UFC: UFC Fight Night 238: Shamil Gaziev favored in headliner

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UFC Fight Night 238 will take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday, with the main draw highlighted by a heavyweight contender fight between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Shamil Gaziev.

Rozenstruik (13-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC) faces a key test in his effort to stay among the contenders, with “Bigi Boy” having lost three of his past five fights. The 35-year-old former kickboxer has scored quick wins over the likes of Chris Daukaus and Andrei Arlovski, while suffering a loss to Curtis Blaydes at UFC266.

He has more experience against elite competition than Gaziev (12-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), whose undefeated record has been built against lower-level competition. The 34-year-old is still a wildcard ahead of this headliner.

“Some people understand, real fans, that it’s a good thing for our division to have new blood,” Gaziev said at media day. “My advice is to be happy there is a new fighter coming and making a big statement. As you saw in my UFC debut, just watch it and enjoy.

“I want to fight (for the title) as soon as possible. Big fights will get me to the UFC gold. If UFC will tell me to do another 10 fights to reach that, I’m ready to do (those) fights also.”

Gaziev is the -185 favorite at BetMGM, where his odds have shortened since opening at -125. Despite Rozenstruik’s (+150) significant edge in big-fight experience, Gaziev has attracted 63 percent of the fight tickets and 63 percent of the money.

“He has a perfect record. You’ve got to give him his props. You’ve got to take him serious,” Rozenstruik said. “12-0. It’s not that he’s doing nothing. So this weekend, he’s going to get a test.

“I’m very happy the UFC see the main event caliber in me. It’s definitely a big opportunity. I can’t wait to go in there this Saturday and do my thing. I definitely think they see me as a guy you can put there and get the job done. So I’m happy they recognize that. Now the day’s almost there for me to do my part.”

Other Main Card Fights:
–Stephen Erceg (11-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) vs. Schnell (16-7 MMA, 6-5 UFC): Erceg has won his past five fights and the 14th-ranked flyweight enters as the -450 favorite, having drawn 79 percent of the money. However, Schnell has drawn 64 percent of the total bets.

–Bekzat Almakhan (17-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Umar Nurmagomedov (16-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC): Nurmagomedov is by far and away the biggest favorite on the card. At -1400 entering the bantamweight fight, the undefeated fighter has drawn just 38 percent of the total bets but has been backed by 89 percent of the money.

–Muhammad Mokaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) vs. Alex Perez (24-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC): This is an intriguing fight with Mokaev entering at No. 7 in the flyweight rankings while Perez is No. 15 despite dropping two of his past five fights. Mokaev is a significant favorite, drawing 92 percent of the money while his odds have shifted from -275 to -375.

–Tyson Pedro (10-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) vs. Vitor Petrino (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC): This is a battle between unranked fighters, with Pedro still toiling away eight years into his UFC career. The undefeated Petrino came from the “Contender Series” and is the -300 favorite, although the money has almost been split. Pedro has been backed by 47 percent of the handle and 62 percent of the total bets ahead of the light heavyweight fight.

–Field Level Media

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