UFC Fight Night 188 is a solid card as far as entertainment goes and it looks good for betting as well. As always, here are my main card predictions from a betting perspective.
Jack Hermansson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Jack Hermansson moves well, has a snappy jab and good calf kicks. He isn’t the most defensively sound striker and I have questions about his chin at this stage in his career.
I don’t think Hermansson likes being hit, which makes sense since he is naturally a grappler.
The Scandinavian has great Greco-Roman takedowns from the clinch and he’s a demon when he gets on top of you or takes your back.
He’s an expert at ground and pound and I’ve never seen such effective strikes from the body triangle position!
Skill for skill, I feel like Edmen Shahbazyan poses a lot of problems. He’s the more sophisticated boxer with powerful and accurate hands.
Shahbazyan also has a highschool wrestling background and I think he can stop the takedowns while he’s fresh.
The biggest problem for Shahbazyan is his cardio. He’s still young and has plenty of room to improve, but it was a terrible look the way he checked out against Derek Brunson.
If his cardio abandons him this weekend – he’s going to get the crap beaten out of him!
I don’t have a solid read on this fight, but there might be a good live betting opportunity on Jack Hermansson after the first round.
Justin Tafa vs. Jared Vanderaa
Fighting from the southpaw stance, Justin Tafa throws outside low kicks with his lead leg, devastating left body kicks and crushing power shots with his left hand.
The New Zealander can get punished for being over-aggressive (as we saw in his fight against Yorgan De Castro), but is generally a solid striker that will give most heavyweight competitors problems.
The big issue for Tafa is his grappling (or lack thereof).
Looking at his regional footage, Tafa appears to be a white belt level grappler and I think he is in major trouble if he winds up on his back for some reason. It’s crazy that Juan Adams (who has an extensive wrestling base) decided to bang it out with Tafa instead of taking him down – because he would have had an easy path to victory.
Jared Vanderaa has decent low kicks and is effective with the jab, but he’s also slow and hittable.
Listening to interviews, it sounds like he’s expecting a striking war – which would be really stupid of him to engage in.
While terrible on bottom, Vanderaa does have a bit of wrestling in his back pocket and could potentially pound Tafa out if he landed on top. Vanderaa is a very large man that you wouldn’t want on top of you, especially as an unskilled grappler.
I’ll pick Justin Tafa to win, but I’d need a better price than -185 to consider betting him.
Felicia Spencer vs. Norma Dumont
Felicia Spencer won’t be winning a title in Glory Kickboxing any time soon, but her striking is functional enough to stay alive against more skilled opponents in open space. It’s fortunate she has a great chin, because she’s liable to get cracked a few times while closing the distance.
On the mat, Spencer is a legitimate black belt and has the potential to finish any competitor. However, her offensive wrestling isn’t the best and most of her takedowns come from the clinch – where Norma Dumont is savvy.
We saw Dumont control Megan Anderson against the fence for brief periods and she appears to be physically strong.
I don’t think the fight is a wrap if it hits the mat (Dumont is a BJJ brown belt herself), but the Brazilian fighter certainly will want to stuff the takedowns and turn this into a kickboxing match.
Dumont fires hard combinations and chopping low kicks, which should be more than enough to win the exchanges against a less fundamentally sound opponent.
I could see this going either way, but I think the value lies with Norma Dumont at +140.
Carla Esparza vs. Yan Xiaonan
Carla Esparza doesn’t endear herself to the fans with her blanketing style – but she performs to the best of her abilities in order to rack up wins and keep her career on track.
Esparza has made improvements to her boxing, but she won’t want to hang on the feet for too long.
Fortunately for her, she has adapted her wrestling perfectly to MMA and sets up her entries well. She can dive on a single leg and run the pipe, chain wrestle against the fence or potentially catch a kick and convert it to a takedown.
From top position, Esparza isn’t looking to inflict damage or advance positions in search of a submission. She’s fine with running down the clock until the referee orders her to stand up.
As far as striking goes, Yan Xiaonan is levels ahead. With an extensive background in sanda, the Chinese fighter throws hard combinations on the inside and has an array of attacks with her lead leg.
The biggest problem for Xiaonan is her weak takedown defense and lack of a get up game. Claudia Gadelha was able to secure double underhooks on her relatively easily and I suspect she would have won that fight convincingly if she didn’t have some of the worst cardio in women’s MMA.
I feel this bout will be closely contested and I’m picking Carla Esparza to spring the upset.
Rob Font vs. Cody Garbrandt
I’d love to be a fly on the wall during Rob Font and Calvin Kattar’s sparring sessions. Both men have some of the best pure boxing in the UFC and are a joy to watch.
Font fights well behind his jab and throws crisp combinations down the pipe. He will have a significant reach advantage here and I expect him to have a major advantage if the fight takes place in open space.
Like most boxing stylists, Font is susceptible to low kicks and will need to either check them or do a good job at manipulating distance if he doesn’t want to have his offense disrupted.
In Cody Gabrandt’s last fight, we saw him rip low kicks against Raphael Assuncao and I’m sure this will be part of the game plan this Saturday.
Garbrandt isn’t the most nuanced boxer, but he’s incredibly fast and has dynamite in his right hand. That said, Gabrandt has the legendary Mark Henry in his corner and I doubt they’re planning to fight fire with fire against such a skilled opponent.
Could Garbrandt mix in some grappling?
We’ve seen Font get taken down and dominated in the past and Garbrandt does have a wrestling background. He’s also a phenomenal scrambler, as is typical of the Team Alpha Male stable.
I know Garbrandt is primarily known as an explosive head hunter, but if he wanted to mix his martial arts and put on a veteran performance – now would be the time.
I’m going out on a limb here and picking Cody Garbrandt, but with zero confidence. I recommend just sitting back and enjoying this one.