The UFC offers around 44 events per year, give or take a couple, so the off week was welcomed as it allowed for database updating and preparation for the last quarter of the year.
Like an elite Irish thoroughbred closing a Grade 1 stakes race, my blueprint for success includes a strong finish. So let’s get right down to business.
Two weeks ago, Gregory Rodrigues, who closed + 115, started slowly against Chidi Njokuani (just as predicted) but displayed the fortitude/grit to take the fight to the second round, where his durability and advanced ground acumen earned him a finish a couple of minutes into the round.
Profitability in 2022: 23-12 (+ 12.42 units)
Mackenzie Dern (-235) vs. Yan Xiaonan (+ 190)
Women’s strawweight (115 pounds) | Main event
This bout features the fifth-ranked fighter in the division (Dern) and the sixth-ranked fighter (Yan).
Yan, from China, is a solid Sanda striking-based fighter who possesses speed, power and determination. She’s relatively new to mixed martial arts and has only begun to round out her fighting arsenal.
As fluid and comfortable as Yan is on the feet is as uncomfortable and awkward as she is on the ground. For Yan, this fight must remain standing. She must use movement to help her control distance and keep Dern at the end of her strikes/kicks.
Dern is possibly the most celebrated, decorated and dangerous women’s BJJ practitioner in UFC. She earned her black belt in BJJ from her father, Wellington Dias, and is developing her striking under Jason Parillo.
As efficient as Dern is when she gets a bout to the mat is as hesitant and uncomfortable as she is when engaging opponents in stand-up striking. As all fights begin on the feet, the challenge for Dern in any fight is to determine a way to get things to the floor.
Without any real wrestling acumen, Dern is developing the skills she needs to compete for a title in practice sessions so she can deliver improvement into the cage.
Yan is a deadly, dangerous volume striker and will need to compete on the feet against Dern, who is six years younger than Yan (those who are at least six years younger than their opponent win 65% of UFC fights). Dern, in turn, must gain the inside, clasp onto her opponent, then find a way to drag the sturdy Yan to the floor in order to gain complete advantage.
Dern’s previous championship-caliber experience, her savant-like BJJ and her improved striking force lead me to believe she will have success here. It’s my belief that, sometime during the later five rounds of combat, Dern will be able to clasp onto then drag Yan to the mat. Then, in short time, this fight will be over.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds (Over -120) can be found, and if one shops around, 4.5 rounds (Under -140) is also available. Plus, at DraftKings, Fight Does Not Go Distance is -190.
In other words, middle opportunities exist.
Randy Brown (-320) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (+ 265)
Welterweight (170 pounds) | Co-main event
Until recently, Trinaldo, a Brazilian, spent the entirety of his career at 155 pounds. In the lightweight division, he was big, strong, forceful and packed profuse power. However, he’s 45 years old now and, although he can compete with the journeymen of the welterweight division, this fight will prove he cannot compete with top-15 welterweights — larger, heavier, more powerful athletes than the ones he competed against for darn near all of his career.
Brown, a Jamaican, is an experienced, athletic, well-rounded combatant who is 6 inches taller than Trinaldo. He’ll sport obtuse reach superiority and is 12 years the younger combatant in this fight. Provided he respects Trinaldo’s power, keeps the incoming Brazilian at the end of his strikes/elbows/kicks and maintains spacing, this fight is his.
This seems a cold way to treat a generational talent such as Trinaldo, who has had 26 UFC fights, but the fight game is a tough one, my friends, and at his age Trinaldo must accept what he’s offered.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds (Over -130)
Ilir Latifi (-175) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+ 150)
Heavyweight (265 pounds)
This fight features an undersized and overly aggressive light-heavyweight moving up a weight class against a 240-pound, 45-year-old submission specialist who has his best success against aggressive, engagement-oriented opponents.
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 (which he won in my judgment) and most recently against Tanner Boser (an impressive win over a bright, young heavyweight hopeful).
Latifi, nicknamed the “Sledgehammer,” may be described better as a fire hydrant. He’s 5-foot-10, has a sturdy wrestling base, explosive power, Octagon experience and bad intentions. If Latifi was 3 inches taller, he’d be perfectly square!
Latifi has been finished before, but those losses were all via strikes and he has never been submitted.
Oleinik is the 45-year-old submission specialist whose record stands at 60-16-1 (yes, that’s 60 professional wins!). He is long on fight wisdom and knows he must beguile and outsmart the younger, larger, stronger combatants he faces — and he’s been somewhat successful at that.
Oleinik’s striking is substandard on his best day and he rarely presses a fight, instead preferring opponents engage him so he may engage in BJJ. His standup ability is best described as an awkward deliberation, his strikes are glacially slow and telegraphed and he must, at all times when standing, protect his porcelain fragile chin. Oleinik has little to no ability to withstand any legitimate heavyweight strike to the beak.
What Oleinik lacks in size, aggression, athleticism, striking ability and chin durability he must overcome with his incredible ability to play coy then latch onto any appendage (arm, elbow, neck, ankle or ear). After that, he must find a way to twist, bend or break it off inside of seconds.
As one-dimensional as Oleinik is, he’s done very well to survive this long.
This may well be Oleinik’s farewell fight in the UFC. Latifi is so thick, short and compact that he barely has a neck to attack, let alone getting one’s arms around to lock hands. Latifi is also training in a grappling-oriented camp, so Oleinik will not offer the Swede anything he has not seen, as Latifi is no spring chicken himself at 39.
It’s my judgment that unless Latifi goes into this bout recklessly or tries to compete with Oleinik on the mat, it’s only a matter of time before he finds his way inside and delivers a forceful fist to the face of the proud, old warrior, thus ending an amazing career.
Total for this fight: 1.5 rounds (Over -125)
Pick: Latifi by Any Knockout, Submission or DQ + 125 (DraftKings)