Best bets for UFC Fight Night: Cub Swanson vs. Giga Chikadze


It's hard to follow such a buzzworthy event as UFC 261, and the card this weekend might seem like a letdown in terms of star power. But longtime MMA fans have come to learn that sometimes the cards that fly under the radar end up providing plenty of excitement. At a minimum, the six-fight main card is at least likely to last longer than 21 minutes of fight time, which would be longer than the entire main card of UFC 261, despite it featuring three five-round title fights.

However, unlike nearly every UFC main event, this week we'll see a relative newcomer making the main event walk. Former UFC light heavyweight title contender Dominick Reyes will face former Rizin champion Jiri Prochazka. Unfortunately for us, this is just Prochazka's second UFC appearance. In his UFC debut, he took less than six minutes to knock out Volkan Oezdemir last July. And that's hardly enough data to draw meaningful conclusions in a fresh matchup against top talent. Even if we're not betting that one, we're sure to be watching because fireworks are likely.

Thankfully, there are plenty of established fighters elsewhere on the card, and that's where we see some value.

Prelims start at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+ and the main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+.

Odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

Featherweights: Giga Chikadze (-165) vs. Cub Swanson (+140)

Tale Of The Tape

Last fight weight class Featherweight Featherweight
Age 37 32
Height 68 72
Reach 70 74
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Analyzed minutes 331 64
Stand-up striking offense
Total knockdown ratio (scored:received) 8:2 3:0
Distance knockdown rate 1.5% 3.5%
Head jab accuracy 34% 30%
Head power accuracy 41% 29%
Total stand-up strike ratio 1.0 1.1
Striking defense
Total head strike defense 72% 74%
Distance knockdown defense ("Chin") 99% 100%
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts per min standing/clinch 0.19 0.09
Takedown accuracy 51% 40%
Advances per takedown/top control 0.8 0.3
Opponent takedown attempts 119 20
Takedown defense 61% 75%
Share of total ground time in control 35% 29%
Submission attempts per trip to ground 0.14 0.00
The co-main event features long-time WEC/UFC veteran Swanson, who is attempting to put together a solid win streak after a string of losses to top division talent. Swanson has fought 28 times under the Zuffa banners, picking up a dozen fight night bonuses along the way. But now at 37 years old, his style of high-paced barn burners might start to work against him if he's not careful. He has taken 1,083 strikes to the head in UFC competition, three times the nearest other fighter on the card.

That could be a problem against a younger and rangier opponent in Chikadze. The relative newcomer is an experienced kickboxer and one of the rangier featherweights on the roster. At 6 feet, in the UFC, it must be qualified that this is a big step up in quality of competition for Chikadze. But if Swanson welcomes a striking duel, Chikadze will be willing to oblige.

While standing, Chikadze has been much more effective at scoring knockdowns on a per-strike basis. And that's a real risk for a weathered veteran like Swanson. Despite having far more UFC and five-round experience, the matchup is a dangerous one for Swanson if he gets too aggressive.

Chikadze might welcome Swanson's eager striker pace as an opening for powerful counters, given that Chikadze uses a disproportionately heavy mix of power head strikes in his standup routine. And, in a three-round fight, Swanson's seemingly endless cardio will have less of a chance to outshine in later rounds.

E+ recommends: Money line lean on a Chikadze.

Best bets elsewhere on the card

Another striker who welcomes a standup firefight is middleweight Sean Strickland. He'll take on another established veteran in Krzsztof Jotko, who might prefer to get the fight to the ground to utilize a solid top control game.

Strickland clearly has most of the standup advantages. He has better strike accuracy and defense, more power and leverages a far faster pace while headhunting. He uses a low mix of body and leg kicks and a balanced ratio of jab and power head strikes. It's that excellent boxing that can win him rounds on the feet. The key will be whether or not he can keep it there.

Jotko will certainly be the more eager wrestler, and he has seen success once he gets it to the ground. But Strickland's takedown defense is a stout 82%, and he's no stranger to opponents looking for that out. Should he defend the early takedowns, he'll own the rounds and potentially put Jotko in danger.

E+ recommends: Money line play on a Strickland.

In the bantamweight division, it's a Sambo versus American Wrestling matchup, when Merab Dvalishvili faces Cody Stamann. The two closely-ranked fighters are looking to work their way up into the top 10 of the division. While both fighters tend to do well on the mat, the metrics for Dvalishvili are extremely aggressive and dominant. He'll string together numerous takedown attempts at a furious pace and spends over a minute and half of every round controlling opponents on the ground.

The risk is if he fails to get off the feet, as Stamman has the striking advantage. But, in a small cage, and a preference for using dominant clinch position while setting up takedowns, Dvalishvili could be a wet blanket on Stamman enough to win rounds, even if it's a lengthy and not fan-friendly matchup.

E+ recommends: Money line play on Dvalishvili. Look for an over 1.5 rounds for parlays, or take the over 2.5 rounds or goes to a decision prop.