Best bets for UFC Vegas 20 card

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Saturday’s UFC Vegas 20 will present fight fans 12 competitive matchups and feature a light-heavyweight co-main event and a heavyweight main event. In the main event, two highly regarded prospects each young, strong, equipped and focused will compete to determine which will elevate himself into the upper tier of a division that is mainly four men deep.  

While last week’s UFC production was lacking real PPV appeal, this card offers highly competitive matchups, including a few that may be mispriced.

Last week Darrick Minner + 165 dominated Charles Rosa by unanimous decision, which padded “Insight the Octagon” profitability on 2021 releases to 4-3 + 1.75 units.

There will be UFC fight cards to dissect for the next several weeks, so the time is now to increase our bankroll and prepare for future opportunities.

* Aljamain Sterling was released on these pages weeks ago. When I find a future bout offering a price advantage that I feel may evaporate over time, I’ll jump the matchup then post those moves here just as I have with Sterling. For new readers Sterling + 120 is an official release. He fights champion Petr Yan in a bantamweight championship bout to be held March 6.

CIRYL GANE -260 VS. JAIRZINHO ROZENSTRUIK +  220

Heavyweight (265 pounds), Main Event 

Seventh-ranked French prospect Gane comes in with superior physique, profuse striking power and substantial (and appropriate) hype. His background lies in Muay Thai striking, competing seven times before the start of his MMA career. Gane has displayed little wrestling in his past bouts mostly because he has owned superior striking ability over his opponents. I expect that could change in this fight.

Both of these men are gifted Muay Thai, kickboxing talents. Though we’ve not seen him grapple, it’s possible Gane will display some clinching/grappling/wrestling against Rozenstuik as he’s the more well-rounded fighter and Rozenstruik can barely spell wrestling let alone execute its basic functions.

Gane has evolved in each of his four UFC fights. He has beaten sturdy, durable heavyweights in Raphael Pessoa and Junior dos Santos and decisioned Tanner Boser, another promising heavyweight prospect, in a fight in which both men impressed.

What remains to be discovered about Gane is how well he fares on the mat, how he will handle the pressure of being in a main event spotlight and how he’ll deal with a dangerous, explosive power striker much like himself in Rozenstruik. Gane has been a full three rounds only once in his short but impressive pro career.

One thing to note is that outside of his bout with Boser, Gane has not really received striking damage, so it will be interesting to see if his opponent can land leg or arm strikes to test the monster's mettle.

Rozenstruik arrives as the third-ranked heavyweight on the roster. He’ll be the slightly smaller man with less reach than Gane. What Rozenstruik may lack in physical stature and attributes he makes up for in fight experience. Rozenstruik compiled a 76-8-1 record (64 KO/TKOs) in eight years before joining the UFC. He’s clearly the more seasoned striker.

Since becoming a professional mixed martial artist, Rozenstruik has fought impressively and beaten heavyweight opponents far superior in fighting skills than anyone Gane has faced to this point. While many of Rozenstruik’s bouts have been under three rounds, it’s important to understand that he does have main event experience.

In his fight against Alistair Overeem, he survived being “pieced up” for most of the fight by Overeem only to draw deep inside and KO the grizzled veteran with four seconds remaining in the fifth round.

Besides experience, Rozenstruik will have advantages in speed, quickness and explosion, while Gane’s strengths revolve around aggressively stalking opponents and engaging in power fighting. Gane has had great success thus far by walking opponents down and clubbing them into unconsciousness.

Gane opened -300 for this bout, which seems a bit expensive when scrutinizing his body of work, opponents faced and most importantly the ability of his opponent, Rozenstruik. So I must agree with the slight move in money to Rozenstruik.

Will Gane choose to fight the more experienced, refined Rozenstruik on the feet, which is both men’s forte, or will he choose by need or necessity to take this fight to the floor, where I believe Rozenstruik is at his most vulnerable?

This is the key to the fight. As this bout wears on, the advantage will go to Rozenstruik as Gane is a muscular specimen who could easily tire physically and mentally the longer it goes.

Total for this fight: 1.5 Over -190

Pass pending weigh-ins.

RONNIE LAWRENCE -165 VS. VINCE CACHERO + 145

Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Last week we uncovered a live underdog with Darrick Minner’s outstanding unanimous-decision performance. This week I hope to offer another “mangy mutt” who, for several reasons, will arrive at the octagon Saturday night with focus, determination, preparedness and price advantage.

Lawrence makes his UFC debut. He recently aligned with Sanford MMA in Florida, which clearly displays the seriousness of his intentions.

Height, reach and age all favor Lawrence in this bout, but a closer look into his past fights forces me to believe that he has become more prepared for this fight by switching camps than by the experience of his past bouts as his body of competition is uninspiring.

His opponent is Cachero, who lost his UFC debut to Jamall Emmers in a one-sided affair. Emmers is a physical monster who competes in the featherweight division. Cachero, a true bantamweight, took the bout on two days’ notice and up a weight class in order to gain access into the UFC.

What we learned from Cachero’s performance is that he is fearless, a gifted fighter and as tough as a three-dollar steak. This fight offers Cachero the opportunity for a full training camp against an opponent in his weight class who has not competed against the quality of fighter Cachero has.

Cachero recently made the move to Factory X, which is a camp similar to Sanford in that the fighters there are talented and superbly trained. These men have taken matters into their own hands in order to arrive in the octagon and perform at their absolute best.

Cachero, though the shorter man giving away 2 inches of reach, has faced a far superior level of competition. He has earned this opportunity by showing the UFC that he’s ready, willing and able to step into the octagon at any time. Further, he draws a debuting athlete who is nowhere near the talent that Cachero just faced in Emmers.

Lawrence opened -180 in this bout, which may be based more on the beatdown Cachero took against Emmers than anything Lawrence has earned in order to be called the favorite.

A light stream of play has knocked Cachero’s price down from + 160 at openers to the current + 145, which is enough for me to move immediately.

Cachero + 145

Total for this fight is: 2.5 over -190

ALEX CACERES -220 VS. KEVIN CROOM + 190

Featherweight (145 pounds)

These are two gifted, experienced fighters. Croom actually has more professional fights than Caceres does, which is unusual for Caceres, who has been in the UFC since 2011, competing in 24 bouts.

Caceres recently moved to Florida, and his results since have been impressive. He is a long fighter who uses fluid movement and evasive tactics to frustrate opponents, which sets up his outstanding counter striking. If there’s one critique of Caceres, it’s that he’s now 32 and is not as flashy, quick and reflexive as he was when he was younger.

Caceres relies on athleticism and natural movement as his primary source of defense. Unfortunately for him, those traits have waned and have not been replaced by any form of structural, tight defense.

Croom is an experienced junkyard dog who looked impressive in submitting Roosevelt Roberts in his last bout. Croom does not possess the movement or counter striking abilities of his opponent, but he’s gritty and unafraid to mix it up. Croom needs to fight in close quarters then eventually force the fight to the floor, where his skills are most evident.

This clash of styles will be fascinating to watch because if Croom is unable to work inside against Caceres, he’ll get sliced and diced from distance. That said, if this fight gets ugly and is fought in close, clasping quarters or gets to the ground, Croom will hold a great advantage.

Lean Croom

There has been little movement in this price. so I’ll hold off on any release until after weigh-ins.

 

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