Austen Lane celebrates after his victory on Dana White's Contender Series

Heavyweights Justin Tafa and Austen Lane are gearing up for a thrilling rematch scheduled this Saturday at UFC 293.

This eagerly awaited clash comes in the wake of a controversial eye-poke no-contest with Tafa on the receiving end back in July in Jacksonville, which left fight fans craving a more substantial fight. The initial bout, lasting less than 30 seconds, fell short of expectations, given that both fighters are renowned for their knockout prowess and boast a remarkable 100% finish rate.

However, this weekend, they’re prepared to settle the score on the grand stage of a pay-per-view main card, promising a barn-burner that doesn’t have a chance to go the distance.

Betting Odds

Despite a much spottier and shorter resume, Tafa opens this fight as a 2-1 favorite.

  • Justin Tafa: -210 (BetUS)
  • Austen Lane: +180 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

The most important aspect of this fight from an X’s and O’s standpoint, and one that I’m surprised oddsmakers aren’t taking into account, is the massive disadvantage in size that Tafa’s up against. Lane, being a former NFL defensive end, is a massive heavyweight, standing at a staggering 6’6″ with an 80-inch reach. Now, in most heavyweight fights, this would only be a bit out of the ordinary, but with Tafa coming in at 6′ and a 74-inch reach, it’s significant enough to mention, especially since most of his former opponents came in at around the same size as him. Without a doubt, this is the best athlete Tafa’s faced from an objective standpoint, and likely one of the only true heavyweights within the division.

With that being said, Justin Tafa’s no slouch. He’s showcased a remarkable ability to lure his opponents into heavy firefights, where he wins most of the time. He has ridiculously powerful haymakers that could flatline his opponent with a single well-timed shot. Along with this, he puts forward brutal leg kicks that force them to close the distance, further welcoming them into a firefight. However, this same tendency to start phonebooth fights has also seen him lose in some of his more important fights. he often leaves his hands down when storming an opponent, which resulted in a brutal knockout loss to Yorgan De Castro, and when he can’t put his opponents away he often leaves himself too gassed to realistically win a decision. As well as this, once he sees his opponent entering the pocket, he strictly headhunts, abandoning open shots to the body and refusing to break off to throw his ridiculously powerful leg kicks. Overall, Tafa’s extremely talented and has a remarkable chin to go along with his punching power, but his rawness and refusal to fight strategically have caused him to be his own worst enemy.

As stated before, Lane is a great athlete with solid power and fighting ability to show for it. Although he’s a transitional athlete, originally coming from the NFL into MMA, he’s impressively put up 15 professional fights in the past six years, accounting for a worldwide pandemic, which is more active than most established fighters, Tafa included. It looks like he’s picked up quickly along the regional scene, especially after his KO loss to Greg Hardy on the Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018, honing his skills to get the six-fight win streak he has today. He seems to have a solid understanding of his reach now and has developed a strong grappling game along the fence, which he uses to wear out his opponents to set up devastating shots off the break. Lane’s most devastating weapon, however, has become his ground and pound. As he’s developed an understanding of the various positions in wrestling and BJJ, he’s showcased an ever-growing and terrifying level of ground-and-pound, that often puts his opponents out in a single shot, making him a nightmare to get knocked down or taken down by.

Prediction and Betting Guide

There are two factors that are going to decide this fight and they’re the two I haven’t touched on in the breakdown: grappling and conditioning. Neither fighter has much of either but I’m edging it out to Lane here, strictly because of how underwhelming Tafa has looked in both departments throughout his tenure in the UFC.

Once he’s on his back, Tafa’s very slow to scramble up and takes a lot of punishment in the process. While Lane doesn’t have a traditional grappling background, his massive size, along with experience as a defensive end and an evidently developing grappling game, I don’t see a world where he doesn’t take this fight to the ground. If not, it’s very likely that he could grind Tafa out against the cage if he survives the initial exchange which has, historically, gassed Tafa out in the past. If Tafa wants a win this weekend, it’s going to be critical to keep the center of the octagon, which is easier said than done when put against an opponent with such a towering height and reach advantage.

Overall, I think the oddsmakers are counting Lane out solely because it’s his debut this weekend. On paper, there aren’t many ways that Tafa could win the fight, aside from flatlining Lane with a solid hook, which wouldn’t even be too profitable at -165. Lane has more weapons, more experience, and more athleticism than Tafa, so on paper, I don’t really see how he can lose. It is MMA though, and anything is possible, especially with someone as heavy-hitting as Justin Tafa, and so your safest pick is the extremely unprofitable bet for the fight to go the distance at -900. Aside from that, I’d go with Lane by KO/TKO (+250) or by submission if you’re feeling lucky at (+1100), just because I don’t see Tafa getting up if it goes to the ground.

Pick: Lane by KO/TKO (+250) or Lane money line (+180) or Fight to end within the distance (-900)

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