The world’s leading promotion rolls on from Abu Dhabi with its second event in the span of a week. Just days away from the UFC 257 blockbuster, all eyes are on the planet’s best fighters as they take center stage once again from Fight Island. The main event features a top-ten welterweight bout that could have major career implications for both fighters. Also on the main card is a pair of ranked flyweight matchups in both the men’s and women’s divisions. We analyzed all three of those fights and offered up our favorite bets as we get you ready for UFC Fight Island 8.
Main Card (Noon ET on ESPN)
– #8 Michael Chiesa (+110) vs. #9 Neil Magny (-140) – Welterweight Bout
– Mounir Lazzezz (-210) vs. Warlley Alves (+170) – Welterweight Bout
– Ike Villanueva (-145) vs. Vinicius Moreira (+115) – Light Heavyweight Bout
– #8 Roxanne Modafferi (+265) vs. #9 Viviane Araújo (-330) – W. Flyweight Bout
– #9 Matt Schnell (-105) vs. #13 Tyson Nam (-125) – Flyweight Bout
– Lerone Murphy (-285) vs. Douglas Andrade (+225) – Featherweight Bout
Prelims (9 A.M. ET on ESPN)
– #13 Omari Akhmedov (+130) vs. Tom Breese (-160) – Middleweight Bout
– Ricky Simon (-315) vs. Gaetano Pirrello (+245) – Bantamweight Bout
– Su Mudaerji (-400) vs. Zarrukh Adashev (+300) – Flyweight Bout
– Dalcha Lungiambula (-150) vs. Markus Perez (+120) – Light Heavyweight Bout
– Francisco Figueiredo (-145) vs. Jerome Rivera (+115) – Bantamweight Bout
– Mike Davis (-200) vs. Mason Jones (+160) – Lightweight Bout
– Umar Nurmagomedov (-550) vs. Sergey Morozov (+400) – Bantamweight Bout
– Manon Fiorot (-165) vs. Victoria Leonardo (+135) – W. Flyweight Bout
Michael Chiesa (+110) vs. Neil Magny (-140)
Two top-ten welterweight contenders step into the spotlight to headline the second of three events on Fight Island. Both Michael Chiesa (16-4) and Neil Magny (24-7) are on solid win streaks and a victory on Wednesday could prove pivotal for both fighters’ careers.
Chiesa has been on the cusp of title contention for seemingly his entire career, but has never been able to break through. After a win over Al Iaquinta on The Ultimate Fighter Finale back in 2012, Chiesa embarked on a roller coaster of a UFC campaign. Every time it seems as if he could finally be in line for a breakout victory, he loses. Since falling to Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis back-to-back, Chiesa has rattled off three straight victories over Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez and Rafael dos Anjos. Chiesa is an elite ground fighter who will do anything he can to take his opponent to the mat. His takedowns are crisp and his work in the clinch is very solid. Once on the ground, it’s tough sledding for Chiesa’s opponents. Of his 16 pro victories, 12 have come via submission, the classic rear naked choke being his go-to.
While Chiesa is one of the best grapplers in the division, every fight starts on the feet, and that’s where Magny will have a substantial edge. At 6-foot-3 with an 80-inch reach, is the longest of any ranked welterweight and he uses that to his advantage. Magny’s most recent win over former champion Robbie Lawler was an absolute masterpiece, with seemingly every discipline of MMA being on display. Granted, Lawler is on a sharp decline compared to what he used to be, but Magny’s performance was impressive nonetheless. With three consecutive unanimous decision victories over Lawler, Anthony Rocco Martin and Jinliang Li, Magny is on a trajectory that could land him in the top five with a win Wednesday.
Given the fact that neither of these fighters has the stopping power of your typical welterweight, this scrap will come down to which guy has the better gas tank in the late rounds. In that case, the pick is Magny. His distance control in the stand-up is going to be too much for Chiesa, to the point where I’m not even sure how Chiesa is going to be able to land anything. Even if Chiesa is able to close off the cage and force Magny into a clinch situation, Magny showed in his last fight against Lawler that he’s more than capable of holding his own.
If you’re looking for fireworks, this isn’t the fight for you. This bout is going to be a stylistic clash between two incredibly cerebral fighters that will likely be a chess match from the opening bell. Magny has the more well-rounded game, which is why I’m backing him to pick up a fourth straight victory and simultaneously vault himself into title contention at 170 pounds.
Best Bet: Magny moneyline (-140)
Value Bet: Magny by decision (+155)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Matt Schnell (-105) vs. Tyson Nam (-125)
This fight is finally going to take place (hopefully). After the first two bookings between Matt Schnell (14-5) and Tyson Nam (20-11-1) were canceled, these ranked flyweights will, at last, share the Octagon.
Schnell is currently on one of the most unusual runs in all of MMA, considering the total duration of his last three fights combined is just under eight minutes. The last time we saw Schnell he was knocked out in the first round by fellow top ten contender Alexandre Pantoja. Before that, Schnell recorded two consecutive first round triangle choke victories; a method that isn’t seen too often in the UFC, let alone twice in a row. Schnell is a world class submission artist with a whopping nine pro victories via tap out. From guillotines to rear naked chokes to arm triangles, Schnell has just about everything in his arsenal.
Schnell will be taking on the polar opposite of himself in Nam. Nam is a boxer, through and through. He uses calculated and technical combinations to piece up his opponents before eventually looking for the knockout blow. Nam’s hands are extremely powerful for a flyweight and he showed that when he slept Zarrukh Adashev in just 32 seconds back in June and again when he recorded a second-round TKO victory over Jerome Rivera in September.
This total clash of styles will likely come down to simply where this fight takes place. If it goes to the ground, Schnell should have no issues locking in a submission. If Schnell gets caught in a stand-and-bang battle with Nam, he’s in trouble. Either way, given the track records of each guy, I don’t see this fight living to see the final horn.
Best Bet: Under 2.5 rounds (-120)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Omari Akhmedov (+130) vs. Tom Breese (-160)
Saturday’s preliminary card features a middleweight bout featuring 13th ranked Omari Akhmedov (20-5-1) and Tom Breese (12-2) in one that won’t take long to heat up. Tom Breese is still adjusting to his move to middleweight, although he has fared much better at the higher weight not having to deplete himself so much. For Omari Akhmedov, he’s looking to rebound from a disappointing showing against Chris Weidman in his last time out, a unanimous decision loss.
Before his fight against Weidman, Akhmedov had won five of six with his only non-win being a draw against Marvin Vettori. We all saw what Vettori did in December so that draw looks even better now. For Breese, his rise up to middleweight has yielded mixed results. He’s gone 2-2, with his two wins both being by first round stoppage. Breese does possess some serious power in his hands which was evident in him dropping his last opponent with just a jab.
Breese also has a tendency to do a lot of that face forward movement which can prove very costly against an accurate striker. Akhmedov is likely to feel very comfortable on the feet Saturday, and as long as he can keep pace with Breese, I think he has the ability to pull off the win with his savvy striking.
Best Bet: Akhmedov moneyline (+130)
– William Burke (@w_burke22)