MMA Prop Squad for UFC 281: Spann (+850), Poirier (+1200), Arce (+3000) Among Our Top Props
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC light heavyweight Ryan Spann
- Saturday's UFC 281 event offers 14 fights and an array of betting opportunities.
- Our crew of prop-betting enthusiasts has identified a handful of prop bets with big odds that they're targeting.
- Check out their picks, including one with 30-1 odds, below.
Welcome to the latest edition of MMA Prop Squad, in which we offer an array of prop bets with oversized odds for UFC 281.
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 this squad of prop-betting enthusiasts.
This week marks the return of contributors Dan Tom, Manpreet Jhass and Clint MacLean, who join Prop Squad regulars Tony Sartori, Billy Ward, Sean Zerillo and Dann Stupp. We’ll be looking to build upon our 5.9% ROI.
Check out their picks for Saturday’s UFC 281 event, which streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view (10 p.m. ET) following prelims on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET) and ESPNews (8 p.m. ET).
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.
Dan Tom: Julio Arce in Round 3 (+3000)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Protect Ya’ Neck podcast
Catching my eye on this week’s UFC card is a bantamweight fight between Julio Arce and Montel Jackson.
Jackson gets a ton of hype for his athletic potential, but I’m still not sold enough to trust him at north of 2-1 odds opposite an experienced talent such as Arce.
I also suspect that Arce is the fighter who is fighting in the correct division, and I believe that Jackson is destined for featherweight and beyond given his obscene size for the weight class.
In fact, if you look at extremely large and long fighters trying to make the lighter divisions, you will notice a trend of suspect durability or, in Jackson’s case, a susceptibility to gas (particularly as they continue these drastic weight cuts into their 30s).
Not only is Arce a builder who gets better as the fight goes on, but the former Golden Gloves winner and kickboxing champ does particularly well against tall fighters and fellow southpaws like Andre Ewell or Julian Erosa (both of whom were stopped in the later rounds).
For that reason, I ended up playing Arce’s money line at plus money and sprinkling on him to win in round 3 at +3000.
The Pick: Julio Arce and Round 3 (+3000 at SuperBook)
Manpreet Jhass: Erin Blanchfield by Submission (+380)
Contributor at The Action Network and MMA content creator
The Molly McCann hype train makes a stop at Madison Square Garden this weekend. Erin Blanchfield will be the fighter across the UFC octagon when the cage door closes, hoping to steal some of that fire.
McCann’s rise has been largely due to her friendship with Paddy Pimblett, but she is making the most of it by delivering on back-to-back highlight reel knockouts. It also can’t be overstated that she, along with Pimblett, are the first UFC fighters to be signed to an endorsement deal with Barstool Sports. That is also helping her popularity tremendously.
Getting into her style, the boxing game of McCann has improved leaps and bounds since she first stepped foot in the UFC back in 2018. That is definitely the strongest aspect of her game. She utilizes forward movement and pressure very effectively, which allows her striking game to flow behind it.
Blanchfield, meanwhile, is a 23-year-old hot prospect who is riding a six-fight winning streak. Her only loss has come at the hands of current flyweight contender Tracy Cortez. The fact that she had a razor-close fight with Cortez when she was just 19 shows how bright of a future she has.
When at her best, Blanchfield can ground fights and control her opponents very well. Her Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the strongest part of her game, and I think that will be very important in this matchup. The striking of Blanchfield is still a work in progress, but I think she can remain competitive enough on the feet until she is able to get the fight to the mat.
It was very impressive to see Blanchfield get a strong grappler like Miranda Maverick into many compromising positions, which is why I honed in on the submission prop for this fight. Including her amateur career, Blanchfield has three submission wins. I think she can make it four this weekend.
McCann has been submitted once in her career, but she has been put in plenty of dangerous positions on the mat by lesser competition.
I think the wrestling game from Blanchfield will get this fight to the mat about halfway through the first round, and it will get easier as the fight goes on until she finds that submission.
The price is just too nice to pass up, especially when I believe there is such a wide gap in the grappling realm like this.
The Pick: Erin Blanchfield by Submission (+380 at FanDuel)
Billy Ward: Ryan Spann in Round 1 (+600)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
In terms of dollars per minute, Ryan Spann might be the UFC’s best-paid fighter. None of his last four bouts has left the first round, with “Superman” alternating wins and losses. He’s perfectly balanced in his methods: one win each by knockout and submission, and also one loss each.
This time, he’s fighting Dominick Reyes, a former title challenger who is best known for taking Jon Jones to a very close (if not controversial) decision in Jones’ last UFC fight. Since then though, Reyes has suffered consecutive knockout losses.
While those knockouts came to current and former champions in Jiri Prozchaka and Jan Blachowicz, it’s not a good sign for Reyes’ chin. This will also be Reyes’ first fight back after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee – also not ideal.
With that said, both fighters should fight very aggressively. I just have way more faith in Spann’s chin at this point in their careers. Spann frequently looks to lock up a guillotine when he has his opponent hurt, which is why I prefer the round prop to the method of victory.
The Pick: Ryan Spann to Win in Round 1 (+600 at FanDuel)
Dann Stupp: Ryan Spann via Submission (+850)
Senior Editor at The Action Network
I’m going to keep this simple: I have doubts about Dominick Reyes’ durability and motivation, and if those concerns become a reality on Saturday night, Ryan Spann has the exact tool he needs to capitalize.
And thankfully for us, that guillotine choke – or any submission for that matter – comes with sizable odds of +850 at FanDuel.
One of my first UFC 281 bets this week was taking the under 1.5 rounds in this bout. If Reyes’ best days are behind him, I like that bet. If he comes back totally rejuvenated following an 18-month layoff and three-fight skid, I still like that bet – because he’s just as likely to get a quick finish.
But if we want to get a little greedy and tempt the MMA gods, I also really like Spann to win by sub.
I rewatched Reyes’ recent KO losses to Jan Blachowicz and Jiri Prochazka. Reyes certainly has his moments and he wasn’t a pushover in those bouts, but I frequently saw Reyes frantically scramble to avoid trouble, often leaving himself in precarious positions with his head ducked low and neck stretched out.
Spann may not be a truly great fighter, but he’s a dangerous one. And with nine guillotines in 20 career victories, he’s learned to capitalize on any of his opponents’ timidity, recklessness and mental lapses with his weapon of choice. And I think Spann has a good shot to do just that on Saturday night.
The Pick: Ryan Spann by Submission (+850 at FanDuel)
Tony Sartori: Claudio Puelles via Decision (+700)
Contributor at The Action Network
To kick off the main card, we have a lightweight bout between Dan Hooker and Claudio Puelles. Hooker is the No. 12-ranked UFC contender in the lightweight division while Puelles is trying to take his number.
That being said, I believe that the ranked fighter is mistakingly priced as the betting favorite. Over the last few years, Hooker has served as a gatekeeper (sort of) in this division as he has typically been pitted against other top-tier fighters who are trying to grab a key victory in their quest for a title shot.
Over his last five fights, he is just 1-4 with losses to Arnold Allen, Islam Makhachev, Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier. These losses are not necessarily an indictment on Hooker as all four of those guys are elite fighters.
However, the damage is starting to catch up to the eight-year UFC veteran. In every single fight, he is coming out slower, and the power is seemingly lost for good.
This should be a big problem against Puelles, who is a strong up-and-comer in this division riding a five-fight winning streak. Puelles is a purple belt in Luta Livre, which (in a vast oversimplification) is a form of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
At these stages of their respective careers, Puelles’ elite ground game, youth and stamina may be too much to overcome for Hooker. The reason I see great value in Puelles’ decision prop is that Hooker does boast strong takedown defense.
I think Puelles’ strong grappling game will end up overwhelming Hooker as the fight progresses, but Hooker should be able to survive until at least the third round. Two of Puelles’ last four wins are via decision while four of Hooker’s eight losses in the UFC saw the scorecards.
The Pick: Claudio Puelles by Points (+700 at FanDuel)
Clint Maclean: Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez Ends via Split/Majority Decision (+500)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Die Hard MMA Podcast
UFC 281 is being held at Madison Square Garden in New York, where we will see Frankie Edgar make the walk one final time. All good things must come to an end, and sadly Edgar, will be hanging up the gloves win, lose or draw. The only thing we as gamblers can take comfort in is knowing that the UFC has given Edgar a decent match-up for his final fight.
Chris Gutierrez is a strong fighter who is coming into his own in this division. The man is coming off a giant spinning-elbow KO of Batgerek Danaa, and we are all aware of how deadly his leg kicks can be.
The issue I see with Gutierrez is his inability to pull away from his opponents. The two KOs he has at the UFC level are the previously mentioned spinning elbow and the leg-kick TKO of Vince Morales. Outside of that, he has five decisions in the UFC, and two of those have come by split decision.
The judges don’t seem to favor volume leg kicks when compared to power strikes and takedowns, so his fights always seem tighter than they maybe are.
Edgar has always been historically durable. I know he’s been knocked out recently, but it was to guys like Chito Vera and Cory Sandhagen. Edgar has a history of matchups with leg kickers in Pedro Munhoz and Jose Aldo, and both times he went the full distance – and one of those was even a split decision.
I expect Edgar to be able to land takedowns here. I also expect Gutierrez to chop away at the legs and play along the outside, leaving the judges trying to figure out if the control and forward pressure of Edgar was more effective than the leg kicks and range control of Gutierrez.
I expect this fight to go the full distance, and if it does, I think it will be competitive. Give me a bet on the split decision.
The Pick: Edgar vs. Gutierrez: Fight to Be Won by Split or Majority Decision (+500 at DraftKings)
Sean Zerillo: Dustin Poirier Wins in Round 2 (+600) | Poirier Wins in Round 3 (+1200)
Senior Writer at The Action Network
Michael Chandler is as dangerous as any fighter on the UFC roster in the first round. However, his effectiveness tends to wane after five to seven minutes of activity – no matter the pace of the fight.
Dustin Poirier has severe advantages in cardio and durability against Chandler, though his opponent can crack any chin on the planet.
Poirier is a bit of a slow starter – while Chandler typically starts hot – so I expect “The Diamond” to be trying to stage a comeback after the opening minutes. Perhaps he gets stunned, or Chandler proactively wrestles from the outset.
Either way, I expect Chandler to find his best success early in the fight while Poirier looks to build his way in and eventually take over down the stretch – as Justin Gaethje did – against a tiring Chandler.
As a result, I’ll keep a close eye on the live markets; I expect to find a superior live price on Poirier after Round 1 compared to his pre-fight price.
However, from a pre-fight perspective, I’ll bet on the cardio advantage and back Poirier to win in Round 2 (+600 at BetRivers) or Round 3 (+1200) while waiting for my live entry.
The Pick: Dustin Poirier wins in Round 2 (+600 at BetRivers) | Poirier wins in Round 3 (+1200 at BetRivers)