Who else is happier now that the UFC has returned? I know I am! I thought I would enjoy some time off but I felt like Pablo Escober stuck in his backyard stuck in a meme stuck on the internet forever.
Staring with the dullest face you could imagine and by January, my depression turned to anger and that’s when I turned to the heavy bag.
This past Saturday’s fight card was nothing short of fantastic and the ending could not have been more entertaining. Well, I’m sure there were a select few sitting at home screaming to stop the fight or for the corner to throw in the towel.
Those of us who understand what that fight did to Calvin, maybe not scientifically, but we know he will never be the same again. The man was somehow never mentally broken in that fight. I’m not saying his mental game won’t ever be the same.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
Maybe it gets better, worse, or stays the same. I don’t know. I do know that physically speaking, that man is not going to live as long now that he took a beating like that. Just like Tony Ferguson will never be the same, we can echo a similar sentiment for Calvin Kattar.
The rest of the card was incredible as well. Carlos Condit and Matt Brown, the co-main event really lived up to its billing but not how we expected. We got to see two veterans and each an excellent striker both grapple to go for the win most of the fight.
Underdogs of (+285), (+230), and (+150) all came through for the win. Jocelyn Edwards was a dog until a lot of sharp late money came in on her as she got the unanimous nod from the judges.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
Oh, how could I forget?
Vanessa Melo, a (+160) underdog, also got the victory on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
Showcasing some slick striking 👊
🇧🇷 Vanessa Melo by UD at #UFCFightIsland7
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
It was a great night of fights there and a solid day for the UFC giving Europe and the Middle East a great time slot while also avoiding the NFL Playoffs.
We have an even wilder week ahead. There are 26 fights scheduled for this week so far. We have a show on Wednesday night and, of course, UFC 257 McGregor vs Poirier this Saturday night on pay per view.
I am beyond excited but I have to reel myself in with a sound mind so we can make some money this week on both fight cards.
What I want to do today for you guys is introduce you to some fighters that you may or may not know and also analyze their fight along with the betting odds available so that we can make a strong play either for them, against them, or possibly on a round total or prop.
One of our Fighter Focus athletes today is a fighter who scored a major upset, at least according to the sportsbooks, over his opponent the last time he stepped into the Octagon here in Abu Dhabi.
Mounir Lazzez, the 33-year-old Tunisian got a late start to his career and is just 10-1. I thought he looked great in his UFC debut, though, and most fighters look even better the next time around.
Watch out for this guy. He understands his age and the fact that he doesn’t have any time to waste before he starts climbing the UFC ladder.
Lastly, we have to talk about Michael Chandler, the career-long Bellator veteran who has finally made his way over to the UFC to hopefully challenge for the world title one day. He will be 35 in April, though, so like Lazzez, Michael Chandler has to get to work yesterday.
His matchup in the co-main event at UFC 257 next week with New Zealand’s Dan Hooker has instant classic written all over it.
BetOnline.AG has the betting odds we will be referencing today unless noted. Let’s get to our triple fighter focus for this massive week in MMA.
Iron Michael Chandler was born in High Ridge, Missouri back in 1986 so the old man will hit the magical 35 years old. Congrats to him on entering a world of pain. I’m kidding, well not really but I’m sure he is fully mentally equipped to deal with it.
Michael Chandler, as decorated a wrestler as he is, actually never won a state title in Missouri when he was in high school. This led to him having to walk on if he wanted to be on the University of Missouri wrestling team.
Walking on to any major sport at a major university is one of the most difficult tasks you can imagine. Even if you get on the team, you’re still paying a lot of money to go there and much of your free time is sucked up by your sport.
In this regard at a wrestling school like Missouri, athletes are sucked in harder than in football. Wrestling is everything! Football players don’t really have to make weight and then compete 1 on 1. For some reason, I have always preferred 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 for basketball over a 5-man team like basketball or even the 11-man team in football. I like the autonomy of it. If I fail, it’s because of me. If I win, well I had at least something to do with it. Michael Chandler finished up his time at the U of M as an All American in wrestling at the Division 1 level. The moment wrestling finished up in his senior year when he placed 5th in the country, Michael Chandler made the switch to training mixed martial arts at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
This was during the glory years of the gym. They are very strong now but back then, it was legendary. Mike Pyle was one of the more experienced strikers and submission artists in the group and he dominated a lot of guys for a lot of years.
Mike is a legend. I know his chin was gone by the time he retired but that isn’t a knock on him. It is sad and scary but as far as honor goes, he earned his retirement. I don’t think he is sitting around thinking “Oh, I should have tried harder”.
Another fighter that is guaranteed not to have that mindset is, of course, Michael Chandler.
Chandler doesn’t get enough credit for being such a smart fighter. He got into the University of Missouri on his grades, not his freakish athletic ability.
I think sometimes we mere mortals tend to hate even if it’s not on purpose when we see an athlete the level of Michael Chandler. You know, the backflip guy…
We think hey, they are extremely blessed physically so they had to get shorted somewhere…that brings me to my next point. Sorry, Mike, but you are short and that might cost you in the UFC against fighters who are 6 foot tall like his opponent at UFC 257, Dan Hooker.
Both men are 3 round fighters, in my opinion, so I don’t think that favors either fighter. The sportsbooks opened this fight up at (-160) for the Kiwi and (+140) for Chandler, the American.
I thought that may be a little wide just because we don’t know how he will fare in the UFC.
The lightweights are a little bigger in the big show and that could prove to be troublesome for the 5’8” fighter. The money has come in on Mike, though, and this fight is more or less a pick ‘em now.
Mike has shown a weakness to the calf kick and has had the subsequent Liz Frank injury inside the Octagon right after it. That isn’t a good look against a guy like Dan Hooker who already has a vicious calf kick.
Ready to capitalize 🗣 Is @DanTheHangman's biggest performance yet on deck?
— UFC (@ufc) January 18, 2021
Oh, and he has a bunch of reach to land it as well. Sorry, Mike. The Hangman has never been more affordable than he is right now so I am grabbing him at (-120). I do not think we will move anymore towards an even betting line.
It is going back in the other direction if anywhere so I would bet now or forever hold your horses.
I was a little long-winded there about Michael Chandler but he has the opportunity to make a massive splash in the UFC Lightweight pool in his first fight inside the Octagon. He is also getting a great deal of exposure fighting on the first pay per view of the year.
We know the real reason, though, and it’s red panty night for the entire card. Write home to your wife. You’re fighting alongside Conor McGregor.
Who is Mounir Lazzez, though?
I am a little disappointed Warlley Alves didn’t fight my friend Christian Aguilera. Christian was the dog in that fight and Warlley is one of my 5 Fighters to Fade in 2020.
Exit Christian and enter Mounir Lazzez who put on quite the show in his last trip to Abu Dhabi. He won a unanimous decision over the admittedly overrated Abdul Razak al Hassan. It was very dominant, though, as he outstruck him soundly and took him down 4 out of 4 times.
I admit that I have been a little disappointed we haven’t seen the Tunisian fighter back in action yet but the world is a crazy place so I get it. He is here on Fight Island now, though, and will be fighting Brazilian Warlley Alves.
Alves, in my opinion, is a “victim” of USADA as they say, and has not been the same fighter since. This is the only man not named Kamaru Usman in the UFC with a win over Colby Covington.
It was your typical “wrestler gets guillotined early in their career thing”. It happens to many great wrestlers who become great fighters but almost always, it is shored up and you don’t see it happen again.
Mounir is actually the first fighter to be born and raised in an Arab country to be signed by the UFC. The guy believes in himself, to say the least. He has said he is the Middle Eastern Conor McGregor.
He has said he wants to compete in 3 different weight classes. I love it. As we said, he is 33 years old now so it’s go time, baby!
I like him against Warlley Alves, for sure. If he shoots, I am slightly concerned about the guillotine threat from the Brazilian but Mounir appears to be a smart fighter and can keep this one standing and potentially put away Alves.
He has lost to Barberena, Krause, and Randy Brown. I actually rate Mounir higher than all three of them. Krause and Brown were able to put Warlley away. I am feeling pretty confident that the Tunisian gets it done to the fragile post-USADA, Warlley Alves.
Mounir Lazzez to win by finish is just (+140) but the fact that it isn’t 3 or 4 to 1 is really a good sign. The books can’t put it much lower than this for a fighter competing in only his second UFC bout.
I’ll take it, though, for sure.
Khalil Rountree Jr
If you have read any of my picks or predictions on Khalil, I have probably told his story a couple of times. I was so happy to see his name on the docket for early 2021 because he has been in Thailand this entire time training and training.
I miss the training there a lot but not nearly as much as the food, my gracious! They know what they are doing in that country. Let’s hope Khalil isn’t enjoying the mango sticky rice too much. It is so tempting because you’re training outside for hours.
Thailand is hot, y’all, like really really hot. I have lived in South Florida and Las Vegas. There is ZERO comparison to the heat, nothing. Khalil is sweating it out every day and probably needs to drink 7 coconuts just to begin to rehydrate.
Here is a short clip of Khalil on the Joe Rogan Podcast.
I recommend you listen to the entire thing the next time you have to clean the house or go for a run. This man can do some amazing things.
He used to bring his slackline to the gym and I tried that out once and it is much harder than it looks and nobody ever said it looked easy.
What I love more than anything is Khalil’s love for Thailand primarily because I also share the same love for The Land of Smiles.
Khalil is fighting Marcin Prachnio at UFC 257 and we know Khalil is a KO artist and well, Marcin has 3 fights inside the Octagon, and guess how they have all ended. The company likes Khalil’s vibe and they are throwing him a bone here to get his swagger back.
The books have cooked this one but they will release more props as the week progresses.
These three fighters are surely three to watch this week. We will get to see Mounir Lazzez fight in just a couple of days on Wednesday night. I love his chances and I think we are getting plenty of value on his betting odds.
Just like Khalil, I like the Tunisian star to win by finish which will most likely be a TKO. I wouldn’t bet the TKO line, though, because the inside the distance covers you no matter what happens and the books know the deal so the price difference will be minimal.
I think Khalil will get his man out of there pretty early. The under is my play there. What happens with Michael Chandler, though?
He has such a massive opportunity ahead of him this weekend. Could we see some Octagon jitters come up from beneath the canvas and bite the 34 year old? That is kind of a stretch but we have seen it happen before.
Fighting in the UFC is a big deal and Chandler knows this show, UFC 257, is easily the biggest event he has ever been a part of. I love our price on Dan Hooker now. I was going to leave this fight alone but the line is right. I’m fading lil’ man.