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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is taking a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for the fifth time, and the first time since 2016, with UFC Fight Night 158. Unlike last week's UFC 242 card, this event features a majority of the betting lines with one fighter around -150 or below, demonstrating that the oddsmakers and bettors feel this to be an evenly matched event. With so much to discuss, it's time to dive into the UFC Fight Night 158 edition of Prime Picks.
Justin Gaethje wins by TKO/KO (-130)
Donald Cerrone traditionally struggles against fighters that push the pace against him -- Tony Ferguson, Darren Till, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael dos Anjos, to name a few. Fighting on his back foot is not ideal for "Cowboy," who would rather take control of the fight and pick his shots when comfortable. The conventional wisdom that Cerrone starts slow appears to be changing in step with his development as a fighter, as he took the opening round on one scorecard against Ferguson and also took it to Al Iaquinta right out of the gate. That said, Gaethje is an entirely different animal. He possesses a hyper-aggressive style with vicious leg kicks and powerful winging shots. Only a few fighters have been able to withstand the fury of "The Highlight," and we do not expect Cerrone to join the ranks of those illustrious few.
For those who have forgotten -- Justin Gaethje went kick-for-kick with Edson Barboza, a man known for his devastating leg attacks. A vaunted kickboxer himself, Cerrone holds more head kick knockout victories than any other fighter in UFC history. A part of his kicking game is that he leaves his lead leg far out in front of him so that he can whip it up before his opponent has a chance to react. Though a clear and present danger to many, for Gaethje, that lead leg of Cowboy’s will be a target, and Gaethje will surely take aim at it early and often. Although Iaquinta tried to go after Cowboy’s lead leg early on, he backed off when he started getting battered.
Cerrone can find success if he walks his foe down, but Gaethje does not usually take many backwards steps in his fights. Another tool that Cowboy could use to his advantage is his check knee, which he could use to thwart a blitz. Gaethje tends to charge forward with flurries, so a well-timed knee could give him pause. While Cerrone may have the tools to get the win, he might not have the durability to utilize them before he gets broken down by the man from Arizona. Ever since his major accident several years ago, his body has not been able to take the punishment it once could.
A great performance for The Highlight could put him in immediate title contention, in line to face the winner of the prospective Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson thriller. Meanwhile, Cerrone springing an upset would keep him right at the top of the division. We expect that the younger Gaethje may eat some shots while coming in, and could even take a head kick or two. Despite this, Gaethje may end up bullying Cerrone en route to a strike stoppage win, one that could look similar to Gaethje's impressive performance against Barboza in March.
Glover Teixeira (-115)
Teixeira will be 40 in a little over a month, and many are watching the clock wondering when he will hit his age wall and slow down. Although his chin may not be what it used to be, as evidenced by his last two outings, he used his veteran savvy to survive the barrages of Karl Roberson and Ion Cutelaba and secure submission wins over both of them. In Nikita Krylov, Teixeira faces a hard-charging finisher who has never gone the distance in his 31-fight career. Like his last two fights, Teixeira will have to defend himself against a fighter seemingly shot out of a cannon.
Krylov possesses the power, skills and youth advantages to take the Brazilian out quick. While 60 percent of his wins have come by tapout, somewhat like UFC middleweight and submission specialist Gerald Meerschaert, almost all of his losses are by submission as well. This willingness to engage in a ground battle could prove to be his greatest disadvantage against Teixeira, who would gladly indulge Krylov in a prolonged grappling battle. The odds are close, and for good reason, as both fighters have at one time or another been the betting favorite leading into this fight. If one questions the durability of Teixeira in this contest, the line of "Fight doesn't go to decision" is a bit high at -485 but is the expected outcome for a reason.
Michel Pereira wins inside distance (-240)
Seeing as this fight was announced mere days ago, Tristan Connelly finds himself in a fortuitous position against instant fan-favorite Pereira. The Brazilian caught the attention of the MMA community with his ridiculous and dynamic performance against Dae Sung Kim in February. "Demolidor" proved that his wild striking skills were not to be laughed off, as he demolished Danny Roberts in less than two minutes with a flying knee and a piston-like straight right in his debut. Pereira was originally slated to face Sergey Khandozhko at this event, but the Russian was forced to withdraw days before the event due to visa issues. On less than a week's notice, local fighter Connelly has stepped in to keep Pereira on the card.
Traditionally a lightweight, Connelly is moving up a weight class to seize this major opportunity to score a big win in front of a home crowd. A pure finisher himself, all 13 of his victories have come before the final bell -- far higher than Pereira's stoppage rate of 69 percent. Unfortunately for "Boondock," he will find himself at a substantial size disadvantage, as the Brazilian fills out his 6-foot-1-inch frame and could easily be mistaken for a decently sized middleweight. An obvious power difference will see the Canadian struggle early, and his only path to victory may be to outlast the frenetic but exhausting pace that Pereira will set. We do not expect that this will be the outcome, though. Instead, we expect that Pereira will get the better of his adversary with a potential highlight reel finish.
Jim Crute (-105)
Although a questionable stoppage, Crute impressed in his last outing against Sam Alvey, earning a knockout in the opening round. Alvey protested -- and for good reason -- but he was eating a steady diet of kicks along with a huge right hand from the Australian that set him down. Although Alvey could have potentially recovered, Crute put on a stellar performance to improve his unbeaten record to 10-0.
His opponent Misha Cirkunov has not had a great run in his last four, tapping Patrick Cummins but suffering three first-round knockouts to Johnny Walker, Teixeira and Volkan Oezdemir. Against Walker, he was never able to get comfortable with the Brazilian's unorthodox movement, and he ultimately ate a flying knee about 30 seconds in. Although he possesses powerful punches, Cirkunov vastly prefers to snatch up a submission, as each of his last four wins inside the Octagon have come by tapout. The Latvian may be caught off guard by "The Brute," who is a surprisingly well-rounded fighter with extensive training in both striking and grappling arts. Not quite as unconventional as Walker, Crute does use angles and footwork from his Karate background to confuse his opponents, and we see him beating Cirkunov to the punch to secure a victory. While Crute opened as a larger -145 favorite, the line has shifted to a pick-'em, with Cirkunov currently sitting at -115.
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