Well, it’s back to the Fight Night grind again. After two straight weeks of spectacular events, both on paper and in practice, the normalcy of Vegas cards is back in business until UFC 269. Not that this is a bad card, because it’s not. It’s just not stacked from top to bottom, and that’s fine by me. As long as we’re getting loaded pay-per-view shows, the tradeoff is worth it. Again, this is not a bad card.
When you get down to the anatomy of this card, one thing is abundantly clear—the matchmaking is really good. Think about this for a second, the main event features No. 1 versus No. 3 and it’s not even a title fight. Then you have the very epitome of intrigue with Yadong Song and Julio Arce, which one has to imagine won’t be going the distance. And let’s not forget the ultimate sanctioned violence extravaganza that is Miguel Baeza versus Kalinn Williams. Anyway you slice it, this is a great card, even if it is flying under the radar.
There are plenty of other fights that will no doubt appeal to all sorts of combat appetites, but we’re going to take a look at the four that we feel are the most optimal bets to make on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Max Holloway vs. Yair Rodriguez
Max Holloway To Win By KO/TKO/DQ +150
Yair Rodriguez, despite being the No. 3 guy in a division that is brimming with talent, has a very difficult task ahead of him in Max Holloway. The Mexican star has had a great run inside the Octagon, but we’ve seen cracks in the armor. Those will be exploited by the savvy that Holloway possesses in spades.
Yair’s fight with The Korean Zombie is a prime example of the cracks. He wasn’t getting blown out of that fight, however, Zombie was in a position to steal the decision until that well placed elbow put him out. I won’t use the word luck, but I will say that if it hadn’t landed, we likely would have seen TKZ with his arm raised. Fighters that put Yair Rodriguez on the back foot, dictate the range and pace and throw tons of volume, seem to be the bane of his existence.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe those are the hallmarks of Holloway’s game. He’s a volume machine with incredible durability. Max isn’t a power puncher, rather he does attritive damage that has resulted in finishes. On those instances he doesn’t get the stoppage, he brutally punishes his opponents, round after round. Case in point: Calvin Kattar. Kattar took a beating that was hard to watch. Career-altering is a word many have used when describing the way Max manhandled poor Calvin that night.
While Yair Rodriguez has his upside, primarily a pretty good striking game, and he does have paths to victory — mainly that Holloway is willing to take some to give some and that he tends to be a bit of a slow starter — it’s going to take a Herculean effort to get the payoff. If Rodriguez can capitalize in those moments, his chances increase. That said, I honestly can’t see Max’s chin being an issue, though. It’s never failed him, not once. The key to victory that Frankie Edgar found was to just run right through the gauntlet of Yair’s onslaught, which he did successfully. In the process of walking him down, Frankie was landing everything but the kitchen sink, and ended up stopping him in the second round. Blueprint achieved. Now, we have Rodriguez returning after more than two years away, facing the No. 1 guy on the roster. This is Holloway’s fight to lose.
Ben Rothwell vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Ben Rothwell To Win By Decision +300
Marcos Rogerio de Lima went from being counted on to get exciting finishes to being a more cautious grapple-ish fighter. He’s seeing some success with this new turn, but in facing Big Ben, he may end up hitting a wall. I realize he finished Ben Sosoli last year, but it was Ben Sosoli. Enough said. De Lima hasn’t fared well against grapplers himself, having been defeated by submission five times over the course of his career, and all five of those have been inside the Octagon. He hits hard, so one might think he’d stick to his bread and butter, but his game plan has clearly evolved into something else, and while Rothwell’s chin has been holding fast, he is 40-years-old and 20 years of his best fighting days are behind him.
Rothwell’s chin is made of an as yet to be determined element, but it’s built for fighting. He hasn’t been knocked out since 2009, and has only been submitted once in that same time frame. He’s had wars with Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski, Blagoy Ivanov and Mark Hunt, yet even in victory, those men were unable to put him away. Something tells me de Lima will likely find the same steadfastness in Ben. Neither guy has the best cardio, although if it came down to that factor, my money would be on Rothwell. This could be de Lima’s night, but the safer pick is Rothwell.
Felicia Spencer vs. Leah Letson
Felicia Spencer To Win By Decision -105
Leah Letson looked very promising on The Ultimate Fighter and her career inside the UFC Octagon kicked off successfully with a win over Julija Stoliarenko, but then she decided to move down to bantamweight—a move that would never materialize. Now, here we are, three years later with nary a fight to speak of at all. That’s a long time to be inactive, and then to come back against a very tough woman that’s been active the whole time. Recipe for defeat, in my most humble opinion. She has power and is very durable, but her skillset is wild and unpolished. Unless she manages to hit a lot harder than Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg, I don’t see Spencer falling to anything she launches.
Spencer has been a bit of a mixed bag, herself, alternating between wins and losses. Her last fight, a loss against Norma Dumont this past May, came as a shock to many, but she is also a bit unpolished in her standup, so she got tuned up by Dumont. She has good grappling, and if/when this contest hits the ground, I’d imagine she’ll have the edge there. If Letson has worked on her wrestling during her time away, we could see a much more competitive fight, but based on what we’ve actually seen of both women, the ground advantage clearly lies with Spencer. I like Spencer to go the distance in a fight that will likely be made more difficult than it needs to be.
Song Yadong vs. Julio Arce
Song Yadong To Win By Decision +120
This is the best fight on the card outside of the main event and it is an incredibly well-matched one, at that. Yadong has shown that he can hit like a Mack truck, but he’s also demonstrated that he can be a little too patient waiting for his opponent to push the action so he can land big counters. That’s a dangerous approach with Julio Arce, a tricky range striker who also has a heater. If Arce takes the fight to Yadong and tries to keep it inside the phone booth, he’ll be in Song’s wheelhouse. But, if he can constantly force Song to fight at range and keep him on his toes with continuous movement, or if he decides to take the wrestler’s approach that Cody Stamann did, then he’ll have an opportunity to get the W.
Song is coming off a split-decision win over Casey Kenny, getting him back on the winning track, but Arce won’t be an easy out. Kyler Phillips’ win over Yadong might have been a contentious one, but he did show the cracks in Song’s armor, namely that one can keep him at bay with lots of movement and fighting at range. I still like Yadong here, but I think Arce will make this an absolute dog fight that will go the distance.
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