MMA Prop Squad for UFC 278: Our Top Picks Include +3500 Round Prop, +800 KO Prop
Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC heavyweight Marcin Tybura
(Editor’s note: In addition to Tybura in Round 3 at +3500, Dann Stupp has added Tybura in Round 2 at +2900 as an official MMA Squad Prop pick.)
Welcome to the latest edition of MMA Prop Squad, in which we offer an array of prop bets with oversized odds for UFC 278 on Saturday.
In this weekly feature, Action Network’s MMA team welcomes in a revolving cast of outside contributors and fellow combat-sports analysts. Each #MMAPropSquad installment will feature a handful of picks from our squad of prop-betting enthusiasts. Through a small sample size of three events, the squad has posted a healthy ROI of 30.0%.
This week marks the return of contributors Manpreet Jhass, Clint Maclean and Ben Fowlkes.
Check out their picks – and picks from our full-time MMA staffers – for Saturday’s event, which airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view from Salt Lake City, below. The card kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT) with prelims on ESPN+ and then ESPN.
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.
Clint Maclean: Leonardo Santos by KO (+800)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Die Hard MMA Podcast
UFC 278 is a chalk-heavy card, and the task of finding big-money props is not an easy one this week.
Most of the fights have an obvious favorite, and even those favorites have their paths to victory hammered down under the +200 range. So we have to get creative.
Leonardo Santos (18-5-1) is one of MMA’s ageless Brazilians, and it just doesn’t seem to matter what his age is: He always comes in dangerous. Thirteen of Santos’ 20 wins have come by way of finish, and he is a large man at 155 pounds.
Jared Gordon (18-5), on the other hand, is 33 and is small for the division. Even though we generally favor youth in MMA, we have to consider Gordon’s past in this case and the hard life he has lived. Gordon has made clear his past struggles with addiction, and on top of that, he’s been knocked out four times in his MMA career.
Gordon also is likely more naturally suited for 145, but after multiple failed attempts to make the weight limit, he has to fight at 155, where he is at a significant size disadvantage.
Santos may be past his prime, and his gas tank is definitely a concern, but he is much larger than his opponent, and Gordon has been stopped in all of his losses..
I’ll roll the dice on the old dog to crack one more time.
The Pick: Leonardo Santos by Knockout (+800)
Manpreet Jhass: Jose Aldo by KO (+500)
Contributor at The Action Network and MMA content creator
The legend Jose Aldo (31-7) returns to the UFC Octagon on Saturday looking to build upon his three-fight winning streak. Opposite of him will be Merab Dvalishvili (14-4), who is riding a seven-fight winning streak of his own while looking nearly unstoppable.
Aldo was being written off when he decided to go down to bantamweight, but here he is making a case for another title shot with the run he is on. With wins over Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz and Rob Font, Aldo looks to be having a career resurgence, especially with how good he is looking while getting these wins.
Aldo has been using phenomenal striking combinations, his speed, and even grappling to get his victories. The former featherweight king will have a decided advantage in the striking realm here, and I think he’ll use it to pull off the upset via finish.
Dvalishvili has relied on his relentless grappling style to land more than seven takedowns per fight during this seven-fight winning streak. He nearly had his streak halted by Marlon Moraes last time around. Moraes took advantage of his opponent’s sloppy striking defense and landed a beautiful left hook to put Dvalishvili on wobbly legs. Somehow, Dvalishvili managed to stay in the fight and battle his way back to finish Moraes in Round 2.
I think we’ll see Aldo utilize his superior striking to catch the Dvalishvili slipping on the feet. Whether it’s one of his sloppy takedown entries or capitalizing on Dvalishvili sticking around in the pocket for too long, I think Aldo will find the target early and often.
Mix in Aldo’s 90 percent takedown defense and elite get-up game, I think he will maximize his finishing opportunities and cash as an underdog in emphatic fashion.
The Pick: Jose Aldo wins by Knockout (+500 at BetRivers)
Ben Fowlkes: Paulo Costa in Round 2 (+380)
Contributor at The Action Network and cohost of the Co-Main Event Podcast
First off, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Luke Rockhold showed up for this fight in which he is a significant underdog, a fight in which the oddsmakers seem to think Paulo Costa flatlining him inside the distance is the most likely outcome, and then he proceeded to talk great mounds of crap about the UFC’s pay and bonus structure anyway.
Lots of people talk about living that DGAF lifestyle – Rockhold is really doing it.
That said? Yeah, I think Costa (13-2) probably knocks out Rockhold (16-5). What’s crazy is that even betting something as specific as Costa via KO/TKO still only gets you -165 odds on DraftKings and -160 at FanDuel. To really scratch that itch for big risks and big rewards, you’ve got to get even more specific.
That’s why I’m taking Costa to win in Round 2. The big homie “Borrachinha” is known as a knockout artist, and that reputation is well-deserved. But outside of his early days fighting lesser competition, he doesn’t have a ton of first-round finishes. What we’ve seen more from him in the UFC is a first round in which he feels out and closes in on his opponents, followed by a second round in which he polishes them off. His past three knockout victories in the UFC have all come in the second round.
I also think Rockhold will be just cautious enough of Costa’s power in the first frame, but by the second he’ll be feeling the pressure to engage more lest he let the fight slip too far out of reach. That’s the sweet spot for a fighter like Costa. The best line I’ve found for this one is +380 at DraftKings, and I’m jumping on it.
The Pick: Paulo Costa Wins in Round 2 (+380 at DraftKings)
Sean Zerillo: Sean Woodson in Round 2 (+600), Round 3 (+1000)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Sean Woodson has struggled against grapplers, but he shouldn’t have too much issue picking apart a much smaller fighter such as Luis Saldana on the feet.
He boasts the superior height (3 inches taller), reach (five inches) and cardio, and it should give him a clear edge on the mat.
Saldana’s success and output could diminish substantially after the opening five minutes, especially if he simply tires himself out with takedown efforts against Woodson.
If that happens, Woodson could step on the gas and pour on the volume in the second half of the fight. Woodson doesn’t boast true one-punch power, but he can tally punches in bunches, and he’s got some nasty body shots.
Ultimately Saldana could crumble under Woodson’s pressure and pace as the fight wears on.
That’s why I’m playing Woodson to win in Round 2 and Round 3, which offer some much bigger odds relative to a straight moneyline play on the big favorite (-350).
The Picks: Sean Woodson Wins in Round 2 (+600 at FanDuel) | Woodson Wins in Round 3 (+1000 at DraftKings)
Billy Ward: Francisco Figueiredo by Finish (+750)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Francisco Figueiredo (13-4) — younger brother of flyweight champ Deiveson — is fighting Amir Albazi (14-1) on the early prelims at UFC 278. Figueiredo is 2-1 so far in his UFC career, with his most recent win coming via first-round kneebar. Albazi is 2-0 in the UFC – and a big favorite in this one at -500.
Figueiredo has had major issues keeping up his output deeper into fights, while aggressively hunting for finishes early on. Even in his lone UFC decision win against Jerome Rivera, he lost the third round on all three judges’ scorecards.
With this fight taking place in Utah, it’s hard to see that turning around for Figueiredo. Salt Lake City is roughly 4,000 feet above sea level, and the thin air is extra taxing on a fighter’s cardio. Figueiredo likely needs to get this one done early to pull out a win.
There’s a style angle to this one, as well. Figueiredo has excellent jiu-jitsu, with eight of his 13 professional wins coming via submission. With Albazi being an aggressive grappler himself, he could play right into Figueiredo’s strengths by taking this one to the mat.
I was relatively surprised to see how long his inside-the-distance props were, considering his moneyline odds of +380. That’s projecting his win condition as roughly evenly split between a finish and a decision. Assuming his moneyline is the more efficient of the two, the ITD line is a solid value.
It’s likelier than not to come via submission, given Figueiredo’s excellent jiu-jitsu, and his submission line is all the way up to +1200 or better. I’m projecting value on that as well, but the +750 is more than juicy enough for my tastes.
The Pick: Francisco Figueiredo To Win By Finish (+750 at DraftKings)
Dann Stupp: Marcin Tybura in Round 2 (+2900), Round 3 (+3500)
Senior Editor at The Action Network
Marcin Tybura’s moneyline (+300) is one of my official plays for UFC 278, and my colleague Sean Zerillo broke it down perfectly when he chose the same pick for his UFC 278 best bet.
But there’s another angle for Tybura’s featured prelim fight against fellow heavyweight Alexander Romanov that I absolutely adore – and it offers some astronomical odds that are simply too juicy to pass up.
The well-rounded Tybura is a big step up in competition for Romanov, who is likely to work for takedowns early to set up his methodical ground game. But Tybura is more than capable on the mat, and with what could be a cardio edge (or, at least, an experience edge), he could slowly take over in the second and third rounds if this turns into a grinding affair.
We don’t really know what to expect from Romanov in the second half of a fight. He’s gone to the third round just twice in his career; Tybura has gone 14 times. Additionally, with the high elevation of Salt Lake City likely to sap at least some of these big men’s energy, the untested Romanov could find himself dealing with an unfamiliar struggle as the fight wears on.
Sure, it’s a long shot. But there are numerous factors that suggest the battle-tested Tybura can hang on and even take over as the fight wears on. At 29-1 for Round 2 and 35-1 for Round 3, I’m more than happy to make those bets and find out.
The Pick: Marcin Tybura Wins in Round 2 (+2900 at FanDuel) | Tybura Wins in Round 3 (+3500 at FanDuel)
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