Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the opening fight of the main card of UFC Fight Night 106 as American Tim “Dirty Bird” Means takes on Brazilian Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. This is a rematch of their UFC 207 bout which was declared a No-Contest after Means delivered an illegal knee to Oliveira towards the end of the first round. Tim Means (Record: 26-7-1, -230 Favorite, Power Ranking: B-) The 32-year-old veteran has fought a dozen times in the UFC dating back to 2011. In his first stint, he fought at lightweight, recording a 2-2 record. After being cut and fighting twice in Legacy FC, he returned to the world’s biggest MMA promotion as a welterweight, where he has had more success with a 6-2-1 record. Tim Means is an aggressive stand-up striker and has become one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC’s welterweight division. “The Dirty Bird” is one of the tallest fighters in the weight class at 6-foot-2 and uses that height well in his attacks. He extends well on his strikes and does an excellent job of using all of his attacking weapons: punches, kicks, elbows and knees. He is at his best in the clinch and has some of the most impactful elbow strikes of anybody in MMA. If he can hold his opponent in the clinch, there’s no doubt he will land and hurt his opponent. He’s not only creative in his striking variation, but he lands with volume. Means lands a whopping 4.35 significant strikes per minute, which is one of the highest striking volumes in the division. Defensively, wrestling is certainly his biggest weakness. He only defends 61 percent of takedown attempts. While he does have long legs and will try for submissions off his back, he can be neutralized by quality grapplers. Alex Oliveira (Record: 16-3-1, +190 Underdog, Power Ranking: C+) In many ways, Oliveira is the Brazilian version of Donald Cerrone. Since signing with the UFC in 2015, he has already fought in the organization nine times. The Brazilian, like Cerrone, has a propensity to take fights on short notice. He doesn’t like to spend much time out of action, and it’s a reason why “Cowboy” has developed a small, yet dedicated following of fans. It was only December when his fight was stopped with Tim Means after he took an illegal knee to his head, and the fight had to be stopped because Oliveira was unable to continue. The 29-year-old Tata Fight Team product has only been fighting professionally since 2011. Oliveira has proven to be a finisher, with 13 of his 16 wins coming inside the distance. Despite being three inches shorter than Tim Means, he has an impressive 77-inch reach. That’s two inches longer than his opponent. In the stand-up, he’s at his best as the aggressor, utilizing the creativity he possesses on the feet. He has a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but when forced to face someone with an advanced submission game, he’s at a real disadvantage. That is an area he really needs to improve in if he’s going to take his career to the next level. Physically, he’s a strong fighter and showed in his bout with Will Brooks that he’s capable of keeping a high pace and scoring takedowns with regularity even late in fights. He secures nearly three takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon and succeeds with securing takedowns 31 percent of the time. Matchup This is a really interesting matchup because they squared off just a few months ago. In that bout, Oliveira landed a couple of nice strikes early, including a spinning kick to the chest that dropped Means to the mat. The most interesting thing in that bout though was the lack of success Oliveira had with his wrestling. He struggled to take Means to the mat and was stuffed in his attempts. In fact, it was the “Dirty Bird” who was able to turn out of those takedown attempts and secure takedowns of his own. While that bout was declared a NC, bettors have certainly taken to the side of the American in this bout. In their UFC 207 fight, Oliveira closed a -140 favorite. Just three months later, Means sits a -230 favorite at time of publication. While I believe Means deserves to be a favorite in this bout due to the success he had in that first bout, I do think it’s an overreaction to that first fight. Oliveira’s struggles in the grappling aspects in the first bout should not necessarily be counted in the second bout. Oliveira had a couple opportunities to bring the fight to the mat, but lost his grip in transition and lost the opportunity. Three months later, I’m not convinced that happens. Perhaps, just as important is that the first fight was in Las Vegas while this fight is in Brazil where Oliveira will be much more comfortable. At nearly +200, Oliveira is worth consideration given the price reaction from the first bout. If this line creeps up to over +225, it’s a must-play.
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