Give me as many Gaethje main events as we can possibly have! It’s always a pleasure when we have one of the most exciting fighters in the world wrapping up a card.
This will be the first writeup with a new format for tournament exposures. It will be for fight night cards for starters and depending on feedback, may become the permanent format.
I will take each fight and assign it to one of five categories for tournament deployment. Those categories will be as follows:
- “Lock It In” – This will be for fights that the build should have at or near 100% exposure to. An explanation of how to split exposure will follow.
- “Over The Field” – This will be for fights that are attractive and likely to see the winner to the optimal, but not quite at the Lock It In level. These fights should be deployed at approximately 80% total fight exposure and an explanation of how to split exposure will follow.
- “Stance Fight” – This will be for fights that we have a real expectation on one fighter winning and being probable for the optimal. The exposure level will vary and an explanation will be provided on both the level of exposure of our stance fighter and whether their opponent is a fade or low-level exposure.
- “Defensive Fight” – This will be for fights that are middle of the road for the optimal and have a wide range of outcomes. We will generally deploy the total fight exposure at 35-50% and an explanation will be provided.
- “Ugly Fight” – This will be for fights in which the winner is unlikely for the optimal. Explanation will be provided.
The entire card is on ESPN+ beginning at 5PM EST.
As always, cash, single entry, picks and bets will be updated after weigh-ins.
Update: Pereira missed weight by a single pound. He opted to stop cutting so this has no bearing on the fight.
Lock It In Fights
Donald Cerrone, +165, 7200 vs Justin Gaethje, -200, 9000
Fight is five rounds at 155 lbs and is -610 to end inside the distance.
This just seems like a head-scratching spot for Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone to dive into, even given his propensity for fighting often and taking on all comers. After the beating he took in his last fight, fighting someone like Justin Gaethje is the worst path one can take. Cowboy is tough, but Gaethje is just a killer and will tear up the legs on the outside and press inside, forcing the issue. It seems unlikely Cowboy will be able to set up a signature head kick in this matchup and the pace will be much quicker than he likes. He is in a race for a finish whether he wants to be or not and will have to kill or be killed. The salary and betting lines are on point for this one, so roughly three to one exposure tilted towards Gaethje. He should be your highest exposure.
Over The Field
Glover Texeira, -115, 7700 vs Nikita Krylov, -115, 8500
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -485 to end inside the distance.
Glover Texeira has had an interesting path to victory of late. That is to absorb massive damage until he can get to a favorable grappling position and find a submission, which he is elite at doing. Nikita Krylov will have to avoid grappling, which is something he rarely does, and pour on the strikes to win this one. There’s a large ceiling here for the winner and pricing dictates roughly a 2:1 exposure on the Texeira side.
Todd Duffee, -105, 7900 vs Jeff Hughes, -125, 8300
Fight is at heavyweight and is -300 to end inside the distance.
Todd Duffee returns to the octagon after an absence of over four years. A slew of injuries took him out for that long and we have to understand there’s quite an element of unknown in his return. What was always previously true of him is his gas tank lasts less than a full round and there was a high probability of a KO in that first round, one way or the other. Jeff Hughes projects to have the cardio advantage if not the power advantage and his chances of a KO raise exponentially every minute after the third minute of the fight. Duffee has the high chance up until that point. Don’t expect grappling, just a short war. Even exposure on the two fighters.
Misha Cirkunov, -115, 8000 vs Jim Crute, -115, 8200
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -350 to end inside the distance.
Misha Cirkunov has seen all seven of his last seven fights end one of two ways: Cirkunov knocked out or finding a submission win. The most recent five fights have ended in the first round and three of the last four have ended with Cirkunov on the losing end of a KO. Jim Crute has the power to make another KO a reality, and he’s capable if not high end with the grappling. He should be able to keep the fight standing long enough to get the early KO, but will, simply put, be in trouble in any grappling exchange the longer the fight progresses. I want more exposure to Crute, somewhere between a 3:2 and 2:1 ratio.
Michel Pereira, -545, 9500 vs Tristan Connelly, +405, 6700
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -275 to end inside the distance.
Michel Pereira is an exciting fighter that is willing and happy to fire off some crazy attacks and gets a low-level short-notice replacement opponent in Tristan Connelly, who is additionally up a weight class for this fight. Pereira will be the much larger and more powerful fighter and carries by far the highest personal ITD line on the card. It’s probable a very fun KO is en route. Pereira does have losses to his record and can be worn down, and additionally, it’s questionable who is the superior grappler in this fight. That’s to say if the early KO doesn’t happen, Connelly would be in play for the optimal at price with any avenue of victory. Pereira can be deployed as high as 50% with a 10-15% comeback on Connelly being prudent.
Antonio Carlos Junior, -230, 9100 vs Uriah Hall, +190, 7100
Fight is at 185 lbs and is -285 to end inside the distance.
Antonio Carlos Junior, otherwise known as Shoeface, carries the largest advantage anywhere in this fight, and that is grappling which should ultimately result in a submission win. He isn’t the better striker than Uriah Hall, but that gap is simply not nearly as wide, and once Shoeface gets the fight to the floor, it will be curtains for Hall. Hall simply won’t be able to stop the passes to dominant position, and ultimately the submission. Hall does have sneaky one-shot KO power, particularly later in fights, but is just a lower exposure while Shoeface should be up in the 40% range.
Marcin Tybura, -120, 8400 vs Augusto Sakai, -110, 7800
Fight is at heavyweight and is +120 to end inside the distance.
This fight will come down to Marcin Tybura’s chin and how well it holds up and his ability to secure a takedown or two. He is the superior grappler but his ability to get the fight to the floor is very much a question mark against the larger Augusto Sakai. Sakai is the more dangerous striker and Tybura has been KO’d in two of his last three and this is why Sakai has the scoring ceiling advantage, in addition to the pricing advantage on a card scarce for sound underdogs. A Tybura ceiling is highly unlikely and he’s just a sprinkle to fade while Sakai can be as high as 40%.
Louis Smolka, -230, 9200 vs Ryan MacDonald, +190, 7000
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -230 to end inside the distance.
There’s an argument to be made Ryan MacDonald is the worst fighter on the roster, in any weight class. He simply isn’t dangerous and has a severe lack of power and movement in the striking. He’s an okay grappler but will be at a disadvantage in all aspects against Louis Smolka with perhaps his lone path to a win being finding a guillotine. Smolka is a low IQ fighter but a capable grappler who will force the issue. He will eventually find a ground finish and can be deployed as high as 40% while MacDonald is a fade.
Cole Smith, +105, 7600 vs Miles Johns, -135, 8600
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +135 to end inside the distance.
Cole Smith is a wrestler/grinder who will look to clinch up, take down and mat return. Closing the distance here will be key as Miles Johns will hold a wide edge on the feet. Johns will definitely get the best of the exchanges on the inside and outside and pressure until Smith makes him stop with a takedown or the gas tank runs out. That gas tank could be an issue for Johns later in the fight. We just want just enough exposure to both sides here to make sure an underdog win in the optimal is covered or a ceiling outcome for Johns. Get roughly 20% each.
Chas Skelly +115, 7500 vs Jordan Griffin -145, 8700
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -175 to end inside the distance.
Chas Skelly looks to bounce back after being finished in consecutive fights. His strength, as well as Jordan Griffin’s, is submission grappling. I would deem Skelly better at this and he is a very live underdog. Skelly can hurt opponents with his left hand as well, but that’s where the advantages end. Griffin is far more athletic and throws the better kicks and range strikes on the feet. He will also have a cardio advantage later in the fight. This is a tough fight to call and both fighters have ceilings, so attack at roughly 50% to 60% total fight exposure with the edge in exposure going to Skelly.
Brad Katona, -170, 8900 vs Hunter Azure, +140 7300
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +195 to end inside the distance
Brad Katona doesn’t have a skill set designed for DK scoring but is sound everywhere. He will be the better striker in this matchup while Hunter Azure is a debuting wrestler who will want to grind the fight to the mat. The longer the fight is standing, the bigger the edge for Katona. He doesn’t have impressive power and any striking finish would be a later one due to attrition. While Katona has the better BJJ, he’s not an elite practitioner by any means and a submission on the floor would be unlikely. Katona is just never a likely ceiling fighter and is a fade candidate. Azure with the wrestling skill set can score some points and is in play for a decision win at a favorable price and should be in builds between 15 and 30 percent.
Austin Hubbard -140, 8800 vs Kyle Prepolec, -110, 7400
Fight is at 155 lbs and is +200 to end inside the distance.
This fight could have been a stance fight as Austin Hubbard is the superior fighter in all aspects, but his price and ceiling do not mesh well. He will be the busier striker and definitely the better grappler against the weak takedown defense of Kyle Prepolec. Prepolec just doesn’t put out enough volume for his own good and will be paced on the scorecards here whether it’s standing on the floor. Hubbard should still be in the build but capped at around 15%. Prepolec is optional but can be thrown in if needing some more underdog exposure.
Cash and Single Entry
We have many coin flip level fights with high probabilities of an early finish this week, and we must be mindful to avoid as many land mines as possible. We are going to be forced to take a stance on one of those fights, so let’s create the lineup. Having the winner from the main event is an absolute must, so we lead off the cash lineup with a main event stack. We need at least one floor underdog and the value and takedown skill set of Azure is my choice. This leaves an 8800 average for the last three spots. The perceived safety of Shoeface is the next fighter in, along with the value of the top priced Pereira, we are down to making our stand on one of the afroementioned coin flip fights, lacking any floor. Glover Texeira brings the best pricing value and has ceiling and would be my choice, however the ceiling of Duffee and floor of Sakai are perfectly fine too.
For single entry, I’m removing Cowboy from the main event stack and also not paying up for Pereira. Instead, I’m taking stands on the coin flip fights for ceiling. Gaethje, Shoeface and Texeira remain in the lineup, then we must take a stand on the Hughes, Cirkunov and Tybura fights. For me personally, I’d opt for Duffee, Crute and Sakai but changing any of those up is perfectly fine.
Picks and Bets
Picks with personal confidence percentage:
- Hubbard 74%
- Smolka 89%
- Griffin 55%
- Azure 50%
- Johns 58%
- Sakai 61%
- Shoeface 90%
- Pereira 90%
- Duffee 58%
- Texeira 63%
- Gaethje 75%
- Hubbard -140
- Azure +140
- Johns -135
- Sakai -110
- Crute -110
- Shoeface -230
- Texeira -105
- Gaethje -190