Insight the Octagon comes at you on our new release day — a little later in the week and a little closer to fight night.
The extra day will allow more time to refine releases. Most readers of this column know that I usually don’t move on a fight until after the weigh-in process.
Two weeks ago, Leon Edwards added 3.1 units to our bankroll via the finish over champion Kamaru Usman. While I’ll gladly accept the profit, I must state that Edwards won the fight on a fluke. My handicap was for Edwards to slowly but surely take the steam away from Usman, but the fight went exactly the opposite of that prediction.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Entering the final third of the year, profitability stands at + 9.42 units (20-12). For the fifth year in a row, readers betting $50 per release could pay for their entire VSiN subscription.
This week the UFC takes its first trip to Paris, with prelims beginning at noon ET/9 a.m. PT and the main card kicking off at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT. So far this year, European cards have favored those fighting closer to home, and many of the fights Saturday are set up for similar results. Also, six of the first seven bouts feature debuting fighters, so be careful.
Ciryl Gane (-590) vs. Tai Tuivasa (+ 465)
Heavyweights | Main event
Third-ranked Aussie Tai Tuivasa is a rotund, Muay Thai striker who uses straight-forward aggression laced with wide, looping, telegraphed power strikes from all four appendages. Tuivasa is power personified, but speed, quickness and precision he is not.
Early in his career, Tuivasa didn’t feel the need to train and it showed in his results. He struggled to fight effectively after a couple of minutes.
Over time, he improved his training regimen and he’s now won his last five fights. His most recent win in February was a KO of Derrick Lewis early in the second round, which brings me to the most important aspect of this fight.
Cardio is my biggest issue with Tuivasa. His ability to exert effort at a championship level for longer than 10 minutes is in doubt, and he hasn’t gone past three minutes into the second round in his last six fights.
With the exception of his last bout, Tuivasa’s victories have come against journeyman-level heavyweights at best, fighters who in no way possess the athleticism, speed or technical striking of No. 1-ranked heavyweight Ciryl Gane.
Gane, a precision puncher, has only lost to champion Francis Ngannou. He also finished Derrick Lewis, whose size and style is similar to that of Tuivasa. Gane is relatively inexperienced — he has a 10-1 MMA record after a four-year run as a professional Muay Thai athlete — but a deeper dive displays a uniquely gifted athlete who has developed rapidly and is morphing into a complete mixed martial artist.
Gane’s game is movement, angles and fluid defense coupled with precise striking and kicking. While not as powerful as Tuivasa, his ability to fire three- and four-strike combinations at any time and from any angle provide him the ability to inflict damage on any foe willing to stand in the fire.
When Gane faced Ngannou, we learned that Gane’s wrestling is pedestrian. The good news for Gane is that Tuivasa, unless stung and senseless, will not try to compete in a wrestling match.
This fight will be similar to a bull fight in which the matador meticulously usurps the will from the beast before trying to take him out. Tuivasa has been finished before.
Total: 2.5 rounds (Over -115).
Robert Whittaker (-215) vs. Marvin Vettori (+ 185)
Middleweights (185 pounds) | Co-main event
This fight resembles the main event in that second-ranked Marvin Vettori fights with clench-fisted anger, aggression and recklessness. He is kickboxing-based with a BJJ brown belt, so grappling, wrestling and rolling on the canvas are skills he’s comfortable with. Vettori’s every intention is to bully opponents, back them up and finish them with a barrage of hooks, elbows and knees, or with a ferocious ground and pound when he gains top position.
Whittaker has earned the No. 1 ranking in this division because he’s bested all but champion Israel Adesanya. He fought the champ to an ultra-close decision in February. He faces Vettori for the first time Saturday.
Whittaker’s striking is more refined than Vettori’s because of his legwork, his ability to move and fire from angles and his ability to defend. Whittaker has fought the elite of the division, beating them all in somewhat dominant fashion, which is why he’s here pining for one more chance at Adesanya.
Whittaker’s experience, plus his fluidity, quickness and athleticism, separate him from Vettori on the feet. Whittaker’s ability to feign his own takedowns complemented by his effective striking and movement will get the edgy Italian to become frustrated and overreact, which will allow Whittaker to dominate this fight in what feels like a very one-sided decision.
While Vettori is a world-class fighter, he stands only a puncher’s chance as I handicap it.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds (Over -280).
Nasrat Haqparast (-225) vs. John Makdessi (+ 185)
Lightweights (155 pounds)
Here’s a scrap featuring combatants who despise each other. These two fighters once trained together at Tristar Gym before Makdessi went elsewhere after a confrontation. They have since engaged in trash talk and have had multiple bouts scheduled then canceled.
Haqparast, of Afghan descent, grew up in Germany and will be fighting in front of a pro-European crowd. The southpaw is 2 inches taller and 10 years younger with a 4-inch reach advantage and a 3-inch leg advantage. In a bout expected to remain standing, those are important edges.
Makdessi is undersized for the division but has the heart of a lion. At 37, he’s lost some of the zip, quickness and evasion that differentiated him from larger foes. Since he left Tristar, he’s been wandering from gym to gym trying to find a home to refresh his career, which is a bad sign.
It’s my belief that this fight is designed for Haqparast to impress, giving the European fans something to get excited about as UFC continues its growth across the pond.
Play: Haqparast -225 (I released Haqparast -200 on Friday on VSiN’s “Follow the Money” show).
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds (Over -205).
“Gambou’s ’Bout Business Podcast” features all of my final releases. The show drops Friday afternoon and is available wherever you get your podcasts.