Prime Picks: UFC Fight Night 241 ‘Barboza vs. Murphy’

The Ultimate Fighting Championship throws together one more show before Memorial Day, with a lineup that features over half the competitors entering the cage off of losses and plenty of fodder for the cut list. Betting lines on this billing are not ideal, with at least three fighters sporting -400 odds or higher, but avenues to succeed remain. Join the UFC Fight Night 241 edition of Prime Picks, as we express surprise that one of the most potent hitters in organizational history is an underdog, suggest a major intangible that could make a world of difference and see a potential mismatch that still gives up a good line when digging deeper.

Edson Barboza (+120)

At 38 years of age, fast-twitch striker Barboza, owner of one of the most impressive highlight reels in the sport’s history, likely will not gain any new tricks up his sleeve. The book is written on how to defeat him. There are several ways to go about doing so: Turn him into a grappling dummy, a la his matches against Khabib Nurmagomedov or Kevin Lee (four takedowns seem to be the magic number to overcome him) and never let him get into his groove; or pack more punch-for-punch power in the vein of a Justin Gaethje or Giga Chikadze; or keep it close and engage in a nip-tuck battle where he does not gain the upper hand, like when he faced Paul Felder or Dan Ige. The lethal finisher with a boatload of bonus cash over the years is not invulnerable, but this matchup should work to his advantage.

Of the three paths to victory discussed above, which is most likely employed by unbeaten British betting favorite Lerone Murphy? Likely the third, given that his wrestling is decent but hardly remarkable, and outside of one good knee, he does not possess lights-out pop in his strikes. “The Miracle” is no stranger to keeping the match close and doing just enough to get the edge over his opponent. Still, the step up in competition from Joshua Culibao to the vaunted Brazilian is a giant one, and the featherweight pairing has all the makings of one that could eject Murphy from the ranks of the unbeaten.

The examples are few, and the most relevant one may be dated, but Zubaira Tukhugov is a man not known for his firepower, and he put Murphy on his seat during a routine striking exchange. This level-up in strength of schedule is one that Murphy should be prepared for, or he will be in for a rude awakening. Barboza hits like a small compact car and has the wherewithal to go five hard rounds if needed. Murphy may be able to keep his steady pace for 25 minutes, but if he fights off his back foot and remains at kickboxing range against the bonus magnet, those same energy reserves may not hold up. At plus money, given all the weapons in his arsenal, Barboza is an extremely live underdog, the kind that can spoil the Manchester Top Team fighter’s party.

Themba Gorimbo (-150)

The story of Gorimbo is wild, and it is far from being completed. This week alone, the Zimbabwe-born fighter was rocked upon learning the news of his coach’s mother’s passing. The wrestling coach knew his mother was sick but wanted to make sure his fighter had the best training he could. Gorimbo stated that he would not let his coach’s sacrifice go to waste, and those kinds of emotional situations can dramatically alter how a combatant approaches his match. Some are empowered and filled with determination, while others are distracted and suffer. The massive intangible hanging overhead can make Gorimbo dig deeper than before, as long as he does not make any mistakes against Ramiz Brahimaj.

A former LFA contender, Brahimaj has been submission-or-bust since making his pro debut in 2014. All 10 of his wins have come by sub, with nine in Round 1. The faith in his abilities can be a risk, as he sometimes spends too long searching for a submission that will not come. Opponents have outlasted or easily outworked him, as he sometimes is singularly focused on his grappling to a detriment. Brahimaj can capitalize if Gorimbo decides to shoot for a takedown. On two occasions in his career, the African fighter shot his way directly into a choke and was put away, and Brahimaj could make that three if the mood strikes. If this remains on the feet, in a wild-and-crazy low-defense awkward brawl, Gorimbo can take it. It will likely be up to Gorimbo to win this fight or give it away, and since he is fighting for something more than himself, the edge may be his.

Adrian Yanez Wins Inside Distance (-145)

His back is arguably up against the wall, and the Texas-based striker is getting a major reprieve from facing Top 15 opponents. Instead of getting someone like Victor Henry or Daniel Marcos, who may be a win or two away from the rankings, the promotion is dipping way down to flyweight expat Vinicius Salvador. Like Yanez, Salvador has lost his last two, although it is a far cry from Rob Font and Jonathan Martinez to C.J. Vergara and Victor Altamirano. Yanez will get a willing striker who sometimes gets himself into trouble by being almost too excited about throwing down with an opponent. Against a hard-hitting technical brawler like Yanez, Salvador will have to fight the perfect fight or catch him early to stick around for long.

Salvador struggled to make weight in his previous division, so he will not likely give up any size on his opponent, as they will both measure the same in height and reach. If anything, Yanez might appear a slight bit smaller, but he can make up that difference with a speed advantage. Salvador is extremely hittable and gets drawn into ill-advised exchanges that he does not need to engage in to succeed. Potentially on the cut list with a loss, Salvador may try to go out guns blazing, and that would be the worst thing for him. Trying to stand and bang with a flamethrower like Yanez is a fool’s errand. While a club-and-sub is not outside the realm of possibility, the line of Yanez getting the stoppage compared to specifically the knockout is not enough of a difference to lose any value.


Luana Pinheiro-Angela Hill Goes to Decision (-360)

Piera Rodriguez-Ariane Carnelossi Goes to Decision (-220)

The last part of this Fight Night puzzle—one that sees several lopsided lines that make it tough to entice bettors to throw down, like -500 on Oumar Sy against the unknown George Tokkos or nearly -300 odds on Abusupiyan Magomedov against company veteran Warlley Alves—is a two-piece of decisions. The specifics may not be glamorous, but they tend to get results. Hill’s toughness, aggression and remarkable pace, even as she approaches 40, can stretch her bout with Pinheiro into one that reaches the final bell. Of the two, Pinheiro is more likely to procure a finish, as Hill has not earned a stoppage since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Her Brazilian foe has also not earned a win inside the distance since gracing the Octagon, with armbars much easier to pull off against women with 1-3 and 0-0 records than grizzled veterans who have seen everything.

Venezuela’s Rodriguez has slowed significantly since reaching the sport’s upper echelon. However, like Pinheiro beating up on foes with mediocre records, the first five women Rodriquez conquered combined for five wins opposite three defeats; and she earned four of her five stoppages in that stretch. She stands across from the incredibly vascular Carnelossi, who may be 2-2 in the promotion with two stoppage wins but only because they came against two ladies that went 0-8 in the UFC in total. In this battle of stoppable force and moveable object, they both display enough durability to outlast what the other can throw. Unless someone gets caught in the opening minute, this has the makings of going all 15 minutes and completing this short and sweet parlay.
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