UFC Fight Night 233 Prime Picks: Song vs. Gutierrez

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is shipping an event from Shanghai, China, back to Las Vegas on short notice. This change has led to a lot of restructuring.

Expectations for this fight card are not high. The betting lines are all over the place, and only one bout sees a favorite any closer than -150. However, a few heavy underdogs might be flying under the radar.

Chris Gutierrez (+290) is one of those underdogs. Yadong Song should not be a -375 favorite against almost any bantamweight in the UFC, Gutierrez included. This line seems way off.

This isn’t to detract from Song’s skills or abilities. Momentum is on his side, with a main event drubbing of Ricky Simon bouncing him out of the loss column. Gutierrez last won on the scorecards against Heili Alateng in a prelim-buried outing.

Song is the younger man, having turned 26 a few weeks ago. He still maintains the young prospect sheen despite years of training at Team Alpha Male. Despite these listed advantages, Gutierrez is an extremely live underdog. He’s a more accurate striker with disabling power that can give Song problems.

When it comes to the numbers, Gutierrez is a more active striker with greater precision than his opponent. Much of Song’s striking offense is to throw it out there and see if it sticks, while Gutierrez picks his shots and strings them together extremely well.

A land rate of 15% higher than his opponent is nothing to sneeze at. What may be more important is that Gutierrez defends against 65% of the strikes aimed his way. This is also a decent margin above Song’s 59%.

While Song may be slightly more successful in getting the fight to the ground, he has not used takedowns to secure a win since he controlled Vince Morales at the tail end of their 2018 bout. Equal 45% knockout rates match one another, and they are two apart in terms of total knockdowns in the Octagon thus far.

The fighter from China may have the edge in the level of competition, but it is not a vast one. Leg kicks will be the name of the game in this 135-pound contest. Gutierrez loves to spam them—for example, he thrashed Cody Durden’s lead wheel in minutes—and he does so with great success and leaves few openings for counters.

In the last few years, his blemish came against Pedro Munhoz when he seemed to get stuck taking the heavier shots while trying to go strike-for-strike with “The Young Punisher.” Playing this game against Song may not end with him getting his chin checked, but it would play to his disadvantages.

Keeping a consistently high work rate, forcing Song to fight off his back foot and chewing up the lead leg are all strategies that Gutierrez excels at normally. Getting into a brawl will not work to his advantage, as he will need to get in and get out with a few quick strikes before absorbing powerful responses.

The favorite has five-round experience, and while this will be uncharted territory for “El Guapo,” he can make that null and void by hampering Song’s ability to sit down on strikes.

Anthony Smith (+190) is another one to watch. Smith may be 35 years of age, but in terms of fight mileage and damage sustained, he is going on 60. He has been finished more times (14) than his opponent Khalil Rountree holds in wins (12), and some recent defeats have been especially brutal.

Few who watched it live will be able to shake the memory of Glover Teixeira apologizing to Smith while bludgeoning him so badly that Smith’s teeth fell out. This catches up to fighters, and they can only take so many beatings before durability and recoverability fade completely.

It is entirely possible that Rountree could kick Smith’s legs out, blast the body and lay him out with a huge left hand. However, Smith should still be able to weather the worst of the early storm, put Rountree on his back and put him away. As a bonus, Smith winning inside the distance is +215.

While Smith has plenty of red on his ledger, it has been over a decade since anyone stopped him in Round 1—a kneebar from Antonio Braga Neto the last, while Adlan Amagov’s fists did the job at welterweight in 2011. As he moved up in weight, Smith did not shy away from action and intensity and sometimes left his fight IQ in his back pocket when preferring to bang it out instead of using his underheralded jiu-jitsu chops.

If going toe-to-toe against the younger powerhouse, Smith will likely lose, and it could get ugly. However, fighters with multiple ways to prevail in a match cannot be overlooked. Smith’s offensive wrestling is not top-notch, and Rountree has stifled all four takedowns attempted against him on his current win streak.

Smith is many steps above the likes of Dustin Jacoby when mixing the martial arts, and he presents the kind of danger where he might only need to ground Rountree once to get things done. If you wish to bet on this fight but do not want to take this risk, dive after the under 2.5 rounds at -275.

The Nasrat Haqparast-Jamie Mullarkey fight is expected to go the distance (-210). The knockout rates being around 60% for both lightweights overstates their power and ability to finish fights under the brightest lights.

In 11 trips to the Octagon, Haqparast has performed just one stoppage via strikes, while Mullarkey’s two (in nine UFC fights) come over men that have long since washed out of the promotion—and those two in Khama Worthy and Devonte Smith share a combined 12 knockout losses, to boot.

On the feet is where this affair will likely play out, and it might have a few moments and shifts in momentum before it is all settled. Haqparast coming in as roughly a -210 favorite is not out of line, given his propensity to let his hands go and his decent defensive prowess, but it does not mean he will get the job done inside the distance.

It might be at the outer edge of value, but at -210, the matchup reaching the final horn is one to pursue. The last six appearances for Haqparast have all been 15-minute affairs, and three of four for Mullarkey have gone to a decision, as well.

If there is a question of this option holding together, it might rest on the chin of the Aussie. Drew Dober popped Haqparast in a wild one a few years ago, but several opponents have put Mullarkey away with their fists or elbows.

If one expects the Tristar Gym fighter to pull off that kind of win, the alternate line of Haqparast winning by TKO/KO is around +275. Both fighters can mix in takedowns at opportune times, and when they do, it is more about control than seeking out fight-halting ground-and-pound.

The taller and longer Mullarkey may take some of the sting out of his foe’s punches by keeping his range and watching out for the left hands rifling at his face. It could end up as a contender for “Fight of the Night” due to the potential for back-and-forth action, as chins get checked but payment is not rendered.

The Jun Yong Park-Andre Muniz fight is expected to last under 2.5 rounds (-165). Even as recent as this past summer, Muniz would have likely come in as the rightful betting favorite against “The Iron Turtle.” Instead, the submission-savvy Brazilian is hovering around +150 odds, reflecting his recent performances while acknowledging Park’s successes of late.

Muniz crashed through competition and strung together several highlights before running into foes that did not topple over and succumb to armbars. This middleweight collision has all the makings of one that does not hear the final bell, but it could turn into a chess match that reaches the third round.

The fight lasting under 2.5 rounds is perhaps a better choice than predicting if Muniz’s frontrunner status has reached its limit or if Park will leave a limb out for the taking, as one man will likely get a stoppage before it is over.

Park appears to have developed his grappling by leaps and bounds before our eyes, as once-nullifying takedowns have transformed into those seeking finishes. Capable of turning things around quickly, the South Korean has been capitalizing on mistakes, just like Muniz did in 2021.

Additionally, Park will maintain the edge on the feet, throwing significantly higher volume and not fearing pushing things into the later rounds. Lately, if the Brazilian has not been able to snatch up a submission, he seems to struggle for answers instead of switching to Plan B.

Any lapses on the feet for “Sergipano” will be costly ones, and Muniz may find that welcoming takedowns in hopes of resting on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu laurels will result in fists and elbows launched at his dome.

Muniz is still quite capable of lightning-quick subs and has power in his hands even when he overcommits. One way or another, the referee should be involved, while the judges may not have to turn in final tallies.

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