Prime Picks: UFC on ESPN 15 ‘Munhoz vs. Edgar’

By Jay Pettry Aug 21, 2020

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday in Las Vegas carries on with a card that has been decimated by withdrawals and rescheduled matchups. The pickings are slim, as many of the bouts on the card feature at least one short-notice replacement or a favorite at -400 or higher. There are still ways to navigate the UFC on ESPN 15 edition of Prime Picks, thanks to some creative prop bets.

Pedro Munhoz Wins Inside Distance (-135)

After years of “What if?” wondering, Frankie Edgar is finally taking the trip down to the bantamweight division in hopes of snapping a losing streak. This is not the first time Edgar has dropped a weight class after a pair of defeats, as he relocated from lightweight—a division he ruled for nearly two years—to featherweight after twin decision losses to Benson Henderson. Now at 135 pounds, Edgar draws a stiff test in Munhoz, a finisher who recently discovered his knockout power. On the heels of a first-round knockout loss to Chan Sung Jung in December, Edgar jumps out of the frying pan and into the other frying pan.

Munhoz began his career with two technical knockouts to his credit, making one opponent tap to strikes and the second quit on the stool. It was not until his first UFC win in 2014 that he earned his third finish by strikes. Over four years later, Munhoz re-established his striking game by busting up Bryan Caraway and shutting out Cody Garbrandt’s lights. A thrilling decision loss to presumptive title challenger Aljamain Sterling broke his momentum, and a trip of rescheduled appearances against Edgar bring us to this headliner.

As he did with Sterling, Munhoz will face an in-your-face wrestler with surprising pop in his strikes and an effective clinch game. Edgar holds the most time inside the Octagon by a wide margin—and for good reason. Although his cardio has held up in 10 full five-round affairs, the 38-year-old’s chin may not be what it used to be. The most recent defeat for “The Answer” appears to be the most troubling, as a quick left hook wobbled the legs in the early going against Jung. Another similar strike from “The Korean Zombie” set him down, and although Edgar got back to his feet, a lightning-quick trio of punches put him down for the count. What may be more concerning than the knockdowns: the fact that Edgar absorbed a mere eight significant strikes on the feet to get put down twice. Cutting another 10 pounds of water weight and decreasing the fluid around the brain to cushion the blows does not bode well for a fighter with a chin that may be showing some cracks.

Munhoz traditionally prefers tapping out opponents, and his last five submission victories have all come from his lethal guillotine choke. “The Young Punisher” has often set up these maneuvers with strikes, forcing opponents to shoot in on takedowns or try to scramble after a grappling exchange. The snake-like ability of Munhoz to snatch the neck may not be his most clear path to victory, as Edgar has never surrendered to a submission. Seven men have tried—Henderson did in both of their matches—but none have managed to elicit the elusive tapout. Munhoz may try to become the eighth, especially if he hurts Edgar on the feet and forces the former champ to shoot in on a desperation takedown.

Instead of selecting the highly favored (-255) Munhoz to finish Edgar with strikes, this line of him simply recording the stoppage allows for the possibility of the submission. While Edgar has faced more highly touted grapplers in his career, he does not have the same recoverability as he once showed in legendary battles against Gray Maynard. Instead, taking a hard shot scrambles his circuits, and he has looked lost in there while trying to clear out the cobwebs. Munhoz’s aggression, once something Edgar could handle with relative ease, is something that will likely overwhelm him in this main event. If you disagree and even think that Edgar can turn back the clock and make a run at bantamweight, his underdog line sits at +215.

Ovince St. Preux (+105)

It seems to be almost a foregone conclusion at this point that St. Preux will drop the first round badly, only to come out of his corner in the second frame to try to mount a comeback. On multiple occasions, he has done so by allowing his opponent to punch himself out to try to secure a stoppage. The knockout-minded Alonzo Menifield will likely take the same approach, with none of his career wins coming later than 32 seconds into the second frame. While it is entirely possible that Menifield busts up this play by smashing out “OSP,” we believe the former University of Tennessee linebacker can ride out the early storm and get his hand raised.

In Menifield’s most recent appearance, many flaws were exposed when his cardio waned after the opening stanza. Devin Clark rode through a busted eye and a lot of damage by keeping his volume high enough to stave off the advancing, then-unbeaten prospect. A plethora of takedown attempts—all but one was stuffed—contributed to Menifield’s fatigue level, and “OSP” could very easily follow that path to press his smaller opponent to the cage and try to trip him down. Although Menifield sports knockout victories inside the Octagon over Vinicius Moreira Castro and Paul Craig, St. Preux’s chin has historically held up better than either of those light heavyweights.

Unless Menifield catches St. Preux early, it will likely be a long night for the Texan. Even though “OSP” takes damage often in his bouts, it is quite difficult to finish him with strikes alone. The only men to do so are Virgil Zwicker over a decade ago and Jimi Manuwa, who cut him down with a pair of blistering hooks in 2016. Although Menifield has the power to become the third, he may find that he has hit a wall and not know what to do when he hits his man with everything in his arsenal, only to find his opponent still standing. Menifield will be putting himself in prime position if he scores a victory over the former title challenger, as he likely fell upwards into this matchup against a fringe Top 15 light heavyweight after his loss to Clark. We expect that once Hurricane Menifield has run its course, a measured St. Preux can get the job done. If one is feeling especially bold, St. Preux by Submission is a decent +270, in case “OSP” goes after his patented Von Preux choke if Menifield falls to his back and absently fishes for a guillotine choke.

Mike Rodriguez Wins Inside Distance (-150)

For our second narrow prop bet, we expect Rodriguez will not only to win his fight with Marcin Prachnio but get the finish. Like the previous match, Rodriguez has never won a fight by any way other than stoppage, although his latest mark for victory extends beyond Menifield to the 4:03 mark of Round 2. “Slow” matches that with a pair of stoppage losses in just over a minute each and a pair of decisions defeats—a third setback on the scorecards was wiped clean when John Allan Arte tested positive for non-prescribed breast cancer drugs. On the other side of the equation, Prachnio has only gone the distance three times, with first-round knockout setbacks against Sam Alvey and Magomed Ankalaev in 2018.

Prachnio, a fellow knockout artist by trade, is a month away from a two-year absence from the Octagon. Not a great deal can be said about his competition with One Championship prior to signing with the UFC, as he dispatched frequently overmatched opponents in the early going. His glaring weakness, however, is something that can be exploited with ease by Rodriguez: Prachnio tends to fight with his hands down, chin up and ready for a brawl. Alvey and Ankalaev smashed him with quicker counterpunches, and Prachnio was a willing participant until his chin could no longer take it. The same situation could very well present itself here. Only this time, Prachnio will be facing knees hurtling towards his face.

Rodriguez is not immune to getting clipped and put out early. His last fight ended in 64 seconds when Da Un Jung shut out his lights with a few straight rights and a speedy barrage of short right hands on the ground. Like Prachnio has done in the past, Rodriguez left his guard down and ate straight punches before he could get his hooks off. In one of the safer bets on the card and one that could be parlayed into action, Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision at -300 will almost certainly hit before the dust settles. While we expect Rodriguez will emerge the victor, Prachnio (+200) has the power to end this fight quickly, as well.

Amanda Lemos vs. Mizuki Inoue Goes to Decision (-190)

This final play presents some risk on paper, as Lemos has never won or lost a fight on the scorecards. Although she went the distance once against Mayra Cantuaria Rodrigues in 2016, the fight was scored a draw. On the other hand, as Inoue’s competition has increased from her trips to the Invicta Fighting Championships cage and then the UFC, she has shown a proclivity to involve the judges more often. We expect that this strawweight scrap will go three full rounds, and we may be treated to some exciting grappling exchanges along the way.

A massive size discrepancy hampered Lemos in her promotional debut in 2017, when the far larger Leslie Smith bullied her and busted her up with boxing. Dropping down 20 pounds to strawweight after a two-year layoff from a positive drug test for stanozolol, Lemos put out the still-bigger Miranda Granger due to her superior ground game. Against Inoue, she will finally be on the right end of a size advantage, but she will also be taking on a fighter with far greater submission chops than anyone she had faced thus far. It is in the grappling exchanges where time will run off the clock, as neither woman looks to be leagues more skilled than the other.

Inoue’s striking has always been more of a means to an end, while Lemos has historically tried to punch out her opponents. The level of competition for Lemos’ opponents when she scored her early career knockouts leaves something to be desired, with three of her first four KOs coming over women making their pro debuts at the time; the other was sub-.500. Inoue has shown that she can take a beating over the years. Look no further than her mind-boggling split decision loss to Virna Jandiroba where she was on the receiving end of a 50-44 drubbing on the official score. If the fight stays on the feet for long, it is likely because Lemos found some success and fought off attempts to get it to the mat. We do not expect it will stay on the feet for long, and neither woman will be able to take an exposed limb or neck home with her.

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