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The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its debut in Prague, Czech Republic, at The O2 Arena this Saturday. The card features a number of Europe’s top fighters and although the majority of the matchups do not feature any marquee names, it should still be a decent night of fights for the fans. The sportsbooks are offering odds on all 13 scheduled bouts, and my top plays are below in the UFC Fight Night 145 edition of Prime Picks.
Petr Yan (-270)
I’m very high on Yan and believe he’s going to be contending for the UFC bantamweight championship in the future, perhaps as early as this year. First, he’ll have to get by veteran John Dodson this weekend, and I believe he’ll be up for the task. “No Mercy” is just 26 years-old and has already racked up an 11-1 pro record, including a 3-0 mark inside the Octagon in 2018 alone. He has tremendous knockout power for a bantamweight and is coming off of a brutal TKO win over Douglas Silva de Andrade in his last contest. Every time we see the prospect he looks better than before.
The UFC has put together this fight against Dodson knowing it’s a prospect vs. gatekeeper bout. It’s a stepping stone for Yan, while for Dodson it’s an opportunity to knock off a top prospect and reemerge as a contender. However, I believe that “The Magician” at this point in his career is just a gatekeeper. His 10-5 record inside the Octagon is nice, but he’s just 3-4 over his last seven fights and has been fighting to a lot of split decisions, which is always concerning. It appears the veteran is on the decline and he has just one lone knockout win since 2016. Though Dodson may be durable enough to survive to the final bell against the younger fighter, I don’t see him winning this bout. I like Yan to take a clear decision win here, or perhaps even get a knockout. The -270 odds on him are money for parlay bettors.
Michal Oleksiejczuk (-230)
In a light heavyweight bout, I believe Oleksiejczuk is going to beat Gian Villante for the biggest win of his young career. This mostly a straight fade on Villante, as I believe he’s on a sharp decline. He’s gained gatekeeper status with an even 7-7 record in the Octagon and has never been able to put together the type of consistency necessary to become a reliable bet. In fact, Villante is coming off of four straight split decisions. He went 2-2 in those fights, and many thought he lost against Ed Herman, who is on the verge of retirement. Villante is fighting middle-of-the-pack fighters and struggling to stay competitive with them, so he’s someone to bet against. “Lord” is just 23 and is currently riding a 10-fight unbeaten streak. He won a decision over Khalil Rountree in his UFC debut in late 2017 but missed all of 2018 due to a USADA violation. Now that he’s back in action, I believe the Polish fighter will continue to rise as a top prospect at light heavyweight as he’s a more well-rounded fighter than Villante. The -230 odds on Oleksiejczuk are more than fair.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-130)
In heavyweight action that most likely won’t last the full 15 minutes allotted for it, I think de Lima is going to knock out Stefan Struve. De Lima, for all his flaws on the ground, is a devastating striker and more often than not wins by knockout. Struve, for all of his ground skills, has a very questionable chin that’s like a ticking time bomb, having been knocked out seven times. “Skyscraper” is coming off of three straight losses and at 31 is starting to look very washed up as a fighter. He’s had an underrated career in the UFC and has managed to hang around the Octagon for over a decade but entering the promotion at such a young age has made him take far too much damage. He does have the ability to finish de Lima by submission if this fight hits the mat, which is why the odds are so close, but I have a feeling the fight doesn’t make it to the ground. This fight ends quickly as Struve’s chin won’t be able to handle the punches of de Lima, and I see the Brazilian ending this fight inside of the first round. It’s a pick ‘em fight at the sportsbooks and I quite like de Lima at -130 odds.
Carlos Diego Ferreira (+115)
For an underdog pick, I like Ferreira to upset Rustam Khabilov. Both are very solid fighters but given the improvements we’ve seen from Ferreira lately and the plus-money odds on him, I think there’s value in a bet. The Brazilian has won five of his seven bouts in the UFC and is on a three-fight win streak at the moment with back-to-back knockouts over Kyle Nelson and Jared Gordon. I like the fact Ferreira finishes his fights, which is very much unlike “Tiger,” who almost always fights to a decision.
Khabilov has an excellent 9-2 record in the Octagon, but he hasn’t finished a fight since 2013. Though he’s on a six-fight win streak at the moment, he’s had some close calls in his last few outings, including a controversial split nod over Kajan Johnson in his last fight. I’m expecting a close bout here between the two, but I do think Ferreira gets his hand raised, and I like the +115 odds on him to do so.
Adam Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of “The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His favorite fight of all time is Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua and he wishes Pride never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.
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