The UFC returns to the APEX — a smaller venue and cage — with Vegas 63. We’re down to nine scheduled bouts in a slate stacked with lower-ranked fighters looking to elevate their status, but the card still features several competitive matchups.
Seven of the nine bouts feature fighters at 170 pounds and up, and these large bodies in quaint confines set up the possibility of some dynamic finishes. At least that’s the hope.
Last week, I felt confident that Sean Brady (-120) had the goods to beat Belal Muhammad, but Muhammad proved he’s a true contender for the welterweight title with a second-round finish. I won’t underestimate him again.
2022 profitability: 24-14 (+ 11.42 units).
Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Wednesday night. Check UFC Betting Splits.
Calvin Kattar (-110) vs. Arnold Allen (-110)
Featherweight (145 pounds) | Main event
Englishman Arnold Allen, ranked sixth in the division, grew up with a mixed martial artist. A purple belt in BJJ, he spends time between England and Canada’s TriStar gym for his development, which is best described as a slow, deliberate process.
Allen is undefeated in his nine UFC bouts over seven years, and in each fight, he’s shown evolution/refinement in all aspects of fighting. His last two fights were his most important ones as well his most impressive. Allen enters this fight with the understanding that as inactive as he’s been, he needs to make a statement.
The 28-year-old Allen steps up in class for a confrontation that will determine which of these two warriors moves himself into the division’s top four.
Calvin Kattar, 7-4 in his UFC run and ranked fifth, is a veteran of five-round main-event battles. He’ll be the larger man in the cage and the athlete who holds height/reach advantages. Kattar has been in with the elite of the division, having only lost to top talent.
Now 34, Kattar’s resume is impressive, but as I handicap this fight, it’s my judgment that he’s had to pay a price for some absolute wars, whether victories or defeats. That price manifests itself as the potential waning/dulling/ebbing of skills brought on by the physical/mental attrition of a lifetime of highly competitive battles.
I’m not saying it’s a certainty that it will manifest in this fight, but I am saying it’s a probability here or in an upcoming bout based on the damage he’s accrued.
In this fight, I expect Kattar to show his size and dominance early by keeping the fight on the feet and pressing the smaller Englishman backward, thus forcing him to react to Kattar’s offensive pressure. Kattar wants to force the less experienced fighter into the heat of a top featherweight battle to test his mettle and determination for a full 25 minutes.
Allen, meanwhile, is a pretty deft counter-striker who may not be as technical as the slick boxer but does pack fight-ending power in his hands and has sound grappling ability. I’m interested to see if Allen attempts to wrestle the Bostonian and, if so, how successful he may be.
It’s my judgment that Allen’s quickness, speed and movement will be used to force Kattar into trying to hit an elusive target, then to defend strikes, takedowns and the clinch. Allen must force Kattar to expend energy early in order to attack him late to enhance his chances of victory.
I’ll await weigh-ins and props for this fight before making a commitment.
Total in this fight: 4.5 rounds (Over -145)
Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-245) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+ 205)
Heavyweight (265 pounds)
This fight opened Marcos Rogerio de Lima -125 and the favorite was bet early, bet hard and continues to get bet.
De Lima is 37, which is not all that old in the heavyweight division. He’s 2-1 in his last three bouts, beating Maurice Greene and Ben Rothwell, but his loss to Blagoy Ivanov is somewhat concerning as Ivanov is at best a journeyman heavyweight.
De Lima, a black belt in BJJ, is extremely explosive early as he packs profuse power in his hands. He rarely utilizes his BJJ in battle; in fact, he wins fights via his power not his game plan, grappling, guile or conditioning.
The 43-year-old Andrei Arlovski, nicknamed “The Pitbull,” is a legend with a 53-20 professional record. After getting submitted by Tom Aspinall in 2021, he’s run off four straight heavyweight victories, albeit against competition as dubious as his opponent has faced.
Arlovski, in this most recent evolution, is pretty much a decision fighter now, choosing to be measured and use his length, reach, experience and cunning to manage space. His intellect provides him the best opportunity in this battle.
With a win, Arlovski, who owns 23 victories in UFC competition, would tie Jim Miller for the most wins in UFC history at 24. Fighting for history and pride, I expect his absolute best effort Saturday night.
According to the movement in the betting line, many believe de Lima will be the winner in this bout. I’m not so certain I agree with that line of thinking.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds (Over -145)
Pick: Over 2.5 rounds (-135, Circa)
Check out “GambLou’s ’Bout Business Podcast,” available Friday afternoon, for all of my final releases.