Favorites continue to dominate in the UFC, realizing a 39-9-1 record over the last four fight slates. For the year, the chalk is 214-111-11, or 63.6 percent.
Despite the torrid run of favorites, I’ve navigated profit from these last four cards by uncovering advantage no matter whether a favorite or an underdog. Last week Niko Price, who won his bout via decision, was released at -145, but by the time the bell rang for Round 1 he’d closed over -205. We also won the main event Over 1.5 rounds -130. That line actually closed Under 1.5 rounds -130 — what a mispriced offering.
2021 Insight the Octagon is 26-18 + 11.57 units.
This week the UFC assembles a hodgepodge of athletes who need to be active and earn. This talent-challenged Fight Night card in Las Vegas comes on the heels of its marquee UFC 266 production last week. This week’s card will leave many wondering why the UFC could not have offered another pedigreed matchup or two to help complete this event.
Let’s break down the fights, though few of substance are on the card.
Mackenzie Dern (-160) vs. Marina Rodriguez (+ 140)
Women’s strawweight (115 pounds), main event
The sixth-ranked Rodriguez is a long, tall, bad-intentioned striker who is 14-1-2 as a professional and 4-1-2 in the UFC. The native Brazilian is equipped with a firm BJJ base complemented by a pronounced Muay Thai striking arsenal.
Rodriguez’s last four fights really show that she is a devastating striker who uses the leverage of her size and length efficiently. In fact, except for her bout against Cynthia Calvillo, Rodriguez has outstruck every opponent.
She delivers power in her kicks and precision striking with her fists. Rodriguez wants to work from distance and in space to piece up opponents. Besides deft, accurate striking, her recent fights have displayed a need for vast improvement with wrestling and grappling. Her bout with Carla Esparza signifies the need for Rodriguez to keep her fights standing at all costs, as she was taken down by the undersized Esparza, whom I regard as well outside the top five in the division.
Dern (11-1) arrives as the fourth-ranked fighter in the division, with a UFC record of 6-1. Her lone loss was to Amanda Rivas shortly after Dern had given birth. Dern rushed that return, and I expect a rematch would produce much different results.
Dern is shorter than Rodriguez and will have 2-inch deficits in arm and leg reach. Dern is a decorated black belt in BJJ under her father, Wellington Dias. While her striking is vastly improved, her grappling and innate application of BJJ is her greatest weapon. She has competed in BJJ tournaments and competitions since she was a child.
Where Dern is most formidable is where Rodriguez needs most improvement. But Rodriguez’s striking and length will be far too precision-based and damaging to Dern should this bout be fought from the stand-up position.
Dern must immediately close distance and clasp onto the longer Rodriguez, take her down and choke her out. Rodriguez must not allow Dern to earn inside position at any cost or she’ll find herself wrapped inside the coil of a boa-constrictor-type submission from Dern.
So which way does this fight go?
Can Dern work to penetrate the length of Rodriguez, then get inside the pocket to clasp and drag the larger woman to the floor for a thorough choking? Or will Dern eat too much leather from the precision striker as she tries to gain inside position, eventually acquiescing?
This fight will be a tremendous clash of styles and one for which I want to scour the props market before making any commitment. I do like this bout for an official release.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds, Under -120.
Randy Brown (-245) vs. Jared Gooden (+ 195)
Welterweight, co-main event
From striker vs. grappler in the main event to striker vs. wrestler in this fight, we will be treated to another fascinating clash of styles and body types.
Gooden is the shorter fighter, giving up reach and length. He’s a strong athlete with power in his hands and a solid wrestling base, but his body of work in the UFC comprises just three fights and one victory. That came in his last bout when the opponent stepped in on short notice.
Gooden’s body of work and development must be acknowledged, but so must his lack of UFC experience. As I project the action, Gooden’s power must be his most potent weapon because I believe athleticism, striking and grappling fall to his opponent.
Brown has had 12 UFC bouts and has been in with some bigger names. Brown’s unusually long frame makes him very dangerous for this division. He stands 6-foot-3 and will hold height, reach and experience advantages.
I expect Brown to control distance and spacing and attempt to batter Gooden from the outside with precision strikes and blunt-force kicks. While Gooden is younger, he is giving away too much experience to a fighter who is better versed wherever this fight transpires.
Brown is the deserved favorite in this co-main event.
Total in this fight: 1.5 rounds, Over -150.
Strong lean to Over
An “Inside the Octagon” first: I have no official position on this slate without the full set of totals and props, which have yet to be released. Those should be out by the time I visit VSiN’s “The Lombardi Line” on Wednesday morning.