Considering last week’s UFC 252 card delivered on its promise and was a fantastic viewing experience, this week’s network Fight Card is on the spot to follow up. Last week we saw a trio of fun finishes on the main card, leading up to the crowning of the heavyweight GOAT, Stipe Miocic. Miocic won via decision, yet decisively as he put Daniel Cormier’s career out to pasture and cemented his legacy in the heavyweight division as one that will almost certainly never be touched.
This week, we do not have the same star power, Not 50% of it. Hell, probably not 10% of it. What we do have is a card on network ESPN (also available for streaming on ESPN+) that promises a fun viewing experience. This statement assumes finishes equal fun, and despite just 11 fights on the card, we have six fights sitting at -150 or greater to end inside the distance. Included in that number is a bantamweight main event that will see household name Frankie Edgar debut in the weight class against Pedro Munhoz, who might be the most unsung, under-appreciated and underrated fighter in any weight class.
Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent fights we’ll watch on Saturday.
Pedro Munhoz -255 vs Frankie Edgar
Fight is five rounds at 135 lbs and is -175 to end inside the distance.
We have to start with Frankie Edgar, as he makes the puzzling move to drop down to bantamweight at 38 years old. We would have to worry about his chin at his age making a weight class drop even if he weren’t having chin issues in recent fights. Ring the alarm, he has seen his chin and durability questioned in recent fights. He has been knocked out in two of his last four fights, after completely avoiding that outcome prior to that in his prolific career. Both of these stoppages came in the very first round and both were via shots that he would have eaten at any other point in his career. Enter Munhoz, an insanely high cardio fighter, who will always bring the pace and pressure, and will likely be something of a nightmare for this version of Edgar. Edgar will be the superior wrestler in this fight, as he will be in most fights he enters, but there is an obstacle to his wrestling in this match. Munhoz has perhaps the nastiest guillotine in all of MMA, and it is a daunting thing for even the most seasoned of wrestlers to stick the neck where Munhoz can attack it. Now, assuming Edgar can get past a guillotine attempt and land takedowns, he is unlikely to be able to ride top control. Munhoz has a high end BJJ skill set and will be able to return to his feet as many times as he might be taken down. There is no guarantee of takedowns at all, but assuming Edgar lands some, each takedown and get up exchange will drain Edgar more than Munhoz, and inch closer to what seems to be the inevitable KO for the Munhoz side. Munhoz is probably not the technically superior striker, but I don’t see a large gap either way, but he will have the power edge and will certainly be laying on heavier volume. At the end of the day, the biggest question to ask in this fight is how Edgar avoids being finished over the course of 25 minutes. I am coming up empty on answers to that question. The -255 price on Munhoz is probably not wide enough, but there is no need at all to play Munhoz flat. He sits at just -125 to win inside the distance (ITD) and that is easily the most attractive betting avenue in this fight as Munhoz likely sends Edgar back to featherweight.
Alonzo Menifield -135 vs Ovince Saint Preux
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -270 to end inside the distance.
While Saint Preux (OSP) is not a helpless fighter on the feet by any means, this fight should be viewed as a striker versus grappler matchup. The strategy of the first round for OSP will be surviving the power and pressure of the heavy handed Menifield. OSP has not looked exceptional on the feet of late, and we know what KO threat Menifield brings early in fights. Menifield won his first nine career fights within the first 5:32 of total fight time, before finally having a set back in his most recent outing. While he was still throwing quite heavily, his grappling skill set was somewhat exposed by Devin Clark. Now, Clark is a better wrestler than OSP is, but from a BJJ and submission perspective, OSP is world’s ahead. If and when OSP gets the fight to the floor, at any point, it is quite a reasonable expectation for a submission to follow directly. The earlier OSP can get this fight down the better, but it seems questionable to improbable that he will be able to in the first round. Menifield certainly slows after the first round and doesn’t have quite the pop behind his strikes later in the fight, but he is a killer in that first round. Early survival for OSP is the absolute name of the game. If and when he is able to, he will be able to work his game and inch closer to submitting a far more dangerous striker, but one that is completely outclassed on the floor. If you have a lean in this fight, betting the likely avenue of victory is prudent. Menifield in Round 1 sits at +210 and provides the best value. OSP ITD at +220 is the best avenue for him, but Round 2 +675 and Round 3 +1150 are the punt plays with the best returns.
Carlton Minus -125 vs Matthew Semelsberger
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +125 to end inside the distance.
I chose this fight because I believe I see an error from the oddsmakers. What’s more, the favorite has already dropped an insane 200 points (!!!) from the opening line and I believe there is still a good deal of value in the underdog Semelsberger. These are two debuting fighters and neither have a real future in the promotion by my estimation, but I believe one to be a better pick in this matchup. In Minus, I see a fighter without a high-end skill set in any area that is coming from a weaker regional promotion in Alaska. Minus is not at all a finisher and has no real redeeming quality outside of attempting to outpoint rounds with his striking. His takedown defense is subpar and his offensive wrestling is not something he generally uses, and the effectiveness of it is questionable at best even if he were to. The advantage for Minus in this matchup will be tighter and more calculated striking, but I believe that’s where the advantage ends. Semelsberger is a much more wild striker, but he will be the pressuring fighter and the one with fight-ending ability. It is worth noting that there is nearly double the return on Minus ITD than there is on Semelsberger. Semelsberger will be the one willing to back Minus to the clinch, and Minus will let him. This is the one spot in the fight we could see takedowns on the Semelsberger side. All in all, it would take long periods of inactivity from Semelsberger to lose this fight, and if he is even remotely a UFC caliber fighter, he will beat Minus with ease. The true decision on this fight is whether to take Semelsberger flat at around even money or attack a larger return ITD at +240.