The UFC continued their recent string of fight announcements late into the week, and the newly-revealed bouts are listed below in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Saparbek Safarov vs. Nick Negumereanu, UFC Fight Night 147
Due to an injury to Gokhan Saki, light heavyweight Saparbek Safarov will now take on Octagon newcomer Nick Negumereanu at UFC Fight Night 147, set for March 16 at The O2 Arena in London, England. Nolan King of FloCombat broke the news. Safarov (8-2) has been finished by Gian Villante and Tyson Pedro in his first two UFC fights and he hasn’t fought in over a year now. Negumereanu (9-0) is an undefeated 24-year-old prospect fighting out of Romania who has finished all of his pre-UFC opponents inside the distance. Despite taking the fight on short notice and making his Octagon debut, I like Negumereanu to win this fight. It’s a pure fade on the chinny Safarov, who I expect to get cut from the UFC if he loses this fight. The odds are already out for this one, and indeed the UFC newcomer is a 2-to-1 favorite to get his hand raised.
Marlon Vera vs. Frankie Saenz, UFC Fight Night 148
The UFC has re-booked the bantamweight bout between Marlon Vera and Frankie Saenz that was scrapped days before UFC 235 for UFC Fight Night 148, which takes place March 23 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Tennessee. Vera (12-5-1) is 6-4 in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back stoppage wins over Guido Cannetti and Wuliji Buren. Saenz (13-5) is 5-3 in the UFC and defeated Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili in his last two bouts by decision. I don’t see the line changing much from where it closed before Saenz got injured. Look for the line to be identical to what it ended it, with Vera as a near 2-to-1 favorite.
Poliana Botelho vs. Lauren Mueller, UFC 236
Due to an arm injury, Paige VanZant is out of her women’s flyweight bout against Poliana Botelho at UFC 236 and instead Lauren Mueller is taking the fight. The card is set for April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Botelho (7-2) is 2-1 in the UFC but lost by submission to Cynthia Calvillo in her last fight. Mueller (5-1) is 1-1 in the UFC but was submitted by Yanan Wu in her last fight. It’s another fight between two flawed fighters that could go either way, but based on name value I’d expect Botelho to be favored here.
Greg Hardy vs. Dmitry Smoliakov, UFC on ESPN 3
Controversial heavyweight Greg Hardy will return at UFC on ESPN 3 against Dmitry Smoliakov. The card is set for April 27 at BB&T Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Igor Lazorin broke the news. Hardy (3-1) lost by DQ to Allen Crowder in his UFC debut as a massive favorite but had won his three prior pro MMA bouts by knockout. Smoliakov (9-2) was finished in bout of his UFC appearances before bouncing back with a submission win on the Russian regional scene in January. However, at 36 years of age he has no upside and the UFC is bringing him in here to lose. I wouldn’t trust laying the juice on Hardy after what happened in his UFC debut, but I fully expect him to be a monster favorite yet again for this fight.