Saturday’s UFC Fight Island 7 from Abu Dhabi will be broadcast live on ABC, which is a monumental accomplishment for the organization. The slate is scheduled to begin at noon ET on ESPN+ , with the main card airing on ABC at 3 p.m. This is the first of three productions in eight days.
Next week’s “Insight the Octagon” column will devote itself to the Jan. 20 card on which Michael Chiesa takes on fellow welterweight contender Neil Magny. I love midweek fight events!
Jan. 23 will be the highly anticipated UFC 257, with the main event featuring Irish loudmouth Conor McGregor in a rematch against Dustin Poirier. The releases for that card will be submitted Jan. 22.
The purpose of “Insight the Octagon” is to derive bottom-line profitability from fight productions offered by the UFC. And while it’s not always feasible to profit from each event, I’ll pledge that over the course of the year, those who invest in every release will earn when the end of the year arrives.
Last year “Insight the Octagon” releases realized a 39-27 result, earning 20.47 units of net profitability. While not all years might be as lucrative, all years will provide a profitable result. Point Spread Weekly readers who wagered $50 per release in 2020 would have earned $1,023 for the year.
It has been three weeks without elbows, ankle locks or knockouts, but finally our wait is over. Let’s dig right in.
Max Holloway -160 vs. Calvin Kattar + 140, featherweight (145 pounds), main event
The sixth-ranked Kattar is a uniquely skilled fighter who relies primarily on his boxing. He is large for the division at 5-foot-11, and his 72-inch reach will provide a 3-inch arm reach advantage.
Kattar steps well up in class for this bout against the former champion, and he’ll look to press this fight and force engagement from Holloway. Kattar is best when walking opponents down and backing them up, which allows him to work off his piston jab. Kattar has tremendous precision striking coupled with profuse power. He must be respected.
Holloway enters as the No. 1-ranked contender, though many believe an unfavorable decision in his last outing cost him an opportunity to regain his title. In Holloway’s mind and the minds of many in the MMA community, a win here almost ensures another shot at the title. So Holloway has much on the line in this bout.
The younger man by three years, Holloway has been in the octagon with the absolute best fighters at 145 and 155 pounds. His body of competition, his vast experience and his championship pedigree make him a deserved favorite in a fight that looks to be ultra-competitive.
Holloway utilizes aggressive forward pressure combined with a vast array of arm and leg striking. He might not have Kattar’s power, but he surely has a championship arsenal of offensive and defensive weaponry to go with the mental savvy to survive any threat. Holloway will need to account for Kattar’s size and power, for Kattar has similar fight dynamics to Poirier, who bested Holloway at 155 pounds in 2012.
Holloway’s last five fights have been five-round championship-level bouts, so we know he’s conditioned to go 25 minutes. The question that must be asked is: Have those wars taken anything away from Holloway?
The UFC matchmakers deserve kudos for selecting these two warriors for this ABC exposure. In essence, they’ve paired the most aggressive predators in all their divisions to display to the network audience. Both men will march forcefully to the center of the octagon to engage with one another, and this won’t be a pinochle game!
Holloway opened -190 vs. Kattar + 160, and despite Holloway’s resume, Kattar is getting bet. I think the bookmakers got this line correct at opening. Holloway’s experience and more diverse arsenal will win this fight via decision, as I handicap it.
But use patience, as this price is dropping, and every penny saved is a penny earned.
Total is 4.5 rounds Over -170.
Carlos Condit -155 vs. Matt Brown + 145, welterweight (170 pounds)
These two had been scheduled to meet several years ago. Now Condit is forced to fight to earn, though he does love fighting, and Brown fights after contemplating retirement because he’s as much a warrior as Condit.
Condit has advantages in quickness and height, while Brown’s power and aggression mean Condit should be very wary of him. Based on each man’s last performance, I believe Brown has the advantage. Both are well past their primes, but back in the day, each was a top-20 talent, and this fight would have been on fire. Saturday’s matchup is most likely to smolder.
Total is 2.5 rounds Under -115.
Santiago Ponzinibbio -270 vs. Jingliang Li + 230, welterweight (170 pounds)
Li is the pioneer of Chinese mixed martial artists. He’s uniquely versed in Shuai Jiao, Sanda and BJJ. Nicknamed “the Leech,” Li chooses to engage opponents on the feet and strike as opposed to roll on the floor, and he’ll find a willing adversary standing on the other side of the cage in Ponzinibbio.
The Argentinian enters the octagon with a background in kickboxing and BJJ. Ponzinibbio has been away from the octagon since November 2018, when he dominated current No. 9-ranked welterweight Neil Magny with a fourth-round finish. Ponzi’s time away has dropped him from the rankings, and he is eager to return to the UFC with a splash as he aims to finish the sturdy Li.
This bout looks to be a stand-up war with Ponzinibbio utilizing spinning kicks and a more flamboyant striking style against a fighter in Li who will be more measured, deliberate and forward-pressing in his attempts to corner his opponent and rain damage on him. I’d liken this fight to a tortoise-and-hare situation.
While I do view Ponzinibbio as a substantial favorite, Li is the originator of Chinese MMA and arrives with pride, toughness and tremendous durability. This fight will be a war, but a war I believe will go to the judges.
Total is 1.5 rounds Over -185.
I’ll go to the props for this release: Fight goes the distance + 110.
I have a couple of other positions that need to ferment, so check out GambLou.com on Saturday morning to obtain my final releases for this Fight Island 7 card.
Lastly, I had released Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan in late November or early December, but their fight was rescheduled for March. That line has now been released: Yan -140 vs. Sterling + 120. I’ll have much to say about this, but for now, run — don’t walk — and invest in ...
Sterling + 120