After some last minute action on Mike Perry and Derrick Lewis, I was able to salvage a UFC 226 card where I got most of my predictions completely wrong. Anyway, here are my breakdowns of the fights that I’m interested in betting for UFC Fight Night 133.

Cat Zingano vs. Marion Reneau

Based on recent results, it’s easy to assume that Marion Reneau is the correct pick here. Personally, I give more weight to stylistic matchups than recent runs of form when capping fights.

Cat Zingano has lost her last three bouts, but all were against excellent grapplers. Ronda Rousey and Ketlen Vieira are high level judokas while Julianna Pena is arguably the best wrestler in the division. Zingano is an All-American wrestler herself, and was able to dominate the grappling exchanges against Pena for large portions of the fight.

Despite being comfortable in side control, Zingano attempted to submit Pena in round two. This over-aggression resulted in her getting reversed and ultimately cost her the fight.

Marion Reneau is the more refined striker at range and has a dangerous guard game, but she’s easy to take down. Olympic wrestler, Sara Mcmann, was able to ground Reneau – but so were lesser grapplers like Bethe Correia and Talita Bernardo (Bernado does have a legitimate ground game but she’s not a wrestler).

If Zingano shoots takedowns, lands enough ground strikes to avoid a stand up from the referee and seeks to maintain top position – she can easily grind out rounds against Reneau. However, if she aggressively seeks finishes on the mat, she could easily get out-scrambled by her crafty black belt opponent.

I like a play on Cat Zingano at +100 because I feel she should be a slight favorite. Hopefully she takes a page out of her teammate Phil Davis’ book and takes a more conservative approach with her wrestling and top control.

Said Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Scoggins

No fighter in the UFC has a larger discrepancy between skills and fight IQ than Justin Scoggins. The South Carolina native has a superb Karate-based striking style with unorthodox movement.

When attacking from unpredictable angles, his opponents look visibly perplexed as they’re unable to prepare for what strikes are coming next. Unlike most flashy strikers, Scoggins is also an excellent wrestler and was able to confidently shutdown the smothering attack of one of the division’s best grapplers, Ray Borg.

While these combination of attributes would normally make an elite fighter, Scoggins consistently finds ways to lose fights – primarily by way of submission.

Despite his striking prowess, Scoggins secretly wishes he was Demian Maia. This costs him time and time again.

Against Ulka Sasaki, a dangerous submission specialist that was comprehensively outclassed on the feet, Scoggins chose to engage his opponent on the mat when he didn’t need to. You can hear his corner imploring Scoggins to separate and stand up, yet he wouldn’t listen.

While I would never bet Scoggins against any fighter that threatens with opportunistic submissions, he may have a favorable matchup against Dagestan standout, Said Nurmagomedov.

Unlike his cousins, Abubakar and Khabib, Said is not a suffocating top control wrestler. He certainly has wrestling in his back pocket, but primarily likes to strike. His standup style is somewhat reminiscent of Zabit Magomedsharipov.

While Nurmagomedov is an accurate striker, he’s also quite stationary. I believe Scoggins’ footwork and use of angles will be a huge advantage here. Give me Justin Scoggins at +145.

Jessica Aguilar vs. Jodie Esquibel

While a solid performer at World Series of Fighting and other international organizations over the years, Jessica Aguilar has looked underwhelming in her UFC tenure. At 36-years-of-age, it’s easy to assume that Aguilar is on the decline.

That’s one way of looking at things. Another is that she faced two nightmare matchups.

Claudia Gadelha is one of the best straweights in the world and Cortney Casey did an excellent job of using her reach advantage to keep the smaller Aguilar at bay. Aguilar won’t have that problem against Jodie Esquibel, who has a similar body type to her.

Esquibel has good movement and throws a lot of volume, but she’s not accurate. She hits thin air more than she hits her opponents. Esquibel likes to throw a leaping left hook as well as other wide shots, whereas Aguilar is more fundamentally solid and fires straight down the middle.

Esquibel is very hittable. As long as Aguilar doesn’t look as gunshy as she did in her last two fights, she should be able to land her straight punches all night. Aguilar is also the superior wrestler and would be wise to take her opponent to the mat to steal rounds.

In what is likely to be a close fight, I can understand people hitting Esquibel when she opened as an underdog – but I don’t think she’s playable as a favorite. Personally, I favor Jessica Aguilar at +110.

Zak Ottow vs. Sage Northcutt

Gritty midwesterner and owner of Pura Vida MMA, Zak Ottow welcomes one of the most marketable fighters in the UFC, Sage Northcutt, to the welterweight division.

With the physique of an action figure and an eye-catching Karate style, it’s easy to see why fans tune in every time Northcutt fights. He throws strikes with blistering speed and is impressive to watch when he’s given space to operate – as shown in his fight against Michel Quinonez.

However, when you pressure him and force him to grapple, he’s prone to making hilariously bad mistakes. His last opponent, Thibault Gouti, is primarily a striker and was able to take down Northcutt easily. Gouti also landed numerous hooks on Northcutt’s prepubescent face throughout the fight and was unlucky to come away with a decision loss.

Unlike Gouti, Zak Ottow has a wrestling base, is a jiu-jitsu black belt and cuts from over 200 pounds. If Ottow replicates Gouti’s game plan – he can definitely give the much smaller Northcutt yet another submission loss for his record.

While not as flashy as his opponent, Ottow is an effective striker. However, he’d be wise to avoid striking at distance if he wants to guarantee his best chances of victory.

Watching his interviews, Ottow sounds like a very intelligent guy. I also admire his stoic demeanor and lack of smiling.

On the other hand, Sage Northcutt seems extremely excitable and has highlights in his hair. I’m not with that.

Give me the superior wrestler and jiu-jitsu player with a size advantage at underdog odds. Zak Ottow is the play at +110.

Dennis Bermudez vs. Rick Glenn

I love watching Rick Glenn fight. He has an iron chin, never takes a backward step and forces his opponents into wars – whether they like it or not.

Although he was outgunned by the technical striking repertoire of Myles Jury, Glenn put on an incredible performance against highly touted Canadian prospect, Gavin Tucker, withstanding a barrage of strikes early in the fight to take over in rounds two and three.

On paper he has a difficult matchup here.

Former Division 1 wrestler, Dennis Bermudez, is an excellent fighter 80% of the time. However, he gives away fights with critical mistakes during that other 20%.

In a very winnable fight against Darren Elkins, Bermudez ultimately came up short on the scorecards after ceding a little too much positional control.

Bermudez is the more credentialed wrestler, cleaner striker and better athlete – but Rick Glenn is a relentless savage that can catch you slipping. I also feel you have to question the chin of Bermudez at this stage in his career.

Ultimately, I feel Bermudez should win the fight but I have no interest in playing his -245 moneyline. I could be interested in playing Dennis Bermudez by decision depending on the price.

Junior dos Santos vs. Blagoi Ivanov

Junior dos Santos has been a fantastic heavyweight for years, but it’s very possible he’s declining. He’s taken ridiculous damage in his career, particularly against former champion, Cain Velasquez.

Still, when Junior shows up – he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Against a deadly but plodding opponent in Ben Rothwell, Junior used his superior footwork and boxing combos to earn a dominant decision victory. This approach would work well against Blagoi Ivanov, another explosive heavyweight with limited movement.

Despite his sambo credentials, we don’t usually see Ivanov wrestle in the cage. Ivanov’s grappling is probably a non-factor anyway, since Junior possesses excellent counter-wrestling.

Instead, Ivanov is looking to take your head off with single shots. His striking style lacks sophistication, but it has been effective for him thus far – primarily due to his big punching power and superb chin.

Junior’s chin, on the other hand, is questionable – making his margin for error small.

Obviously I have reservations about betting the Brazilian ex-champion in 2018, but styles make fights. Junior dos Santos is the play at -170.

My Favorite Plays

  • 1 unit on Cat Zingano at +100
  • 2 units on Justin Scoggins at +145
  • 0.5 units on Jessica Aguilar at +110
  • 1 unit on Zak Ottow at +110
  • 2 units on Junior dos Santos at -170

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