Israel Adesanya’s dynamic KO victory over Paulo Costa at UFC 253 cemented him as the undisputed middleweight champion. Top contender Jared Cannonier and former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker meet later this year in an elimination bout to determine who will be the challenger in Adesanya’s next title defense.
Insight the Octagon profitability grew incrementally as we won .20 u with Adesanya “inside the distance” (that price closed + 140) but lost with Zubaira Tukhugov -110. Despite an unfair weight advantage, Tukhugov could not overcome his lack of fight intelligence as he danced his way into a late loss against Hakeem Dawodu. The open parlay with Adesanya -170 is working, and I will use that on an upcoming card.
Insight the Octagon to date: 31-19 + 18.0 units
This week’s card from Fight Island is steeped with athletes who are debuting or have very little name recognition, as opposed to last week’s slate. Nonetheless, these cards spawn future contenders who present advantages in upcoming matchups, so I regard this slate as important for those opportunities.
Holly Holm -125 vs. Irene Aldana -105, women’s bantamweight (135 pounds), main event
Holm enters this bout a polished, well-rounded fighter who sports a wealth of kickboxing and MMA experience against the absolute best women’s fighters over the last decade. Holm also utilizes forward pressure and a damaging striking and kickboxing attack when she is at her most dangerous. The southpaw is used to having the advantage of height and length, but in this encounter those advantages wash: She will have only a slight reach advantage over her lanky opponent.
Aldana steps up in class for this opportunity to face Holm. She deserves this bout based on her December victory over Ketlen Vieira, a winner last week over Sijara Eubanks, to solidify her top-5 position in the division. Aldana’s advantages lie in her youth, her grappling prowess and her aggressive nature.
Aldana might have a difficult time early managing Holm’s movement, size, strength and striking as she works to make her way inside. But her pressure will eventually enable her to clinch, grope and maul Holm and eliminate Holm’s space. In time Aldana will force this fight against the cage and then to the floor, where she’ll own a great advantage over Holm.
At 39, Holm can still be an effective fighter, but Aldana presents too much youth, pressure and stamina.
Germaine de Randamie -110 vs. Julianna Pena -110, women’s bantamweight (135 pounds)
Pena is a well-rounded mixed martial artist with a solid wrestling/BJJ base. After she was beaten by Valentina Shevchenko in 2017, Pena left the game to have a child. She returned in July 2019 and scored a relatively lethargic decision win over Nicco Montano.
Pena is athletic, but in this fight she will take a huge step up in class. To be effective Pena will eventually have to drag the oversized de Randamie to the floor. This will be a difficult task for her — but it is the key to the fight.
De Randamie has won every women’s world title, including the inaugural UFC featherweight title over Holm in 2017. She can grapple, strike, counter or press. She’ll have substantial height and reach advantages besides having well more experience against a much more competent level of opponent. I am surprised this fight is lined as it is. While I respect Pena’s ability, the choice here is with de Randamie.
De Randamie -115. Take it now!
Yorgan de Castro -270 vs. Carlos Felipe + 220, heavyweight (265 pounds), co-main event
You thought I was kidding when I said the other fights on this card had little name recognition?
This one is easy. De Castro has a humble background and is easy to pull for. He spends his days mentoring kids at the high school that employs him. After he hits the time clock at the school, he hits the gym to train.
De Castro does have some wrestling in his background, but he’s a power striker at heart. It was de Castro who fought Greg Hardy in early May, and though he was finished he was game in his attempt to compete and somewhat hyped as a competent challenger to Hardy.
Felipe, a Brazilian, is 8-1 and was defeated soundly in his UFC debut by Sergey Spivak via decision. His first impression as a fighter was underwhelming. His impression as a professional sportsman was poor, as Felipe trash-talked his opponent early, then after three minutes gassed badly and was pulverized.
Felipe has been put in front of de Castro for a reason, and it’s to take a second thorough whipping.
Pass … for now.
Tom Breese -220 vs. KB Bhullar + 190, middleweight (185 pounds)
Breese sports an 11-2 record over a 10-year career, which tells the difficult story of this English mixed martial artist who has been so inactive. At 6-foot-3, Breese is a big man for the division with a sculpted physique. The black belt in BJJ can stand and bang with the best fighters in the world.
When Breese is on his game, he is a true contender. But he has one glaring issue. Breese has struggled mentally and emotionally and has had more than one fight canceled because of it.
As a fight handicapper, I work to uncover fighters who for whatever reasons are prepared to offer their absolute best come fight night. With Breese, I can never count on getting that kind of effort, which makes taking a position on him overly dangerous.
Bhullar has been striving, training and grinding to make it to the UFC since he began fighting professionally in 2012. He does not have the chiseled body nor does he have the level of experience of Breese, but one thing bettors may count on with this debuting Canadian is that he’s coming to make a name for himself. If Breese is at his best, Bhullar will have a difficult time getting his hand raised. But if Breese is in any way distracted, that will leave the door open for Bhullar to prevail.
Casey Kenney -280 vs. Heili Alateng + 240, bantamweight (135 pounds)
Kenney will dominate the Chinese fighter by grasping him, tossing him to the floor and then wrestling him up. Kenney can be used in parlays with confidence.