UFC Contender Series Week 4 Odds and Best Bets: 4 Picks for Tuesday Night (August 29)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: MMA welterweights Mitch Ramirez and Carlos Prates
Contender Series Week 4 is back for another Tuesday night, and we've got picks and leans for all five bouts, in which UFC hopefuls look to earn their way into the UFC octagon proper.
Season 7 Episode 4 of Contender Series streams on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. New Contender Series events take place every Tuesday night through early October.
As with all UFC Contender Series events, some of tonight's DWCS winners – and even some of the losers – could earn a UFC deal. In fact, the Contender Series events have become one of the UFC's primary feeder systems.
UFC President Dana White is cageside for each show, and after each event, the UFC boss will determine which fighters have earned an official UFC contract.
As a reminder, some sportsbooks can be slow to open Contender Series odds and betting markets – though nearly every major sportsbook eventually does post them.
(And don't forget that you can track your Contender Series bets in the Action App!)
* Odds as of Tuesday and via DraftKings
Contender Series Week 4 Odd and Picks
Lightweights: Dylan Salvador (-170) vs. Bolaji Oki (+142)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8 p.m. ET
The Contender Series Week 4 main event features two explosive lightweights with Belgium's Bolaji Oki taking on Dylan Salvador of France. Both men have just one loss on their record, though they've primarily fought in lower-level organizations thus far in their careers.
Tape is fairly hard to find on Oki – none of his previous fights were for promotions featured on Fight Pass, which is a data point in and of itself. From the tape on his last two fights, he has a fairly wild and aggressive striking style, but he is comfortable bringing things to the mat if and when the striking goes against him.
While his wrestling was solid, he was unable to do much once on the ground despite being in fairly strong positions against opponents who weren't threatening with much. It's pretty clear that his striking is Plan A, with grappling a fallback – though it's a nice fallback to have.
Salvador is a former kickboxer with a win over Giga Chikadze in a kickboxing tournament in 2017. He has a true muay Thai style, working from a southpaw stance and utilizing rear leg kicks to all levels. He's also extremely strong from the clinch, mixing elbows and knees from various angles.
Despite his background, four of his five pro MMA wins are by submission. I was very impressed by his ground game, where he threatens for submissions from guard and then scrambles back to his feet if his guard is passed.
The biggest flaw in his game is his very low-level wrestling. However, at this level, his submission threats and ability to scramble back to his feet should be more than enough to overcome that.
The line has drifted Salvador's way all week, but I'm still betting the favorite here. He should pick Oki apart on the feet, and out work him on the ground if Oki takes a bad shot when he's stung. I'd say a finish is likelier than not, but I don't want to get too cute here. I'd play the moneyline down to -180 before looking at methods of victory.
The Bets: Dylan Salvador (-165 at Caesars)
Heavyweights: Thomas Petersen (-410) vs. Chandler Cole (+320)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8:30 p.m. ET
Chandler Cole is a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 30 and now gets a second shot at the UFC after getting bounced in the opening round via a third-round knockout. Since his appearance on the reality show, he has two more MMA wins and a knockout in a kickboxing match, all for a smaller promotion in Tennessee.
He has a wrestling background but has struggled to use it against higher-level competition, as we saw both on TUF and his one appearance in the PFL. That's not a great base for a fight with Thomas Petersen, who's a far more credentialed wrestler.
Petersen is 7-1 in his professional career, primarily fighting for LFA where he's a former champion. His lone loss came against current UFC heavyweight Waldo Cortes-Acosta, in a competitive fight that Acosta finished in the third round.
Petersen is a high-level wrestler, competing at D-1 North Dakota State University. It shows in his MMA bouts, where he's finished all of them on the ground. In his most recent LFA fight, he took a BJJ black belt down and dominated from the top, finishing via ground and pound in the first round.
Petersen is a deserving massive favorite here, and his wrestling is a level or two above Coles'. I'm certainly not laying -660 on a Contender Series fight, though. If we can get Petersen to win inside the distance at -200 or better, or in the first round at even-money, I'd pull the trigger. I suspect those lines will be longer than that, though, in which case I'll pass on this fight.
The Lean: Thomas Petersen by finish or in first round, depending on price
Featherweights: Mateo Vogel (-162) vs. Timothy Cuamba (+136)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 9 p.m. ET
We have an America vs. Canada featherweight matchup with Ottawa's Mateo Vogel taking on Timothy Cuamba from Las Vegas. Both men are well-rounded mixed martial artists without an extensive background in any particular combat sport.
The favored Vogel has solid technical striking, and he uses long straight punches and leg kicks to set up power kicks to the body and head. He gets hit a bit more than I'd prefer, but he does a good job of not taking anything clean. He also has excellent reactions when hit, tightening his defenses and recovering well.
Vogel's best skill is his grappling, which he's shown off with some impressive ground finishes. His wrestling is technically strong, though he has a bad habit of shooting without setting it up first. In the fights I watched, he failed on a few "naked" takedowns before finally converting when timing it on his opponents' strikes.
Which will be the key against Cuamba, who has solid wrestling and fast hands. Cuamba throws considerably more aggressively than Vogel, which leaves the opportunity for ducking under the heavy strikes and getting a takedown.
I wasn't able to find too much tape on either man working off their back, which is fairly expected for fighters at this level. They both have spent much of their early careers as the hammer rather than the nail. Whoever gets the first takedown could win just based on that.
Vogel has a much more extensive record against tougher competition though, taking UFC veteran Da'Mon Blackshear to a decision while holding a win over Garret Armfield. Blackshear was able to put Vogel on his back, where Vogel was solid on defense while threatening with leg locks.
That track record against tougher opposition – while getting some reps on defense – is enough for me to trust Vogel here. I expect both fighters to have their moments, but Vogel to survive those situations while Cuamba eventually succumbs to them.
The Bet: Mateo Vogel (-160 at Caesars)
Middleweights: Yousri Belgaroui (-130) vs. Marco Tulio Silva (+110)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 9:30 p.m. ET
We have a somewhat rare near pick'em in this Week 4 bout with the line shifting slightly to the Dutch kickboxer Yousri Belgaroui.
He's another in the seemingly endless line of middleweight kickboxers transitioning to MMA, and he has fought both Israel Adesanya (twice) and Alex Pereira (thrice) in his former sport. He holds one win over Pereira in that time, and he made it to a decision against Adesanya in both bouts.
Now he's a teammate of Pereira at Teixeira MMA and Fitness, where he's built a 5-2 MMA record since early 2021. He has four wins by knockout, and both of his losses went the distance. Like Pereira, he's a massive 6-foot-5 middleweight, though he's much slimmer and less powerful than "Poatan." He has a precision striking style and utlizes his reach to great effect.
Crucially, he also has solid takedown defense, no doubt making great strides in that area under the tutelage of Teixeira and Pereira. He'll need it against Tulio Silva, who immediately went for a takedown in his last bout against a similarly-proportioned middleweight.
The Chute Boxe product showed an excellent top game, immediately passing to mount and doing damage while prioritizing maintaining the position. He eventually finished that opponent on the feet, but most of the groundwork (pun intended) was laid on the canvas.
Belgaroui doesn't have the one-shot power of his former rival turned teammate, and he might not have the opportunity to rack up volume on the feet against Silva. I'll take the underdog with more ways to win, and I would take him down to +105.
But keep an eye on goes-to-decision lines when they're available. If we can get "does not go to decision" at low juice (-150 or better), that would be my preferred option.
The Bet: Tulio Silva (+115 at Caesars)
Welterweights: Carlos Prates (-258) vs. Mitch Ramirez (+210)
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 10 p.m. ET
The heavily favored Carlos Prates is the more credentialed fighter here by a long shot with experience in ONE Championship and LFA. He's 16-6 as a professional but is 6-0 in MMA over the last four years with two additional kickboxing wins.
Mitch Ramirez is a perfect 7-0 with six finishes, but it's come against a mostly lower level of competition that doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. A true mixed martial artist, he has wins by knockout and submission – but without a strong pedigree in any particular discipline.
Prates is an excellent kickboxer. He's extremely thin for the division, but that allows him to hold a huge speed edge over most welterweights with lightning-fast kicks as his best weapon. He also appears to have pretty solid takedown defense, which will be the key to victory here.
I went into this one looking for reasons to bet on the underdog, but I wasn't able to find one. Still, the juice on Prates is a bit long given his probable grappling deficiency.
Method-of-victory props started popping up at the time of writing, and Prates by knockout opened at -110. I'd take it down to around -160, though if it ends up beyond that, I'd pass on the main event.
The Bet: Carlos Prates by KO (-109 at BetRivers)