Best bets for UFC 267

October 29, 2021 09:20 PM

This week’s UFC 267 card changes things up with elite, recognized talent competing in the octagon. The event is on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, so that means a 9 a.m. ET start Saturday with athletes from 13 countries competing in the larger 30-foot cage.

We need not worry about name recognition because of the six main-card bouts, 11 of the 12 combatants are ranked in the top 11 of their divisions. The lone exception is Khamzat Chimaev, who will be ranked in the top 15 welterweights after this bout, win or lose.

Last week we lost a split decision with Dwight Grant (+ 110). The one-unit loss brings 2021 profitability to 27-19 (+ 11.72 units).

Let’s turn our attention to this week’s card.

Jan Blachowicz (-250) vs. Glover Teixeira (+ 210)

Light-heavyweight (205 pounds), main event

Teixeira is the No. 1-ranked contender who has earned his way to this bout. At 41, he is grizzled, hardened, experienced, crafty, dangerous on the floor and desperate for this championship opportunity, which comes after 14 years of professional fighting. Teixeira’s 32-7 record displays competitive bouts with every top-ranked light-heavyweight in the last decade.

Any bettor considering Teixeira will be able to count on a fighter who will enter the cage willing to do anything for the opportunity to hold the light-heavyweight strap. His focus, hunger and experience make him one dangerous fighter, and his reputation is such that he’ll have the MMA world rooting for his success.

Over his last 11 bouts, champion Blachowicz has rattled off a 10-1 tally, including a super fight victory over middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in March. What’s more important is that he has been an underdog in all but one of those bouts. The betting market has overlooked Blachowicz, but now he enters the cage as a favorite.

Blachowicz is an accomplished striker with a black belt in BJJ. He’s a structured man for the division who has power in each limb and championship-level experience. He has won five straight bouts since his last loss at the hands of Thiago Santos and enters his title defense brimming with confidence.

Blachowicz will be the younger man by three years. He’ll also have a reach advantage of a couple of inches with the arms and legs, which will serve him well. I anticipate Blachowicz will want to force Teixeira into a stand-up fight where Blachowicz’s size, length and striking prowess will provide an advantage.

Teixeira will work to get Blachowicz to the floor, where he is at his most potent, as Teixeira averages two takedowns per 15 minutes. He’ll have to penetrate the 65 percent effective takedown defense of the larger Blachowicz to do so, and it’s my judgment that he’ll find that very difficult.

Blachowicz opened -260 and is currently -295.

Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds, pick-’em.

Lean Over

Petr Yan (-240) vs. Cory Sandhagen (+ 200)

Interim bantamweight championship (135 pounds), co-main event

Yan is a Russian destroyer decorated as a master of sport in Sambo and boxing, and he holds a blue belt in BJJ. After debuting in the UFC in 2018, the champion won seven straight fights before his DQ in March against Aljamain Sterling.

Yan is a proficient, calculating, precision-based striker, but that’s not to say this championship-level fighter is not fluent with grappling and wrestling. Until the Sterling bout, my take was that Yan had been matched against fighters who were tailor-made for his skills, but his demolition of Sterling affected that quite a bit.

Yan has faced similarly sized fighters in his UFC bouts, but that will change in this interim challenge.

The third-ranked Sandhagen arrives off a closely contested loss to T.J. Dillashaw, a loss that in my opinion he won as well as a loss that could not have prepared him more to face Yan, who is of similar size, ability and mindset.

Sandhagen will hold physical advantages that Yan has not had to contend with. Sandhagen is 3 inches taller with an arm and leg reach superiority that will surely come into play while this bout is on the feet.

Yan is a master anywhere the fight goes, so Sandhagen must ensure that this bout remains standing. In a standing bout Sandhagen’s range, size and physicality will be displayed, and in my judgment could cause Yan plenty of duress. However, should Yan manage to drag the lanky striker to the mat, the course of this fight could change dramatically as Yan’s ground ability will dominate.

Yan opened -210 and is now -230.

Total for this fight: 4.5 rounds, Over -130.

Alexander Volkov (-275) vs. Marcin Tybura (+ 235)

Heavyweight (265 pounds)

The ninth-ranked Tybura is an effective striker with a black belt in BJJ. He’s not necessarily a powerful striker, though his kicks can inflict damage from distance and he uses his knees and elbows in the clinch effectively. He’ll need to be able to close distance to fight inside the pocket, as Tybura will be smaller than his opponent and will give up considerable size if not weight.

The fifth-ranked Volkov has earned his way into the top level of the heavyweight division. While Volkov is among the top seven athletes in the division, the talent pool after that melds into a large group of fighters — Tybura included — who are not to be mistaken for championship-caliber fighters.

Volkov possesses a wealth of professional experience and is on the ascent, for he has been improving in each bout. He’ll be the taller fighter by 4 inches and will hold arm and leg length advantages over his opponent, which will serve him well in what likely will be a kickboxing, stand-up fight.  

Volkov uses his size to maintain distance, which sets up his powerful leg kicks, knees and striking. He’s fully decorated in BJJ, Kyokushin Karate and Tsu Shin Gen, which is a Japanese karate derivative that has techniques for standing combat and ground combat.

So Volkov will want to keep Tybura at the end of his strikes and kicks, while Tybura will want to press the large Russian backward to compete with him from inside position. That would negate Volkov’s power while accentuating Tybura’s pop.

If Tybura can find a way to get his arm raised, he’ll effectively take Volkov’s place of relevance in the division.

Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds, pick-’em.

Magomed Ankalaev (-300) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (+ 245)

Light-heavyweight (205 pounds)

This slate is packed with international talent led by a contingent of elite Russian combatants who have had trouble with visas and travel outside their hemisphere.

While Yan, Volkov, Chimaev and Islam Makhachev qualify as elite Russian talent, so does the seventh-ranked Ankalaev, who is a master of sport in combat Sambo. He just lacks the degree of competition faced and depth of experience the others possess.

Ankalaev arrives with the same forceful forward-pressure grappling most Russian fighters display. While his striking is functional, it has been waged against a caliber of opponent that may make that facet of his fighting appear more effective than it actually is.  

Ankalaev’s last bout was a decision over Nikita Krylov, who represents the best competition he has faced. He enters this bout prepared to wage a balanced war, yet he’s fully aware that his advantage revolves around grounding his opponent and so he can fight where his strength lies — on the mat.

Oezdemir arrives as the eighth-ranked athlete in a division steeped with dynamic fighting talent. In fact, Oezdemir’s resume of opponents is as complete as anyone in the division’s elite ranked talent and then some. He brings a kickboxing skill to this bout, and provided he can keep the forward-pressing Russian at distance, he has a real chance to piece Ankalaev up as his foe presses forward to engage in grappling.

Oezdemir is 2-4 in his last six UFC wars, but it’s important to understand that those losses were to fighters with elite talent who far exceed in resume and result any fighter Ankalaev has faced.

Ankalaev will realize quickly that the striking acumen of Oezdemir is on a level above his ability, so the intrigue will lie in whether the Russian will be able to ground the Swiss striker to gain advantage.

Of all the main event bouts, I believe Oezdemir is the fighter who qualifies as a live dog.

Oezdemir opened + 235 and is now + 250. I’ll make Oezdemir an official release at + 250 or better, realizing that the price on Ankalaev may continue to go up until the opening bell.

Oezdemir + 250 or better.

Total for this fight: 2.5 rounds, Under -130.

Lean to the Over.


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