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UFC 281 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Edgar vs. Gutierrez, Hooker vs. Puelles, Ulberg vs. Negumereanu (November 12)

UFC 281 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Edgar vs. Gutierrez, Hooker vs. Puelles, Ulberg vs. Negumereanu (November 12) article feature image
Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC lightweight Dan Hooker

  • The Action Network's MMA crew has put together its best bets for UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira on Saturday.
  • The Best Bets include fights with Frankie Edgar, Chris Gutierrez, Dan Hooker and other notables.
  • Check out the picks from Sean Zerillo, Billy Ward and Dann Stupp below.

The UFC returns to pay-per-view for Saturday’s UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The card, which features two title fights, offers immense star power and plenty of compelling matchups, including middleweight champion Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira.

So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed three fights and picks on Saturday’s stacked card that present betting value.

You can find their analysis and picks on those matches plus Sean Zerillo’s projections below using odds from BetMGM.

Moneyline Projections

Prop Projections


Billy Ward: Carlos Ulberg vs. Nicolae Negumereanu

Staff Writer at The Action Network

Nicolae Negumereanu is taking on City Kickboxing product Carlos Ulberg in the opening bout of UFC 281. Ulberg – like his teammate and UFC 281 headliner Israel Adesanya – is a reformed kickboxer who’s joined the world of MMA.

Ulberg is obviously a dangerous striker. He showed as much in his knockout win over Tafon Nchukwi in his last bout. However, he’s not without flaws in his game. He was knocked out by Kennedy Nzechukwu in his UFC debut, and he has yet to have his grappling seriously tested.

Negumereanu is a tough matchup in both regards. He comes from a wrestling background while training with legendary grappling-focused gym Xtreme Couture. He also has big power, picking up two knockouts in his four-fight UFC winning streak.

He also fits my favorite trend: shorter fighters with an edge in reach. This has been shown to be a profitable betting angle. It also makes sense intuitively – being shorter allows fighters to carry more muscle in a given division, while their longer arms compensate for the disadvantages of being shorter.

It could also create a unique challenge for Ulberg. Ulberg’s only UFC loss also came in his only UFC fight with a reach disadvantage. While that could be a coincidence, I’m not so sure. Like Adesnya, much of his offense is based around using wrist control to set up elbows and punches, but that relies on having an edge in length.

Ideally, we see Negumereanu use his wrestling offensively here to control this fight. Even if he doesn’t, the threat of it could limit Ulberg’s striking – particularly his kicks – enough for Negumereanu to win this one on the feet. I’d bet it down to +100.

The Pick: Nicolae Negumereanu (+120 at Caesars)


Sean Zerillo: Dan Hooker vs. Claudio Puelles

Senior Writer at The Action Network

Aside from leg locks, it’s difficult to see where Claudio Puelles has the advantage – or a path to victory – against Dan “The Hangman” Hooker.

Hooker is taller, longer (three-inch reach advantage), has faced far superior competition, and should have the takedown defense (78%) to keep this fight standing and piece up Puelles on the feet.

Hooker has seemed a bit shopworn in recent bouts, losing by quick knockout against Michael Chandler after two wars with Paul Felder and Dustin Poirier. And he made an ill-advised decision to drop down to featherweight in March against Arnold Allen, where he looked incredibly slow and seemed unable to take damage.

Returning to 155 should suit him well. And facing a fighter like Puelles, who offers minimal power and prefers to attack the body with kicks, seems an ideal matchup for Hooker’s potentially declining durability.

Puelles has only a pair of knockouts on his career record, including a head kick and a cut stoppage; he is a submission specialist. And those submissions often come out of nowhere. Puelles is highly opportunistic and tends to lose minutes in his fights until seizing an opportunity to submit his opponents.

Puelles isn’t great at securing takedowns (38% accuracy), but he does try to get his fights to the mat consistently (7.2 attempts per 15 minutes).

Hooker’s knees up the middle should be highly effective if Puelles telegraphs his shots. Or he could look to lock in a guillotine. And even if Puelles manages to take him down, I trust Hooker’s jiu-jitsu to keep him safe on the mat.

Outside of a meme submission, Puelles may be drawing dead in this matchup.

projected Hooker’s moneyline closer to -180, and I’m comfortable betting him up to that price point, which I would consider a break-even transaction.

Still, Hooker is getting underrated based on a recent 1-4 run, with losses against four former or future title challengers (Islam Makhachev, Poirier, Chandler, Allen); Puelles represents a significant step down in competition relative to those fighters.

Hooker was a more substantial favorite against Chandler (closed -165) than he is against Puelles.

And the one win in Hooker’s recent run (against Nasrat Haqparast) came after a significant step down in competition. Hooker dominated that fight from pillar to post. If he fights back to that level from last September, Hooker should dominate Puelles too.

The Pick: Dan Hooker (-145 at DraftKings)


Dann Stupp: Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez

Senior Editor at The Action Network

I’m a jerk. I know that. Because honestly, you have to be a bit of a lowlife to bet against Frankie Edgar, one of the most beloved men in the history of combat sports.

But we must remember two edicts of MMA betting:

  • Don’t bet strictly with your heart.
  • Never, ever bet on a fighter who’s in a retirement bout.

I’ve been sucked into that patently false narrative that a farewell fight will bring out the best in a competitor. With one last shot, an MMA fighter will undoubtedly bring the goods and leave it all in the cage for that farewell appearance. Right?

It rarely works out that way. Instead, we often see uninspired performances, with the fighter having one foot out of the cage before a punch is even thrown.

I’m not saying that’s the case with Edgar, but recent history has certainly made me think it’s a distinct possibility. Fighting near his New Jersey home in the famed Madison Square Garden, Edgar should have plenty of motivation. But Edgar isn’t fade-worthy because he lacks a go-getter attitude; instead, Father Time has simply caught up with the 41-year-old former champ, which we’ve seen in recent back-to-back KO losses.

I expect bantamweight opponent Chris Gutierrez to hobble Edgar with low kicks and take away the takedown threat. After that, I’m afraid “The Answer” will, in fact, have no answers.

Even at -225, Gutierrez is a decent betting option. But since I just don’t see Edgar surviving to the final bell, I’ll instead take Gutierrez inside the distance (+165) for a nice plus-money play. (Even if it kinda breaks my heart to do so. Sorry, Frankie.)

The Pick: Chris Gutierrez wins by finish (+165 at DraftKings)

 

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