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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday stays planted at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas with another ESPN offering. UFC on ESPN 10 features a rare pick-’em for a headliner, as well as a few solid favorites who are worth checking out. Much has been said about the quality of this card, but there are still decent ways to thicken your wallet in this edition of Prime Picks.
Jessica Eye (-110)
The Eye-Cynthia Calvillo main event at the moment shows odds at -110 for both women. This may be surprising, given their relative perspective in their divisions. Eye has taken four of the last five, with the lone blemish an enormous one: the head kick knockout at the hands of Valentina Shevchenko. She took decisions in each of those wins; a few were by split verdict, and most were at least fairly close. On the other hand, Calvillo’s last time out was as close as it gets, as she fought to a draw with unbeaten strawweight prospect Marina Rodriguez at 115 pounds.
Calvillo put her name on the map by making her debut at UFC 209 and then turning around a month later to make it onto UFC 210. In doing so, she became the first fighter since Tito Ortiz to compete on back-to-back pay-per-view main cards; Ortiz did so at UFC 132 and UFC 133 in 2011. Since those two submission wins, Calvillo’s submission skills have run into a wall, other than a tapout of Poliana Botelho in 2018. This could be chalked up to her professional debut coming less than seven months before she first stepped foot inside the Octagon. The Team Alpha Male fighter’s sole defeat came due to Carla Esparza’s relentless chain wrestling, and while Eye does not pose that threat, she has other ways to threaten her opponent.
Eight of Eye’s last nine bouts have gone the distance, and her move down to flyweight invigorated a career that many did not think would continue after four consecutive losses. In this assignment, Eye will take on a strawweight moving up a division, although that description may not paint an accurate picture: Calvillo missed weight badly on three separate occasions at 115 pounds. Not to be outdone, Eye came in five pounds heavy against Viviane Araujo in December. As a former bantamweight, Eye should sport a size advantage while standing two inches taller and wielding two inches of reach against her adversary.
This fight, which is practically as close as betting lines can be, may come down to the first fighter who is able to establish her own rhythm. Conventional wisdom dictates that Calvillo will try to drag the fight down, while Eye has markedly improved her boxing of late. “Evil Eye” is still susceptible to the takedown, having been planted on her back twice in each of her last two appearances. Her submission game, at least from a defensive perspective, has improved by leaps and bounds since Aisling Daly flattened her out and cinched a rear-naked choke nine years ago. To wit, Eye has staved off all eight attempts on her neck or limbs with the promotion to date, and Calvillo will almost certainly try to change that but most likely will not succeed.
This bout could see ebbs and flows, as one fighter establishes her game to impose her will on the other in five-minute spurts. Calvillo could easily ground Eye out for a round, only for Eye to come back, stuff a few attempts and start putting strikes together. The key for Eye is to stay on the outside and poke holes in her opponent’s less refined striking game. As long as Eye does not end up on her back early and for extended periods of time, she can play the bull instead of the matador and tire out her opponent to win. Should you wish to attach a decent prop bet towards this pick or one of the others that take place on the card, Fight Goes to Decision at -215 is a fair assessment of what we expect to happen.
Marvin Vettori (-230)
This fight could be a slugfest as an emotionally charged grudge match, and Vettori admitted at Media Day that he plans on feeding on that intensity. Staring across the cage from him will be a sizeable middleweight in Karl Roberson, who prefers to use his powerful punching game to hurt his opponent and lock up a submission. It may be somewhat forgotten that Vettori’s approach is similar, although he tends to race towards his opponent a little more recklessly. Even so, five of Vettori’s first six career wins came by tapout in the opening frame.
Throughout his time inside the Octagon, Vettori has preferred to chain a series of overwhelming strikes instead of relying on a few home run power shots. While Roberson has only eclipsed the 50 significant strike margin one time in the UFC so far, Vettori has done so in four of his last five outings. Both fighters have survived huge bombs from opponents in the past, which lends us to believe that neither will crack the other’s chin in this battle. While Roberson might hit harder, Vettori has the ability to take a power punch and come back with three of his own. Before long, Roberson might wilt from this pressure, as happened in his performance against Glover Teixeira and his near-defeat to Wellington Turman in 2019.
When two bulls charge headlong into combat, they could find themselves locked up in prolonged clinch exchanges while one tries to impose his will on the other. What could start as a brawl could devolve into a grueling close-range battle as the two hard-hitting strikers begin to tire and try to wear each other out. If the co-main event plays out in such a fashion, a prop bet on a specific method of victory may be a pipe dream. Should you find yourself interested in raising the stakes, Fight Goes to Decision at -185 is a suitable option that has the escape route of not needing either man to win. Alternatively, a narrower option of Vettori Wins by Decision, which follows the path of this suggestion, is -120 at the moment.
Andre Fili (-235)
There exists a parlay option for Fili to win in a narrower way to maximize your outcome, but it might be a risk in the event that the unlikely happens to spoil it. In this case, Fili Wins by Decision is -105, which we predict will take place, as he may not be able to crack his Canadian opponent’s chin. Likewise, we do not think that Charles Jourdain will get his hand raised, but we believe he will be able reach the final bell. While Jourdain has the power advantage, Fili is historically superior if the fight goes to the ground.
“Air Jourdain” has some pop on his punches, as evidenced by the fact that he put out Doo Ho Choi in the second round in December. His wild aggression has played against him in the past, and Desmond Green used that against him with several effective takedowns to beat him. While Jourdain had his moments in that fight in the final round, Green used an approach that Fili may attempt to emulate—unless “Touchy” unwisely decides to stand and bang with the 24-year-old.
Fili was quick to observe on Media Day that Jourdain spams flying knees and admitted that he needs to be careful to avoid those high-impact strikes. Although Fili does the same, as evidenced by his recent victory over Sheymon Moraes in July 2019, the path of least resistance leads through his ground game. At the age of just 29, Fili will come into the event with the most Octagon experience, and he should use that and his relative veteran savvy to grind out the high-flying Jourdain and win in the end.
Kevin Aguilar (-190)
Unfortunately for savvy bettors, this event does not appear to present many convincing arguments for taking more of the risky underdogs. Mariya Agapova at -280 should have a major size and strength advantage over a fighter in Hannah Cifers who struggles with that very issue. The experienced Tyson Nam is only a -125 favorite over newcomer Zarrukh Adashev, but with the latter holding only four MMA fights and a fair kickboxing resume, it could be a bit of a trap fight for the veteran. Multiple other bouts likewise feature UFC debutants with little tape available from their previous bouts and even less of an indicator on their level of competition at the time. This leaves us with Aguilar in a tricky matchup against Charles Rosa.
On paper, Rosa’s strategy to use a kick-first approach against the counterstriker Aguilar could spell the Texas native’s undoing. “Boston Strong” also is quite slick if the fight hits the canvas, proving as much when he tapped triangle choke specialist Manny Bermudez in October. In recent losses, Aguilar has shown an unwillingness to pull the trigger or has otherwise gotten outhustled, although Dan Ige has proven recently that he is an elite featherweight worthy of being ranked. Rosa could easily play spoiler should Aguilar stay complacent getting picked apart without landing much in significant offense.
“The Angel of Death,” who holds a four-inch reach advantage against his opponent, will need to make this a firefight more in line with his appearances in Legacy Fighting Championship and later the Legacy Fighting Alliance. Should that version of Aguilar come forward, throw down against his American Top Team-trained adversary and counter Rosa’s kicks like he did against the flashy Thanh Le in 2018, this is his fight to win.