Long Island, New York, is the home of a strong lineage of fighters who have produced some of the most iconic upsets in UFC history. Fifteen years ago, Matt Serra knocked out Georges St-Pierre, the greatest welterweight of all time, as a +850 underdog to stun the MMA world and capture the welterweight title. In 2013, Long Island did it again when Chris Weidman delivered a left hand that ended Anderson Silva's run of 14 consecutive victories as middleweight champion. This Saturday's "UFC on ABC 3" doesn't include a championship title fight. However, the UFC still has delivered a phenomenal card packed with highly competitive, exciting fights for the Long Island crowd at the UBS Arena.
The main event features a title eliminator between featherweight contenders Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez. I can't wait to break down this tremendous matchup from a betting perspective as we get closer to Saturday night. But, in the spirit of Long Island, it's only appropriate to start the week with a live underdog.
Recency bias is one of the most difficult tendencies to break as a sports bettor. The last time we saw "The Leech" he failed to land a single strike before getting choked unconscious by Khamzat Chimaev. Jingliang was completely dominated in every facet of the fight before falling prey to the UFC's rising superstar. It was rock bottom for Jingliang, who entered the fight with plenty of momentum after knocking out Santiago Ponzinibbio on "Fight Island" last year. Bettors like myself love buy-low situations, and his recent contributions to Chimaev's highlight reel dropped the welterweight's stock enough to make him a solid buy at +145.
It won't come easy as his opponent, Muslim Salikhov, can bang with the best of them. The 38-year-old Russian is a five-time Sanda world champion. He has two knockouts in six UFC fights and is riding a five-fight winning streak after a decision victory over Francisco Trinaldo.
The key for Salikhov is keeping the fight at his desired range without slowing down against the more aggressive Jingliang. Salikhov tends to get comfortable sitting back and countering while "The Leech" will be looking to smother him with pressure. Jialiang even hinted at forcing Salikhov into grappling exchanges and attacking with submissions to keep him off balance. While Salikhov holds a small advantage in striking differential, he only gets off 3.13 significant strikes per minute.
That will be a problem against Jingliang, who will fearlessly come forward and has the better hand speed to win in uptempo exchanges. We have also seen Salikhov slow down in the latter rounds of his previous fights. Forcing him to fight in close quarters will open up opportunities for the more well-rounded Jingliang to dictate where the fight takes place.
In addition, relentlessly staying on top of Salikhov should be an effective strategy that will also help reduce some defensive holes that led to Jingliang getting dropped in the past. The Russian welterweight's last three fights went to the scorecards against some pretty light competition, including Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, whom Li Jingliang finished via TKO 10 months prior. The lack of recent finishes could signify diminishing power, reducing the probability of Salikhov's most favorable win condition.
This fight is the perfect storm of a favorite getting too much credit for a winning streak and his opponent coming off the worst loss of his career against the division's elite. The current odds do not correctly reconcile the level of competition, and I believe we are getting the better fighter at +145 odds. I am happy to grab the dog at plus money in what I see as a favorable stylistic matchup.
The bet: Li Jingliang (+145)
*Stats provided by ufcstats.com.