The UFC delivered with a thrilling pay-per-view card last Saturday night in which Charles Oliviera continued his dominance despite being forced to give up his title for exceeding the championship weight limit. It's back to the UFC Apex this Saturday for another free night of fights with an impressive main event. The 11-fight card is headlined by top light heavyweight contenders Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic. The winner will most likely position himself to fight for the belt after Glover Teixiera's title defense against Jiri Prochazka at UFC 275. Outside of the main event, the card lacks household names but provides bettors with a nice mix of up-and-coming prospects and established veterans trying to force their way up the rankings. I was able to target both by fading a familiar name and backing a young fighter who I expect to capitalize on Saturday night's opportunity in a big way. My betting breakdown includes both those fights along with the main event. I also cooked up a nice +143 parlay for those who like to back favorites.
Aleksandar Rakic (-190) vs. Jan Blachowicz (+160)
This is a high-stakes fight between the former light heavyweight champion and the No. 3 contender in the division. Aleksandar Rakic is 7-1 in the UFC and has only lost one fight in the last 10 years. He will be the longer and stronger fighter in his matchup and will look to inflict damage with his powerful high leg kicks.
Blachowicz, who's technically sound on the feet, will have to find that delicate balance of closing the distance while avoiding being taken down. Blachowicz lost his title in October when Teixeira took him down twice, earning over five minutes of control time before choking Blachowicz out midway through the second round. Old, bad memories resurfaced, highlighting the former champ's biggest weakness that plagued him when he first entered the UFC. After winning his UFC debut, Blachowicz went through a 1-4 stretch in which he was taken down 11 times. He will be tested once again by Rakic, who will use his superior athleticism and explosiveness to get this fight to the canvas.
The best defense is an aggressive offense in Blachowicz's case. Jan has to dictate the pace of the fight by coming forward and initiating both the striking and grappling exchanges. If he can get Rakic on his back, he will be live to pull the upset. The issue is, it's been five years since anyone has been able to do that. Rakic defends takedowns at a 90% rate and does so with violence. He does a good job at delivering strikes and executing reversals while sprawling, and if he turns the tables on Blachowicz, he won't let him up. Blachowicz is an underdog you love to root for, but over five rounds, Rakic can dictate where the fight takes place. The most likely outcome is Rakic wearing him out with top control early and using his strong cardio to finish him off late or secure a decision. The price at -190 is fair, so I wouldn't recommend taking on additional risk by betting on the method of victory.
The bet: Aleksandar Rakic (-190)
Manuel Torres (-125) vs. Frank Camacho (+105)
We are getting a nice price on Torres because he is making his UFC debut, but it's short considering his potential to make a lot of noise in the promotion. Torres (12-2) has a special combination of devastating power and slick submissions. In his 12 career wins, he finished all but one in the first round. The young prospect gets a very favorable opponent in Frank Camacho, who has been finished three times during his latest 1-4 streak. There is always risk baked into betting young prospects, and there is a possibility Camacho survives and wears Torres down with his grappling. But Camacho has never shown interest in backing down from a firefight, regardless of whether it puts him in dangerous positions. The UFC has lined up the ideal opponent for its young lion, and I am confidently betting he eats on Saturday night.
Michael Johnson (-155) vs. Alan Patrick (+130)
Michael Johnson was one of the UFC's most exciting fighters who has shared the Octagon with Nate Diaz, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. That was seven years ago, and recent history has been far from kind. Johnson has lost four straight and nine of his last 12. In his latest loss, he failed to get the best of the striking exchanges against Clay Guida. The fact that he is lined as the favorite tells you all you need to know about his opponent. However, Patrick is by the far the better grappler and this is more of a coin-flip fight, making the +130 price valuable for a small play. Patrick is low volume but should be able to get enough takedowns to win two of three rounds.
The bet: Alan Patrick +130
The parlay: Ion Cutelaba, Davey Grant and Nick Maximov (+143)
Stats provided by ufcstats.com.