Saturday November 9th 2019 at CSKA Arena, Moscow, Russia
Main Card: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+
Preliminary Card: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN+
We’re fresh off the back of UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz. Looking at the event in retrospect, it provided some excellent fights and some stunning early finishes. The headline bout caused some controversy due to the doctor stoppage at the end of the third, but the fight was pretty far past Diaz at that moment, even if he was coming on stronger as the fight wore on.
This week we now look ahead to the UFC’s last European event of 2019. As usual the UFC have been able to stack this Moscow card full of Russian fighters, with 12 fighting across the 13 scheduled bouts. Let’s waste no time, and jump into this week’s UFC picks for UFC on ESPN+ 21: Zabit vs. Kattar!
Grigorii Popov vs. Davey Grant
Prelim Card: Men’s Bantamweight Bout – 135lbs
Grigorii Popov – Record: 14-3-0
“Dangerous” Davey Grant – Record: 8-4-0
We dive straight into the card’s opening bout, for a bantamweight clash between the relative UFC newcomer Grigorii Popov and TUF 18 finalist Davey Grant.
Both guys are now beginning to head down the back stretch of their fighting careers, with Popov aged 35 and Grant now just over a month away from turning 34. I like this fight to finish inside the distance. Davey Grant’s inactivity over the last two years is a major question mark. He also has a finish or get finished mentality as he’s only ever made it to a decision once in his career. Popov has gone to six decisions in his, but their contrasting styles should mean that wherever the fight takes place, it’ll be dangerous for either of them.
If standing, it’s very probable that Popov catches Grant with a shot, and if it hits the mat, expect Davey Grant to utilize his BJJ advantage to pull off a submission.
Pick: Fight Not to Go the Distance – 1.5 Unit @ +100 (to Return 3 Units)
Alexander Volkov vs. Greg Hardy
Co-Main Event: Heavyweight Bout – 265lbs
Alexander “Drago” Volkov – Record: 30-7-0 / #7 Ranked HW
Greg “The Prince of War” Hardy – Record: 5-1-0
Heading all the way up to the event’s co-main, we have the returning Alexander Volkov taking on the ever controversial Greg Hardy.
It’s a very interesting bout for the UFC to make considering Volkov is the 7th ranked heavyweight in the organisation, and Greg Hardy has currently been wading through the fringe fighters within the division. Obviously this fight is reasonably short notice as Junior Dos Santos dropped out to make way for Hardy, but given that he’s fresh off the back of his mid-October bout, I don’t see this playing any major part in the fight.
Much like Volkov’s last fight against Derrick Lewis, he holds all the technical advantages. He’s got speed and good evasive movement. His striking is very diversified and can catch people at angles. And he also has the significant BJJ advantage should this fight hit the mat. Hardy on the other hand is just a raw physical specimen. He’ll no doubt be the stronger and more powerful man in the cage, but he’ll be giving up everything else in this one.
If you’re looking to bet Hardy, simply take the KO prop on him. It’s his only foreseeable path to victory, and you’ll likely be giving up value by just taking his moneyline. For me, I like Volkov. He could realistically take this fight any which way, providing he can stay at range. I can’t fault people taking his moneyline too much, but the heavyweight volatility makes me a little nervous paying up to -283 (best price).
That’s why my play is Volkov via submission at a massive +1000. He holds a brown belt in BJJ, as well as a submission victory over Blagoy Ivanov (2008 gold medallist in sambo). It’s likely that this bout ends up on the ground at some point. It could arise via a panic takedown from Hardy, or Volkov pursuing one himself. We can’t forget that Allen Crowder had success at taking Hardy down, so Volkov shouldn’t have too much difficulty. Once on the canvas, he should be able to work pretty quickly for a sub against the novice Greg Hardy. Take the value on Volkov submission before the price drops.
Pick: Alexander Volkov to Win via Submission – 1 Unit @ +1000 (to Return 11 Units)
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Calvin Kattar
Main Event: Featherweight Bout – 145lbs
Zabit Magomedsharipov – Record: 17-1-0 / #5 Ranked FW
Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar – Record: 20-3-0 / #11 Ranked FW
Moscow’s main event is between the former hot prospect, now title contender Zabit Magomedsharipov, and the surging Calvin Kattar.
This fight was originally scheduled to take place on the UFC Boston card, where Calvin Kattar would fight in front of the hometown crowd. But due to undisclosed reasons, that fight was then cancelled, and rescheduled to this one, which now sees Zabit competing in his home nation. To make matters even stranger, following JDS dropping out against Volkov, they were offered to be the five round main event, but Zabit’s team declined and said they wanted it to be three rounds. Now this might not sounds too odd, but considering we’ve see Zabit fatigue towards the end of three round fights, it should be no surprise that there’s some hesitancy from his side to make this a five round contest.
Taking all of this into consideration, it just sets up badly for Kattar. He’s now flying over to Eastern Europe against a phenomenal talent, who’ll get the “hometown rub” in his favor. I expect them both to contend nicely on the feet, with Zabit having more success overall. Where I see the major difference coming is when Zabit begins to look for takedowns.
He’s a smart fighter and he’ll be well aware that Kattar’s strength is in his striking, so taking him down will give him the advantage in the fight. According to UFCStats.com, he attempts a massive 6.23 takedowns per 15 minutes, and lands them at a 59% clip. Kattar’s got good takedown defense as he stops takedowns at an 80% rate, but he’s yet to fight someone in the UFC with Zabit’s grappling background.
With this being said, Zabit will likely be able to work for takedowns and have some success. Kattar does have a good get-up game, but Zabit works quickly, and due to his length, he’s able to snatch limbs when fighters work to get back to their feet.
Zabit’s now fought in five UFC bouts, and he’s won 3 via submission. Due to his game planning and the style he’ll likely implement, I see him going to his grappling and tying up Kattar in a submission.