Tagir Ulanbekov fighting Nate Maness in the UFC (Zuffa LLC)

#12 ranked Tagir Ulanbekov, 32, was handed his first UFC loss – second overall- two fights ago. That loss brought his UFC record to 3-1, with all but one fight going the distance.

#15 ranked Cody Durden, meanwhile, is on a four-fight winning streak that expanded his UFC record to 5-2-1. The 32-year-old flyweight has only finished one fight and has lost both inside the distance.

Ulanbekov vs. Durden betting odds

Ulanbekov opened yet again as a favorite but is the shortest number of his career.

  • Tagir Ulanbekov: -170
  • Cody Durden: +145

Ulanbekov vs. Durden fight breakdown

Many, myself included, have criticized Ulanbekov for seemingly sleepwalking during his early fights and being unable to dominate despite often being a substantial favorite. However, three of his four fights have all aged well.

As a -450 favorite, Ulanbekov narrowly beat Bruno Silva, as a -355 favorite won a spilt decision over Allan Nascimento, and lost outright a a -220 favorite over Tim Elliot. His most recent fight, as a -250 favorite, Ulanbekov dominated and won in the 1st round.

Initially, Ulanbekov appears to be an overpriced and overestimated fighter incapable of performing in the way a substantial favorite should. However, upon closer look, Silva, Nascimento, and Elliot have all proven to be legit talents with ranked level abilities. If anything, the odds were underestimating his opponents rather than overestimating Tagir. I bring that up because his performances may not be truly indicative of his skill.

Ulanbekov is a dedicated and credentialled wrestler who is capable of landing and holding takedowns against larger opponents skilled in BJJ and scrambling. His entries are setup well and he’s able to land takedowns while shooting from range or dragging opponents down from the clinch. Once on the mat, Ulanbekov is a position over submission fighter who values racking up control time over trying to finish the fight.

However, when he was given a lesser fighter- someone less experienced and skilled from their back- Ulanbekov finished the fight quickly. If an opponent does get back to their feet, Ulanbekov chain wrestles exceptionally well and often mat returns his opponents. His cardio allows him to wrestle hard for 15 minutes while his skill and experience often mean he’s in the driver’s seat. Ulanbekov’s biggest issues come when he’s put on his back foot or he cannot time an entry, as we saw when he faced Elliot.

Durden is perpetually underestimated; he has been an underdog in all 4 of his last fights, winning all 4. The reason for Vegas underestimating Durden is because his style can look sloppy. He tends to throw wildly on the feet, looking for the one-hitter-quitter with little regard for his own defense.

Meanwhile, his wrestling is persistent but basic. Durden does not have the best timing on his entries nor does he set up his shots with an elevated level of strategy. However, whether striking or grappling, what Durden does have as an advantage over most is natural strength for the 125 division and the willpower to implement his game plan. He is able to make opponents uncomfortable from the opening minute, push them on their back foot, and bully them how he wants.

Opponents who overlook Durden’s striking end up getting cracked, those who overlook his wrestling are often dumped on their backside, and opponents with poor cardio find themselves trapped on the mat sucking air for 15 minutes. Durden is uniquely able to go all-out for 15 straight minutes and force his game plan onto his opponents. He tends to struggle, though, when an opportunist opponent can take advantage of his sometimes sloppy fundamentals or an equally stubborn opponent who doesn’t back down to the pressure.

Ulanbekov vs. Durden prediction

This fight is interesting because each fighter is uniquely designed to exploit the weaknesses of his opponent. Ulanbekov struggles with high-pressure fighters who negate his wrestling by putting Ulanbekov on his back foot. There is little doubt that Durden is more than capable of weaponizing pressure and cardio. Meanwhile, Ulanbekov is skilled enough to take advantage of an opening if Durden slips up and is likely the better wrestler, taking away Durden’s primary attack.

I’m taking Ulanbekov here simply because I think he’s the better fighter and Vegas is now overcorrecting the line. However, Durden is 4-0 in his last 4, all at underdog money so I recognize that he’s not someone to take lightly. I expect a close fight but with Ulanbekov winning the clinch moments and scrambles en route to a late submission- as Durden tries to rally back for a win- or a decision.

Best Bet: Ulanbekov to win (-170)

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