UFC 254πŸ₯ŠπŸ Main Card Preview

It is finally here! Before you spend your weekly gambling budget on this jam packed college football slate, don’t forget about this elite UFC. Khabib vs. Gaethje is getting most of the attention, deservedly so, as one will gain sole possession of the Light Division belt, but the other five fights on this main card will have you at the edge of your seat. Read the following previews to gain insight on these fights and to cash out!πŸ’Έ

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Light Heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev (-315) vs. Ion Cutelaba (+255) Depending on your hydration, odds are your morning piss lasted longer than both of these fighters first bout. It took Magomed Ankalaev only 38 seconds to win by TKO. However, referee Kevin MacDonald was heavily scrutinized for his premature ending. Cutelaba came out firing with a few leg kicks resulting in minimal damage. Ankalaev stunned him with a right then hit him with three leg kicks in a row, leaving Cutelaba wobbling. What is interesting about this is if you rewatch this sequence he dramatized the blows. Given his wild style I believe he was deliberately trying to wobble to try and catch Ankalaev with his guard down. This unconventional style doesn’t always play, especially against a superior technical fighter like Ankalaev. Looking into the rematch, however I think the ref is going to let the boys play. What I mean by that is their leash is going to be expanded resulting in more heavy blows absorbed by each fighter. This favors Cutelaba given his ability to continuously throw for power. Their last fight was Cutelaba’s first loss by TKO or KO and Ankalaev has only lost once via submission. Cutelaba will take his fair share of shots, but his power will prevail. Magomed Ankalaev’s chin will finally be conquered.

Value Play: Cutelaba by TKO/KO +330. If you want to bet on a specific round I like Cutelaba round 2 (+1200). 13 of his 15 professional wins, remarkably, have come in the 1st round (+750), but I think it’ll be more difficult for him to drop Ankalaev this soon. If he can land a few shots in round 1, Ankalaev won’t be able to take much more damage in round 2.

Flyweight: Lauren Murphy (-210) vs. Liliya Shakirova (+170) Shakirova was a late addition to this one and is making her UFC debut. Murphy is coming off 3 straight wins including beating Andre Lee as an overwhelming dog. Despite her age (37) fight after fight I am left very impressed with Murphy’s conditioning. She has great hands and has a relentless mentality each round. Looking at Shakirova, in the few fights I watched she displayed a solid ground game and kept the pressure throughout. I wasn’t that impressed with her overall power despite loading up several times each fight. She is at her best when she is able to inflict constant pressure leading to take downs. Murphy is just too strong and experienced to lose this way. If you just look at their bodies it looks like they should be in different weight classes and this will play for Murphy. I’m expecting Murphy to control this fight with repetitive combinations and it will be too much too soon for Shakirova.

NEWARK, NJ – AUGUST 03: (L-R) Lauren Murphy celebrates her TKO victory over Mara Romero Borella of Italy in their women’s flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at the Prudential Center on August 3, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Value Play: Lauren Murphy Money Line (-210). I usually like to lean the dog in situations like this but Murphy is legit and you could argue she should be an even bigger favorite. It is always tough betting against someone we don’t know a lot about, but don’t overthink this one. Murphy is the play.

Middleweight: Phillip Hawes (-250) vs. Jacob Malkoun (+195) Phillip Hawes is freshly removed from a very impressive 1st round knockout win over Khadzhimurat Bestaev in Dana White’s Contender Series. In this fight he was the aggressor from the start, using leg kicks to get inside and ultimately landing a powerful right to end Bestaev’s night. All of his movements are extremely quick with high effort. He doesn’t leave much in the tank exerting high energy with each combo. This is why many question his conditioning, with both of his losses coming in round 2 and majority of his wins in round 1. In his 2017 fight vs. Julian Marquez this was displayed. He started off hot was able to take Marquez down with ease and controlled the entire first round. Once the 2nd started, he took a few punches that significantly stopped his aggression. He was gassed and stopped defending leading to a vicious head kick. These two instances depict my overall hesitation with Hawes. Looking at Malkoun, you will not be overly impressed with his stature unlike Hawes. However, he has deceptive power and in the fights I watched he did a great job of avoiding contact. He also is Robert Whittaker’s partner and many believe that is the sole reason he’s on this card. Malkoun will look to silence those critiques and I believe he will do exactly that.

Value Play: Malkoun by TKO/KO (+500). I think Malkoun’s head movements are far too quick to get knocked out in round 1 and history shows after round 1 Hawes is far less effective.

Heavyweight: Alexander Volkov (-180) vs. Walt Harris (+150) Anytime Walt Harris is fighting he has more than a chance to end it early. Harris is all power but is a very one dimensional fighter. In his last fight vs. Overeem he looked dominant out the gate and was moments away from a round 1 win. Overeem eventually recovered and dominated the fight. Harris has no ground game and I highly doubt he has developed one in 5 months. I don’t think this will be a huge factor in this fight however. Volkov isn’t a grappler but with his length he’ll be able to control this fight. It is going to be extremely difficult for Harris to gain leverage given Volkov’s height and savviness. Volkov will be able inflict damage at ease as long as he can escape Harris’s power. I wouldn’t be shocked if Harris tries to conserve some energy to prolong the fight, but ultimately I don’t see him having enough in his tool box to defeat Volkov.

Value Play: Volkov Money Line (-180). Given Harris’s conditioning being a liability, many are going to bet Volkov by KO/TKO (+250). I don’t think that’s is a bad bet, but I don’t think Harris is going to approach this fight the same way. I feel most comfortable just taking Volkov money line and think it’s an easy leg for a parlay.

CO MAIN EVENT

Middleweight: Robert Whitaker (-115) vs. Jared Cannonier (-115) This can very well end up being the fight of the night. Whittaker has one of the best resumes in all of UFC and that continued with his most recent fight vs. Darren Till. He has great balance to his game and knows when to be aggressive. Versus Till, Whittaker showed his in fight adaptability which will be a huge factor in this fight. Cannonier hasn’t fought since last September and hasn’t shown great takedown defense, however it did looked improved in his last fight. This fight being only 3 rounds should be a positive for Cannonier, but Whittaker is freshly removed from a 5 round decision where his conditioning looked adequate. Cannonier’s best chance of winning is with his power, but Whitaker has beaten Yoel Romero twice, who has one of the heaviest punches in the UFC. A potentially huge factor is that Whitaker has been dropped 5 times in his last 3 fights. However, he recovered from all of these and I am impressed by his chin. Overall Whittaker’s speed will be too much for Cannonier and he will grind him out. The former heavyweights power could be something Whittaker has never seen before, but I feel most confident going with the fighter with more versatility.

Value Play: Whitaker by Decision (+225). Whitaker’s vast experience and multitude of attacks will grind away Canonier.

MAIN EVENT

Lightweight Title Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov (-355) vs. Justin Gaethje (+265) In May, when Gaethje won the interim belt he threw it off to the side and said, “I’ll wait for the real one.” He finally has his chance to gain the “real one” but it won’t be an easy feat. Stylistically this is probably Khabib’s most difficult opponent given Gaethje’s wrestling background and more than powerful striking. However, Khabib is a different animal and Gaethje has never faced someone with his takedown repertoire. Khabib hands aren’t bad by any means but he will play into Gaethje’s game if he remains on his feet. If Gaethje can be the aggressor and land some early kicks I think it can slow down Khabib, limiting his energy on takedowns. With that said, Khabib’s conditioning is elite and he’ll try to bring this fight to the ground as often as possible. Gaethje has been taken down before but he excels at getting right up. This aspect will dictate the fight. If Khabib can keep Gaethje on the ground he will remain undefeated. If Gaethje can limit Khabib’s ground game and turn it into a slug fest he will finally have a “real belt”.

Value Play: Justin Gaethje Money Line (+265). This will be Khabib’s toughest opponent yet and given the question marks with his camp there definitely is value with Gaethje. If he’s going to win it’s most likely going to be via KO/TKO (+350), but we have never seen Khabib deal with continuous damage. With that uncertainty I’ll happily “play it safe” and take the money line instead.

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