This week, UFC LV56 takes place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The venue is noteworthy as the main event is in the heavyweight division and the Octagon at the APEX is the smaller 25-foot platform.
For fighters weighing more than 185 pounds, finish rates are 5% higher in the smaller Octagon since May 2020.
Two weeks ago, Holly Holm (-210) was defeated via decision, but I was saved by Michel Pereira, who not only beat his opponent but decisioned him as well. I went 2-1 (-0.10 units) for the day.
2022 profitability: 11-6 (+ 4.29 units)
Alexander Volkov (-145) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+ 125)
Heavyweight (265 pounds) | Main event
The men’s heavyweight division lacks depth. Ngannou, Blaydes, Jones, Aspinall and Gane (and Miocic until his next fight) are the combatants I regard as legitimate threats to hold the belt.
Our combatants in Saturday’s main event are two of the athletes in the next tier.
This critical bout elevates the winner to just outside that elite group and dashes any immediate title hopes for the loser. For these two men, this is a career-defining fight and foundational in determining who secures that sixth slot in a division five deep.
Rozenstruik is ranked eighth in the division. His fight game is based in kickboxing as he was a world class kickboxing talent until he transitioned to MMA. Rozenstruik’s precision kicks, elbows and hand strikes coupled with his explosion/quickness allowed him to take an immediate trajectory into the UFC, and then into the division’s top 10.
When Rozenstuik entered the cage with the UFC’s top-ranked combatants, though, he found these more refined, developed and experienced athletes were able to hover over the undersized striker from Suriname as well as outwork him. Since his KO loss to current champion Francis Ngannou, Rozenstruik is only 2-2, losing to Cyril Gane and Curtis Blaydes.
At the other corner of the cage stands Volkov, the seventh-ranked heavyweight who owns advantages in experience, level of competition, height, reach and size. He’s competed in five-round main events before and is focused to bounce back off of his one-round submission loss to Tom Aspinall in March, as well solidify his last chance at a title shot.
Volkov was my choice against Aspinall, and while I clearly underestimated Aspinall’s force/ability, I also believe Volkov laid an egg and will be looking to make amends.
Like Rozenstruik, Volkov has lost to the elite and beaten the gatekeepers, journeymen and stand-ins in recent fights. The thing one must consider if considering Volkov is whether he simply had a bad night against Aspinall, or has he, in fact, lost a step.
Once the bell rings, it’s my belief that Volkov’s pronounced physical advantages and his experience against a more diverse array of top opponents will allow him to control the distance and pace.
Rozenstruik relies on speed and quickness and this approach could be an issue against Volkov, as Rozenstruik has struggled to fire on offense in fights against opponents less capable than this opponent. Any hesitancy to invade the pocket against Volkov, or any lack of aggression, will set Rozenstruik out distance, which may as well be no man’s land because this is where Volkov can accrue damage with his lethal kicks and steady strikes.
Monitoring: Volkov opened -160 and I feel he should be a slight favorite over Rozenstruik.
Total in this fight: 3.5 Over -130
Jeff Molina (-180) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (+ 155)
Flyweight (125 pounds)
Zhumagulov, a complete mixed martial artist from Kazakhstan, brings a firm wrestling base and is a competent striker. He was stopped by a younger, quicker, larger athlete in his last outing and that’s exactly what he’s up against Saturday.
Molina has less experience but holds an advantage in height, arm/leg reach, speed and quickness, plus he’s nine years younger than his more deliberate opponent. Molina also has had the benefit of training with former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno.
Play: Molina -180 in Leg 1 of an open-ended two-fighter parlay to be filled later.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds Over -165
I released Molina two weeks ago on “GambLou’s ’Bout Business” podcast at -150. At -180, the price is getting high so I’d jump this as fast as you can, then make sure to tune into the podcast every week to benefit from my early releases.