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Chris Wade vs Bubba Jenkins
This will be a rematch from the 2021 season where Wade was able to best Jenkins over 3 rounds to win a unanimous decision.
Both guys come from collegiate wrestling backgrounds where the floor is where they do their best work.
But we have seen evolutions in the striking of both in recent years as well.
Wade has proven to be more dangerous specifically with high kicks, but Jenkins is arguably the better boxer.
A very common theme between both is that their best work standing comes when they can be the guys’ leading the dance – not so much if their being put on the back foot as they do struggle with effective pressure and volume.
As noted, both are strong wrestlers but largely “decisionators” with a few exceptions.
In the first fight, Jenkins was the one forcing exchanges and did have entry based success.
The issues he ran into from Wade were two-fold.
The first being the front headlock series from Wade in which Wade was able to threaten to either create space or reverse positions.
The second being that when Jenkins did get into advantageous positions, he got too overzealous and lost them.
Both sequences resulted in Wade being able to win the overall ground exchanges and the fight.
So is there any difference between the first and second contests?
There absolutely can be if Jenkins makes a few adjustments.
I feel Jenkins needs to use his boxing to set up his entries, look to wrestle from the cage in comparison to the open mat and prioritize control over quick passing.
If he can do those things, Jenkins can definitely win this this fight and the floor against Wade.
Jenkins closed as a -190 favorite over Wade in the first contest which proved to not be accurate based on the result.
But now we’re seeing Wade priced around there.
However, no two fights are the same and rematches often tend to happen differently whether that be result or sequencing if it’s not an immediate rebooking (which this isn’t).
I feel the market could be over-reacting too heavily from the first contest.
Capping Wade as a favorite is understandable but this is a close fight in my opinion making Jenkins the side as the underdog.
Movlid Khaybulaev vs Ryoji Kudo
Khaybulaev won the 2021 tournament championship but didn’t compete in last year’s season due to injury.
Kudo’s had some struggles since entering the PFL but has also shown some good things as well.
Both come from wrestling backgrounds but have chose to stand and strike for extended minutes in many of their fights.
The main issue I have with Khaybulaev is what was just referenced in him deciding to stand for longer than he needs to.
He’s a capable striker and has bested opponents on the feet before but his margins haven’t always been the widest and he has dropped rounds on the feet as well – he got KO’d by Pineda and dropped a round to both Palmer and Loughnane standing in recent years.
We have seen him get hurt in a handful of fights as well.
On the Kudo side, he doesn’t do a ton on the feet and more so plays within the mid/outside range but has shown power capabilities in his hooks which have hurt multiple opponents.
So he’s one of those guys that isn’t absorbing a ton of strikes but isn’t getting ahead on numbers much either – more so of an opportunistic type of striker.
With that being said, I’d be hard pressed to say that Khaybulaev blows Kudo out of the water at distance and exchanges could be competitive.
But where the fight does come down is really within the wrestling.
Kudo has shown some respectable TDD and get up game but when he fought Bubba Jenkins (a higher caliber wrestler), he got tossed around, got his back taken and got submitted early.
Khaybulaev is a much better wrestler than Kudo and it’s really been the primary credence to his career success.
He just has that Dagestani grind in him that will prioritize control, win minutes and wear his opponents down.
For context, we have seen him win the wrestling against guys like Lance Palmer and Chris Wade who are good wrestlers – even Loughnane who historically is a good anti wrestler despite being a striker by base.
So, I ultimately see Khaybulaev grinding his way to a decision win here.
From a betting perspective, you can’t lay -650 on Khaybulaev because there just isn’t any edge there at 86% implied.
My preferred option would be to buy down and take Khaybulaev by points. Kudo just got submitted quickly by Jenkins, but it was a quick transition from Jenkins and as noted, Khaybulaev prioritizes control over finish – coupled with that Kudo has never been KO’d in his pro career.
Also, of Khaybulaev’s 5 PFL wins, he’s won 4 of 5 on the cards with the lone exception being a 10 second flying knee KO over Damon Jackson which isn’t the most predictive outcome over sample.
It’s just a better option to buy down on the fight on the most likely outcome as a -650 isn’t going to do much for your parlay.
Krzysztof Jotko vs Will Fleury
Jotko will be making his PFL promotional debut after an extensive 17 fight run with the UFC. This will be a moderately shorter notice fight for him as his opponent Will Fleury was originally scheduled to face Omari Ahkmedov.
Fleury doesn’t have the experience of Jotko but he’s fought in multiple reputable promotions in Brave, UAE Warriors and Bellator.
Jotko’s career successes have primarily come in the way of slowing fights down, point fighting, staying upright and mixing in his offensive wrestling.
His struggles have come mainly with strikers who can exceed him on volume/power or the occasional grappler that can get him down.
For Fleury, he’s more of a temped southpaw that will pick and choose his shots but also hasn’t faced much volume back his way.
His main successes have come on the floor with his wrestling in being able to land multiple TDs and grind his opponents out.
So how does it play out?
The issue I’ve always had with Jotko is that based on how he fights, it can lead to tighter minute to minute margins.
But he’s also been one of those guys that can win competitive fights at a very high rate – and over a good level of competition.
Fleury will try to wrestle in this fight and Jotko coming off the last loss to Brendan Allen on the floor does give some merit to Fleury.
However, Allen is a top 10 level UFC fighter who we also just saw finish Andre Muniz.
Jotko still stuffs TDs at 82% which is a very good mark so I don’t think it’s going to be an easy task for Fleury to ground Jotko.
I also don’t think Fleury’s grappling is very good so I’d be pretty surprised if he could submit Jotko.
On the flip, Fleury isn’t immune to conceding TDs of his own and we have seen Jotko win fights on top as well.
But I ultimately come away on the Jotko side to do what he usually does in outpointing Fleury over the course of 15 minutes.
It’s really a benchmarking issue on the Fleury side because the guys he’s beaten just haven’t been very good where Jotko is losing to almost exclusively top 15 level fighters.
It does need to be noted that Jotko will be going up to 205lbs for this fight – however, Fleury is actually a career 185 as well.
From a betting perspective, I don’t have interest in laying this type of number on Jotko making it a dog or pass situation.
Rob Wilkinson vs Thiago Santos
Wilkinson has been a sound addition to the PFL ranks and made waves in his first year winning the 205lb Championship. Santos will be making his promotional debut after a 24 fight run with the UFC as a top 15 guy.
Wilkinson has just really evolved as a fighter and is in his career prime at 31 years old.
He was more of a grappler earlier on in his run and has grounded fights within PFL as well, but his striking has come a ways.
He’s good entries to TDs, is heavy on top and works in a forward pressure style on the feet.
Most guys just haven’t been able to deal with the pressure that Wilkinson’s provided in both realms to date.
On the Santos side, despite his recent string of losses to elite level fighters, he’s a guy that’s drastically altered his style at this point in his career.
Earlier on, he used to be a marauding power puncher who pushed a higher pace.
Whereas now, he’s very patient in looking to fight from the outside and counter strike.
He flipped the script a bit against Hill in his last outing where he took wrestle heavy approach for the first time in his career.
Santos did find some early success but ultimately gassed himself out trying to do so.
So how does the fight play out?
This is a step down in competition for Santos but as noted, I just don’t really like how he’s fighting now in the aggregate.
You just can’t really trust him to wrestle and can’t trust him to throw strikes at any meaningful rate.
Whereas on the Wilkinson side, you can trust him to mix in TDs, come forward and throw strikes.
But Santos is still dangerous and a guy that opponents have to mind their Ps and Qs with because he can catch guys.
I do come out on the side of Wilkinson though who is more likely to win minutes who’s also dangerous himself.
From a betting perspective, the line on Wilkinson is fair so I don’t see any value unless a sea of Santos money comes in.
The O1.5 is the only way I could look in this fight. It could be dicey given that both have shown potent finishing abilities but of Santos’ last 10 fights, 9 of them have seen a 3rd round as he can and will slow fights down. I just don’t think Wilkinson goes out and runs through Santos like he has with some past opponents.
Brendan Loughnane vs Marlon Moraes
Loughnane will be entering his 4th PFL season and is coming off winning the 145lb Championship this past season. Moraes is a long time UFC vet who will be entering his first regular season with the PFL.
Loughnane is striker by base who’s shown he can operate within all 3 ranges but excels specifically in the pressure realm.
He hasn’t been a gigantic hitter and more of a volume striker but has shown pop and is coming off a KO win over Bubba Jenkins.
Loughnane’s primary merit is being able to outwork his opponents but has had defensive struggles at points and has been hurt before.
He doesn’t wrestle much offensively and did have some defensive struggles in the past but that does appear to be a part of his game that he’s evolved.
He handled the wrestling well in his last two outings against collegiate wrestlers in Wade and Jenkins.
Moraes is a BJJ Black Belt with a handful of submission wins but he’s not a guy you can trust to wrestle usually with the exception of a handful of outings.
He’s more known for his potent striking capabilities and falls more into the “KO artist” category.
The issues for Moraes have been three-fold though.
First, he tends to not throw in volume and looks to find his opening which can lead him to getting behind on minutes.
Second, his cardio has always been suspect as a generally front loaded fighter.
Third, his durability just hasn’t held up at this point in his career as he’s been KO’d in his last 6 losses.
In his defense, he actually looked really good in his PFL debut against Sheymon Moraes where he won the first two rounds but got caught early in the third.
So how does it play out:
We know Moraes is dangerous and Loughnane has been hurt before.
So Moraes clipping Loughnane isn’t out of the question. But I don’t foresee wrestling success for Moraes, and I don’t see him being able to win minutes over a guy like Loughnane at any substantive rate.
Despite Loughnane not being known for his power necessarily, he’s very capable of finishing Moraes in this matchup.
So as long as Loughnane can avoid getting clipped early here, he should win this fight at a high rate.
From a betting perspective, there’s not much you can do with Loughnane as a -700 favorite. It doesn’t add much to your parlay and he is still fighting a dangerous opponent at the end of the day.
The total is interesting at 1.5 as people have bet into the Over making it now slightly juiced. I understand it with Loughnane being a volume striker, but you also have the dichotomy of the fight to end ITD at -350.
The Loughnane RD 2/3 finish props indicate this being a “sharp” later stoppage – but that doesn’t mean it’s value at 3 and 4/1. Those are garbage numbers on late finish props.
It may come through, but the bookies aren’t giving you any kind of break there.
This is just a good stay away spot overall.