UFC on ESPN 12, Picks & Predictions: Analysis for Every Bout on Saturday’s Card
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Brendan Allen.
- Looking for a one-stop shop for every UFC Fight Night matchup this Saturday? You've come to the right place.
- Sean Zerillo previews every bout on tonight's s slate, including his projections for tonight's main card fights (8 p.m. ET ESPN/ESPN+).
- Below you'll find analysis and picks, including how he's betting tonight's main event between Dustin Poirier (-235 betting favorite) and Dan Hooker (+185 underdog).
UFC on ESPN 12 begins at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+ on Saturday with a four-fight preliminary card. The main card starts at 8 p.m. ET featuring six bouts, including the main event between Dustin Poirier (25-6) and Dan Hooker (20-8)
In addition to moneylines and Over/Unders, there are numerous ways to bet on an MMA fight — including exact winning methods, winning round props, and whether or not the match will go to a decision or finish inside of the distance.
As a result, after examining all of the betting options, your typical UFC card can offer a substantial amount of actionable value.
Check out the full betting odds for Saturday’s UFC card, with analysis and picks from Sean Zerillo for each fight below:
UFC FIGHT NIGHT PROMO! Bet Dustin Poirier at +200 odds instead of -220 in Main Event
UFC on ESPN 12 Odds
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN/ESPN+
Featherweight: Jordan Griffin vs. Youssef Zalal
Crowdsourced Projections: Griffin (64%)
After some fight cancellations, Saturday night’s card starts with an incredibly entertaining Featherweight clash between a pair of aggressive prospects coming off of their first UFC victories.
Griffin is the cleaner and more powerful striker. At the same time, Zalal is the more creative and unpredictable fighter – and I think that his footwork and fight IQ both present significant problems for Griffin to overcome.
The grappling exchanges will likely determine the outcome of this fight. Zalal recorded six takedowns in his UFC debut, and Griffin has been put to the mat 11 times in his three UFC fights (35% takedown defense).
Either man is capable of recording a finish, but the fight is favored to go to a decision at -139 (implied 58%). The crowd projection would make that line -164 (62.1%).
Because the crowd favors the fight to go to a decision, while also favoring Griffin, the odds for Griffin by decision (+275) are too high – and should be closer to +170 by the crowd projection; while his submission odds (+350) should be around +488.
The American offers value as a plus-money play on the moneyline. Still, the 23-year-old Zalal has more significant potential as a fighter, and I’m only willing to take a small shot against him at a more substantial number.
Griffin vs. Zalal Bets
- Jordan Griffin By Decision +275 (0.5 units)
Women’s Strawweight: Kay Hansen vs. Jinh Yu Frey
Crowdsourced Projections: Hansen (67%)
In the UFC, when fighters with an age gap of at least 12 years have squared off, the younger opponent has won 71% of the time (62-25) at average odds of -154 (implied 60%); there is generally value in betting on the younger fighter in such situations.
Twenty-year-old Kay Hansen certainly has more significant long-term potential than her 35-year-old opponent, Jinh Yu Frey, as both fighters make their UFC debuts on Saturday.
Frey is the better striker, and she has more experience – fighting five rounds on three occasions and winning an Invicta FC title. But I don’t expect her to be standing very often – as Hansen is keen to apply constant pressure and get every fight to the ground. She should dominate this matchup against her fellow Invicta alum with her far superior grappling skills.
Frey is the smaller fighter, moving up from Atomweight against a bigger Strawweight, and I expect her to spend the majority of the 15 minutes underneath Hansen.
The bout is listed at -265 (implied 72.6%) to go the distance. The crowd would make that line -400 (80%), but I wouldn’t sleep on Hansen by submission (+450) – even though I think those odds should be twice as high.
Hansen by decision (+150, or 40%) is the most likely result, and I would make those odds -108 (52%), but I’ll also play her on the moneyline to win half a unit.
Frey vs. Hansen Bets
- Kay Hansen -170 (0.5 units)
- Kay Hansen By Decision +150 (0.5 units)
Welterweight: Takashi Sato vs. Jason Witt
Crowdsourced Projections: Sato (83%)
Jason Witt is a late replacement on the card after Ramiz Brahimaj’s cornerman tested positive for COVID-19.
Sato also has the southpaw advantage (53% win rate vs. orthodox fighters) on his side.
The crowd feels that Sato is a value play, relative to his opening odds around -255 (71.8%), but beyond a big left hand, I am not enamored with his overall skillset.
I won’t pretend to know much about Witt – but I was eyeing Brahimaj, a submission specialist, as a potential underdog play against Sato.
Witt has seven career wins by submission, and he has won nine of his past 10 fights, but his last three wins were all by decision.
Don’t assume that Sato is a lock against this late replacement – Witt made weight very quickly on short notice, and likely knew that he was next in line on the Welterweight emergency list.
Sato vs. Witt Bets
Lightweight: Luis Peña vs. Khama Worthy
Crowdsourced Projections: Peña (74%)
Worthy proved that he should not be overlooked in any fight, after knocking out Devonte Smith as a +510 underdog in his UFC debut last August:
— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
The crowd projection says that the odds are spot-on for Saturday’s fight, and I agree that Peña should be a reasonably significant favorite. Still, Worthy has the kind of power that can end any conflict, recording nine career knockouts.
Worthy’s striking defense is also suspect, however, and he is vulnerable to submission attempts, which is why 13 of his 15 career fights have ended early.
Peña is tall for the division, and he’ll have four inches of height on Worthy. He is also durable, which means that Worthy will need more than one big shot to put him away, and even though he isn’t as powerful, Peña is the better technician, and he should be able to pick Worthy apart for three rounds.
The fight is -152 (60.3%) to finish inside of the distance, but the crowd projects a decision more than 55% of the time; and it feels that Peña by decision, expected at odds of +102 (49.5%) compared to listed odds of +180 (implied 35.7%) is probably the best way to play this fight.
Peña’s submission odds (+225) are curiously low, however, and I’ll personally stick to using “Violent Bob Ross” in parlays, if at all.
As for Worthy, I set his fair knockout odds at +450 (18.2%), but if you like his side, you can alternatively consider Worthy – Round 1 (+700) or Round 2 (+1100) given the aggressive nature of both fighters.
Worthy vs. Peña Bets
- Use Luis Peña as a parlay piece
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
Catchweight: Sean Woodson vs. Julian Erosa
Crowdsourced Projections: Woodson (90%)
Erosa previously fought for the UFC but was cut after losing four consecutive fights, and now makes his return as a late replacement for Kyle Nelson.
As I noted earlier, late replacements (<40 days notice) only win at a 37% clip in the UFC.
Both men are tall for their weight – at 6’3″ Woodson is the tallest fighter in the Featherweight division – and they offer a similar fighting style. Erosa is a flashy striker, but he doesn’t provide a ton of power, and he has a weak chin, having been knocked out five times – including two of his past three UFC losses.
Woodson, who had a dominant amateur boxing career (46-3), is the more technical and durable striker, and he throws more efficiently (+2.98 differential in his lone UFC fight; vs. -0.86 for Erosa) while maintaining a defensive base to stuff takedowns.
Woodson recorded 111 significant strikes in hid debut win against Kyle Bochniak, after opening as a +130 underdog, and he should have an even easier time of it against Erosa – who doesn’t have the power or the wrestling to stop Woodson from applying pressure.
The odds for Woodson by KO/TKO/DQ (-125) look a little steep considering the crowd projection puts the line at +102, or 49.5% – but I understand it given Erosa’s reputation for being chinny.
I’m leaning towards a sneaky decision, and Over 2.5 rounds (+130), or Woodson by decision (+250), which I would set at +190, seem like good bets – but I prefer Woodson as a chalky parlay stuffer.
Woodson vs. Erosa Bets
- Use Sean Woodson as a parlay piece.
Heavyweight: Philipe Lins vs. Tanner Boser
Crowdsourced Projections: Lins (70%)
I would typically recommend betting the Over on rounds in a battle between smaller Heavyweights, but bettors and oddsmakers see right through this matchup, setting the fight at -200 to go the distance.
The crowd disagrees, however, putting the odds around 50%, and even-money, to go to the scorecards since they are high on Lins by KO/TKO/DQ, at 35.7%; which would put his fair odds at +180 compared to listed odds of +300 (implied 25%).
Lins certainly packs the more prominent power and has 12-career finishes, but Boser is a point fighter who knows how to pick his spots and avoid damage.
In the smaller octagon, Boser has less space to back away from the Brazilian, however. And without a crowd present, judges have generally sided with the fighters doing more damage, as opposed to the ones merely landing at a higher volume.
I expect Lins to land the significantly more powerful shots throughout three rounds. Still, he also offers a path to victory via the finish – and I don’t see him getting stopped by Boser – who will need to land a high number of leg kicks to impress the judges.
I like Lins to record his first UFC win in this spot, after looking a bit flat in his debut against his teammate, Andrei Arlovski. He also offers substantial line value relative to the crowd projection, which would set his fair line at -233.
I view his true odds closer to 60% – somewhere between the current line and that crowd projection.
Boser vs. Lins Bets
- Phillipe Lins -110 (1 unit)
Middleweight: Brendan Allen vs. Kyle Daukaus
Crowdsourced Projections: Allen (83%)
Kyle Daukaus didn’t sign with the UFC until mid-June, so he technically qualifies both as a UFC newcomer (43% win rate) and a late replacement (37% win rate) against the talented Brendan Allen, in what looks like a competitive grappling affair.
Allen should have the more bottomless gas tank – having fought five rounds four times already in his career, and Daukaus is much more accomplished with top control than at takedown defense or getting back to his feet.
Daukaus has a strong submission game and is equally likely to win by decision (+600) or submission (+600).
Allen, by submission (+150), is favored in the winning method market, and the crowdsourced projection sets Allen’s submission odds at +140, KO/TKO at +614, and decision at +241.
The Allen decision prop (+300), therefore, offers the most betting value.
But the crowd thinks that the fight should only be +212 (32.1%) to go the distance – so there isn’t any value there compared to the listed odds at +175.
I’m cautious in going entirely against Daukaus, a talented, undefeated prospect who is a substantial addition to the UFC roster. But Allen is currently the more skilled fighter in all aspects, and this is his fight to lose.
Allen vs. Daukaus Bets
- Allen by decision +300 (0.5 units)
- Use Allen as a parlay piece
Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Maurice Greene
Crowdsourced Projections: Greene (65%)
The crowd and oddsmakers see eye-to-eye as Long Island native Gian Villante moves up to Heavyweight, ceding four inches of both height and reach to Greene, who owns a significantly better strike differential (+0.76 to -1.08) in the UFC.
Villante needs to rely somewhat on his wrestling, and look to exploit Greene’s takedown defense (33%). Villante has decent power, but I’m not sure how his cardio and chin will hold up, with a quarantine-sculpted body north of 250 pounds, going against a true Heavyweight.
This bout could be over in a flash, and Greene by KO, TKO, or DQ (+100), is favored in the winning method market. The crowdsourced projections would put those odds at -127, and they also make the fight -280 to finish inside the distance; compared to listed odds of -230.
Greene was finished in each of his past two bouts, and I have a difficult time betting on middling fighters, even when they offer line value, amid losing streaks.
I’ll sit back and merely cheer for Villante, a fellow Long Islander, and Hofstra alum, to notch his eighth UFC win.
Greene vs. Villante Bets
Welterweight: Mike Perry vs. Mickey Gall
Crowdsourced Projections: Perry (66%)
Diehard MMA fans tend to roll their eyes when analysts refer to a fight as a “classic striker vs. grappler matchup,” but that is the only way to describe Saturday’s co-main event.
Perry has 13 career victories, with 11 by knockout, while Gall has six career victories, with five by submission.
Perry has lost five of his past seven fights, however, including three of his last four – which makes his status as a significant favorite extra concerning, considering that he recently left his gym, and his girlfriend will be his lone corner representative on Saturday.
Gall’s striking is improving, but he is at a significant power and speed disadvantage against Perry, and he will look to take the fight to the ground (38% takedown accuracy) as soon as he can find an opening. Still, Perry has solid takedown defense (70%), and he excels at getting back to his feet.
Perry lands at a higher volume (+2.05 strikes per minute) than Gall, so he benefits the longer that he can keep the fight standing – regardless of his power advantages. Still, if Gall can keep him at bay with leg-kicks before dragging the fight to the mat multiple times, he can pull a submission, or grind out a decision.
Perry by KO/TKO/DQ (-159) is lined appropriately, compared to the crowd projection at -163 (62%), as is Gall by submission (+400) compared to a forecast at +426 (19%).
The fight is -360 (implied 78%) to finish inside of the distance, but the crowd would make that line closer to -735 (88%).
Under 1.5 rounds (-115) is worth some consideration, but I could see this fight play out in a variety of ways.
Gall vs. Perry Bets
Lightweight: Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker
Crowdsourced Projections: Poirier (77%)
If you want a more in-depth analysis of the main event, check out my full fight preview.
In short, the crowd expects the main event to go the distance 24.6% of the time – fair odds of +307 – so there isn’t any value on the YES at +200, and the NO only offers a minimal 2.1% edge at -278 or, 73.5%.
Poirier by KO, TKO, or DQ (+110) is the most likely winning method, and I would set those odds closer to -117 (54%) than plus-money. Poirier inside the distance (-121) is also appealing, but Over 2.5 rounds (-125) is the most intriguing wager, given the fact that both men are durable and have good cardio.
I also use Poirier to close out some parlays.
Poirier vs. Hooker Bets
- Over 2.5 Rounds (-125, 1 unit)
- Dustin Poirier -235 (0.5 units)
Zerillo’s UFC Fight Night Bets
- Jordan Griffin By Decision +275 (0.5 units)
- Kay Hansen -170 (0.5 units)
- Kay Hansen by Decision +150 (0.5 units)
- Phillipe Lins -110 (1 unit)
- Brendan Allen by decision (+300, 0.5 units)
- Dustin Poirier / Dan Hooker, Over 2.5 Rounds -125 (1 unit)
- Dustin Poirier -235 (0.5 units)
- Parlay: Brendan Allen / Luis Peña (-106, 0.5 units)
- Parlay: Dustin Poirier / Luis Peña / Sean Woodson (+150, 0.5 units)
- Parlay: Dustin Poirier / Sean Woodson (-135, 1 unit)
- Parlay: Dustin Poirier / Brendan Allen (-107, Risk 1 unit)