This weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its long-awaited debut in Russia with UFC Fight Night 136, taking place this Saturday at Olympic Stadium in Moscow. The card is littered with some of the best Russian MMA fighters in the world and should be a lot of fun to watch from an entertainment standpoint, but there’s also some solid betting opportunities to consider as well. Here are some notable odds to look out for in the UFC Moscow edition of Prime Picks.
Mark Hunt (-185)
The main event is a clash of styles as heavy-handed Mark Hunt takes on submission ace Alexey Oleynik for five rounds or less, and I like Hunt to get the win here. Obviously Hunt is 44 now so he’s no spring chicken, but Oleynik is 41 so age shouldn’t come into play too much here. I believe Hunt has several key advantages in this fight. First, the striking. There’s no question Hunt is a far superior striker and he also has vastly more knockout power. Second, his chin. Yes, Hunt’s been getting knocked out more in recent years, but those losses have come against the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division, and his chin has traditionally been one of the best in the sport. Third, Hunt has the cardio advantage. We saw in his fight against Derrick Lewis last year that the longer the fight goes the more it tends to favor Hunt. If he’s able to survive Oleynik’s early submission attempts, he should be in cruise control as the fight goes on. Having said that, obviously Oleynik is an amazing submission artist and is coming off an Ezekiel choke win over Junor Albini in his last fight. If he gets Hunt to the ground it could be a problem. But Hunt has pretty underrated takedown defense and if Oleynik can’t get him down he’s going to be in big trouble. I feel like Hunt has a good chance to light Oleynik up on the feet and make it look like his fight against Curtis Blaydes where the doctor had to stop the fight due to too much damage. Give me Hunt to win this bout by knockout.
Mairbek Taisumov (-470)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend betting on this big of a favorite, but I think Mairbek Taisumov has a very favorable matchup here against Desmond Green. Taisumov is one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC lightweight division today. He’s 6-1 overall in the UFC with his lone loss coming to Michel Prazeres back in 2015, a loss that doesn’t look so bad now that Prazeres is on a seven-fight win streak himself. Taisumov has won his last five by knockout and the only reason he isn’t fighting a top-10 opponent now is because he has had problems securing a visa to fight in the United States. If he were able to fight more regularly, there's no doubt in my mind he would be ranked right now. Green is a solid fighter himself but nothing really stands out about his game. He can grind out some wins, but the fact his last seven fights have gone the distance isn’t a good sign now that he’s fighting at the sport’s highest level. Furthermore, he was recently involved in a fatal car accident that left several people dead and I honestly can’t believe he’s still fighting just a few weeks later. Green technically hasn’t been knocked out yet but if you remember his fight with Daniel Weichel in Bellator, he was knocked down with a punch before being submitted. If Taisumov can catch him on the chin, it will be good night for Green. I really think Taisumov could be an even bigger favorite than he already is given the circumstances. If you like doing parlays then Taisumov is your man.
Alexey Kunchenko (-525)
It’s slim pickings on this card when it comes to betting on reasonably-sized favorites, but there are several big favs that I think win pretty easily. Similarly to the Taisumov vs. Green fight, I think Kunchenko vs. Alves is a total blowout. Kunchenko is undefeated at 17-0 and is coming into the UFC fresh off of back-to-back knockout wins for M-1. As a pro, 13 of his victories have come by stoppage and he has a very good chance to get another one in his Octagon debut against Alves. The veteran welterweight is coming off of a devastating knockout loss to Curtis Millender and has lost three of his last four fights overall. Alves’ chin has not held up very well in recent years and I can’t see him being able to take Kunchenko’s best shots. This looks like a glorious opportunity for Kunchenko to get a highlight-reel KO in his debut and I think he does just that. The odds are high but if you like doing parlays then Kunchenko is your guy.
Adam Yandiev (+220)
There are a ton of big favorites on this card and I expect most of them to win. One I’m not sure about though is Jordan Johnson, who is a -260 favorite over UFC newcomer Adam Yandiev. I think Yandiev has a good chance to claim the upset here. Johnson took this fight on short notice and is dropping down to middleweight for this fight. Rumors are that he isn’t happy with the UFC not giving him a bigger opportunity at light heavyweight, but considering all three of his fights were lackluster decisions, it’s hard to blame the matchmakers not giving him a more lucrative opportunity. I think Johnson is a solid fighter but honestly has been disappointing considering his pedigree. In his middleweight debut he takes on Yandiev, who by all accounts is a destroyer. He’s undefeated at 9-0 and all of his victories are by stoppage. The Russian hasn’t fought since 2015 which is definitely a concern, but I believe the UFC sees something special in this guy considering he was supposed to fight top-15 ranked Krzysztof Jotko before he pulled out and was replaced by Johnson. I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson was able to grind out another decision, but given the favorable odds on Yandiev as an underdog, I would rather go with him here. Everything I’ve seen on tape has been impressive and I’m excited for his UFC debut.
Adam Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of “The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His favorite fight of all time is Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua and he wishes Pride never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.