Christmas is coming early for MMA fans. This Saturday’s UFC on FOX 26 is a stacked night of fights on network television, with former champions, top contenders and rising stars all over the card.
The best part about it? The matchups themselves are awesome, with compelling style contrasts and loaded stakes. Robbie Lawler has yet to put on his annual Fight of the Year contender, and ultra aggressive Rafael dos Anjos is the perfect dance partner to make that happen.
Mike Perry is leading a new wave of cocky, trash-talking featherweights – and he’s got the one-punch power to back up everything he says. He’s certainly got the “it” factor, but “Platinum” can’t overlook Santiago Ponzinibbio, a powerful striker in his own right who is riding a five-right win streak.
Also on the card is Glover Teixeira, the longtime light heavyweight contender, who faces the powerful Misha Cirkunov in a career crossroads match. For Cirkunov, it’s an opportunity for the powerful Latvian to graduate from prospect to full-blown title contender. But Glover has only lost to the division’s elite, making him the division’s best gatekeeper.
With so many competitive matchups, this is a tough card to bet. But today, we’re breaking down your best options, using the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu as our guide.
Robbie Lawler -115 vs Rafael dos Anjos -115
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -155, under +135
The money lines reflect just how close this matchup is. Lawler is the bigger, more powerful man, but RDA’s speed is a real factor. They’re both strikers, but the Brazilian is a pressure fighter who throws tight, Thai-style punch-kick combinations while Lawler is more flowy with his kickboxing. Each have suffered recent knockouts, yet they’re general tough guys who can usually take a ton of punishment.
We lean towards Lawler here. First, RDA needs to close distance to be effective, and that puts him in range for Lawler’s patented bombs. Second, training full-time with Henri Hooft has made “Ruthless” a more aggressive fighter, as shown in his last matchup with Cowboy.
RDA only backpedals when he’s rattled, and while it doesn’t happen often the threat of Lawler’s power and increased output can absolutely force him on his back foot. The price on Lawler is playable here, as is the rounds over. Even if both men get rocked, they both possess the grit to recover and fight hurt.
Our Pick: Lawler to win at -115
Mike Perry +160 vs Santiago Ponzinibbio -200
Over/under 1.5, over -110, under -120
Taking a page out of the Diaz brother’s books, “Platinum” has mean mugged and trash talked his way into the welterweight spotlight. Arguably the hardest puncher in the division, Perry’s fists have been doing a lot of talking on their own. Flashy knockouts are also one of the best ways to draw a ton of bets, and that’s something you can take advantage of.
While Ponzinibbio isn’t quite the one-hitter quitter Perry is, he is likely the more advanced kickboxer of the two. His footwork in particular is a weapon in of itself, and Alan Jouban proved that a patient, measure approach can be used to pick Perry apart. As long as Ponzi avoids an all-out brawl, he can outstrike a guy that fights emotionally.
Perry is a big enough underdog to warrant a small play – we’re frankly a bit surprised that the Argentine is a 2-1 favorite. While Ponzi’s got the technical advantage, Perry’s fiery approach can turn this into a 50-50 brawl.
Our Pick: Perry to win at +160
Glover Teixeira +125 vs Misha Cirkunov -155
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over -160, under +130
At 38, Teixeira’s now entering the limelight of his career – and age will always be a question. Fortunately for him, athleticism has never been a big part of his game. He’s a well-rounded guy who is dangerous in every area and packs serious wallop in his fists. Armed with knockout power, a black belt in BJJ and very good wrestling, Teixeira’s always smart enough to challenge his opponent where they’re weakest.
But again, age might play a role against the 30-year old Cirkunov. The Latvian will be at a definite striking disadvantage, but that might not matter if he can overpower Glover into the clinch. From there, his chain wrestling, GNP and submission wrestling skills will take over against a declining fighter. Averaging a stellar 4.88 takedowns per 15 minutes, Cirkunov is a monster on the mat.
Whether he’s ready to beat a guy like Glover is the million-dollar question. Teixeira’s been doing this a long time, against top-level guys. He’s a very good wrestler himself, and it’s hard to see him getting taken down easily by Daniel Cormier, much less Cirkunov. Protect yourself here and go with the rounds over, as this projects to be a clinch-heavy affair that will eat up clock.
Our Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -160