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UFC 281 Gambling Preview: Will Israel Adesanya get his redemption, and going all-in on Zhang Weili

UFC 281 Press Conference Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

UFC 281 is upon us and buddy, it’s a doozy. In the main event, Israel Adesanya puts his middleweight title on the line against the only man to have knocked him clean out, Alex Pereira. In the co-main event, Carla Esparza puts her strawweight title on the line against former champion Zhang Weili. On top of that we’ve got 12 more fights, all of them relevant, so let’s hop right into the betting break downs.

As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.


UFC 281 Press Conference Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Straight Bets

Zhang Weili, -330

Let’s talk a little about value. I almost never recommend bets at odds over -250, because I tend to put them in parlays instead, because the juice doesn’t feel worth the squeeze at such prices. But with Zhang, I’m going to make an exception, because I am still flabbergasted at how low this line is. -330 suggests that Zhang has a 76.7 percent chance of winning this fight, which cannot possibly be true. Zhang is better than Carla Esparza at just about every aspect of MMA, on top of being possibly the most physically imposing fighter at 115 pounds. Esparza, meanwhile, a small even for strawweight, and barring the Yan Xiaonan fight, her performances on her current winning streak are far from impressive. Zhang wins this fight 9 out of 10 times, and it boggles me that this line is only this big. I expected Zhang to be a -700 favorite or more.

Given all that, I’ve made an “all-in” bet on Zhang. This is an objectively stupid and irresponsible bet, and I actively discourage anyone from following suit, because it is exactly the wrong way to go about betting on MMA, but I’ve done it nonetheless. My full gambling bankroll (that isn’t tied into other bets on this card) has been put on Zhang. So if things good poorly, look for me at the soup kitchen.

Michael Chandler, +185

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a big fan of Michael Chandler, but I can’t help seeing value in him here. Poirier is the better boxer, and much better defensively. But Chandler is so explosive, he remains very dangerous on the feet. Add into that mix that Chandler is a very good wrestler and that has long been an exploitable weakness for Poirier, and I think Chandler has a better shot of taking this one home than the odds suggest. Sure, this could end up looking like Chandler’s fight with Justin Gaethje (we should be so lucky), but Chandler had his moments in that one, and with Poirier coming off a tough performance, an upset might be brewing.

Ryan Spann, +185

This is undoubtedly a big step down in competition for Dominick Reyes and a step up for Spann, but I have serious concerns about Reyes. He’s saying all the right things coming into this fight, but “The Devastator” has not won a fight in over three years, and this recent stretch for him has been about as mentally destructive as you can imagine. He got robbed of the belt, and then he got upset in his next fight when everyone expected him to win the title. Then he hit Jiri Prochazka with the kitchen sink and couldn’t get him out of there, only to get highlight-reeled for his troubles.

Reyes is still young, athletic, and talented, so maybe he can come back from all that. But Spann is also young, powerful, and he’s stayed active. This fight feels closer to 50-50, or at least 60-40, and so I like a value bet on Spann.


UFC 269: Miranda Maverick v Erin Blanchfield Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Prop Bets

Zhang Weili by KO/TKO, Submission, or DQ, +100

Given that we’re already overexposed on Zhang, why not add even more? Honestly, the odds on this one are probably even better than on Zhang straight, but the fear is preventing me from making an “all-in” shove on a prop bet. Still, she hits incredibly hard, is physically dominant, and if her performance against Joanna Jedrzejczyk is any indication, she’s still improving. I think a KO is by far the most likely outcome for here, but this one covers all the bases in case Zhang goes for a choke or something.

Dan Hooker by KO/TKO/DQ, +225

As I explained on No Bets Barred this week, I have no real explanation for this one. No technical breakdown or analysis that leads me to believe it’s going to happen, I just think it will. Hooker’s career has taken some strange turns, but I still think he’s pretty good, and he’s working with one of the best teams in the sport. This is a winnable matchup for him, and it feels like he’s going avoid grappling exchanges and pile up strikes on the feet that eventually put Claudio Puelles out of there.

Erin Blanchfield by KO/TKO, Submission, or DQ, +200

Erin Blanchfield is arguably the best prospect in all of women’s MMA, and here fight with Molly McCann looks an awful lot like a showcase. Blanchfield is a strong wrestler and a great grappler, with a BJJ black belt she puts to good use on the mat. McCann is incredibly popular, but wrestling has been a seriously liability for her throughout her career, especially when faced with a better athlete (which Blanchfield is). Based on what we’ve seen in their careers, the most likely outcome for this fight is a Blanchfield decision win, but fighting at Madison Square Garden, and now truly coming into her own as a fighter, I think Blanchfield has a real chance to simply dominate McCann from pillar to post, finding a submission or a finish with ground-and-pound.


City Kickboxing Team
Israel Adesanya Twitter

Parlay of the Week

Israel Adesanya (-205), Dan Hooker (-145), Brad Riddell (+100), Carlos Ulberg (-130)

Could there be any other parlay?

I do actually think that each of these individual bets has value, and while this parlay breaks a number of my rules (never parlay underdogs, keep parlays to two or three legs), the City Kickboxing parlay is simply too much fun to pass up.

I have already flip-flopped 20 times on the main event, but if Adesanya fights smart, I do think he will win. He won most of their kickboxing bouts, lost a bad decision and then got caught in a fight he was winning handily. Similarly, Hooker should win if he can keep his legs from getting entangled with Claudio Puelles. Riddell is a a better striker than Moicano, it’s just a question of whether he can keep it standing or not, and Ulberg is in the same boat against Nicolae Negumereanu.

A more responsible CKB parlay would simply be to pair these four off into two separate parlays, but where’s the fun in that? The most important thing when it comes to gambling is to have fun, and this is undeniably a fun one, with a juicy payoff should it hit.

Parlay these four bets together for +789 odds.


MMA: JUL 02 UFC 276 Photo by Alejandro Salazar/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Long Shot of the Week

Israel Adesanya by Submission, +1400

Now this is my type of long shot! Some of you might be saying to yourself, “Israel Adesanya is 0-3 in career takedown attempts and he’s attempted one submission. This is incredibly stupid.” Yes! BUT, though Adesanya is limited on the ground, he’s still far ahead of Pereira! There are two legitimately possible ways this bet cashes.

1) Adesanya comes in and tries to mix things up, gets a takedown, and then finds a submission. That’s not a crazy possibility given that he’s shown some flashes of in his few moments on the ground, and the ground does seem to provide the safest possibility of success.

2) Adesanya hurts Pereira on the feet and then follows him to the floor, submitting him to send a message. Adesanya has dropped Pereira before, and if he does so this time, he’s going to finish the fight, it’s just a matter of how. Either way, at long odds, I’m in for a bet.


Wrap Up

Well, we didn’t have high hopes for last week, but things went about as poorly as possible, including that shadiness with Darrick Miner. Now we’re on a bit of a losing skid. Fortunately, I think this is just the week to get things back on track.

Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!


All information in this article is provided to readers of MMA Fighting for entertainment, news, and amusement purposes only. It is the responsibility of the reader to learn and abide by online gambling laws in their region before placing any online sports betting wagers.

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