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Contender Series Week 2 Odds, Picks, Projections: 2 Best Bets for Tuesday Night’s MMA Fights (August 2)

Contender Series Week 2 Odds, Picks, Projections: 2 Best Bets for Tuesday Night’s MMA Fights (August 2) article feature image
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Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Dana White’s Contender Series at UFC Apex facility

Dana White’s Contender Series, which is billed as the world’s toughest job interview, is no normal MMA event.

During a 10-week season each year, the head honcho of the combat sports leader sits cageside and evaluates talent. If you impress White, the company’s longtime president, an official UFC contract could await at night’s end.

The stakes are high in this Tuesday-night live event series at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The show is fast-paced, and fighters know they have to bring the action to impress the boss and secure a spot on the UFC roster.

Dana White’s Contender Series Week 2 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+ ) doesn’t seem to feature a massive slate of future UFC stars. However, the matchmaking appears likely to produce fireworks across the board.

Let’s break down the five-fight lineup and look at some betting angles for the event. After all, nearly all major US sportsbooks now offer legal betting on DWCS events.

Shimon Smotritsky vs. Billy Goff

Welterweight Shimon Smotritsky was featured on the previous DWCS season just after his 21st birthday, and he was given the unenviable assignment of fighting “Proper” Mike Mallott (who already burst on the scene in the UFC with a first-round KO of Mickey Gall).

Mallott dispatched Smotritsky in the opening minute of the bout with an extremely tight guillotine choke. Since then, Shimon has been traveling the world training at the likes of Tiger Muay Thai, Great Britain Top Team, and the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. He also secured a thorough and impressive victory over UFC veteran William Macario (11-5) in his most recent bout, showcasing improved standup, aggressive back-takes, and a comprehensive game.

Goff, on the other hand, will be making his Contender Series debut at 24. Goff cashed his ticket to the Contender Series by defeating Justin Sumter (8-4), a man who fell short in both of his DWCS appearances. Goff was able to secure the finish via ground-and-pound elbows to capture the middleweight championship for the CES regional promotion after capturing the welterweight championship less than one month prior at another CES event, defeating Gary Balletto Jr. via first-round KO.

Goff is willing to close distance despite his smaller stature for the weight class. However, both of his most recent bouts came with adversity; Balletto Jr. badly dropped him with a straight punch, and Goff gave up his back and the mount position to Sumter.

Goff opened as a -140 (58.3%) favorite and was bet all the way up to -235 (70.2%) before dropping back to a market average of -165 (62.3%). This indicates to me that bookmakers are getting two-way action and for good reason. Smotritsky disappointed his backers on last season of Contender Series, so many were probably eager to revenge fade him in this spot.

The time around, I think “under 2.5 rounds” (-165) is a better bet than the Goff ML (-165) personally, but perhaps I am being too hard on Goff. I just wasn’t blown away by his tape, and I think the action on the underdog at +160 and longer made sense.

Prediction: Shimon Smoltritsky def. Billy Goff via submission – Round 2

Waldo Cortes-Acosta vs. Danilo Suzart

Heavyweights Waldo Cortes-Acosta (6-0) and Danilo “Dan” Suzart (9-1) also clash at the event while looking to break into the big show. Both are entering their fighting primes at around 30 years old.

Cortes-Acosta sports a respectable pro boxing background. Suzart, meanwhile, has been a pro MMA fighter since 2018, accruing most of his experience on the Brazilian regional scene.

It’s notable that despite tipping the scale at similar figures, Cortes-Acosta will be the much larger and longer athlete on fight night, with a 4-inch height advantage (6’4″ vs. 6’) and an unmeasured but significant visual reach advantage.

Oddsmakers opened Waldo Cortes-Acosta as a -350 (77.8%) favorite, and it appears he has taken largely one-way steam. He’d been bet all the way to -500 (83.3%) before encountering small signs of resistance.

I fully expect Cortes-Acosta to be the rightful favorite in this spot, but because it’s a heavyweight fight and I’ve seen Acosta knocked out in the boxing ring, I have no interest in laying this massive moneyline price.

Additionally, both men have demonstrated solid, workmanlike cardio. Cortes-Acosta has demonstrated more paths to victory in terms of controlling the clinch, mixing in level changes, and boxing the opponent’s back onto the fence. Ten of their combined sixteen fights have ended inside the distance, but neither athlete has been finished in pro MMA.

For me, this fight screams pass because the plus money on the over has evaporated and there is a distinct possibility this turns into a sloppy heavyweight hug-fest in the over-under clinch.

Prediction: Waldo Acosta-Cortes def. Danilo Suzart via TKO – Round 3

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Francis Marshall vs. Connor Matthews

The hardest Week 2 fight to call is in the featherweight division. Unknowns are a sure way to push a betting line closer to 50-50, and that’s exactly what we have between Francis Marshall (5-0) and Connor Matthews (5-0).

Both are fighters from gritty Northeastern gyms with high acclaim: Marshall from Pellegrino MMA in New Jersey and Matthews from Lauzon MMA in Massachusetts.

Marshall will be seven years younger (23 vs. 30) and 1 inch taller in the matchup. He still has two years of potential physical developments to undergo whereas Matthews has already matured physically and even served in the military as a special warfare airman. I think the maturity, physicality and prior experience of Matthews could pay dividends.

Money is beginning to pour in on Marshall since he’s the younger fighter with more proven three-round cardio and more than 10 years of MMA training experience. Matthews appears to be a marketable asset for the UFC in the present while Marshall has an entire career ahead of him. I expect we see Marshall back with some seasoning, but I have a hunch the short underdog pulls this one out. If I see +150, I will be firing on the Matthews side.

Prediction: Connor Matthews def. Francis Marshall via submission – Round 1

Shannon Ross vs. Vinicius Salvador

The co-main event of this Contender Series offering is a flyweight clash between grizzled Australian regional vet Shannon Ross and Vinicius Salvador, a virtual unknown from the Ribas family training center with a loose, creative striking style.

Ross opened as a +150 (40%) underdog in this fight and has been bet all the way to a market average of -263 (72.5%), a market correction of 32.5% off the opening line. While I think Ross has an edge in experience and hand speed, I am not sure that his durability, his lack of recent activity, or his age in the flyweight division inspire much confidence in him covering a 70-plus-percent win rate.

Salvador is a bit sloppy and reckless on the feet, but he appears to have genuine power. And though he shows a lack of submission finishes, I have seen some position work in transition that makes me believe he can potentially submit someone such as Ross if he has him hurt.

I will look to play a prop on a Salvador finish or an “under” round prop before I consider laying such heavy chalk on Ross. Gun to my head, I would favor Ross slightly, but I have a funny feeling Salvador springs the upset.

Prediction: Vinicius Salvador def. Shannon Ross via submission – Round 2

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Chris Duncan vs. Charlie Campbell

That brings us to the main event of the evening, which is also the highest skilled fight on the slate.

Lightweight Chris Duncan was screwed over by his opponent missing weight for a scheduled bout during the last DWCS season, so he accepted and ultimately lost a short-notice bout against Viacheslav Borschev via second-round knockout (left hook).

Charlie “The Cannibal” Campbell, however, will not have sympathy for his opponent since Duncan stands between him and his dream of fighting in the UFC.

Campbell is a marketable New York loudmouth who brings the crowd into the fight and weaponizes technical striking, a high pace, and relentless pressure to break his opponents and finish them with strikes standing or on the ground. His training with other Contender Series standouts including Dennis Buzujka will pay dividends, as will his upbringing at the Longo and Weidman Academy alongside UFC champions, top contenders and highly skilled pros.

To his credit, Duncan is a confident Scotsman committed to his MMA goals. He has demonstrated as much by floating around Europe to train with the Scottish Hit Squad, Great Britain Top Team and other top flight European training facilities. He then installed himself at the dorms of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, for a seven-week training camp, so you know he dotted every i and crossed every t in terms of preparation.

I believe both these men are so talented that they will both one day fight in the UFC; however, only one man can advance on Tuesday, and I expect that Campbell is the more UFC-ready fighter today.

Duncan recently started training at a more professional level by his own admission when he came to the U.S. for higher-quality training partners and coaches. Campbell, meanwhile, has grown up around some of the best coaches, champions and competitors the sport of MMA has had to offer in Ray Longo, Matt Serra, Chris Weidman, Aljamain Sterling and the rest of the elite team.

Stylistically, I expect Campbell to defend takedowns early, and Duncan may test his chin with his aggressive forward pressure and wild winging hooks. The longer the fight goes on, the more I expect Campbell to take over with an accumulation of low kicks, prods to the body with different weapons, and multi-level combinations.

The betting public agrees this should be a tremendous action fight, pricing “fight does not go the distance” at a market average of -240 (70.6%). Campbell opened as a -160 (61.5%) favorite, and despite what seems to be a high volume of action on both sides, the line has hardly budged in either direction.

Prediction: Charlie Campbell def. Chris Duncan via TKO – Round 3

Picks: Campbell (-154 at FanDuel) │ Campbell wins inside the distance (+100 at DraftKings)

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