After three title fights, any subsequent fight card is going to be a step down. It turns out that the UFC Vegas 21 event is actually quite a big step down. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because betting is the great equalizer. Any card can be a good card if you win your wagers.
So, that’s what we’ll hope to do here with UFC Fight Night 187 / UFC on ESPN+ 45 with a main event between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad. This was supposed to be Edwards up against Khamzat Chimaev, but Chimaev had some significant complications from his battle with COVID-19 and he is not in this fight and has actually been said to be considering retirement.
We’ll see how that goes moving forward for him, but it will be Muhammad that slots into the main event. Odds come from MyBookie Sportsbook this week as we check out the Saturday March 13 event at the UFC Apex.
Jason Witt (-105) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (-125); Total: 2.5 (-130/100)
Jason Witt and Matthew Semelsberger get this card going in the welterweight division. Semelsberger was victorious in his UFC debut against Carlton Minus and has been the preferred combatant in this one to grow into a slightly larger favorite against Witt. Witt is 1-1 in his UFC efforts, with a loss in his debut, but a win in his most recent fight. We don’t have much data on either of these guys, but it does look like a striker vs. grappler fight, which usually lends itself to the over because both guys spend a lot of time trying to figure each other out.
Jinh Yu Frey (+155) vs. Gloria de Paula (-190); Total: 2.5 (-360/285)
Gloria de Paula is one of a lot of fighters that have made an impression on Dana White in recent Contender Series broadcasts. This will be her first fight under contract as she heads into the Octagon as a -190 favorite over Jinh Yu Frey. de Paula’s win over Pauline Macias pushed her record out to 5-2. This is a big step up against Frey, who doesn’t have the greatest resume, but is quite experienced with 15 fights and a few with titles in the balance. She is 0-2 in UFC after making the leap from Invicta, but de Paula is a modest step down in class. I’d actually look for the upset here.
Cortney Casey (+120) vs. JJ Aldrich (-150); Total: 2.5 (-435/335)
Back-to-back women’s fights are on the card here with Cortney Casey up against JJ Aldrich. This is a flyweight fight after the strawweight fight in the previous bout. Casey is getting the underdog price here as she looks to avoid falling to .500. Casey is 9-8 in her career Aldrich is 8-4 and is in search of a bounce back effort after losing last time out to Sabina Mazo more than a year ago. As the odds imply, a finish is more or less out of the question here. Aldrich only has four in 12 fights. Casey is just 2-6 in decisions over her career,so Aldrich has to be the starting point for this handicap.
Rafa Garcia (+285) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (-360)
Nasrat Haqparast is in a tough spot. Not in this fight, but with his career. He lost his big step-up opportunity early last year against Drew Dober. He followed it up with a win over Alex Munoz. Here he is again as a sizable favorite against an inferior foe. At some point, this has to get old for Haqparast. Rafa Garcia is 12-0, but he has been fighting for a while in Combate America. This will be his UFC debut. That would be my concern here. There is only downside risk for Haqparast here. Maybe Garcia winds up being legit in his debut. If not, Haqparast just beats another guy and holds serve as another favorite. I’d worry about Haqparast’s interest level here.
Ray Rodriguez (+240) vs. Rani Yahya (-300); Total: 1.5 (-150/120)
This continues to be a very mediocre card with Rani Yahya in a big favorite role against Ray Rodriguez. Yahya has a loss and a draw in his last two fights to fall to 26-10-1 for his career. Rodriguez is getting his third UFC look and he’s come up short in the first two. He did fight solid competition in Tony Gravely and Brian Kelleher, but he lost both by stoppage and also lost his most recent LFA fight. He’s just not good enough for the top levels, but who wants to lay $3 with Yahya right now? This fight is a no bet for me and I don’t even have a pick that makes sense.
Marcelo Rojo (+200) vs. Charles Jourdain (-250); Total: 2.5 (-110/-120)
Marcelo Rojo will be another debutant from Combate Americas on this fight card. The 32-year-old Argentinian fighter is just 16-7 in his career, but has won four of his last five as he slots in against Charles Jourdain. Rojo hasn’t fought since September 27, 2019 and slots in as a replacement for Steve Garcia. While Jourdain has not done well recently, Rojo didn’t have a fight camp and is likely to be very rusty. This is a paycheck grabbing opportunity for Rojo. He was on TUF Latin America 3 and lost to Claudio Puelles, but never really got much of a look after that. I’d assume that’s for a reason. Jourdain has no excuse here.
Ashley Yoder (+305) vs. Angela Hill (-380); Total: 2.5 (-390/315)
This fight was supposed to take place a couple of weeks ago, but one of Ashley Yoder’s corner people tested positive for COVID. So, the fight was moved to this card. We might as well just look back at the handicap from prior to that last fight and go from there. At the time, I said that Hill’s striking power would be the difference. She’s lost her last two fights via split decision to Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson. To me, I think those two fighters are better than Yoder, but Hill has shown a propensity to fight to her opponents’ levels. This is such a big number and she should win, but like most of the rest of this card, there isn’t much to get excited about.
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Eryk Anders (+150) vs. Darren Stewart (-180); Total: 2.5 (-220/180)
Maybe the main card will bring us some better fights and better options. Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart get us underway. Three of the five career losses for Anders have come over his last five fights, so he has struggled a bit. He lost his only 2020 fight to Krzysztof Jotko back in May just as UFC was getting back in the swing of things.
Darren Stewart has had some similar misfortune lately with losses in two of his last three scraps. The loss to Kevin Holland was certainly understandable, but losing to Bartosz Fabiniski was a tough one to swallow. This is a fight with two guys that like to throw strikes, but we still have high vig on the total. Anders has been knocked out once. Stewart never has. It does feel like Stewart’s stock is a little higher here and we do see that with the price.
Pick: Darren Stewart
Matheus Nicolau (+105) vs. Manel Kape (-135); Total: 2.5 (-125/-105)
The only flyweight fight of the night features a semi familiar face against a pretty new face. Matheus Nicolau is back in the UFC after stops in Future FC and Brave. Nicolau posted a 3-1 record in the UFC over 2015-18, but he wasn’t able to stick. We’ll see if he can stick here with another opportunity. He hasn’t fought since 8/30/2019, so it has been quite a while as he takes on a pretty promising prospect in Kape.
He also takes on a motivated fighter in Manel Kape. Kape lost his UFC debut back in February to Alexandre Pantoja. It was a huge chance for the 27-year-old. This is basically a fight that he has to have. Nicolau certainly had enough of a ceiling to get to the UFC, but he couldn’t stick and now he hasn’t fought in over a year and a half. I’m not sure this fight has great betting potential, but it is a huge fight for both guys and one that merits watching for future opportunities.
Pick: Manel Kape
Davey Grant (+255) vs. Jonathan Martinez (-315); Total: 2.5 (-170/140)
Davey Grant and Jonathan Martinez meet at bantamweight in yet another fight on this card with a big favorite in Martinez. He’s laying north of $3 in search of his fifth win in six fights. It could very well be a prolonged winning streak for Martinez, who lost by highly controversial split decision to Andre Ewell to open up 2020. Martinez clearly has a lot more upside than his opponent here, but the question is whether or not we want to lay the juicy number.
There are a few problems here with Grant. The first is that he essentially hasn’t fought anybody of great consequence in his last two fights. Back when Grant was fighting guys like Marlon Vera and Damian Stasiak, he commanded a lot more respect. Now, he beat Grigorii Popov by split decision and knocked Martin Day out cold, but that was Day’s fourth straight loss. While Martinez is a good bet to win here, as the odds imply, an under 2.5 might be a better look.
Pick: Under 2.5
Gavin Tucker (+115) vs. Dan Ige (-145); Total: 2.5 (-260/200)
Dan Ige goes from the main event and a five-round war with Calvin Kattar to taking on Gavin Tucker in this bout at 145 pounds. Ige lost to Kattar to fall to 6-3 in decisions for his career. He hasn’t been stopped in any fight over his 17 professional bouts. His 14-3 mark includes three knockouts and five submissions. In other words, Ige seems to have a lot of paths to victory in this fight.
Can we say the same about Tucker? We can. The 34-year-old only has one loss to his name and it was by decision to Rick Glenn. Tucker is 13-1 with four KOs and six submissions in his career. After a very long break from the Glenn loss to his next fight, he fought twice in 2020 and won both, though he is stepping up in class here. One wrinkle to this fight is that Ige has gone to a decision in each of his last four. These are guys with stoppage wins, but not as many recently. Neither guy has lost by stoppage. Something has to give, right?
This looks like an even fight and Tucker is in a good rhythm right now, so I can make an argument for the dog, particularly when I feel like this fight is about a toss-up.
Pick: Gavin Tucker
Ryan Spann (+100) vs. Misha Cirkunov (-130); Total: 1.5 (+110/-140)
This is a huge fight for Misha Cirkunov. He hasn’t fought since 9/14/19. He’s lost three of his last five fights. Once viewed as a pretty good prospect in this division, he faltered as he faced better opponents. Ryan Spann hasn’t really had a ton of chances to step up in class within the division. He had an opportunity late last year against Johnny Walker, but got knocked out for the third time in his career.
These are two guys with major consistency issues. You don’t really know what you are going to get from fight to fight. We see a really low total here because each of the last six fights for Cirkunov has ended in the first round. Both guys were a first-round KO victim by Walker. Otherwise, Cirkunov has losses to guys like Glover Teixeira and Volkan Oezdemir. Spann is not on that level. With the long layoff and the inconsistency for Cirkunov, I can’t lay it, but I can lay the -140 on the under 1.5. This fight should be over quick.
Pick: Under 1.5 (-140)
Belal Muhammad (+210) vs. Leon Edwards (-270); Total: 4.5 (-195/160)
Everybody wanted to see Khamzat Chimaev step up and fight a really good fighter in Leon Edwards. Instead, we’ll get a good fighter in this spot in Belal Muhammad. Muhammad is 18-3 in his career, but he hasn’t gotten as much respect as others because he’s boring. In his 21 pro fights, 15 have gone to the judges. Eight of the last nine in the UFC for Muhammad has gone the full 15 and his submission win over Takuma Sato came nearly two minutes into the third round, so he was close to going over in that one as well.
Leon Edwards has a ton of cage rust to shake off. He hasn’t fought since 7/20/2019 when he ran his winning streak to eight straight. Edwards has beaten some very formidable foes in that span, including Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, and Bryan Barberena. His only loss in his last 10 was Kamaru Usman and it is certainly understandable to lose to him. Edwards tends to go the distance as well, but seems to have more power and knockout upside than Muhammad. You always want to look at paths to victory and he has more than his opponent.