We go from a really thrilling pay-per-view card with three championship fights and a major upset in the main event to what amounts to a much, much weaker card. The upshot is that we can bet on these things whether or not they will have a lot of entertainment value. There is nothing more entertaining as a bettor than winning money, so even the worst of matchups or the most boring of fight cards can still yield excitement.
That is precisely what we will have to hope for in this Saturday’s set of matches at the UFC Apex on March 13. The main event features the return of Leon Edwards, who has not fought since the summer of 2019, against Belal Muhammad. Muhammad is the replacement for Khamzat Chimaev, who was supposed to be getting the biggest opportunity of his career, but COVID-19 ruined that, like it has so many other things.
Like we said, though, this card, while short on top-tier talent and short on fights with competitive lines, should still yield some betting opportunities and chances to make money.
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Edwards Eager for Return
Leon Edwards hasn’t fought since July 20, 2019 to extend his winning streak to eight in a row. Edwards beat Rafael dos Anjos in that bout. During his winning streak, he’s beaten some quality fighters, but really nobody up-and-coming. Guys like dos Anjos, Bryan Barberena, and Donald Cerrone are either on the backsides of their respective careers or are simply in a rut.
Belal Muhammad has performed well overall, but you won’t see him grabbing a lot of headlines or interest because he’s simply not that exciting of a fighter. Fifteen of his 21 career fights have gone the distance. He’s gone the entire length in eight of his last nine and even his submission victory over Takuma Sato went a couple of minutes into the third round. That was the first pro submission for Muhammad to go with four career knockouts.
When we consider that Edwards will likely have to go the full 25 here with Muhammad, a guy who usually picks his spots carefully while avoiding trouble, you do have to wonder about the big favorite here. A better course of action than Edwards’s big -265 favorite price would be Edwards by decision at +100 or to maybe just lay the chalk for over 4.5 rounds.
Cirkunov Needs A Win
We’ve been talking recently about ATS Radio about how inflated prices on teams in “must-win situations” are usually not good bets. This applies mostly to teams that are on the NCAA Tournament bubble or teams that need a sixth win for a bowl opportunity or something.
Think of Misha Cirkunov as an individual in that role. That isn’t to say that Cirkunov will be released or anything, at least not yet, but simply to say that he needs to win fights like these.
Like Edwards, Cirkunov is operating on a long layoff that dates back to September 14, 2019. His recent losses have been to the likes of Glover Teixeira, Vokan Oezdemir, and Johnny Walker. Walker also scored a first-round knockout against Cirkunov’s opponent, Ryan Spann, not that long ago.
Spann is not on the level of the fighters that Cirkunov has beaten. However, we have an inconsistent fighter that is simply not trustworthy in a scenario where he is laying a price. That price may be a bargain relative to his ceiling and upside, but it may also be a tantalizing piece of fruit from the outside that is rotten on the inside.
Rather than look at the two fighters here, I’m more interested in the under. Cirkunov is on a run of six in a row that have ended in the first round. Spann is a little more methodical, but Cirkunov will force the issues here. The under 1.5 is in the -150 range and looks like a good wager.
This card simply doesn’t have nearly as much excitement or intrigue as others. There are a lot of favorites in the -300 and higher range. Those fights can be really tough to bet on. One punch can be the great equalizer in a UFC fight, but we are also staring down the barrel of a lot of unexciting fights that either go the distance or end up with one fighter just wearing out the other.
One fight that could carry some mild intrigue is Gavin Tucker vs. Dan Ige. Ige is a pretty well-known commodity in this division and he’s had some good wins and good performances recently, but he is coming off of a 25-minute war with Calvin Kattar. Tucker has actually been fighting consistently again. I sort of like the slight underdog with an upset there at +125.
The flyweight fight between Manel Kape and Matheus Nicolau is probably my favorite bet on the card. Nicolau is back in the UFC after a couple of fights elsewhere. Kape is 0-1 after a loss to Alexandre Pantoja. He’s getting a guy that spent parts of four years in UFC in Nicolau, so this is a good opportunity, but likely a more manageable one.
With Kape in the -135 range in the markets, that feels like a good price to me.
Coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 45 is exclusively on ESPN+ on Saturday March 13.