MMA Prop Squad: Long-shot Bets of +430 or Longer for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 40 Event
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC heavyweight Serghei Spivac
(Editor’s note: The women’s flyweight bout of Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira has reportedly been pulled from Saturday’s card and rescheduled for Aug. 13 as a bantamweight bout. Additionally, though “Spivac in Round 2” was listed as a bet in the story copy, originally it was incorrectly listed as “Sakai in Round 2” in the header.)
Welcome to the latest edition of MMA Prop Squad, in which we offer an array of prop bets with oversized odds for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 40 event.
In this weekly feature, Action Network’s MMA team welcomes in a revolving cast of contributors and fellow combat-sports analysts. Each installment will feature 3-6 picks from our squad of prop-betting enthusiasts.
This week we’re joined by Clint Maclean and Dan Tom, as well as two new #MMAPropSquad members: Ben Fowlkes and Tony Sartori. They helped us identify some plays for UFC on ESPN 40, which airs on ESPN ( 7 p.m. ET) from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
As with all betting, always wager within your means. That guidance is especially important when dealing with prop bets. Although the props often offer tantalizing odds, they also cash far less frequently than standard bet types.
In other words, sprinkle before you sprint.
Ben Fowlkes: Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal ends via split/majority decision (+700)
Contributor at The Action Network and cohost of the Co-Main Event Podcast
You want to know what’s my personal sports betting white whale? The prop bet that consumes me, tortures me, mocks me from afar?
No question, it’s the always-juicy line on a fight to end via split or majority decision. Even more so than my other favorite insane prop bets – such as betting on a draw, or that a point will be deducted – this one seems like it could actually happen. Because it can. And it does.
I understand why the odds on this prop bet are usually so long. Most fights that go the distance end in a unanimous decision, with all three judges seeing it for the same fighter. For a split or majority decision, you need one dissenting voice to call it a draw or a win for the other guy.
Still, it’s happened at least once on eight of the past 10 UFC fight cards. So the trick becomes identifying the likely candidates, which in turn means finding a close matchup that is likely to go the distance and divide the judges.
For this event, my pick is the welterweight co-main event between Geoff Neal (14-4) and Vicente Luque (21-8-1). They’re two pretty evenly matched 170-pounders who seem like they might struggle to get one another out of there inside of three rounds, but also their styles are different enough that I could see different judges rewarding them for different things.
Luque is a dangerous, dynamic fighter with a nose for the finish. But Neal hasn’t been finished in more than five years, and never in the UFC. He’s also got knockout power, but he’s savvy enough to know when to be patient against a guy trying for that one big moment. Those two together seem like a split decision waiting to happen.
Can’t you just picture a fight in which Luque has a couple of big spots while Neal steadily wins the bulk of most of the rounds, leading to the judges splitting their votes? I can. And with +700 odds, it’s a big enough payday to justify some small action without having to get all the way nuts on props such as Luque-Neal to end in a draw (+5000) or to have a point deduction (+2000).
The Pick: Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal ends via split/majority decision (+700 at DraftKings)
Billy Ward: Geoff Neal via decision (+500)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal are solid welterweights who’ve lost to only other high-level competitors. While my colleague Ben Fowlkes is betting this one to go to a contested decision (see above), I have a related but slightly different play.
Luque is extremely durable and has never been finished in his pro career, and Neal hasn’t been finished since arriving in the UFC nearly five years ago. Luque is also an extremely fast starter who fades a bit as fights wear on, evidenced by his 1-4 decision record in the UFC. Neal has done better later in fights, with a 2-2 UFC decision record.
Things could get tricky for Luque if Neal is able to survive early. Neither fighter prefers to do much grappling, and Neal is a fairly awkward southpaw striker with 62% striking defense in the UFC.
I prefer the value on Neal by decision rather than his moneyline odds, which are in the +160 range. Those odds are telling you that less than 50% of his win condition is based on a decision, which is an awfully low number against a fighter who’s never been stopped before.
If that’s a bit risky for your tastes, you could also play Neal and the over 1.5 for +265 odds (DraftKings SGP), or look for live spots on Neal after the first round if the line gets longer. I’m anticipating a faster start for Luque, so Neal’s moneyline could begin to approach his pre-fight decision odds following the first round.
The Pick: Geoff Neal wins via decision (+500 at DraftKings)
Clint Maclean: Ariane Lipski via submission (+500)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Die Hard MMA Podcast
Ariane Lipski and Priscila Cachoeira – The Queen of Violence vs. the Zombie Girl – are on the shortlist for Fight of the Night honors on Saturday.
The way these two women fight often produces high-powered violence. Both women are looking for the finish from the opening bell, and it’s hard to see this being anything but a banger.
The key to this fight for me is going to be the time that Lipski has spent with top-level talent and coaches at American Top Team. When we first saw Lipski, we found out very quickly what she is all about. She’s more than willing to fight fire with fire, and she came into the UFC facing the likes of Molly McCann and Joanne Wood.
After facing a few setbacks, Lipski (14-7) has bought in on her fighting career and moved to one of the best gyms in the world to specifically work on her MMA wrestling and grappling. Lipski was always an aggressive finisher, but giving her offense the extra wrinkle of solid wrestling and stronger positional grappling will make her even more of a dual threat.
Cachoeira (11-4), meanwhile, is known for her durability and willingness to brawl, but the one area in her UFC career where she’s struggled has been her defensive grappling and submission defense. Two of Cachoeira’s four losses have come by submission, and should Lipski put her new skills to the test or simply end up on top after a scramble or knockdown, we could see Lipski shift gears.
I love attacking submission props for fighters who are too tough to go down due to strikes, and Zombie Girl fits that mold. We missed last week with a sub prop. Let’s get back on track here with The Queen of Violence by submission.
The Pick: Ariane Lipski wins by submission (+550 at BetRivers)
Dan Tom: Serghei Spivac in Round 2 (+430)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Protect Ya’ Neck podcast
Although part of me has a hard time visualizing Augusto Sakai (15-4-1) losing four straight fights, I suspect that Serghei Spivac (14-3) is quietly one of the more difficult matchups for him in the heavyweight division.
Not only is Sakai coming off of three consecutive stoppage losses, but the Brazilian fighter has traditionally been lackadaisical when forced to grapple for prolonged periods in the UFC. Heavyweight is a dangerous place from a power perspective, but it’s not exactly populated with a ton of aggressive grapplers or wrestlers.
However, since Spivac relocated his camp stateside to train with a slew of high-level talent in Las Vegas, the Moldovan has made clear efforts to add his name to the pile with his improved takedown chains and aggressive positional grappling.
Add in the smaller cage of the UFC Apex, and I can see Sakai surviving until the second round before eventually succumbing to Spivac’s pressure.
Despite Round 2 being a deceptive hot zone for process-based heavyweights, I also sprinkled a quarter unit on Spivac by KO/TKO at +180 for extra coverage (while still keeping exposure small).
The Pick: Serghei Spivac wins in Round 2 (+430 at FanDuel)
Tony Sartori: Bryan Battle via KO (+850)
Contributor at The Action Network
We have a very exciting welterweight bout set to take place during the prelims as Bryan Battle meets Takashi Sato. Many of you most likely know Battle as the middleweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter 28, and this will be his first fight in the welterweight division.
A change in division was not planned for Battle; he looked incredibly sharp at 185 pounds. However, after his unanimous decision victory over Tresean Gore, Battle wanted to focus his training on becoming more athletic and possessing better endurance.
This change in training led to his surprise decision to drop a weight class after he found it easy to make weight at 170. Assuming he still puts back on a lot of weight between weigh-ins and fight night, Battle could be a serious problem at 170.
Not only is Battle (8-1) going to be bigger and longer than most of the competition at welterweight, but he will also pack a punch if he retains even just 65% of the power he held at 185. This first fight against Sato (16-5), in which Battle will have a four-inch reach advantage, will be a great judgment of these assumptions.
Battle has developed a strong reputation for his submission offense, but he also throws accurately at an insanely high volume. Through his first two official UFC fights, Battle boasts a 56% striking accuracy while landing 7.1 strikes per minute.
Combining these stats with his size advantage, Battle’s striking should be overwhelming for Sato, a guy who has now lost three of his last four bouts and who has been greatly outmatched in the striking department in all three of them. Assuming Battle had a clean weight cut behind the scenes, I am very excited to see the power he displays at 170, and I think it could lead to a knockout against Sato.
The Pick: Bryan Battle to win via KO/TKO/DQ (+850 at FanDuel)
Dann Stupp: Miranda Granger via submission (+1600)
Senior Editor at The Action Network
I’m going to keep this breakdown rather simple: No fighter should have oversized +1600 odds to pull off a submission against an inexperienced female opponent. Especially when that initial fighter has a striking advantage and a serviceable grappling game.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to steer clear of the women’s atomweight bout between Miranda Granger (7-2) and Cory McKenna (6-2) on Saturday’s prelims due to all of the unknowns in the matchup.
Granger is a decent-sized underdog in her fight with 23-year-old McKenna. The English youngster has shown sparks of potential, but facing a massive 10-inch reach disadvantage against 30-year-old Granger, McKenna could be eating a steady stream of punches from distance on fight night.
Though McKenna has worked to shore up her wrestling at Team Alpha Male, it could be her downfall if she’s too confident, at least when it comes to long-shot prop bets. I like Granger straight up on the moneyline in this matchup (and I bet her at +175), but her prop bet to win by submission in this matchup is especially tantalizing.
Granger, who returns from pregnancy and a two-year layoff, has five submissions in seven career victories. Granted, they weren’t against the highest level of competition. Then again, McKenna’s still a promising but unproven talent herself.
With Granger’s reach and height (4 inches) advantage – both of which could create awkward clinch and grappling exchanges – I could see her latching on a limb or neck and scoring a submission at least 8-10% of the time.
That is comfortably better than the 5.9% chance that the current +1600 odds suggest for this bet.
The Pick: Miranda Granger wins via submission (+1600 at FanDuel)