Will Dean looks ahead to another fascinating weekend in the world of UFC as he picks out the best bets among Saturday's prelims.
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After last week’s event exceeded everyone’s expectations, there really has never been a better time to watch UFC. With the smaller cage being used for every bout this month, we are consistently seeing more exciting fights with some highlight-reel finishes. I expect this trend to continue this week, as the card is headlined by two heavyweight powerhouses in Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov.
The preliminaries have been especially explosive lately, with the first three fights from last week’s card all ending by KO in under a minute. Saturday's card should be equally eventful, with the debut of Max Rohskopf and the return of fan-favourite Clay Guida both featuring.
I see value in three fights from the Women’s divisions.
Two wins in a month for Casey
When we last saw Cortney Casey, she was getting her hand raised after a first-round submission victory. Despite that being just over a month ago, she took very little damage and should be fully healthy for this bout. Short notice fights are familiar to Cast Iron, who has taken on many notable names in her 11-fight UFC career.
It is widely known that her kryptonite in MMA has always been her takedown defence, but she has honed her defensive grappling skills to become a threat on the bottom, as her last fight showed.
It is important to note that despite being taken down 23 times, she has only allowed her opponents to advance position on seven occasions and usually out-performs them from the bottom.
This fight will be intriguing as her opponent, Gillian Robertson, is an aggressive grappler herself. Savage has six finishes on the mat and does not stall for a second when in top position.
Jiu-Jitsu is a strategic game, and we have seen her overzealous approach used against her in previous bouts. She has been caught in submissions or reversed on several occasions while trying to advance position, and Casey certainly has the potential to make her pay for her imposing style.
In previous bouts, we have also seen Robertson wilt when her path to victory is nullified. In her last performance, she was clearly discouraged after failing to take her opponent down and suffered a TKO loss after just three minutes.
Because I expect Casey to shut down most of Robertson’s grappling offence, I think the same thing will happen here. Once she asserts herself after a dangerous first round, she should be the far superior striker and will have Robertson at her mercy.
The Bull to continue raging
Brianna van Buren is a prospect that many have kept a keen eye on since her Invicta FC days. Aptly nicknamed The Bull, her power, speed and suffocating pressure were on full display in her UFC debut last year. Hailing from the same city as Daniel Cormier, she also has impressive wrestling abilities to match skills on her feet.
Her opponent, Tecia Torres, is currently on a four-fight skid. Although these losses have come against the best of the division, her performances certainly raise some questions. Within these bouts she landed half as many significant strikes as her opponents, losing convincingly on the scorecards each time.
Tiny Tornado is often undersized at strawweight and has relied on her speed and reflexes to gain the upper hand. However, against van Buren she will be giving up those advantages to a younger, fresher fighter. Age and mileage are key factors in the lower weight divisions in MMA, and Torres looks to be slowing down.
Of her 18 professional bouts (including three on The Ultimate Fighter), all but one have gone to a decision. While this speaks volumes about her durability, it also shows that she is not a particularly dangerous fighter.
I think van Buren ought to be the better fighter in every aspect. Her strength and speed should help her land more strikes, and her wrestling credentials should allow her to dictate where the fight takes place. I expect The Bull to charge down another opponent and hand Torres her fifth straight defeat.
Murphy to win clash of veterans
This fight features two of the veteran competitors of the women’s flyweight division as Roxanne Modafferi and Lauren Murphy do battle. Despite being 37 and 36-years-old respectively, both are coming off victories in their previous bouts.
With a career that began in 2003, Roxanne Modafferi is in fact still improving. In recent years she has developed her grappling immensely and now holds a BJJ black belt. Her last outing saw her pull off a major upset, using her superior top control to nullify the threat of Maycee Barber. The Happy Warrior entered the record books for that fight, being the fourth largest betting underdog in UFC history to defy the odds (7/1 on the day).
Lauren Murphy is the more well-rounded of the two, with polished striking and capable grappling. Her best work is done at close range, throwing sharp uppercuts and knees. She is strong and composed in the clinch and is able to turn most of her fights into gruelling wars.
Whilst Modafferi has improved, she still relies on one path to victory: securing and maintaining dominant position. Murphy should be the stronger fighter in the clinch and can prevent Modafferi from scoring the takedowns she needs.
If Murphy can keep things vertical then she should land the harder, more accurate shots. Her opponent has only been stopped on four occasions in her career, so a decision win for ‘Lucky’ is the most likely outcome.
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Posted at 1745 BST on 16/06/20
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