After a week off, UFC Las Vegas 62 kicks off a six-week run of MMA events. The UFC Apex is a smaller cage that encourages confrontation, but the site offers less of the live experience than most fighters/fans prefer because fewer people are allowed to attend.
Through the first three quarters of 2022, UFC favorites are 229-114-7 (65%). Traditionally, favorites realize a 63% winning percentage, so this underdog bettor is looking for a little regression on the last eight cards of the year.
2022 Insight the Octagon record: 23-12 (+ 11.42 units).
Alexa Grasso (-210) vs. Viviane Araujo (+ 180)
Women’s Flyweight (125 pounds) | Main event
Sixth-ranked Viviane Araujo enters this bout off a nice win after being tossed into the Octagon with second-ranked ladies flyweight contender Katlyn Chookagian, perhaps a bit too early in her development, the fight before that.
The Brazilian is a gifted grappler whose striking is only effective enough to set her up to clinch, grope and grind. Araujo does have power in her hands and fights angry and with passion, which adds great intrigue to this fight.
Fifth-ranked Alexa Grasso comes from the fertile fight culture of Mexico, a country exploding with mixed martial arts fervor, talent and potential. Grasso is primarily a striker but has shown dynamic improvement in her all-around skill. Her striking is volume-based, precise in nature and, over time, the accumulation of well-placed elbows, knees and fists has propelled her into this main event opportunity.
In this fight, Araujo’s intention to compete is where her advantage lies, so she’ll only want to strike with Grasso to divert attention from her real directive, which is to get inside and clasp onto Grasso then force her to the floor.
Grasso, while giving up expertise in BJJ, has been working to complete that part of her fight arsenal and has made great strides in her wrestling/grappling. That need was exemplified a few fights back in the complete schooling she took from current strawweight champion Carla Esparza at the 115-pound limit.
Grasso is an aggressive combination striker. She’ll strive to maintain spacing with her athleticism while fluidly evading Araujo’s forward pressure. Grasso must keep this fight standing and employ constant evasive movement in order to keep the aggressive, incoming Brazilian off balance and at the receiving end of her strikes/kicks.
These two ladies are similar in size and, though Araujo has a slight reach advantage, it’s Grasso who is six years the younger fighter. Fighters six years and younger win approximately 65% of the time in the UFC.
Grasso has competed against a higher class of opponent, and her decision to move up to the 125-pound weight class has sparked marked improvement, as she now is able to focus on opponents as opposed to the weight cut. Grasso’s abilities, work ethic and the seriousness of which she takes her Mexican fighting heritage force me to regard her as fairly priced at -210.
This recommendation won’t be a surprise to my regular readers: Wait until props come out to uncover a wager with a plus in front of the number.
Total in this fight: 4.5 rounds Over -240
Pick: Leaning to a decision
Nick Maximov (-140) vs. Jacob Malkoun (+ 120)
Middleweight (185 pounds)
Nick Maximov, 24, is a purely authentic fighter with attitude. We know this because he is a member of the Nick Diaz Academy in Chico, California. Maximov has a strong wrestling base, he’s athletic and his striking is evolving. Footwork, fluidity and experience are skills he is working diligently to develop.
He enters this fight after having lipped off to an older, more experienced, wrestling-based professional who submitted him in the first round, so I expect to get a more focused, humbled, prepared fighter (albeit one who is still young and developing).
On the other side of the cage stands a short, stocky Aussie named Jacob Malkoun. Malkoun’s fighting features a very solid wrestling base and he enters this fight 2-2 in the UFC. Malkoun is giving up 3 inches of height and reach to Maximov, but his more advanced MMA ability coupled with his UFC experience provides him an advantage over a young, raw, up-and-comer who Malkoun is catching at the right time.
I’m unsure whether this bout takes place on the feet or on the mat, but it is my contention that Malkoun’s skill and experience make him a live underdog in this bout.
Maximov opened -160 and I tend to agree with the market move.
Pick: Malkoun + 120