The UFC heads to Dallas on Saturday for its second pay-per-view event of July: UFC 277. In the main event, women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Peña looks to go 2-0 against Amanda Nunes, and in the co-main event, former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno takes on Kai Kara-France for the interim 125-pound belt. Add in another 12 fights, and there’s plenty of action to talk about, so let’s get to it.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Kai Kara-France, +185
The co-main event is a rematch of a 2019 fight that saw Moreno outwork Kara-France en route to a unanimous decision win. Given that, and given the dramatic improvements we’ve seen in Moreno since then, it’s fair to wonder why one should back this bet. The answer is simple: Because while Moreno has certainly improved, Kara-France has also, and this is a much closer fight than the odds suggest.
Over the past two years, Kara-France has come into his own as a fighter. And while Moreno may be the best 125er in the world, this is still not the easiest style matchup for him. Kara-France is the superior striker and his takedown defense is quite strong. Moreno can mixed the martial arts better, but he’s going to be forced to spend much of the fight on the feet, where Kara-France’s jab and feints will give him trouble. This fight might not be quite 50/50, but it’s certainly closer than +185, so I’m taking a value play on Kara-France.
Derrick Lewis, +125
I’m genuinely surprised this line has moved this much. This fight opened at pick’em odds but money has steadily streamed in on Sergei Pavlovich. That’s good news for fans of “The Black Beast,” because you know when Lewis thrives? As the underdog. Lewis is 7-3 as the underdog and he’s got a great chance to make that 8-3. Pavlovich has an impressive record and is a solid fighter, but his skills line up largely with what Lewis is good at. Pavlovich likes to box, he rarely kicks, and he’s is very willing to get into brawling exchanges. That sort of style allowed Shamil Abdurakhimov to land some counter hooks, and if he does that against Lewis, it’s lights out and away we go. Add in that Lewis is a surprisingly good ground-and-pound artist and could simply opt to tackle Pavlovich and replicate the Russian’s loss to Alistair Overeem, and there’s value on Lewis here.
Amanda Nunes by Unanimous Decision, +380
I did an in-depth breakdown of this fight in my Paths to Victory column, so check that out for my full thoughts, but the short version is this: The Nunes-Peña rivalry is a lot like Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz. Peña’s durability, pressure, and pace are a uniquely bad matchup for Nunes, and in the first fight, Nunes punched herself out not realizing that. I expect this second fight to be substantially more tactical from Nunes, akin to her rematches with Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie, where she’s content to throw a ton of leg kicks and win a somewhat boring decision. At this large of a price, I’m taking a shot on the decision prop.
Magomed Ankalaev by Decision, -105
I have been a huge proponent of Ankalaev for awhile now and feel pretty strongly that he is the best light heavyweight in the world. Now, that’s a harder sell after the bore-fest that was Anklaev vs. Thiago Santos, but sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles. This fight should be substantially more entertaining because Smith is not going to sit back and try to counter the counter fighter — he’s going to push the action, which will open up more offense on both sides. Unfortunately for him, Ankalaev is simply better everywhere the fight goes. Still, Ankalaev isn’t a huge finisher — half of his UFC wins have been by decision — and Smith has not been finished inside of three rounds since Santos did it back in 2018. I expect this to see the final horn, and for Ankalaev to have his hand raised.
Parlay of the Week
Amanda Nunes, -265
While the prop bet on Nunes by Decision is difficult to feel confident about, given how good of a finisher she can be, I still feel good about her winning the rematch one way or another. And this is coming from the guy who picked Peña to upset her the first time around.
Magomed Ankalaev, -540
I also already talked through this one above. There’s a world where Smith is overly aggressive and gets caught and finished. I don’t really see a world where Smith wins, though.
Joselyne Edwards/Ji Yeon Kim Goes To Decision, -330
Here are some fun stats for you: In her four UFC bouts, Joselyn Edwards has gone to decision four times. Also, in her four career losses, Edwards has only been finished once. On the other side, in her eight UFC bouts, Ji Yeon Kim has gone to decision seven times, and in her 5 career losses, she has never been finished. These women are hard to put away and aren’t great at finishing in their own right. This fight is going to the scorecards, and the line only being -330 is perhaps the biggest value on the entire fight card.
Parlay these three bets together for +112 odds.
Long Shot of the Week
Julianna Peña to win in Round 3 or Round 4, +1400
If Peña wins this fight, it’s going to be by doing exactly what she did in the first one, drawing Nunes into a high-paced brawl. As mentioned above, I think Nunes is going to approach this rematch much more cautiously, but Peña is not going to give up. There’s a world where Nunes starts smart but after a round or two Peña sucks her into the kind of ugly fight she can excel in, and ultimately gets another finish. For +1400, it’s worth a shot.
It was a tough week last week. We took some shots that didn’t pan out, but that’s the name of the game. Let’s try and bounce back this week. Make sure you check out No Bets Barred if you haven’t already for even more betting discussion. Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!
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