The Octagon makes its debut in Beijing, China this Saturday morning with UFC Fight Night 141. The world’s leading MMA promotion has put together a solid card for the fans featuring a couple of big-name heavyweight bouts at the top of the card as well as a number of matchups featuring China’s top fighters. Here are my top picks in the UFC Beijing edition of Prime Picks.
Curtis Blaydes (-230)The main event of UFC Beijing is a heavyweight rematch between Blaydes and Francis Ngannou. These two first met in April 2016, with Ngannou defeating Blaydes via TKO due to doctor stoppage. At the time, both men were just prospects, but now, two years later, both men are title contenders. Ngannou had a meteoric rise to the top of the heavyweight division but consecutive losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis have his stock down to an all-time low right now. Meanwhile, Blaydes has won four straight fights -- including a brutal TKO win over Alistair Overeem in his last fight, -- and his stock has never been higher. In many ways, it’s a matchup between two fighters going opposite directions in their careers, and the way both men have performed cannot be ignored when predicting how this rematch will go.
That’s why I have to go with Blaydes to win this fight. The momentum is clearly in his favor, and he seems like a guy who is still improving whereas Ngannou seems to have stalled in his development. Blaydes is also the younger fighter by five years, he has a huge wrestling advantage, and he should have the edge in cardio which could become a big factor in what is a five-round fight. Blaydes may have lost the first fight via TKO, but he was having success with his wrestling before the doctor stopped the fight. He’s learned from that loss and has become a smarter MMA fighter. This time around, I don’t believe the doctor will be needed as I see Blaydes using his wrestling to avoid taking damage on the feet to get the win with a grappling-based game plan. There’s a chance Blaydes even gets a stoppage since this is five rounds, but at the very least I see him winning a decision. The -230 odds on Blaydes look good.
Yadong Song (-425)As far as the bigger favorites on the card go -- and there are a lot of them -- Song is definitely the guy to bet on. At only 20 years old, Song is one of the youngest fighters in all of the Ultimate Fighting Championship but he’s already 2-0 in the Octagon with two finishes. He trains at Team Alpha Male with some of the other top fighters in the world in his weight class. His improvements have really shown in his last few performances as he’s quickly emerged as a top prospect in the UFC bantamweight division. He’s obviously very young but he has close to 20 fights so he has plenty experience for a young fighter. The fact the UFC originally matched him up against Frankie Saenz on the main card shows me they want to give this guy a push. Saenz was injured and stepping in on short notice is Vince Morales, who won his last fight in Bellator MMA after a loss on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. Morales is doing what he has to do to get the chance to fight in the UFC, but this is a bad matchup for him on short notice against a younger fighter in his hometown. Song should get the finish here, and the -425 odds on him are bang on.
Kevin Holland (-425)Another favorite to consider for a parlay is Holland, who takes on John Phillips in a middleweight bout. Holland lost a hard-fought decision to Thiago Santos in his UFC debut on short notice, but prior to that had won nine of 10 fights including a TKO win over rising prospect Geoff Neal. Holland has plenty of finishing power and is usually durable enough to at least go the distance in his losses. Phillips, meanwhile, is a knockout artist and all 21 of his career fights have come by stoppage (18 via TKO) so he definitely knows how to finish a fight. But as we saw in his UFC debut against Charles Byrd, he’s prone to getting finished himself, especially on the ground. The fighters he beat to get into the UFC aren’t exactly top-notch, either. Holland is the younger fighter here at only 26 and he is constantly improving. I think he bounces back nicely from the loss to Santos with a finish over Phillips here, and the -425 odds on Holland seem fair.
Alistair Overeem (+100)For an underdog play, I like Overeem over Sergey Pavlovich. Let’s get this out of the way: it’s true that Overeem’s chin is gone at this point of his career. With 12 knockout losses in his career, no one has been knocked out more than Overeem has in the entire UFC. The fact he’s coming off of back-to-back knockout losses to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes also can’t be ignored, and that’s the reason why Overeem is the underdog. Pavlovich is a young, undefeated fighter with a ton of knockout wins on his resume and many are expecting him to go out there and finish Overeem. Not so fast. Overeem has far more experience than Pavlovich and has fought a way higher level of competition. Sure, Pavlovich has some nice wins, but if you look at the quality of fighter he’s fought, it’s very poor. Overeem might get knocked out but he also possesses legitimate KO power himself as well as a well-rounded skill set with an underrated grappling game. Pavlovich is making his UFC debut against a top-five heavyweight but is the favorite, and I’m not buying it. I favor Overeem at +100 for an underdog value play.
Adam Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of “The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His favorite fight of all time is Dan Henderson vs. “Shogun” Rua and he wishes Pride never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.
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