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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is back in a hurry after the massive UFC 251 with an ESPN card hit hard by the coronavirus. Chock full of late replacements, there are still some ways to capitalize on decent odds for savvy bettors. Try your luck at this UFC on ESPN 13 edition of Prime Picks!
Calvin Kattar vs. Dan Ige Goes to Decision (+145)
Kattar, a prohibitive favorite for a reason at -290, makes us hesitant to drop a pick for him outright. A prop deciding whether he finishes Ige (-105) or wins on the scorecards (+235) is a little tricky as well, so the safer bet is instead that this fight will go five full rounds. There is a fair share of risk to this selection, as Kattar can blow up the bet quickly in the opening round. We expect that while it is entirely possible Kattar hurts Ige in the early going, he will not be able to finish the job.
Kattar has recently found his power again, with each of his last four wins coming by knockout. The Massachusetts native started off his career with a string of finish wins – and a loss in EliteXC -- but went through a string of long decisions leading up to getting signed by the UFC. “The Boston Finisher” has been just that as of late, although he was beaten to the punch by the highly touted Zabit Magomedsharipov and fell into too many traps set up by leg kicks from Renato Moicano. Despite his technical boxing prowess, Kattar will have his hands full with Ige, a durable guy who isn’t afraid to make things dirty if he gets tagged.
Throughout his brief but rising career, Ige has never been finished as a professional, while toeing the line against heavy hitters like Edson Barboza and Mirsad Bektic this year already and coming out with close victories. In his recent bout against Barboza, the Hawaiian got cracked in the early going and managed to grit through the damage. Although some may claim that a lightweight Barboza would have finished the fight, Ige’s chin held up enough to not only survive but win a contentious decision. While it might be a stretch to see “50K” doing enough to get his hand raised at the end, his beard will be challenged and should stay together to make it to the end of the fight.
In what could be a back-and-forth battle between two featherweights trying to crack into the Top 5, this pairing has all the makings of a “Fight of the Night” scrap. The question of whether Ige’s chin will hold up against powerful strikers has been answered in his last two outings, but Kattar will unquestionably put it to the test again. We believe it will, but if you disagree, Kattar Wins Inside Distance is a fair -105, and that line is the same as Kattar Wins by TKO/KO, while allowing for an unlikely submission from the Team Sityodtong fighter.
Molly McCann (-120)
If nothing else, McCann has shown us unquestionable toughness in the cage lately. Her first win in the Octagon—the first for any female fighter out of England—came in March 2019, when she won the first two rounds against Priscila Cachoeira handily and survived a brutal orbital injury in the third. Impressive performances from “Meatball” over Ariane Lipski and Diana Belbita have placed her at the edge of the Top 15 looking in. This next foe, Taila Santos, may have a frightening record on paper with an 80 percent finish rate and one loss in 16 fights, but it crumbles upon further examination. McCann should win this fight handily.
With a gaudy 15-0 record coming into the Octagon, and on the heels of a one-sided performance in the Brazilian edition of Dana White's Contender Series, any of Santos’ momentum ground to a screeching halt with a disappointing split verdict against Mara Romero Borella. Much has been said over the years of the Astra Fight Team matching up fighters favorably in Aspera FC events, and this cannot be more cleanly illustrated by her eight-fight run with the promotion. Racking up eight wins including seven stoppages, those eight opponents combined for a paltry record of 4-8-1. With 10 career wins, McCann holds more victories than Santos’ first 13 opponents put together.
McCann, who for three fights in a row has landed 100 strikes on her opponent, will put the kind of volume on her adversary that makes them wilt if they can’t keep up. Diana Belbita tried, and it resulted in a second round scored 10-7 by two of the three Sherdog judges in their meeting. Where Santos can excel is if she closes the distance and forces repeated clinch exchanges to slow down the high-paced Brit, but we do not see her hold on to “Meatball” for long. If considering a more focused prop opportunity, McCann Wins by Decision is currently +120, and McCann has gone the distance in five of her last six victories.
Abdul Razak Alhassan Wins by TKO/KO (-215)
As far as favored locks go, this pick should be about as close as it gets to a likely outcome. Alhassan is amped up and ready to make his return after legal entanglements kept him out of action for the last 22 months. That amount of ring rust could play a factor when it comes to his timing, but considering Alhassan has only displayed all-out offense in practically every one of his bouts, he will not need more than a few seconds to find his footing again. Although his opponent Mournir Lazzez has never been stopped, the Tunisian kickboxer has not encountered a rampaging finisher like Alhassan.
While Lazzez’ only career defeat came to impressive Russian prospect Eldar Eldarov, his level of competition leaves something to be desired. Although “The Sniper” dazzled by clobbering Arber Murati in under a minute at a Probellum event earlier this year, Murati’s record fell to .500 with the crushing loss. A show-stopper in his own right, 89 percent of Lazzez’ wins have come by knockout, which does fall short of his opponent’s 100-percent knockout rate. When comparing levels of competition, however, Alhassan was the first man to knock out wild striker Niko Price.
Alhassan’s previous opponent of Price is a far more proven quantity than Lazzez, and “Judo Thunder” only needed 43 seconds to run through him. The lone road block in Alhassan’s career came against current top-15 middleweight Omari Akhmedov, who was the one man he could not bulldoze through. Otherwise, the Fortis MMA product has ended six of his 10 wins inside of a single minute. Should one wish to take a walk on the wild side, Alhassan Wins in Round 1 is a very respectable -105.
Chris Fishgold (+125)
If recent history is any indication – see Mike Perry beating Mickey Gall, and Max Holloway nearly toppling Alexander Volkanovski – coaches might not be as essential as advertised. This unfortunate situation is the case for Fishgold’s opponent Jared Gordon, who saw his entire corner team go down due to COVID-19. Stepping in as an unlikely lone cornerman is commentator Paul Felder, who will step away from the desk to aid his friend Gordon in this difficult time. Ahead of Gordon is a very tall order, as he takes on slick strangler Fishgold.
Touted as one of the next stars to come from Cage Fury Fighting Championships, Gordon has fallen on tough times, but this leans partially on his difficult strength of schedule. First-round knockout losses to Diego Ferreira and Charles Oliveira do not look quite as poor given the two Brazilians’ rise through the ranks, but resounding losses to top fighters are still losses. While Gordon’s chin has been tested recently, his grappling chops will fully be on trial against the Brit. It would not at all be surprising to see Fishgold shoot in for a takedown in the opening seconds, like he did against Daniel Teymur.
Gordon, who has never seen a takedown disadvantage inside the Octagon, will have to make a decision early if he wants to bother going to the ground with his opponent. Should he keep this on the feet, he should have a decided advantage, as Fishgold has shown his striking to be more of a means to an end. Without being able to go through fight week in person with his coaching staff, the final touches on a game plan might not be up to par. With these intangibles serving as a potential distraction to “Flash” in the cage, we expect that Fishgold will spring the minor upset.
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