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It doesn't take much to get me excited over a fight card, but the build-up to the UFC's pay-per-view events brings a different type of energy. UFC 275 gives fans two title fights this Saturday night, including Glover Teixeira's first light heavyweight title defense. The main event between Teixeira and his opponent, Jiri Prochazka, is a fascinating contrast of styles that have contributed to many sleepless nights for bettors trying to predict the best way to wager on the main event.
It will be youth versus experience, striking versus grappling, with both fighters possessing enough finishing ability to make the judges' scorecards an afterthought. Nevertheless, you can make a solid case for both fighters, and I will detail all angles and the best approaches to the prop market. Plus, I will have a play on the highly anticipated rematch between Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. So here's the action for UFC 275.
Glover Teixeira is as solid as they come. He has sharp, technical boxing with a devastating left hook. He has an incredibly durable chin for a fighter who has been in 40 professional fights. Teixeira is an excellent grappler with a strong top game who has finished 10 opponents by submission. The UFC's light heavyweight champion has very few weaknesses. So why is he such a significant underdog?
Jiri Prochazka blitzed through the division, making highlights of his opponents with impressive finishes. His power and explosiveness jump off the screen, and his unorthodox striking makes him a difficult puzzle to solve. In addition, Prochazka purposely makes his opponents uncomfortable by manipulating his timing as he closes distance and retreats at an atypical pace. His beautifully chaotic attacks also leave him very open defensively, and that vulnerability has been exploited by much lesser fighters than the one he will face Saturday night. Teixeira certainly has the tools to make him pay, but the question for bettors is whether the champion can survive long enough to take advantage.
Prochazka averages an eye-popping 7.19 significant strikes per minute. His 12-fight winning streak includes 11 finishes. Teixeira knows a storm is coming unlike anything he has seen before, but the old lion's chances of overcoming adversity are better than some may think. Teixeira has six takedowns in his last two fights, and Prochazka doesn't do a great job of defending once his opponents close the distance. Instead, he tends to concede the takedown and rapidly scramble, a technique that will not be successful against an elite grappler like Glover. He has also recklessly given up his back in these situations, a one-way ticket to getting choked unconscious against Teixeira.
The odds are currently -500 for the fight not to go the distance, representing an 83% probability of either finishing this fight. Prochazka punishing Teixeira on the feet might be the most likely outcome, although I don't think it's by a wide margin. That creates a valuable moneyline price on the champion, but I am taking it further by betting Teixeira to finish the fight at +250. Considering that the odds reflect an 83% probability of a finish, it's worth the risk for an additional eighty-five cents on a dollar.
Prochazka's unique style reminds me of Lyoto Machida's rise in the UFC, and it's feasible it could propel him to being the next UFC champion. But, ultimately, there is too much value on Teixeira from a betting perspective at the current odds. Outside of Teixeira's massive grappling advantage, I think when a fighter like Prochazka's greatest defensive asset is his movement, they are susceptible to getting touched up by a left hook — a weapon that Teixeira has used to crumble many fighters. There are just too many scenarios where Teixeira can come away with a victory for me to walk away from +250.
The Bet: Glover Teixeira by KO/TKO, DQ or Submission (+250)
These two went to war for five rounds over two years ago at UFC 248, with Weili defending the belt by edging out the former champion in a razor-thin split decision. However, the fight left little doubt about each woman's ability to absorb damage as Jedrzejczyk's distorted face caused by a massive hematoma made rounds on the internet. Weili lost her next two fights and the strawweight title to Rose Namajunas, while Jedrzejczyk has not competed inside the Octagon since failing to regain the title.
Long layoffs are typically a red flag, but in this case, considering the damage to Jedrzejczyk, I think the time off could ultimately benefit her. The first fight was extremely close, with both fighters landing an equal amount of significant strikes in three of the five rounds. I think we are getting great value with Jedrzejczyk, who should be able to get her revenge with a disciplined approach. That's the determining factor of this fight.
Joanna must use her speed to dip in and out of the pocket well before Weili returns with counters. If Weili can clinch Jedrzejcyk up and keep her close, she will impress the judges by landing the more powerful, impactful shots. It has to be a volume game for Joanna, and that's the precise gameplan the former champion is best suited to execute. Jedrzejczyk has made a career by chasing violence, and it's entirely possible that she can't resist fighting fire with fire.
I believe it's more likely that the time off gave her plenty of time to reflect on what she needs to do to make one last run at the title at this point in her career. I think she does whatever it takes, and her tactical approach earns her a decision win. Jedrzejczyk's last six wins have all been by decision, so getting 2-to-1 in a three-round fight provides enough value for me.
The Bet: Joanna Jedrzejczyk by Decision (+200)
The Parlay: Valentina Shevchenko, Brendan Allen and Steve Garcia (+137)
Stats provided by ufcstats.com