Best Bets for Contender Series Week 8: Moneyline Bets, Prop Plays and Leans for All 5 Fights (Tuesday, September 26)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Contender Series octagon at UFC Apex in Las Vegas
Contender Series Week 8 takes place on Tuesday night, and we've got bets and leans for all five bouts, where UFC hopefuls look to earn their way into the UFC octagon proper.
Season 7 Episode 8 of Contender Series streams tonight on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. New Contender Series events take place every Tuesday night and run through early October.
As with all UFC Contender Series events, some of tonight's DWCS winners – and even some of the losers – could earn a UFC deal. In fact, the Contender Series events have become one of the UFC's primary feeder systems.
UFC President Dana White is cageside for each show, and after each event, the UFC boss will determine which fighters have earned an official UFC contract.
As a reminder, some sportsbooks can be slow to open Contender Series odds and betting markets – though nearly every major sportsbook eventually does post them.
(Don't forget that you can track your DWCS bets in the Action App.)
Bantamweight: Vincius Oliveira (-270) vs. Victor Hugo Madrigal (+220)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8:05 p.m. ET
The first fight on Week 8 appears to be more of a showcase fight than a competitive matchup with Vinicius Oliveira opening as a heavy favorite. He opened around -400 depending on the book, but heavy underdog action has since pushed the line a bit closer.
Oliveira is an aggressive Brazilian with an 18-3 pro record with 14 knockout wins, the vast majority coming in the first round. He's at his best when keeping things at striking range, where he has an Anderson Silva-esque style, holding his hands low and relying on head movement and footwork defensively. He has a tendency to get over-aggressive, which leads to opponents wrestling him and clinching, but he's strong off his back with great escapability.
In a perfect world, he's able to counter-strike, luring his opponents in with his hands low while sniping with shots from range. That requires a willing dance partner, of course, and a more measured, technical striker might be able to catch him.
Victor Hugo Madrigal also has extensive experience by Contender Series standards – with a 12-3 record coming in. He holds a win (in 2018) over current UFC fighter Cristian Quinonez, and like Oliveira, he has fought relatively stiff competition in his pre-UFC career. Two of his three losses were decisions, and he's finished 10 of 12 wins.
He fights from a more traditional muay Thai stance with a light front leg and hands held high. He also seems to be better when counter-attacking, but unlike Oliveira, he stalks his opponents in hopes of catching them when they plant their feet and fire.
As with Oliveira, his wrestling is somewhat lacking, but his ground game is solid. In his last fight, he was taken down multiple times, but each time he was able to scramble to a dominant position. He eventually was able to secure a submission in the second round, but he generally isn't going to pursue the ground game.
This should be a fun fight with Madrigal stalking Oliveira and both men trying to land big shots. The movement on the moneyline feels right here, and I would've gladly bet Madrigal at the opening number. However, I'm not seeing much value in the range he's at now.
Instead, I'll be mixing my bets between the fight to end by knockout and Oliveira by knockout, depending on the price. Ideally, we're able to structure those bets so we break even on a Madrigal knockout but make a decent return if it's Oliveira, but we'll see how the fight plays out.
Prediction: Vinicius Oliveira defeats Victor Hugo Madrigal by KO
The Leans: Vincius Oliveira KO | Oliveira vs. Madrigal to end by KO
Women's Flyweight: Carli Judice (-166) vs. Ernesta Kareckaite (+140)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8:25 p.m. ET
This card was originally supposed to feature the promotional debut of Sora Rakhmonova, younger sister of UFC welterweight contender Shavkat Rakhmonov, taking on Ernesta Kareckaite. However, Rakhmonova was forced to withdraw, and Carli Judice has stepped in as a replacement.
This is a lower-level fight even by Contender Series standards with just eight fights between the two women. Judice is 3-0 with three first-round knockouts, but she has never fought an opponent with a winning record. On the other side, Kareckaite is 4-0-1 with two first-round knockouts and two-split decisions.
Kareckaite has fought slightly tougher competition, and her most recent win is over a previously undefeated (with four wins) opponent in France. She had previously fought that same opponent to a draw in 2021. The Lithuanian flyweight also has professional experience in boxing and kickboxing, which gives a solid clue as to her style.
I'm a bit surprised at the line here, especially considering the relatively short-notice nature of the fight for Judice. She certainly has a power edge, but I doubt she'll be able to find the mark against a far more experienced opponent. Judice had her first amateur fight in 2021; Kareckaite has been a professional kickboxer for more than eight years.
I'll take the fighter with more experience against tougher competition over a 3-0 can crusher any day, at least until Judice proves she can fight at this level. It might not be a contract-worthy performance, but Kareckaite should get it done. I'd bet her moneyline down to +130.
If you want to spice things up – and this prop is even offered – I also like the fight to end by split or majority decision with Judice's power optics a stark contrast to Kareckaite's more technical striking.
Prediction: Ernesta Kareckaite def. Carli Judice via Decision.
The Bet: Ernesta Kareckaite (+143 at BetRivers)
Featherweight: Danny Silva (-230) vs. Angel Pacheco (+190)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8:55 p.m. ET
Featherweights with identical 7-1 records square off in the third fight of the night as California's Danny Dilva meets Minnesota's Angel Pacheco.
Silva is an LFA veteran with four knockout wins, and his only career loss came via majority decision. Pacheco has finished all seven of his fights with four knockouts and three submissions, though most of those TKO wins also came on the ground.
Pacheco has the lower level of competition so far in their careers with two of his wins coming against the same 42-year-old opponent. He stepped up to an extent in his most recent fight for CFFC, taking on a 5-2 opponent in the Philly-based promotion. He stayed at range during the opening moments of the bout, peppering with jabs and leg kicks. Pacheco was hurt early, but he managed to survive the submission attempt when his opponent rushed in.
Pacheco holds a brown belt in BJJ, which explains his wins on the ground. However, I'm not impressed by what I saw from his offensive wrestling. He should have an edge on Silva if it gets to the ground, but getting it there is far from a sure thing. His last fight made it to the canvas thanks to Pacheco dropping his extremely gassed opponent on the feet before locking up the submission.
Danny Silva trains with longtime UFC fighter Cub Swanson at the UFC Gym in Costa Mesa, California. He showed tremendous poise in his last fight for LFA with his opponent throwing the kitchen sink at him early. Silva showed good discipline, staying calm in the pocket and also fending off a pair of takedown attempts. He has sharp boxing from a southpaw stance, picking his shots well before getting back out of range.
This has the feel of a striker vs. grappler matchup with Silva having the edge on the feet. However, he also may be the better wrestler and is certainly the more athletic fighter, so this one is likely to stay where he's best. Pacheco also struggled with kicks from a southpaw in his last fight, which will be a major problem here.
I wanted to find a reason to bet on the underdog here, but I couldn't get there. Silva should be the far better fighter here, and I'm hoping we can get his finish – or at the very least, knockout – odds at even money or better. We almost never want to lay more than -200 on Contender Series fights, bet his method-of-victory props should help cut into that juice.
Prediction: Danny Silva defeats Angel Pacheco by knockout
The Leans: Danny Silva by Finish | Danny Silva by KO
Heavyweight: Alexander Soldatkin (-395) vs. Mario Piazzon (+310)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 9:25 p.m. ET
If betting lines are to be believed, we have another heavyweight squash match on our hands in Week 8. Last week's heavy favorite in the 265-pound division lived up to his odds, though we saw a big upset with similar betting lines back in Week 5.
The underdog Mario Piazzon is 6-0 with five first-round knockouts. However, his most recent fight has been flagged by Tapology for "Pattern of record padding or mismatches," which is a fairly accurate summation of the quality of opposition he's faced to date. It's hard to find video of any of his fights (another red flag), though I don't have a burning desire to see him flatline 40-year-olds on five-fight losing skids anyway.
He is also undersized for the division, standing 6-foot-0 and weighing in at a doughy 240 pounds. He'd probably be better served by giving up a few cheat meals and cutting to 205, though there are considerably fewer cans to crush in the light heavyweight division.
On the other hand, Alexander Soldatkin is 14-3 but has won his last 11 fights, 10 of which came against opponents with a winning record. He's powerful and fast, and he ended his last fight with a beautiful spinning back kick that he followed up with strikes on the ground. He should make short work of Piazzon here.
Still, I'm certainly not in the business of laying -395 odds on almost any MMA fight, but especially a lower-level one. I'm hoping we can get Soldatkin in the first round at around even money, but I'd play it down to -160 or so.
Prediction: Alexander Soldatkin defeats Mario Piazzon by knockout
The Lean: Alexander Soldatkin in Round 1 (good to -160)
Welterweight: Raheam Forest (-112) vs. Danny Barlow (-108)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 9:55 p.m. ET
We're ending this week's edition of the Contender Series in what looks to be a competitive bout based on the betting lines. Raheam Forest (7-1) is a former CFFC welterweight champion with his only career loss coming to current UFC fighter Charles "Chuck Buffalo" Radtke. He made up for that loss in his following fight, starching his opponent in 21 seconds.
Danny Barlow has yet to lose a fight as a professional, and he also had a 5-1 amateur record before turning pro in 2021. "LeftHand2God" has three first-round knockouts – and one first-round submission – of his own, along with two wins via decision.
This should be a banger with two powerful strikers squaring off. Forest switches stances smoothly, stalking his opponents across the cage while looking to find a home for heavy shots from his rear hand and leg. His feet are constantly moving as he hunts angles, but he doesn't throw with a ton of volume. Forest actually initiated the grappling in his fight with Radtke on multiple occasions, though it ultimately led to his undoing.
He's not a great technical wrestler, but he has the athletic ability to force takedowns through explosiveness. His ground game is similar, making some mistakes defensively from his back that he was largely able to power out of – until he eventually wasn't.
Barlow has also competed in CFFC, picking up a knockout for the promotion in July. He's a true southpaw (hence the nickname) who looks to land big shots with his powerful left hand. He carries his hands low while trying to draw his opponent in, and he is happy to stay fairly stationary in the center of the cage. He's fairly adept at winning the crucial lead foot battle against opposite stance opponents, though the stance switching of Forest will make that a more difficult task.
Barlow's footwork is considerably less sharp than Forest's, and there have been multiple instances of him finding himself off-platform during exchanges.
I couldn't find any instances of him initiating grappling in his fights. He was taken down and nearly submitted in his fourth fight, but he was able to survive and eventually work back to his feet. In that same fight, he was able to defend subsequent takedown attempts and declined an invitation to join his opponent on the ground when the latter slipped to the mat.
Interestingly enough, he's also competed in Combat Jiu-Jitsu (submission grappling in which open-handed strikes are allowed on the ground) though I was unable to find a video of his decision loss. It was against a fellow MMA fighter rather than a dedicated grappler, though, so I'm not putting a ton of stock in that.
All things considered, I expect Forest to have the ability to win minutes wherever this one goes. He should have an offensive wrestling edge, as well as better footwork and technique on the feet. Barlow has the power to change things in a hurry, but at a near pick'em line, I'll take the fighter with the more well-rounded skill set. I'm officially predicting a decision win, but a finish wouldn't be a surprise either.
Prediction: Rahem Forest defeats Danny Barlow via decision.
The Bet: Raheam Forest (-112 at DraftKings)