UFC 272 best bets: Covington vs. Masvidal

March 4, 2022 10:24 AM
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UFC 272: Covington vs. Masvidal takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Early prelims begin at 3 p.m. Pacific time, with the main card kicking off at 7 p.m. 

After six events this year, Insight the Octagon is 3-2 (+ 0.65 units).

Last week I offered no plays but did release a future position for UFC 274 in Phoenix, which is available in last week’s Point Spread Weekly or at VSiN.com. 

Here’s a peek at a couple of storylines on the 13-fight card:

Colby Covington (-335) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+ 280) 

Main event | Welterweight (170 pounds)

OG Jorge Masvidal is an authentic, original pioneer in MMA. Professionally fighting since 2003, Masvidal has compiled a 35-15 record as professional, but that’s just a snippet of his epic career. Masvidal has been fighting on the streets and backyards of the Miami area since he was booted out of grade school.

Masvidal is a touch undersized for welterweights but his guts, guile, craftiness, toughness and well-rounded fighting ability have allowed him to compete with men larger than him. 

He followed up his brilliant, flash KO of Ben Askren in 2019 with a one-sided beatdown of West Coast OG Nate Diaz in a battle of fighters past their prime. Those bouts jettisoned Masvidal into consecutive high-profile, big-money championship bouts against champion Kamaru Usman. 

It was after the Askren phenomenon that Masvidal morphed from realistic, welterweight top-five talent to intuitive businessman. He parlayed the proceeds from his instant notoriety into business opportunities and a path to wealth, which marked the beginning of the end of Masvidal’s fighting effectiveness in my judgment. 

After decades of fighting for the love of the art, Masvidal now shows other mixed-martial artists that it’s possible to use one’s fighting career as a springboard to life success. It’s a lesson most fighters need to pay attention to. 

Masvidal’s public use of verbal skills to hype bouts is derived from the streets and effectively puts seats in the arena. His bombastic approach convinced fans that he could potentially compete with Usman in both fights. The results displayed he could not. 

At 37, Masvidal has become well-acquainted with private jets, Gucci robes and immense monetary success. He achieved all of that with a dedication to the fight game from the time he was in diapers, but silk sheets, Veuve Clicquot and first-class travel are as dangerous to a fighter as kryptonite to Superman. 

Across the cage stands Colby Covington, a fighter with world-class wrestling skill, unending cardiovascular ability and a professional personality that most find distasteful. As a fighter, he is the real deal. If there was no Usman, Covington would be toting the title.

Covington earned a college degree from Oregon State and couldn’t be more different from Masvidal, from the way each entered the organization to how they carry themselves within it. 

Covington’s a natural welterweight fighter, and while he and Masvidal are similar physically, it will be Covington’s unrelenting pressure competing against Masvidal’s evasion, deception, guile, grit and experience. 

Once the bell rings and the name-calling ends, I look for this to be a one-sided affair with Covington smothering Masvidal under his wrestling prowess. It would be unwise for Covington, whose intellect is one of his greatest weapons, to compete with Masvidal standing, which is Masvidal’s only hope for a result such as his win over Askren. 

Total for this fight: 4.5 Over -150

Lean: Under

Bryce Mitchell (-155) vs. Edson Barboza (+ 135) 

Featherweight (145 pounds)

Bryce Mitchell is a pressure-based grappler who must take opponents to the floor in order to display advantage. His standing skills are incomplete at this point in his career. 

Brazil’s Edson Barboza has faced the “who’s who” of both the lightweight and featherweight divisions, and has done so with great success. Off of a loss to Giga Chikadze, Barboza enters this fight as an underdog, which in my opinion provides great opportunity. 

While Mitchell is considerably younger, he’s also shorter and gives up five inches of reach to a brilliantly balanced mixed-martial artist in Barboza. 

Three rounds seem an advantage for the Brazilian as Mitchell will need to sell his soul in order to earn his way inside, then force this fight to the floor where the advantage figures to be his. However, Barboza is no stranger to rolling and his aptitude on the mat is far greater than Mitchell’s ability to compete standing, so where this fight takes place will be a strong sign of who is controlling the bout. 

Barboza has been in with an elite level of competition, he’ll be the larger combatant and he owns a vast edge in experience. Barboza is a buy at any plus price.

Total for this fight: 2.5 Under -120

Play: Barboza + 135

Kennedy Nzechukwu (-140) vs. Nicolae Negumereanu (+ 120) 

Light heavyweight (205 pounds)

Nigeria’s Kennedy Nzechukwu (9-2) faces Romania’s Nicolae Negumereanu (11-1) in a fight destined to be a barn-burning, striking, kicking, elbowing ballroom brawl. 

Both of these guys have shown flashes of brilliance mixed with episodes of inconsistency throughout their professional careers. Nzechukwu is five inches taller and will hold immense reach advantages over the Romanian. Nzechukwu has also been in the octagon against a higher level of opponent as I handicap it. 

Negumereanu is a more well-rounded fighter. He’ll need to fight through the fire to gain inside position, then impose striking damage via volume in order to try to tame this monster. This is a can’t-miss slugfest.

Total for this fight: 1.5 Over -150

Mariya Agapova (-190) vs. Maryna Moroz (+ 175) 

Women’s flyweight (125 pounds)

Agapova from Kazakhstan and Moroz from Ukraine hold an immense disdain for each other.

These ladies trained together for more than a year before their relationship turned sour. So sour that these two make the Covington-Masvidal beef appear pedestrian. This fight is pure hatred.

The question is which of these ladies will be able to maintain their emotion and deliver the better performance come Saturday night. 

Moroz has experience and age on her side but has been inactive since March 2020. Agapova is six years younger but she’s a bit taller, larger and will have an arm/leg reach advantage in a bout that appears to be a standing duel. 

The women’s divisions often lack storylines and ferocity, but this fight is one you don’t want to miss.

Total for this fight: 2.5 Over -180

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