The UFC goes from London to Columbus, Ohio, for this week’s Fight Night event. Though the card is lacking in marquee athletes, it features five bouts in which each combatant is top-15 ranked. The interesting thing is that the higher-ranked fighter is favored in only two of those bouts.
Last week we dropped a unit on Luana Carolina + 115 as she was knocked out in devastating fashion by Molly McCann in a fight in which my handicapping was flawed. We’ll hope to correct things with this week’s release.
To date, favorites are on a torrid 67-28-1 run (69.7%).
Insight the Octagon profitability: 5-4 (+ .85 units).
Curtis Blaydes (-330) vs. Chris Daukaus (+ 260)
Heavyweight (265 pounds) | Main event
We last saw eighth-ranked Daukaus in December when he was knocked cold by Derrick Lewis in the first round.
A former Philadelphia policeman, Daukaus holds a black belt in BJJ but is somewhat undersized at 240 pounds. He employs great movement and athleticism, has a solid grappling game, good cardio and packs some power in his strikes. He’s coming right back after a devastating loss, so there may be a bit of concern about the relatively quick turnaround after such a decisive finish.
In a division lacking bright young talent, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Daukaus has been tossed into competing against elite mixed martial artists a bit too soon. This fight will go a long way in determining whether Daukaus is a legitimate threat to the top 10 in the division or just another face in a most diluted heavyweight talent pool.
The fourth-ranked Blaydes, who was also knocked out by Lewis two fights ago, arrives off an impressive bounce-back bout in which he soundly decisioned Jair Rozenstruik last September.
Blaydes is the more pedigreed heavyweight, having been in the octagon with higher-caliber opponents. Blaydes brings an unrelenting forward pressure which is almost completely wrestling-based when he is fighting at his strength. Competing against top-15-level heavyweights on the feet is something Blaydes has become more comfortable doing, but he doesn’t want to spend any more time in a stand-up affair than he has to.
Blaydes’ game revolves around the takedown first, then once he has an opponent grounded, using his 263-pound frame to maintain top position in order to rain down damaging strikes with elbows and fists.
Blaydes must cut the cage, clasp onto Daukaus and take the much lighter man to the mat for a grueling barrage.
Daukaus, meanwhile, will need to maintain distance and try to fend off Blaydes with his striking. Further, Daukaus’ BJJ abilities could test Blaydes on the ground as much any opponent has.
Blaydes should be regarded as a firm favorite based on who he’s been in the cage with, his wrestling prowess, his size, experience and the fact that he’s performed in five-round main events.
Daukaus’ singular path to victory is to find a way to flush Blaydes on the face, other than that, Daukaus could be drowned by wrestling in this fight.
Total in this fight: 1.5 rounds Over -180.
Ilir Latifi (-175) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+ 150)
Heavyweight (265 pounds)
Staying with the heavyweights here.
Latifi is a former light heavyweight who has moved up to compete with the big boys. The Swede has had two fights at heavyweight, one against Derrick Lewis that he lost by decision, though he really won it fair and square. His second was an impressive win last June over Tanner Boser, a bright young heavyweight hopeful.
Latifi, nicknamed “The Sledgehammer,” may be better described as an anvil. He’s 5-foot-10 but has a sturdy wrestling base, profuse power striking, decent cardio and bad intentions.
Latifi has been finished in earlier bouts, but that was when he was fighting the weight cut as much as his opponents, and his losses were via strikes. He’s never been submitted.
Oleinik is a 44-year-old submission specialist whose record stands at 59-16-1, yes that’s one victory shy of 60 professional wins. Oleinik is long on fight wisdom, he’s cagey and knows that he must beguile and outsmart the younger, larger, stronger, more explosive combatants he faces.
Oleinik’s striking is substandard, he moves with deliberation and any sting from his strikes is now replaced by evolutionary slowness and telegraphed intention. What Oleinik does possess, however, is the ability to grab any human appendage, then find a way to twist, stretch, bend or break it inside of a few seconds.
What Oleinik gives away in brute strength and striking power he possesses in cage savvy and deft submission prowess.
Based on the matchmaking, this could well be Oleinik’s farewell fight in the UFC. Latifi is so short and compact that he barely has a neck to grab, let alone one any opponent can get his arms around.
Unless Latifi goes into this bout with foolish design looking to compete with Oleinik on the mat, I believe it is only a matter of time before Latifi finds his way inside on Oleinik and delivers a devastating knockout.
Play: Latifi -175 in Leg 1 of an open parlay.
Total for this fight: 1.5 rounds Over -165.