This Fight Night card at the Apex got a slight but needed face lift this week, when Paul Felder replaced Islam Makhachev agaisnt Rafael Dos Anjos in the main event. That isn’t a statement on the quality of fighter in Felder vs Makhachev, but I believe Felder is easily the bigger draw, particularly in the states, and this card is in desperate need of a name draw. While the co-main event is an absolute banger and should bring us a fun knockout, it does not bring any star power of any kind. Probably the best fight on this card is a catchweight bout made this week between the recently returned Sean Strickland and Brendan Allen, who lost his fight last week after Ian Heinisch had a positive COVID-19 test. Even with the promotion not being able to put the most elite of fighters on this card, the show must go on, and with that means gambling opportunities. Let’s look at some key fights on this card.
Rafael Dos Anjos -190 vs Paul Felder
Fight is five rounds at 155 lbs and is +135 to end inside the distance.
While Paul Felder is a well rounded fighter, it is likely Rafael Dos Anjos training camp was dedicated to preparation for a totally different stylistic fight, with aforementioned previously scheduled opponent Islam Makhachev. Makhachev is quite competent as a striker, but less busy than Felder and much more willing and able to wrestle and grapple. Dos Anjos, or RDA, is an absolute complete fighter and seasoned veteran himself, and shouldn’t be thrown off a great deal by the opponent change, there will be pros and cons to the preparation he likely undertook for Makhachev.
The pros are that RDA can take the grappling portion of his camp and employ it on the offensive side. While Felder is knowledgeable and able with his BJJ game, he can be taken down, and RDA will be able to take rounds with takedowns into top position. We can’t rule out a finish on the floor either, RDA is no slouch on the mat, and grappling is where he separates himself in this fight.
The con from the probable training camp is a lack of immediate preparation for a more dangerous striker. Felder can finish fights with all his extremities and certainly poses a problem for any opponent with his high end clinch elbows. In the standup portion of the fight, I do think the underdog may have the slightest of edges, but there should be more emphasis on slight than on edge. He is certainly the more capable party of ending the fight with a single shot and he has the clinch striking to fall back on if he is able to keep takedowns from happening and instead winds up in the clinch.
RDA will land his fair share, and I think the volume will be relatively even on both sides. Even if and when Felder is able to win the striking exchanges over five rounds, I don’t think that Felder will be able to fend off the wrestling and grappling of RDA to the extent of earning a decision call. I think this line is a tick wide, but also feel that RDA is more likely to get a decision call, but Felder is more likely to find a finish. Sadly, this is a main event that is best sat out of from a gambling perspective and simply enjoyed from a viewing perspective.
Abdul Razak Alhassan -230 vs Khaos Williams
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -565 to end inside the distance.
This is the co-main event banger that I mentioned in the intro, and the fight’s ITD line of -565 should be quite telling. We are going to see, for lack of a more scientific term, absolute bombs being winged from both sides. Some fights require specific analysis of which fighter will be looking to implement a particular game plan and avoid specific areas of a fight. This is not one of those fights. We have two fighters who are absolutely knock out artists that come to the octagon to do exactly that. Williams was quite impressive in his octagon debut, absolutely starching Alex Morono in 27 seconds, who is a solid fighter and also fighting on this card. Note: I won’t get to the Morono fight in this piece, but I do expect him to win via KO.
WIlliams has said he will be coming to test the chin of Abdul Razak Alhassan. Alhassan is similar, as he is a seeker of the KO. In his six UFC contests, he has four first round knockouts and two decision losses, so he has been fully reliant on that early finish for success. We are going to see a brawl, with both fighters swinging as heavy as possible, and I think that remains until one of them falls.
Alhassan is probably the more advanced fighter in his progression, but did not look particularly sharp in his last outing, and I do believe the line to be too wide. If we do not see one of these fighters put down in the first round, we could see a sloppy fight late, with two gassed strikers unable to accomplish their mission. For betting purposes, I believe any side played should be played via KO to maximize the value on return. When looking a bit deeper, the KO lines are identical to the ITD lines for both fighters, so the pivot to the ITD line should be made to cover more outcomes, however improbable they might be. The ITD lines currently sit at Alhassan -160 and Williams +275. Needless to say, this is too wide of a split when hammers are coming both ways, and the value lies on the Williams ITD side. It is not a must play, but it is certainly the best value available in this fight.
Brendan Allen pick’em vs Sean Strickland
Fight is a catchweight of 195 lbs and is +125 to end inside the distance.
If I’m being completely honest, I’d prefer this fight be the five round main event. However with the short notice and catchweight nature of it, there was not a world of choice in the matter for the promotion. I believe Brendan Allen has a massive future in the UFC, and this is more of a stepping stone fight for him with an inaccurate line. He has been the only fighter able to out grapple Kevin Holland to date and he does sell out to get fights to the floor where he can put his top game to good use. The said top game is incredibly high end, and is certainly his path of least resistance in this fight with Strickland. His striking is a work in progress, but he does have adequate power and has put in the effort to improve that portion of his game and have it catch up with his grappling.
Sean Strickland recently returned to the cage and got a dominant decision win over Jack Marshman in his middleweight debut. He was out for some time after a motorcycle accident, and will need to be striking for the majority of this fight if he is to have a path to victory. Strickland’s hands are better than that of Allen’s, unless there are major strides we are about to see in Allen’s striking, which is a real possibility. Strickland will need to win with volume as he does not have huge power and I believe we might see Allen as the larger fighter once we see them on the scale and in the ring. While I do expect Strickland to get the better of the majority of striking exchanges, this fight will hit the floor, and that will be Allen’s world. Strickland has been controlled on the floor in the past, but never by a jitz player at the level of Allen. I think a finish for Allen is equally as likely as a decision win, but to cover all avenues, the flat play at a pick’em is just fantastic value and my recommendation for this fight.
Don’Tale Mayes -230 vs Roque Martinez
Fight is at heavyweight and is -310 to end inside the distance.
While this fight is not at the top of anyone’s must see list, I do think it brings value on the betting line. I have long believed Don’Tale Mayes was not a UFC caliber heavyweight and his two submission losses in his first two fights have cemented that belief. On the other side, Roque Martinez was also easily finished in his debut, but for me, the jury is still out on his skill set. He does have something that Mayes doesn’t have, and that is adequate power in the heavyweight division. Mayes striking is sound enough, but there just never seems to be anything difference making power behind his strikes, and that will not hold true with the strikes coming back at him from Martinez. I truly think the most likely outcome of this fight is a Martinez knockout, but it is a measuring stick fight for both sides. However, with the ITD line for Martinez sitting at a comfortable +250, it will be a plus figure avenue of attack for me, and one I recommend.