The heavyweight match between Tai Tuivasa, who is No. 4 in the latest UFC rankings, and No. 5 Sergei Pavlovich at UFC Fight Night Saturday in Orlando, Florida, is one of those that seems to be flying under the radar. Perhaps it's because Tuivasa is coming off a loss, or because Pavlovich still hasn't connected with the American fan base.
Or, it could be that the card is so filled with even matches that folks are focusing on other fights.
But for my money, the Tuivasa-Pavlovich bout is the most intriguing on the card, just ahead of the women's flyweight bout between Tracy Cortez and Amanda Ribas.
Tuivasa is one of the UFC's mot popular fighters and one of its most deadly knockout artists. He's 14-4 overall and 13 of his 14 career wins have been by knockout. Despite that rather gaudy record and a list of victims that includes Derrick Lewis, Andrei Arlovski, Stefan Struve and Greg Hardy, Tuivasa is a +165 underdog at BetMGM.
That shows great respect for Pavlovich, who is coming off a first-round KO of Lewis and who is 16-1 with 13 KOs in 17 fights. BetMGM has Pavlovich as a -200 favorite.
That's largely because he has a nine-inch reach advantage and he excels at Combat Sambo and ARB, both styles that have significant ground elements to them.
If the fight hits the ground for any appreciable length of time, Tuivasa is going to be in trouble. Pavlovich excels in all positions and is highly athletic for a 6-foot-3, 255-pound-plus heavyweight.
Tuivasa, though, is used to fighting at a significant reach disadvantage and winning, so not much should be made of Pavlovich's edge in reach. He's able to jab his way inside and has dangerous hooks from that mid-range distance. And getting to that distance often negates an opponent's punching power.
But Pavlovich's ability to work in all areas will be important. I will lay the -200 and take Pavlovich to win. BetMGM doesn't have prop bets up, but I don't expect the bout to go the distance. I'll be looking to bet an under, though I'm not certain where the line will be so we'll have to wait until it's posted.
Cortez-Ribas basically a pick 'em fight
BetMGM has Ribas at -115 and Cortez at -105, which essentially says this is an even fight. But what I think it's going to be is a long fight.
Cortez is not a finisher. She's 10-1 and on a 10-bout winning streak after losing her pro debut. But only three of her 11 fights have been finishes and she hasn't scored a finish in more than four years, since before her UFC debut. Ribas is a finisher and, perhaps significantly, has been finished. Ribas is 11-3 and has won seven by finish but has been stopped in two of her three losses.
Significantly, though, submission expert Mackenzie Dern was unable to finish Ribas.
I think this is a play on the fight going the distance, and even though the number's not out yet, that's what I'll play. I have a slight lean to Ribas at -115, but not enough to make the play. The fight, in my view, is a coin flip and will come down to which fighter makes fewer mistakes.
I'll play the over and root for a long fight.
• I'll take Phil Rowe at +120 to win over Niko Price, who is a -145 favorite.
• I like Michael Johnson at +220 to win over Marc Diakiese, who is -275. Diakiese deserves to be the favorite, but that number is too big.
• I'll lay the -120 and play the improving Emily Ducote to defeat Angela Hill, who is +105.