Best bets for UFC Fight Night: Edwards-Muhammad

sterling

Last week’s UFC 259 was an outstanding 15-fight slate that was marred by the disqualification of Petr Yan against Aljamain Sterling in the bantamweight championship bout. I had released Sterling as a best bet for the evening, and while the final result was a + 120 deposit, the final grade on my actual handicapping for that bout grades a D-.

Wagering on sporting events requires investors live and die with the results as graded by the sport first, then by the rules of the sportsbook second. In this case what is important to understand is that my results show a profit, but in all honesty my handicapping was unsatisfactory. Yan was not only going to beat Sterling, he was probably going to finish him.

I’ve rarely discussed bad beats we’ve dealt with here at “Insight the Octagon” because this is a bottom-line business. I record the final result, then move forward because the nature of gambling is such that unusual beats/wins are bound to occur.

When one loses by some terrible circumstance, it’s important to understand that the wager may have lost, but if the handicapping process was correct, the bettor should remain confident in their “process” because in the long run “process” is sustainable while luck is not.

For a situation like Yan vs. Sterling, the lesson learned is that while I enhance my bottom line with a + 120 deposit, the overall handicap of the event was simply awful. Yan lesson learned is this: Know the rules!

Good fortune was on my side last week. The single point of focus now is to refine the process because it will take sound, effective handicapping to deliver a profitable result in 2021, not luck.

Insight the Octagon 2021: 6-5 + 1.95 units

LEON EDWARDS -240 VS. BELAL MUHAMMAD + 200

Welterweight (170 pounds) Main Event

Muhammad was scheduled to compete against Sean Brady last week on the UFC 259 card but was kicked up into main event status to fight Edwards on this slate because 14th-ranked welterweight Khamzat Chimaev is out with lingering effects of COVID-19.

Muhammad is more than enough replacement for Chimaev as Edwards now faces an opponent with more experience, seasoning and guile and one who is tough and unrelenting. Muhammad enters off three wins, all of which have transpired since Edwards’ last bout.

Muhammad, 13th-ranked, employs solid wrestling/grappling coupled with an unrelenting forward pressure to complement his effective striking. Since a knockout loss to Vicente Luque in 2016, Muhammad has compiled an 8-1 record with the only loss being to 11th-ranked welterweight fighter Geoff Neal.

Muhammad can compete anywhere the fight goes, and he is catching his opponent at the correct time.

Edwards is a fighter few are aware of. He has been inactive since July of 2019, so  out of sight, out of mind.

Edwards has had trouble getting fights simply because no one wants to fight this well-rounded, refined, dangerous mixed martial artist. COVID-19 complications and lockdowns have also compounded the difficulty for Edwards, a Jamaican, who resides in England.

Edwards is ranked third in the division, and it’s my judgment that only welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Stephen Thompson belong with Edwards in the division’s top three. Since a decision loss to Usman in 2015, Edwards is 8-0, having beaten Luque, Bryan Barbarena, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and Rafael dos Anjos.

In this bout, Edwards will have to address his inactivity against a fighter in Muhammad who is warm and ready to fire. We saw the importance of being active when Dustin Poirier drubbed Conor McGregor.

Edwards, a southpaw, will be the taller fighter by three inches, the younger athlete by three years and will hold three-inch arm- and leg-reach advantages. Edwards’ experience, body of competition and overall offensive and defensive arsenal make him a more complete fighter than Muhammad, but that does not factor in Edwards’ time away.

Muhammad’s recent activity may hurt him, though, as he took an abundance of deep-tissue damage to his lead leg/calf from Dhiego Lima’s violent kicks on Feb. 15. Even though Muhammad won the bout, his lead leg was severely damaged. Four weeks is not a long time to recover from that type of leg bruises, so Muhammad does enter with some concern for that limb.

As Edwards employs a devastating leg attack, he’ll surely be aware of his opponent’s history, tendencies and injury.

Edwards is a fighter who believes he is most deserving in the division for a title shot, and his disgust, angst and frustration at having to wait all this time to prove it is tangible. Edwards will show up Saturday night focused and intent on delivering a message.

Edwards is supremely motivated to display his wares Saturday. His size, youth, length and reach advantages will complement his refined precision striking and deft movement and display that, though Muhammad is a legitimate top-12 fighter, Edwards just may be beyond that in ability.

Total for this fight: 4.5 Over -185

DAN IGE -130 VS. GAVIN TUCKER + 110

Featherweight (145 pounds)

This may be the most competitive, well-matched bout on the fight card.

Tucker, a Canadian, is unranked but on the cusp of entering the top 15 with a win Saturday night. Tucker, 4-1 in the UFC, is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and enters this bout 13-1 having won his last three fights in fairly impressive fashion. Tucker does step into this fight on short notice. In the UFC, opportunity sometimes comes with risk (see also Belal Muhammad).

Tucker is comfortable rolling on the mat and will want to direct the action on Ige, crowd him and force the clinch in order to drag this fight to the floor. Tucker allows a porous 4.3 significant strikes against per round, so he’ll need to overcome that lack of strike defense by pressing the fight against his opponent and negating Ige’s distance. Tucker averages three takedowns per round, so his plan always involves a plentiful dose of grappling.

Ige, the ninth-ranked featherweight, represents a significant step up in competition for Tucker. Ige is a former NCAA Division III wrestler decorated with a black belt in BJJ as well as a brown belt in Judo. Ige’s striking is highly effective, and his significant strike defense (3.6) is considerably lower than his opponent’s. Ige’s takedown defense is a strength, and it’s complemented by his fluid movement and effective counter striking.

Ige will hold a solid advantage standing, and his wrestling/judo are evolved enough to match any grappling advances that Tucker may introduce during the fight. Ige is the more complete fighter, and he has faced a far superior class of opponent. He is worthy of favorite status.

Ige opened -155 for this fight. Tucker’s recent success may be the reason this line is compressing.

Ige -130 (or lower) is a firm release, but I’ll remain patient, planning to attack this price sometime this week at its lowest point.

Total for this fight: 2.5 Over -260

 

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