UFC Orlando (UFC on ESPN 42) Preview

 UFC on ESPN 42: Thompson Vs. Holland Preview and Bet-Slip

    UFC On ESPN 42: Thompson Vs. Holland takes place on December 3rd at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Headlining the card are two guys with all-time highlight reels securing their place as elite welterweights, and also going for striking bragging rights. Another fight highly likely to provide fireworks on the main-card is Tai Tuivasa Vs. Sergei Pavlovich. Heavyweights with heavy hands, one of which is fairly well-rounded? Sign me up. The card, from the main event to prelims, has fun fights, good matchups, and ranked fighters. A great recipe for retaining viewers that check out UFC while looking for what’s live on ESPN, is to have active fights. Even some grappling matches are exciting to a casual fan if lots of scrambles or position changes. It’s likely someone tuning in to this card will see high-level fighting, or at least entertaining scraps. Let’s look at the main-card, some standouts from the undercard/prelims, as well as a few example bet-slips.  

The Main Card

Stephen Thompson Vs. Kevin Holland

    Stephen “Wonderboy,” Thompson 6 years ago was spinning heel kicking his way into title shots, but over the recent years has become a more methodical point fighter. Kevin “Trailblazer,” Holland came in hot, and has stayed hot. While the Jacare finish stunted his growth as a fighter, he still comes out ready to fight and scramble for his life like he did against Khamzat. The contrasting styles, ages, physical abilities, and growing MMA games make for a great ESPN main event. Thompson has a wide gap in experience of all facets of Combat Sports. From Karate, to kickboxing, to MMA, Thompson has trained longer and practiced professionally longer. Holland is very active on the feet and will swing for the fences if given the opportunity, something Thompson likes to present as an option so he can slip out and fire back like a snake. If Thompson follows that loop, and doesn’t get tempted into combos/exchanges, he should be able to pick away at Holland until he gasses. The big X-Factor is Thompson has a weak chin, and Holland is very creative in finding it. The slightest mistake by Thompson could end the fight, given how hard Holland hits. Even when only having his arm to generate power, like the Jacare fight. Holland out-grappled Means, and not only survived but had controlling positions against Cowboy Oliveira. I favor Holland slightly, given the stand-up contest could favor him, and the grappling likely does. Regardless of who wins, the fight should be incredibly entertaining.   

Bryan Barberena Vs Rafael Dos Anjos
    Barberena is coming off of a knockout win over Robbie Lawler that ended in spectacular fashion. While Barberena won the fight, Lawler had some of his best moments since the Cerrone fight and hurt Barberena repeatedly. Rafael dos Anjos is coming off of a loss to Rafael Fiziev at Lightweight (155), but had great well-rounded performances versus Renato Moicano and Paul Felder prior. The Moicano win looks extra impressive considering his run since. While RDA struggled with the size and discipline of Chiesa in his last Welterweight (170) fight, he has shown the ability to hang with the elite for stretches in the Colby and Leon fights. Barberena does not appear to have a well-rounded enough game to compete with RDA who pushes pace and mixes it up. If it wasn't for Lawler forgetting it's 2022, not 2015, and going mouth open berserker Barberena likely would've lost. I favor RDA heavily, and think Barberena will push forward constantly and force RDA into either fighting like vintage RDA. If RDA struggles to mix it up and tries to get intro a brawl, there's a good chance he's getting put away by the style of Barberena. 

Matheus Nicolau Vs. Matt Schnell*
    Nicolau is one of the biggest favorites on the card, and with good reason, but this could be a very entertaining fight. Schnell is coming off of an impressive comeback win against Su Mudaerji, in which he showed a tremendous amount of heart. Schnell also showed an ability to fire back with accuracy, even when hurt. Nicolau has won 3 straight, with his last two fights exhibiting his ability to put together his diverse skill-set. When fighters are both coming in with a lot of momentum and confidence, it can help spur them into more action by nature of believing in their abilities more. One thing to watch out for is Schnell is a little slow for the division, and Nicolau is a little fast. Schnell has shown issues with defending against the jab, as well as dropping his lead hand/shoulder, leaving him open to counter hooks. The two strikes Nicolau has been using to build the rest of his game-plan off of are lead straights and leg kicks. The rear hooks come once Nicolau finds distance with jab, and Schnell has issues with that exact formula. When the fight goes to the mat, Schnell is very creative and risk-taking. A major issue with that versus Nicolau is that Nicolau eats grappling fat alive. So the space Schnell frequently leaves when grappling will get exploited by Nicolau. The Elliott and Dvorak fights are great examples of Nicolau waiting for small openings and using them to not just escape, but gain dominant position. I think Nicolau, even being the biggest favorite on the card, is a good bet. I would handicap him at -250 before watching tape on both fighters, and now favor him at about -325 or -350.  

Tai Tuivasa Vs Sergei Pavlovich

    To disclose my bias right away, I have underestimated Tai in almost every fight, and just don't seem to have a good read on him. I even called that his best chance to succeed against Lewis was to elbow him while against the cage, because Lewis routinely leaves his head stationary against it. But I still picked Lewis. The positive facts on Tai are that he's incredibly tough, he can be crafty in striking by faking people out or baiting them in, and has one-shot power. The lack of fear and ability to take damage, let him optimally use his power by getting in close and focusing on throwing during exchanges. His weaknesses are glaring though: Middle-School level wrestling, lack of diversity in strikes, and poor gas-tank.  Sergei Pavlovich walked through Derrick Lewis in July, and put away Abdurakhimov in a round. A major leg injury and visa issues sidelined Pavlovich, who has otherwise been an extremely exciting heavyweight. The prime for the big boys often comes with n the late 20s to early 30s, and Pavlovich is really hitting his stride. Of Tai's weaknesses, being gun-shy is not one. This is will be a huge opportunity for Pavlovich to put away the two big highlight reel producers in the division back to back. He would enter the Blaydes/Gane/Aspinall terriroty with an impressive finish of Tai. On the flip side, if Tuivasa gets a finish of Pavlovich, Tui secures his place as the guy to beat to enter the elite of the division. A pretty big jump from trying to get into the top 10 two years ago and being unranked at start of COVID. 

Roman Dolidze Vs. Jack Hermansson*
    With Derek Brunson withdrawing because of injury, Roman Dolidze accepted the fight on short notice against Jack Hermansson. Even though the odds show sports books believe Dolidze is a bigger threat, being +195 rather than Brunson’s +275, I liked Brunson’s odds better. Hermansson has shown a recurring issue with getting his offense going against strikers who aren’t easy to takedown. Dolidze does not have the well-rounded game of Brunson, but brings the finishing factor in a more prominent way. Showing off that finishing ability, Dolidze has won 3 in a row with his last 2 being impressive first-round finishes. The most recent one being a devastating knee KO over fellow main-card fighter Kyle Daukaus. Dolidze has less in-ring experience than Hermansson and has less time on the mats as well. If not for how hesitant Hermansson was in the Strickland fight, I would favor him quite a bit. I think Dolidze is more likely to produce a fun fight than Brunson, so could consider this an upgrade. If Dolidze finishes Hermansson, then that also breathes new life into the division. 

Eryk Anders Vs Kyle Daukaus
    This fight is very likely to be a banger between two guys trying to get into the top-15 at Middleweight (185). Kyle Daukaus is coming off of a brutal loss to Roman Dolidze, but prior had two impressive victories against Kevin Holland and Jamie Pickett. Eryk Anders was Elias Theodorou's last win in the UFC. Not pertinent to this fight, but RIP Elias. Anders has really struggled against fighters that are willing to treat the fight like a 3-round contest, and not get into brute-like fights. Anders is on a steep decline in terms of recent performances, and Daukaus has an opportunity to wrestle and wear his way to a victory. While Anders does a good job staying in the fight via defensive style that limits huge shots taken, it does lead to take a lot of body and leg shots. Fighters able to clinch-up with technique, or hook from around at range, have found success against Anders. Daukaus has good dirty boxing, and hopefully learned his strengths do not lie in stalling from the Dolidze loss. The fight should be high-action, and if Daukaus doesn't gas out when Anders does, we can see him push a pace.

Undercard Fights To Watch For

Michael Johnson Vs. Marc Diakiese*
    Potential banger, potential NCAA Division 2 wrestling match. If Diakiese gets into crazy ezchanges like he used to a few years ago, Johnson has a good chance of winning. If Diakiese performs how he did in London, there's a good chance he's just too athletic and has too much in the tank for MJ. I'm still pulling for the old dog in Johnson, but you do love to see someone improve their game like Diakiese has. I think Johnson at +230 is a very live dog on a card where I like favorites. 

Darren Elkins Vs. Jonathan Pearce*
    Nothing too uncertain about how this fight will play out, with Pearce being a -500 favorite and holding. While I wouldn't bet Pearce at -500 due to his lackluster ability overall, Elkins is falling off of a cliff ability wise. What will be interesting is just the fight itself, in that Elkins is a dog who pushes forward and Pearce likes to scrap. While largely predetermined, it should be a bloody scrap.

Bet-Slip Thoughts

    You can see long-form breakdowns and 3rd party tracking of my bets here. Here are some odds that stand out to me: https://www.bestfightodds.com/events/ufc-fight-night-214-2607    
  • Matheus Nicolau (-330) - Despite opening at -215 and continuing to climb to -330, I do think if the lines starts to come back to -300 or below, it is good value. Nicolau's strong points, particularly recently, line up well against Schnell's career long issues that have shown to still come up in his last two fights.
  • Sergei Pavlovich (-180) - Pavlovich checks all the boxes going into this fight, and outside of Tuivasa landing a sneak shot like ge did against Gane, should be able to put away Tuivasa. Tuivasa is very fun inside the cage and out, but I do rate him as a lower-end of top-10 fighter. Anything under -220 seems solid for Pavlovich. 
  • Kevin Holland (-130) - The grappling leaps Holland showed against Means and Cowboy Oilveira, desptie how terrible it looked compared to Khamzat, poses an interesitng X-Factor in this fight. While I believe Wonderboy is too chinny for this fight, there's a chance if Holland can't find the chin he can drag him down the mat and use his new found size-advantage. With how close the line is, it may be possible to get Holland ITD odds at + money. 

    I'm looking forward to UFC Orland very much, as Nicolau Vs Schnell is a sleeper fight in terms of skill exhibiiton to me, and fights such as Tuivasa/Pavlovich and Thompson/Holland seem almost certain to deliver fireworks. The Undercard includes intriguing matchups as well, with Johnson/Diakiese having the potential to range from slugfest to control game, and Elkins/Pearce seeming guaranteed to be fireworks. Even when it comes to the betting value on this card, I'm wagering 5 units instead of 3. 

    If you enjoyed this piece, please check out my other posts here on stacked.place. I will be posting 1000 words on Matheus Nicolau Vs. Matt Schnell on Wednesday 11/30/22. It will mostly be a technical breakdown, ranging from tendencies, techniques, and fight camps.
    You can also find me at:
    twitter.com/JStackTV (Until Jan 1 2023)

Thank you, 


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