The UFC returns to the mainland this weekend after a successful – and relatively healthy – run at UFC Fight Island. The promotion will spend all of August in their own gym – the UFC Apex – at their Las Vegas headquarters. And this run of five straight events starts this Saturday with UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Shahbazyan.
Saturday’s original main event fell through because of – you guessed it – COVID-19. Irene Aldana tested positive for the virus, so her fight against fan favourite Holly Holm was pulled from the card.
Brunson v Shahbazyan
The new main event pits two top ten middleweights in Derek Brunson and Edmen Shahbazyan. However, this could be the case of two fighters headed in opposite directions, as Brunson is a grizzled veteran at 36 years old, while Shahbazyan is an undefeated 22-year-old. ‘The Golden Boy’ is a former teammate and current client of superstar Ronda Rousey and is a superb wrestler with the adding bonus of crazy knockout power (he’s knocked out nine of his 11 pro opponents thus far). While Brunson is also a great wrestler, he’s been knocked out five times in his career, including twice in 2018. Shahbazyan is the deserved betting favourite, but the current number at
5/19 is probably a little high to go in on.
Maia v Calderwood
The semi-main event was put together last minute, with #6 Women’s Flyweight contender Jennifer Maia facing late replacement, #3 Joanne Calderwood. Maia was originally supposed to face Viviane Araujo, but she also tested positive for COVID-19. JoJo is an interesting choice to take this fight, as she was next in line for a title shot against current champ Valentina Shevchenko. But, unwilling to wait, and living and training in Vegas by the Apex, she decided to step up to face Maia. She’ll be a
20/33 favourite in this battle, and I expect her to get the W and cement her spot as next in line for the champ.
Now let’s make some real money (hopefully). There are quite a few betting underdogs I like on this card, and here’s hoping we can hit on at least a couple of them.
We start off with Randy Brown at 6/4 facing Vicente Luque. Luque was charging to the top of the welterweight division before being beaten by Stephen Thompson last fall (he bounced back, knocking out Niko Price this past May). However, he has a negative striking differential (meaning on average he gets hit more in fights than he hits his opponent), which should play into the hands of ‘Rude Boy’, who’ll have a size and reach advantage on Luque.
I also like ‘King’ Bobby Green in his rematch against Lando Vannata. The two fought in 2017, with the fight ending in a draw after Vannata was docked a point for an illegal blow. I think Green is worth a look at 23/20 in this one, which is a fairly even matchup.
Herman v Meerschaert
The term ‘grizzled veteran’ was mentioned earlier, and they come no more grizzled than almost-40-year-old ‘Short Fuse’ Ed Herman, who will be entering the UFC octagon for the 24th time on Saturday night. Herman sits at
27/20 for his fight against Gerard Meerschaert. Meerschaert is normally a middleweight, so Herman should be the bigger man in this light heavyweight tilt. He’s also a submission specialist, as is Herman, so this could end up a striking battle. And I like Herman’s size and power in that case, especially at 27/20.
Finally, you might want to take a chance on UFC newcomer Nate Maness at
37/20 against Ray Borg. He’s a half a foot taller than Borg and has nine inches of reach on him. With Borg relying on his wrestling to win most fights, and Maness being a strong wrestler as well, I’m liking those odds.
*All odds correct at time of writing.