UFC Vegas 78 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Chris Daukaus: A Scary Underdog Bet (Saturday, August 12)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: UFC light heavyweight Chris Daukaus
Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Chris Daukaus Odds
|Over/Under||1.5 (+135 / -175)|
|Venue||UFC Apex in Las Vegas|
|Start Time||9 p.m. ET|
|TV||ESPN and ESPN+|
|Fight odds as of Saturday afternoon and via Caesars|
The lead-in to the UFC Vegas 78 co-main event features two fighters at very different points in their careers.
Khalil Rountree Jr. comes into Saturday's 13-bout event (4 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN+) having won three straight and recently cracking the UFC light-heavyweight contender rankings at No. 13.
Chris Daukaus, meanwhile, was once a ranked heavyweight – before suffering three consecutive knockout losses to the top of that division.
Daukaus is fighting for his job here in his 205-pound debut, and he desperately needs to get back in the win column for the first time in nearly two years.
Will we see the momentum continue for both men on Saturday? Or can Daukaus find new life in a lighter weight class?
All that, plus how I'm betting it, below.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||8:00||3:15|
|Weight||203.5 pounds||205 pounds|
|Date of birth||2/26/1990||9/25/1989|
|Sig Strikes Per Minute||3.67||6.41|
|SS Absorbed Per Minute||4.19||4.48|
|Take Down Average||0.00||0.00|
During his initial run in the UFC, Chris Daukaus appeared to be a future top-five fighter. He picked up four straight knockout wins, the last of which came over top-10 ranked (at the time) Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Then, he faced a massive step up in competition against the UFC's all-time knockout king, Derrick Lewis. That was the first of three brutal knockout losses for Daukaus, all against top competition in Lewis, Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
So far in the UFC, Daukaus has been an aggressive striker, starting fast with big punches. He mixes in the occasional leg kick and body shot, but most of his activity is straight rights and left hooks to the head.
While he throws hard, Daukaus has solid footwork and manages to keep on balance the vast majority of the time. He generates his power with his speed rather than over-extending himself.
I say "so far" because, on paper, Daukaus is a high-level grappler. He's a respected BJJ black belt, and it's telling that even opponents known for their grappling (like Blaydes) chose to stand with him.
Daukaus may have fallen in love with his hands – and the $50,000 bonuses they provided him – but he has the ability to win fights on the ground as well.
Despite the knockouts, he has fairly sound defense as well. His 57% striking defense rate is well above average, and he has rare speed for a man his size that allows him to land more than he receives.
🎁 @ChrisDaukausMMA gave himself a KO victory for his birthday 🎂
— UFC (@ufc) September 26, 2021
Of course, when he does get hit, it's been ugly. Rozenstruik hurt him with a jab before leveling him with a big left hand.
The hope for Daukaus is that by cutting to 205, he'll have less power coming back from him than he did at heavyweight, where his opponents generally outweighed him by at least 20 pounds.
Which makes this matchup a bit of a good news/bad news situation for Daukaus.
On the one hand, Rountree is a former middleweight, and Daukaus should be the larger fighter. On the other hand, Rountree might have as much power as any 205-pound fighter on the UFC roster right now.
A free-swinging lefty with a muay Thai style, Rountree is all-gas-no-breaks hunting for big shots. He mixes in kicks to the legs well, but he's primarily head hunting.
Unlike Daukaus, he's been known to overextend himself hunting big strikes. That leaves him open to being countered, and he has a negative striking differential as a result.
Those stats don't take into account how significant the significant strikes are of course, and Rountree's are devastating.
I have no doubt he'll be able to put Daukaus out if he lands cleanly at any point, though that's a reasonably big "if" heading into this one.
Rountree also has a massive grappling hole in his game with losses in every fight in which he's been taken down. His takedown defense isn't terrible, but by overextending with punches, he leaves himself open to opponents changing levels and dropping under for the takedown.
The UFC has given Rountree some friendly matchmaking, though, with this the fifth consecutive fight against an opponent who's averaged less than one takedown per 15 minutes in their UFC tenure.
Three of those (counting Daukaus) have never landed one – at least heading into the fight.
Rountree vs. Daukaus Pick
This one ultimately comes down to whether Daukaus chooses to utilize his theoretical grappling edge.
While I like that he's coming down to 205, this isn't a matchup in which it's much safer for him to stand and trade shots than it was at heavyweight.
Still, being the bigger man might give Daukaus a bit more leeway in the striking department.
While it's not comfortable making a bet on what a fighter should do – especially when it's not what he usually does – it's a risk I'm willing to take at plus-money here. Daukaus has to know that this job is on the line and that he needs to prioritize winning at any cost rather than putting on a show.
I fully expect some scary striking exchanges along the way, but I expect Daukaus to eventually get this one to the mat, where he should have a huge edge over Rountree.
With his odds as of Wednesday (+163), there's no need to get cute, though I'd probably switch to his inside-the-distance line if they fell past +150 – and they've been heading that direction already.
The Pick: Chris Daukaus (+163 at bet365)