Best Bets for Contender Series Week 5: Multiple Leans, 4 Bets for These UFC Hopefuls

Best Bets for Contender Series Week 5: Multiple Leans, 4 Bets for These UFC Hopefuls article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Women’s strawweight MMA fighters Rayanne Amanda and Denise Gomes

In the absence of a major UFC event this weekend, the attention of the MMA community is likely to be fixed on Dana White's Contender Series tonight.

The line movement on Tuesday's Week 5 episode has been substantial, with one -300 favorite at opening flipping to a +200 underdog at the time of writing.

There is plenty to break down, so let's begin with the first fight of the night and the only women’s bout on the card.

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Women's Strawweights: Rayanne Amanda vs. Denise Gomes

The first fight of the evening is a women’s strawweight contest between competing Brazilian hopefuls Denise Gomes (5-1) and Rayanne Amanda (11-5).

Both women have clear connections to the UFC: Gomes is the significant other of Karol Rosa (UFC women’s bantamweight fighter), and Amanda trains with UFC champion Deiveson Figueiredo and the Marajo Brothers Team. Gomes also gets her share of training with UFC-quality fighters since she made the move with Rosa and Jessica Andrade (former UFC champion) to Las Vegas to improve her grappling and get access to the resources at the UFC Performance Institute training center.

Gomes opened as a -225 favorite and got bet down well into the -300 range before money started coming back in on Amanda as a 'dog. Amanda opened in the +185 range and has been bet all the up to a market average comeback of +205 compared to an average price on Gomes of -256 chalk.

It's atypical to see a women’s fight lined to end inside the distance, but that is exactly the case here with an average market price of -134 on the under despite opening as high as +160. This means the betting public is heavily invested in the idea that this fight is ending inside the distance and under 2.5 rounds in the totals market.

I believe this fight is quite binary. Amanda shows more losses, but she has challenged herself against the higher levels of competition, and she has a more well-defined specialty in MMA as a jiu-jitsu world champion. However, she does show one loss by submission, as well as a TKO due to retirement in a bout in which she appeared to suffer a jaw injury after repeated unobstructed elbows to the face.

Gomes is much more physical and powerful in her physique and demeanor, but her skills are rawer in the grappling department as a purple belt. I believe Amanda will submit her in the early going, but if she doesn’t, I am skeptical that she will be willing or able to take the damage coming back at her.

Prediction: Rayanne Amanda def. Denise Gomes via submission (armbar) – Round 1

Bet: Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision (-139) | Amanda Wins via Submission (+500)

Bantamweights: Cameron Saaiman vs. Josh Wang-Kim

The second fight of the night is also compelling as it features the flashy Josh Wang-Kim and one of the youngest fighters on the Contender Series this season: 21-year-old Cameron Saaiman.

Saaiman is a raw fighter with a ton of potential. He trains with Team CIT in South Africa alongside burgeoning UFC star Dricus Du Plessis, a coach and mentor to Cameron.

Wang-Kim is a talented striking stylist who spent a long time on the amateur scene accruing belts and experience before making the leap to the professional ranks. His last fight was competitive, but he was in control at the time of the stoppage and disqualification after he landed intentional elbows to the back of the head (additionally in a 12-6 manner).

Referee Frank Trigg disqualified Wang-Kim for the foul, which I think was justified considering I found other examples in his film of him landing elbows and forearms to the head of opponents who try to wrestle him.

In terms of wrestling and grappling, this fight will be extremely interesting. Wang-Kim has shown to be dangerous in flowing through submission attempts and committing to dangerous armbar, kneebar, and triangle choke entries on a routine basis.

However, he tends to allow himself to get slammed and give up bad positions while aggressively scrambling. That will allow openings for Saaiman if Wang-Kim isn’t able to find a clean finish early in an exchange. His willingness to give his back and attack subs will eventually compromise him against a high-level grappler.

The line has completely flipped on this bout, with oddsmakers opening a -300 on Saaiman and a +250 comeback on Josh Wang-Kim. At the time of writing, Saaiman had flipped to a +200 underdog in his own right, reflecting a massive show of market confidence in the Wang-Kim side.

It is important to note that most of the movement occurred in the immediate aftermath of lines being released. Since the lines have become available to the wider public, the market averages are sitting at a -235 chalk price on Wang-Kim with a +190 comeback on the South African.

Prediction: Josh Wang-Kim def. Cameron Saaiman via split decision (though a submission finish is also a distinct possibility)

Lean: Pass, especially if you like the Wang-Kim side since he's already been bet down substantially. However, he is shaded to win by KO/TKO, and the line has been improving on him to win inside the distance. So if you like Kim, poking ITD or via submission isn’t the worst look.

Flyweights: Erisson Ferreira vs. Jesus Santos Aguilar

The third fight of the night is another exciting scrap featuring a returning face from the last season of DWCS. Erisson Ferreira believes that he has what it takes to get a UFC contract, and the UFC is at least willing to give him another opportunity to prove it after struggling mightily in the early going against an opponent he was meant to run through in Qiulin Qui.

Qui dropped Ferreira in the first round as a nearly 4-1 underdog and took him down on several occasions. To Erisson's credit, he was able to hurt Qui, as well, and ultimately out-grapple him to the victory, but it was a performance that left a lot to be desired.

Ferreira's next opponent is a new emerging threat on the Contender Series scene: Jesus Santos Aguilar. Aguilar lost his first MMA bout via rear-naked choke in 2015 but has not looked back since.

Aguilar has rattled off seven straight wins over the likes of Edgar Chairez (via fifth-round submission in a UWC 23 title fight), Jaime Alvarez (8-3), and Christian Barraza (6-1). Being undefeated in decisions, showing a lethal guillotine choke and a nice series of wrestling attacks, Aguilar may have future UFC upside. However, this will be a difficult fight for him if he can't establish top position since Ferreira is an extremely powerful puncher with strong finishing instincts.

Regardless, this fight has violence written all over it.

Ferreira opened as a -200 favorite in this spot with the comeback on Aguilar opening at +165. The current market reflects some love on the underdog as he has been bet down to an average market price of +146 with no book holding higher than +156. Ferreira, on the other hand, is now as low as -160 on some sharp markets, but market-wide his average remains above -175.

The totals on this fight tell an interesting story as oddsmakers opened -230 on the fight doesn’t go the distance but quickly corrected to the current market-wide numbers of between -125 and -165.

As for the prop markets, there are some submission options with big odds. In his previous fight against Qui,  Ferreira had a fully sunk rear-naked at the end of Round 1, and his opponent was saved by the bell. Aguilar, meanwhile, will have to force relentless grappling in this fight, and if he can gas Ferreira, he may find his patented guillotine choke.

Prediction: Erisson Ferreira def. Jesus Santos Aguilar via KO – Round 1

Leans: Fight Ends by Submission (+400) | Ferreira via submission (+1200)

Welterweights: Amiran Gogoladze vs. Darrius Flowers

The co-main event of the evening features a reinvigorated Darrius Flowers (11-5) against the highly touted and extremely dangerous Georgian finisher in Amiran Gogoladze (14-2).

Flowers described himself as “lazy” in the past but now believes that his three-a-day practices and his improvements in mindset and work ethic will carry him further in his career.

Flowers has professional boxing experience, but he sports a 1-10 record with seven losses by knockout according to BoxRec. In mixed martial arts, he has been finished in all five of his professional losses, often due to fatigue and inexperience on the mats, with four submission losses and a defeat via knockout against UFC vet Bobby Voelker.

After a submission loss to Ryan Leninger in the second round, he took some time off before returning to action with a win – and a week later to the LFA cage for two wins in as many weeks.

Gogoladze has lost only two bouts via decision. Most of his wins have been a collection of highlight-reel knockouts over Georgian regional scene fighters, but he has also tested himself in the best regional organizations in his region, including M-1 Global, UAE Warriors, and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s GFC.

Oddsmakers opened a -225 price on Gogoladze, and the betting public pushed his line out to -360 before the comeback on Flowers became too tempting and buyback came the other way. The current market is offering an average price of -310 for the chalk side with the comeback at +240 on Flowers.

These guys have a combined finish rate of almost 80% in their professional wins, so it is no surprise to see the fight lined not to go the distance at a -400 clip. It is interesting to note that despite the four losses via submission on the Flowers side, his perceived grappling edge in the market is reflected such that Gogoladze by Submission is +475 compared to even money (+100) on his KO prop. Many sportsbooks are pricing Gogoladze as an outright favorite to win in Round 1.

Prediction: Amiran Gogoladze def. Darrius Flowers via TKO – Round 1

Leans: Gogoladze ITD or pass. (If on the other side, consider a poke on Flowers via Submission at +2000 since he said he wants to grapple.)

Heavyweights: Eduardo Neves vs. Michael Parkin

In the main event of the evening, the LFA fast-handed heavyweight prospect Eduardo Neves (5-0) will take on England’s Michael Parkin (5-0) in a showdown of undefeated heavyweight prospects.

Parkin is clearly the more experienced fighter at 26 years old (compared to 22) with a 7-0-1 run on the amateur scene to bolster his professional experience. That being said, Neves is the fighter who has seen stiffer competition, fighting and beating more than one fighter with a winning professional record.

Parkin has been training and developing alongside the right people in the U.K. MMA scene (Tom Aspinall, Phillip De Fries, Michael "Venum" Page, Justin Burlinson, etc.). This will represent a step up in competition but a manageable one at that.

Neves is the more dangerous striker to my eye, and he carries fight-altering power and weird rhythm to his punching combinations that have made him a potent finisher with five wins by knockout in as many professional outings.

Parkin, on the other hand, has demonstrated a more varied approach to the mixed martial arts game, winning a fight via rear naked choke regionally and attempting takedowns and cage-pushing in some of his bouts.

Neves' cardio appears to be the most suspect aspect of his game, but his grappling can also be called into question based on his regional footage. Parkin was chin-checked badly in his draw as an amatuer, so his record is not above reproach, but I believe he may have upside given the odds.

Neves opened for this bout a -150 favorite and he has been bet to the -200 range market-wide. His opponent, Parkin, opened as a +120 underdog, and he has been bet up to +165 on the moneyline market average.

Parkin appears to be the more competent wrestler of the two, and he has more cage time and experience to draw from if the fight gets difficult for him. While I think the hand speed and power of Neves make him a deserved favorite, his win condition is closely correlated to the knockout, and oddsmakers are pricing Neves to win via KO at -135, virtually the same as his opening moneyline.

I am now forced to consider the dog, who is a hefty +275 to win a heavyweight contest by knockout – despite having 11 wins via KO between his pro and amateur careers.

Prediction: Michael Parkin defeats Eduardo Neves via TKO – Round 2

Bets: Parkin ML (+170) | Parkin Inside the Distance (+275)

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