Last weekend’s UFC 262 in Houston was a spectacular slate on which underdogs outslugged favorites, 6-5. To date in the UFC, favorites stand 93-54-5, or 64.4 percent, which is similar to previous years.
Saturday, the UFC is back at the Apex Center in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 27.
Rob Font -120 vs. Cody Garbrandt +100, bantamweights (135 pounds).
This main event may lack marquee appeal to many MMA fans, but the matchup will be action-packed as both are aggressive strikers.
Garbrandt is the fourth-ranked fighter in the division and his assets are deft athleticism complemented by unusual quickness, speed and agility. Garbrandt also has power.
He was a successful Division II wrestler in college and trains at a gym that features almost exclusively wrestling-based fighters. Yet he rarely employs any form of wrestling, preferring to use his physical gifts to try to batter opponents unconscious with strikes.
Garbrandt is impeded by his penchant for recklessness, the damage he has sustained in recent bouts and his absolute balsa-wood beak. With such a solid wrestling base, I wonder if it is pride or lack of awareness that explains why he does not rely at least to some extent on his wrestling.
Could this be the fight when Garbrandt actually uses his wrestling skill in conjunction with his striking to compete against a guy who is salivating to stand with him and then touch him on the front teeth?
Font, 33, is a systematic, forward-pressing striker who possesses power in each hand. Font is slightly taller and holds a 6-inch arm-reach advantage over Garbrandt. In fights that remain standing, fighters with at least 2 inches of reach advantage win 60 percent of the time. That number rises slightly as the reach advantage grows.
Font, a Muay Thai striker with a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, does not have Garbrandt’s athleticism. But he does have slick boxing skills, a power jab, effective striking and kicking and excellent strike defense. He enters this fight with tremendous momentum, having won his last three bouts over ranked bantamweight competition.
In this fight, Garbrandt must find a way to mix in some wrestling early, then try to utilize movement with in-and-out striking to try to tire the stalking Font. Garbrandt, 29, has been a headliner in five-round bouts before, while Font has not. This seems the logical approach, though any wager on Garbrandt runs the risk that as soon as he tastes a little leather, he shuts down mentally and reverts to toe-to-toe warfare.
Because he so rarely uses his wrestling, it seems only a matter of time after the opening bell that Font catches Garbrandt while they’re standing. The question then becomes: How long will Garbrandt be able to refrain from engaging Font in the center of the cage?
Lean to Font -120.