Best bets for UFC's Fight Island 8

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Wednesday’s UFC event begins at 6 a.m. Pacific Time, so the theme might as well be Beatdowns and Bagels.

Max Holloway dominated Calvin Kattar in last week’s 2021 UFC kickoff event held at Fight Island. Holloway’s impressive performance clarifies his position as the No. 1 contender to the featherweight title. Insight the Octagon earned a full unit of profit to kick off the year and now looks to Wednesday’s UFC Fight Island 8 production.  

Fight Island 8, the second of three events this week, is highlighted by an international collection of fighting talent converging on Abu Dhabi from 11 countries. The fighters and their skill sets are diverse in nature yet designed for one result — to incapacitate the opponent and elevate oneself into more lucrative opportunities.

NEIL MAGNY (-140) VS. MICHAEL CHIESA (+ 120)

Welterweight (170 pounds) Main Event

Fight fans will be treated to a terrific elimination fight as eighth-ranked Chiesa takes on ninth-ranked Magny. The victor will earn his way into near title contention while the loser must regroup, refocus and recommit to regain lost momentum.

Chiesa has won three straight bouts after moving up from lightweight to the 170-pound welterweight division. At 6-foot-1, Chiesa is physically large enough to wage war with the welterweights as evidenced by those three victories, yet the athletes he defeated in Carlos Condit and Diego Sanchez are no longer regarded as top-20 fighters. The other was against a fighter too slight to be regarded as a legitimate welterweight in Rafael dos Anjos, who has since returned to lightweight.

Chiesa is a “roller,” meaning he opts to engage opponents, clasp onto them and drag them to the mat for a BJJ competition, which is his strength. Chiesa’s striking is functional enough to get him into position to clasp, but not a great deal more. This is his first opportunity to headline a UFC event and the scheduled five rounds of war that potentially come with that distinction.

Magny is a bona fide welterweight in size and structure. He trains at team Elevation, a gym that is home to a number of highly skilled top-ranked UFC fighters. Magny’s sole opportunity to headline an event was also his last loss, to Santiago Ponzinibbio in Brazil in 2018. It’s fair to say his experience from that night will work as an advantage for him Wednesday.

Magny stands 6-foot-3 with an 80-inch arm reach, giving him substantial advantages in this bout, but he must use it to keep Chiesa at a distance and force him into a striking match. Magny is also equipped with a blue belt in BJJ, so while he does not want to compete with Chiesa on the ground, he does have aptitude there, more than Chiesa does with his striking skill.

Magny’s last three fights have all been wins over highly regarded longtime welterweight competitors, including Li Jingliang, who finished Ponzinibbio in the first round last weekend.

I regard this bout as a great spot for Magny to display his skills against a fighter in Chiesa who is a bit too singularly dimensioned to compete against the UFC’s top 10 welterweights. Chiesa spends time as an analyst for the UFC when not fighting. Magny would like to help define Chiesa’s future career path.

Magny’s main event experience, his physical advantages and the fact that he has spent his entire career at 170 pounds force me to regard him as a legitimate favorite in this fight.

Magny opened -160, and his price has dropped, much to my surprise. I’ll monitor this line to try to gain more advantage but Magny -140 is a release.

Total for this fight: 2.5 Over -230.

MOUNIR LAZZEZ (-1225) VS. WARLLEY ALVES (+ 195)

Welterweight Co-Main Event

Alves was one of the most potent, dangerous, highly touted mixed martial artists to arrive on the UFC scene when he debuted in 2014. He’s a BJJ specialist who has earned victories over Alan Jouban and Colby Covington, yet Alves seems to shine more in the darkness of training camp as opposed to when the lights shine brightest on fight night. Alves’ performance in recent bouts does not match the hype emitted from respected trainers and fighters, and Wednesday he faces a powerful, explosive striker/kickboxer.

Lazzez made an immediate impact on the UFC last summer when he destroyed Abdul Razak Alhassan in a fight in which Alhassan came in greatly hyped but woefully under-conditioned. Lazzez showed great striking and counterpunching and chopped down a fighter who was quite highly regarded.

In his sophomore bout, he must be patient in order to draw Alves into the firefight because rushing and forcing a striking march onto an accomplished BJJ practitioner is the prescription for getting submitted.

If Lazzez keeps this fight standing, he’ll batter Alves and further propel himself up the welterweight ranks.

Total for this fight: 2.5 Under -120

TOM BREESE (-145) VS. OMAR AKHMEDOV (+ 125)

Middleweight (185 pounds)

“Styles make fights,” Angelo Dundee would always say, and he was dead-on correct. Here we have a large structured British striker fighting a sawed-off Russian grappler. 

Akhmedov must get inside Breese’s 6-3 frame and clasp onto the striker in order to tax him and drain him of his ability to separate and continue to fight. Akhmedov’s advantage lies in his unrelenting grappling pressure, and he’ll need to take Breeze to the floor if he is to get his hand raised. Akhmedov wears on opponents to tire them until he can attempt to find his submission. 

Breese is more a traditional European striker who competes using an upright and erect posture. He must batter the incoming Russian with elbows, kicks and punches to discourage the vise grip from gaining inside access.  

This is going to be a great battle of styles, for if this is a slow dance it favors the Russian, but if this bout is fought at distance, Breese may … breeze. 

Released in the last two editions of Insight the Octagon yet I'll pass until future notice.

Total for this fight: 2.5 -145

MIKE DAVIS (-160) VS. MASON JONES (+ 140)

Lightweight (155 pounds)

This will be brief in that this fight looks to be a baptism by beatdown.

Jones, from Wales, arrives decorated with a couple of cage warrior titles and plenty of ambition. His fighting style can best be described as an unrefined version of Justin Gaethje. Jones has a solid wrestling base but chooses to stand flat-footed and launch looping, telegraphed shots in order to knock out opponents. He’s tough but lacks striking precision and any form of strike defense.

Davis is simply a killer. He also has a wrestling base, but his striking is more refined, exact and powerful than Jones’. Davis has been in the cage with much higher-level fighters and arrives with only two defeats to absolute top-level mixed martial artists. 

Davis opened -225, which I thought was not representative of his skills. I line Davis at least -250, but fans like the Welshman, which manifests into an investment opportunity on Davis. I’m tempted to look at an ITD (Inside the Distance) prop also but feel the Welshman may be able to withstand the ferocity that’s going to be unleashed on him Wednesday.

Davis -160

Total for this fight: 2.5 Over -145

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