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The witching hour is upon the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with the promotion breaking long-standing tradition and putting on its first-ever card on Halloween this Saturday in Las Vegas. Changing from the norm a little to bring back something from last year around the same time, there are a few treats along with some tricks to avoid when betting on this card. With half of the bouts coming in with favorites at -300 or above, the betting-line minefields still offer some ways to prosper. Join us in scaring up some bucks on this UFC Fight Night 181 edition of Prime Picks.
Uriah Hall-Anderson Silva Goes to Decision (+110)
First and foremost, Hall and Silva are counterstrikers, and both men have been known to hesitate while waiting for an opponent to engage. Their histories have multiple instances in which they failed to the pull the trigger, instead staving off oncoming offense and doing enough to get by. Both men sport finish rates of about 80 percent, and both like to get the job done with strikes. However, this middleweight collision of surprising import to the divisional layout has the makings of one that goes five full rounds.
Silva has not finished an opponent since he put his knee through Stephan Bonnar’s chest in 2012, but it is not for lack of trying. Silva nearly put out Michael Bisping in 2016, only to take his foot off the gas during the finishing sequence and inevitably lose a decision. The two losses since Chris Weidman knocked his block off came by leg kicks, and Hall could unquestionably take advantage of that weakness by attacking the knee and sweeping the leg. Even in a loss, Silva’s most impressive performance in years may have come against current champ Israel Adesanya, as the two flashy strikers went toe-to-toe for 15 minutes. Silva’s evasiveness and elusiveness, not to mention his ability to still take a shot, served him well as the two went at it until the final bell.
“Primetime” has the cardio that can record late finishes, and he has done so several times over the years. More than his ability to end the fight in the later rounds is that he tends to either get stopped early on into the fight or rides out the match to the distance, with only one fight—against Paulo Costa in 2018—to bridge that gap. Hall has historically been the kind of fighter that has fans wondering which version of him will show up. “The Ultimate Fighter 17” finalist can come out guns blazing and knock out Gegard Mousasi with a combination out of the “Tekken” arsenal, or he can get nullified and pounded out by Mousasi in a rematch.
Hall has not needed more than 40 significant strikes to finish a fight since he topped Thiago Santos in 2014, but he is more of a power striker who can throw single shots to try to get the finish. Even at the tender age of 45, Silva has enough wherewithal to get out of the way of danger early on. A legend of the sport and a name that used to beat opponents before they ever set foot in the cage with him, this reverence could play to his advantage if Hall sees him as a mystical figure and does not fully commit to his offense. A combination of these factors makes this middleweight meeting an intriguing yet potentially frustrating battle that may have come years too late. Hall’s best bet to end this fight may be with kicks, but there may be a part of him that does not want to cause harm to a man many compared him to after he obliterated Adam Cella on “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Bryce Mitchell (-135)
Although Mitchell may be energized by finally having his own camouflage fight shorts, this featherweight co-headliner has all the makings of a trap fight for the undefeated prospect. While the UFC posts that his record is 13-1, the defeat came in the semifinals on his season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and therefore is considered an exhibition. His opponent has been remarkably consistent in his inconsistency inside the cage, losing fights he could win and winning fights most expected he would lose. Team Alpha Male rep Andre Fili is a dangerous test for the rising contender, and many of Mitchell’s sneaky submission skills will not work on a veteran with terrific scrambling ability. As this is currently the closest line of any bout on the card, it would be wise to pass over this one.
All of Mitchell’s career finishes have come by submission, and only one of his tapouts took place outside of the first round. Mitchell comes out like he is shot out of a cannon, and as a result, an overwhelming majority of his takedown attempts have come in the first round. This kind of early pace is something with which Fili has no issue in dealing; he is the kind of fighter who can drop a first round, only to come out strong in the second and win the rest of the fight. Of late, the only men to beat “Touchy” Fili have done so by outstriking him, not by putting him on his back for extended stretches.
Charles Jourdain charged out of his corner like his hair was on fire against Fili, ripping him with kicks until he put the Californian down with a booming left hand. Fili managed to get his wits about him and win the remainder of the fight but not before overcoming some massive adversity. “Thug Nasty” does not present this kind of power, nor does he particularly lean on his striking as much more than a means to an end. Although Fili could be put in some compromising positions early, he does not seem likely succumb to a move like a twister while both men are dry. This has the potential to be an exceptionally exciting bout, which may be why the promotion placed it so highly on the main card. Fili’s very real chance to survive a rough opening frame and prevail (+115) is such that selecting Mitchell may be a “trick” of a bet.
Greg Hardy Wins by TKO/KO (-130)
A typically appealing prop bet for a new heavyweight with a majority of his wins by knockout is that he will get another KO against a man who does not like to strike. Hardy, love him or hate him, has displayed some serious power in his shots. Lately, however, Hardy’s overreliance on his power has led him to some head-scratching performances. Although the line favors Hardy to score yet another knockout, the “Prince of War” will not hold a reach advantage and may find himself struggling to stave off takedowns instead of getting his striking going.
Hardy was easily outstruck by Alexander Volkov as the former football star was unable to find his range against a much longer boxer. His performance against Yorgan De Castro was similarly strange. While Hardy was consistent in his output—helanded exactly 25 strikes in both the first and third rounds—his opponent provided the polar opposite. A competitive first round for De Castro fell away, as the Cape Verde native simply stopped fighting after the first frame possibly due to an injury. Against Maurice Greene, Hardy will find himself dealing with a completely different type of adversary and the first one who will threaten him with grappling.
Like Hardy, Greene has a specialty. However, the Jackson-Wink MMA fighter would prefer to tie up his opponents and get a submission instead of flattening them with strikes. Greene does have enough pop in his shots to hurt the other man, as evidenced by his wipeout of Junior Albini in the first round of their 2019 encounter. Fight IQ is something that has plagued “The Crochet Boss” in recent memory, as he decided to test Alexey Oleynik in submission grappling, and before then, he stood and banged with Russian striker Sergei Pavlovich, who shut him down a year ago. A wiser Greene who chips away at his opponent with leg kicks and stays away from Hardy’s big right hand before crashing in for a body lock is one who can not only keep his head attached to his shoulders but spring the upset. Greene’s most dangerous position will be if he shoots in from a distance, as Hardy can stuff it against the fence and bowl him over—just as he did to Juan Adams. Instead, tying up Hardy before dragging him down to the canvas can work to his advantage. While Hardy by knockout might seem tantalizing and it could absolutely happen given that heavyweight fists carry more weight, Greene has the tools to get through the worst of it. Instead of Hardy finishing the fight with strikes, lines like Hardy winning on the scorecards (+335) or even Greene outright (+275) are palatable alternatives.
Bobby Green Wins by Decision (-135)
Green has not finished an opponent since 2013, but it is not for a lack of trying. On his longest winning streak since a four-fight stretch that saw him tap Jacob Volkmann and crumble James Krause with a body kick, Green appears to be a revitalized fighter. His cardio has held up against the eternally energetic Clay Guida; he doubled up on wild striker Lando Vannata; and he ran roughshod over Alan Patrick to announce himself as finally having arrived. Although Green has always been somewhat hittable, he appears to have shed most of his unfortunate habit of always selling the idea that a strike did not land on him. These developments and performances show him as the kind of fighter who can handle Dana White’s Contender Series signee Thiago Moises over three rounds.
Moises has never been finished as a pro, and he has likely faced heavier hitters than Green—Michael Johnson, Beneil Dariush and Jamall Emmers—on his way up. Nearly finished by Johnson, Moises rallied from a potential 10-8 round in which he landed precisely one strike to hit an ankle lock early in Round 2. The American Top Team prospect has shown a well-rounded game and excellent recoverability, but Dariush showed that he can be easily stifled on the ground if submission attempts are unsuccessful. Green has not tapped in over a decade, and he has faced some far more accomplished grapplers in that stretch than Moises.
Green’s work rate and pace can wear on an opponent, and his last three victories have shown some form of that. A new and impressive wrinkle in Green’s game of late is his willingness to take his man down. His last three bouts have seen nine successful takedowns landed, which is more than his entire 11-fight UFC tenure prior to those outings. Mixing in the takedown will keep Moises guessing, and Green’s submission defense and scrambling ability can work wonders in escaping the danger zone the Brazilian might throw at him from his back. In what could be called a workmanlike performance, Green can get his hand raised when judges award him the victory, all while hitting this treat of a prop bet for his winning by decision.