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The Ultimate Fighting Championship comes back down to earth after a blockbuster pay-per-view event, as UFC Fight Night 187 puts on 13 bouts with various levels of intrigue on Saturday in Las Vegas. Most of the betting lines are not very close, as 10 of the 13 fights see odds at -150 or above at the moment. There are still ways to navigate the minefield like this, with four significant prop bets that can get the job done. A fight destined to reach the scorecards, another that may not even get out of the first round, a submission threat looking to do it again and a favorable short-notice matchup cobble together this edition of Prime Picks.
Leon Edwards-Belal Muhammad Goes to Decision (-180)
It is entirely possible that Muhammad slotting into this match with Edwards is an improvement on the previously scheduled tilt between Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev. A legitimate contender who has proved himself against decent names in the division, and not just a man that has earned one win at 170 pounds in the UFC against a former lightweight, should prove for a more competitive showing. The style of these two fighters can match well when it pertains to a lengthier fight, as this welterweight main event has all the makings of one that goes the distance.
Each of the last 10 bouts for Edwards have at least reached the third round, and any finish in that stretch came from him late in the fight. “Rocky” does not typically maintain one-shot knockout power, and even his one-punch knockout of Shaun Taylor in 2014 came very late into their meeting. Even though he is known as a technical boxer who rarely gets trapped against the cage for long, his skillset has developed into one that is far more well-rounded. His impressive eight-fight win streak over power strikers, wild brawlers, and submission stars proves that the Brit can beat fighters at their own game, or at the very least, survive what they throw at him until they run out of steam. Should they have porous takedown defense, he can exploit that. If they are not as comfortable on the feet, he will fare well upright as well.
When it comes to competitors who can “survive what they throw at him,” look no further than the iron-chinned Muhammad. Only once has Muhammad been put away inside the Octagon, when he decided to brawl with Vicente Luque right out of the gate and woke up staring at the lights. Otherwise, Muhammad is the epitome of a fighter that can charge through the fire to come out victorious on the other side. His style can tire out the best of opponents, with the crushingly demoralizing ability to take his foe’s best shots and almost laugh at them after. His pace is practically unwavering, as he often forces his foe to fight off their back foot. “Remember the Name” can remember to grind out his adversaries by spreading out effective strikes with powerful clinch work and smart level changes for takedowns.
Almost exactly like “Rocky,” Muhammad has reached the third round in all nine of his last fights. The overwhelming majority of his victories have come on the scorecards, with his pressure that bends opponents but does not completely break them en route to a finish. It will be up to Edwards to fight off the advancing Muhammad, who will almost certainly implement his practically zombie-esque perpetual forward motion approach. Edwards comes in as a sizeable favorite, and he could fight off Muhammad and extend his win streak to nine. On the other hand, Muhammad’s style is best thwarted by high-volume, accurate strikers, and Edwards could get pulled out of that game if he has to fend off a suffocating attack. No matter how you slice it, this bout should go the full 25 minutes, and a welterweight contender could emerge from this battle.
Misha Cirkunov-Ryan Spann Lasts Under 1.5 Rounds (-140)
If the main event is expected to go the distance, the co-headliner is almost certainly not. In fact, Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision is a mighty -425, instilling confidence that one of these two light heavyweights will get the job done quickly. Thirteen of Cirkunov’s last 14 bouts, including his last six inside the Octagon, have hit the under. On the other side, all but one of Spann’s 15 career finishes ended before the 2:30 mark of Round 2. Since 2017, both men have only lost by spectacular, first-round knockout. The value is clear for this fight to end before its midpoint.
Latvia’s Cirkunov has never gone the distance since making his UFC debut in 2015. The aforementioned spectacular knockouts for Cirkunov came against Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Johnny Walker, while Spann also fell to victim to a Walker barrage. Each of Cirkunov’s career setbacks have all ended by stoppage, and two-thirds of Spann’s are as well. Cirkunov’s submission ability has been on display through his time on the roster, with a Peruvian necktie to hand Jimmy Crute his first loss back in 2019. Spann has fallen victim to just one submission before, and it came against grappling magician Robert Drysdale in 2016. Cirkunov may not hold the accolades of Drysdale, but he makes up for it with creativity and willingness to put himself into danger to land something.
For all the submission prowess that Cirkunov threatens, Spann is no slouch on the ground. “Superman” is a massive light heavyweight, and even though his power has come out the last few years, he would be more than willing to try to figuratively yank his opponent’s neck off with a guillotine choke. The Texan does not fear a brawl, and can put himself in harm’s way to try to land the harder shot. Both he and Cirkunov are reckless enough with faith in their chins and survival ability to fall victim to something violent. One way or another, this fight should not last long. If one wants to take a slightly bigger risk, Fight Won’t Start Round 2 sits at a feasible -105.
Rani Yahya Wins by Submission (+120)
Even by mistake, injury or some other unusual situation, Yahya has never notched a knockout or technical knockout in his career. The Brazilian is a grappler’s grappler, an old-school submission specialist who will latch on to any exposed limb or neck to do whatever he wants with it. While cardio has recently betrayed him against opponents that can hang with him on the ground, and his game can be feast or famine depending exclusively on his foe’s submission defense. Ray Rodriguez, who fell face-first into a guillotine choke in under 40 seconds, and has been choked out twice in the past to lesser submission artists than Yahya. As long as there is physical contact between Yahya and his opponent, Rodriguez will hold his head in the lion’s mouth and may not get out unscathed.
With 20 submissions across his 26 career victories, Yahya’s diversity in his approach has led to smashing success over the years. To wit, he has never landed the same submission in back-to-back wins on his record. Whether rolling for a gorgeous heel hook against Luke Sanders, hitting a rare north-south choke on Josh Grispi or wrenching a kimura on Johnny Bedford, Yahya threatens both by forcing the takedown or pulling guard. If Rodriguez wishes to ply his own submission trade on his opponent in any regard, he will likely re-learn the old adage of “there are levels to this game.”
Rodriguez has not been known as a major striking threat, although he recently smashed Jimmy Flick at an Xtreme Fighting League event in 2019. Otherwise, most of his career finishes have come from some variety of choke or armlock. This confidence has put him into dangerous positions at times, falling victim to Chris Gutierrez’ only career submission triumph in 2018. Yahya’s striking has always been rudimentary at best and typically a means to an end, if Rodriguez can fight off the inevitable crowding and attempts to drag the fight down, he can outlast a quickly fading Yahya. If he tries to test his grappling against that of his opponent event for a moment, the danger zone will have him. One way or another, Yahya will snatch up a submission before the fight ends.
Nasrat Haqparast Wins Inside Distance (+125)
Due to the short-notice nature of this bout, the wide spread of prop bets is not readily available. As a result, Haqparast finishing Rafa Garcia will take the place of Haqparast Wins by TKO/KO, and it will still be decent value at plus money. This bout, which has transformed completely from its original designation of Guram Kutateladze-Don Madge, now finds Haqparast squaring off against a late replacement and Combate Americas champ in Garcia. Even though Garcia is an undefeated fighter, and two of his last three wins have come over former UFC names, those names Estevan Payan and Humberto Bandenay won just once in their combined seven UFC appearances. Level of competition matters, and Haqparast has that advantage in spades ahead of his seventh trip to the Octagon.
Tristar Gym’s Haqparast is an aggressive, heavy swinging, hard-hitting lightweight prospect. He can put on the kind of volume to make foes wilt, and four knockdowns throughout his six UFC appearances can attest to his striking prowess. On three of those six occasions, the Afghanistan-born German has surpassed the 90 significant strike margin, which will work wonders against an opponent who specializes not on the feet but on the ground. Barring a surprise submission, Haqparast should be able to pound out his foe before the final bell.
The veteran of “La Jaula” is a true home-grown fighter with Combate Americas, but due to the league’s inability to put on events, Garcia vacated his title and forced his release. As a result, Garcia has been on the shelf for over a year, and he draws an extremely difficult test in his debut. He will look to set up his wrestling, as Garcia will be completely out of his depth standing up. Erick Gonzalez worked him over standing up, and Garcia was only able to pull out the win by taking the fight down. Haqparast, whose defensive grappling game has improved leagues since Marcin Held held him down for the good part of three rounds, should be able to shuck the takedown and finish the job on the feet.