While the controversy rages on over Alexa Grasso’s title defense against Valentina Shevchenko ending in a draw, the UFC moves on by returning to the Apex this Saturday night. The main event features lightweight contenders Rafael Fiziev and Mateusz Gamrot. The similarities between the career arcs of the fighters makes this an interesting matchup with a lot of on the line.
Gamrot (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), winner of five of his last six UFC fights, had his run up the rankings halted last October in a unanimous decision loss to Beneil Dariush. The win sprung Dariush into a No. 1 contender fight, while the loss relegated Gamrot into the role of taking on promising young fighters. The always game Gamrot was able to use his grappling to grind out a close decision over Jalin Turner. Now, he has a chance to force himself back into the top five of the division with a win over No. 6 Fiziev.
Fiziev (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), is coming off a decision loss to Justin Gaethje in the most high-profile fight of his career. Prior to dropping a decision to the current “BMF” belt holder, he had won six consecutive wins of his own. As one of the most violent strikers in the division, Fiziev could assert himself as the new blood that the crop of title contenders sorely needs.
In such a pivotal matchup of contrasting styles, both fighters have realistic paths to victory. This is a fight where prop betting should pay off for bettors. Below I will break down which lightweight contender I’m backing, and a prop bet recommendation for each side.
Rafael Fiziev (-160) vs. Mateusz Gamrot (+130)
The classic striker vs. grappler matchup is one of the most common puzzles that MMA bettors have to solve on a weekly basis. Gamrot averages 4.54 takedowns per 15 minutes while Fiziev fends off takedown attempts at a 90% clip. On the feet, Fiziev will circle Gamrot like a shark waiting to unleash an array of battering combinations that have pushed even the baddest men in the division to the brink. The most predictable portion of the handicap is that Gamrot won’t survive long standing in this one. In his razor-thin decision win over Turner, we saw firsthand how an opponent’s power can put Gamrot in fight-or-flight mode quickly. Credit to Gamrot for being able to survive and muster up enough takedowns to win over the judges, but against a more experienced and polished striker, it would have never seen the scorecards.
This being a five-round fight is a big advantage for Fiziev. He was tested for five rounds recently against Rafael Dos Anjos, and he proved he had the stamina to KO his opponent in the final round. In order for Gamrot to rack up the control time required to win the fight, he is going to need multiple takedowns in at least three rounds. I can see Gamrot getting this to mat at times, but not consistently enough to score enough damage to decisively win rounds. Also, he is going to take a lot of punishment trying to get it there, digging himself an early hole on the scorecards. There are certainly scenarios where I can see Fiziev winning a decision, but his finishing ability makes him an even more attractive bet at these odds. Best Bet: Fiziev -160
Prop betting recommendations for both sides
Gamrot by decision (+250)
If Gamrot is going to get his hand raised, it’s going to be through constant pressure with his grappling. In his last two wins, he attempted 33 takedowns in six rounds. In defeat, Fiziev still flexed his ability to absorb punishment against one of the most powerful fighters in the weight class. He has also never been submitted in 14 career fights. Rather than bet Gamrot at +130, you can nearly double your return by betting him to win by decision. The 14.9% difference in the implied odds is too wide. If you like Gamrot to get it done, take the extra value with the decision prop.
Rafael Fiziev by KO/TKO or DQ (+175)
The method of victory gets a little muddier on the Fiziev side. Known for his powerful leg kicks, he can chop away at Gamrot early to compromise his opponent’s ability to shoot for takedowns later in the fighter. That could go two ways: He could finish off a vulnerable opponent or just methodically carve him up on way to a lopsided decision. As a bettor, I have been on the wrong end of each situation more times than I’d like to count. Despite it being less clear-cut, I still see value on Fiziev putting Gamrot away inside the distance. He averages 5.06 significant strikes per minute (+2.03 more than his Gamrot), and the damage should pile up early if he effectively keeps the fight standing. I did not like Gamrot’s response to Turner’s power, and it’s going to be much worse than someone who has the killer instincts of Fiziev. If you’re betting on the favorite, carve out a small piece of your wager for this prop at +175.