UFC Fight Night 187 is headlined by a welterweight clash between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad that has implications for the title picture. The card looks good for betting and I should have a decent amount of action.
Here are my main card UFC picks from a betting perspective.
Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart
Despite coming into the UFC with a lot of hype, we haven’t seen the kind of improvements from Eryk Anders that we would have expected.
He’s a good athlete for sure, but his skill set is still extremely raw.
Fighting from the southpaw stance, Anders likes to stalk his opponents and load up with the left hand – but there isn’t much nuance to his striking.
While not the most proficient wrestler, we saw him have some success landing takedowns against Thiago Santos and I’d imagine he’ll take a grappling approach this weekend.
On the other hand, Darren Stewart has made significant improvements to his game since he entered the UFC. His striking has more process, his takedown defense is better and he now has the cardio to fight hard for three rounds.
I feel that Stewart has the advantage on the feet, whether in the clinch or at distance.
The biggest concern I have with Stewart is how he deals with a tenacious wrestling approach, since he failed that test spectacularly against Bartosz Fabinski in 2020.
It’s worth noting Anders is desperate for a win and has moved to Fight Ready for this camp (which is a gym I rate highly), so there could be a smart game plan in the works to exploit Stewart’s main weakness.
I’ll side with Darren Stewart as an outright pick, but I don’t love his -185 moneyline.
Manel Kape vs. Matheus Nicolau
After putting in an underwhelming performance against Alexandre Pantoja, Manel Kape is in search of his first UFC win.
The Portuguese fighter has fast hands and can fight southpaw or orthodox. Look out for when he goes southpaw, since his head kick is his most dangerous weapon.
He leans heavily on his lead leg, which makes him susceptible to low kicks and he has some major deficiencies in his ground game – which probably won’t be an issue here since Matheus Nicolau is a much better BJJ player than wrestler.
I feel like it was a bit harsh to cut Nicolau after losing to Dustin Ortiz, because he looked like a solid prospect at the time.
In that fight, he was blasted with a head kick while standing in the opposite stance of Ortiz – and he’ll need to be careful of a similar threat here.
Nicolau throws clean combinations on the feet as well as chopping low kicks, which he should go to early and often.
I feel that both combatants are closely matched and it’s difficult for me to favor either man outright.
I have no interest in betting this fight, but I’d take the plus money on Matheus Nicolau if I was forced to pick a side.
Jonathan Martinez vs. Davey Grant
I’ve been impressed by Jonathan Martinez recently and it looks like he’s going from strength to strength training at Factory X.
Fighting from the southpaw stance, Martinez throws a clean straight left as well as thudding body kicks and will punish opponents for closing the distance on him with a big knee down the middle.
Opponents have to navigate a minefield in order to hit a good takedown entry on him, but his defensive wrestling seems to be improving anyway (he was able to shuck off Frankie Saenz with ease).
I feel he’s been given a favorable match-up against a more rudimentary opponent in Davey Grant.
The Englishman is a savvy veteran and may have the advantage in terms of pure grappling, but I think he’s badly out-matched on the feet and will struggle to get the fight to the mat.
Grant is going to absorb damage at kicking range and will get chopped up when trying to close the distance.
Aside from a Hail Mary submission against the run of play, I feel Grant’s chances of victory are narrow.
I don’t mind the heavy price tag on Jonathan Martinez and I think it’s okay to throw him in a parlay.
Dan Ige vs. Gavin Tucker
Training out of Xtreme Couture, Dan Ige looks better every time he steps inside the octagon. He struggled against Edson Barboza and Calvin Kattar, but those are both top tier featherweights and he normally has his way with lower tier competitors.
While limited at distance, the Hawaiian has fast hands and has developed solid pocket boxing over the years.
He’s also a BJJ black belt and is proficient from top position, but is far less effective when you put him on his back. This was my angle for betting Mirsad Bektic against him, although it didn’t work out for me on the night.
Since his beatdown at the hands of Rick Glenn 2017, the betting public have been punished for underrating Gavin Tucker.
The Canadian has won his last three fights in dominant fashion and we’ve learned that his grappling game is just as strong as his striking.
Tucker isn’t as fast or explosive as his opponent, but he has more weapons on the feet and should have the advantage at kicking range.
The game plan will be to avoid the pocket at all costs, so look for him to dive on single legs at distance and try to clinch up as soon as Ige enters boxing range.
Tucker wrestles well against the fence and should be able to rack up top time if he’s able to get the fight to the mat.
I consider Gavin Tucker to be the more complete MMA fighter and I like him at plus money.
Misha Cirkunov vs. Ryan Spann
I bet Ryan Spann in his last fight and was not impressed. He had Johnny Walker on death’s door, yet still found a way to get his head elbowed into oblivion while shooting a takedown.
Spann is exactly the type of fighter who can clutch defeat from the jaws of victory.
He has decent boxing and a lethal guillotine, but his chin isn’t the best, he slows down in fights and his positional awareness on the mat leaves much to be desired.
In terms of pure skills, Misha Cirkunov is the superior fighter. He’s a proficient kickboxer with good wrestling and scrambling ability.
The way the styles line up, Cirkunov should be able to hit takedowns and dominate on the mat.
The main problem with Cirkunov is his fragility. There is no shame in getting finished by Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixiera and Johnny Walker, but all of those losses were as brutal as you can get.
The Canadian is coming off a long layoff and it sounds like he’s been dealing with issues in his personal life, so I’m not exactly sure where his head is at.
With everything considered, I have to side with the more technical fighter in Misha Cirkunov and I believe there is value at -125.
Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad
Leon Edwards is a fantastic fighter that doesn’t get the respect he deserves. Perhaps this is because his personality is lowkey, and it’s a lot easier to market yourself as an extroverted clownboy in this day and age.
With a well-rounded skill set and excellent fight IQ, he always comes out with a smart game plan and looks to exploit weaknesses.
Fighting from the southpaw stance, his left body kick is one of his best weapons and he’s extremely effective when attacking with elbows as his opponents exit the clinch.
Unlike most British fighters, Edwards is a solid wrestler and he floats well on top. If things get dicey on the feet, he can always rely on his grappling to get him out of trouble (as he did against Bryan Barberena).
Belal Muhammad is also well-rounded. On the feet, he’s comfortable fighting as a pressure fighter – but has good footwork and can fight on the back foot as well.
He doesn’t have as many offensive tools as his opponent and is primarily a boxer. I suspect he will try to walk Edwards down and try to unload in the pocket without getting sucked into the clinch – which is easier said than done.
Muhammad has a good double leg takedown and is skilled on the mat, but I don’t think he’s going to have much success with a grappling approach. We saw him struggle against a more athletic southpaw striker that he couldn’t take down in Geoff Neal, and this looks like a comparable match-up to me.
I don’t think there is any value at -260, but Leon Edwards is my pick for this main event.