Best Bets for Contender Series Week 10: How to Bet 30-1 Favorite Bo Nickal at +100 Odds Tonight

Best Bets for Contender Series Week 10: How to Bet 30-1 Favorite Bo Nickal at +100 Odds Tonight article feature image

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: MMA middleweight Bo Nickal

Dana White's Contender Series is finally ending for the season, but we couldn’t let it go without a bang.

The finale, which is tonight's Contender Series Week 10 event, features returning winner and the most hyped prospect in the middleweight division, Penn State alumnus Bo Nickal.

The card also has several outstanding prospects from other divisions looking to stake their claim in the UFC. Let’s break down the card and some of my favorite betting angles beginning with the first fight of the night.

As a reminder, some sportsbooks can be slow to open Contender Series lines – though nearly every major sportsbook eventually does post them. So keep an eye on out before fight time (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+) for their offerings.

(And don't forget that you can track your DWCS bets in the Action App.)

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Bantamweights: Ashiek Ajim vs. Mateus Mendonça

The first fight of the night pits Long Island MMA representative Ashiek Ajim (6-1) against the undefeated Brazilian prospect Mateus Mendonca (9-0) out of Chute Boxe Diego Lima (home of Charles Oliveira among other UFC talent).

Mendonca is a bit wild and flashy with his scrambling and choice of weapons while standing. Ajim, meanwhile, is a powerful striker with some takedown defense, but he is extremely hittable and has been stopped due to strikes by Kris Mutinho regionally.

Mendonca is the prospect that trends higher to me overall because he has shown a more well-rounded skill set at only 23 years of age. If he can avoid the power, he should be able to land his own shots and potentially ground Ajim or tire him out for the victory.

Mendonca opened -220 and has been bet down across the board to a best of -280 and a market average of -300. As for the underdog, Ajim can be found as high as +250 on multiple domestic and international bookmakers.

I don’t necessarily trust Mendonca enough to bet him at the steep chalk price, but I expect him to roll here and would touch any submission prop greater than +400 for a small bet because he has secured four of his six finishes via submission.

As for Ajim, six of his seven career fights have ended inside the distance, and he has won five of six professional victories inside the distance.

This fight pits two violent fighters with questionable defense against one another, so it feels like a great spot to target an Under 2.5 or a Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision if they open on broader markets at -230 (~70% win probability) or better.

Prediction: Mateus Mendonca defeats Ashiek Ajim via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2

Bets: Small bet on Mendonca via Submission (+400 or better) | Under 2.5 (when markets open)

Flyweights: Joao Elias vs. Rafael Ramos Estevam

The second bout of the night figures to bring the heat at flyweight as two high-level grapplers square off in Joao Elias (17-3-1) and Rafael Estevam (10-0) – a man who goes by many names on the regional scene.

Elias is a stocky, well-built athlete with big musculature and powerful takedown entries he converts into guard passes and eventually armbar finishes or positional TKOs in most instances.

Estevam, on the other hand, is a slick top player, using skill and finesse to pass guard and force back-takes and the mount. He also looks for positional ground and pound to make his opponents pay while demonstrating solid cardio even when needing multiple attempts to find the takedown.

Estevam opened a -190 favorite in this spot and has fallen to the market average of -187 with sharp offshore sportsbooks putting him at -170 to -180, slightly undercutting the market on the underdog Elias.

This is a bout that is a bit tricky to project as it figures to answer the question: Who among these two is a better grappler with more staying power when the going gets tough?

For me, undefeated Estevam looks to be a bit fresher later in the fights. And Elias puts himself in compromising guillotine situations in fights he won, and he's been submitted in two of his three losses.

Elias has a clear advantage in experience in MMA, but I fear his three losses inside the distance may be a red flag from a betting perspective. Estevam is the younger fighter by just over a year, he has a clear height and reach advantage, and I liked what I saw from him scrambling and doing jiu-jitsu. I think he will have the quickness necessary to punish a talented fighter like Elias.

This is a high-level bout I am looking forward to. The only bet I felt comfortable making on this fight so far given the line movement on the moneyline is a small bet on Estevam by submission because 50% of his finishes are submissions, I think he projects as the better scrambler and possibly better overall grappler, and Elias has two of three professional losses via submission due to guillotine choke.

At current market odds, if Estevam submits Elias even 20% of the time, we would be finding significant value.

Prediction: Rafael Estevam defeats Joao Elias via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 3

Best: Estevam to win by Submission (+525) | Fight to End by Submission (+400 or better – once markets open)

Middleweights: Bo Nickal vs. Donovan Beard

The main event of the evening is known in the sports entertainment of professional wrestling as a “squash match.” This is not because Donovan Beard is a bad fighter by any means; it is because the market (in my opinion, rightly) views Bo Nickal as one of the highest-caliber prospects to ever enter the sport of MMA from the world of American collegiate wrestling.

A product of the Penn State Wrestling room and the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, Bo Nickal has spent a lifetime on the mats accruing valuable experience in controlling other humans, making them bend to his will, and imposing his skill set on them.

That is why wrestling is an elite base for MMA, and that is why Nickal is expected to dominate a 7-1 prospect and regional MMA champion in Beard.

Will Bo Nickal earn a UFC contract? 🍿

Find out on the Season 6 finale of #DWCS tonight at 8 PM ET on

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 27, 2022

Beard showed resilience and grit in his last bout, when he earned a fourth-round triangle choke submission win after outlasting opponent Miles Lee for the CFFC title. However, that bout showed that Beard can be taken down, he backs himself onto the fence, and he is liable to be held down for large portions of a fight if not make critical errors while trying to spring back to his feet.

I believe that Nickal will dominate this fight and likely submit Beard in the very first round. The line on Nickal to win via submission has been crashing down like an anvil overnight, from +170 to +105 – and even chalk in some places – after opening as high as +235. My expectation is a Nickal via first-round submission, but a Round 1 TKO wouldn’t surprise me.

My analysis for the main event certainly isn’t groundbreaking as Nickal opened a -1000 favorite and has been bet down to a -2305 market average with sharp offshores as high as -3000. It goes without saying, but the market respects the hell out of Nickal, and oddsmakers are aware of that.

As for prop shopping, almost everything is going to cost you some chalk. Nickal by TKO is as high as +110, while Nickal by submission lags behind at +105 best available. If you believe Nickal will win by decision, that is by far the widest number (+700) at some sportsbooks.

If you try to eliminate variance with a Nickal Inside the Distance ticket, you are biting heavy chalk with -550 at best. The best available price on the fight not to go the distance is -750, so oddsmakers are projecting confidence that the result will be Nickal ITD at an extremely high clip.

I personally think there may be thin marginal value on Nickal to win in Round 1 at -200 because I believe the grappling transitions I saw from Beard on tape are likely to get him submitted or physically dominated early in this matchup.

If you don’t like chalk, it's probably best to stay away from this matchup, and I detailed above why value may be hard to find. But if you're looking for an angle, I'd suggest Either Fighter Wins by Submission at +100 (why get cute over 5 cents of value) and/or Nickal to win in Round 1 at -200. It might just come down to the options your sportsbooks have to offer.

Prediction: Bo Nickal defeats Donovan Beard via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1

Leans: Either Fighter Wins by Submission (+100) | Nickal in Round 1 (-200)

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