UFC MEXICO CITY PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS 9/21: Grocke’s updated odds & predictions for every fight

Michael Grocke MMATorch fight handicapper


The UFC travels south of the border to the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico. The main event takes place in the featherweight division where Yair Rodriguez takes on Jeremy Stephens. The co-main takes place in the women’s strawweight division where Alexa Grasso takes on Carla Esparza.                       

Also, on the main card Brandon Moreno takes on Askar Askarov, Vanessa Melo faces off against Irene Aldana, and Martin Bravo vs. Steven Peterson.

UFC Mexico City Broadcast Information

The prelims will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 4:00 PM (CST) with the main card starting at 7:00 PM (CST) also on ESPN+.

Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.

UFC Mexico City Main Card

Yair Rodriguez (11-2) vs. Jeremy Stephens (28-16) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Stephens -130; Rodriguez +100

Yair Rodriguez bounced back after getting dismantled by Frankie Edgar at UFC 211 by finishing the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung at UFC Fight Night 139 with one second left in the fight. It was a fight the Korean Zombie would have won handily had he not gotten caught with the craziest up-elbow you’ll ever see.

Jeremy Stephens enters his fight against Rodriguez looking to halt a two-fight skid. Stephens has fought a who’s who in the division so there isn’t anything Yair can throw at him that he hasn’t seen before.

Stephens is a physical fighter with a ton of power. I expect both fighters to be content with standing and trading. Nineteen of Stephens’ twenty-eight career wins are via knockout. I look for Yair to try and push the pace and out-volume Stephens on the feet, while Stephens will look to load up and search for the knockout.

If you’re backing Yair I’d be worried about how much punishment he’s taken over his last two fights. While I think he’s taken the right amount of time off, his chin could be a question mark in this fight.

Pick: Rodriguez by decision.

Carla Esparza (14-6) vs. Alexa Grasso (11-2) – Strawweight 115 lbs.

Current Odds: Grasso -135; Esparza +105

This is your classic wrestler vs. striker match-up. Esparza will be looking for the takedown early and often. After losing two in a row, Carla Esparza got back in the win column by defeating Virna Jandiroba via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 150. Her striking has improved, but she’s not looking to engage in a striking battle.

Alexa Grasso on the other hand is an excellent striker. However, she doesn’t have the best takedown defense which could play a big role in this fight. Her most recent fight occurred at UFC 238 where she looked the best she ever has in defeating Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Her striking was crisp, and she used her jab better than ever.

If you’re backing Grasso here, you should be worried about Esparza taking Grasso to the mat and holding her there for extended periods of time throughout the fight. Grasso must be able to defend the takedown in order to keep the fight standing. Esparza doesn’t wear damage well, so if you’re backing her the damage could be a factor in judge’s eyes.

I think Grasso will be able to do enough damage on the feet leading to a victory via decision. Maybe even a split decision.

Pick: Grasso by decision.

Brandon Moreno (15-5) vs. Askar Askarov (10-0) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Askarov -160; Moreno +130

Brandon Moreno lost back-to-back fights to Sergio Pettis at UFC Fight Night 114 and then to Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Fight Night 129. His most recent fight then took place under the LFA banner where he defeated Maikel Perez via TKO at LFA 69. Of his fifteen career wins, twelve ended inside the distance; ten of those via submission.

Askar Askarov is undefeated and will make be making his UFC debut when he steps into the octagon to face Moreno. All ten of the Russian’s wins ended inside the distance; seven of those wins are via submission.

This one should make for a fun grappling match. Both fighters are excellent on the ground with deadly submission games. I like Moreno’s striking better than Askarov’s. Askarov is also very hittable. It probably won’t happen, but if Moreno was smart, he’d make Askarov stand and trade with him.

I lean slightly to Moreno in this one. Askarov is making his promotional debut and I’m not sure how that and the altitude will affect him. So, not knowing how Askarov will respond to those two variables, my official pick is Brandon Moreno.

Pick: Moreno by submission.

Vanessa Melo (9-5) vs. Irene Aldana (10-5) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Aldana -720; Melo +495

Vanessa Melo steps in on short notice and makes her UFC debut against Irene Aldana. This is a tall order for Melo. Aldana was on a three-fight win streak until losing to Raquel Pennington via split decision in her most recent fight at UFC on ESPN 4. Eight of Aldana’s ten career victories ended inside the distance. The odds are too wide for my liking, but Aldana should roll here.

Pick: Aldana by decision.

Martin Bravo (11-2) vs. Steven Peterson (17-9) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Peterson -115; Bravo -115

Steven Peterson is 0-2 in his last two fights and 1-4 in the UFC. His most recent loss occurred at UFC on ESPN 4 where he lost a unanimous decision to Alex Caceres. Twelve of his seventeen career victories ended inside the distance; eight of those wins are via submission.

Martin Bravo is also 0-2 in his last two fights. Like Peterson, Bravo’s most recent loss was to Alex Caceres via split decision at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale. He’s also a finisher, like Peterson. Nine of his eleven wins ended inside the distance.

Neither fighter is very impressive. They both defend the takedown well and have slick submissions. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this fight take place primarily on the feet. If it does, then I slightly favor Bravo. He has better striking defense and I like his pace. I think he should be able to out-volume Peterson on the feet and get the decision. I expect this to be a very close fight so I will be passing on it from a betting perspective.   

Pick: Bravo by decision.

UFC Mexico City Prelims

Jose Quinonez (7-3) vs. Carlos Huachin (10-4-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Quinonez -145; Huachin +115

Jose Quinonez was on four-fight win streak until he lost his most recent fight to Nathaniel Wood at UFC Fight Night 147. He prefers to work in space, and he mixes up his offense well. He has a solid gas tank and isn’t afraid to take the fight to the ground which is good because that’s where I think he has the advantage in this fight.

Carlos Huachin lost his UFC debut to Raoni Barcelos at UFC 237 via TKO. He has excellent striking and uses his kicks well. Eight of his ten career wins are via knockout. He doesn’t have the ground skills that Quinonez has, so he has to be able to stuff the takedown and keep the fight standing. If he can keep it standing, then I think he’ll be able to piece Quinonez up.

This should be a competitive fight and it comes down to whomever can work their game plan better. I think Quinonez will have the better cardio and should be able to out-work Huachin. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Huachin knock Quinonez out.

Pick: Quinonez by decision.

Marco Polo Reyes (8-6) vs. Kyle Nelson (12-3) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Nelson -135; Reyes +105

This is Kyle Nelson’s third fight in the promotion. He is currently 0-2 under the UFC umbrella. His most recent loss occurred at UFC Fight Night 151 where he lost to Matt Sayles via third round submission. Nelson is a well-rounded fighter. Of his twelve career victories, four are via TKO or knockout to go along with four via submission.

Marco Polo Reyes is also on a two-fight skid. His most recent fight was at UFC on ESPN 3 where Drew Dober finished him in the first round. Reyes has lost three out of his previous four and got stopped in all three losses. In fact, he’s been finished in all six of his career losses. He’s taken a lot of damage and the loss to Dober was only three months ago.

Reyes does have knockout power, but I think Nelson is better both on the feet and especially on the ground. Reyes’ power gives him a chance here, but I think Nelson will find the depleted chin of Marco Polo Reyes and turn his lights out.

Pick: Nelson by (T)KO.

Ariane Carnelossi (12-1) vs. Angela Hill (9-7) – Strawweight 115 lbs.

Current Odds: Hill -155; Carnelossi +125

Angela Hill is 1-3 in her previous four fights. Her most recent bout was at UFC 238 where she lost to Xiaonan Yan via unanimous decision. Hill’s record doesn’t impress, but she’s fought the best the division has to offer. She’s a decent striker but doesn’t have much power behind her strikes. Six of her nine career victories went the distance. She’s a good athlete and tough as hell.

Ariane Carnelossi will be making her UFC debut when she steps into the cage opposite Hill. She will be the stronger, more physical fighter. I expect her to try and keep the fight standing where she can dirty the fight up.

Hill is the more well-rounded fighter. She’s going to want to use her superior wrestling and get Carnelossi to the ground as quickly as possible where she should be able to control the fight. However, if Carnelossi keeps the fight standing then I give her a good chance at beating Hill.

Pick: Hill by decision.

Sergio Pettis (17-5) vs. Tyson Nam (18-9-1) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Pettis -340; Nam +265

After beating Joe Benevidez at UFC 225, Sergio Pettis has lost his last two fights. His most recent loss occurred at UFC on FOX 31 where he dropped a unanimous decision to Rob Font. Pettis is fast and moves really well on his feet. Eleven of his seventeen wins have gone to the judge’s scorecards so there’s a good chance this one does as well.

Tyson Nam will be making his UFC debut. He comes into his fight against Pettis riding a two-fight win streak. Nam does have power in his hands, but this is going to be a big step-up in level of competition. I give Nam a punchers chance due to his power, but I think Pettis is going to be too much for him here.

Pick: Pettis by decision.

Vinicius Moreira (9-3) vs. Paul Craig (11-4) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

Current Odds: Craig -115; Moreira -115

Moreira is on a two-fight losing streak coming into his fight against Paul Craig. He lost to Alonzo Menifield at UFC Fight Night 143 and Eryk Anders at UFC on ESPN 3. Both losses were via first round knockouts. Moreira either finishes his opponent or gets finished. All twelve of his pro fights have ended inside the distance. He has a strong ground and submission game as his eight wins via submission reflect.

Paul Craig lost to Alonzo Menifield in his most recent fight. Like Moreira, Menifield knocked out Craig in the first round too. This should be a competitive fight as the narrow odds reflect. Both fighters prefer to take their opponents to the ground. Ten of Craig’s eleven career victories are via submission. The two fighters have combined for eighteen wins by submission in twenty victories.

I think Craig will have the advantage on the feet. If he can refrain from going to the ground with Moreira and keep the fight standing, I think he will piece Moreira up. However, I can’t trust the fight IQ of Paul Craig. Therefore, this fight is a hard pass for me from a betting perspective.

Pick: Moreira by submission.

Sijara Eubanks (4-3) vs. Bethe Correia (10-4-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Eubanks -275; Correia +215

Sijara Eubanks was on a two-fight winning streak until losing to Aspen Ladd via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 152. Eubanks lost the fight, but she showed well and gave Ladd all she can handle. She’s physically strong with a lot of power. She’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who can and will take her opponents to the ground.

Bethe Correia enters the fight on a two-fight skid. Her most recent loss was at UFC 237 where she got subbed in the third round by Irene Aldana. Prior to that she got finished by Holly Holm at UFC Fight Night 111. Those losses aside, Correia is as tough as they come, but she’s slow and hittable. She slows down even more the longer the fight goes on, as does her offensive out-put.

Eubanks is better than Bethe both on the feet and on the ground. I don’t see a clear path of victory for Bethe here.

Pick: Eubanks by (T)KO.

Claudio Puelles (8-2) vs. Marcos Mariano (6-5) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: Puelles -350; Mariano +275

I don’t find Puelles to be the most technical striker, but I like the way he mixes up his offense. He lost his UFC debut to Martin Bravo, but he came back with a victory in his most recent fight over Felipe Silva. He has seven finishes in his eight career wins, five via submission.

Marcos Mariano lost his UFC debut to Lando Vannata, which in all honesty is a tough way to debut, the UFC didn’t do him any favors there. That said, Mariano isn’t UFC caliber. He’s struggled on the regional circuit as well, and I don’t see him getting his first UFC win here either. He’s been submitted in three of his five losses; I think number four comes here against Puelles.

Generally, I don’t usually like to bet fighters closing in on -400, but I think it might be warranted here. I might consider using Puelles in a parlay instead though.

Pick: Puelles by submission.

Enjoy the fights!

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