UFC Vegas 82: Allen vs. Craig Main Event Preview
UFC VEGAS 82: ALLEN VS. CRAIG MAIN EVENT PREVIEW – With Sean Strickland now ruling the middleweight division, there are a lot of new opportunities without Adesanya at the top. Adesanya had run through the division a couple times and left few challengers, but Strickland’s upset victory opens the door for new contenders to arise. This weekend’s middleweight showcase gives us a glimpse of two fighters who could soon find themselves in title contention.
Brendan Allen looks for his sixth-straight victory while adding to the seven finishes he already has with the promotion.
Paul Craig hopes 185lbs is the weight class for him as he sets his sights on a second win at this division.
Will the streaking 27-year-old youngster get the job done? Or will the ‘Bearjew’ pull off another upset victory? Read on to see how these submission specialists size up and if there is a way to profit from it.
After earning his spot on the roster by strangling a current top Bellator contender on the Contender Series back in 2019, Allen made some noise quickly by defeating his first three UFC opponents. Those names included the likes of Kevin Holland, Tom Breese, and Kyle Daukaus. That’s when he ran into Sean Strickland and got finished in the second round, a fight in which he was still only 24 years old.
He ended up going 7-1 after that fight with his lone defeat in that stretch coming to Chris Curtis.
The downfall of Allen in those losses was due to his lack of confidence in his striking. However, it seems like he has worked diligently on that aspect of his game ,as it has helped him during this five-fight winning streak. We know his nasty submission game will always be there, but tailoring his striking game to make the submission game come easier will be key for him as he rises through the ranks.
We saw in his fight with Bruno Silva last time that his takedown attempts were futile, but he managed to land a knockdown that opened his chance to take the back and get the submission. Performances like that will continue to increase his confidence, especially against more strikers who should have the advantage over him in that realm. Allen is still entering his prime and considering the amount of high-level experience he already has, he could end up having a Charles Oliveira-type turnaround in his career.
Probably the biggest wild card in the UFC, Craig can go from getting whooped on for an entire fight to pulling off a last-second submission to get his hand raised. The Ankalaev fight that I’m alluding to was during his initial 3-4 run with the UFC from 2016-2019. He was either pulling off submissions or getting battered in the striking realm.
After his loss to Menifield, he went on a 5-0-1 run, which included a submission victory over former champion, Jamahal Hill. That set him up for a big fight against Volkan Oezdemir last year, but he fell short after being unable to get the fight into his realm. That was followed by another loss, but this time by finish against a big, tough Johnny Walker.
At 35 years of age, Craig has decided middleweight will be where he ends his career as he hopes to get close to title contention. He was successful in his debut at the weight class after getting brutalized in the first round. Craig was lucky his opponent gassed out and he was able to muster up a finish, but the wild card nature of Craig was on full display.
He is so dangerous with his submission game, setting traps and springing them on his opponents. However, if he can’t get his submission game going, he struggles tremendously in almost every other aspect of MMA. Nearly a sitting duck in the striking realm, desperation takedowns often end up fruitless, leaving him vulnerable to be countered and beaten on.
Allen coming in as a massive favorite makes all the sense in the world. He has a good enough wrestling game to keep this fight upright if he chooses, but also has a good enough submission game to be competitive on the mat. It would stun me if he tried out-grappling Craig unless he hurts him on the feet first.
I expect Allen to do absolute work on the feet where he can pick apart Craig with his big shots and kicking game from distance. I suspect this will lead to a (T)KO finish for Allen as I see him hurting and finishing Craig within the first two rounds. The total of 1.5 gives me some pause here, so I think I’ll just stick with taking the Allen by KO prop to try and get the best bang for my buck.
Don’t hesitate to throw Allen in a parlay if you’re looking for a better line on something else either.