn’t one of their elites.
Those guys are competing this weekend, though, so more on those guys in a few minutes.
I did a bit of research on each guy. Teemu is a tall lanky Jiu Jitsu-based fighter.
He hasn’t shown to have the takedowns to get the fight to the mat where he needs it.
We have seen this narrative play itself out plenty of times in the past.
Sometimes their opponent is a lethal striker-like Marc Diakese, the last guy Teemu fought. He quickly suffered a first-round KO defeat to the lightning-quick Taekwondo stylist.
Then we may see them matched up with a wrestler and we get to learn who has the better striking prowess.
Ottman is somewhere in the middle. He isn’t very technical but makes up for that in aggression.
Teemu is a big boy, though; 6’1 with a 75.5-inch reach. So many people remember his loss to Marc Diakese and are writing him off but I think he’s a live dog.
Azaitar is a strong fighter but tends to wing shots and has a small gas tank. His 11-0 record is padded as well. His last victory was against a fighter with 16-14 record.
This is also his UFC debut, and he could very well be feeling a lot of pressure to succeed in front of the Abu Dhabi crowd. I read that he is personal friends with some VIPs of the region.
Teemu’s first loss was a short notice fight in his Octagon debut then he had a 30-second win on what turned out to be arguably a combo of an uppercut on the feet and quick choke rear-naked to wrap it up.
He wasn’t ready for Diakese’s speed but who is?
He was overzealous and chased the faster man. He has since taken more than a year off and that not only helped his brain but I think his skills as well. He looks good in some training videos I saw.
Their speed and power are both similar. We have seen each man drop opponents and get dropped themselves. What isn’t even is the height and range. Azaitar is listed at 5’7” and Teemu has packed on a little size to his slim frame. He stands at 6’1 with that massive reach I spoke of.
I believe that will be the difference.
I’m also taking the over 1.5 rounds in this fight at (-145). They both like to get after it but I think the distance difference, respect, and need of a victory will keep it going at least 7:30 or longer.
Andrea Lee (-225) vs Joanne Calderwood (+185)
I love Calderwood. She has stuck to her Muay Thai game ever since coming into the UFC and while not being the most athletic fighter, she has ignored fight IQ and done her thing.
She’s also been training at my old gym of Syndicate MMA under her now boyfriend and father of her child, head coach John Wood.
John worked wonders with the striking game and confidence of Roxanne Modafferi as she has even less athletic ability. She is an awesome person but probably the worst athlete I’ve ever seen in professional sports.
That is in no way a bad thing, though. Life is about doing the best with what you have and she has far exceeded her creator’s expectations if you will.
Roxy may be a key here as she has defeated Andrea Lee in the past. She pulled a Floyd Mayweather, though, and caught KGB very early in her career under the Invicta banner.
I would favor Andrea in a rematch. Originally a Karate-stylist, KGB has evolved her game to include takedowns and has improved her hands as well.
Her athletic ability along with Joanne coming off of having a baby has me taking Andrea in this one.
She’s expensive at (-225); much less affordable than when the odds were released.
It’s still a good bet, though.
Sarah Moras (+120) vs Liana Jojua (-150)
Sarah catches a lot of flack from the critics but the girl has very very high-level ground skills.
This is the polar opposite from the opponents of Liana Jojua.
My eyes are still recovering from the grappling I saw in my research of the Georgian fighter.
Sarah trains at a great camp in Las Vegas, Xtreme Couture. They have a ton of women in the UFC training there, and some of the best coaches in the world.
The facility is pretty nice too. The UFC Performance Institute is also right down the street.
The climate of Vegas is similar to that of Abu Dhabi. I could go on. I’ll get right to it, though.
I love Moras in this fight. I, admittedly, went into my research looking for a reason to pick her opponent Liana but could not find a good one.
Jojua appeared very slow, elementary on the ground, and will be giving up some height to Moras.
Sarah is very durable. She went 3 total rounds with former women’s champion Jessica Andrade.
Jojua likes to throw it. I think it’s telegraphed but if I fighter is standing sideways, there really is no defense other than taking it off the arms.
If this fight stays on the feet, I give Sarah a 55% chance at victory. If she manages to get it to the ground or Liana makes a mistake and takes her down, it’s 90/10 for the Canadian.
Maybe it’s her escape from the grind. I like Sarah here anyway.
I know it’s just Instagram but along with her fighting skills, I didn’t like what I saw on her social media. The tone was very me, me, look at how pretty I am.
Main Card – Quick Picks
Mairbek Taisumov (-265) vs Diego Ferreira (+205)
- Taisumov is a legit killer
- Diego is very tough but his strengths lay on the mat
- Mairbek’s wrestling will keep this on the feet where he has a significant advantage
Islam Makhachev (-340) vs Davi Ramos (+265)
- Islam is Khabib’s right-hand fellow and an excellent striker
- His wrestling is legit as well but he shouldn’t need it in this fight
- Davi Ramos is no stranger to the U.A.E.
- The Brazilian is a multiple-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club (submission grappling) Champion
- On his feet, he has a right hand and that’s about it
- Islam has a taller frame and while not as thick as Ramos, isn’t frail either
- Makhachev should get this one with distance management and possibly finish with a head kick
- Pick Odds
- Islam Makhachev -340
- Mairbek Taisumov -265
- Andrea Lee -225
- Belal Muhammad -355
- Curtis Blaydes -490
- To Win +292
Khabib Nurmagomedov (-435) vs Dustin Poirier (+315)
Hey, you’ve already made your money. Neither of these odds carries that much value.
I’ll be honest with you. I think Dustin has a good chance. His camp of American Top Team is on a roll like none other.
Dustin has great hands but he relies more on volume than power. Against a wrestler of Khabib’s caliber, I don’t think he’s going to have much time to turn up the dial.
I see him throwing a few and then Khabib shooting in on those legs.
From there, it gets interesting. This is where the opponents of Khabib may have caught up to his game.
When he first came into the UFC, the Dagestani style of wrestling was foreign to most; the clamping of the legs, trapping an arm to ground and pound, etc.
We all evolve so maybe Dustin can show that American fighters are catching up.
For Dustin to win, he doesn’t have to defend every takedown. He first needs to push the pace, though. Many of Nurmagomedov’s takedowns come up against the cage so if Dustin can continually walk him down and force the shot in the middle of the Octagon living and dying with the results, he has a chance.
I don’t think he can back up Khabib, though. Poirier is not a huge guy. He is about 172. Khabib is listed at 194.
Yes, that’s nearly 40 pounds above the lightweight limit. Crazy, I know but he has done it before.
9 times out of 10, the bigger man controls the center and the push on the feet.
He’s also missed weight before and we know your chin weakens with that kind of cut. We just haven’t seen anyone do anything about it.
I believe Nurmagomedov wants to get a finish with his Dad in his corner. I don’t believe he will get the opportunity until about the 3rd round or so when Dustin begins to break.
The over/under is set at 3.5 rounds. There’s just too much that can happen for me to take that.
The bet I like the most on MyBookie is Khabib to win by KO, TKO, or submission at (-105).
The betting odds on the fight going the distance is (+125) and (-175) to end inside of 25 minutes.
If you believe in Khabib, the (-105) is the wager to make.
Dustin is durable, sure, but 25 minutes is a long time.
Send me location…
I vill smesh him…
This is number one bullsh…
So many contagious quotes from the Lightweight Champ…
I usually pull for the non-wrestlers because their disciplines are rooted in finishing a fight as opposed to controlling it, generally speaking.
Nurmagomedov has shown that he likes to do both. He isn’t the lay-and-pray type that GSP was later in his career when he went 5 years in his prime without a finish.
Yes, Iaquinta, the man Khabib defeated or the vacant 155-pound belt, went 25 minutes with him but I think the man from Dagestan was just trying to see who had the best jab against a good boxer.
He didn’t finish Edson Barboza and while the Brazilian is tough as heck, the fight was just 3 rounds.
I just hope we get to see a fight!
8 out of Nurmagomedov’s last 13 scheduled bouts have been canceled with most of them his fault.
The rest of the card is loaded with big favorites, especially the main. I say parlay them and hope we get a great start with a couple of live dogs on early on.
Enjoy the fights and remember they will be teeing off, if you will, around 10:00 AM Eastern on Saturday due to the Middle East location.