We have another round of fights going down at the Apex on Saturday night. It’s an underwhelming card overall, but it’s just enough to keep bettors engaged while the anticipation builds for another stacked pay-per-view card May 6. UFC Vegas 72 features an intriguing main event between two top-10 bantamweight contenders. No. 8 Song Yadong (8-2-1 UFC), who saw his three-fight winning streak snapped by Corey Sandhagen in September, faces No. 10 Ricky Simón.
Simón (8-2 UFC) has defeated his last five opponents and most recently outclassed Jack Shore en route to a second-round submission victory. Simón adding a win over a fighter of Song’s caliber will be a big jump and make a strong case for a top-five opponent for his next fight. Simón is currently the betting favorite (-120) at BetMGM, while Song is priced at even money. As the betting lines indicate, you are in a sweat regardless of what side you are on. Let’s break down both well-rounded fighters and see whom we should put our money behind.
Ricky Simón (-120) vs. Song Yadong (+100)
Some may categorize this as grappler vs. striker, but I see it more as pressure meets power. Simón will certainly shoot for takedowns, hoping to plant Song on his back early and often. It’s a legitimate path to victory, and if successful, can make a real impact in the later rounds. It’s Simón's first five-round dance in the UFC, and Song’s ability to withstand Simón's shots will be a key factor in the outcome. Simón is much more than a grappler, recording knockdowns with his striking in each of his last two fights. Most recently, it’s Simón's right hand that dropped Shore before softening him up with some ground and pound, then locking in an arm triangle.
Simón has matured as a fighter and modified his all-gas, no-brakes approach. His ability to mix in his striking and grappling to keep Song off-balance will be critical, as exchanging power shots with Song plays right into his opponent’s greatest strength. Song is one of the hardest hitters in the bantamweight division and will capitalize if Simón gets sloppy and reckless. Prior to his loss to Sandhagen, Song finished his previous two opponents via strikes, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Simón becomes his next victim. In fact, I’m betting on it.
While some are looking at Song’s tough loss to Sandhagen as a negative, my view is the opposite. Gauging how a fighter responds to being knocked out is tough, but Song gained a world of valuable experience battling in the Octagon with one of the division's best fighters. Sandhangen’s footwork and movement is a pretty big challenge, and Song was able to crack him a flush a few times. His grappling looked improved, and while it’s unlikely he will be able to stop Simón's takedowns, I’m comfortable he can get back to his feet. In a five-round fight, there are going to be enough opportunities for Song to land big shots. It shouldn’t be difficult to find openings and solve Simón's striking defense after facing Sandhagen. I am more confident in Song's response to Simón's wrestling than I am of Simón holding up if Song is unleashing power combinations and digging into the body. Simón's win over Shore was impressive, but this is a giant step up in competition compared to his previous five wins.
Simón is a tough customer, but I expect him to fold in the later rounds once the damage starts to accumulate. He will secure takedowns early, but Song should be able to avoid getting controlled for multiple minutes. In the later rounds, the damage will start to wear on Simón, reducing the effectiveness of his wrestling. Betting Song at even money is a solid bet, but it makes sense to complement your money line wager with an inside the distance (KO/TKO/DQ or Submission) bet at +150. The bet: Song Yadong +100