This article is part of our Handicapping the Octagon series.
It feels like it's been a while since I've played any favorites in this column, but this month's installment features a good mix of dogs and (slight) favorites, capped off by a line that I find to be far too wide. As always, I have limited my looks to lines below (-200), as I feel that anything more expensive is supposed to come in, and doesn't really require a writeup. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article. Without any further ado, let's get to it.
Junior dos Santos (21-7-0) vs. Jair Rozenstruik (10-1-0)
Weight Class: Heavyweight
"Cigano" may have had me fooled, as I had always thought of him as a fairly smart, technical boxer. These traits were nowhere to be seen in his two most recent bouts, however, as truly bizarre strike selections led to knockouts at the hands of Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes, respectively. I'll say right off the bat here that I fully believe Rozenstruik will be the third consecutive man to finish Dos Santos, but it may occur after the former heavyweight champion has had a fair bit of success.
For all his recent missteps, Junior remains a good boxer in the heavyweight division. He features a good jab and fluid, quick shots when he can get his game going. The problem is that dos Santos has always been someone who is willing to let himself get backed up to the fence. When we combine this with the poor shot selection against a powerful and accurate counter striker like Rozenstruik, we begin to see a couple of huge red flags.
One thing we must note is that Rozenstruik suffered the first loss of his career (in brutal fashion) to Ngannou in May, so there is something to be said for the idea that he may not look like himself due to taking such a relatively short time between fights. This could be the case, but we have no way of knowing one way or the other, which leaves me relying on what I see on tape. While the knockout play may not get us a much cheaper price here, it's basically the only way he wins fights (nine KO/TKO, one decision), so I see no reason not to knock the line down where we can.
The Play: Jair Rozenstruik by KO/TKO/DQ: -110
Ashley Yoder (7-5-0) vs. Livinha Souza (13-2-0)
Weight Class: Women's Strawweight
I find myself wondering how much I actually know about Livinha Souza. She's a good grappler with powerful kicks and some judo throws, but what does that tell us about how she can progress as she moves through the UFC? Not too much, as far as I'm concerned. Adding to my uncertainty is the fact that her two wins in the organization were against a .500 Alex Chambers and Sarah Frota, who was unable to secure a win before being handed her walking papers.
It may be the case that Yoder's record is less than impressive, but the level of competition (especially recently) is much higher. It should also be pointed out that Souza had real trouble against a fighter who just wanted to back her up and throw strikes in Brianna van Buren. Yoder may not be quite the athlete that van Buren is, but the aggression will still be there, and I believe that is what Souza struggles with.
The final piece of this puzzle is that while Souza is a dangerous submission grappler, Yoder has never been subbed (or finished at all) in her 12-fight career and she isn't one to settle on her back if the fight does hit the floor. At the end of the day, I think this line indicates a bit too much faith in Souza too soon, particularly since she has shown deficiencies against aggressive opponents.
The Play: Ashley Yoder +135
Stipe Miocic (19-3-0) vs. Daniel Cormier (22-2-0)
Weight Class: Heavyweight
I must confess that upon rewatching the second fight of this upcoming trilogy, I discovered DC wasn't doing as well as I previously thought. He was winning the fight, to be sure, but the in-your-face volume he was presenting to Stipe didn't seem to be all that powerful, whereas Stipe appeared to move DC with every strike thrown.
While it is the case that DC had some success wrestling early, that success could not be replicated down the stretch, as it was Stipe who ended up landing the only other takedown in the fight. Cormier may be able to put on the weight to comfortably fight in this division, but at the end of the day he is still just a ballooned up light heavyweight. This may be why Stipe was able to control the majority of the clinch situations down the stretch (brief as they were).
If DC can't take over this fight wrestling, then it's hard for me to see how he wins it. Those body shot adjustments from Stipe weren't random, they were a reaction to Cormier grabbing his hands in order to come over the top with shots. If Stipe can take complete advantage of DC when he has his hands away from his body, then I don't really see how can employ that style again, lest he meets the same fate. Ultimately, I think the fight will be competitive, but I see Miocic once again pulling away late to put a definitive cap on this trilogy.
The Play: Stipe Miocic -105
Felice Herrig (14-8-0) vs. Virna Jandiroba (15-1-0)
Weight Class: Women's Strawweight
Jandiroba has shown some slick BJJ and a willingness to get the fight to the floor in her brief UFC career, but I haven't really seen anything resembling a standup game. More concerning than that, though, is the fact that Jandiroba simply doesn't look comfortable on her feet, which likely led to the sloppy takedowns that saw Jandiroba fending off submission attempts against Mallory Martin.
Much like Yoder, Herrig is equipped to face a strong jiu-jitsu practitioner, having never been submitted in her 22-fight career. While she doesn't have many submissions on her record, Herrig is an accomplished purple belt and can potentially make things interesting if her opponent once again starts bailing out into takedowns. If Herrig can survive on the floor, then I really think this fight is hers to take. The physicality and strength in the game of "Lil Bulldog" on the feet could very well fluster Jaindiroba, particularly if she gets cracked a time or two.
It's not that I see no danger in this fight for Herrig, I just don't quite understand a line this wide. If Jaindiroba couldn't find a submission on Carla Esparza with all their time spent on the ground, can she find one on a similarly experienced submission grappler? I'm willing to find out.
The Play: Felice Herrig +250