Ground game key on UFC Fight Night

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The UFC marches forward Thanksgiving weekend with a fight card full of matchups worthy of investment. Strawweight women to a top-tier heavyweight main event compose the 12-fight slate. Prelims are set to begin at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, while the main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+ .

Last week Tim Means + 135 outclassed Mike Perry in a three-round decision while underdog Brandon Royval was taken out in dominant fashion by Brandon Moreno. By now readers know that splitting underdogs in moneyline wagering is a practice I rely on to maximize profit. While this is not always successful, experienced, savvy handicappers are more than aware of the practice, and many employ it religiously.

Favorites this year in the UFC are 265-125-13, or 65.7%, which is about the norm over the last several years, so pairing underdogs effectively is no easy task. Making matters more difficult in the short term, favorites over the last five cards are on a torrid streak and stand 41-11-2, or 76%.

Insight the Octagon’s single point of focus will be to maximize profit over the last few events of 2020 and hope that we may encourage those underdogs to bark up before the new year.

2020 Insight the Octagon: 37-27 + 17.97 units

 

Curtis Blaydes -300 vs. Derrick Lewis + 250, heavyweight (265 pounds), main event

This main event will be the culmination of a slate that features fighters with varying styles facing one another. In this case we have the classic slugger vs. the wrestler.

The slugger is Lewis, a fourth-ranked heavyweight and one-dimensional fighter, who must work to make the 265-pound heavyweight limit. 

Lewis has won his last three fights, but he was fortunate to earn a split decision two fights back against Ilir Latifi, a 5-foot-8 light heavyweight-turned-heavyweight. Lewis’ victory against a plodding, deliberate, undersized Blagoy Ivanov was uninspiring. And in his most recent outing, he bested Aleksei Oleinik, an undersized 43-year-old who weighed 30-plus pounds less than Lewis at weigh-ins. 

This time Lewis faces someone his own size who will have a 2-inch reach advantage.

Lewis possesses tremendous natural power and incredible “country strength” for a man his size. He’s explosive and destructive for up to six or seven minutes in any bout, so the level and physical size of his recent competition coupled with limited energy output are factors that do not allow me to include Lewis among the top heavyweights in the UFC.

Blaydes, ranked No. 2, is the highest-caliber wrestler in the heavyweight division now that Daniel Cormier has retired. He trains in Colorado with the Elevation Fight Team, a gym experiencing tremendous success this year, and he enters this fight a winner in his last four bouts.

Blaydes has dominated superior strikers such as Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos as well he’s finished gifted grapplers in Aleksei Oleinik (Lewis’ last opponent) and Shamil Abdurhakimov.

Blaydes’ world-class wrestling base coupled with his unrelenting mindset make him a complete fighter. Add superior cardio to endure five full rounds to Blades’ skill set and you have a fighter who owns a great advantage over most opponents.

Blaydes’ striking is improving but effective enough to allow him to engage with opponents before slamming them to the surface. Blaydes’ only two professional losses have come against Francis Ngannou. Blaydes fights for another shot at Ngannou, and I am hoping he can earn his way to that opportunity because I believe, at 29, he has the tools to beat the monster. But first things first.

Lewis will have limited time in which to try to blast Blaydes in the face. His only path to victory is via KO/TKO. Blaydes will have the opportunity to take Lewis out in any way, but I expect him to wrestle Lewis up then take “the Beast” to the mat, where he’ll drop damage on him from top position.

Blaydes will win this fight as Lewis is almost the perfect matchup for him.

Anthony Smith -120 vs. Devin Clark + 105, light heavyweight (205 pounds), co-main event

Clark is an ascending talent in the light-heavyweight division who uses a wrestling base to supplement a solid striking game. He has devastating kicks and is most effective using movement and volume striking as he has not displayed much power in his previous bouts.

Smith is ranked sixth in this division, and while this may seem a mismatch on paper, I expect it to be quite competitive. Smith has ranking, the more impressive body of work, vast experience and substantial size and reach advantages over his opponent, yet the results of his last two fights show him to be slow, lethargic, unable to fire effectively and without able defense. Smith seems washed to me.

Based on what I have witnessed from each of these men’s performances over the last 18 months, these fighters are moving in opposite career directions.

If Clark puts a pelt like Smith’s on his mantel, more prestigious and lucrative fights are in front of him. If Smith should look dominant in getting past Clark, he may face another top contender. But I have deep reservations about how much fight Smith has left in him, especially with a relatively quick turnaround off extremely poor results in his last two fights.

Gina Mazany -145 vs. Rachel Ostovich + 125, women’s bantamweight (135 pounds)

Mazany has had mixed results at best, but that’s likely because she has faced an impressive lineup of women’s bantamweights. 

Ostovich is a Hawaiian fighter, so we know she is tough, but that’s where her advantages end. She is not UFC caliber. She gained access to the UFC by being an attractive person who offered the organization some media splash, but her fighting acumen is substandard and her skill set is limited.

Mazany practices an unrelenting pressure style, which will serve her well Saturday night. She recently changed camps to Xtreme Couture, where she’s been grinding on her game with tutoring from her partner, veteran fighter Tim Elliott, and his team.  Mazany is in a fine spot Saturday night.

Mazany -135 vs. Ostovich + 115 

 

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