UFC Fight Night 168 Betting Overview
February 20, 2020
UFC On ESPN+ 26
For a fight night card, this one comes pretty loaded with both quality and quantity. We get a full 13 fights scheduled which is sadly becoming more of a rarity, with 11 or 12 becoming the norm. We get a couple of bangers in the co main event in Felder vs Hooker and Oleksiejczuk vs Crute along with a few other fun fights and some fighters that have real attainable ceilings in their career trajectories.
With the full fight card we have a fairly full slate of strong bets, and I will touch on each one with a brief synopsis of reasoning behind the play.
With the UFC Auckland Fight Night cards, there’s not a need to talk about the fights that don’t have a recommended betting play, but I will still list my picks for those fights at the conclusion of the piece. Let’s get to how to attack the card.
Betting Play Rundown
Main Event: Dan Hooker vs Paul Felder +125
Fight is five rounds at 155 lbs and is -135 to end inside the distance.
Dan Hooker is a rounded fighter that has a knack for finishing his opponents that has made an ascension up the lightweight rankings, earning his first main event appearance. Paul Felder is also a rounded fighter that has been in the lightweight rankings for a longer period of time and has a better body of work, and we are in for a treat with this fight. Both fighters are tough as nails. Felder has technically been finished once in his career, but that was due to doctor stoppage and has never truly been finished in the cage. Hooker has been submitted twice and knocked out once, and that knock out was an attrition based dismantling by Edson Barboza. Speaking of Barboza, he is a common opponent for these fighters. As mentioned, Barboza destroyed Hooker to all areas of the body and the fight should have been stopped sooner than it was, it was truly a runaway. Felder has fought Barboza twice, losing a decision in 2015 and winning a decision in 2019. Rudimentary MMA math gives Felder an edge in common opponents.
Exploring how each fighter wins is a good next step to take. Hooker is almost exclusively a finisher, with 17 of his 19 career wins coming inside the distance, and he truly does have one shot power. Felder is more balanced, with 11 of his 17 career wins coming inside the distance. He also has power but he will certainly have a technical advantage in the striking, as his jab will likely dictate this fight. He also has a strong clinch game with underrated elbows and I would deem him the better grappler of the two, but I believe the majority of this fight takes place on the feet. Hooker does have some savvy front chokes, but it is nothing that Felder hasn’t seen before and Felder even went to the floor in his finish of Charles Oliveira, which is a danger zone that most fighters would rather not put themselves in, and Felder not only lived to tell about it, but he also secured that finish.
My view of this fight is Hooker having a puncher’s chance against anyone, but draws his toughest opponent to date and one that has never seen his chin give out. Felder will be able to control range and I do believe he wears down and beats Hooker like Barboza did with a variety of attacks while his jab controls the distance. Hooker is the bet in this fight but there is an optional hedge in Hooker by KO at +220. The hedge is due to believing the only true path to victory for Hooker is a KO.
Michal Oleksiejczuk -130 vs Jimmy Crute
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -215 to end inside the distance.
“Lord” Michal Oleksiejczuk is a potent striker that will certainly look to bounce back from his poor showing in his last fight, a submission loss to Ovince Saint Preaux. This isn’t exactly an embarrassing loss, as Saint Preaux had six submission wins in the promotion prior to, but it was a bit disappointing that Lord Michal could not come up with a knockout. This was both the first loss and first time being finished for Lord Michal since 2014, snapping a 12 fight win streak.
Jimmy Crute is also coming off a submission loss, his was to Nikita Krylov who had been knocked out in three of his four previous fights, and it was also a disappointing loss for him. This was Crute’s first loss, dropping him to 10-1.
While Lord Michal is capable of grappling and Crute is not a pushover in the striking department, there are clear areas of advantage for both fighters in this matchup. Lord Michal is certainly the better and more dangerous striker and he will have the advantage on the feet and is a true KO danger from the onset. He will work the body well and we always have the chance to see a body shot KO in Lord Michal fights. Crute is the more dangerous fighter on the floor and is the better BJJ fighter, but his wrestling is questionable and it is a huge question mark whether he can get the fight down to the canvas.
I believe Crute will be too willing to stand and strike with Lord Michal, and I believe that will cost him this fight. I also believe this line is not wide enough and there is value in the favorite.
Yan Xiaonan -250 vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +310 to end inside the distance.
As we know, age catches up to smaller weight class fighters earlier than it does larger fighters, and the 34 year old version of Kowalkiewicz is fully washed at this point. She has lost five of her last seven fights, with the wins being a split decision win over vanilla Felice Herrig and a unanimous decision win over human punching bag Jodie Esquibel who has won exactly one fight since 2014. As for Kowalkiewicz, the last time she won a fight was April of 2018 and has been dominated three times since them, with Yan Xiaonan licking her chops to be the fourth.
Xiaonan started her career at 19 years old in 2009, going 3-1 over the course of a year, but then not having another fight until 2015. She is undefeated since then with nine wins including four in the UFC. She throws in very high volume with sound accuracy and is just going to be a massive problem for the washed Kowalkiewicz. The 150 significant strikes landed in the Syuri Kondo fight is a realistic comparison for this matchup as Kowalkiewicz absorbed that many in her last fight with Alexa Grasso.
This is going to be a runaway fight in which Xiaonan earns a lopsided decision or ultimately piles on enough damage to finish Kowalkiewicz.
Magomed Mustafaev -140 vs Brad Riddell
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -185 to end inside the distance.
This is a fight where we luckily have a favorable line, and it is not on who will win the fight, but instead the inside the distance (ITD) line. Magomed Mustafaev is a dangerous kickboxer with a gas tank that empties quickly. He is incredibly dangerous in the first round and is a true KO threat. However when he is unable to secure that early KO, he is a completely different version of himself and just wholly slows down. Riddell has a strong gas tank and it will be his advantage later in the fight and can truly drop damage and find a finish on a gassed Mustafaev. The most likely path for each fighter to win is an early finish for Mustafaev or a late finish for Riddell. The ITD line should be higher and there is value in betting it.
Jalin Turner -210 vs Josh Culibao
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -185 to end inside the distance.
Jalin Turner gets a “get right” fight from the promotion, drawing Culibao in his UFC debut. Turner will have a massive length advantage in this fight against a featherweight taking a short notice fight at lightweight, taking a massive jump in competition. It is a near certainty Turner will truly outclass Culibao and Turner fights end in finishes. Only 2 of 13 Turner fights have gone the distance, with eight of those seeing Turner win via first round finish, seven of which being via KO. This is easily the most likely outcome in this fight. The only pause is Turner having a questionable chin and being knocked out three times already at 24 years old. This means we will have two plays in this fight to cover an outcome of Turner’s chin giving out. The ITD line in this fight is certainly too low, and there is another play on Turner that is extreme value. He is +125 to win by KO and that is extremely attractive.
Kai Kara-France -260 vs Tyson Nam
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +150 to end inside the distance.
Tyson Nam is a low volume fighter but he has big power, and I think the chin of Kai Kara-France is exploitable. This is very straightforward as I simply think there is value in betting Nam via KO at +650. If he doesn’t get the KO, he will lose the fight. Kara-France will win on volume alone should this fight go the distance
Takashi Sato -135 vs Maki Pitolo
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -215 to end inside the distance.
Takashi Sato will remain a fighter that is in the lower levels of the promotion for as long as he remains on the roster. That said, he belongs on the roster while the same cannot be said for his opponent. I was skeptical of Pitolo when he got signed to a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, and those reservations became a reality in his debut as he lost handily to lowest level fighter Callan Potter. I don’t see anything at all special about Pitolo and he has holes in his game everywhere. This should be a wider line for Sato, and I believe it should be much wider. Don’t overthink this one, pound Sato.
Other Fights With Pick
- Rogerio De Lima via second round submission over Sosoli
- Aguilar via decision over Tukhagov
- Matthews via decision over Meek
- Kenan via first round KO over Potter
- Hill via second round submission over Lookboonmee
- Dobson via decision over Cachoeira
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