It is extremely surprising that Dana White and the UFC wouldn’t have had an event the weekend before the Super Bowl when they could hog the spotlight, but last week was an off week for the UFC. That is not the case this week, as the world’s top MMA promotion is back in action and also back in the States at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.
Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov will headline this card. A lot of heavyweight headliners are coming up, including Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis on February 20 and then the highly anticipated Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou rematch at UFC 260.
This is a very big UFC card with 14 fights on the docket. The final six make up the main card. Action starts on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. ET and will run into the evening hours the day before Super Bowl LV.
We’ll break down the fight fest with odds from BetOnline Sportsbook and pay a little extra attention to the main card matchups.
Jerome Rivera (+185) vs. Ode’ Osbourne (-220)
Denys Bondar was supposed to be the opponent for Ode’ Osbourne, but Jerome Rivera will slot in as the +185 underdog to get the card started. With the late replacement, this is an immature line that doesn’t feature a total at time of writing. Osbourne is -220 as he looks for his first UFC win while under contract. Osbourne beat Armando Villarreal on the Dana White Contender Series in July 2019 and got a spot on the undercard of UFC 246. He lost to Brian Kelleher in short order. This is a very quick turnaround for Rivera, who just went 15 minutes with Francisco Figueiredo on January 20. Let this line marinate a bit and then revisit it.
Seungwoo Choi (+200) vs. Youssef Zalal (-235); Total: 2.5 (-170/140)
We’ve got a fighter shaking off a lot of rust here in Seungwoo Choi. Choi went 1-2 in three UFC fights in 2019 and then sat out all of 2020. Losses to Movsar Evloev are perfectly fine, so we can scratch that one. He lost to Gavin Tucker and then beat Suman Mokhtarian. Based on the line, he faces an uphill climb against Youssef Zalal, who fought four times in 2020 and got himself a new contract out of it. He did lose the last one to undefeated Ilia Topuria, but it wasn’t a blowout. I like Zalal to bounce back here, though the price is a bit steep. He’s a money line parlay candidate.
Lara Procopio (+137) vs. Molly McCann (-157); Total: 2.5 (-350/275)
Lara Procopio has waited a long time for her second UFC fight. She lost to Karol Rosa back on 8/31/19 and has not been back in the Octagon since. She’ll draw in here against Molly McCann at 125 pounds. It was a very active bantamweight fight with some odd scoring, but both girls threw a lot of shots. Procopio fought at bantamweight there and will now fight at flyweight instead. McCann was very uncompetitive last time out against Taila Santos, but most fighters are. Procopio will be the aggressor here. That means McCann will have to do enough to win over the judges. I’m not sure it happens. I like the mild upset here.
Joselyne Edwards (+215) vs. Karol Rosa (-255); Total: 2.5 (-245/195)
Speaking of Karol Rosa, the 26-year-old will return for her first fight since UFC 251 against Joselyne Edwards. Edwards was extremely impressive back on January 16 against Wu Yanan with a unanimous decision win. The 25-year-old now returns very quickly, something she has never really done in her previous 12 fights. This isn’t one to bet, but one to watch. These are two promising bantamweight prospects and if Edwards shines here with no camp and a quick return, her stock will skyrocket. These are two aggressive fighters. The +195 on under 2.5 isn’t a bad gamble, even though we don’t usually see finishes in women’s fights.
Justin Jaynes (+237) vs. Devonte Smith (-277); Total: 1.5 (145/-175)
Justin Jaynes has his back against the wall for this fight against Devonte Smith. Jaynes has lost two in a row and wasn’t very competitive in each stoppage loss. Devonte Smith is a huge favorite here, despite not having fought since Khama Worthy knocked him out at UFC 241 back on 8/17/19. That is a long layoff for a fighter favored at this price, but Jaynes is obviously a guy not held in high regard by bettors or oddsmakers. Smith is risky to a degree as a parlay piece with Zalal, but he has no excuse for losing this fight.
Martin Day (+270) vs. Timur Valiev (-330); Total: 2.5 (-105/-125)
Timur Valiev had his opponent switched prior to his last fight and Trevin Jones stepped in and knocked him out. Jones was then suspended for a positive marijuana test, so the fight result was overturned. That was the UFC debut for Valiev, who is hoping for better fortunes here against Martin Day. Day is 0-3 in UFC and this will probably be the 32-year-old’s last fight to finish out his contract unless he can pull off the upset. Judging by the line, he probably won’t, but I don’t see much of an edge in this bout.
Danilo Marquez (+210) vs. Mike Rodriguez (-250); Total: 1.5 (-115/-115)
Two long and lanky light heavyweights square off here, as 6-foot-6 Danilo Marquez enters the Octagon as an underdog to 6-foot-4 Mike Rodriguez. Rodriguez has the longer limbs with more reach and is also more experienced at the UFC level. Credit to Marquez, who won his UFC debut at 34 over Khadis Ibragimov by decision at UFC 253. It was a boring fight, though. Rodriguez is a striker and more of an aggressor. Marquez is a patient fighter that does his best work on the ground. The high line and low total implies Rodriguez by knockout here and I wouldn’t argue with that.
Clay Guida (+172) vs. Michael Johnson (-202); Total: 2.5 (-220/180)
Michael Johnson is only 34, but the fight years are showing for the former top contender. While Clay Guida is not on the level of some of his other opponents, we’re still talking about a fighter that has only won three times in his last 11 fights. He’s lost to guys like Justin Gaethje, Nate Diaz, Beneil Dariush, and Khabib Nurmagomedov. He’s also one of the few guys to have beaten Dustin Poirier. He’s also lost three straight fights. Guida has lost three of his last four. Neither one of these guys is worth your money for this event. This is probably a good fight to throw the two guys into, but it isn’t a good fight to bet.
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Beneil Dariush (+100) vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira (-120); Total: 2.5 (-135/105)
Speaking of Beneil Dariush, he is on this fight card as a slight underdog against Carlos Diego Ferreira. Dariush hasn’t really gotten a lot of chances against the top of the lightweight division recently, but he’s done everything asked of him with five straight wins. Four of those have come by stoppage. Dariush won both of his 2020 fights by knockout, a method that hasn’t been his preferred path to victory. He’s won eight times by submission, but only five times by KO/TKO.
Carlos Diego Ferreira also isn’t much of a knockout guy, but he had two of them in 2018 as part of a six-fight winning streak. These two fought all the way back at UFC 179 and Dariush won. Ferreira only has two career losses. One is Dariush. The other is Poirier. He’ll be looking for revenge here in this one. As the line implies, this is a pretty close fight to call and it’s hard to read too much into a fight from more than six years ago. I’d give the nod to Dariush here because his recent wins have been a bit stronger, but Ferreira has been dominant himself.
Pick: Beneil Dariush
Askar Askar (+350) vs. Cody Stamann (-450); Total: 2.5 (-240/190)
The UFC debut for Askar Askar comes in his 13th pro fight. He is 11-1 with five knockouts, one submission win, and a 6-0 record in decisions. He’ll be stepping up in class in a huge way here to face Cody Stamann. The body of work for Stamann hasn’t been great lately. He won a very emotional fight against Brian Kelleher after his brother tragically passed away, but followed that up with a loss to Jimmie Rivera in a pretty underwhelming showing.
It would be virtually impossible to bet Askar here, though. He hasn’t fought anybody of significance on his way up the ranks and only had two LFA fights. He did win both, but this is a much greater challenge.
Pick: Cody Stamann
Manel Kape (+113) vs. Alexandre Pantoja (-133); Total: 2.5 (111/-141)
Portuguese flyweight Manel Kape gets his shot on the big stage here against Alexandre Pantoja. You can see some of the skepticism about Pantoja with this line, as Kape, who hasn’t fought since 12/31/19, is just a slight underdog. When he finished up 2019 with his third win, he beat Kai Asakura to win the Rizin FF flyweight championship. The win over Asakura avenged one of his four losses.
Pantoja has lost two of his last three fights, but Deiveson Figueiredo is the champion and Askar Askarov is undefeated with just a draw against Brandon Moreno to his name. Maybe the 27-year-old Kape is impressive enough to step in here with more than a year off and beat a UFC fixture whose losses are really not anything to scoff at in any way. To me, I think the price is cheap on Pantoja. You have to prove it to me when you step in the UFC Octagon with established fighters.
Pick: Alexandre Pantoja
Marion Reneau (+169) vs. Macy Chiasson (-194); Total: 2.5 (-205/165)
Marion Reneau is giving up a lot of size in her fight against Macy Chiasson. The favorite stands five inches taller and has four additional inches of reach. For Reneau, a fighter who is 1-6-1 in decisions, this seems like a terrible matchup. In fact, she’s dropped three straight decisions to Cat Zingano, Yana Kunitskaya, and Raquel Pennington. Chiasson’s only blemish is a loss to veteran fighter Lina Lansberg in a fight that frankly could have gone either way.
If you’re looking for a parlay piece with Zalal, I think Chiasson is the one. The 43-year-old Reneau is a name and a very experienced fighter, which could give the younger Chiasson fits for a little while, but the favorite is too strong and too much bigger than the challenger here.
Pick: Macy Chiasson
Frankie Edgar (+330) vs. Cory Sandhagen (-400); Total: 2.5 (-210/170)
As a lead-in to the main event, the betting odds would suggest that this fight is something of a dud. Frankie Edgar did outlast Pedro Munhoz over 25 minutes in the main event of the 8/22/20 UFC Fight Night event to snap a two-fight skid. It’s not like the losses have been bad for Edgar. The Korean Zombie knocked him out and he went 25 minutes with Max Holloway in a title fight at UFC 240. Losing to Brian Ortega is no big deal. Edgar may still have something left in the tank, even at 39. The problem is that he only has 10 stoppage wins in 32 career victories. That means he has to do enough to impress the judges at his advanced age.
He did it against Munhoz, but Cory Sandhagen is a different animal. Sandhagen lost to Aljamain Sterling last year, but there is no shame in that. Sandhagen has a big size and reach advantage here. Much like the last fight between Reneau and Chiasson, for a fighter whose path to victory is by decision, not being able to get inside is a major problem. I hate to go chalk again here, but this just looks like a bad matchup for Edgar in a lot of ways.
Pick: Cory Sandhagen
Alistair Overeem (+160) vs. Alexander Volkov (-185); Total: 2.5 (-125/-105)
Alistair Overeem was probably behind on the cards against Jairzinho Rozenstruik on 12/7/19 in the main event of that Fight Night card, but we’ll never know because he was knocked out with four seconds left in the match. That is the only loss for the 40-year-old in his last five fights. He heads into this one against Alexander Volkov as a pretty big underdog. Overeem has done really well to stay releveant in the heavyweight division with age and to still have that striking power that has led to 25 career knockouts.
Volkov is very much a beatable opponent for Overeem here. Curtis Blaydes wrestled with Volkov for the win. Walt Harris didn’t have that in him. Overeem can definitely hang around in that manner. Volkov is taller, but Overeem has long enough limbs to offset the height difference. This will probably be a very technical fight. I like the over 2.5 the most, but I think Overeem is worthy of a small wager. Volkov hasn’t fought a lot of technically sound guys lately. The over and Overeem are my looks here.