UFC Vegas 33 a middling card

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Insight the Octagon took a step back Saturday when Kyler Phillips lost via decision, causing our parlay with Mateusz Gamrot to crash. Profitability in 2021 stands 19-13, + 8.68 units as we head into the UFC Vegas 33 fight card Saturday, with preliminary bouts kicking off at 6 p.m. ET.

After perusing this card, on which the co-main event was lost Monday, it appears that after several weeks of slates stacked with competitive bouts and sensible matchmaking, we finally get a schedule that appears to be goulash. Several fringe athletes and fighters who need to get work were tossed together to create this slate.  

This card has a handful of head-scratchers as well as a few potential barn burners. Let’s focus on the latter.

Sean Strickland -215 vs. Uriah Hall + 185 

Middleweight (185 pounds), main event

The main event provides a couple of diversely trained strikers ranked within the division’s top 15.

The eighth-ranked Hall is a kickboxing-based fighter with a second-degree black belt in Kyokushin karate and a blue belt in BJJ. At 36, the Jamaican is five years older than his opponent, but he will own a slight advantage with arm and leg reach.

Hall has been in the cage with absolutely elite talent, and though he’s a gifted middleweight, he can sometimes struggle mentally against opponents who force the fight on him. Since landing in Texas to train with Fortis MMA, Hall has gained momentum in the mental aspect, which seems the only part of his game that needed vast development.  

Through no fault of his own, Hall has had just two fights since 2019, and both times he faced older opponents. He finished Anderson Silva in the fourth round of their October 2020 bout, then beat Chris Weidman in 17 seconds last April when Weidman snapped his shin on Hall’s shin when Hall defended a kick. That’s not much work over the last few years.

Hall appears fresh and ready to fire. His experience, his precision striking and kicking and his knockout power are clear advantages. If he can maintain his focus against an absolute maniac, he can surely win.

Strickland began his career as a welterweight, but his decision to move to middleweight has allowed him to realize a 3-0 run with wins over Jack Marshman, Brendan Allen and Krzysztof Jotko, all talented fighters but not on the level of competition Hall has faced.

Strickland grew up tough, which resulted in a lack of success in school but an early introduction into martial arts. He is a street-talking antagonist who risks coming across as an obstinate tool, even when he is not fighting.

Strickland is unrelenting with forward striking pressure, and though he’ll be at slight disadvantages in reach, the smaller cage at the UFC Apex will more than allow for fighter interaction, which Strickland needs to turn this fight from a display of striking into a full-scale brawl.

Strickland will come to make the fight. He’ll attempt to back up Hall, which negates any fighter’s kicking skill. If he can force Hall backward, he’ll have an advantage, provided he does not walk into a Sunday shot.

Hall will look to maintain space and push the slighter man backward. His plan will be to face Strickland’s music early and then, after gaining his respect, crack the smart guy when he becomes frustrated and attempts to force inside position. Hall’s precision kicks and strikes are more effective when the target is incoming. He just needs to set that up by pressing Strickland back with his own pressure early.  

Strickland is legitimately nutty enough to try to walk through strikes to create a good, old-fashioned brawl. If Strickland can transition this bout into a toe-to-toe throwdown, he’ll hold the advantage over Hall, who may well be the more fluent striker.

If Hall can gain respect early and work to counter Strickland coming in, Hall will gain confidence and momentum and be able to display his skills from a position of strength.

Monitoring

Total for this fight: 3.5 rounds, Under -115

Lean Under

Kai Kamaka -125 vs. Danny Chavez + 105 

Featherweight (145 pounds)

Kamaka steps in on short notice. He’s a striker who has been training at Las Vegas’ Xtreme Couture. The boxer and wrestler from Hawaii has dropped his last two fights. He is tough and willing, but he has not faced quality opponents. Kamaka will need to display improvement in his striking and cardio.

Chavez, 34, is the slightly larger man and eight years older than Kamaka. Chavez’s age is motivating him into realizing that this is his cornerstone opportunity to make a run. If he loses this bout, his career may be close to over. Yet with a victory, any fighter can convince himself of anything.

Chavez enters off a loss to respected featherweight Jared Gordon, which puts him in position to bounce. His interviews this week have convinced me he’s totally focused on this opportunity, knowing how important it is for his career.

Fear, anxiety and desperation are not tangible but can motivate in the correct circumstance. In this bout, I believe Chavez will present his absolute best effort to remain a UFC fighter against an athlete in Kamaka who may be in a poor situation facing Chavez on short notice.

Chavez + 105

Total for this fight: 2.5 rounds, Over -180

Ronnie Lawrence -140 vs. Trevin Jones + 120 

Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Jones has had a couple of superb showings as an underdog, most recently beating Mario Bautista in March. He’s fast, athletic, sneakily powerful and willing to exchange. Besides Bautista, Giles has faced midlevel MMA talent. But in this bout, he’ll step up considerably to face a fighter who is a legitimate UFC bantamweight talent.

As Lawrence makes his sophomore appearance in the UFC, he owns slight height, reach and age advantages. Lawrence has also stockpiled more mixed martial arts experience and acumen, though few have seen it displayed.

In this fight, Jones’ footwork and speed will be utilized to fend off Lawrence’s more deliberate, forward-pressing, power-striking attack.

Lawrence opened a -200 favorite, which is about how I handicap the bout. But the market has reacted to Jones. Perhaps it was his dominant performance last outing, which has impressed bettors. But Lawrence had a last bout too — a comprehensive beatdown of Vince Cachero.

Lawrence -140. Move on this price now as Leg 1 of a two-fighter parlay, second leg open. I strive to keep the potential loss on any wager to a single unit. It worked well last week as we saved 1.4 units by tossing Phillips into that parlay.

Total for this fight: 2.5 rounds, Under -120

 

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