After a rare weekend without fights, the UFC returns to the Apex this Saturday night.
We get a quick fix with a 14-fight card headlined by two heavyweight contenders. Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik will battle it out for five rounds, with each fighter hoping a win can propel them into the top five of the heavyweight rankings. I expect a very competitive and entertaining fight that satisfies casual fans and those of us with a bit of skin in the game.
Price makes all the difference in these close fights from a bettor's view, and I will break down why the odds surprised me in the main event. I also have a live underdog worth a look and a small parlay to help us take advantage of some heavy favorites. It's good to be back preparing for a weekend full of fights.
There are levels to the heavyweight division, and we may have seen each of these fighters hit their peak. Saturday night's main event will mean a lot for the heavyweights, who have both lost two of their last three and are coming off losses to top contenders. The winner has a case to enter the top five, while the loser will likely get bounced from the top 10 with a long road back to relevancy.
Fight fans are naturally thirsty for violence. Of course, everyone wants to see a highlight-reel knockout, but there is a game within the game that will determine the winner of this one. That key factor will be distance control. At 6-foot-7, Volkov will have to use his length to keep Rozenstruik at bay with front kicks and knees up the middle. Volkov's knees leave him open for big overhand shots, and Rozenstruik has the finishing power to make the Russian pay the ultimate cost for even the tiniest of mistakes.
The chess match is significant because Rozenstriuk doesn't fight recklessly. His trademark patience, which has rightfully frustrated bettors, will be a tremendous asset in this matchup. Rozenstruik has to balance slipping inside to attack without getting clinched up and taken down. Rozenstruik has solid enough takedown defense (75%) and has experience defending against the division's top wrestlers. His technical kickboxing will be a significant factor early in softening up his opponent to create these entry points while Volkov tries to keep the fight at a manageable distance.
Volkov will undoubtedly be the more active fighter, while Rozenstruik methodically plots his shot with little concern over the judges' opinions or scorecards. All six of his UFC wins have come by KO/TKO, and I am confident he gets his seventh on Saturday night. Volkov's volume will win him a victory if he survives, but five rounds is a long time to keep a fighter with finishing power at bay.
There isn't a big gap between these two fighters, but considering I am getting the underdog with the easier path to victory at plus money, it makes Rozenstruik a solid buy. Additionally, the prop market provides a better price at +225 for Rozenstruik to finish inside the distance. That's too much value to pass up.
The Bet: Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO/TKO, DQ or Submission (+225)
Flyweights put on fun fights, so it's always exciting when there is an excellent opportunity to get some action down. This bet at +160 is more of a value play than a declaration of confidence in Adashev. But it's another circumstance where I think the favorite needs the fight to follow a specific script to be successful. Even if it's likely, I'm not convinced that it's anywhere close to as likely as the -200 odds imply. Osbourne is a dynamic boxer with crisp combinations that can end this fight in a hurry if Adashev decides to trade in the pocket. His last fight was also the first time Osbourne had to work past the first round since 2016. If Adashev can use his footwork to frustrate Osbourne early, I think he will have more and more success in the second and third rounds.
Adashev's 65% striking defense gives me confidence he can avoid Osbourne's early onslaught. On the other hand, Osbourne is very hittable, and defensive discipline is the first to go when a fighter gets fatigued. At +160, Adashev is a solid bet to avoid danger early, take advantage of Osbourne slowing down and pile on the points later in the fight.
The Bet: Zarrukh Adashev (+160)
The Parlay: Erin Blanchfield, Damon Jackson and Movsar Evloev (-130)