After an exciting UFC 282, in which Edmen Shahbazyan showed substantial physical and mental improvements, comes UFC LV66, a 14-fight card at the APEX Center in Las Vegas.
2022 profitability: 27-19 (+ 10.77 units).
Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Wednesday night. Check UFC Betting Splits.
Jared Cannonier (-105) vs. Sean Strickland (-115)
Middleweight (185 pounds) | Main event
This fight is critically important as the winner will be firmly entrenched in the top five of the division while the loser will drop out, losing standing in a division that is seemingly for the taking.
The seventh-ranked Strickland is coming off a KO loss in July to current champion Alex Pereira. In that fight, Strickland, a brown belt in BJJ, was true to his nature and rather than display any form of strike defense or tactical wrestling, he decided to stand and trade with a world-class kickboxing elite and walked into a knockout in the first round.
Strickland’s strengths are his weaknesses.
While he’s “true blue come at you” and will get into a fistfight, he seldom follows any script. He’s a trash-talking, “don’t give a damn” kind of back-street brawler. Strickland’s force of personality is enough to make many succumb, but elite fighters arrive with a plan of attack that involves mental focus, high IQ and diligence.
Strickland employs none of those traits as his sole plan is to intimidate as he cares little about being pummeled. This in itself makes him a dangerous individual.
Cannonier, an athlete I released on the ’Bout Business Podcast +108, is an elite fighter who is 5-2 since his drop to middleweight, losing only to Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. Cannonier’s strengths are his footwork, explosive power, mental toughness and coachability.
The third-ranked Cannonier and team will arrive with a plan, one he will execute as it won’t get tossed as soon as he gets touched on the teeth.
Strickland, 31, is seven years younger than Cannonier and surely not the wiser fighter. While he’s two inches taller, he doesn’t have a reach advantage. This fight sets up to be a stand-up war and a competitive one at that.
Cannonier opened -140 in this bout, Strickland money has made this close to a pick-’em.
When considering who Cannonier has been in with, his artillery and the results he has accrued, it’s my judgment that this fight should be priced more like the opening line, with JC as a slight favorite.
Therefore, I believe there’s some opportunity on Cannonier -105 or better. Patience may bring a better price if you’re willing to monitor it closely.
Total in this fight: 4.5 rounds Over -135
Arman Tsarukyan (-185) vs. Damir Ismagulov (+160)
Lightweight (155 pounds) | Co-main event
Each year, a handful of matchups capture my attention because of the aptitude of each athlete complemented by the specific weaponry each arrives to fight with. This fight is one of those.
The 12th-ranked Ismagulov is a vise grip specially trained as a Master of Sport in “hand to hand combat” in the Russian Army. Absolutely no one in the division ranked above this man — or below — wants to hear his name mentioned for a fight because of his complete, dominant fighting arsenal.
The ninth-ranked Tsarukyan is coming off a loss that most who watched the bout believed he won. Still, the chip on this kid’s shoulder is large. He arrives on the bounce and with this matchup, he’s announcing to the division that he will fight any man at any time.
He, too, has felt the frustration of not being able to obtain a fight because, like his opponent, no one wants to see this young man across the cage. So, each did what the others in the division would not do … fight the other!
Imalgulov is three inches taller and at 31 is five years older. I’m interested to see how Ismagulov starts and how he addresses the forward pressure he’s going to receive from his opponent.
Tsarukyan is younger and he’ll hold a reach advantage, so in almost every physical and mental facet of this bout, these two are evenly equipped to rain pressure, trouble and damage on the other.
Tsarukyan’s mental toughness, the fact he’s coming off a loss, his wrestling, youth and cardio will lead to a most impressive victory. He has the ability to finish fights, while his impressive opponent has fought to decision in every bout he’s had since 2017.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds Over -255
I’ll be scouring the props for this bout and others on this card.
Check out “GambLou’s ’Bout Business Podcast,” available Friday afternoon, for all of my final releases.