Co-Main Event: #13 Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski dos Santos (20-5-0) vs. “Curtious” Curtis Millender (17-3-0)

Zaleski enters this bout coming off 6 straight wins and winning 10 of his last 11, with the only loss coming in a closely contested split-decision in his first fight under the UFC banner. Zaleski has shown the ability to turn up the heat on his opponent at any time and from any angle. His capoeira style gives him a dynamic flow to how he throws his striking. His last two wins have been spectacular finishes, the most notable one was a spinning wheel kick KO finish over Sean Strickland at UFC 224. 

“Curtious” Curtis is a relative newcomer to the UFC, having his first fight for the company in February of last year. Millender comes into this one with a streak of his own, winning 9 straight. He has quickly seen himself become a fan favourite in the eyes of hardcore fans for his ruthless desire to throw down with his opponents, which was perfectly punctuated in his last win over Siya Bahadurzada at UFC 232. 

We should expect to see these two meet in the middle of the Octagon, with Curtis holding the centre and steadily marching forward, whilst Zaleski works on the outside and circling off Millender. Although this is conceivably how the fight might start off, it probably won’t be too long before these two find themselves in a starring contest, ready to throw everything and the kitchen sink at each other. It’s a close fight to call, if it finds its way to the mat, Millender has proven to be completely out of his depth at the UFC level (although this hasn’t stopped him so far).

I’m not sure if we can count on Zaleski to not get caught up in the action on the feet and go for the takedown, but wherever this fight takes place, I think there could be a stoppage at any time within the bout’s 15-minute duration. Either fighter could catch the other and Zakeski could most definitely get the submission win if the situation presents itself. I think there’s good value to be found on the Fight Not to Go the Distance @13/10.

Fight not to go the distance - 0.5pts @ 13/10

In the main event, “The Black Beast” makes his return to the cage following his failure to claim the UFC HW championship from Daniel “DC” Cormier in November of 2018. Prior to his defeat, Lewis saw his stock rise meteorically following a 9-1 run in UFC’s most volatile division. He is feared and renowned for his one-shot ending KO’s as well as his brutal ground’n’pound. Unlike other fighters, even once fatigued, he never loses his ability to finish the fight as he displayed in his last-second KO win over Russia’s Alexander Volkov at UFC 229. 

Taking on Lewis is the back and rolling JDS. Santos recorded two wins in 2018 over Blagoy Ivanov and the young, formally undefeated Tai Tuivasa. JDS is a seasoned vet of the game and this has shown this heavily in his last two outing. In his fight with Ivanov he carefully out-stepped and out-struck him on the feet over 25 minutes, and against Tuivasa, he found himself in trouble, but he bided his time and caught the over-exuberant Aussie, before finishing him on the ground. 

This should really be a striking affair. Santos’ keys to victory are to outbox Lewis, look to land shots on his opponents proven weak mid-section, and potentially seek takedowns when needed. Lewis’ path to victory remains the same in all his bouts, step in on his opponent, break their rhythm and land that devastating shot. Personally I think dos Santos gets it done late or on the scorecards, but the value isn’t there for me @1/2. I’m going to pass on this main event, but I’ll make it up with an extra couple of Main card/Prelim tips for you. 

Alex Morono vs Zak Ottow

In the card’s opening contest we see Alex Morono vs Zak Ottow. Ottow has shown deficiencies with his game and particularly his striking. Morono will more than likely look to keep this fight standing and land on the susceptible Ottow. Ottow will probably be aiming to take the fight to the mat, but with Morono’s sneaky good Jiu-Jitsu game, there could be a lot of danger there for Ottow as well. I think there is distinct value on this fight not to go the full duration @13/8.

Fight not to go the distance - 0.75pts @ 13/8

Louis Smolka v Matt Schnell

Moving slightly up the card, we have Louis Smolka, now in his second stint with the company following a bad run due to his out of cage struggles, he’s now back and looking as good as ever. He faces Matt Schnell who has a decent wrestling game, but I really see Smolka as the better competitor in all other aspects. Even if Schnell was to take this one to the floor, I think Smolka will be able to work his way on-top and get the win here and I’m taking him to do so 10/11.

Louis Smolka - 1pt @ 10/11

Marion Reneau v Yana Kunitskaya

Yana Kunitskaya comes in as a decent sized favourite in her bout with Marion Reneau. Reneau, now 41 has been round the block and when she wins, she generally gets it done in emphatic fashion. She’s one of the most legitimate female Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts in MMA and this enables her to control her often; larger, younger and stronger opponents. She holds submission wins over a women’s Olympic wrestling silver medallist in Sara McMann, and over the current UFC women’s strawweight title contender Jessica Andrade. I see holes in Kunitskaya’s game and I see decent value in Reneau to finish her inside the distance @3/1 and also via submission @9/2. 

Reneau inside the distance - 0.75pts @ 3/1
Reneau by submission - 0.25pts @ 9/2

Main Card Double

Beneil Dariush should hold all the skill advantages in his fight with Drew Dober, the reason which Dariush is only a moderate favourite is because he's shown extreme weaknesses in how he deals with hard shots from his opponents. There’s always that chance that he gets spark, but given that Dober isn’t really known for his power, I think Dariush gets this one to the canvas and gets the win here, most probably by decision. 

One of the card’s most intriguing bouts sees the return of “Big” Ben Rothwell take on the aforementioned Ivanov. Rothwell comes into this one following a two-year suspension. This does raise huge questions about what Big Ben we’re likely to see given the layoff, although I think we’re going to look back with regret if we don’t take him in this spot. Ivanov is slow and lumbering and from his submission defeat to Volkov, we know he’s vulnerable in grappling exchanges. I think Rothwell will keep distance nicely and use timely engagement to close the gap and get ahold of Ivanov. I’m not sure if he gets the finish, although I do think he gets the win, even with the questions about his long time away from competition.