Road to UFC: Best Bets for All 4 Tournament Finals at UFC Vegas 65 (Saturday, February 4)

Road to UFC: Best Bets for All 4 Tournament Finals at UFC Vegas 65 (Saturday, February 4) article feature image

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC lightweight Jeka Saragih of Indonesia

  • The Asia-based Road to the UFC tournament finals concludes on Saturday night as part of UFC Vegas 68.
  • The tourneys take place in the UFC's four lightest weight classes for male fighters.
  • Below, Billy Ward breaks down each matchup and offers his best betting angles.

Last June the UFC launched the "Road to UFC" (RUFC) tournament series in Singapore. It featured four tournaments with eight-man brackets in the UFC's lightest (men's) weight divisions, with competitors from across Asia vying for UFC contracts – awarded to the winner of each group.

This Saturday's UFC Vegas 68 event in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+) features the tourney finale of each bracket, with four bouts making up a full third of the 12-bout card.

With all eight competitors making their UFC debut, there are plenty of unknowns about how they'll fare against other high(ish) level competition.

That means a chance at big edges for us. I went through every tournament bout from all of the finalists, in order to break down their prospects on Saturday. While we won't have an official bet on every fight, here are the angles I'm playing.

(All odds via DraftKings on Wednesday)

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Flyweights: HyungSun Park (-190) vs. SeungGuk Choi (+160)

The first final match of the night features two fighters out of Korea. Park is 7-0, with six of those wins coming via finish – including two first-round stoppages in the early rounds of this tournament.

As with most flyweights, he has a fast-paced style with aggressive but reasonably clean striking. The biggest flaw in his striking seemed to be a lack of desire/ability to defend leg kicks, as he's heavy on the front foot while throwing punches.

That was an issue briefly in his second elimination match, but he's a very strong grappler and took the fight to the ground. He really shines in the grappling exchanges, defending takedowns well before outworking his opponents to land his own. Both of his RUFC finishes came on the ground, though both were against striking-focused opposition.

He's a true mixed martial artist with a solid overall skill set and plus-athleticism.

Choi, meanwhile, is primarily a striker, throwing a ton of taekwondo-esque kicks to make up for his short reach for the division. That 64-inch reach could be a problem against rangier technical strikers, though he's giving up only two inches to Park.

His kicks should serve him well against Park on the feet, though Choi is perhaps a bit overaggressive with them, leading to him getting caught by some early takedowns.

While he's a capable ground fighter, he lacks Park's finishing ability on the mat. His cardio was extremely impressive, however, wearing down his opponent in extended scrambles while building throughout both of his RUFC fights. He mixed in some takedowns of his own throughout his bouts, though I wouldn't expect him to employ that plan against Park.

Park vs. Choi Prediction:

I'd give Choi the slight nod in the striking exchanges here, but I doubt it stays standing for long. Park is the deserving favorite based on his finishing ability and top control, but he'll probably eat some strikes along the way.

The likeliest outcome is a Park finish on the ground, probably in the first half of the fight. If betting Park, I prefer his stoppage odds of +275 over his moneyline.

My favorite betting angle here, though, is potential live odds on Choi. While Park hasn't given us a reason to doubt his cardio, most of his wins have been early finishes. Choi builds throughout his fights, and we could get some big odds on him if he drops Round 1.

Official Pick: Choi live after Round 1 (at long odds)

Bantamweights: Rinya Nakamura (-435) vs. Toshiomi Kazama (+350)

Nakamura is the brightest prospect to compete at RUFC. He's a former U23 world champion freestyle wrestler who left the sport to pursue MMA following the postponement of the 2020 Olympics.

So far, he's lived up to his credentials as an MMA fighter. He's 6-0 as a pro with five stoppages – all coming within 5:20 of action. He's an incredibly gifted athlete who uses the threat of takedowns to strike aggressively on the feet.

I saw nothing in his RUFC bouts to doubt the hype. He's the whole package – good frame for the division, creative submission attempts on the ground, solid striking.

If there's some a minor criticism of Nakamura's game, it's that he tends to shoot "naked" – without strikes or other threats to set it up – and from a fairly far distance. While he has the skill and athleticism to still finish those takedowns, it opens up the possibility of getting caught with a variety of front chokes if his opponent is prepared and times it well (D'Arce, anaconda and guillotines all fit the bill).

And that brings us to Kazama. He had only one fight on the RUFC series, due to his second-round opponent missing weight. He's also mainly a grappler; he won IBJJF worlds at purple belt before his promotion to brown belt.

His standup grappling is more judo/Greco-Roman based, meaning he wants to clinch and look for throws and trips. He's very comfortable off his back, using a wide range of sweeps and attacks regardless of the position he finds himself in.

Like Nakamura, he's an aggressive striker when the fight is on the feet. He tends to get a bit sloppy but could have a puncher's chance if this turns into a brawl. That's not a game I want to play if I'm Kazama, though, as he's at a speed and power disadvantage against the superior athlete.

Nakamura vs. Kazama Prediction:

This is a tougher fight to predict. If Nakamura wants to keep this one standing, we could see two grapplers brawling it out. While their striking is technically relatively even, I expect Nakamura's athleticism to eventually win out.

Besides, if he's getting clipped, the option to take the fight down will always be there. Nakamura is likely to use it eventually, with his balance and top pressure stifling the creative sweeps and attacks from Kazama.

Kazama's best hope is catching Nakamura with his neck exposed coming in, but that's effectively the "puncher's chance" of grappling. Kazama's submission line is currently +800, but if it comes in at +1000 or better on other books, it could be worth a look.

Outside of that, I'm unwilling to bet the long odds on Nakamura currently offered. I'd take his moneyline at -400 or better if it moved that direction. I'll be holding out on this one until closer to the fight, but if nothing else presents itself, I like Nakamura's inside the distance odds at -150.

Official Pick: Nakamura ITD -150 (DraftKings)

Featherweights: JeongYeong Lee (-250) vs. Yi Zha  (+210)

Lee was perhaps the most impressive fighter in the RUFC, needing just 78 seconds combined in two wins.

He started his first bout winning the standup before forcing a shot from his opponent. He used elbows from the top to defend the single leg before quickly transitioning to an armbar and getting the tap.

In his semifinal bout, Lee again showed his strong standup. This time the fight stayed standing long enough for him to flatten his opponent with a right hook.

While there wasn't much cage time between the bouts, Lee seems to be the total package. He's long for the division (73 inch reach) with crisp striking. Lee's balance on his defended takedown was excellent, as was his transition to the armbar finish.

We were able to get a better look at Yi Zha. He stopped his first opponent in the first round and then followed it up with a split decision. He has solid striking, but he spent most of his bouts staying on the outside behind the black line in the cage.

That worked well for him in his preliminary bouts where he had a reach edge, but it could get him in trouble against the longer Lee.

Zha's grappling was solid as he was looking to do damage from all positions, including knees to the body on the ground. That's an underutilized strike that looks good to judges assesing damage.

With that said, he also was a bit too comfortable playing off his back. If Lee's overall grappling is as good as it looked in his armbar victory, that could be a problem for Zha.


It's incredibly hard to poke holes in Lee's game. He has all the athletic and physical gifts to stand out in a tough division, and he showed his skills in both striking and grappling.

While Zha is the more experienced fighter, his overall resume is less impressive. Getting to the finals with a split decision win also isn't a great sign.

There's a chance Zha can use his experience and strong cardio to drag Lee into deep waters here. Lee seemed to be in good shape, but his record is mostly quick victories, so his cardio is a bit of an unknown.

For that reason, I could see a live bet on Zha if this one makes it out of the opening frame. I'm not so sure it does though, as Lee's overall game is just too strong

Official Pick: Lee ITD (TBD)

Lightweights: Anshul Jubli (-120) vs. Jeka Saragih (+100)

The last RUFC bout on the card is the most evenly matched, with lightweights Anshul Jubli taking on Jeka Saragih.

Saragih qualified for the finale on the back of two knockout wins: a beautiful spinning backfist in the quarterfinals followed by a right hand in the semis.

He has a short, stocky build for the division at 5-foot-8, but a reasonable 69-inch reach. His standup is heavily muay Thai inspired. He throws hard leg kicks, and he has a bit of a habit of "taking turns" with his combinations rather than trying to catch his opponent coming in.

He likes to catch his opponent's kicks (rather than evade or block), another muay Thai hallmark. That could be problematic against opponents who kick to the head. With that said, his defense held up well in the preliminary rounds.

I have some concerns about his cardio based on the force he put behind each shot, though he looked good in the third round in his opening bout. He also had surprisingly strong wrestling. He was able to land some opportunistic takedowns when the moment struck.

Jubli has an identical 69-inch reach, but is the lankier man at 6-foot-0. That means he'll be giving up some power and strength to Saragih, who can pack more muscle on a smaller frame.

He's a fast starter who likes to brawl, but he took his fair share of damage in his lone RUFC fight. (His quarterfinal opponent missed weight.) He picked up a split-decision victory in a back-and-forth contest. While he performed well early, he lost the final round and was visibily wearing as the fight went on.

He's a puncher/boxer who likes to swarm with strikes. He does a great job mixing in body shots but doesn't look to attack the legs or kick much. He was taken down on occasion but scrambled back to his feet relatively quickly each time.


I'm expecting a striking battle here, with both men comfortable exchanging blows. Saragih has the takedown upside in theory. However, I was impressed enough by Jubli's getups to think that grappling exchanges shouldn't last too long.

Saragih's heavy strikes tend to leave him overextended, but that's not much of a concern against an opponent who won't look for takedowns. They also give him an edge against an opponent like Jubli who tends to take a lot of damage.

When you couple that Saragih's power/explosiveness edge, I expect him to eventually find a home for some of his big strikes. I'm also surprised he's a slight underdog here, given Jubli's split-decision victory to get into the finals.

Official Pick: Saragih, 0.5u (+100 at BetMGM) | Saragih wins inside the distance, 0.5u (+180 at DraftKings)

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