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UFC on ESPN+ 68 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Chidi Njokuani vs. Gregory Rodrigues: Which BJJ Striker Has Edge? (Saturday, September 17)

UFC on ESPN+ 68 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Chidi Njokuani vs. Gregory Rodrigues: Which BJJ Striker Has Edge? (Saturday, September 17) article feature image
Credit:

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC middleweight Chidi Njokuani

  • Saturday's UFC co-main event features Chidi Njokuani vs. Gregory Rodrigues.
  • The middleweights are both Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts who prefer to strike.
  • Manpreet Jhass breaks down the fight and offers his best bet for the ESPN+ co-headliner.

Chidi Njokuani vs. Gregory Rodrigues Odds

Njokuani Odds
-130
Rodrigues Odds
+110
Over/Under
1.5 (-135 / +105)
Venue
UFC Apex in Las Vegas
Time
9 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN+
Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings.

The UFC returns on Saturday with UFC on ESPN+ 68, where the co-main-event features high-action middleweights Chidi Njokuani and Gregory Rodrigues attempting to break into the top 15.

This fight serves as the appetizer for a scintillating bantamweight main event between Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong. The 13-fight card kicks off at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT), and the entire card streams on ESPN+.

Njokuani is riding a four-fight winning streak, including two vicious knockouts since entering the UFC.

On the flip side, Rodrigues is looking to string together two straight victories after his most recent demolition of Julian Marquez in June.

Will the superior striking and experience of Chidi be enough to dispose of “Robocop”? Or will Rodrigues stifle those advantages and come out victorious?

Read on to find the best betting angle for this matchup and break down this clash of different styles.

Tale of the Tape

Njokuani Rodrigues
Record 22-7 12-4
Avg. Fight Time 7:55 8:46
Height 6’3″ 6’3″
Weight (pounds) 185 lbs. 185 lbs.
Reach (inches) 80″ 75″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 12/31/1988 2/17/1992
Sig Strikes Per Min 3.76 6.00
SS Accuracy 73% 55%
SS Absorbed Per Min 1.45 5.73
SS Defense 56% 53%
Take Down Avg 0.00 2.40
TD Acc 0% 53%
TD Def 76% 100%
Submission Avg 0.5 0.7

For a long time, Chidi lived in the shadow of his brother, Anthony Njokuani, who was a mainstay in the WEC as well as an eight-fight UFC veteran. Being nine years younger than his older brother, Chidi has really taken center stage recently and flourished with the opportunities presented to him.

One of those opportunities was a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series last season, when he finished his opponent with brutal ground and pound to receive a UFC contract. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

Njokuani’s pinpoint-accurate striking mixed with his discipline and 80-inch reach make him hard to deal with in open space. He traverses the cage effectively and throws almost every shot with bad intentions.

1️⃣6️⃣ seconds ⏱

[ @ChidiBangNjoku | #UFCVegas60 | Saturday | LIVE on @ESPNPlus ] pic.twitter.com/9n6cxpkvzM

— UFC (@ufc) September 15, 2022

The flaws in his defensive grappling, especially up against the cage, contributed to his tumultuous run in Bellator. Looking deeper into it, though, the level of opponent he fell short against is nothing to blame him for.

During his current four-fight winning streak, Njokuani has shown solid grappling defense and great get-ups. His opponents really struggle to get damage off as he is proactive with getting out of bad positions. Once he does get out into open space, he is able to inflict his own damage, which frequently results in him finishing his opponents.

His upcoming opponent, Rodrigues, also appeared on Contender Series but fell short that night when he suffered a stoppage loss to Jordan Williams. He went on to win two more fights, the latter of which was an LFA title-clinching victory. This ultimately set him up to get signed to the UFC.

Rodrigues has been lauded for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and though he has achieved some dominant positions on the mat, I think he leaves a little to be desired with his finishing capabilities. He is able to garner decent control time against opponents but doesn’t do much in terms of landing effective ground and pound, and he doesn’t come too close to securing submission victories.

His striking seemed to be the flaw in his game, especially considering he got knocked out in his Contender Series appearance, but we have seen him gain more confidence in that realm and throw combinations with heat in recent fights.

Lastly, Rodrigues has been getting high-level training for years now since aligning himself with the Kill Cliff FC team down in Florida. That is also an advantage he will have.

Njokuani vs. Rodrigues Pick

Before running the research, I was sure I was going to be on the Rodrigues side of this fight given his grappling advantage. That is why research is important – because you miss out on the small details that could change your stance if you don’t do it.

The deciding factor in this fight for me will be the length and speed advantage of Njokuani, as well as his proactive nature to not get stuck against the cage anymore. Although I think he will be held against the cage in certain segments of this fight, I think we’ve seen enough progression from him to believe he’ll be able to nullify much of the damage coming from Rodrigues.

When Rodrigues will be looking to load up to throw his 2-3 strike combination, he will likely come up short due to the reach disadvantage. It’s even more likely Rodrigues will get countered by the crisper, faster strikes of Njokuani.

I haven’t even mentioned the BJJ black belt that Njokuani holds, which should give more comfort that he can survive on the mat should he be put into a bad position.

Regardless, I think the majority of this fight will play out on the feet, where Njokuani will eventually find that knockout.

The Pick: Chidi Njokuani (-120 at DraftKings)

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