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The
Ultimate Fighting Championship
comes back down to earth after a
blockbuster pay-per-view event, as
UFC Fight Night 187
puts on 13 bouts with various levels of
intrigue on Saturday in Las Vegas. Most of the betting lines are
not very close, as 10 of the 13 fights see odds at -150 or above at
the moment. There are still ways to navigate the minefield like
this, with four significant prop bets that can get the job done. A
fight destined to reach the scorecards, another that may not even
get out of the first round, a submission threat looking to do it
again and a favorable short-notice matchup cobble together this
edition of Prime Picks.

It is entirely possible that Muhammad slotting into this match with
Edwards is an improvement on the previously scheduled tilt between
Edwards and Khamzat
Chimaev
. A legitimate contender who has proved himself against
decent names in the division, and not just a man that has earned
one win at 170 pounds in the UFC against a former lightweight,
should prove for a more competitive showing. The style of these two
fighters can match well when it pertains to a lengthier fight, as
this welterweight main event has all the makings of one that goes
the distance.

Each of the last 10 bouts for Edwards have at least reached the
third round, and any finish in that stretch came from him late in
the fight. “Rocky” does not typically maintain one-shot knockout
power, and even his one-punch knockout of Shaun
Taylor
in 2014 came very late into their meeting. Even though
he is known as a technical boxer who rarely gets trapped against
the cage for long, his skillset has developed into one that is far
more well-rounded. His impressive eight-fight win streak over power
strikers, wild brawlers, and submission stars proves that the Brit
can beat fighters at their own game, or at the very least, survive
what they throw at him until they run out of steam. Should they
have porous takedown defense, he can exploit that. If they are not
as comfortable on the feet, he will fare well upright as well.

When it comes to competitors who can “survive what they throw at
him,” look no further than the iron-chinned Muhammad. Only once has
Muhammad been put away inside the Octagon, when he decided to brawl
with Vicente
Luque
right out of the gate and woke up staring at the lights.
Otherwise, Muhammad is the epitome of a fighter that can charge
through the fire to come out victorious on the other side. His
style can tire out the best of opponents, with the crushingly
demoralizing ability to take his foe’s best shots and almost laugh
at them after. His pace is practically unwavering, as he often
forces his foe to fight off their back foot. “Remember the Name”
can remember to grind out his adversaries by spreading out
effective strikes with powerful clinch work and smart level changes
for takedowns.

Almost exactly like “Rocky,” Muhammad has reached the third round
in all nine of his last fights. The overwhelming majority of his
victories have come on the scorecards, with his pressure that bends
opponents but does not completely break them en route to a finish.
It will be up to Edwards to fight off the advancing Muhammad, who
will almost certainly implement his practically zombie-esque
perpetual forward motion approach. Edwards comes in as a sizeable
favorite, and he could fight off Muhammad and extend his win streak
to nine. On the other hand, Muhammad’s style is best thwarted by
high-volume, accurate strikers, and Edwards could get pulled out of
that game if he has to fend off a suffocating attack. No matter how
you slice it, this bout should go the full 25 minutes, and a
welterweight contender could emerge from this battle.

If the main event is expected to go the distance, the co-headliner
is almost certainly not. In fact, Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision is a
mighty -425, instilling confidence that one of these two light
heavyweights will get the job done quickly. Thirteen of Cirkunov’s
last 14 bouts, including his last six inside the Octagon, have hit
the under. On the other side, all but one of Spann’s 15 career
finishes ended before the 2:30 mark of Round 2. Since 2017, both
men have only lost by spectacular, first-round knockout. The value
is clear for this fight to end before its midpoint.

Latvia’s Cirkunov has never gone the distance since making his UFC
debut in 2015. The aforementioned spectacular knockouts for
Cirkunov came against Volkan
Oezdemir
, Glover
Teixeira
and Johnny
Walker
, while Spann also fell to victim to a Walker barrage.
Each of Cirkunov’s career setbacks have all ended by stoppage, and
two-thirds of Spann’s are as well. Cirkunov’s submission ability
has been on display through his time on the roster, with a Peruvian
necktie to hand Jimmy Crute
his first loss back in 2019. Spann has fallen victim to just one
submission before, and it came against grappling magician Robert
Drysdale
in 2016. Cirkunov may not hold the accolades of
Drysdale, but he makes up for it with creativity and willingness to
put himself into danger to land something.

For all the submission prowess that Cirkunov threatens, Spann is no
slouch on the ground. “Superman” is a massive light heavyweight,
and even though his power has come out the last few years, he would
be more than willing to try to figuratively yank his opponent’s
neck off with a guillotine choke. The Texan does not fear a brawl,
and can put himself in harm’s way to try to land the harder shot.
Both he and Cirkunov are reckless enough with faith in their chins
and survival ability to fall victim to something violent. One way
or another, this fight should not last long. If one wants to take a
slightly bigger risk, Fight Won’t Start Round 2 sits at a feasible
-105.

Rani
Yahya
Wins by Submission (+120)

Even by mistake, injury or some other unusual situation, Yahya has
never notched a knockout or technical knockout in his career. The
Brazilian is a grappler’s grappler, an old-school submission
specialist who will latch on to any exposed limb or neck to do
whatever he wants with it. While cardio has recently betrayed him
against opponents that can hang with him on the ground, and his
game can be feast or famine depending exclusively on his foe’s
submission defense. Ray
Rodriguez
, who fell face-first into a guillotine choke in under
40 seconds, and has been choked out twice in the past to lesser
submission artists than Yahya. As long as there is physical contact
between Yahya and his opponent, Rodriguez will hold his head in the
lion’s mouth and may not get out unscathed.

With 20 submissions across his 26 career victories, Yahya’s
diversity in his approach has led to smashing success over the
years. To wit, he has never landed the same submission in
back-to-back wins on his record. Whether rolling for a gorgeous
heel hook against Luke
Sanders
, hitting a rare north-south choke on Josh Grispi
or wrenching a kimura on Johnny
Bedford
, Yahya threatens both by forcing the takedown or
pulling guard. If Rodriguez wishes to ply his own submission trade
on his opponent in any regard, he will likely re-learn the old
adage of “there are levels to this game.”

Rodriguez has not been known as a major striking threat, although
he recently smashed Jimmy Flick
at an Xtreme Fighting League event in 2019. Otherwise, most of his
career finishes have come from some variety of choke or armlock.
This confidence has put him into dangerous positions at times,
falling victim to Chris
Gutierrez
’ only career submission triumph in 2018. Yahya’s
striking has always been rudimentary at best and typically a means
to an end, if Rodriguez can fight off the inevitable crowding and
attempts to drag the fight down, he can outlast a quickly fading
Yahya. If he tries to test his grappling against that of his
opponent event for a moment, the danger zone will have him. One way
or another, Yahya will snatch up a submission before the fight
ends.

Due to the short-notice nature of this bout, the wide spread of
prop bets is not readily available. As a result, Haqparast
finishing Rafa Garcia
will take the place of Haqparast Wins by TKO/KO, and it will still
be decent value at plus money. This bout, which has transformed
completely from its original designation of Guram
Kutateladze
-Don Madge, now
finds Haqparast squaring off against a late replacement and
Combate Americas champ in Garcia. Even though
Garcia is an undefeated fighter, and two of his last three wins
have come over former UFC names, those names Estevan
Payan
and Humberto
Bandenay
won just once in their combined seven UFC appearances.
Level of competition matters, and Haqparast has that advantage in
spades ahead of his seventh trip to the Octagon.


Tristar Gym
’s Haqparast is an aggressive, heavy swinging,
hard-hitting lightweight prospect. He can put on the kind of volume
to make foes wilt, and four
knockdowns throughout his six UFC appearances
can attest to his
striking prowess. On three of those six occasions, the
Afghanistan-born German has surpassed the 90 significant strike
margin, which will work wonders against an opponent who specializes
not on the feet but on the ground. Barring a surprise submission,
Haqparast should be able to pound out his foe before the final
bell.

The veteran of “La Jaula” is a true home-grown fighter with Combate
Americas, but due to the league’s inability to put on events,
Garcia vacated his title and forced his release. As a result,
Garcia has been on the shelf for over a year, and he draws an
extremely difficult test in his debut. He will look to set up his
wrestling, as Garcia will be completely out of his depth standing
up. Erick
Gonzalez
worked him over standing up, and Garcia was only able
to pull out the win by taking the fight down. Haqparast, whose
defensive grappling game has improved leagues since Marcin Held
held him down for the good part of three rounds, should be able to
shuck the takedown and finish the job on the feet.

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