We had a Fight Night card that looked poised to deliver last week, and it did in every conceivable way, including a KO that is on the short list for best of all time. If you haven’t seen Buckley’s KO, stop what you’re doing and look it up.
We also had a spinning wheel kick KO in the main event and a jab KO on a very fun card all the way around. Our select fight picks were Sandhagen, Barboza ITD, Aspinall ITD and Breese ITD, and will look to keep that success rolling. This card looks pretty similar, and it should be just as fun, despite losing the co-main event on Wednesday.
Brian Ortega is quite a popular featherweight, and we finally get his return in what projects to be a rough stylistic matchup for him against the Korean Zombie to cap this card off. That is the breakdown we will lead off with, as we look at the final four fights on the card.
Chan Sung Jung -190 vs Brian Ortega
Fight is five rounds at 145 lbs and is -260 to end inside the distance.
If you’re as big of a fan of Brian Ortega as I am, you are quite excited for this fight with the Korean Zombie. He always brings some of the best BJJ the MMA world has to offer, and is certainly fearless and not afraid to be hit. The problem I have with this particular matchup, is I don’t think he has very many paths to victory. Yes, he is absolutely the better and more dangerous BJJ fighter in this matchup and essentially any matchup he is involved in. Sadly, that is where the advantages end. Ortega is in a bucket of fighters that are truly elite on the mat, but lack the wrestling chops to get it there as wanted or needed. Thus far in the UFC, he has relied on cinching guillotines on anything resembling higher end fighters.
Ortega is a boxer and willing to trade, but he does not bring big power and will be at a striking disadvantage as a whole. I mentioned Ortega is fearless, and will push forward to engage throughout as is in his DNA, but that is likely not a game plan that works at all in this matchup. I wouldn’t liken the overall striking advantage for Zombie to be quite as wide as it was in Ortega’s fight with Max Holloway, but Zombie is still some degree better than Ortega, and brings bigger power and fight ending ability than Holloway does. The power counter game will be available for the entirety of the fight for Zombie, and I believe Ortega will be wearing the damage early and throughout the fight.
With the striking being somewhat decidedly on the side of Zombie, we have to explore, how can Ortega get this fight to the mat? Well, those options are limited. Even if he is relentless with his level of pure wrestling, I don’t believe he will be able to get Zombie floored and able to work from top. Snatching a neck and pulling guard is always an option for Ortega, as is something of a trip takedown, but those do not feel like likely outcomes here. I think the -190 price tag for Zombie is fair to a tick low due to the striking advantages. It is not a screaming value, but if attacking this fight, Zombie flat at -190 is the avenue to do so. The ITD line does not bring any added value and betting ITD against one of the toughest fighters in combat sports is rarely a sound idea.
Jessica Andrade -150 vs Katlyn Chookagian
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +165 to end inside the distance.
This is an extremely interesting fight as Andrade makes the jump up to 125. She clearly had trouble with the cut to 115 and left her durability quite questionable, and at least testing the waters at 125 is a sound idea.
I don’t know that her durability would be an issue in a matchup with Chookagian, but the difference in their respective frames is fascinating. Chookagian will have 8” of height and 6” of reach on Andrade. This will be an extremely interesting factor to watch, as Andrade is a fighter that simply storms her way inside and looks to fight in the pocket or to put her wrestling to work.
On the Chookagian side, I am simply not a fan of her style. She is a solid enough fighter, but often just puts strikes out in the air, attempting to keep range, and generally fights hoping that the judges will see it her way. That is not the case for Andrade, as she will be the aggressor, and force her way inside. She makes fights exciting and that will be a tall order in a Chookagian fight, but I think at minimum she gets her way and forces the action. If she is unable to close the distance for striking, I believe she will bulldog her way forward for takedowns or actual slams, which she has a propensity for. Chookagian has defended just half of the takedowns shot on her in her UFC career, and this is a matchup where that pivotal hole will likely be the difference. Chookagian is a sound enough BJJ practitioner, but that portion of her game does not really translate to MMA. In 17 career fights she has just one submission and that was before her days in the UFC.
With Andrade having multiple paths to victory and Chookagian just looking to score enough points for the judges, I strongly lean Andrade to overcome the length issues in this matchup, and end the fight early or do enough damage to get the nod from the judges. -150 on the flat line is the best avenue of attack.
Jim Crute -350 vs Modestas Bukauskas
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -380 to end inside the distance.
Modestas Bukauskas makes his second UFC walk, and he technically won his first fight against Andreas Michalidis, but it came with an asterisk. Bukauskas ended the first round landing some sound elbows in the clinch that truly hurt Michalidis. The round ended and Michalidis leaned back against the cage door. When he leaned forward and then back again, someone had opened the cage door and Michilidis fell backwards through the door he did not know was open, and the ref called the fight.
Bukauskas is a striker who will likely be able to make the standup portion of the fight with Crute competitive, but I don’t believe this fight will be decided with the standup portions of it. Bukauskas has an incomplete skill set, and the hole in his game is his grappling. Yes I said he landed some sound clinch elbows in his last fight, but he will have no recourse on the grappling side in a matchup with someone like Jimmy Crute. Crute has won four of his first five fights in the UFC, all via finish, and we are going to get another finish here. Crute will take the fight to the floor and once there, the black belt will cut through Bukauskas like a knife through butter. I would be surprised if this fight made it to the second round, but in any event, it is truly difficult to imagine a way Bukauskas survives grappling for three full rounds. Crute ITD at -170 is a big value and the avenue of attack in this fight.
James Krause -165 vs Claudio Silva
FIght is at 170 lbs and is -125 to end inside the distance.
This is something of an unfortunate matchup for me personally, as I’m a fan of both of these fighters. James Krause has a rounded skill set, is a mentally sharp fighter, and someone I generally root for, but the line in this fight is absolutely disrespectful to Claudio Silva. Silva is still undefeated in MMA at 38 years old including 5-0 in the UFC. He has also fought better competition than what Krause has, and that includes a win over Leon Edwards. Silva is an extremely high end BJJ fighter that has a way of implementing it soundly into his MMA game. Silva swings wildly and will press relentlessly to get the fight to the floor when he sees openings, and has an elite BJJ game to the point that he cares not if he is taken down. Krause will have to show chin, as Silva throws heavily on the feet, but I think the true loser of the fight for Krause will be once it hits the mat. There are very few, if any, welterweights that will be able to overcome grappling exchanges with Silva, and that will be no different for Krause.
The path to victory for Krause will be surviving two rounds and taking over once the gas tank of Silva fades. It is not a truly identifiable one, as Silva has shown that even with a depleted gas tank, he can keep himself safe late in fights to get safely to the clear scorecard win if he was unable to get the finish. I believe this fight is all Silva, with a submission finish being the most likely outcome, but getting the big value at +145 flat means there’s no need to go that route.