Now that is more like it. UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs Benavidez 2 wasn’t just a magical night for Deiveson Figueiredo, as he was crowned the UFC Flyweight Champion. It was also a magical night for this column, as I went 9-3 and hit on two underdogs (including a +285 one!).
The UFC bids farewell to UFC Fight Island this weekend with one last event – UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Till. And it’s a damn good fight card to boot, not only in quality but in quantity, with an unprecedented 15 fights on the lineup.
Here are my picks for all 15 of those fights, as we look to go 15-0 (I’ll accept 14-1 I guess).
All odds courtesy of MyBookie
Robert Whittaker (-115) vs Darren Till
Our main event is a matchup between top middleweight title contenders Robert Whittaker and Darren Till. Long-time champ Whittaker just dropped his belt last October, getting knocked out by Israel Adesanya. That was his first loss in the UFC as a middleweight (8-1). Till, meanwhile, is coming off a split decision win over Kelvin Gastelum. This is a tough one to call, hence the -115 numbers on the board for both men, so I figured I’d go with a crowd source pick and pick Whittaker since he’s the favorite thus far in the UFC Pick ‘Em Contest I run (you can enter it for free right here). Should be a good match either way.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (-190) vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Two legends meet for the third time in the co-main event, with Shogun Rua winning both of their previous encounters. I’m going with him in this one also, as he seems to have a little more left in the tank than Lil Nog does, who plans on retiring after this fight.
Alexander Gustafsson (-345) vs Fabricio Werdum
A huge number for long-time light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson as he makes his heavyweight debut (and his return from his brief ‘retirement’) on Saturday. But size-wise he’ll have the height and reach advantage on former champ Fabricio Werdum, as well as the striking advantage. Plus Werdum looked absolutely horrible in his return from a PED suspension earlier this year, grossly overweight and out of shape.
Marina Rodriguez (-180) vs Carla Esparza
Another top one to call in this women’s strawweight battle. I’m going with the undefeated Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2), as she’ll be five inches taller and have two inches of reach, which she should put to good use in the striking department, where she should have a distinct striking advantage. If she can keep ‘Cookie Monster’ from putting her on her back, this fight is hers to win.
Paul Craig (-125) vs Gadzhimurad Antigulov
The ‘Bearjew’ will be much bigger than the Russian fighter, being four inches taller and six inches of reach. I know it’s boring constantly talking about size, but it really does matter, especially in this one, as Antigulov generally gets pieced up on his feet. However, Craig is a submission expert, so the strikes will just be used to try to put Anitgulov on his back.
Alex Oliveira (-170) vs Peter Sobotta
The Brazilian Cowboy is the choice in this matchup, as he faces Peter Sobotta coming off of a two year absence from the octagon. He’s the superior striker, and has the grappling chops to avoid Sobotta’s wrestling and submissions.
Khamzat Chimaev (-1000) vs Rhys McKee
Chimaev had a terrific UFC debut on July 15th, submitting John Phillips after destroying him in the grappling department. He should be able to do similar to the debuting Rhys McKee on short notice for both fighters. However, you probably want to avoid the -1000 number on this one.
Jai Herbert (+140) vs Francisco Trinaldo
Cage Warriors champ Jai Herbert will make his much-anticipated UFC debut in this battle with grizzled veteran Francisco Trinaldo. Herbert will be the bigger fighter and is 10 years the Brazilian’s junior, as well as being the superior striker. Worth the gamble for plus money.
Nicolas Dalby (-270) vs Jesse Ronson
Jesse Ronson will be making his UFC return after going 0-3 in his first foray in the big leagues six years ago. He’ll also be moving up from lightweight to welterweight for this fight with Nicolas Dalby. Two reasons why Dalby is the pick here.
Tom Aspinall (-220) vs Jake Collier
Yet another UFC newcomer in this heavyweight battle, as British heavyweight Tom Aspinall makes the jump to the big leagues. He’ll be much bigger and younger than opponent Jake Collier, so you know that makes him the pick.
Mike Grundy (+150) vs Movsar Evloev
A battle of two decorated wrestlers in this one, which probably means they’ll cancel each other out and this will end up as a striking battle. With Mike Grundy just winning his last fight via TKO, and generally being a better striker, he’s worth a stab at plus money.
Tanner Boser (-265) vs Raphael Pessoa
‘The Bulldozer’ Tanner Boser looked real good last month in his KO victory over Philipe Lins, and I expect the same here. He’ll be too quick and hits too hard for Raphael Pessoa to hang with him.
Pannie Kianzad (-145) vs Bethe Correia
These two match up pretty evenly on paper, so I’ll once again go with the bigger, younger fighter to win in Pannie Kianzad.
Ramazan Emeev (-400) vs Niklas Stolze
Emeev is 3-1 in the UFC while Niklas Stolze will be making his debut on Saturday. The few times he fought in a higher-level regional promotion (BAMMA), he has lost, which I expect him to do again on Saturday.
Nathaniel Wood (-490) vs John Castaneda
Yet another UFC newcomer in this one, and another last minute one, in John Castaneda. ‘The Prospect’ Nathaniel Wood, despite losing his last fight, has been impressive in the UFC and he should be impressive again this weekend.
Return on Investment: 2%