UFC Fight Night APEX: Woodley vs Burns Betting Preview

Predictions and betting picks for UFC Fight Night, featuring Tyron Woodley vs. Gilbert Burns in the main event.
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After the UFC successfully took us on a 32-fight marathon earlier this month, the organization is back at it this week with UFC Fight Night APEX, live Saturday night from … say it with me: LAS VEGAS!

Yes, it’s true! The UFC is officially back in Las Vegas after the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved the return of combat sports earlier this week. Headlining the organization’s first event back are two of the world’s best welterweights. Former champ and No. 1 Tyron Woodley (19-4-1) takes on No. 6 Gilbert Burns (18-3). Woodley, hungry and looking to get back on track, will be making his long-awaited return after losing his title roughly 14 months ago to current champ Kamaru Usman. Burns, who’s been on a heater lately, has won five in a row all in just over a year’s time. With a win Saturday night, either Woodley or Burns will validate their right as the potential next title challenger.

Co-headlining the event, two durable heavyweights will be matched up as No. 12 Blagoy Ivanov (18-3) will take on No. 13 Augusto Sakai (14-1-1), as Sakai looks to make it six wins in a row, while Ivanov has hopes to rebound after dropping a razor close split decision to Derrick Lewis last November.

A narrative for bettors to consider going into his card is the UFC’s decision to roll with the use of its smaller, 25-foot octagon at the APEX, instead of the standard 30-foot cage. The use of the smaller octagon has historically increased fight finish rates and shortened average fight times due to the ability to create more action and engagement between the two fighters. Take note.

TIME: SATURDAY 05/30/2020 at 6 P.M. ET
BROADCAST: ESPN
VENUE: UFC APEX
LOCATION: Las Vegas, Nevada
MATCHES: 11

MAIN CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT BOUT 170LBS

#1 TYRON WOODLEY 19-4-1 VS #6 GILBERT BURNS 18-3

HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT 265LBS

#12 BLAGOY IVANOV 18-3 VS #13 AUGUSTO SAKAI 14-1-1

CATCHWEIGHT BOUT 150LBS

BILLY QUARANTILLO 13-2 VS SPIKE CARLYLE 9-1

LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT 155LBS

ROOSEVELT ROBERT 9-1 VS BROK WEAVER 15-4

WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT BOUT 115LBS

MACKENZIE DERN 7-1 VS HANNAH CIFERS 10-4

PRELIMS:

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT BOUT 125LBS

#2 KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN 13-3 VS #12 ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO 8-1

WELTERWEIGHT BOUT 170LBS

DANIEL RODRIGUEZ 11-1 VS GABRIEL GREEN 9-2

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT 205LBS

JAMAHAL HILL 7-0 VS KLIDSON ABREAU 15-4

FLYWEIGHT BOUT 125LBS

#11 TIM ELLIOT 15-10-1 VS BRANDON ROYVAL 10-4

BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT 135LBS

LOUIS SMOLKA 16-6 VS CASEY KENNEY 13-2-1

FEATHERWEIGHT BOUT 145LBS

CHRIS GUTIERREZ 14-3-1 VS VINCE MORALES 9-4

Which version of Woodley will we see against the white-hot Burns?

Just 14 months ago, we saw “The Chosen One” get dominated for five rounds. Kamaru Usman successfully became the new welterweight champion, while humbling Woodley along the way. The loss was Woodley’s first since 2014, and his visions of retiring as champ took a detour. Prior to that night, Woodley had three successful title defenses in decisive fashion, and it looked as if nobody would dethrone the former champ.

Some say he’s inconsistent, but I only see the Usman fight as a one-off. I believe we will see a motivated former champ, hungry to not only win, but make a statement Saturday night.

Woodley went into isolation, left his family behind, and headed to AKA Thailand to train. Videos began popping up with him looking incredible in preparation for his original match against Leon Edwards—obviously preparing for a stand-up war. With that fight scrapped, Burns quickly stepped up and was slated into Edwards’ spot as the next opponent for Woodley.

Burns is on a five-fight winning streak and is most recently remembered for knocking out future Hall of Famer Demian Maia in just one round. Burns carries an 18-3 record overall, including a 4-0 record at welterweight, the weight this fight will be contested at. Both fighters will most likely stand in there and trade shots, with Burns eventually looking to get it to the mat, as he will want to avoid the power shots Woodley is known for. Burns, although with improved striking, is typically very active with the grappling, though will have some issues as Woodley is one of the best at defending takedowns with a 92% defense success rate. This will come into play.

I expect Burns to be the busier fighter, or at least attempting to be, until Woodley lands the right. Both guys have great cardio, but with the pace we will see, and the fact that Burns has never been scheduled for a five-round fight, Woodley should weather the early storm and eventually take over, showing his experience in these main event spots.

In somewhat of a rarity for Woodley, he will be the bigger fighter in there, and have a three-inch reach advantage against Burns, who has the large majority of his fights at lightweight. Couple this with the power and speed advantage, Woodley will get off more on the feet and eventually catch Burns, causing some frustrations and a scrambled game plan against the former champ.

The X-factor will absolutely be where Woodley is mentally. We know Burns is motivated to knock off yet another big name, but is Woodley dialed in here? With no new rap songs lately, and that trip to Thailand along with these extra months extended onto his training camp with the cancelled Edwards fight, I believe he absolutely is. I would even go as far as saying with five rounds to work with and that smaller cage, I wouldn’t count out a KO/TKO finish.

PREDICTION: TYRON WOODLEY -160

A couple other quick takes:

Dern is looking to get home to see her daughter with no cuts or bruises with a quick submission of Hannah Cifers. But can she?

  • Mackenzie Dern looks to get back on track after suffering her first defeat, just four months after giving birth last June. She had no excuses, she was ready, but just wasn’t the better fighter that night. All things considered, she looked great with the quick turnaround, but just came up short against prospect Amanda Ribas. Now she faces the gritty Hannah Cifers in a grappler vs. striker matchup. Dern, one of, if not the best female submission fighters on the planet, is matched up with one of the division's smallest fighters. Cifers is tough, and packs a punch, but she will have to do everything she can to keep this standing. The second this gets to the mat, it’s trouble for Cifers. Factor the smaller cage in the mix, there will be a point where Dern corners Cifers, presses the cage and gets it to the ground. The only play here is Dern via submission at -110 or pass. Seems too easy, which causes some concern, but I like the line. PREDICTION: MACKENZIE DERN VIA SUB -110 

Chookagian looks to rebound after loss to Shevchenko with a win versus her sister.

  • Antonina Shevchenko will unfortunately always be in her sister’s shadow, but has a chance here to knock off the former title contender Katlyn Chookagian. Shevchenko looked amazing in her last outing, submitting Lucie Pudilova out of nowhere. This fight got her back on track after dropping a split decision to Roxanne Modafferi, which was her first MMA loss of her career. Prior to MMA, Shevchenko held an outstanding 39-1 Kickboxing and Muay Thai record, so she’s more than game to take on the striker Chookagian. If we can make it through the grunts and chirps after every punch from these two with no crowd in attendance, expect a Shevchenko via decision +105 ticket to cash. PREDICTION: ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO -130 AND/OR (BY DEC +105) 

UFC vet Tim Elliott looks to avoid three straight losses, and welcomes the live dog Brandon Royval up to the big leagues.

  • Brandon Royval, the current flyweight champ in LFA, gets a shot in the UFC, but against well known vet Tim Elliott. This is a potential dog spot on the card, as Royval is pretty aggressive and has a well-rounded game with the exception of his takedown defense. If he can either avoid, or reverse, against Elliott he should be the fighter pushing the pace in there. If it stays standing, Elliott will eat some shots, but you’d have to think he’s going to do everything he can strategically to win rounds in there, as his back is against the wall after dropping his last two fights. This could be a spot where the UFC introduces us to a new up and comer against a fighter on their way out. Elliott is also 1-5 against southpaws, which doesn’t help his case here. Give me the dog. PREDICTION: BRANDON ROYVAL +150

QUICK PREDICTIONS ON THE MATCHUPS:

TYRON WOODLEY defeats GILBERT BURNS

BLAGOY IVANOV defeats AUGUSTO SAKAI

BILLY QUARANTILLO defeats SPIKE CARLYLE

ROOSEVELT ROBERTS defeats BROK WEAVER

MACKENZIE DERN defeats HANNAH CIFERS

ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO defeats KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN

DANIEL RODRIGUEZ defeats GABRIELD GREEN

JAMAHAL HILL defeats KLIDSON ABREU

BRANDON ROYVAL defeats TIM ELLIOTT

CASEY KENNEY defeats LOUIS SMOLKA

CHRIS GUTIERREZ defeats VINCE MORALES

***

Last event prediction recap: 7-4

Fight card predictions overall: 159-86-6 (65%)

Targeted matchups (wagers): 59-22-2 (73%) [Avg. odds -107]

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