The next weekend off for UFC won’t come until late November, which means that we’ve got another card to consider. This one will be at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida for UFC Fight Night 161. Also known as UFC on ESPN+19, the main event features Joanna Jedrzejczyk against Michelle Waterson and 13 other fights.
The entire fight card is on ESPN+. As always, we’ll take a deeper look at the main card fights, but we’ll consider everything with odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook for the event.
We start in the women’s flyweight division with Lauren Mueller and JJ Aldrich. Aldrich is the -165 favorite in this bout, as she looks to get back on track after getting knocked out by Maycee Barber. Mueller has lost two in a row. Barber is a pretty big prospect in the division, so I wouldn’t hold that loss against Aldrich. She should bounce back here, even if the price is a bit big.
Marvin Vettori is a big -280 favorite over Andrew Sanchez with +240 on the takeback in the middleweight division. Verttori is the more experienced UFC fighter, but he’s had some struggles lately and has gone 25 minutes in each of his last five fights. Sanchez has lost one decision in his career and that came back in CCCW in 2013. He’s been knocked out twice in his UFC career, but he’s 4-0 in decision fights. Vettori has more of a pedigree, but the -280 price looks steep here. I’d look at the dog.
Miguel Baeza was a Dana White find on the Contender Series. He didn’t get a finish, but he impressed enough to come away with a unanimous decision win. Now he’s more than a $2 favorite in his official UFC debut against Hector Aldana. Aldana may be on the verge of losing his UFC status. He’s 0-2 in two fights since his return on June 23, 2018 from a long layoff. He’s facing a size disadvantage here and draws an undefeated opponent. Baez should take care of his affairs here.
Marlon Vera is a -170 favorite against Andre Ewell in the bantamweight division. Vera has rattled off four wins in a row, all by stoppage, as he seems to have really come on strong of late. Ewell, a titleholder in CES, went 2-1 over his first three UFC fights. This seems like a tough opponent for him, though. Vera is the bigger striker and the more flexible fighter when it comes to being upright or on the ground. Ewell wants to stay upright. Stylistically, this match favors Vera.
Deiveson Figueiredo is a -190 favorite against Tim Elliott in the flyweight division. Figueiredo bounced back from his first career loss to top Alex Pantoja at UFC 240. Elliott, a Titan FC champ made his UFC debut at the TUF 24 finale, is 2-1 since losing to Demetrious Johnson in that fight. He’s a pretty live dog here in this fight, though Figueiredo is just a little bit better in all areas.
Alex Morono is +135 to Max Griffin’s -155. Griffin has been a decision machine over his last five fights with all of them going 15 minutes. He’s 3-3 in those fights, including a split decision and a majority decision in his last two. He’s fought some solid opponents like Mike Perry and Curtis Millender in those appearances. Morono hasn’t fought those types of guys, but he has won three of his last four, including a couple of stoppage wins. This looks like a boring decision win for Griffin given the price and the over/under will be 2.5 with over juice when it comes out.
A lot of fights on the card are lined in the same range. Ryan Spann is -145 against Devin Clark, with +125 on the other side. This is one of the smaller lines on the card, as Spann is 2-0 in his two UFC fights and 3-0 if you include his DWTNCS spot. Clark has been in UFC longer, but he’s giving up quite a bit of size here and hasn’t been overly impressive in his appearances. This is a good test for Spann, but one that he should pass as he keeps advancing in the division.
The last fight on the “prelim” card is main-card worthy, but the whole thing is on ESPN+ anyway. Niko Price takes on James Vick in what should be a high-quality matchup. Price is the -145 favorite as Vick looks to bounce back from three straight losses, including a stunning first-round knockout loss to Dan Hooker. It is amazing to see Vick’s immediate fall from once being a 13-1 fighter, but here we are. Price has suffered two of his three career losses in his last three fights and took some punishment against Geoff Neal last time out. Both of these guys badly need a win. I think Vick gets it.
Gerald Meerschaert (+135) vs. Eryk Anders (-155)
Gerald Meerschaert scored a big win last time out against upstart Trevin Giles, but that hasn’t stopped oddsmakers from making him a clear underdog in this fight against Eryk Anders. Meerschaert has a big experience edge on Anders and has had a lot of fights down on the canvas. In all, 29 of Meerschaert’s 40 fights have finished in a submission and he has 21 wins that way. Anders is a striker and these two contrasting styles should make for a good fight.
It really seems like a lot of people are rooting for Anders and that may be coming through in this line. Ya Boi snapped a three-fight losing streak with a win over Vinicius Moreira back in late June, but that was a fight designed to get him back on track. This fight is not. This looks like a much tougher test than the line would suggest.
Pick: Gerald Meerschaert
Matt Frevola (+150) vs. Luis Pena (-170)
Matt Frevola is giving up a lot of height and some reach here in this fight against Luis Pena and that sure seems to be priced into the line. Both fighters enter this one at 7-1, though Frevola also has a draw to his name against Lando Vannata. He’s coming off of a nice win over Jalin Turner. His lone loss to Polo Reyes seems like a bit of an outlier, given that it was a first-round knockout in one minute. Frevola is a scrappy dude and he could very well be the more talented fighter here.
But can he get inside? Pena hasn’t fought a lot of great opponents in his career, but the long-limbed Mexican fighter has been able to use his frame to keep opponents away and then get inside when he needs to. It will be tough for Frevola to penetrate, but Pena probably isn’t deserving of being this big of a favorite.
Pick: Matt Frevola
Amanda Ribas (+130) vs. Mackenzie Dern (-150)
The debut fight for Amanda Ribas went well. She got Emily Whitmire to tap in the second round. Ribas’s only loss in her career is to Polyana Viana when the two were in Jungle Fight and it was a vicious first-round knockout. Outside of that, Ribas has been solid, though she really stepped up in class with that Viana fight. Otherwise, she hasn’t fought too many quality opponents.
Mackenzie Dern is a quality opponent. She is 7-0 in her career, including wins over Amanda Cooper and Ashley Yoder in UFC. She’s a very versatile and talented fighter, but she is strongest on the mat where she can lock in her submissions. Ribas is also solid on the ground. This is a big fight for both of these ladies. It’s hard to know exactly what Ribas is at this point in time, but we’ve got quite a bit of North American coverage on Dern and I have to trust the line here.
Pick: Mackenzie Dern
Mike Davis vs. Thomas Gifford
No line is out for this fight yet, as Brok Weaver withdrew from the fight and Mike Davis will fill in on short notice.
Cub Swanson (+135) vs. Kron Gracie (-155)
We know the drill. The UFC matchmakers want to prop up an up-and-coming prospect with a “name” win that doesn’t mean as much anymore. Will UFC regret that wish? We’ll see, as Cub Swanson takes on Kron Gracie. Swanson has lost four straight fights to Brian Ortega, Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano, and Shane Burgos. The Burgos fight, which came down by split decision, is the only bad one of the bunch, but Swanson has taken a lot of abuse in his career.
Kron Gracie, from the legendary Gracie line of martial artists, started his UFC career with exactly what the promotion wanted in a first-round win over Alex Cacares. The gold medal wrestler and longtime grappler is 5-0 in his MMA career. His win over Cacares was his first official MMA fight in over two years, but he won with ease. Swanson is a step up in class here, but Swanson also seems to be in the twilight of his career. Given the Gracie name, UFC is best-suited to move him quickly and a win over Swanson can do that.
Pick: Kron Gracie
Michelle Waterson (+295) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-355)
There really isn’t much to say about the main event. Joanna Jedrzejczyk makes her 2019 debut against Michelle Waterson. Joanna needed some extra time after her 25-minute war against Valentina Shevchenko, in which she suffered her third loss in four fights. Joanna goes back to strawweight for this one, as she felt that the weight cut was just asking too much of her body after losing to Shevchenko for the flyweight belt.
Waterson has experienced a resurgence of late with wins in three straight fights, but she seems like a long shot to hang with Joanna here. Waterson has beaten Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Felice Herrig, and Cortney Casey by decision to improve to 17-6, but she’s giving up size and striking power here.
Pick: Joanna Jedrzejczyk