A former kingpin and a would-be conqueror headline one of the final events of the year this Saturday (Dec. 4, 2021) when Jose Aldo looks to continue his Bantamweight resurgence against Rob Font inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC Vegas 44 will also see Brad Riddell take on Rafael Fiziev in a clash of two of the Lightweight division’s best strikes and Leonardo Santos try to return to UFC’s win column at Clay Guida’s expense.
Christmas shopping is looming, so let’s fatten up those bank accounts ...
What Went Wrong at UFC Vegas 43?
Even with Terrance McKinney’s exit, all Sean Soriano had to do to ensure a profit was not willingly engage Shayilan Nuerdanbieke in the grappling. He managed that for about 1.5 rounds, after which he took down Nuerdanbieke, got swept and mentally checked out of the fight. Cody Durden and Sean Brady kept losses to a minimum with hairy victories, but that was immensely frustrating to watch.
UFC Vegas 44 Odds For The Undercard:
Dusko Todorovic (-160) vs. Maki Pitolo (+140)
Manel Kape (-250) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (+200)
Jake Matthews (-190) vs. Jeremiah Wells (+160)
Cheyanne Buys (-190) vs. Mallory Martin (+160)
Alonzo Menifield (-170) vs. William Knight (+150)
Chris Gruetzemacher (-115) vs. Claudio Puelles (-105)
Azamat Murzakanov (N/A) vs. Jared Vanderaa (N/A)
Alex Morono (-220) vs. Mickey Gall (+180)
Louis Smolka (-145) vs. Vince Morales (+125)
Thoughts: While Chris Gruetzemacher is the best pick of the lot, he’s far from alone. Jake Matthews, Cheyanne Buys, Alonzo Menifield and Alex Morono are slightly undervalued as favorites, while Vince Morales is worth a bit as an underdog.
With all due respect to Claudio Puelles, none of his three Octagon wins were particularly impressive. He’d been beaten pillar to post by Felipe Silva before snagging a submission, failed to stop the utterly terrible Marcos Mariano, and lost the first round to Jordan Leavitt before “The Monkey King” seemed to just switch off. Gruetzemacher’s relentlessness looks like more than Puelles can handle, especially considering the success “Gritz” had against a much stronger wrestler in Rafa Garcia.
This is not the near-50/50 fight the odds suggest, so be sure you’re in position to benefit.
Jeremiah Wells is simply too limited to break through in a division as stacked as Welterweight. Decent wrestling fails to make up for his wild striking and inability to pace himself, making him prime pickings for a seasoned and well-rounded technician like Matthews. Plus, Matthews’ historically solid chin makes it very unlikely that Wells can shut his lights out like he did to Warlley Alves.
I won’t deny that Buys let me down in a huge way against Montserrat Ruiz, but this match up is all “Warrior Princess.” Mallory Martin barely escaped from a much more limited striker in Hannah Cifers, giving Buys a clear edge on the feet, and Buys is usually a better wrestler than the Ruiz fight suggested.
She’s worth a look.
Before their last two fights, I’d have picked William Knight to beat Alonzo Menifield. Now, I’m leaning toward “Atomic.” I initially believed that Menifield would prove unable to stay out of the pocket, but his solid outfighting against Ed Herman convinced me that he can stay out of the shorter “Knightmare’s” wheelhouse and implement his much superior striking. If Menifield doesn’t give Knight the sort of grueling clinch battle Knight wants, he’ll take apart his lumbering foe from a distance, and that’s looking likelier than ever.
There are two arguments for Alex Morono beating Mickey Gall. The first is that Morono’s resilience and airtight submission defense are anathema to Gall, who relies on landing quick takedowns and submissions before his shaky cardio can intervene. The second is that Gall’s coming off a win and hasn’t won two straight since 2016.
Either way, it’s feeding time for “Great White.”
While Louis Smolka does tend to make me eat crow, Vince Morales looks like a real problem for him. Smolka has yet to correct the flaws in his striking defense that let Casey Kenney club-and-sub him two fights back, leaving him vulnerable to Morales’ murderous right hand, and he was getting picked apart by Jose Alberto Quinonez before “El Teco” stupidly tried to initiate the grappling himself. Smolka’s historically poor wrestling should allow Morales to keep it on the feet, where his boxing and power look to reign supreme.
UFC Vegas Odds For The Main Card:
Rob Font (-150) vs. Jose Aldo (+130)
Rafael Fiziev (-125) vs. Brad Riddell (+105)
Leonardo Santos (-190) vs. Clay Guida (+160)
Jimmy Crute (-190) vs. Jamahal Hill (+160)
Brendan Allen (-365) vs. Chris Curtis (+280)
Bryan Barberena (N/A) vs. Darian Weeks (N/A)
Thoughts: Brad Riddell and Jamahal Hill are the underdogs of choice on this main card.
I’ve been a believer in Rafael Fiziev since before he set foot in the Octagon. The man is and always has been an absolute beast. That said, he had quite a bit more trouble than expected against Bobby Green, whose refusal to wilt in the face of Fiziev’s onslaught allowed him to take over down the stretch. That’s bad news against Riddell, who gets much, much stronger as fights progress. Fiziev will inevitably win the first round and likely holds a slight overall technical edge, but I trust Riddell’s durability and gas tank to carry him to victory in the second and third.
Hill may be coming off a loss in which he suffered a gruesome arm injury (see it), but he’s got several key advantages over “The Brute.” He’s the faster, smoother striker on top of sporting significantly greater height and reach than the Aussie, who was struggling with Anthony Smith’s stand up even before he got dead-legged. Hill is also a difficult man to take and hold down, meaning Crute likely won’t be able to bail himself out with takedowns.
In short, Hill’s volume and slickness should carry him to a comfortable sprawl-and-brawl victory.
UFC Vegas 44 Best Bets:
- Parlay — Chris Gruetzemacher and Jake Matthews: Bet $150 to make $277.50
- Parlay — Cheyanne Buys and Vince Morales: Bet $100 to make $243
- Parlay — Alex Morono and Brad Riddell: Bet $100 to make $198
- Parlay — Alonzo Menifield and Jamahal Hill: Bet $80 to make $250.40
Between the kickass main- and co-main events and the quality matchmaking throughout, this one’s more than worth its $0 price of admission. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Initial (Boosted) Investment For 2021: $600
Current Total For 2021: $1,973.73
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 44 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET.
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