The UFC returns Saturday night with a fight card at its new APEX center in Las Vegas after presenting three cards over eight days in Florida.
Insight the Octagon releases for those cards stood 7-4 + 3.1u with an open parlay (Henry Cejudo -210) yet to be filled, making 2020 profitability to date: 15-4 + 11.90 units.
This slate from the APEX features many lower-ranked athletes who have been waiting patiently to reinvigorate their careers. The next few cards, which are not pay-per-view events, will provide many U.S. fighters a chance to get back into action. Those cards also will be at the APEX.
Tyron Woodley -180 vs. Gilbert Burns + 160 welterweight (170 pounds), main event
This will be a stellar clash of fighting styles between combatants seen moving in opposite career trajectories.
Sixth-ranked welterweight Burns rolls into this main event with the momentum of winning his last five fights. However, only the last three have been at welterweight. His time at lightweight indicates he is a tweener who’s a bit too large for the 155-pound division but perhaps not physically structured enough for the elite welterweight level. Burns’ expertise lies in Jiu-Jitsu, as he is recognized as a world-class BJJ practitioner. This will be his first five-round main event, and I expect the extra 10 minutes will be a factor for a somewhat undersized fighter against a wrestler of Woodley’s ilk.
Burns has looked strong on the feet in his last three fights. But two were against Gunnar Nelson and Demian Maia, grapplers lacking in effective striking. He also defeated a solid fighter in Alexey Kunchenko, who is more a lightweight-sized fighter than a welterweight.
Burns’ striking has improved. He possesses power, but in a war waged on the feet against most top-tier welterweights, he’d be outgunned.
Woodley, an ex-champion and current No. 1 contender, lost his welterweight title to Kamaru Usman in March 2019 and looked sluggish, deliberate, lethargic and distracted. That impression coupled with Woodley’s overall reluctance to defend the welterweight belt — surely not sitting well with the UFC — and his dubious decision to launch a rap music career lead pundits and fans to wonder where his head might be. But his futile attempt at a rap career has been replaced by a more focused, mature man realizing exactly what he is at his core — a championship-level mixed martial artist.
This is a career-defining opportunity for Burns, who trains with Usman, and Woodley, who with an impressive win would jump back into title-fight contention.
Woodley will hold a vast experience edge and has faced better competition. He’ll own 3-inch advantages in arm and leg reach, though Burns is five years younger.
This fight will come down to Burns’ ability to force Woodley against the cage and then onto the floor, for Burns will find out quickly that he’ll be completely outgunned on his feet against the more explosive Woodley. Burns has submitted 47% of his opponents in wins, and he must try to wear out Woodley and outwork him the way Usman did.
On the other hand, Woodley will need to rely on his superior 92% takedown defense to keep Burns away from any up-close confrontation and keep him standing in a range where Woodley’s power and savvy will be too much.
The fight opened Woodley -150 and has slowly risen to Woodley -180.
I handicap Woodley -250. Burns is getting the benefit of some recency. But Woodley’s experience in championship-level bouts, his physical advantages and especially his motivation make me believe Burns is stepping up for a world-class whipping.
Note that the UFC uses two sizes of octagon depending on how large each venue is. In Florida it used the 30-foot Octagon, but for the APEX fights it will use the 25-footer, which is a sizable difference. Octagon size can help dictate pace and style in that smaller cages encourage confrontation and less movement and evasion.
The smaller cage may be viewed as an advantage for grappler Burns, as it could be harder for Woodley to maintain distance for his striking. Even so, Woodley’s ability to thwart the smaller man’s takedown attempts will force Burns into poorly calculated takedown efforts, exposing him to damage.
I’ll use the open parlay from UFC 249 (Cejudo -210) with Woodley -180, which if it wins pays + 130.
I strive to lay only a net one unit for all wagers if possible. Using a parlay on value-laden favorites is one of my favorite ways to minimize outlay yet maximize profitability. For any who do not have the open leg available with Cejudo, I suggest you start one here with Woodley.