Well, we have a fight card I guess. This one is bottom of the barrel for overall quality of fighters and not even the main event has anything resembling title implications in any weight class. Be sure to note the elevation as this is a large factor for cardio and gas purposes for every single fighter, further adding another variable.
I will take each fight and assign it to one of five categories for tournament deployment. Those categories are:
- “Lock It In” – This will be for fights that the build should have at or near 100% exposure.
- “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.
- “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. I’ll explain 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 35-5.
- “Ugly Fight” – This will be for fights in which the winner is unlikely for the optimal.
The entire card is on ESPN+ beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
As always, cash, single entry, picks and bets will be updated after weigh-ins.
**Update: Vanessa Melo appeared to have a horrendous weight cut and came in four lbs heavy**
Lock It In
Jeremy Stephens -115, 8000 vs Yair Rodriguez, -115, 8200
Fight is five rounds at 145 lbs and is -220 to end inside the distance.
This fight came to fruition because Yair Rodriguez lucked into a KO at 4:59 of the fifth round in his previous main event fight, and it was a fight he would have lost handily on the scorecards. He will be the less powerful of the two strikers here and will need to keep this fight on the outside, and likely keep the dynamic striking movements to a minimum as he will be in more danger if he allows Jeremy Stephens inside. Neither fighter is overly busy and a decision win in this fight is no lock for the optimal. Stephens is the more powerful striker, has the better chin and would have the advantage in grappling exchanges. Stephens will also be the pressuring fighter and the better bet in this fight for a finish. This isn’t a 100% exposure fight, but more in the 85-90% range. I want significantly more Stephens here — 50-60% range with Rodriguez more in the 25-35% range.
Over The Field
Claudio Puelles, -280, 9000 vs Marcos Mariano, +225, 7200
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -245 to end inside the distance.
This is a crazy matchup to start off the card between two of the lowest-level fighters on the roster. Marcos Mariano is a tall and long lightweight that will carry a 4-inch reach advantage. He is purely a striker and has no grappling game to speak of. In his UFC debut he was taken down and submitted and showed no capability off his back. He will need to keep the fight standing and will find a KO if he does, but that is a significant if. Claudio Puelles, in my humble opinion, does not have the correct mindset to be a successful fighter. He truly does not like to be hit and we have already seen him wilt in the octagon twice from strikes, but he was lucky enough to be handed a kneebar win in one of those. This is about the best fight he can get. If he can get the fight to the floor, he will be in great shape and can find a finish. This fight is a race to exploit the massive flaw of each fighter’s opponent. Equal exposure on the two.
Askar Askarov, -170, 8800 vs Brandon Moreno, +140, 7400
Fight is at 125 lbs and is -135 to end inside the distance.
Brandon Moreno was released but resigned by the UFC and the promotion is using this Mexican card to throw a grappling test at high-level grappler Askar Askarov in his debut. Askarov is a sound striker as well and will have a wide advantage on the feet against the one-dimensional Moreno. Moreno is a sound offensive grappler and we could see some points scored in grappling transitions. However Askarov also has the advantage in the grappling. This fight is a strong candidate for a ceiling score. Askarov should be in the 45-55% range with Moreno in the 20-30% range.
Polo Reyes, -105, 7600 vs Kyle Nelson, -125, 8600
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -265 to end inside the distance.
This fight is the closest to the main event for exposure, and features two guys capable of finishing while both are easily finished. Polo Reyes has a heavy right hand that can knock opponents out, but that’s the end of the positives for him. He’s happy to brawl, and he’s been on the wrong end of the KOs recently. His takedown defense is subpar, and he allows passes and additionally has shown he can be easily finished on the floor. Kyle Nelson has some solid wrestling and this will be the path of least resistance for him. He can easily find a ground finish and will be out of the danger zone there. His cardio is suspect and elevation could make this a bigger problem than usual as/if the fight wears on. We are definitely playing Nelson heavily but also not nearly fading Reyes. Nelson in the neighborhood of 50% with Reyes at 25-30% is most prudent.
Irene Aldana -495, 9400 vs Vanessa Melo +375, 6800
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +130 to end inside the distance.
Irene Aldana isn’t an elite bantamweight by any means, but my word there is a gap in ability in this fight. Vanessa Melo is making her debut, and she is probably undersized for bantamweight. She simply doesn’t have an advantage in this fight and lacks power and any other differentiating feature. Aldana will be taller, longer, quicker, more technical and more powerful. She’s much more sound on the floor and she can pour on volume and can win by any avenue, perhaps even having a real ceiling in a decision win. Get at least 45% on Aldana with room for more and I am perfectly fine fading Melo.
Sergio Pettis, -345, 9300 vs Tyson Nam, +270, 6900
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +230 to end inside the distance.
Sergio Pettis is one of those fighters that has a sound skill set, and a good striker but is not a finisher and does not throw or land in high volume. At $9,300, Pettis is a full fade for me. Tyson Nam makes his UFC debut and is a very heavy-handed flyweight. He has real power and will be the stronger and larger fighter. His punches will count more and it is telling that despite the line being as wide as it is, the personal ITD lines have Nam as twice as likely to finish the fight. Even a decision win would be helpful at this price but landing some bombs for a KO would make him the nuts on the card. Get up to 40% on Nam.
Sijara Eubanks, -265, 9100 vs Bethe Correira, +210, 7100
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +160 to end inside the distance.
Bethe Correira was gifted a split decision win in 2016 but to find her last win before that, we have to go all the way back to 2014 and that was over non-UFC-caliber opponents who were quickly swept from the promotion. She has no elite tool, is not a finisher and will be at a disadvantage in every aspect of this fight. Sijara Eubanks will have an advantage anywhere this fight takes place, particularly on the floor. One takedown will lead to ground and pound for the rest of the round and possibly a submission. Correira is a fade for me while Eubanks can be played as high as 50%.
Jose Quinonez, -145, 8700 vs Carlos Huachin, +115, 7500
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +135 to end inside the distance.
This matchup will see Jose Quinonez have a technicality advantage against a younger, more raw, but also more explosive opponent in Carlos Huachin. Huachin will force the issue more often on the feet but he will probably be touched more often which can take more of a toll at locations like this, fighting at a higher elevation. Quinonez has the wrestling edge and is sound with control on top and this could be the path of least resistance to a decision victory. Huachin likely brings the bigger ceiling but also carries less likelihood of victory. Take between 20-30% exposure on each fighter and don’t let this fight make or break your night.
Angela Hill, -145, 8500 vs Ariane Carnalossi, +115, 7700
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +245 to end inside the distance.
Angela Hill has been fighting often, and we know exactly who she is. She is a busy striker without power who is quick and has good and constant movement. She always brings a good floor with a ceiling always remaining a question mark. Ariane Carnalossi is not quick and will be at quite a disadvantage there, but she brings power and constant pressure. Both fighters will land plenty, but Hill will be busier and Carnalossi will be heavier. Roughly 30% on Hill and 20% on Carnalossi is a good range.
Vinicius Moreria, -120, 8300 vs Paul Craig, -110, 7900
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -230 to end inside the distance.
For the love of God, what are they doing to us with this fight. They’ve literally matched up two guys with a BJJ base who have been absolutely dominated on the feet by strikers and knocked out. Judging by what we know, this could become a striker vs grappler matchup with Paul Craig being the striker. My word, I can’t believe what I’m writing. Paul Craig is the better striker, I still haven’t moved on from that.
Okay I’m back, that took me 12 hours to absorb. Anyway, every single fight of Vinicius Moreira‘s career has been a KO loss or a submission win, and there’s little reason to believe that will change, even with the lack of striking acumen from Craig. Get even exposure at approximately 30% each on this one.
Martin Bravo, -115, 8100 vs Steven Peterson, -115, 8100
Fight is at 145 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.
How’s this for a low-level fight? These are the two fighters remaining on the roster with losses to Alex Caceres. Moreover, these two fighters are remarkably similar. Neither are sound strikers, both are gritty and durable, both will pursue grappling and both lack a go-to tool to find wins and/or finishes. If giving an edge to each, I would say Martin Bravo has the power advantage on the feet, but it is unlikely that edge is enough to truly test the chin of Steven Peterson. Peterson likely has the better BJJ and is something were to happen on the floor, it’s a good bet it’s a good thing for him. Just enough here to keep the build live in a ceiling outcome. Get around 20% on Peterson and 15% on Bravo.
Carla Esparza, -105, 7800 vs Alexa Grasso, -125, 8400
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +240 to end inside the distance.
Do not be fooled by the ceiling score of Alexa Grasso in her last fight. She faced an extremely hittable and washed opponent. Carla Esparza is not a high pace nor hittable opponent and is higher level. This fight is probably more likely to hit the scorecards than even the ITD line suggests. It will be a close one but any ceiling score is just a longshot. Carla could find her ceiling on the floor while Grasso would find it on the feet. Both are fade candidates, with a hard cap of 10-15% on either fighter.
Cash and Single Entry
The cash lineup is fairly straightforward this week. We are going to stack the main event and we are certainly playing both Aldana and Eubanks. The next fighter in is the dirt cheap salary of Nam. He brings a 15 minute floor in a loss and also has fight finishing ceiling. This leaves the last slot as the only one up in the air. We have 8400 and the options are all floor plays, in Grasso, Peterson and Bravo. Bravo is the one I would opt against leaving a coinflip between Peterson and Grasso.
Single entry is a totally different build this week as more ceiling/stance will be required. I believe it is sound to leave Aldana, Eubanks and Nam in the lineup, so let’s go from there. We have to take a stance in the man, and that is Stephens for me. This will let us attack a pair of high ceiling fights. The preferred combination for me is using Nelson and Craig, but it can be flipped. Another option if using Reyes is going to Puelles.
Picks and Bets
Picks With Personal Confidence Percentage
- Puelles 60%
- Eubanks 92%
- Craig 62%
- Pettis 60%
- Hill 65%
- Nelson 63%
- Quinonez 54%
- Peterson 59%
- Aldana 99%
- Askarov 74%
- Grasso 55%
- Stephens 72%
- Eubanks -265
- Hill -150
- Askarov -165
- Stephens -115
Partial Unit Punts:
- Mariano by KO +670
- Nam by KO +485