Last week, Aljamain Sterling -105 defeated Henry Cejudo in a split decision that on my card was 48-47 Sterling. Aljo chose to take the fifth round off for some reason, and it almost cost him the decision despite the fact that the bout was in his backyard.
The lesson to fighters is to compete until the sound of the bell because mixed martial arts judging overall is mediocre on a good night, and neither athletes nor the corner people can or should predict what those people are thinking.
2023 Insight the Octagon profitability: 7-5 +1.01 units
Jair Rozenstruik +390 vs. Jailton Almeida -490
Heavyweight (265 pounds) main event
Rozenstruik, from Suriname, is the eighth-ranked heavyweight who brings world-class kickboxing expertise to the octagon. Jair is 7-4 in the UFC and has fought successfully against mid-tier talent while struggling against elite talent.
Rozenstruik succeeds when he can dictate distance and keep his bouts on the feet. He has numbing teep and calf kicks, a firm jab and a sneaky right cross that is used quite effectively as a counter, a dangerous fight-ending one at that.
Rozenstruik began UFC heavyweight competition at 242 pounds, but in his last few bouts, he has competed closer to 261 pounds which is significant. He is clearly attempting to address his lack of fundamental wrestling, takedown defense and grappling.
Those wishing to defeat Rozenstruik must employ unrelenting forward pressure, take his space away, force him against the fence then down to dirt for a drubbing.
In his opponent, twelfth-ranked Jailton Almeida, we have a specimen of an athlete equipped with a black belt in BJJ and unique quickness, agility and athleticism for a man who is 6’3”. Almeida’s striking has yet to be tested, and it’s in this fight that we’ll be able to determine just how much time he decides to try to compete with Rozenstruik while standing up.
Almeida, four fights deep into his UFC stint, has finished each foe, but in Rozenstruik, Almeida takes on a surly, mean, aggressive striker who knows he’s being placed in the cage as a barometer for this up-and-coming future talent.
Once the bell rings, I look for Almeida to immediately try to force Rozenstruik to the floor where he’ll be outclassed, outgrappled and eventually choked out. Why would he even dare compete with the kickboxer at his strength?
Rozenstruik for his part, must keep this bout on the feet and at distance. He has seen elite heavyweights in prior fights. His experience and handlers surely have prepared Rozenstruik for maintaining his space in order to inflict heavy damage on Almeida as he makes his way inside the pocket to initiate the clinch.
Meanwhile, Almeida must respect Rozenstruik and discover a way to effectively earn inside position to initiate his grappling without receiving too much of the ferocity of Rozenstruik’s counterstriking.
Stylistically, this is a great test for Almeida, an athlete perhaps a touch undersized at heavyweight but one quite able to compete with mid-tier heavyweights at this point in his meteoric evolution.
Almeida opened -310 for this bout and has been bet up to the current -490. Clearly, the market handicaps Rozenstruik as less than a firm test for Almeida, and I’m not so sure I agree.
I’ll look to partially invest in Rozenstruik by betting: fight to start round 2 +110 (DraftKings odds) as announced on VSiN’s First Strike program Tuesday. I believe Rozenstruik is competent enough to compete with this young monster past the first five minutes.
Total in this fight: 1.5 Rds. Under -205
Johnny Walker -110 vs. Anthony Smith -110
Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) co-main event
This bout should be a banger.
Walker, the seventh-ranked Brazilian, is a flamboyant, wild and highly dangerous striking talent. Typical to many bouts, Walker will be the taller man with a six-inch reach advantage against this opponent.
Walker is three years younger, but each of these men has taken plenty of damage over their career so there’s little premium on the age difference as I handicap it.
To Walker’s credit, he’s been refining his fighting style during his time with SBG Ireland the last couple of years. The result of the camp change needs to be apparent in this bout. Walker is trying to refine his style because he has a tendency to fight with ‘tall man’s disease,’ in that he enters the pocket very erect to exchange strikes with his head upright, immobile and unprotected.
The greatest threat to Walker’s evolution in MMA has been his inability to take a flush shot to the head which makes entering a firefight with no defensive acumen overly dangerous.
While the new camp has refined his fighting style, there is no camp in the world that can improve upon a porcelain beak. Furthermore, I wonder if the patience, focus and more premeditated mode of fighting they’re instilling into Walker have actually lessened his fighting effectiveness.
In fifth-ranked Anthony Smith, we get an MMA veteran of many years and 54 professional fights. There’s little Walker can show Smith through fighting expression or physical attributes that he has not already competed against.
In his last bout against Magomed Ankalaev, Smith injured his ankle and he’s determined to display a more competent performance in this fight against a foe well less a threat to him that Ankalaev was.
I handicap Smith as the more complete, intelligent and refined mixed martial artist. He has the ability to compete effectively with Walker for the first five minutes of the fight which is when I handicap Walker to be most dangerous.
The effect of Smith’s forward pressure on the frontrunning striker will begin to pay dividends for Smith as this bout enters the second round when Walker begins to tire.
It’s then I believe Smith’s pressure will slow Walker down enough for Smith to touch him on the teeth.
Smith’s challenge is to get this bout into the second round, while it’s my belief that Walker needs to try to get Smith out as quickly as possible. That said, does that go against everything SBG is teaching him?
This is a poor spot for Mr. Walker in my judgment.
Total in this fight: 1.5 Rds. Under -145
The GambLou.com ‘Bout Business Podcast is 36-33 +11.3u +16%ROI 2023. Podcast drops Friday midday across all podcast platforms.
Enjoy the fights and thank you for reading!