Billy Goff (7-2, -155) vs. Shimon Smotritsky (8-1, +135)
Billy Goff is the second man to achieve simultaneous two-division champion status in CES, following his most recent win over Justin Sumter for the CES Middleweight Title this past April. He went 2-0 in Bellator, including a knockout win over Robson Gracie Jr.
Goff has been extremely active as a professional, competing in all nine of his pro fights within the last three years. His two CES title fights were only three weeks apart, as he took the middleweight title fight on short notice.
Smotritsky has an incredible amount of experience for a 21-year-old professional, with nine fights, eight wins, and four finishes already under his belt. He took his first pro fight at sixteen-years-old, and his only pro loss was in his first appearance on the Contender Series against a high-level opponent in Mike Malott.
Smotritsky also has Bellator experience, also going 2-0 including a knockout of Ilya Gladkiy. He is the taller and longer fighter in this matchup.
I think these two match up well and that this fight could actually go the distance. There’s always additional motivation to get an early finish on DWCS, but I believe Smotritsky and Goff will have trouble getting each other out of there. Smotritsky normally takes a systematic approach to the start of his fights, perhaps a testament to his level of experience at such a young age.
However, each of these fighters will be looking to move forward. If Smotritsky gets Goff on his back foot, its his fight to win. The same is true conversely, but Smotritsky’s lenth and footwork allow him to better work off the back foot while circling. That being said, he is better at cutting off the cage than Goff, and will likely be winning the majority of the battle for outside foot position.
Where this fight could draw out is in the grappling exchanges. Each of these fighters have shown strong grappling skills throughout their respective careers. I see Smotritsky as a more technically sound grappler with great fundamental freestyle wrestling skills, but Goff is physically stronger and comes from a folkstyle wrestling background.
Each fighter has also shown a propensity to chase takedowns when they feel they are absorbing damage. Damage dealt in this fight is not a question, but an eventuality. The forward-moving, aggressive style typically employed by each of these men is effective, but causes them to take some shots. When those shots land, this fight will go to the ground.
I don’t love the idea of picking a winner here, but I do lean for Smotritsky. Goff has been rocked by opponents with lesser striking skills than that of Smotritsky, but Smotritsky doesn’t have that level of power. Neither man really has the nuclear option here, which is part of why I’m so confident it will go to the ground. Once it gets there, we’re going to see some competitive and extended exchanges.
Alternate total over 1.5 rounds at -170 is the play here.
Waldo Cortes-Acosta (6-0, -435) vs. Danilo Suzart (9-1, +350)
We’ve got big boppers tonight as two men who combine for fifteen pro wins, ten finishes and over 500 lbs. will step into the UFC Apex Octagon and chuck some knucks for a shot at the big show.
Cortes-Acosta is undefeated at 6-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, but also has an extensive and decorated boxing background. He got the call for DWCS following his third-round knockout of Thomas Petersen to take the LFA Heavyweight Title.
Stylistically, Cortes-Acosta is purely a boxer. He doesn’t throw kicks, he doesn’t shoot takedowns, he throws hands. He has very good boxing fundamentals and hand speed. His takedown defense isn’t great, but he managed to get back to his feet multiple times against Petersen, who was a two-time Minnesota State Wrestling Champion. This was, in part, due to a severe difference in conditioning, which is typically an advantage for Cortes-Acosta
The issue is that Cortes-Acosta consistently gives his back to get to his feet. His opponent tonight isn’t exactly a submission artist, but he does have a win by rear naked choke, a choke which will be available if Cortes-Acosta continues with this habit. However, it’s likely that this fight never gets there. Cortes-Acosta is an absolute sniper from the outside, and is going to have a significant size and reach advantage over Suzart.
Suzart also carries a world title from a UFC Fight Pass-hosted promotion into this DWCS opportunity, following his majority decision win over Benjamin Šehić for the Ares FC Heavyweight Championship in February.
Suzart has serious punching power, but he throws everything he has into every shot. He tends to throw big winging hooks and overhands, and does a good job of throwing in combination, but is defensively vulnerable almost every time he enters the pocket.
Stylistically this matchup spells one result: Cortes-Acosta by knockout. He is simply the higher-class striker in a matchup that will feature two boxing specialists. He is taller, longer, faster, more accurate, more efficient and more defensively sound. I believe Cortes-Acosta will pick Suzart apart from the outside and catch him on the way in, until he is too damaged to continue.
Cortes-Acosta by KO/TKO/DQ is surprisingly affordable at -150, and is a confident play for me. Because I think this will be a knockout by attrition as opposed to one caused by a single shot, sprinkling a value play on Cortes-Acosta by KO/TKO in Round 2 at +450 seems like a great idea.
Francis Marshall (5-0, -135) vs. Connor Matthews (5-0, +115)
Tonight’s featherweights share plenty of similarities, none more outstanding than their mutual desire to earn a UFC contract. Both Marshall and Matthews sit at 5-0 with four wins by submission, and the submission of choice for each man is clearly the rear naked choke. All four of Marshall’s finishes have come via the RNC, while Matthews claims three successful RNC’s in MMA, plus a finish by neck crank.
Matthews is a product of Joe Lauzon, with a plethora of UFC and UFC-level training partners to work with. His experience speaks volumes during his fights, as he has never so much as had an uncomfortable moment in competition as a professional. He has spent a total of five minutes and twenty seconds in competition as a pro, finishing all five of his opponents before the midway mark of the first round.
He is a suffocating grappler with excellent chest pressure and excellent timing in his transitions. He does have impressive striking skills, and has rocked opponents prior to submitting them in his previous fights. It’s also certainly worth noting that he won his pro debut by knockout in seven seconds. His striking hasn’t been on display all that often as a pro, but what he has shown has been impressive.
Francis Marshall went 5-0 as an amateur in just over one year of competition before going professional and continuing his dominance. He is very physically strong for 145, and has a well-rounded skillset. He demonstrates a measured, methodical pace (despite his three first-round finishes) and has very good footwork and fundamental boxing.
When scouting Marshall’s past fights, you have to look deeper than the level of competition and try to picture how his skillset will match up against an opponent the caliber of Connor Matthews. Frankly, I don’t believe Marshall has faced that level of athlete in his MMA career.
He scored an impressive finish over an undefeated fighter in his pro debut, but his four most recent opponents have been 0-0, 3-2, 24-30 and 7-6. The 24-30 fighter was 40-year-old Rey Trujillo, who is 3-17 on the regional scene since competing in Bellator in 2016. Trujillo took Marshall to a decision in a rather competitive fight, given the age disparity.
These fighters are relatively evenly matched, but I like Matthews as a short underdog in this spot. He has looked more impressive against a higher level of competition than Marshall has, and he has a higher-level and more well-rounded skillset.
Shannon Ross (13-5, -280) vs. Vinicius Salvador (13-4, +220)
I’m not placing a wager on this fight due to lack of available film.
Charlie Campbell (5-1, -180) vs. Chris Duncan (8-1, +155)
Chris Duncan will be getting his second crack at Dana White’s Contender Series, while Charlie Campbell will be getting his first opportunity at a UFC contract tonight. Duncan’s only pro loss came in his first appearance, at the hands of Viacheslav Borshchev. Campbell’s came in the second fight of his career to Anthony Newton.
Since that loss, Campbell has gone 5-0 with four knockouts, and carries a three-fight knockout streak into this main event spot. He is a crisp, technical striker with a strong wrestling background. LAW MMA is loaded with studs around the middle divisions, giving Charlie top-level experience in the gym every day.
He is unpredictable in his movement and his attacks, utilizing excellent footwork and timing to set up varieties of combinations. He demonstrates an excellent striking vocabulary, and picks his opponents apart to all three levels equally. He is defensively sound, and is a difficult puzzle to solve in the striking realm.
Duncan scored his first seven career wins by finish, and hadn’t seen a third round until his most recent win, by unanimous decision, over Jonathan Carlos. He is primarily a striker but has a well-rounded skillset, and thrives when exchanging at close range. He is aggressive, which sometimes breaks up his timing and can cause him to miss big.
This is where I think this fight will be decided. Campbell’s speed and footwork are going to give him a significant advantage while standing. He will have an opportunity to work off of his back foot and counter-strike in this fight, and has the speed to lead the dance when necessary. I believe Campbell will be able to find his shots from the outside and pick Duncan apart. Campbell likely finishes this fight within the first two rounds. I locked in a wager on his moneyline at -145 on Monday night, and I’m playing Campbell by KO/TKO at +120 for value.