The UFC returns this weekend with another pay-per-view offering, UFC 274, which goes down at the Footprint Center in Phoenix on Saturday. As is customary with pay-per-view events, the UFC has stacked the card with two title fights and a bevy of other high-profile matchups. In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas will defend her strawweight title in a rematch with inaugural champion Carla Esparza. Then in the main event, lightweight champion Charles Oliveira looks to silence the last of his doubters when he defends his belt against former interim champion Justin Gaethje. We’ve got 15 fights this weekend, and plenty of opportunity to get some action down, so let’s get to it.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Mauricio Rua, +195
In all honesty, this is probably a dumb bet. Shogun is 40 years old and has been washed for at least five years — but I can’t help it, because for as washed as Shogun may be, so is Ovince Saint Preux! In his most recent fight, OSP lost to Tanner Boser because he simply didn’t do anything. He landed nine total strikes in over seven minutes of fighting. That’s, well ... it’s not good. Saint Preux is clearly on the decline, and while he may have more juice left than Shogun, OSP’s style is one that will fall off drastically as his athleticism wanes. Add in that Shogun still hits like a drunken moose and probably has a cardio advantage — and with this sort of line, I’m willing to take a flier on one final moment of glory for the old guard. Pride Never Die.
Randy Brown, +105
This is a sweaty-palm play, but one I still feel OK about. Randy Brown is longer, faster, and a better striker than Khaos Williams, and in a fight that is likely to take place primarily on the feet, that all should serve him well. The main concerns here are that Williams has a great chin, hits like an angry elephant, and has good low kicks (a weakness of Brown’s). But he also gets reckless a lot of times, and I believe Brown can capitalize on that, especially given his natural physical advantages. At plus-money, there is value here.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima, +120
Another sweaty-palm fight. Betting on bad heavyweight MMA is never the easiest thing in the world to do, but there are enough things working in RDL’s favor here that I believe this is a value play. This is Blagoy Ivanov’s first fight in two years, and in his last time out, he didn’t look great. He’s lumbering and not an especially big hitter for the weight class. De Lima, meanwhile, is coming off the best performance of his career and looks to be finally putting things together. The ground game is always a concern, but the speed advantage should be so prominent for him that I think RDL can avoid getting taken down and get the hands going early, even against an iron-headed guy like Ivanov.
Justin Gaethje by KO/TKO, +200
Justin Gaethje vs. Charles Oliveira is a two-outcome fight: Either Oliveira can submit Gaethje, or he gets knocked out. What will determine which of those outcomes prevails is the wrestling, and while Oliveira is a solid takedown artist, Gaethje is a better takedown defender. Oliveira is not the wrestler Khabib Nurmagomedov is, and I see this fight ultimately looking like Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler, only with Gaethje finishing the job.
Rose Namajunas by KO/TKO, +300
Simply put, I think Rose is going to run over Carla Esparza in this rematch. Esparza’s current winning streak is a little bit of smoke and mirrors as she should’ve lost at least one of those fights, and arguably lost three of them. Rose, meanwhile, has been fighting and beating more physically imposing and, frankly, difficult competition, and she’s still developing. Esparza is not anywhere near good enough to strike with Rose for extended periods, and though Namajunas isn’t the best defensive wrestler in the world, she’s good enough to keep things upright for the most part. From there, Esparza is a sitting duck.
Michael Chandler/Tony Ferguson Over 1.5 Rounds, -160
Tony Ferguson certainly appears to be on the crispier side of cooked, but for all his recent struggles, Ferguson’s chin has not been the problem. He’s slower and his reflexes have dropped off, but he remains a supremely conditioned athlete and exceedingly durable. Chandler is not going to be able to haymaker “El Cucuy” out of there early, and so this one should make it past the halfway mark.
Joe Lauzon to win in Round 1, +800
For his entire career, Joe Lauzon has been a barnstormer. The man starts fights with guns blazing, and as a result, 18 of his 28 career victories have come in the first round. Conversely, Donald Cerrone has long been known as a slow starter in MMA, with seven of his 16 career losses coming in the first round. This is a fight between two guys who are well beyond their primes, but Lauzon certainly looked better than Cerrone did their last times out, and given how their careers have gone, there’s value in a play on this juiced line.
Parlay of the Week
Rose Namajunas, -200
As mentioned above, I think Namajunas is going to roll over Esparza this week. Honestly, she’s my most confident bet, and I think the safest, smartest course of action is to simply bet her straight at these odds. But the people love parlays, and this is as solid of a parlay piece as I think you will find. I just don’t see Rose losing this one.
Chiasson/Dumont Fight To Go To Decision, -200
Chiasson and Dumont have each only been stopped once in their careers, and I don’t see either woman adding a second one on Saturday. This is probably going to be a lot of Dumont jabbing Chiasson for 15 minutes.
Parlay these two bets together for +125 odds.
Long Shot of the Week
Tony Ferguson by Submission, +1400
Tony Ferguson is probably going to lose this fight. He hasn’t won a round in nearly three years, and at 38 years old, he’s clearly past his peak. That being said, Michael Chandler is not the same sort of fighter — nor is he as good — as the men Ferguson has been losing to. It’s entirely possible that Chandler just repeatedly takes Ferguson down and holds him there. But I have a feeling that Chandler is going to try and blow through Ferguson, which will create some chances for “El Cucuy” to sink in his famous D’Arce choke and become the first man to submit Chandler.
In case you were unaware, The MMA Hour’s Conner Burks and I have a new gambling podcast on the MMA Fighting podcast network called “No Bets Barred!” Every week we will be breaking down our plays on the event and just generally chopping it up about the fight cards before and behind us. Give it a listen and let’s do the damn thing this weekend.
Good luck y’all, and gamble responsibly!
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