Odds. Ricky Simon (-400) vs. Gaetano Pirrello (+310). Prediction: Simon via submission (+300)
Brian Kelleher’s withdrawal from fighting Ricky Simon (16-3) has given Gaetano Pirello (15-5-1) an impromptu call-up to the UFC, with the Belgian set to make his debut for the promotion on Yas Island.
A straight-up clash between two fighters who prefer to keep things standing, this bout sticks out among the preliminary matchups as posing a strong chance of producing a finish. Each of Simon’s last three wins have been decided by the judges, but the American will fancy his chances against a UFC newcomer who hasn’t fought since October 2019.
The moneyline won’t appeal much to those backing Simon, a -400 favorite with William Hill. A Pirello upset is priced at +310, and despite his reputation as an effective striker, there appears to be holes in his wrestling defense for his foe to exploit.
“El Tigre” has suffered three defeats via submission to date, three times more than any other method in his career. While Simon will be far from the most revered grappler in the bantamweight division, two of his last three finish wins have come via submission, and the ground game stands out as one area in which he’s clearly the superior of the two.
Backing Simon to tap Pirello yields good returns of +300 and looks the most logical pick, although a Pirello knockout upset could be worthy of a small wager at +650 given his finishing power.