This Saturday the UFC returns with its second pay-per-view of July with UFC 291 and the BMF title fight between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. Poirier and Gaethje first fought in 2018 in a fight many anticipated would be one of the best of the year and boy did it deliver, taking home Fight of the Year honors. Will the rematch do the same and what other matchups on this 12-fight card deliver both in quality and in betting value? Let’s jump into it.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Justin Gaethje, +125
I wrote a full breakdown of this fight that you can read here but the gist of it is this: this fight rules and I’m not entirely sure what will happen. In the first matchup, Gaethje appeared to be well on his way to breaking Poirier when a big left hand hurt him badly and ended the fight out of nowhere. Since then, both men have improved and this fight could end up being even more electric than their first encounter, but ultimately, this fight remains a coin flip matchup and as such, you’re getting a little bit of value on Gaethje at plus money.
Michel Pereira, +130
In the featured welterweight fight, Pereira takes on Stephen Thompson in a bout that ostensibly pits capoeira vs. karate, but in reality probably ends up being a grappling contest. When he entered the UFC, Pereira was a wild, explosive athlete who was prone to gassing himself out by trying backflip guard passes and jumping spinning hook kicks. But after losing back-to-back bouts, “Demolidor” switched up his style, incorporating more takedowns and veering away from the low-percentage, high-exhaustion moves. Against “Wonderboy,” Pereira is likely to do more of the same, going to his grappling game to secure the win. As he’s gotten older, Thompson’s takedown defense has suffered, giving up 12 takedowns in his last three fights, and Pereira is good enough to take advantage and hopefully smart enough not to risk a striking battle.
Michael Chiesa, +120
In the main card opener, Chiesa takes on Kevin Holland in Chiesa’s first fight in almost two years. That long layoff could be concerning in many situations, but fortunately for “Maverick,” this matchup is very favorable. The book on Holland for years has been his struggles with defensive wrestling, and while Chiesa is not some All-American takedown artist, he’s still quite good in that regard and he’s relentless in pursuit of them. Add in that Chiesa is a dangerous top player and that lines up nicely for him. Holland will be the more dynamic and dangerous striker, but if he can’t keep things upright, Chiesa is going to drown him.
Jan Blachowicz by Decision, +350
In the co-main event, Blachowicz takes on former middleweight champion Alex Pereira in Pereira’s first fight up at light heavyweight in the UFC, and I think it’s a dreadful fight for Pereira. Pereira is an accomplished kickboxer and one of the hardest punchers in the sport, but for as dangerous as he is on the feet, he’s the exact opposite on the ground. Pereira has given up takedowns in almost all of his UFC bouts, including dropping one to famed wrestler Israel Adesanya. That’s going to be the start of all his problems.
Blachowicz is an extremely well-rounded fighter, as capable of competing on the feet as he is at scoring takedowns and going to work from on top. Blachowicz was able to beat Adesanya (who is a better defensive wrestler and more technical striker, albeit not as dangerous) by working behind solid defensive fundamentals and relying heavily on his ground game. The same is true here and I like the former light heavyweight champion’s chances to grind a win out over 15 minutes.
Derrick Lewis by KO, +240
Lewis has lost three in a row and four of his previous five, so it’s no surprise he’s an underdog against Marcos Rogerio de Lima on Saturday, but I’m still not sure he should be. For Lewis’ faults, his losses have all come against top-10 competition, and while Rogerio de Lima has been winning, it’s not against the same ilk. After all, if you pitted Lewis against Waldo Cortes-Acosta and Andrei Arlovski, he also probably looks good. And that’s ultimately the difference for me. Lewis has only lost to top-15 competition and I don’t believe Rogerio de Lima is in that tier.
If this fight gets out of the first three minutes, it could get very ugly as the altitude takes its toll, but even then, Lewis carries power late. I’m choosing to believe in “The Black Beast” one last time. If you don’t want to follow suit, I can’t blame you.
Parlay of the Week
Bobby Green, -380
Green faces Tony Ferguson in what could easily be the saddest bout of the evening. A former interim champion and at one point one of the very best fighters in the world, Ferguson has lost five in a row and appears to be completely washed. Green is certainly past his prime at this point, but we’re still talking about a guy who is top-30 in the world and has shown plenty left in the tank. He’s going to box Ferguson up, the only question is whether he gets a finish or not.
Gabriel Bonfim, -380
Bonfim is another in a list of exciting, undefeated prospects rising up through the ranks. At just 25-years-old, Bonfim has demolished everyone he has faced, including some decent competition and Trevin Giles represents the next logical step up in his march towards the top-15: a veteran fighter who is capable but has shown clear liabilities that Bonfim can exploit, both on the feet and on the floor.
Jake Matthews, -245
I can’t seem to quit Matthews. Coming off his win over Andre Fialho, I thought Matthews had finally put it all together and still only 28-years-old, the Aussie looked like he had a real run at the top-15 in him. Instead, he got rinsed by Matthew Semelsberger and now there is no telling where he is in his career. Still, against a very short-notice replacement like Darrius Flowers, who has an up-and-down career and major defensive weaknesses, this feels like a “Buy Low” spot for Matthews.
Parlay these three bets together for +131 odds.
Longshot of the Week
Derrick Lewis by KO/TKO/DQ in Round 3, +1800
Remember when up above I wrote that this fight could be a tough hang if it gets beyond the three-minute mark? Well, that’s what we’re banking on.
Neither Lewis nor Rogerio de Lima are renowned for their cardio and at elevation, both men are extremely likely to gas out quickly and turn this into the most heavyweight of all heavyweight bouts. But in that scenario, Lewis still remains exceedingly dangerous. Lewis has five third-round KOs in his career already and if Rogerio de Lima looks for takedowns early, we’re well on our way to a late finish from Third-Round Black Beast.
We took UFC London off from gambling because, in all honesty, I didn’t have many bets. It was a thin card and one that we all will forget soon. Hopefully the same won’t be said about UFC 291 and we’ll all cash some tickets.
Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!
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