Taking stock before UFC hits Abu Dhabi

This week we get a break in the fisticuffs for the Fourth of July weekend before returning to a heavy schedule of UFC bouts in Abu Dhabi as part of the UFC’s “Fight Island” production.

So before we attack the next four UFC slates scheduled over a 15-day period, let’s take time for a little review.

First, “Insight the Octagon’s” schedule: I’ll have breakdowns of several fights from each card in “Point Spread Weekly” on Wednesday, July 8, 15 and 22. For the Saturday, July 18, slate, those breakdowns will be ready for publication Friday, July 17.

— Halfway through the UFC 2020 calendar, favorites stand 114-63-3, or 63.3%. This is up a tick from 2019’s final figure of 62.3% after favorites finished closer to 66% in earlier years.

— My goal is to strive to beat the closing numbers from Pinnacle, especially with underdogs ranging from + 100 to + 200. Next is the difficult part: getting those value-laden underdogs to perform at their absolute best on fight night.

— Opportunity can surely come in the form of favorites, and in those situations, I’ll often choose to pair that position with another value-laden favorite on a current or future card. I do this to maintain a simple outlay of one unit per wager while striving to earn more than the unit of outlay in return.

— For the Fight Island bouts, I’ll allocate due diligence to assessing each combatant’s strengths and weaknesses and will note when and from where each travels. Determining how all fighters match up physically and stylistically with their opponents in conjunction with my feel on how a fight might play out contribute to a final determination.

— Weight is important, as many undercard fighters took fights above their normal weight classes in the previous eight weeks. It will be interesting to see if this happens as much on the island. Also, these fights will be held at 2 a.m. local time so U.S. viewers can see them in prime time.

— Last week Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker put on an unbelievable display of effort and determination. Hooker outperformed my expectation, and Poirier looks like he didn’t have his best night. The Poirier -200 victory allows us to move forward in Leg 2 of that open parlay involving him with another fighter to be determined in an upcoming breakdown.

Looking ahead

Next week’s UFC 251 begins our acquaintance with the many talented international fighters waiting in the wings. Combatants on next week’s card alone come from 14 countries, which is what makes fight handicapping so diverse, unique and enjoyable.

The UFC 251 main event is for the welterweight championship. Kamaru Usman holds the 170-pound title, but his opponent is former friend and teammate Gilbert Burns, who enters the matchup on a torrid run. The fact that these men fight as friends (not my opinion) may have interesting ramifications.

Usman is currently -220 to Burns + 190. Total is 4.5 Over -160.

The night’s second title bout is a rematch between former featherweight (145-pound) champion Max Holloway and current champ Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski is favored -210 to Holloway + 180. This bout figures to match brilliant fighters in their prime bringing total heat upon one another.

The evening’s third title bout will pit Russia’s Peter Yan, a brash young fighter, against Jose Aldo, the former featherweight GOAT, in a weight division lower for Aldo at bantamweight (135 pounds). Some months ago, Aldo and Yan spent substantial time training together in Brazil. Each feels abundantly confident in his chances in this title tilt.

So in the weeks to come fans will have a chance to enjoy a cultural melting pot. Fighters of  every size, shape, color and creed will gather in an enclosed, controlled location to determine whose style, substance and expression reigns supreme.


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