The year started profitably as 42-year-old Aleksei Oleinik ( + 120) lured Maurice Greene into his grasp and onto the floor for a slick submission, as predicted. So we’ll start 2020 at 1-0, + 1.2 units.
Conor McGregor looked impressive against Donald Cerrone, who had been defeating solid UFC talent before this beatdown. I am pleased with the outcome and believe there will be a day in 2020 when we’ll be fading the Irishman — just not against an older, slowing, hand-picked opponent in Cerrone.
We’ll focus now on this week’s event in Raleigh, N.C. The UFC will again put together a full slate of bouts.
Curtis Blaydes -240 vs. Junior Dos Santos + 200, heavyweight (265 pounds), main event
Ex-heavyweight champion and current contender Junior Dos Santos, 35, has had a storied career in mixed martial arts. He has been fighting professionally since 2006 and has piled up a 21-6 record.
In 2020, Dos Santos will go from heavyweight relevance to relative obscurity, losing the battle with undefeated Father Time. The first step for Dos Santos comes Saturday night, though it might take a few more bouts to dawn on him. Fighters are always the last to realize that their careers are finished.
Though Dos Santos is 4-2 since 2016, his victories have been against older fighters with no mobility, movement, quickness or dynamism. That will change in Raleigh.
In his prime, Dos Santos had a devastating combination of sharp boxing skills and dynamic BJJ abilities. Today, he is a shell of his former self. His BJJ skills will never leave him, his experience is vast and his power remains profuse. But gone are the skills that separate champions from gatekeepers — the quickness, pop, precision striking and fluid movement that youthful fighters hold in abundance.
Blaydes is a wrestling-based fighter complete with the necessary movement, quickness, cardio and unrelenting pressure that comes with a formidable wrestling base. Blaydes’ 12-2-1 career record is marred only by two knockout losses to Francis Ngannou, a devastating striker.
Like most wrestlers, Blaydes has been forced to improve on striking and strike defense. He has realized that to become a complete fighter, something had to change. That happened some time ago when former heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem trained with him in Colorado. This development was outstanding for both fighters but especially for Blaydes, who has shown great striking evolution since this liaison.
In this fight, Dos Santos must maintain distance and make this a striking competition, while Blaydes will want to crowd and smother the Brazilian, clasp onto him and force him to expend precious energy fending off Blaydes’ smothering pressure.
Early in this fight, Blaydes will force Dos Santos against the cage, which will signify the beginning of the end. Once Blaydes can maul Dos Santos against the cage, he’ll transition this fight to the mat, where Blaydes will in short time earn top position and reign supreme on a proud former champion. This fight could get ugly.
Dos Santos’ sole avenue to success is to engage Blaydes in the pocket and hope the large younger man will throw out his fight IQ and try to fight the old lion at his own game. I believe this to be Dos Santos’ only path to victory, and it’s a narrow one.
This fight opened Blaydes -190, and I view the current -240 as still offering some value as I handicap Blaydes -300.
I believe in minimizing risk as much as maximizing value, so I’ll offer Blaydes -240 as the first leg of a two-team parlay for one unit. I’ll close this wager in an upcoming fight card when I find another position that offers the required value. This tactic keeps potential exposure to one unit per release and enhances profitability, provided we have completed our due diligence and the first side wins.