The good times kept rolling last weekend at UFC 268, as overall my picks for the event went 12-2. Not to mention the event was filled with action-packed and meaningful fights. Here’s hoping to both being true again this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Rodriguez, as the octagon returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The main event matches up two of the most exciting featherweight fighters in the world in Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez. ‘Blessed’ Holloway was the UFC’s 145-pound king from 2017 to 2019, before current champ Alexander Volkanovski squeaked by him via decision in back-to-back fights. Considering Holloway was in the midst of losing three of four fights come the start of 2021, and all the accumulated damaged he has accrued over the years, I was thinking it was the time to fade the former champ. Well, he put those thoughts to bed in this last fight, dismantling Calvin Kattar and looking no less worse for the wear.
Which may explain the crazy 1/9 line on Holloway to win this weekend over feared striker Rodriguez. While ‘El Pantera’ has been out of the cage for over two years, when he has competed in the UFC’s octagon, he has been highly successful, posting an 8-1 (1 NC) record. This includes winning a season of The Ultimate Fighter and scoring some ridiculous highlight-worthy knockouts (flying head kicks, reverse elbows – you know, run of the mill stuff). His lone UFC loss was to former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, four and a half years ago.
Despite all this, Holloway is my pick. He’s the better and more technical striker and is also far more active in that realm. But I’m not a fan of the line.
Big Boys and Underdogs
The co-main event pits two big boys against one another – heavyweights Ben Rothwell and Marcos Rogerio de Lima. Despite just recently turning 40, and having 52 pro MMA fights on his resume, Rothwell doesn’t seem to be slowing down, winning three of his last four fights, one via TKO and his last via submission. The Brazilian de Lima is just too inconsistent and too susceptible to submissions for me to pick, so Big Ben at 20/33 is the way to go.
Alright, let’s get down on some underdogs now, shall we? We’ll start with a big one in 2/1 Joel Alvarez in his lightweight prelim bout against Thiago Moises. Moises is a grappling-heavy fighter, but Alvarez is a submission specialist, so that could play right into his advantage. Plus, he’s six years younger, has seven inches of reach over Moises, and is the better and more active striker. This adds up to good odds on a nice two to one payday for us.
Next, we’ll back Andrea Lee at 21/20 for her women’s flyweight fight against Cynthia Calvillo. Calvillo is taking this fight on short notice, which lowers her chances of winning to 39% based on stats I’ve tracked over the past two years. And Lee is the bigger, younger, better striker of the two. Sounds like another good path to a plus money payout.
Finally, we’ll turn to another women’s flyweight underdog in Liana Jojua. The Georgian pays back 37/20 if she beats Cortney Casey on Saturday, which I obviously think she will. Casey relies on grappling to win fights, but Jojua is the better grappler here, plus Casey has fought most of her career at a lower weight class, strawweight. Jojua has the grappling chops and is eight years younger than Casey and still improving. Another nice bet for us for another nice plus return.