MMA Prop Squad for UFC Vegas 65: This 20-1 Submission Prop Among Our Favorite Plays
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC flyweight Zhalgas Zhumagulov
- The MMA Prop Squad looks to build on its lifetime 22.1% ROI with today's UFC Vegas 65 event (1 p.m. ET).
- After hitting three prop bets last week, the crew has six plays for UFC Fight NIght: Lewis vs. Spivak today.
- The prop odds range from +500 to +2000 and can be found below.
(Editor’s note: UFC officials announced midway through the card that the UFC Vegas 65 main event of Derrick Lewis vs. Sergey Spivak has been pulled from the card due to an undisclosed medical issue for Lewis.)
Welcome to the latest edition of MMA Prop Squad, in which we offer an array of prop bets with oversized odds for UFC Vegas 65 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 features a handful of picks from our squad of prop-betting enthusiasts, who have posted an overall 22.1% ROI to date.
This week features picks from new squad member Bryan Fonseca, along with regulars Manpreet Jhass, Dan Tom, Tony Sartori, Billy Ward and Dann Stupp.
Check out their picks for Saturday’s event, which streams on ESPN+ (1 p.m. ET) from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, below.
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.
Billy Ward: Andre Fialho by Round 1 KO (+500)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Dating back to his pre-UFC days fighting for the UAE Warriors promotion, Andre Fialho is 5-2 over his past seven fights. Each of those victories has come via the same method: a first-round knockout.
Fialho is the definition of a fighter willing to take two punches to land one, having absorbed nearly seven significant strikes per minute in his UFC tenure. While he’s landed shy of four himself, his tend to come with a pretty significant impact.
Fialho is fighting Muslim Salikhov, who is listed as a slight favorite. However, Salikhov is 38 and coming off of a knockout loss.
It bears repeating that fighters’ chins don’t improve with either age or damage.
Salikhov is the better technical striker and grappler here though. So, if Fialho is going to win it, it’s probably via knockout. It’s also likely to come early, as Fialho’s all-action style tends to leave him gassed.
Put it together and we have a first-round knockout as his likeliest win condition.
The Pick: Andre Fialho KO/TKO & Round 1 (+500 at FanDuel)
Manpreet Jhass: Waldo Cortes-Acosta by Decision (+550)
Contributor at The Action Network and MMA content creator
The top three fights on this weekend’s UFC event feature the big boys, and the first of those is where I find an intriguing longshot prop.
Waldo Cortes-Acosta made a successful UFC debut three weeks ago when he defeated Jared Vanderaa over 15 minutes.
Chase Sherman was scheduled to fight Josh Parisian on Nov. 5, but Parisian was unfortunately forced to pull out of the fight on weigh-in day.
Thus, the UFC has matched up these two fighters this weekend, and I think it’s another solid fight for Cortes-Acosta to show off his game. He is a solid all-around fighter who moves well for a heavyweight his size. He utilizes all of the martial arts and doesn’t just try to slug it out like a traditional heavyweight. I would be surprised if we didn’t see him look to get this fight to the ground to keep Sherman on his toes.
Sherman is your typical heavyweight slugger, but I will hand it to him that he actually throws in combinations and not just bomb after bomb. He utilizes kicks well, and his movement isn’t half bad.
I think Sherman will struggle with the clinch and grappling game of Cortes-Acosta should he implement it here. We’ve seen it in Cortes-Acosta’s arsenal in the past, and he has no problem going the full 15 minutes if he needs to.
Here’s to hoping we get that full mixed martial arts effort from Cortes-Acosta so he can avoid the power of Sherman and cash us the decision ticket.
The Pick: Waldo Cortes-Acosta by Points (+550 at FanDuel)
Bryan Fonseca: Maria Oliveira by KO (+800)
Contributor at The Action Network and combat sports host and on-air talent
Maria Oliveira doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
If you haven’t seen her scrap yet, you’re in luck. She’s fighting Vanessa Demopoulos in a prelim bout on Saturday afternoon. Oliveira, if nothing else, has fight-altering power at 115 pounds, which has led to seven of her 13 victories coming by knockout.
Oliveira has gone 1-1 in both Rizin FF and the UFC in her career, most recently defeating fellow Brazilian strawweight Gloria de Paula by split decision at UFC Austin in June.
Demopoulos is the favorite for good reason and will likely try to ground the stronger Oliveira, who has had two of her five losses come by submission. Demopoulos is 8-4, with four submission victories and just one knockout. In the UFC, she’s gone 2-1, her latest fight ending in a split-decision win over Jinh Yu Frey at UFC Vegas 57 in June.
So here, you’re banking on Oliveira to catch her, which can always happen in this sport, as new champ Alex Pereira reminded us last week at UFC 281.
Oliveira has the power, and at just 25, she’s still getting better and is more than eight years younger than her opponent. And as a bonus, the price is good enough to take a stab.
The Pick: Maria Oliveira To Win By KO/TKO/DQ (+800 at DraftKings)
Dan Tom: Derrick Lewis in Round 2 (+1200)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Protect Ya’ Neck podcast
This weekend’s UFC offering is full of matchups you may want action on — but not necessarily a ton of exposure to (which is why I love to target round props).
UFC Vegas 65 is headlined by a heavyweight affair between Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak.
Although heavy exposure is something you want to avoid when it comes to this weight class, I can’t help but ride what have been accurate reads on both fighters. Not only have I called Lewis’ past two fights down to the round, but I also cashed my first Prop Squad hit on Spivak back in August when he finished Augusto Sakai in the second round for +430.
That said, I find myself going the exact opposite way here.
Akin to my prediction on Lewis’ fight with Alexey Oleynik, I suspect Lewis can survive the early grappling storm in order to stay undefeated at the UFC Apex and take advantage of a desperate Spivak come Round 2.
Whether it’s a devastating strike off the break or a mistake that forces Spivak to his back, I see Lewis being primed for a knockout win in this window.
The Pick: Derrick Lewis to Win in Round 2 (+1200 at FanDuel)
Dann Stupp: Charles Johnson in Round 3 (+1900)
Senior Editor at The Action Network
But I’m going to push that Johnson backing even further with an accompanying prop play.
Ultimately, I sided with Johnson, whom I believe is a bit underrated, because I think he can finish strong against the aging Zhumagulov and likely win the second half of the bout. In fact, I think he might even be able to get a late-fight finish in this intriguing 125-pound matchup.
That’s why I’m also taking a flier on Johnson to win specifically in the third round. Zhumagulov is durable and not easily stopped, but he also tends to fade steadily, and sometimes sharply, after the first round of a bout.
I saw a few streaks of brilliance in Johnson’s losing UFC debut, and I’m hoping he can put together a more-complete performance against a flawed fighter in his sophomore UFC appearance.
At +1900 odds, it’s worth a small third-round play on Johnson, a fighter who’s shown remarkable cardio and a willingness to keep fighting until the end.
(However, whether as an alternate play or simply a bit of a hedge, I also suggest checking out the Zhumagulov prop play from my colleague Tony Sartori below. It’s even juicier than this play.)
The Pick: Charles Johnson to Win in Round 3 (+1900 at FanDuel)
Tony Sartori: Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Submission (+2000)
Contributor at The Action Network
In the featured prelim, we have a flyweight bout between Charles Johnson and Zhalgas Zhumagulov. A former LFA champion, Johnson got utterly dominated in his UFC debut against highly touted prospect Muhammad Mokaev.
That matchup was essentially a “baptism by fire” as there was no way Johnson was going to stand a chance in his UFC debut against a wrestler of Mokaev’s caliber. The prediction proved true as Mokaev landed 12 (!!) takedowns and accumulated 11:44 of control time in a wrestling clinic.
Johnson had no answer for Mokaev’s grappling in that fight. He was rag-dolled around the octagon and was never able to string together anything due to the fact that he spent the entire 15 minutes just fighting to stay on his feet. While Mokaev is certainly a better wrestler and a more promising fighter than Zhumagulov, Johnson’s inability to do anything to combat the takedowns and control time is a big concern.
While Johnson should have a better shot against Zhumagulov, there are no positives to take away from his scrap against Mokaev that would suggest this fight will go any differently. Like Mokaev, Zhumagulov is a strong wrestler who has the ability to wear down opponents and submit them.
Since joining the UFC, Zhumagulov is just 1-4 with his lone win coming via a standing guillotine choke against Jerome Rivera. His 1-4 record is certainly the reason for this lopsided line, but that record lacks context.
His last loss came via split decision to Jeff Molina, who is currently the No. 13-ranked UFC contender in the flyweight division. That decision was extremely controversial, with most people agreeing that Zhumagulov’s two takedowns and 5:32 of control time were enough for the victory.
The loss before that came against highly touted prospect Manel Kape, who is currently the No. 12 contender and is a serious threat to the title down the line. Finally, Zhumagulov’s first loss in the UFC came against Raulian Paiva.
While the three judges in that fight all agreed it was 29-28 Paiva, most people agree that should not have been the case as 80% of media scores gave the fight to Zhumagulov. A victim of bad scoring and tough matchups, Zhumagulov’s 1-4 record is misleading relative to the caliber of fighter he is.
This fight should be much closer to a pick’em than the odds indicate, and with Johnson’s terrible performance against Mokaev, it is worth taking a 20-1 flier on the better wrestler to get the submission.
The Pick: Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Submission (+2000 at FanDuel)