The UFC’s final event in February will take place this weekend in Norfolk Virginia. In what could spell the end for the division, Deiveson Figueiredo has missed weight and is ineligible to fight for the Flyweight belt. Though the fight will still take place, Figueiredo will become the third UFC fighter to miss weight for a title fight.
With the main event scrapped, I’d be lying to you if I said this card looked great on paper. It features several UFC newcomers but lacks relevant division match-ups. There will be more than one UFC debut, including that of Aalon Cruz. Cruz of course landed a wild flying knee KO on the contender’s series.
As far as plays go, I’m only going with two but there are a couple more with intrigue. There might be value in Spike Carlyle seeing as how his fight with Cruz is essentially a dice roll. With the plus odds, it’s worth a short. I also lean towards Jordan Griffin to pull out a win but it won’t be a play for me.
That said, here are my two underdog picks for UFC: Norfolk.
Sean Brady (+105) vs. Ismail Naurdiev (-135)
Virtually a pick-em, this early prelims fight will be our second UFC look at undefeated Philly native Sean Brady. He will be squaring off against Austrian prospect Ismail Naurdiev, who is only 23 but has logged 22 pro fights. This prospect battle features two welterweights who both have a lot to give at the UFC level, win or lose.
That said, I like Brady to edge this one out as a slight underdog. I especially like it seeing as how this line could flip at any time.
Both men are quite big for welterweight and have great take-down defense, so I expect this fight to take place largely on the feet. If it does go to the ground, Brady should have the edge there. I could easily see this being one of those close fighters where whoever is able to land a take-down or two will walk away victorious.
While Naurdiev has the reach advantage, Brady has demonstrated lightening fast speed and an ability to land accurately with power shots.
Brady secured a unanimous decision win over formidable UFC veteran Court McGee in Boston his last go around and did numerous things that should provide a victory here. For one, McGee is known as a grinding, volume fighter who wears his opponent down as the fight goes on. This happened in Brady’s case as he started to fade in the third, but it wasn’t a hard fade by any stretch. Brady landed with more power than McGee throughout the fight, especially in the first round where he was able to score a knockdown with a left hook.
Naurdiev will likely be aiming to pick Brady apart from range. He won’t be providing the same pressure McGee provided, which means Brady should be able to land heavy throughout the fight. So long as Brady can manage the distance, I think he secures the win here.
Prediction: Sean Brady
Ion Cutelaba (+175) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (-225)
With the flyweight title fight scrapped, this is the bout I’m looking forward to the most. Highly touted Russian prospect Magomed Ankalaev will be squaring off against Ion Cutelaba from Moldova. Cutelaba fights are always violent and this one should be no different.
With this fight, I see why Ankalaev is favored but the line is insane. There is great value in Cutelaba as an underdog.
Ankalaev is a precise, technical striker who has impressed greatly in his UFC career to this point. However, he lacks any formidable competition. Cutelaba will be his first real test and if the Moldovan’s resume holds up, it will be quite the test.
Cutelaba will be by far the most aggressive fighter Ankalaev has faced and also the most experienced. Expect a heavy barrage from Cutelaba early and at least 1-2 early power shots to land. Though his ground game isn’t refined in some areas, Cutelaba has an extensive greco-roman wrestling background and is certainly no slouch on the ground.
The problem with Cutelaba is that he tends to gas out midway through the second round. This is how he got submitted by Glover Teixeira, but it wasn’t before putting on an absolute beating. With losses to Jared Cannonier, Teixeira and Misha Cirkunov in Cutelaba’s debut, it’s insane to me how he is such a hefty underdog.
I’m going with Cutelaba and banking on his experience against elite fighters getting him the big win here.