After an unsatisfactory UFC 228 card, I’m on the hunt for some fat stacks of cash as the world’s biggest MMA organization heads to Moscow, Russia, for the first time. From a gambling perspective, I dislike this card. However, if you’re a juice lord that enjoys parlaying big favorites with little consideration to value, you’ll be in paradise.
Here are my breakdowns of the bouts on UFC Fight Night 136 that I’m interested in betting.
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Terrion Ware
Georgian wrestler and Serra-Longo Fight Team product, Merab Dvalishvili, looks to have a favorable match-up in his third UFC outing. He may be the best fighter in the UFC with an 0-2 record.
Despite the controversial ending to his last bout, Merab looked excellent for the first two rounds – tossing around a strong wrestler in Ricky Simon. His striking technique is still somewhat unrefined, but he’s absolutely dangerous on the feet. Against a pure boxer in Terrion Ware, I’d imagine the Georgian will look to take the fight to the mat quickly.
Although Ware has lost all three of his UFC bouts, he hasn’t looked bad. He should really have gotten the nod against rising French prospect, Tom Duquesnoy. Coming from an amateur boxing background, Ware’s hands are his best asset as an MMA fighter.
Unfortunately for Ware, he’s not blessed with natural power – so even if he does land the cleaner strikes, it’s hard to see how he’ll prevent the forward momentum of his opponent that will want to grapple. Worse still, Ware was taken down again and again in his fight with Cody Stamann – another fighter with a wrestling base.
Stamman was successful with his double leg takedowns, whereas Merab tends to favor the body lock. Nevertheless, I find it hard to envision Ware constantly defending takedowns against a relentless marauder like Merab.
I put Merab in a parlay at -350, but I’m not sure if I’d play him at -500. If you’re looking to bet this fight, it could be worth hitting Merab Dvalishvili by decision at -145 as Ware is difficult to put away.
Jordan Johnson vs. Adam Yandiev
Former All-American Division 1 wrestler, Jordan Johnson, has looked like a decent competitor in the UFC. Although his decision victories against Adam Milstead and Marcel Fortuna both could have gone either way, it’s clear Johnson is a UFC-calibur fighter.
He’s a good athlete with a wrestling base and solid boxing. He’s also an accomplished no-gi grappler. He seems to have good punch resistance, which may be a factor as his opponent is dangerous in the first few minutes of the fight.
In terms of fighting styles, you could compare Adam Yandiev to the legendary Serbian warrior, Bojan Mihajlovic. He has a judo base, but I don’t think it’s particularly well integrated into his MMA game. I also don’t think he’ll have much luck executing clinch throws against a stout wrestler like Johnson.
On the feet, Yandiev is powerful but his striking technique is extremely raw. On the ground, he can execute submissions but also loses positions regularly. He also has about half a round worth of cardio.
To Yandiev’s credit, he does have a fantastic shoe collection and drives a luxury sports car.
Unless Johnson has a horrible weight to cut middleweight for the first time or is somehow thrown off by the long journey to Russia, he should really handle this guy. I played Johnson at -170, but I’m not in love with the current -260 price tag.
If you want to bet this fight, I’d hit Jordan Johnson inside the distance at -120.
Khalid Murtazaliev vs. CB Dollaway
A former Division 1 wrestling standout, CB Dollaway has fought some the biggest names in the UFC’s middleweight division.
As an MMA fighter, “The Doberman” has some strong attributes. He’s a very legitimate wrestler with solid top control, and his offensive striking is good too.
He also has some dreadful attributes. His striking defense is non-existent and he’s been knocked out numerous occasions throughout his career. He also gasses.
In what looked to be a favorable matchup against declining veteran, Ed Herman, Dollaway got hit with multiple telegraphed overhand punches – yet was still able to grind out a victory. I bet on Dollaway in that fight and was sweating buckets. After numerous opponent chances, Dollaway welcomes Khalid Murtazaliev to the UFC on very short notice.
As is common for Russian fighters, Murtazaliev doesn’t look like he cuts much weight to make the middleweight limit – which could work in his favor here. Predominantly a single shot striker, the Russian packs some serious power in his hands. When he chooses to wrestle, he’s been able to finish multiple opponents with ground strikes.
This is a really tough fight to call, but I think there is some value on CB Dollaway by decision at +250. As the bigger fighter and superior wrestler, I think he can grind the Russian fighter out over three rounds.
Alexey Kunchenko vs. Thiago Alves
Entering the UFC with a lot of hype around him, Alexey Kunchenko is a powerful Russian striker with excellent head movement, feints and boxing combinations. He can wrestle when he needs to, but prefers to get work done with his hands.
While both fighters are 34-years-of-age, Kunchenko is better preserved than his Brazilian opponent – who appears to be on the downswing of his career.
Thiago Alves just doesn’t look how he used to – both in terms of his physique and performances. Once a dangerous striker with devastating leg kicks, his recent fights have been underwhelming (albeit against good competition). When he shows up however, Alves is always a force to be reckoned with.
Currently, I’m seeing -550 for Kunchenko who is unproven at the elite level. That’s absolutely preposterous.
Since this appears to be a striking match, the fighters who’ve had the best success against Alves have fought elusively. In round one, Jordan Mein did an excellent job of tagging Alves from the outside and remaining just out of reach. Kunchenko likes to fight at mid-range and will be standing right in front of the Brazilian.
Another factor is Kunchenko’s wide stance, which leaves his lead leg open to the low kicks of Alves. While Kunchenko’s hands are excellent, Alves doesn’t have bad hands either and his kicks are brutal.
Unless the Brazilian is completely washed up (he might be), I think he can make this fight competitive. I see value on Thiago Alves as the +415 underdog.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Nikita Krylov
I was never particularly high on Jan Blachowicz, but he seems to have turned a corner after losing a decision to suffocating wrestler, Pat Cummins.
In his last two fights, the Polish fighter looked excellent against Jared Cannonier and Jimi Manuwa – both of whom are predominantly strikers. He has a clean jab, good counters and fluid combinations. I feel that he’s more nuanced than his opponent, Nikita Krylov, on the feet.
Since being cut from the UFC, Krylov has been on a four-fight winning streak – although his level of competition hasn’t been great. His best win was against Brazilian brawler, Fabio Maldonado, who comes straight forward and is predictable with his boxing offense. Still, Krylov’s kickboxing looked clean as he stopped the Brazilian in the second round.
Even if he lands flush, I don’t think Krylov will be able to finish Blachowicz – who has one of the best chins in the UFC.
While Krylov has many submission victories in his career, he also has numerous submission losses. Blachowicz is a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt and has been using his offensive wrestling to steal rounds in recent fights. Don’t be surprised if the Polish fighter looks to take this one to the mat.
I bet Jan Blachowicz at +107, I can’t believe he’s moved to +140. I feel he has the superior skill set and don’t think he should be the underdog.
Mark Hunt vs. Aleksei Oleinik
Hard-hitting Kiwi kickboxer, Mark Hunt, will always be loved by the fans for his carefree attitude and destructive walk-off knockouts. One of the few heavyweight fighters that cuts to make the 265 pound limit, Hunt is a very large man – despite his 5’10 stature.
Against a submission specialist like Oleinik, Hunt’s notorious takedown defense and low center of gravity will be an asset. In order ground Hunt, you need to be an excellent wrestler like Curtis Blaydes or Brock Lesnar. Even Lesnar needed a little bit of help from his vitamin cabinet to secure that win.
Those that have defeated Hunt on the feet typically use their length and reach against him. Although Oleinik possesses an 8-inch reach advantage, he doesn’t fight long. He walks forward throwing haymakers and hopes to drag opponents to the mat.
While not a great striker, Oleinik is a crafty submission ace. Many people, myself included, thought he would struggle to take Brazilian boxing stylist, Junior Albini, to the mat. No one predicted he’d be able to lock in a submission from a standing position and earn yet another Ezekiel choke finish. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to do the same thing against Hunt.
Ultimately, if you can’t fight long against Hunt and can’t take him down, you’re going to end up standing in front of him sooner or later. When this happens, it’s nap time.
I bet Mark Hunt at the generous price of -106 (yes, seriously). If you’re looking to place a wager now, I think Mark Hunt is playable at -130.
If you’re looking for a crazy prop bet, you can play Aleksei Oleinik to win by his trademark Ezekiel choke at +700 at Ohmbet. In all likelihood, the Russian fighter needs a submission victory in this one.
My Main Plays
- 4 units on Jordan Johnson and Merab Dvalishvili at +100
- 1 unit on Jan Blachowicz at +107
- 2 units on Mark Hunt at -106
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