Best bets for UFC Fight Night

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This week’s UFC card takes place at the Apex center in Las Vegas after having been scheduled for London. Because of this we’ll see a handful of English fighters as well as plenty of international flavor on this slate. It’s unfortunate that the many international fighters on this card are forced to travel to the U.S. instead of staying home or near their homelands. Travel is absolutely a factor in UFC bouts.

Last week Giga Chikadze overwhelmed favored Edson Barboza in the main event, costing us -1.1 units. Chikadze’s length, movement and precision striking were simply too much for the grizzled veteran. My other release, Daniel Rodriguez, was a different story. He forced his bout against Kevin Lee into the second round and later, where his size and superior striking earned him a victory as an underdog + 130.

Insight the Octagon is 21-16 + 7.88 units with Jared Cannonier -160 parlay Leg 1 in pocket.

Derek Brunson + 160 vs. Darren Till -180 

Middleweight (185 pounds), main event

Fifth-ranked Brunson arrives as an undervalued combatant. His recent history displays dominating performances over highly regarded Edmen Shahbazyan and Kevin Holland.

Brunson has faced a superior level of competition in the UFC. With this bout he will again be tested by a fighter who is younger and is striking-based, as his last two opponents have been.

Brunson has a brown belt in BJJ to supplement his Division II NCAA wrestling pedigree. He’s on a resurgence of late and is taking great pleasure in bursting the bubbles of the young talent supposedly in position to upset the veteran.

The intent of scheduling this card for London was to fuel UFC’s growth in Europe by highlighting the seventh-ranked Till, an Englishman, as well as others from the region. The fighters from abroad who now must endure travel lose some of their potential advantage, no doubt.

Decorated in Muay Thai and Luta Livre Esportiva, a grappling/judo variant, Till chooses to fight opponents standing. He possesses decent footwork, and though he will be giving away height and reach advantages to Brunson, make no mistake that while this fight is on the feet, Till will control the pace and performance by pumping jabs and combinations at his incoming opponent.

Till beat a depleted Kelvin Gastelum in his inaugural middleweight bout in late 2019, then lost a unanimous decision to champion Robert Whittaker in his last bout in July 2020. Since moving to middleweight, Till has been relatively inactive, driven by his constant battle with injuries. This forces me to regard him as untested and unproven at this weight class.  

As I handicap this bout as a five-round affair, I also concern myself with Brunson’s age. At 37 he’s still fighting with great confidence and is coming off a five-round decision win, but that was over Holland. This opponent will be more forceful on the feet than Holland, and I believe he’ll be much more difficult to drag down to the dirt.

Where this fight occurs will indicate who will get his hand raised. I see Brunson having a dominant outing if he can take Till to the floor and ring him up, especially early. But if Brunson is forced to spend 25 minutes on his feet as Till attempts to gain inside position, he will have great difficulty competing effectively as Till’s footwork and striking will overwhelm the cagey veteran.

Total for this fight: 4.5 rounds, Under -150.

Tom Aspinall -260 vs. Sergey Spivak + 230 

Heavyweight (265 pounds), co-main event

The 13th-ranked Aspinall fights out of the same gym as countryman Till and arrives fresh off his third UFC finish, a rear naked choke of durable heavyweight Andrei Arlovski in February.

Aspinall is well-rounded, supplementing his BJJ black belt with effective striking. He’s young, fast, improving and regarded by the organization and handicappers as a rising European draw in a thin division.

Spivak arrives on short notice, as Aspinall had another opponent originally scheduled.

Spivak, 26, of Ukraine, is 4-2 in the UFC and has won his last three bouts. Ranked 14th in the division, Spivak jumped at this opportunity to further his career and ranking by potentially topping the heavy favorite.

Spivak hits Las Vegas with some intestinal fortitude to match his momentum. He’s a couple of years younger than Aspinall and giving away 2 inches of height, but these two are pretty even physically.

Aspinall is a finisher, and perhaps they’ve tossed Spivak in to be the mark in this fight. But Spivak’s experience, momentum, improvement and the fact that he takes this fight voluntarily and on short notice indicates to me that he is out to prove something.

Total for this fight: 1.5 rounds, Under -140.

Lean Over 1.5 + 120

Modestas Bukauskas -155 vs. Khalil Rountree + 135 

Light-heavyweight (205 pounds)

This is a desperation duel, as each man has lost his last two bouts.

Rountree fights between Phuket Island and Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, so this is a home situation regarding travel, allowing him to prepare solely for this fight. He has displayed dynamic inconsistency during his five-year UFC stint. Rountree’s effective striking and kicking won bouts early in his career, but as he has climbed the ranks of the division, he has struggled to transfer his power or any consistency.

To be effective, Rountree must back up Bukauskas, which will allow him to use his best weapon, leg kicks. If Rountree can hold the center of the octagon and back up Bukauskas, he’ll have the advantage.  

Bukauskas is a Lithuanian fighting out of England, so instead of this being a home situation for him, he must endure travel to try to earn a victory and further his career.

Bukauskas has faced a far superior level of competition than his opponent. He is a large man and is 2 inches taller, four years younger and will have a 4-inch reach advantage in a fight that’s expected to be a stand-up affair.

Bukauskas has a kickboxing background. Keeping Rountree at distance and at the end of his leg and arm strikes is his plan. How Rountree handles the pressure and precision striking of Bukauskas is critical.

Bukauskas -155

Leg 2 of the open parlay with Cannonier -160: + 1.67u

Total for this fight: 1.5 Over -125.

Lean Over.

 

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