Best bets for UFC on ESPN 48: Strickland vs. Magomedov
The UFC APEX hosts this week’s Strickland vs. Magomedov Fight Night, which is the first of five straight July events for the organization.
This is a highly international fight card as only five of the twenty-four athletes competing are Americans. Further, just five of the twelve bouts feature combatants weighing 170 pounds or more.
Favorites in 2023 are 61.4% which is down almost six percent from last year’s sum of 67%, making 2023 more a profitable year for underdog investors, to say the least.
Sean Strickland -165 vs. Abus Magomedov +140
Middleweight (185 pounds) main event
The UFC presents some 44 +/- events per year which occasionally puts them in a bind when it comes to highlighting elite talent for main events. Exhibit ‘A’ for unusual main events is this one.
Myself, I’m pleased the UFC presents diversely gifted athletes, unusual match-ups and brawling battles, week after week. It keeps me sharp having to handicap match-ups between athletes from around the world with varying weaponry.
Regarding this main event, Magomedov has but one UFC bout under his belt, and he’s now thrust into the spotlight, which has many people flustered.
Here’s what we know about Magomedov. Of his 25 wins, 20 are via the finish—the most recent being his UFC debut, where he finished a journeyman talent in Dustin Stoltzfus but did so impressively.
Prior to competing in the UFC, Magomedov competed in the PFL against sub-UFC caliber talent. He followed a fine win against Sadibo Sy by being KO’d with one shot in a PFL championship bout against Louis Taylor, a grappler.
Magomedov uses pressure wrestling/grappling to initiate exchanges. He has power and finishing ability, and he’ll try to engage Strickland immediately. Magomedov’s best chance for victory Saturday is to catch Strickland early, thus setting the tone for this bout and how I see his chances in it.
In Strickland, we have one of the most fearless, game, aggressive, and confident fighters in the organization. He’s also a high-risk taker. He’s consistently reckless and chooses to overlook the game plan, opting to throw down once he gets kicked in the teeth.
Strickland’s a major step up in MMA talent level for Magomedov as he’s been in the octagon against the division's elite. Throw away his poor fight IQ, and we see that Strickland has fared pretty damn competitively against the top ten of the division.
In his last outing, Strickland was prepared for a short powder keg in Kelvin Gastelum, but they gave him a refined well-rounded mixed martial artist in Nassourdine Imavov on ultra-short notice. He won the bout, but what impressed was that he did so against such a diametrically different fighter in every way than the one he was scheduled for.
His three bouts prior to that win were losses to Jared Cannonier and Alex Pereira, with a win against Jack Hermansson.
Strickland has refined boxing, great cardio and can compete anywhere a fight goes. He also has the experience advantage here. He has competed against a far more elite class of athlete entering this bout, and the cat spends more time in the cage sparring/fighting/warring than he does outside of it.
That stated, he must not allow his obtuse lack of fight IQ, his lack of focus, and/or his reckless nature to interfere with the set plan of attack he and Coach Eric Nicksick have going into this fight. It’s only in his recklessness that I find fault with Strickland’s mixed martial arts trajectory, his potential within this division as well the result of this bout.
I handicap Strickland to be a stronger favorite than the odds currently indicate, but I’ll wait until later this week for a side here because, like the Mariscal bout last week against Peek, this line is funky.
Total in this fight: 3.5 Rounds Over -135
Damir Ismagulov -125 vs. Grant Dawson +105
Lightweight (155 pounds) co-main event
Ismagulov is ranked twelfth in the division. He faces number fifteen Grant Dawson in what I expect to be one of the most competitive bouts on the board.
Ismagulov is a Russian athlete specially trained as a Master of Sport in ‘hand-to-hand combat’ in the Russian Army! Few in the division want to hear his name mentioned as an opponent for a fight because of his complete, dominant fighting weaponry, his mental toughness and his durability. One concern for Damir is that he mentioned retirement after his last bout, a competitive loss to future titleholder Arman Tsarukyan which is something I regard as important to this fight.
In Grant Dawson, we have a kid from outback Nebraska with a strong wrestling background supplemented with a black belt in BJJ, toughness, grit and will. Dawson, well ahead of the curve, left Glory MMA for Mike Brown and the many diversely talented fighters at Florida’s ATT gym many months ago. This is his second bout under their tutelage, and I expect his rapid improvement to continue.
Dawson is equipped to compete in every way with Ismagulov though he’ll choose to avoid open striking for close groping, mauling and fence pressing. An aggressive forward pressure attack will be utilized to try to corner the Russian and then ground him to gain top control.
Ismagulov is slightly the taller man with a couple of inches of reach, but it’s Dawson’s youth advantage and the fact that he’s still growing in size and strength that attract me to him in this spot.
Ismagulov may be a desirable match for Dawson at this point in Dawson’s career development.
Pick: Dawson +105
Total in this fight: 2.5 Rounds Over -220
I released Grant Dawson +115 earlier in the week on GambLou’s ‘Bout Business Podcast.
GambLou ‘Bout Business Podcast drops mid-day PT Friday across all podcast platforms!
Enjoy the fights, and thank you for reading