MOVING on from our clean sweep midweek with our baseball tips, we go onto Saturday night's UFC card live on BT Sport from Uruguay, looking to pick up some more winners.
I have selected a few singles that I think represent good value, as well as a small multiple to make things more interesting.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Liz Carmouche
The UFC women’s flyweight division is finally starting to sort itself out, and right now everything is revolving around champ Valentina Shevchenko (17-3). Her run at bantamweight was successful but also extremely frustrating.
Shevchenko announced herself as a contender immediately upon her UFC debut in late 2015, she stepped in on late notice to face fellow contender Sarah Kaufman, and despite her Muay Thai background, she used her wrestling and grappling to earn a decision victory.
That got her an immediate No. 1 contender bout against Amanda Nunes, and while she lost that fight in close fashion, she remained near the top of the division with wins over Holly Holm and Julianna Pena, earning a title rematch with Nunes just a year and a half later.
However, like the first, she lost by a very close decision. From there, she went down to her natural weight class at 125 pounds.
There was still some conservatism to Shevchenko’s style, but her strength advantage down a weight class has helped a ton in terms of her ability to dictate the fight when she chooses to wrestle; and during the times she has chosen to spend on the feet at flyweight, there has been a bit more going on.
For the 26 seconds that the second round of her fight against Jessica Eye lasted, Shevchenko did a masterful job of using kicks to the body to set up a head kick knockout that ranks among the most brutal finishes of the year.
The only down side is that there is not an obvious rival to step up and challenge, is this where Liz Carmouche comes in?
Carmouche (13-6) is actually the only woman besides Nunes to earn a win over Shevchenko, albeit to a doctor stoppage back in 2010. Shevchenko has obviously evolved since then, while Carmouche has gone on to make some history, taking on Ronda Rousey in the first women’s fight in Ultimate Fighting Championship history at UFC 157 and later in the promotion’s first fight in Madison Square Garden against Katlyn Chookagian.
Carmouche’s style has not changed much over the years, it is still mostly dependent on her wrestling and physical strength. When she can win grappling exchanges and bully her opponents, the she can live up to her nickname and score a dominant win, but when that is not the case, things start to get a bit dicey.
Carmouche’s striking tends to come and go from fight to fight, but even if things are clicking, the concern is always that she can get outworked. Those concerns were immediately brought to light upon Carmouche’s debut at 125 pounds against Alexis Davis.
The cut down in weight figured to further magnify Carmouche’s strength advantage, but against a strong former bantamweight in Davis, she found herself on the losing end of a close fight mostly due to the Davis’ willingness to work harder to win rounds.
Thankfully for Carmouche, wins against Jennifer Maia and Lucie Pudilova over the last year-plus have proven that she can fall back on winning a grind as a flyweight.
Carmouche is as interesting a challenger as any for Shevchenko at the moment, mostly thanks to her physical gifts. Shevchenko’s secret strength has always been her wrestling and clinch work, and if anyone has a chance of being strong enough to counter that part of her game, it is probably Carmouche.
However, even if Carmouche manages to limit Shevchenko’s options, it is hard to see how she can unseat the champ, so at best, the challenger is probably going to either turn things into such an unbearable grind that the decision becomes a coin flip or attempt to win a kickboxing match against the champion. The latter probably will not go well.
Shevchenko has been more willing to lead on the feet at 125 pounds, but even if Carmouche stays defensive enough to slow things to a crawl, Shevchenko will probably still be the more precise striker. Overall, this looks like a tough-but-safe win for Shevchenko; a Carmouche victory probably comes via a narrow decision, and even then, that would be the type of stalemate fight that Shevchenko still has a chance of squeaking out on the scorecards. If Shevchenko makes this look easy, either in the wrestling department or just by showing some long-overdue aggression on the feet, it will be impressive. I’m going Shevchenko by decision.
- Shevchenko to Win by Decision – 2/1 – Skybet
Alexey Kunchenko vs Gilbert Burns
A late injury to Laureano Staropoli has turned this into one of the more interesting fights on the card with Gilbert Burns stepping in to take his place.
It is still difficult to know exactly what to make of Russia’s Kunchenko (20-0). With a long undefeated record against a strong slate of competition, the 35-year old was highly tipped to immediately make an impact in the welterweight division, and while he has handily won fights over Thiago Alves and Yushin Okami, both by decision, his performances have not exactly been inspiring, as he has been content to turn them into slow-paced kickboxing contests and rarely press the action.
As previously stated, with Staropoli out, Burns (15-3) has decided to step in to take on Kunchenko, though it is unclear if this is a permanent move to 170 pounds or just a one-off for the rising lightweight. Burns’ game is clicking as well as it ever has.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu man has developed a power striking game may not be defensively very sound, but it has become offensively dangerous; and it has done a solid job of setting up his strong grappling game. Burns has traditionally been defensively open as he tries to get things going on the feet, so it will be interesting to see if Kunchenko can literally beat the Brazilian to the punch. That will probably be the key to the fight.
Even with Burns’ strong wrestling, it does not seem likely that he can get things going enough to catch a submission. Kunchenko is more the type of fighter who can be controlled against the fence and put on the defensive rather than fully taken down and overwhelmed.
There are some concerns about how Burns’ speed moving up a weight class may affect Kunchenko and his patient pace, but in a pure kickboxing match, it is difficult not to favor the Russian and I think a decision Win is on the cards.
- Alexey Kunchenko to Win by decision – 7/4 – skybet
Luiz Eduardo Gargorri vs Humberto Bandeney
Given that the UFC typically has some local representation on its cards, there was some curiosity as to exactly who would get the call for this one since Uruguay is not thought of as an MMA hotbed.
The answer was Luiz Garagorri, who was born in Brazil but raised in Uruguay.
Garagorri (11-0) has put together an undefeated record on the South American scene, but it is difficult to tell how well things will translate up to this higher level, as he has faced the type of competition that basically let him throw out whatever wild idea came to mind, resulting in a lot of messy scraps and “highlight-reel” finishes. He will have a willing partner in Peru’s Bandenay, who has much the same approach.
Bandenay (14-6) was a madman on the regional scene, and things did not change much upon hitting the UFC roster. His first two fights were a win over Martin Bravo and a loss to Gabriel Benitez that lasted a combined total of 65 seconds.
His most recent fight, a decision loss to Austin Arnett, exposed the reality that Bandenay does not possess much past his dynamic hybrid offense, and even then, he only has the gas tank to last about a round.
This will be quick, exciting and probably silly fight, it is a minefield as to who lands the blow that ends the fight. Bandenay is a bit more proven and showed a tendency in his pre-UFC career to catch a submission when things got wild, so that for me is where the value of this fight is. The pick is Bandenay via submission.
Recommended Single Bets
- Shevchenko to Win by Decision – 2/1 – Skybet
- Alexey Kunchenko to Win by Decision – 7/4 – Skybet
- Humberto Bandenay to Win – 11/10 – Betway
- Humberto Bandenay to Win by Submission – 11/2 – Betfair
Recommended Multiple Bets
- Ilar Latifi
- Rodolfo Vieira
- Enrique Barzola
- Tecia Torres
- 4 fold accumulator – 8/1 – Bet365
Let's hear your bets for UFC Fight Night 156 in the comments section below.