UFC Fight Night 31 Sneak Peek: Rustam Khabilov (-170) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+150)

Rustam Khabilov One of the fights the fans are most looking forward to at UFC Fight Night 31 is a lightweight match between the rising Rustam Khabilov and veteran Jorge Masvidal. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers lists Khabilov as a -170 favorite (bet $190 to win $100), while Masvidal is a +150 dog (bet $100 to win $150). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened Khabilov at -190 and Masvidal at +150, indicating there has been minimal line movement for the fight so far. I can understand why most seem split on this one as it’s an interesting matchup, but I am personally picking the Russian Khabilov to win the fight. Here’s why. Khabilov (16-1) had one of the most impressive UFC debuts of all time at the TUF 16 Finale last year when he slammed Vinc Pichel so hard on his head that he knocked him out cold. The 27-year-old showed in that fight that he is a special athlete as he was able to pick Pichel up and launch him over his head with ease, displaying his Sambo background in the process. The Russian then fought Yancy Medeiros earlier this year at UFC 159 and again, he suplexed his opponent so hard that Medeiros broke his thumb on the takedown and the fight had to be stopped. Since coming over from Russia, Khabilov has been training at Greg Jackson’s where he has worked on his striking under Mike Winkeljohn and alongside vaunted strikers like Carlos Condit and Adlan Amagov. I believe that all the time working at that camp has brought his striking up to a reasonable enough level he can hang with Masivdal on the feet, although I do still give “Gambred” the striking advantage. However, that might not matter if Khabilov is able to get the takedowns and slam him on his head. Masvidal (25-7) is one of the most well-rounded lightweights in the UFC, and he’s gone 2-0 since entering the Octagon earlier this year with impressive victories over Tim Means and Michael Chiesa. The 28-year-old has great striking, great wrestling, great subs and great cardio — basically, all the tools needed to be a successful lightweight fighter. However, it seems like every time he has climbed the ladder in the past, he’s fallen off right before the top. Since coming to the UFC, though, I have noticed Masvidal care a lot more. Before he was in the UFC, Masvidal didn’t train as hard as he should have been and he didn’t eat right, but now that he has his eyes set on the UFC lightweight championship and all the money that comes along with that, he seems to be more focused and it’s shown with his two brilliant wins in 2013. I believe Masvidal has more tools in this fight, and he is certainly the more proven fighter, but the problem is Khabilov is a very special athlete and after seeing him destroy his first two opponents in the UFC, there’s no way I can recommend betting on Masvidal in this spot, even though he is the underdog. It might surprise people that don’t know him well that Khabilov is the favorite here, but I believe it is for good reason as I believe he will defeat Masvidal with his slams and continue making a climb up at the UFC’s lightweight ladder. As far as a bet goes, I will likely pass at the current line, but if fight day money comes in on Masvidal and I can get Khabilov at a Pick ’em price, I will likely lay a small wager on the Russian.

Written by Adam Martin.

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