Inquirer handicapper previews Saturday night’s UFC card from Jacksonville. Preliminary bouts begin at 6 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN+. The main card is on ESPN+ pay-per-view for $64.99 at 10 p.m.

Las Vegas — Good to have something besides horses and Korean baseball to get down on, even if $65 is pretty steep. It’s not like we can invite the gang over and split the cost. Oh well, Mrs. Vic will just have to kick in half. My share will double as her Mother’s Day gift.

Just kidding. On to the picks.

In the main event, gonna take a little taste of Tony (El Cucuy) Ferguson and not just because we love his nickname. El Cucuy is the better fighter, and as long as his surgically repaired knee holds up, it’s all Tony, Tony, Tony. Also gonna toss a few chips on under 2.5 rounds.

Then we’re on Henry (The Messenger) Cejudo. Why? You already know that his opponent, Dominick (The Dominator) Cruz, has had no ring time in 3.5 years, but you probably don’t know that the Dominator’s body rejected the cadaver ACL that was initially used in his surgery, requiring a second surgery that put Cruz out for another year. Of course, you know the trend here. ALWAYS bet AGAINST anyone that has rejected a cadaver ACL.

Checking in on the ladies before we get to the best bet. It’s Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson and gotta drop a few pennies on Waterson. Why? She’s the better athlete and her nickname, ‘The Karate Hottie,’ has me intrigued.

And now for some sick thunder blows in the Francis (The Predator) Ngannou vs. Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik fight. As you’ve read, these guys BOMB! Seven of The Predator’s last nine fights ended in the first round, while seven of Bigi’s last 10 fights ended in the 1st round. And if you wanna see one of the most devastating punches ever thrown in the UFC, hit YouTube and check out Ngannou pulverizing Alistair Overeem. So, obviously, Under 1.5 rounds is gonna be my BEST BET BABY!

Enjoy the Octagon.

More analysis

Might as well start at the top with the main event, the interim lightweight championship match between Tony (El Cucuy) Ferguson and Justin (The Highlight) Gaethje. Ferguson is a medium sized favorite at -$180 (bet $180 to win back $100), with Gaethje the underdog at +$160 (bet $100 to win back $160).

Mrs. Vic loves it, so here's a little Tale of the Tape. Actually, after the Tale of the Tape, she leaves the room for the rest of the fight.

Ferguson is 36 years old from Oxnard, Cal., tips the scale at a buck 55, is 5-11 and has a 76.5-inch reach. His MMA record is 25-3, with 12 wins coming by KO, five by decision and eight by submission.

And if you’re interested in his nickname, El Cucuy, it translates to Mexican boogieman. We asked Alexa how you destroy El Cucuy, and she told me that the only way to destroy a Cucuy is to take an iron blade and pierce its brain. Pretty confident that both fighters will be checked for weapons before entering the Octagon, so it’ll have to be decided with just hands and feet.

Gaethje is 31 years old from Stafford, Ariz., tips the scale at a buck 55 as well, is also 5-11, and has a 70-inch reach. His MMA record is 21-2, with 18 wins coming by KO, two by decision and one by submission.

Which way do you turn? El Cucuy comes in with a gorgeous 12-fight winning streak but has not had a bout in almost a year (June 8, 2019). He is the master of the choke, winning seven matches with the D’Arce choke, the rear-naked choke and the triangle choke. Understand the rear-naked and the triangle, but have no idea what the D’Arce choke is? Alexa, plz. Sure Vic, here you go:

The D’Arce choke, or Brabo choke, is similar to the Anaconda choke. The difference is that the choking arm is threaded under the near arm, in front of the opponent’s neck, and on top of the far arm. The choke gets its name from Joe D’Arce, a third-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

The Highlight comes in with a tiny three match winning streak, and has not stepped into the Octagon since September, 14, 2019.

***

Next up is Henry (The Messenger) Cejudo vs. Dominick (The Dominator) Cruz. Cejudo is the favorite in this match at -$230 (bet $230 to win back $100), with Cruz the underdog at +$190 (bet $100 to win back $190).

Cejudo is 33 years old from Los Angeles, tips the scale at a buck 35, is 5-4 and has a 64-inch reach. His MMA record is 15-2, with seven wins coming by KO, eight by decision. The Messenger is also a yellow belt in Shotokan Karate, but yellow ain’t all that. Action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme holds a 2nd dan black belt in Shotokan which is pretty wicked, but my guy Wesley Snipes has a 5th dan black belt. So, basically, he can kill you with his ring finger. WITHOUT the ring!

Wesley Snipes, shown here at the L.A. premiere of "Dolemite is My Name," is one guy you don't want to mess with.
Richard Shotwell / Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Wesley Snipes, shown here at the L.A. premiere of "Dolemite is My Name," is one guy you don't want to mess with.

Cruz is 35 years old from San Diego, also weighs 135, but is 5-8 and has a 69-inch reach. His MMA record is 22-2, with eight wins coming by KO, 13 by decision and one by submission.

Cejudo’s last fight was on June 8, 2019, a TKO of Marlon Moraes in the thirdrd round. He has won five in row after losing twice back in 2016, to Joseph Benavidez (by decision) and TKO at the hands of Demetrious Johnson.

Dominick the Dominator heads to Jacksonville off a loss, but the most disturbing part is it was back in 2016. Yea, he has not fought since TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN. Can you say rust? Here’s what happened:

Cruz faced Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207. Garbrandt won the bout by unanimous decision to become the new UFC Bantamweight Champ. This was The Dominator’s first loss in almost 10 years. We dug a little deeper and found out that Cruz was dealing with plantar fascia tendinitis and that made it difficult for him to walk. Cruz was expected to then face Jimmie Rivera on Dec. 30, 2017, at UFC 219, however, he suffered a broken arm and he was forced to pull from the card. Cruz had a fight lined up with John Lineker on Jan. 26, 2019 at UFC 233. Once again, Dominick suffered an injury, his shoulder, and pulled out of the fight.

***

On to the BIG bangers, and we have Francis (The Predator) Ngannou vs. Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik. Ngannou is the favorite in this match at -$240 (bet $240 to win back $100), with Rozenstruik the underdog at +$200 (bet $100 to win back $200).

Ngannou, who is 33 years old from Cameroon, tips the scale at 255 and change, is 6-4 and has an 83-inch reach. His MMA record is 14-3, with 10 wins coming by KO, four by submission.

If you wanna talk about a HARD-KNOCK LIFE, check this. Francis, don’t call him Franny, started working in a sand quarry at 12 years old, and at the age of 26 moved to Paris, where he lived homeless on the streets. At 12 years old, I had a paper route in the Bronx. At 26, I was still home with parents, but sleeping on the pullout couch in the living room.

Rozenstruik is 35 years old from Suriname, a small country on the northeastern coast of South America. It's sandwiched between Guyana and French Guiana, with Brazil to the South, and was a Dutch colony until 1975.

Bigi tips the scale at 250 and small change, is 6-2 and has a 78-inch reach. His MMA record is 10-0, with nine wins coming by KO and one by decision. And just a little piece of info to tuck away, seven of Bigi’s 10 fights ended in the first round.

***

Close up shop with Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone vs. Anthony (Showtime) Pettis. The Cowboy is actually the underdog in this match. Pettis is -$140 (bet $140 to win back $100), with Cerrone the underdog at +$120 (bet $100 to win back $120).

Pettis is 33 years old from Milwaukee. He weighs 170, is 5′10″ and has a 72.5-inch reach. His MMA record is OK at 22-10, with 11 wins coming by KO, four by decision and seven by submission. Pettis’ early career was stellar, winning 18 of his first 20 fights, but the tide turned in 2015, and Pettis has dropped eight of his last 12.

The Cowboy is 37 years old from Denver. He goes 171, is an even 6-foot and has a 73-inch reach. His MMA record is 36-14, with 10 wins coming by KO, nine by decision and 17 by submission. Cerrone also comes to the party with an ugly recent history, losing seven of his last 11 bouts. Not sure why, but the Cowboy had a son in 2018, and his middle name is DANGER! Just saying.

A few stats that might help you handicap this match. Cerrone lands an average of 4.33 and absorbs an average of 4.18 significant strikes per minute. Pettis lands an average of 2.97 and absorbs an average of 3.48 strikes per minute. Cerrone averages 1.21 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, while Pettis averages 0.67 takedowns landed per 15.

Maybe most important, this fight boils down to one word, REVENGE. Cerrone will be looking to pay back Pettis for his first knockout loss in MMA competition courtesy of a devastating body kick from Showtime at 2:35 of the first round in their bout on Jan. 26, 2013. How bad was that kick? Cerrone said, “He kicked my liver out of my body.” FREAKIN’ OUCH!