Duke’s UFC Fight Night Breakdown and Predictions!!!
We’re in December but for some reason, I’m not quite feeling the Christmas cheer!
Whether it’s getting robbed by judges or our fighters being way ahead and walking into danger, we’ve been doing far too much giving around here the last two weeks.
Yet, even on a complete shit show of a card that had EVERY analyst on the streets with their tail between their legs, we turned a small profit on the betting side.
Su and Smith came through for us in the clutch. Smith is a fantastic ode to a topic I brought up in last week’s article.
Do these fighters have a plan?
Smith is a striker but clearly felt he would have the edge in the grappling department. While we assumed it would be a Clark wrestling exhibition, it was he who landed the first big shot. Instead of messing around with a fire fight, Smith took his ass to the ground and began the methodical destruction of Clarke’s hopes and dreams.
I mentioned all week that I was playing low volume and perhaps that volume should have been zero. There were so many question marks, so many holes in the fighters’ games.
It’s cards like last week that have the potential to kill your bankroll. A couple of things saved my ass, even though we would have been better off flipping a coin than tailing my ‘picks’ for each fight:
1) The analysis was fairly spot on except for a few places.
2) The optimizer.
Let’s start with #2. As always, I was in the chat for an hour before the first punch was thrown. In there, we talk about a lot of stuff but one major factor is how many lineups I’ll be playing and my exposure to different fighters.
On cards like last week, it’s important not to go “all in” on anyone because no one is really worth it. I spread my ownership out quite a bit and once I tweaked the projections and ownership a little bit, Anderson Dos Santos was my highest owned fighter.
Yep, a guy I picked to lose the fight was where I was investing my money. While we didn’t like a ton of dogs (whoops) he was one that had the clearest path to victory and allowed me to fit others into my lineup that took priority.
So let’s move to #1, the analysis.
I picked Kai Kamara but discussed his odd lack of KO power and Pearce having a barroom fighting style. Pearce clearly cleaned up his footwork and while he ate some punches early, after the first couple of minutes it was quite obvious he wasn’t only in the fight, but likely to win it!
I picked Martin Day but said the smaller cage would hurt the striker. Dos Santos went right to his strengths early and often and it paid off in spades.
I had Dumont and then switched to Ashlee Evans-Smit LIKE AN IDIOT. Once again, taken right out of the article, “Ashlee will throw volume but when I say they are like pillows, it can’t be understated.” That might be an insult to pillows because I’ve actually been touched up in a few pillow fights in my day. I should have stuck with my gut with Dumont.
Spike Carlyle? Right from the article…”He’s better than Cosce but their issues are similar.” Very similar fight to the Cosce fight with the same result. The big favorite loses. Now the Spike fight was much closer and went to the judges scorecards but Algeo was game and I had Algeo listed as a cash game play on the cheat sheet.
There were a couple of complete whiffs and no one is more upset about that than me. Any time you pick a fighter as bad as Josh Parisian, you get a pit in your stomach.
I knew it was a risk rostering him as much as I did but I did not see Porter having the awesome gas tank that he showed last Saturday. I knew if Parisian didn’t finish it early it’d be a toss up and Porter showed me something I didn’t know he had. Credit to him and I ate shit for it, rightfully.
Same goes for Rachel Ostovich. Credit to Cosgraves in the chat who said Mazany was going to destroy Ostovich!
Look, we can joke about her fake boobs and work on instagram but that’s to add a little something to an otherwise fairly technical and monotonous article about fighters.
When I analized their respective tape, I had Ostovich with the wrestling advantage. That was the sole reason I liked her as I didn’t see either of these women really doing a ton of damage on the feet.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mazany showed a gear she’s never possessed and beat Rachel at her own game. Oddly enough, it was Rachel landing the big haymakers that Mazany just walked through. Once again, I have to eat shit on that one.
Of course, there were a couple of items that were spot on that got us to good spots as well. I loved Su and Baeza. I had Su listed as a top play, along with Anthony Smith.
I had Su and Baeza both listed as cash and GPP. With Su, it was as much about liking him as hating Gordon. Straight from the article…”I don’t like the high guard of Gordon.” Su hit him once and those dumb hands went right up next to his hair line and it was over from there. We got our win very early with Su ITD.
Baeza is a stud. Our own Ray Flowers is doing some “look ahead” work across sports and asked me for one athlete that could break out next year in MMA.
My answer? Miguel Baeza.
He has the “it” factor and the game to back it up. I honestly thought the stand up battle would be a touch more even than it was but Baeza was there to finish it in the second with a gorgeous arm triangle for his first submission win. The ceiling is so high with this guy.
So why spend 1,000 words explaining my ridiculous 3-7 night? Because I care. I put a ridiculous amount of time into my work and I pride myself on being right.
In the simplest of terms, “right” is picking the freaking winners of fights. I had an awful night in that respect, as did most if not all in the industry. That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.
However, I always goes back and read my article on Sunday morning to assess what the hell my eyes saw in the tape and what I wrote to see if I could have done better in a couple of areas:
- Writing – was I clear enough on my thoughts about these fighters. Where can I be better?
- Ownership – Did I use my own article well enough to give myself a chance to profit?
As for 1, I know I said it a bunch but I want to be even more clear when a card has more questions than answers. Just saying play light probably isn’t enough of a disclaimer for a card like that.
With number 2, I had to go back and ask myself why I had so much Ashlee Evans-Smith. Even in a win, at her price, what was my upside? She certainly wasn’t a safe play. Why did I have so much Parisian? I knew the risk and again, the upside was what I was afraid to miss out on but the downside was so low and I knew that going in.
Always evaluate and make tweaks. There is no reason to tear down and start over. We have only three cards left to win some cash so let’s make the most of it. Expect the unexpected as we head into the new year.
We’ve had a change to the main event on this card. We have Edwards testing positive and that fight is likely being moved to 2021. Up until these fighters touch gloves, I’ll stay on top of news to give us the best chance to win.
Let’s get to this card.
We have 11 fights on tap as of the writing of this article. One is one we’ve previously talked about with Louis Smolka and Jose Quinonez. That will get our night started. Good luck and I’ll see you in the chat room!
MAIN EVENT – 5 rounds
Jack Hermansson (+120, $8000) v Marvin Vettori (-140, $8200)
This was supposed to be a Hermansson v Darren Till. In steps Kevin Holland in a match that honestly I didn’t quite understand. With Holland testing positive for COVID, in steps Marvin Vettori and the UFC is doing Hermansson ZERO favors. Vettori is a legit crazy person.
With his build and his attitude I wouldn’t call you crazy to assume performance enhancing drugs. Well, he was banned by USADA for six-months but claims he never knowingly cheated. I trust him, yo.
Whatever he was or wasn’t taking hasn’t seemed to hurt his performances of late. He lost a split decision to Adesanya before reeling off three straight wins. By the way, it should have been a unanimous win for Izzy, but whatever.
I love a lot about Vettori’s game but I love his willingness to fight. The guy is a phone call away from stepping in the cage with anyone. At just 27 years old, he still has room left to grow and to call him a future champion wouldn’t be crazy.
It’s also important to note that Vettori wasn’t just sitting at home and decided to accept the fight. He was scheduled to fight next week and is simply changing opponents. He’s had a full camp.
However, if we are comparing resumes, there is no comparison. With wins over Jacare Souza and Kelvin Gastelum, Hermansson has the top two wins of either of these fighters.
Hermansson seems to struggle with fighters with big power. Cannonier has shown KO power through every weight class. Thiago Santos is a monster, as we all know.
He hasn’t been submitted since 2016 with a weird fight against Cezar Ferreira. He’s shown the gas tank to go five rounds before and we have seen Vetorri blow his gas tank before.
I have this fight as a straight up pick ’em with a lean towards Hermansson. To get him at plus money is something I have interest in and will likely fire before the weigh-ins as he’s already taking money early in the week.
Marvin Vettori is a monster. He’s a young fighter in a tough division that can absolutely win this fight and springboard into the top 10 in the division.
I would like him much more in a three round fight than five and considering he doesn’t really display the KO power that gives Hermansson the issues, I’ll take Jack here.
OFFICIAL PICK: Jack Hermansson
Ovince Saint Pruex (+140, $7800) v Jamahal Hill (-160, $8400)
Money is moving towards Hill on this fight which always makes my eyebrows rise.
Obviously, we know he has big power. He’s still considered someone with great potential and is not the completed project but he’s not someone who can only get it done early.
He beat the hell out of Stosic and had the will and cardio to get up six times against Stosic. That’s always the worry for me with strikers getting taken down and struggling off their back, waiting for the round to end to get reprieve.
Hill isn’t just a finisher with only 37% of his fights ending by finish. Obviously, he dropped Abreu in the first. He did test positive for weed which still carries a six month suspension and overturned that victory. That, to me, is insane, but it is what it is.
Hill throws that hard left kick to the body and brings that straight left hand right up the middle with power. The southpaw does stand up tall but has shown ok takedown defense. The pressure from Hill is his biggest asset. He fights at a crazy pace for 205.
Where are you with Ovince Saint-Preux? I’ve been IN and OUT on OSP 20 times since he came into the UFC. Honestly, if Menifield would have KO’d him, I was worried about his status in the promotion.
He’s been in there with literally the best there is. Glover Teixeira. Jon Jones. Oezdemir. Dominick Reyes. The list goes on. Experience is surely on his side and now that he’s 37, can we officially stop talking about his football career at Tennessee? Please?
OSP is typically the bigger, longer man in the octagon. That’s not the case here. Hill, in his limited career, statistically is the more impressive fighter. He has an average fight time of 8:26 compared to OSP’s 9:15. He outstrikes OSP 6.82 SS to 2.49 per minute.
One interesting note considering Stosic took Hill down six times is that OSP can wrestle if he needs to. Hill’s 53% takedown defense isn’t steller but his scrambling ability to get back to his feet is.
This is a big step up in competition for Hill but how big is it?
I literally just said it seemed like OSP was one loss away from being out of the UFC. Hill will have a big speed advantage. OSP seems to have moved to throwing just one punch at a time. It doesn’t flatter him but when he strikes with combinations, he can be dangerous.
If all things were equal I’d lean with the experience, but Hill looks to be on another level.
OFFICIAL PICK: Jamahal Hill
Montana De La Rosa (+190, $7300) v Taila Santos (-210, $8900)
Which Taila Santos do we get? How can you look so good against McCann and so bad against Romero Borella?
The fight against Romero Borella looked like both women were afraid to throw a punch. It was so bizarre and she still almost won. She did say after that the bright lights got to her. She was swept up in the moment. Typically, that only happens once.
Maybe if she works her way into title contention and gets the chance at a belt we look back on that Romero Borella fight and remember her being overwhelmed by the moment but her impressive bounce back win showed me that her issues are behind her.
Here, she’s the better fighter in most every area. Santos did a great job keeping her range and throwing power. Keep in mind, Santos has finished 75% of her wins inside the distance. As she’s stepped up in competition level, two of her four decision wins have come under the UFC umbrella.
De la Rosa keeps her hands quite low, usually to help her pounce on a takedown. That could be an issue here as Santos walks her down and throws hands.
De la Rosa wants this thing on the ground and has landed at least one takedown in each of her last four fights. She has eight of her 11 wins by submission. But let’s not forget that she got tagged up by Ostovich a couple of times.
In general, Taila is the better fighter. The stronger fighter. Ms. de la Rosa has a path to victory here but even if she gets the takedown, I see Santos standing back up and landing the bigger shots.
OFFICIAL PICK: Taila Santos
Roman Dolidze (-190, $8700) v John Allan (+170, $7500)
I love these guys so, yes, I’m a sucker for a big old hairy Georgian, but Dolidze is legit. He’s finished 100% of his seven fights. He has monster leg kicks and that worried Ibragimov literally seconds into the fight.
He’s fluid between the stances and is fairly big for the division. Dolidze is a bit of a counter puncher and very comfortable on the ground as an ADCC grappling champion. He’s skilled in many areas of the fight game.
Allan is a tough dude but untested at this level. Mamute Moreira submitted him in the second round on the Contender Seires. Mamute has gone on to lose three straight in the 1st round.
He came in as a massive underdog against Mike Rodriguez. He looked amazing, to be honest, and I had Rodriguez to win in that fight (save it…so did everyone else you jackals!).
Come to find out that Allan was juiced up and failed a drug test following his win. What I noticed in that fight was that Allan seemed willing to take some damage. He was second to the punch often.
However, when they were up against the cage, Allan had a decided strength advantage. Mike Rodriguez is not a small dude. Was that strictly due to the banned substance in his body? I’m not 100% sure. He does have a decent skill set and, like most brazilians, is dangerous on top or off his back on the ground.
I’m curious to see what John looks like on the scale. This line has held fairly steady with Dolidze right around -190 or -200. That is exactly where I made the fight and do like Dolidze to win this fight more often than not.
Since we haven’t seen a clean John Allan in the octagon, I don’t believe I’ll be betting this fight, but I do like Dolidze to win.
OFFICIAL PICK: Roman Dolidze
Nate Landwehr (+450, $6900) v Movsar Evloev (-600, $9300)
These two have a touch of a history. Landwehr came over to his turf and ended up grabbing a belt in M1. He does have some pop on some punches with eight (T)KOs on this record.
Poor Darren Elkins took an absolute onslaught of punches from Nate, but in that same fight, Nate ate some punches as well and showed a good chin. If you haven’t, go back and watch that fight because it was all action for 15 minutes.
To that note, Nate never slowed down. Up until the final bell he looked like a million bucks and nearly dropped Elkins with an upcut with 15 seconds left in the fight.
Obviously, against Burns, Landwehr wanted nothing to do with Burns on the ground, but was taken down just a few seconds into the fight and was stuck in a choke for the better part of two minutes but got back to his feet and worked his way out of it.
I love the heart he showed in that spot. He landed a couple of big right upper cuts before catching a knee that turned out his lights. I wouldn’t say he has chin issues based on that.
Evloev is becoming more of a well-rounded fighter. Training with Yan will improve anyone’s game. His striking is evolving but he knows where his bread is buttered.
He came into the UFC landing five of 16 takedowns against Choi en route to a decision win. He then landed four of 11 takedown attempts against Barzola en route to a decision win.
Finally, against Mike Grundy, the game was flipped on it’s head and it was Grundy who landed six of 15 takedown attempts and Evloev won somewhat easily with another unanimous decision against Grundy. I do think he’s a beast but he is dropping a round here or there. He’s not a world beater and this fight is much closer than the odds we are given.
Nate Landwehr is absolutely in play at $6900 on DK. The improved striking of Evloev is both a good thing and a bad thing. Sure, he has more skill but it also can lead to a fighter wading into an area of fighting where they’ve improved but are still vulnerable.
If you told me Evloev would MOSTLY wrestle in this fight I’d be all over him but I’m afraid he’ll stand and strike with Nate. I’ll still take the big favorite to win here.
One thing I don’t want in a big favorite is a quitter. We saw that a little bit last card with Kai and Parisian. There is none of that in Evloev.
OFFICIAL PICK: Movsar Evloev
Gian Villante (-210, $8800) v Jake Collier (+180, $7400)
When skinny guys get lazy they gain weight. When fighters lose fights, some dig in and work harder. Others look for easier ways out.
Jake Collier’s first fight in the UFC was at 185. Now he’s fighting at heavyweight? By the way, he was KO’d in that one. He was also dropped in his last fight where he weighed in at 264 pounds. It was an early exit for Collier, but he’s getting another chance at HW here.
Aspinal does have some heavy hands and already has another first round KO in the UFC since his win over Collier but the speed difference between the two was stunning.
I’m trying to figure out what Collier does well at this weight. His cardio isn’t a plus. He doesn’t have the power. Is it wrestling? He’s never been a wrestler. The odds on Collier are going the wrong direction, as is his career.
Gian Villante is no cardio wizard either. He’s lost three of his last four but has far more success in the promotion than Collier and SEEMS a touch more motivated than Jake Collier. While Villante was likely losing the fight against Greene before the submission loss, he was at least competitive. He can throw some bombs and has more power than Collier.
This is a wait until they step on the scales fight for me, but, in general terms, I simply can’t see the version of Collier that showed up last time beating anyone in the division so I’ll go Villante.
OFFICIAL PICK: Gian Villante
Matt Wiman (+320, $7000) v Jordan Leavitt (-400, $9200)
Wiman is almost a year to the day since his last fight and coming off three losses in his last four. We just saw some situation where a bunch of dogs came up big on a card, but this is a case of talent vs experience.
I picked Dumont against Ashlee Evans-Smith because she was by far the more talented fighter but I hadn’t seen Dumont go deep and Evans-Smith has been under the UFC lights a ton.
This isn’t completely apples to apples but Leavitt is by far the more talented fighter, he just hasn’t fought the most talented guys to get to this spot. He jumped on the Contender Series and picked up the 1st round submission against Luke Flores.
We saw him step back against Flores just a few seconds into the fight and shoot for a single leg. He showed good strength. He stacked Flores and reigned down a few punches but eventually got him against the cage to set up the submission.
I really liked the patience I’ve seen from Leavitt in his fights. That’s probably odd to say about someone with three first round finishes and only two fights going the distance but he’s super calm in there.
OFFICIAL PICK: Jordan Leavitt
Jimmy Flick (-165, $8500) v Cody Durden (+145, $7700)
Jimmy sells out for the takedowns and he’s a touch chinny. I don’t think he wants to keep this fight standing and Flick certainly has the edge in BJJ so I do wonder how this fight will flow.
Durden is a decent wrestler but has some power in his hands. He is moving DOWN in weight class. Any time I see someone with KO power moving down I love these spots assuming the weight cut is feasible. At 5’7” he’ll be lean but it’s certainly feasible.
I’m actually on the dog here with Durden. Let’s make sure he looks good on the scale come Friday but I’m actually really looking forward to this fight.
OFFICIAL PICK: Cody Durden
Ilia Topuria (-240, $9000) v Damon Jackson (+200, $7200)
Both of these guys come in off the back of good wins in the UFC. Topuria took the Youssef Zalal fight on short notice and ragdolled his ass all over the cage.
Jackson locked up a guillotine choke in the third round on Mirsad Bektic after taking the fight on three days notice when he was defeniitely losing the fight. That’s an interesting fight to look at, particularly with this matchup so let’s dive into that one.
Jackson was taken down seven times. Bektic had nearly two rounds of control at 9:24. By all accounts he was winning that fight. Jackson fell in love with his guillotine and, obviously, it eventually worked, but he was just giving up takedowns to do so.
Even as Jackson’s corner begged him to give it up, he kept going for it. Watching the fight, I couldn’t tell if he saw and felt something that he knew he could exploit or if he simply didn’t see any other paths to a win. Good on him for finally nailing it but he was losing.
Jackson is always looking for a submission. Guillotines, kimuras and anything else he can do. His corner was pleading with him to fight and stop using submission attempts to prevent getting hit.
Jackson was slippery. He did have really great cardio and trains at altitude. He’s not a dog without a path to victory but he took advantage of Bektic gassing out, as we’ve seen, and locked in a choke.
Outside of that, he didn’t show me a ton. He’s also been clipped before. UFC Veteran Kevin Aguilar KOd him in the 3rd of their fight and he was stopped in the first round against Movlid Khaybulaev.
I’m not saying it, but maybe I am saying it…Topuria is better than Bektic. Georgia is kicking out some good fighters. His wrestling is tremendous, he has good submission defense and I do give the edge to Topuria on the feet as well.
This fight currently sits with a total of 2.5 rounds with juice on the under. Some books have a bet up the fight not starting the third round at -130. With Jackson’s submission and Ilia’s ground game, I wouldn’t be shocked in the smaller cage if this wasn’t a battle that started and finished on the mat.
OFFICIAL PICK: Ilia Topuria
Gabriel Benitez (-210, $8600) v Justin Jaynes (+180, $7600)
Jaynes is taking this fight on short notice and fighting up a weight class. Jaynes will have his father in his corner for what is likely the last time. His father has terminal cancer and obviously our heart goes out to Justin and his family in this situation.
From an emotional standpoint, I can’t think of too many scenarios where this has been a good thing for a fighter. We saw Clark this past weekend fight after just losing his mother-in-law. That didn’t work out too well.
We saw Khabib enter the cage for the first time since his father passed away and, yes, he got the win, but was so emotional after the fight that he retired.
This is such a dangerous sport and having something like that weighing on your brain, even if it slows you down for a millisecond, could be the difference between winning the fight and going to sleep.
Benitez has the leg kicks. Moggly is a monster with his lower half but is coming off back-to-back losses. Sodiq dropped him with a sharp shot to the chin but Moggly was showing some fast hands and actually rocked Sodiq. He was in a dog fight with Omar Morales and came out on the wrong end of it. .
Jaynes does have big power. He’s fallen in love with that power and it’s been good and bad for his career. If Jaynes can get the early finish, fantastic. That is his main path to a win.
Benitez likely has the better chance at winning the decision. With the full camp, being the naturally bigger man and the gas tank to boot he’s got the edge in my eye.
Keep in mind, this betting market has flipped on it’s head. Jaynes opened as the betting favorite and is now a big underdog. We don’t strictly follow Vegas but in this case I think they have it right.
OFFICIAL PICK: Gabriel Benitez
Louis Smolka (-140 , $8300) v Jose Quinonez (+110 , $7900)
Obviously, we just previewed this fight a few cards ago so it’s essentially a copy and paste from before. However, the pricing on DK has changed slightly. Quinonez moves from 7800 to 7900 and Smolka down from 8400 to 8300.
If you’ll remember, the fight was pushed back after Smolka missed weight by a mile and generally looked soft. I’m assuming those issues will be tightened up a touch but is really going to improve his fitness that much?
I’ll once again be watching the weigh-ins to make some final determinations but as of now, the breakdown below is good to go.
Big bounce back spot for both of these fighters who lost to UFC studs in their last fights. Vegas has this one going the distance but Smolka has finished nearly 90% of his wins.
Quinonez fights one way: throw a punch, take a shot. His ceiling is limited in this division and he’d have to fight above his level to win this fight. We know that strikers don’t like being on their back and that is Jose’s path to victory.
Even in his win over Ishihara, he was rocked at the end of the first round from a big left hand and was taking damage in the second. He’s very hitable. Obviously, O’Malley showed that with an early KO after being off for two years. O’Malley is on a different level, but Quinonez was miles off with his punches in the fight before losing.
I love Smolka’s story. He’s been a fighter forever. He was in the UFC, got cut and made his way back to the promised land. He’s still young, at just 29, and presumably hasn’t even entered the prime of his career.
Smelka looked bad against Schnell. He lost the speed battle and worked through several submission attempts by Schnell until he finally fell to a triangle.
He bounced back against MacDonald, looking like the terminator just walked forward and punishing the body before he went upstairs and put him down.
If Quinonez lands one of these takedowns he can drain the clock. Basically if Quinonez can hang in the fight through the first round, I’m pretty comfortable with Quinonez.
OFFICIAL PICK: Jose Quinonez
Bets and DFS added later.