Prime Picks: UFC on ESPN 18

By Jay Pettry Nov 27, 2020

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Anthony Smith (-135)

At 32 years of age, Smith has a lot of fight miles on him, with his 50th career match taking place in this main event. The Factory X fighter and former light heavyweight title challenger is on his first losing streak since a one-fight stint in the UFC in 2013 after Strikeforce merged with the promotion. A brief but successful run in Bellator MMA bounced him back on the winning track, where “Lionheart” made his way back to the UFC a few years later. Three fights removed from a run at the UFC championship, Smith’s last victory came over Alexander Gustafsson. Since then, Glover Teixeira put him away late and Aleksandar Rakic shut him down, which leads to a head-scratcher between the sixth-ranked Smith and the Fight Matrix No. 42 light heavyweight: Devin Clark.

Clark is on a winning streak, his first since taking a pair of decisions over Josh Stansbury and Jake Collier early in his UFC run. The “Brown Bear” holds a remarkable distinction in his division to date—all of his wins are by unanimous verdict, while all of his defeats are by stoppage within two rounds. A junior college wrestling champion, Clark brought these skills with him to take down practically every opponent he faced outside of Rakic and current champ Jan Blachowicz. In June, Clark survived a rough first round in which his eye was busted up by Alonzo Menifield to take the remaining rounds and wrest a decision from his opponent’s grip. Smith, who sports a finish rate of 91 percent, with stoppages in each of his last seven victories, will come out firing.

It is entirely possible that Smith’s aggressiveness and desire to get back on the winning track against an on-paper mismatched opponent will lead to his getting put on his back early and often. Clark’s boxing is sufficient but may not be effective enough to get Smith’s respect, so he should use it as a means to an end to force grappling exchanges with “Lionheart.” Clark cannot get complacent in the clinch, as Smith can turn this situation into his advantage with vicious knees and elbows. Although Smith may appear shopworn and could be seen by some as a spent force, he should have enough in the tank to stave off takedowns, do some serious damage and record a stoppage. The particular line of Smith Wins Inside Distance resides at +158, which is a suitable option if you expect him to finish the fight.

Josh Parisian Wins Inside Distance (-145)

This matchup does not bode well for Parker Porter, a New England-based heavyweight with heavy hands and a strong grip when on top. Parisian will be making his long-awaited UFC debut after two stints on Dana White’s Contender Series, the first of which came in Season 2, when he recorded the first spinning backfist knockout for any heavyweight throughout Zuffa history. Despite his performance, Parisian only earned a spot on Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and the wrestling-centric Michel Batista bumped him from the competition. Rattling off six overwhelming knockouts in the last 19 months, including another one on DWCS, Parisian is finally getting the shot he deserved years ago. In his debut, the promotion appears to be rewarding him for his persistence, giving him a fighter in Porter who will give Parisian the fight he wants.

Porter made first trip to the Octagon in August, and Chris Daukaus walked through some heavy leg kicks to pound out the stout Bellator veteran in the opening frame. Porter’s size as a 6-foot heavyweight who comes close to the division’s capacity belies his quick hands, including a sharp combination that busted up Daukaus in the early going. Porter’s body of work throughout his career, however, is one that has shown that he can be overwhelmed if he is not the one pushing the pace. The Connecticut native may have what amounts to a puncher’s chance should Parisian impose his game plan and bully him around the cage. At heavyweight, that may mean more than most other divisions, but a slugfest may not work to Porter’s advantage against a striker with more apparent tools in his arsenal.

Many of Parisian’s wins on the regional circuit during his current run have been over questionable competition, with just one of five sporting a record of better than .500 when he beat them. Chad Johnson is a better win than any of the previous five, but Parisian had a 50.5-pound weight advantage over Johnson when he pounded him out. The strikes will fly early and often, and even though Parisian does own a single knockout loss on his ledger—Tony Lopez brawled with him before dragging him down and getting the stoppage from punches in a scarf hold position—his chin has held up against harder hitters than Porter. The option for Parisian winning before the final bell and not by knockout is due to his interest in fishing for submissions from top position, like the kimura he considered before electing to simply punch Johnson until referee Chris Tognoni pulled him off. The line for a finish instead of by strikes (-135) does not surrender much value and allows for Parisian to target a limb or neck should he get Porter down.

Gina Mazany (-155)

First and foremost, the line on Mazany-Rachael Ostovich Goes to Decision at -195 should be parlayed into a bet on one fighter in this match over the other. Even though both women have combined for one decision loss among their nine total defeats, this matchup of a strong wrestler against an opportunistic grappler has the makings of one that goes 15 full minutes. Mazany will be trying to reinvent her career down a weight class, as the power of Julia Avila, Macy Chiasson, Lina Lansberg and Sara McMann clearly gave her issues across her two UFC tenures. Ostovich, a career flyweight and not a large one at that, should not be the imposing physical threat that has hampered Mazany in the past.

This flyweight matchup could hinge on which fighter is able to score a takedown and wind up with top position. Ostovich, who has only competed once per year since joining the UFC in 2017, has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon despite repeated efforts from those like Montana De La Rosa. Mazany, on the other hand, will doggedly pursue the takedown, chaining together multiple attempts if one is not successful. The Alaska native may not have a wrestling pedigree like other competitors named earlier, but she has historically not been able to stay on her feet when another woman wants to put her down. Ostovich could look to replicate her early success against Paige VanZant as this early positional battle commences.

When a fighter openly speaks about retirement—Ostovich did so during UFC Virtual Media Day this week—they more than likely have one foot out the door. At 29 years of age, on a losing streak with an overall record below .500 and coming off an eight-month USADA suspension, one can understand her frustrations. Returning after nearly two years away rarely bodes well for a fighter, especially when Ostovich’s opponent has competed three times in that stretch. Ostovich could spring the narrow upset if she manages to get Mazany down and snag a submission like she did to Karine Gevorgyan. However, Mazany’s ability to scramble and fight out of bad positions can help her survive.

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