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The age-old battle of youth vs. experience resurfaces Saturday at the close of UFC 275 when upstart contender Jiri Prochazka attempts to claim 42-year-old Glover Teixieria’s newly-obtained light heavyweight championship.
With age — and hopefully this article — comes wisdom you can use to win new money betting on perhaps humanity’s oldest sport.
Women Strawweight | 11:20 p.m. ET
Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk engaged in arguably one of the greatest MMA fights ever in their UFC 248 encounter. The dizzying display of haymaker destruction totaled 351 significant strikes — the third-most ever for a UFC fight at the time.
In other words, the flame-throwing females hurled everything they had at each other. Setting the timer to 15 minutes instead of 25 assures that they won’t finish each other this time when two extra rounds and, for WMMA, an unprecedented output failed to get a stoppage last time.
Furthermore, across 44 combined contests, only Rose Namajunas finished these fighters one time each. Expect a war that ends with more bloodshed.
Women Flyweight | 11:55 p.m. ET
Most women’s MMA contests don’t end with a finish. But most fighters aren’t Valentina Shevchenko.
“Bullet” can fire a lethal strike with precision. A sterling kickboxing record and multiple gold medals in global Muay Thai competition equip Schevchenko with one of MMA’s scariest arsenals that can fire off head kicks or elbows from any range.
It also presents a challenge endless levels beyond what Taila Santos has faced. Shevchenko finished her last two and three of her last four fights via knockout. I anticipate the streak will continue.
Gun-shy gamblers reminisce over Juliana Pena’s shocking upset over Amanda Nunes as a +700 underdog (the fourth-largest upset in UFC history).
Remember that Nunes was fresh off a bout with COVID-19, undoubtedly impacting her cardiovascular conditioning, training and overall comfort.
The only risk here is that Shevchenko’s opponents outside of Nunes oftentimes avoid engaging with Shevchenko on the feet and her strong submission skills pose an outside submission threat.
I like the odds here and so should you.
Men Light Heavyweight | 12:30 p.m. ET
This main event carries an extremely tight betting line that’s essentially even. The experience gap is far wider.
Glover Teixeira enters his 22nd light heavyweight fight, tied with arguably the GOAT Jon Jones for second-most in divisional history.
Jiri Prochazka will step into the Octagon for only the third time in his career. His total UFC fight time spans under six minutes. Prochazka spent most of his career in Pride’s spiritual successor, Rizin.
Rizin bouts occur in a ring rather than a cage. Rings benefit strikers by forcing sooner, more direct engagement with around 20 feet, as opposed to the UFC’s 32 feet.
Additionally, ropes to force a rope break upon entanglement and corners restrict the space that the UFC’s setting allows grapplers (particularly wrestlers) to use the cage to their advantage to work for dominant positioning while pressing opponents against the fence.
Accomplished grapplers like Teixeira push toppled fighters into the cage, hindering the ability to create explosive hip movement to escape from the bottom.
If Teixeira places Prochazka in a perilous position on the ground, the odds of victory for the experienced champion skyrocket.
He is one of the best positional grapplers in MMA, using his pedigree and patience to mix offensive submission work and grinding ground and pound to advance wherever the fight needs to go on the ground — which is where the “any finish” part of this bet kicks in.
He showcased submission wizardry when dominating former light heavyweight champion and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jan Blachowicz in his last fight.
Before that career capstone, he choked out previous title contenders Thiago Santos and Ovince St. Preux. The former holds a black belt in BJJ and the latter owns six submission victories in the UFC and caused many fans and experts to rename the Von Flue Choke the “Von Preux” choke (OSP owns the most victories with that method in MMA history).
Prozchaka’s grappling abilities remain a mystery. Never facing a fighter with a remotely comparable jiu-jitsu pedigree to Teixeira magnifies that question mark.
We know Prochazka weaponizes a diverse striking arsenal that makes standing with him an at-best odious, oftentimes ominous task for opponents.
The rangy challenger bullrushes opponents, firing from an unorthodox, crouched stance where fast jabs, less traditional punches from all angles, kicks that are as flashy as they are damaging, and flying knees that have caused multiple knockouts originate.
Prochazka compliments constant pressing of the action with strange feints and lateral movements reminiscent of reigning middleweight king Israel Adesanya.
One striking weakness Prochazka flashes is a strong tendency to keep his hands very low at all times.
Teixeira’s stand-up traits form the opposite end of a hypothetical Venn diagram. He plods forward with a high guard, almost exclusively aiming for the head with basic boxing.
The faithfully followed, sequential routine consists of slipping inside, throwing an overhand right or cross counter and following up successful strikes with a left hook.
Teixeira’s complete lack of speed, elusiveness, and care for eating a strike if it means getting closer to takedown distance translates to absorbing a lot of damage.
His durable chin rarely fails. It has survived many of the fiercest strikers in MMA, including five rounds with prime Jon Jones. In fact, since his debut fight, Teixeira has been knocked out twice in 40 MMA contests.
Don’t fall for the alluring trap of thinking Prochazka’s age, 96% finishing rate (which is artificially inflated by destroying inferior competition), reach advantage and fancy toolbox has what it takes to add himself to the list and fix the seemingly wrong situation of a 42-year-old “new” champion.
When Prochazka’s feet hit the floor, so too will those betting on sizzle over substance.