From a betting perspective, UFC 230 is not a great card. On the hunt for value, I’m intrigued by this bantamweight showdown between Brian Kelleher and Montel Jackson – both of whom are coming off disappointing losses.
The Largest Bantamweight You’ve Ever Seen
It’s pretty hard to believe Montel Jackson fights at bantamweight. Standing 5’10 with a 75-inch reach, the Wisconsin native looks like he should be fighting at lightweight. Turning pro in 2017, Jackson racked up six dominant victories before getting his call-up to the UFC. While his base his Greco-Roman wrestling, we’ve primarily seen Jackson grapple defensively. He prefers to strike and although his last opponent was successful in closing the distance, Jackson looked good at keeping fighters on the end of his punches in his regional footage. Fighting from the southpaw stance, Jackson primarily throws clean straight punches with the occasional kick mixed in.
While he was grinded on and dominated positionally by Ricky Simon in his last bout, it’s worth noting Jackson took the fight on short notice. I don’t know how what weight he walks around at, but I can guarantee it’s nowhere near 135-pounds. His takedown defense looked good in the first round but eventually the pressure of Simon was too much. Coming into this contest with a full fight camp and the UFC jitters out of the way, there’s a good chance we see Jackson look vastly improved in his second Octagon appearance. Stylistically, Kelleher may be a more favorable matchup than the wrestling-oriented Ricky Simon was.
Redemption for Kelleher?
Not many bantamweights would be willing to travel to Brazil and take on savage power puncher, John Lineker, but Brian Kelleher was up for the challenge. Skill for skill, the fight was competitive but the Brazilian’s insane power and iron chin proved to be the difference. Kelleher didn’t lose any fans despite suffering a knockout loss. Kelleher’s relentless pace, pocket boxing and opportunistic submissions have served him well thus far in the UFC. Against former champion, Renan Barao, Kelleher was successful in grinding his opponent against the fence, dirty boxing in the clinch, mixing in takedowns and forcing Barao to work non-stop. I can see Kelleher adopting a similar approach against Montel Jackson.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Kelleher closes the distance. As the fighter with the much more compact frame and a 9-inch reach disadvantage, Kelleher needs to be all the way out or all the way in. He absolutely has to avoid getting picked apart at range by the straight shots of Jackson.
Whoever manages distance more effectively will win this fight. In terms of an outright pick, Kelleher is far more experienced at the highest level and I believe he’s the right side as a +110 underdog. With that being said, both fighters are durable and I believe a finish is unlikely. Currently, you can bet that the fight goes to decision at -155 and I’d personally cap that prop at closer to -200. Whoever wins, I think we’ll be seeing the scorecards.
Pick: fight goes to decision -155
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