Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov staff predictions | UFC on ESPN 48 1

A middleweight bout between hard-hitting Sean Strickland and rising star Abusupiyan Magomedov is set to headline the UFC on ESPN 48 event at the UFC Apex facility this weekend.

This time, we’re focusing on breaking down the main event in detail, with Braeden Arbour and Michael Pounders sharing their opinions on who will win and why. But that’s not all, we also have predictions up for many of the other UFC on ESPN 48 fights including:

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Betting Odds

First things first, let’s break down the betting odds. The current odds stand at Sean Strickland at -150 and Abus Magomedov at +120. If you’re new to the betting scene, here’s a quick rundown.

  • Abus Magomedov: +120 (BetUS)
  • Sean Strickland: -150 (BetUS)

Negative odds (Strickland’s -150) represent the favorite and show how much you need to bet to win $100. In this case, a $150 bet on Strickland could net you an extra $100 if he wins. Conversely, positive odds (Magomedov’s +120) indicate the underdog, representing how much you could win from a $100 bet. If you wager $100 on Magomedov and he emerges victorious, you stand to pocket an additional $120.

Our experts Braeden Arbour and Michael Pounders have dissected the fighters’ strategies, strengths, and weaknesses, giving you a holistic view of what to expect in the ring. From Strickland’s unusual style and Magomedov’s well-rounded fighting skills, to the probability of Strickland’s economical style wearing Magomedov down in the later rounds, they’ve covered it all.

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Staff Predictions

Braeden Arbour

Abus Magomedov is a very skilled and especially well-rounded fighter. Growing up on the wrestling mat before transitioning to kickboxing as a teen, he has extensive training both in pure grappling and striking which makes him dangerous everywhere. A quick glance at their records, Strickland at 26-5 and Magomedov at 25-4 seem comparable at first, but 18 of those fights for Strickland have been under the UFC banner while Magomedov only just made his debut.

Sean Strickland has an unusual style, while he does most of his work with his boxing he keeps his lead leg very light to check and block, maintains a very erect posture with his chin almost in the air, and a high loose guard. He depends highly on his reaction time as he mostly parries and blocks strikes coming his way in between peppering his opponents with straights and hooks. Alex Periera highlighted the way in which Strickland’s style can be controlled, forcing him to over-commit to a parry with a feint and then reach around with the left hook. Magomedov has such a wide variety of striking tools that he could do very well mixing things up and getting Strickland to bite. He should set up his punches with kicks to bring the guard down and vice versa, draw Strickland’s hands up to block or across to deflect and land a kick in whichever opening he draws out.

However, while this sounds simple at face value, one of the reasons few have been able to execute on Strickland is because it’s difficult to set up combinations going backward, and Strickland may be the best at constantly moving forward. He peppers his opponents with his shots, never really ending up out of position by overthrowing and because he maintains his posture instead of bobbing and weaving he can kind of continue to march his opponents down. It’s especially difficult to land kicks on Strickland because he’s constantly closing that gap, and staying in his opponent’s face, needing only to worry about his guard’s movement to deflect punches. It’s not too difficult to touch Strickland but it’s extraordinarily difficult to land flush.

It would be smart for Magomedov to invest in the lead leg of Strickland, not because he stands to put much weight on it but because it could do something to slow down his forward movement. Likewise, if he does find himself smothered, going to his level changes early and having success could be another way to slow down that momentum, although Strickland has a very high takedown defense at 85% and underrated grappling of his own. What Magomedov has to do is at least gain enough respect that Strickland doesn’t feel comfortable just walking him down for the duration of the fight.

Early on in the fight, fans will get to see what wins out. The consistent force of Strickland or Magomedov’s ability to set up big moments. Magomedov’s fight IQ is very high and he does have a history of landing big shots, spinning kicks, jumping knees, and big punches. All of this is difficult to do when you are the one being pushed backward, but if Magomedov can create those openings he has to take full advantage of them. What will make the biggest difference in my opinion, is if Magomedov cannot stop Strickland Early, he will be wading into unknown territory.

Strickland’s style is extremely economical, in that it takes less energy to move forward, less energy to stay postured rather than slip and weave and he doesn’t throw 100% into his shots. This makes him a major problem in the latter rounds as his opponents fade. Not only is this Magomedov’s second UFC fight, but he has never gone five rounds in his entire career, and even his first UFC fight ended in under a minute. It’s a big ask for any unranked fighter to jump into a top 10 UFC fight in their second bout, but it’s even more of an ask when you make it a main event against one of the better five-round specific fighters in the world.

Pick: Sean Strickland to win (-120)

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Michael Pounders

At this point, given the frequency to which he fights and the unmistakable style, handicapping a Sean “Tarzan” Strickland fight is common knowledge. He fights in a uniquely upright stance with his hands glued to the front part of his chin, walks forward almost apathetically, pumps his jab relentlessly, rarely wears damage, and looks to win fights on the back of volume and forward pressure.

His defensive awareness, demonstrated by his high guard, has been increased since his knockout loss to Alex Pereira. Since that fight, Strickland is even more reluctant to let his right hand go, instead favoring to keep it on his chin to protect against power hooks, the same punch Pereira landed to finish him. This results in Strickland rarely throwing power shots of his own, unless he has a clearly exhausted or vulnerable opponent.

While his jab and high guard help protect his chin, his midsection and lead leg are vulnerable to damage. He’s tough and has excellent cardio which helps him absorb shots to both areas with little reaction; but, still, both are avenues for his opponent’s attacks.

On the other end of the spectrum from Strickland’s recognizable style and consistency in the cage, we have Abusupiyan “Abus” Magomedov, a PFL alum who has only accrued 19 seconds of octagon time in 2 years. Those 19 seconds included a violent and impressive knockout win in his UFC debut back in September of 2022.

Prior to the UFC, Magomedov racked up a 24-4 record with 20 finish wins and rarely saw a fight exit round 2. He tends to fight with aggression and violence from the opening seconds. He has a cracking calf kick, a devastating right hand, and an unmistakable desire to end the fight as quickly as possible. Given his style, Magomedov often brings the fight to his opponent with immediate pressure and, sometimes, wild, combinations.

He, like many power punchers, uses his calf kick to immobilize his opponent and create a stationary target for him to unload on. Outside of the calf kick and power, though, Magomedov’s striking is fairly basic and his cardio unproven. He’s getting a real shot against an established ranked UFC veteran and a win, especially a finish win, would significantly increase Magomedov’s stock.

Just like last week, I think the most valuable way to analyze this fight is to spend more time examining the lines to find value rather than breaking the fighters down in depth. Especially considering the unique situation with Strickland being one of the most active fighters on the roster and Magomedov only having 19 seconds of octagon time in 2 years.

We know Strickland will likely fight the same way he always does and we’re projecting how Magomedov will attack this challenge with little data to work with. What we do know for certain: Strickland has an excellent jab, is defensively aware- especially after the Pereira knockout, and uses volume and cardio as his primary weapons.

Meanwhile, Magomedov has real power, likes to blitz early, and has unproven cardio. Given this matchup stylistically, logic dictates that if Strickland can survive the first round or two of Magomedov’s power, he’ll be in prime position to pull away with the fight. Strickland has been cracked and finished before but is more defensively cautious; so, while the +235 price tag for Magomedov to win by knockout is a solid number, I don’t think it has a 30% chance of happening as the implied odds suggest.

Disappointingly, Strickland by knockout is almost the same number: +250. Strickland only has 1 knockout since 2020 and typically doesn’t carry much power. I do think him by finish is more likely than normal given Magomedov’s tendency to swing big, the likelihood of him gassing out, and Strickland’s relentless volume; but, at +250, the value just isn’t there.

So, looking deeper, I think the sharper bet is Strickland to win in round 4 (+1700) and round 5 (+2000). Magomedov has gone three rounds before, in the PFL, but hasn’t fought someone with Strickland’s cardio and pressure.

So, I, along with many others, see a real path for Strickland to find a late finish against an exhausted opponent. But, rather than returning only +250 for the knockout, we’re getting significantly more value to focus on the “late” part of late round finish. I like taking half of your normal bet, or half a unit, and putting it on a round five finish and the other half of the bet on round five. Strickland’s cardio and pressure should overwhelm Magomedov over time and the finish should be there late.

Best Bet: Strickland to win in round 4 (+1700) and in round 5 (+2000)

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