It’s here. After weeks of anticipation, UFC 280 finally goes down on Saturday, featuring title fights in the two best divisions in MMA: Lightweight and bantamweight. In the co-main event, Aljamain Sterling puts his 135-pound belt on the line against former champion T.J. Dillashaw, and in the final fight of the night, Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev face off for the vacant lightweight title. On top of those two incredible fights, there are 11 other awesome bouts, with an enormous number of betting opportunities, so let’s get to it.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
T.J. Dillashaw, +150
Stylistically, this fight should favor Dillashaw by a wide margin. He’s by far the more fluid and dangerous striker, and his best skill is his counter wrestling. Sterling, on the other hand, is a limited striker who always looks uncomfortable on the feet and needs takedowns for his game to work. That’s a tall order against Dillashaw, who not only is one of the best defensive wrestlers in the sport, but he’s also impossible to keep down. In his entire career, Dillashaw has only given up a combined 88 seconds of control time, which does not bode well for the champion. The one major concern here is that Dillashaw has been out for over a year and he’s almost 37 years old, but he still looked pretty good against Sandhagen and given his major advantages in this one, I’m cautiously optimistic those won’t be an issue.
Beneil Dariush, +160
When I first looked at this card, I had every intention of betting on Mateusz Gamrot, but once I actually studied, it became clear that would not be a prudent bet. I like Gamrot a lot and beating Arman Tsarukyan (however dubious) is an impressive achievement, but Dariush is probably the most underrated fighter in the entire sport now that Leon Edwards is welterweight champion. He’s an amazing grappler, a good wrestler, a savvy striker, and a better athlete than he gets credit for. Gamrot is also a great wrestler and grappler, and he fights at a wicked pace, but he’s not nearly as capable on the feet as Dariush is, and I struggle to see him gaining a big advantage in the grappling department either. He may win the third round strictly based on his work rate, but this fight feels like the definition of a coin-flip, so there’s plenty of value on Dariush.
Sean Brady by Decision, +165
The prelim main event between Sean Brady and Belal Muhammad is one of the most competitive fights on the card (which is saying something) but I really like Brady’s chances of getting it done. Brady and Muhammad have very similar styles — good grapplers, outstanding defensive wrestlers, fair striking to back it all up — but I think Brady has a slight edge in skill and is the superior athlete. Muhammad’s striking employs a lot of kicks, and I see Brady catching those kicks and scoring takedowns like he did against Michael Chiesa. From there, Brady should be able to control the action, but Muhammad is incredibly durable, and I highly doubt he can find a finish in 15 minutes.
Caio Borralho by Submission, +300
I hope you already listened to No Bets Barred this week, because we gave out this bet when it was +550, and as you can see, the line has plummeted. Even at half the value, though, I still think this bet has merit. Borralho is a talented grappler with a penchant for finding the back, and Makhmud Muradov is deficient in both regards. Gerald Meerschaert was able to score multiple takedowns on him and ultimately find the submission, and that still feels like by far the most likely outcome for this fight.
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcom Gordon UNDER 1.5 Rounds, -125
There’s a running gimmick on No Bets Barred that Under bets on flyweight fights never lose, and that’s because they don’t. We’ve hit something like 10 in a row, and for this one it’s not even hard to see how it happens. Mokaev is one of the very best prospects in all of MMA, and Gordon is a mid-level fighter who has only been to the second round of a fight once in his previous five bouts. This one seems destined to end early.
Parlays of the Week
Islam Makhachev (-180) and Abubakar Nurmagomedov (-165)
Originally, this was supposed to include Zubaira Tukhugov as well, but even without that, the gimmick still works. Could you just bet them both as singles and it be perfectly fine given the lines? Sure. But gambling is supposed to be fun, and what’s more fun than the Father’s Plan parlay?
I wrote a big breakdown on Makhachev vs. Oliveira here, for you to read, so I won’t get into the weeds on that fight. As for Nurmagomedov, it really boils down to the wrestling. Like the more famous Nurmagomedov, Abubakar is a very good grappler while Gadzhi Omargadzhiev has been dominated on the ground before. He should have a fairly straightforward time of scoring takedowns and dominating from top position.
Parlay these two bets together for +145 odds.
Also, because the above bet is a definitely a gimmick bet and because this is the deepest fight card in months, with tons of good lines down, I added in a second parlay, for those who are so inclined.
I’m shocked that the line between Yan and Sean O’Malley has remained this close. I guess that speaks to the overwhelming power of stardom, because Yan is highly likely to tar and feather poor “Sugar” with pace, pressure, and vicious kicks. This is a really bad fight for O’Malley, based on what he’s shown us and who Yan is.
It’s almost not worth it to include Mokaev, but whatever. He should be a -10,000 favorite, so really he’s probably the best value on the entire card.
I talk about this fight more below so I’ll keep this part short: Fiorot is not a great finisher and Chookagian isn’t a finisher at all, so I’d be shocked if this one didn’t need the judges.
Parlay these three bets together for -101 odds.
Long Shots of the Week
Again, in the spirit of such a momentous fight week, I’m offering up two long shot bets.
Katlyn Chookagian by Split Decision, +1000
As noted above, I would be stunned if this one didn’t go to a decision, and that’s where things can get fun. Chookagian has a knack for gutting out gritty wins over better competition, particularly less experienced competition, and for all her hype, Fiorot hasn’t shown me enough to feel super confident in her here. She’s a fine striker and a better athlete, but Chookagian can make this ugly and “Kiai!” her way to victory. It’s what she does. Given that, I almost took at shot on Chookagian by Decision at +240, but instead decided that +1000 for a split, when Chookagian already has four of them in her career, was a more fun bet.
Islam Makhachev To Win In Round 4, +1800
Again, I already did a full write up with my thoughts on this fight, so I won’t get bogged down in the weeds here, but this fight massively favors Makhachev. He’s the better wrestler and grappler, and the much better defensive fighter. I expect Oliveira to be competitive in the first round, attempting sweeps and submissions off his back, but as the fight drags on, he’ll start to fade, and by the third round, Oliveira will be in survival mode. He’ll make it out of that round, but then the fourth will start and soon after, we’ll have a new lightweight champion.
Another winning week last weekend. We’ve entirely forgotten how to lose lately but this week is the big test. For some reason I tend to do worse on pay-per-view events than on Fight Night cards, so let’s see if we can keep the heater rolling.
Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!
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