Where: UFC Apex Facility, Las Vegas Nevada (slightly smaller Octagon)
When: Saturday, May 30. Prelims begin at 6PM (ET)
Louis Smolka (+230) vs. Casey Kenney (-290)
Casey Kenney is currently favored to win this bout with Louis Smolka, as the line suggests. Kenney will be looking to rebound following a loss to Merab Dvalishvili back in February. Kenney was taken down a brutal 12 times by the pressure heavy Dvalishvili and ultimately lost via unanimous decision. Kenney was ranked 15th at bantamweight prior to the scrap with Dvalishvili.
Before that, Kenney secured an impressive victory against Manny Bermudez at UFC 241. Bermudez came into the fight exceptionally heavy but Kenney – who bounces between flyweight and bantamweight – was able to flip the much bigger man en-route to a split decision victory. Kenney had secured a unanimous decision win over Ray Borg prior to the Bermudez fight. Borg is a common opponent between Kenney and Smolka, securing a unanimous decision win over the latter in December, 2016. Kenney also secured a five round, title winning unanimous decision win over Brandon Royval at LFA 53 late in 2018. Royval will be making his UFC debut against Tim Elliot this Saturday.
Tim Elliott, like Ray Borg, is another fighter with stylistic similarities to Casey Kenney. Elliott was also able to out-grapple Smolka, forcing him to spend large amounts of time on his back.
Smolka is certainly capable of a submission from the bottom and doesn’t mind fighting off of his back, but this is a recipe for disaster against Casey Kenney. Kenney has a black belt in Judo and has squared off against better wrestlers than Smolka. I definitely don’t think Casey is going to be able to “Khabib” Smolka to a decision, but I think he racks up enough control time to grind it out.
Kenney isn’t overly powerful on the feet but he throws enough volume. Kenney fights are often a mixture of winning scrambles and holding top position while doing enough on the feet to rack up decisions. If Smolka was out-grappled by Borg and Elliott, I don’t see this one going any differently.
Betting wise I like Kenney by points. The Indiana native has yet to secure a finish at the UFC level and while he certainly could, it’s tough to predict whether it would be a submission or KO. The line is also a little wild. For these reasons, I’ll stick with Kenney by decision. If you’d like to play it as safely as possible while still getting better odds than the moneyline, I’d go with Kenny double chance: points or TKO.
Prediction and play: Casey Kenney by decision
Klidson Abreu (+118) vs. Jamahal Hill (-138)
This light-heavyweight scrap will feature the undefeated Jamahal Hill (6-0 outright, 1-0 UFC), who most recently defeated Darko Stosic back in January. Hill will be squaring up against Brazil’s Klidson Abreu, who will be looking to get back into the win column after a loss to Shamil Gamzatov his last time out. Abreu is 1-2 in the UFC overall, with a win over Sam Alvey being his lone victory.
The win/loss record is deceiving in the case of Klidson Abreu, however. Both of his losses have come against highly regarded fighters, each with an impressive ground game. Gamzatov – who has world class Sambo – was (and remains) undefeated since his bout with Abreu. As for his UFC debut, Abreu squared off against Magomed Ankalaev. Ankalev is currently ranked and is 4-1 in the UFC (though his win over Cutelaba was controversial and was re-booked pre-virus).
Needless to say, Abreu has faced some tough opposition early on in his UFC career. It won’t get any easier with an undefeated fighter in Hill, but Abreu should have an avenue to employ his elite BJJ. He didn’t have that option against Ankalaev and Gamzatov, who stuffed his take-down attempts with ease. It would be hard to imagine an Abreu game-plan that doesn’t include some ground game here.
As for Hill, he threw relentless volume en-route to a unanimous decision victory against Darko Stosic. If Abreu stands in front of him for too long, he will get picked off from distance and could lose rounds in a hurry. While Abreu has demonstrated some solid power, the reach/speed advantage combo goes to Hill, which is dangerous.
With that said, there’s more pro’s in my eyes for Abreu than Hill. In addition to the UFC experience and opponent quality advantage, Abreu has been in tough fights before. He broke his nose early on in the Ankalaev fight and fought well off it. We’ve never seen Hill in a brawl, so I typically lean on the veteran in close fights.
It’s a pick em’ that depends on game-plans, but I’m going to go with Abreu here. The line also seems to be moving in his favor, with Abreu going from (+138) to (+118) on FanDuel.
As for gambling, I’ll stick with Abreu moneyline for the plus odds.
Prediction and play: Klidson Abreu (+118)
Spike Carlyle (+132) vs. Billy Quarantillo (-156)
This exciting prospect bout will feature “The Alpha Ginger” Spike Carlyle, who secured an impressive first round KO of Aalon Cruz in his UFC debut back in February. He will be facing off against Billy Quarantillo, a Contender’s Series and TUF veteran who also secured a victory in his UFC debut.
The story with Carlyle is that he’s a tough fighter to tape. His lone UFC fight wasn’t very long, partly because Carlyle was landing so heavy. He immediately opened up with pressure before landing a head-kick that wobbled Cruz. Carlyle immediately pressed, finishing the fight with powerful elbows.
Carlyle has won his last few fights via early stoppage. He secured a first round KO at LXF 4 last November and a sfirst round, spinning back-fist KO at LFA 74.
On the negative side for Carlyle, decisions accounted for his three amateur losses as well as his lone professional loss. Carlyle appears to be one of those relentless, “throw everything at the wall early” type fighters who just look to steamroll their opponents. Billy Quarantillo is a great opponent for these types of fighters. He has a great chin and can take an absolute beating on the ground.
With that said, I don’t think Billy Q is going to stop the Spike Carlyle train. Even if Carlyle gasses, I think he’ll do enough in the first two rounds to secure a decision victory. A KO is entirely possible as well given the power Carlyle possesses. Quarantillo is a solid fighter with a great chin, I just don’t see him being able to withstand Carlyle’s pressure.
Gambling wise, I’ll again stick with the plus odds. It should be noted that the bout will be a catchweight fight at 150 pounds, due to Carlyle’s concerns over making weight in such a short period of time.