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It’s officially fall, so pop that pumpkin imperial ale and get ready for two title fights at UFC 266 — and potentially a Nick Diaz sighting.
Heavyweights: Curtis Blaydes (-300) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+ 250)
It doesn’t get more “striker vs. grappler” than this top-10 heavyweight pairing on the main card in Las Vegas. The No. 4-ranked Blaydes wrestles early and often, while the No. 6-ranked Rozenstruik has yet to even attempt a takedown in his UFC career, let alone land one. The stats confirm their stylistic backgrounds. Blaydes, a decorated wrestler, has spent 45 percent of his octagon time on the mat dominating opponents. Rozenstruik, with a lengthy kickboxing career, has finished nearly every one of his MMA wins by strikes and avoids the ground at all costs.
We’ll learn a lot in the first few minutes of the fight when Blaydes mounts his wrestling offense. It’s either Rozenstruik by TKO or Blaydes by decision or a late finish. The correlated outcomes make prop-hunting this matchup more profitable.
Historically, we favor the wrestler in matchups such as these, but the Over 1.5 rounds presents an interesting opportunity to back the wrestler at a far more reasonable price while also protecting against a surprise underdog haymaker in the later rounds. The numbers like Blaydes to wrestle his way to victory. To do so, he’ll need to close the distance and weather the precise, powerful strikes of Rozenstruik at the start of each round. Expect him to clinch first to set up his takedowns.
Moneyline play on Blaydes, and mix him with Valentina Shevchenko for a better return. Over 1.5 rounds. Depending on how big you go, a tiny hedge on Rozenstruik by TKO or in Round 1 will offer long odds.