Bet of the Card: (3u) Juan Espino Moneyline @ +126 (to Return 6.78 Units)
Preliminary Card - Heavyweight (265lbs) Bout – Approx. Start Time: 9:00 p.m. EST.
- Juan Espino will benefit from a 1-inch height (6' 3" vs. 6' 2") and 5-inch reach advantage (80” vs. 75”) (per UFCStats.com).
This is an amazing fight. Both guys are quite well matched, have strong wrestling, and are aggressive in pursuit of finishes. That being said, I do see some advantages for the underdog, Juan Espino. We haven’t seen much of either guy’s striking, but from what we have seen from Romanov, he looks seriously uncomfortable and almost unwilling to throw anything. Espino on the other hand, shows composure, perpetual lateral movement whilst bouncing on his feet, and a willingness to throw potential fight-ending blows.
If Romanov is able to get takedowns (pictured below: in the mounted crucifix on Roque Martinez), I can see plenty of room for Espino to work off his back with his high-level BJJ skills, whereas if Romanov is the one being taken down, I don’t see him having the same success, and he could even be put into serious danger of being submitted. Ultimately, it’s hard to tell who the stronger wrestler is, but given that Espino looks the stronger athlete, and yields the better submission grappling credentials, he should look dangerous, even if he is put in disadvantageous spots.
Ultimately, this should look like a close fight in certain areas, but I think Espino has got the upper hand in the striking, and off his back, should Romanov get him down (in a worst-cases scenario). I actually think Espino gets this one done inside the distance, potentially after taking Romanov down, or after reversing positions on the mat following Romanov taking him down. Although Espino only has 1 KO/TKO finish on his record, I see him having the power to cause Romanov issues on the feet, which could also result in a KO/TKO finish standing, or on the mat. All this being said however, I will just be playing Espino’s moneyline, as this fight could easily drift to the scorecards, should Romanov keep the fight close with his wrestling or defend well on the ground.
(2.5u) Andrei Arlovski Moneyline @ -125 (to Return 4.5 Units)
(0.5u) Andrei Arlovski via KO/TKO @ +450 (to Return 2.75 Units)
Main Card - Heavyweight (265lbs) Bout – Approx. Start Time: 10:15 p.m. EST.
- Andrei Arlovski has unparalleled heavyweight UFC experience in comparison to other active fighters, having had 34 fights in the promotion, that’s 13 more than second placed, Derrick Lewis (21) (per StatLeaders.UFC.com).
- 4 of Chase Sherman’s 6 career losses have come via KO/TKO (per Tapology.com).
Andrei Arlovski (pictured below) is arguably the most undervalued fighter in UFC history by the betting markets. Since his fight with Marcin Tybura in June 2017, he’s been the underdog in every fight, and he’s gone 5-5 (with 1 No Contest), cashing multiple times as an over 2-to-1 underdog (per Tapology.com). If the line stays where it is, this will be the first fight to buck this trend, and I’m quite baffled to see him as only the slight favorite.
Arlovski is a veteran of the game, he has the capability to slow fights down to a whisker of what his younger, and often faster, opponent can dish out. The benefit of this, is that he can then match their pace and beat them on technique, and his old-man-savviness.
I like Chase Sherman as a fighter, and I think he’s got some workable skills, but this just looks to be an awful matchup for him. He has output, but his striking defense leaves so much to be desired, especially when he begins to fatigue. So, if Arlovski is able to calm the fight down and match his volume, as he’s been able to do to significantly more skilled fighters than Sherman, then he should be easily able to school him with his crisper and more calculated kickboxing.
The one major concern with Arlovski is his chin, we’ve seen him hit and hurt in the past, but that is to be expected as a 42-year-old heavyweight. That being said, Sherman isn’t exactly a serious knockout artist, he’s generally a fighter that builds to finishes through an accumulation of strikes, and that bodes well for Arlovski, given that he’s managed to endure the power of harder hitters and better strikers. In addition to my moneyline play on Arlovski, I’ve also taken a shot on him to win via KO/TKO, as I can see him landing on Sherman with regularity, forcing him to succumb to the damage once fatigued.
(0.5u) Kelvin Gastelum Moneyline @ +225 (to Return 1.625 Units)
Main Event - Middleweight (185lbs) Bout – Approx. Start Time: 00:45 a.m. EST.
- The stats between these two guys are extremely close. Whittaker edges Gastelum on: Significant Strikes Landed per Min. (4.52 vs. 3.64), Sig. Striking Defense (60% vs. 59%), and Takedown Defense (84% vs. 64%). Whereas Gastelum yields better: Sig. Strikes Absorbed per Min. (2.92 vs. 3.44), Takedowns Averaged per 15 Min. (1.22 vs. 0.43), and Takedown Accuracy (39% vs. 27%) (per UFCStats.com).
This fight was initially made just over 2 years ago, whilst Robert Whittaker was still middleweight champ, but unfortunately it fell through last minute after Whittaker had to withdraw due to a hernia. Now, a couple years on, I still have the same stance on the fight, Kelvin Gastelum is a live underdog (pictured below: in his fight with Israel Adesanya).
In a straight boxing match, I’d have these guys pretty close. In a kickboxing match, I’d give Whittaker the edge. And in a wrestling or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match, I’d be hard pushed to pick a clear winner. So, why is Whittaker the -260 (best odds) favorite in an MMA fight? That’s not to say that Whittaker doesn’t deserve to be favored, it’s just to ask whether he has a 72.2% implied chance of victory, as the line suggests.
Whittaker does have the bigger and longer frame, although Gastelum has shown us many times that he’s still effective with his more compact build. As far as durability goes, Gastelum is right up there with the most durable in the sport, whereas Whittak0er has been wobbled in a number of fights (pictured above in his second war with Yoel Romero), even getting KO/TKO’ed twice, which could be an issue against the heavy hands of Gastelum.
Gastelum has shown that he can go for five hard rounds, and he’s displayed the ability to contend on the feet with the current middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, who notoriously knocked out Whittaker to claim the title (pictured below).
Both guys have skills, and even though I feel Whittaker is on-par or slightly better than Gastelum everywhere, except durability, it’s just not enough to warrant the betting line being as wide as it is. For this reason, I’m going to make a small play on Gastelum at +225, just to keep the books honest.
Scroll down to view event details, odds & Christian’s full card predictions.
Event: UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum / UFC on ESPN 22 / UFC Vegas 24 / #UFCVegas24
Location & Venue: UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Date: Saturday, April 17th, 2021
Start time: Main Card: 10 p.m. EST, Prelims 7 p.m. EST.
Where to watch: Main Card on ESPN+, Prelims on ESPN+
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Full Fight Card Predictions
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Main Event Prediction
Middleweight (185lbs): Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum – Gastelum via KO/TKO
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Main Card Predictions
Lightweight (155lbs): Drakkar Klose vs. Jeremy Stephens – Stephens via Decision
Lightweight (155lbs): Luis Pena vs. Alex Munoz – Munoz via Decision
Featherweight (145lbs): Ricardo Ramos vs. Bill Algeo – Algeo via Decision
Middleweight (185lbs): Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Jacob Malkoun – Alhassan via KO/TKO
Heavyweight (265lbs): Andrei Arlovski vs. Chase Sherman – Arlovski via KO/TKO
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Prelim Card Predictions
Middleweight (185lbs): Gerald Meerschaert vs. Bartosz Fabiński – Fabinski via Decision
(W) Flyweight (125lbs): Justine Kish vs. Tracy Cortez – Cortez via Decision
Heavyweight (265lbs): Alexander Romanov vs. Juan Espino – Espino via Submission
Bantamweight (135lbs): Tony Gravely vs. Anthony Birchak – Gravely via Decision
(W) Bantamweight (135lbs): Zarah Fairn vs. Josiane Nunes – Fairn via Decision
(W) Strawweight (115lbs): Jessica Penne vs. Lupita Godinez – Godinez via Decision
Lightweight (155lbs): Austin Hubbard vs. Dakota Bush – Hubbard via Decision
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights subject to change.