The best UFC event in a year takes place on Saturday when Jon Jones makes his long-awaited heavyweight debut, facing Ciryl Gane for the vacant title at UFC 285. Other main cards are equally stacked with ValentinaShevchenko protecting her flyweight title, against AlexaGrasso . A bevy of marquee matchups also grace the rest of the lineup. This is the kind of card MMA fans dream about, so without further gilding the lily, and no more ado, let’s get down to business.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Geoff Neal, +390
Let’s start here: Shavkhat Rakhmonov still probably wins this fight, but these odds are too wide.
Rakhmonov’s achievements so far are amazing, but he is still very unproven. 16-0 with 16 finishes is nothing to sneeze at, but Neal is a clear step up in competition for Rakhmonov and, more importantly, one that will challenge him in new ways. Neal is a great defensive wrestler. Statistically, he has an 85 percent takedown defense rate, and Belal Muhammad, a great wrestler, went 0-7 in his attempts to get Neal down. Neal is very good at refusing to accept takedowns and working until he gets back on his feet. In nine UFC bouts, Neal has only given up 3:34 seconds of total control time. Rakhmonov is well-rounded, and we’ve seen him show knockout power. But he doesn’t work at nearly the rate Neal does, and Neal has proven to be a very sound defensive striker, as well. Rakhmonov is facing the most difficult test in his career, with such wide odds, I think Neal will be the one to beat.
Jalin Turner, +185
Here’s a fun fact for you: Outside of the main event — two heavyweights — Jalin Turner is the tallest man on this fight card (well, he’s tied with Ian Garry). That means that if you stand him next to Bo Nickal, arguably the greatest prospect in middleweight history, this lightweight does not look massively out of place. That’s insane.
Mateusz Gamrot, a phenomenal chain-wrestler/scrambler, has been fighting Turner when he’s struggled. Turner’s performance has been incredible the last couple of times he was in action, so I think he’s improved his game. I expect Turner’s length and physicality are going to give Gamrot plenty of problems, and his own ability to scramble to keep him out of the worst of grappling exchanges with the Polish fighter.
Ciryl Gane by Decision, +300
I have a longer breakdown for this fight on the site. The short version is that I don’t know what will happen at the main event. Jon Jones is returning after a three-year layoff and is moving up a weight class. It raises doubts about his physique and what it will look like on Saturday. Although I believe this fight may favor him, I’m not certain. What I am sure of is that if Ciryl Gane is going to win, it will be on the judges’ scorecards.
Gane, when it comes to heavyweights isn’t exactly a knockout performer. He prefers to let opponents come to him, opening up only when necessary. Jones has shown to be extremely durable and isn’t the type of opponent who would put himself in danger. This means that Gane’s victory is very likely by Gane outworking Jones in ranged kickboxing matches. This feels like a good value bet.
Bo Nickal by Submission, -165
Does it need any explanation?
Nickal may be the most important prospect in MMA’s history. His three professional fights have ended in a combined 2:27 seconds, two by submission, one by TKO. Jamie Pickett can be a very serviceable fighter but is in far too much trouble here. Nickal isn’t able to stop him from wrestling, and three of his losses in the ring have been by submission. Nickal will continue doing the same thing Nickal does.
Parlay of the Week
This week we’re taking advantage of something special for DraftKings, the Same Game Parlay! That’s right, for UFC 285, DraftKings is allowing Same Game Parlays on all the fights and I have one I feel exceptionally confident in: Valentina Shevchenko + Shevchenko/Grasso Over 1. 5 Rounds. Let’s jump into it.
First off, I have no idea how Alexa Grasso can win this fight. Shevchenko is a boxer of volume who lacks finishing power. Shevchenko can either dictate the range, kick Shevchenko on the feet or lock her down on the ground. This should really be Shevchenko’s easiest title defense.
Grasso can be extremely difficult. In 18 career fights, she’s only been finished once, by Tatiana Suarez. Now, we can’t discount the possibility that Shevchenko comes out looking to make a statement and gets right after Grasso from the jump, but time is catching up to her somewhat, and in her entire UFC career she only has one finish inside of 8 minutes with the Jessica Eye head-kick. So, I feel OK about Grasso’s chances of surviving the first few rounds.
This Same Game Parlay pays out at -145.
Long Shot of the Week
Point To Be Deducted in Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane, +2000
I’ve been waiting all these years for this moment, and it is finally here. Jon Jones is back, and you know what that means: so are the eye pokes.
It’s a running joke in the MMA world the frequency with which Jones gets called for eye pokes, and this matchup has the potential for several of them. The fight will likely be at long distance, so the arms and fingers will stretch out. Jones is likely to be searching for takedowns. We saw Anthony Smith lose two points because he kneed him while down. There’s always a possibility for it all to go sour. It’s not hard to see. It’s possible for me to see it, so I will chase my dream.
*Another disappointing week. Although I was optimistic about our prospects last week, losing the main event hurt us as much as Brendan Allen’s hustle and Andre Muniz. Alas. We’re on to the next.
Enjoy the fighting, luck and gambling responsibly until next week!
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