Legacy FC will fill one of their vacant title slots tonight at Legacy FC 54. The promotion’s middleweight title — previously held by Leonardo Leite — will be contested between two fighters who bring a very similar style to the cage. Rafael Lovato Jr. is a very decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor, who was only the second American (after BJ Penn) to win the Brazilian Nationals as a black belt. He won at 100kg in 2007, and the absolute division in 2013 before transitioning to MMA. Lovato Jr. will be facing Marcelo Nunes for the title in just his third MMA bout. Nunes holds a 5-0 record in MMA, with four of his wins coming by submission and all of them coming within the first round. The co-main event could very well decide the next challenger for the new champion. Undefeated Andrew Todhunter has been dominant with his grappling early in his MMA career, scoring all seven of his wins by submission. Todhunter was briefly signed to the UFC as a late replacement at UFC 188, but passed out during his weight cut due to the short notice (and attempting to drop to 170 for the first time). He was subsequently cut from the promotion and returned to Legacy. He’ll be taking on Evan Thompson — brother of UFC welterweight contender Stephen — who hopes to rebound after losses in two of his past three bouts. The man who beat Thompson in his last outing, Charles Byrd, is also on this card. He’ll look to bounce back from dropping a decision to now UFC fighter Bojan Velickovic at the RFA vs. Legacy card last May. His opponent will be former Bellator fighter Trey Houston, who is best know for having a “Beastin 25/8” level nickname of “That Just Happened”. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for the top fights at Legacy FC 54 today at Several Bookmakers. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (AXS TV, 10pm ET) Rafael Lovato Jr. -265 Marcelo Nunes +185 Andrew Todhunter -475 Evan Thompson +325 Trey Houston -210 Charles Byrd +160 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Rafael Lovato Jr. is simply significantly better at what Marcelo Nunes wants to do than Marcelo Nunes. Nunes has a striking advantage here, but unless he shows massive improvement there, or is able to survive for a while on the ground and hope that Lovato has terrible cardio, I just don’t see a path to victory for him. Evan Thompson seems destined to be known as ‘Stephen Thompson’s brother’ in his MMA career. He doesn’t have the striking of his brother, nor does he seem to be making the progress necessary to move to the next level. While Todhunter had an unfortunately brief stay in the UFC (which may have been for the best, given that he was supposed to fight Albert Tumenov and would’ve suffered far worse physical harm than fainting), he’s good enough to make it to that level, and I assume he’ll get another chance with more notice. I expect the takedowns to come quickly in this one, and Todhunter is one of those grapplers who is very adept at finding the back. Thompson’s losses so far have come by TKO, but I think Todhunter hangs a sub on him here. Trey Houston is a talented fighter, but struggles with cardio and when his opponents push him. If he can rip off a quick submission in this one, I would be less than shocked, but if he doesn’t get that early sub and packs it in after a couple minutes I wouldn’t be surprised either. This is also his first fight in 18 months, so who knows what kind of shape he’ll come in on top of his already poor cardio. That all adds up to me taking a shot on Byrd if I can get anything near or over +200.