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Saturday UFC Fight Night: Betting Projections, Props & Picks for Moraes vs. Sandhagen and More (Oct. 10)

Saturday UFC Fight Night: Betting Projections, Props & Picks for Moraes vs. Sandhagen and More (Oct. 10) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Cory Sandhagen.

  • Saturday's UFC Fight Island 5 is headlined by a showdown between top-ranked bantamweight title contender "Magic" Marlon Moraes, and No. 4 contender Cory Sandhagen.
  • Sean Zerillo breaks down everything you need to know for the undercard and main card, including projections, props and picks.

Another week, another slate of action on Fight Island.

UFC Fight Island 5 will take place on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, beginning with a seven-bout undercard starting at 5:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+, followed by six fights on the main card beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

The action is headlined by a showdown between the No. 1 ranked bantamweight title contender “Magic” Marlon Moraes, and No. 4 contender Cory Sandhagen.

Check out the full betting odds for Saturday’s UFC card, with analysis and picks from for each fight below:

Odds as of Friday evening and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

UFC Fight Night Moneyline Projections and Picks

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 the distance.

As a result, after examining all of the betting options, your typical UFC card can offer a substantial amount of actionable value. Below, you can find my crowdsourced fair odds moneyline projection for each of Saturday’s 13 bouts.

UFC Fight Night Prop Projections and Picks

In addition to creating a crowdsourced projection for moneyline plays, I also collect data on each fighter to win by decision, knockout or submission — which also enables us to determine fair odds for each fight to go the distance, or for each fighter to win inside of the distance.

The Fights I’m Betting

As of writing, I have 16 pre-fight wagers, with action on every matchup on Saturday’s card.

This is extremely uncommon, and frankly uncomfortable, but I found projected value in at least one market on 12 of the 13 bouts for Saturday — including seven moneylines (five favorites, two underdogs), six “fight to go the distance” wagers, and several winning method props.

And the one matchup where I didn’t see any projected value (Buckley vs. Kasanganay), I really like the matchup and spot for the underdog.

As a result, I’m ready for an action-packed Saturday night, and I have a loaded card for another venture to fight island.

I didn’t play every bet that showed projected value, however. Here’s how I’m approaching each fight:

Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Bruno Silva

Say hello to the newest exciting Dagestani prospect, as Tagir Ulanbekov makes his UFC debut against Bruno Silva, who could be fighting for his contract after an 0-2 start with the promotion.

Ulanbekov, who is close friends and training partners with Khabib Nurmagomedov, has incredible length for the flyweight division, standing three inches taller with an extra five inches of reach relative to Silva.

He’s a former world champion in combat sambo, and he should be undefeated in MMA, save for an incredibly controversial decision loss in Khazakstan to a Khazak fighter Zhalgas Zhumagulov, who is already in the UFC.

Tagir’s primary strength is his wrestling and top control, where he has submitted six opponents, and smashed another until getting the stoppage:

I don’t like Tagir’s submission odds nearly as much as the crowd projection does, and this fight could very well go to a decision, but Ulanbekov is the far more well-rounded fighter, and the projection indicates that he should dominate this bout.

I bet Tagir to win inside the distance, and I included him in a moneyline parlay, but I personally think that his most likely path to victory is via decision.

However, we have seen these debutants come out with their hair on fire — desperately seeking that $50,000 performance bonus — and I expect Tagir to show off in front of Dana White, Khabib and friends in a potentially sizable mismatch.

Bets to Consider:

  • Fight to end inside the distance
  • Ulanbekov to win inside the distance
  • Ulanbekov by submission
  • Ulanbekov’s Moneyline

Tracy Cortez vs. Stephanie Egger

Egger is making her UFC debut on short notice against a UFC veteran, so I would typically look to either fade her in this spot or bypass hey moneyline.

But I am going to ride both the projected underdog value and the market movement, which has seen Egger plummet from opening odds of +225 over the past week.

Egger is a world-class judoka, and even though her striking and overall MMA skillset is undeveloped, she is a naturally larger fighter than Cortez (with a three-inch reach advantage) and should have the grappling advantage even against a fighter with a strong wrestling base.

Cortez is the superior striker, but her takedown defense is vulnerable, and I suspect that Egger will get her in a body lock in due time.

Unless Cortez has a night of flawless takedown defense, this should be a close fight, and one that I expect to go to the scorecards. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Egger is able to secure a tap at juicy odds, either.

Bets to Consider:

  • Fight to go the distance
  • Egger’s Moneyline
  • Egger to win by Decision
  • Egger to win by Submission

Giga Chikadze vs. Omar Morales

Somone will likely be handed their first UFC loss in this striker vs. striker battle between Chikadze, a former pro kickboxer, and Morales, a power-puncher who is making his featherweight debut. Both men are currently 3-0 inside the octagon.

I don’t have a particularly strong read on this fight. I’m curious to see whether Morales will have stamina late in the bout after cutting down this much weight for the first time, and Chikdaze already has a reputation for fading in the third round.

Both men are extremely durable, and I also see Chikadze as more of a point fighter, so I agree with the crowd assessment that the fight should go the distance three-quarters of the time.

Due to the substantial 9% betting edge that I see for this fight to go the distance, both men offer betting value to win by decision, but I can’t pick a side here with confidence.

I’ll just play the fight to go the full 15 minutes.

Bets to Consider:

  • Fight to go the Distance
  • Chikadze to win by Decision
  • Morales to win by Decision

Ali Al Qaisi vs. Tony Kelley

I view this fight pretty similarly to the one before it, expecting the bout to go the distance, with less confidence as to who will see their hand raised.

Per my projection, there is a 13% betting edge on playing this fight to go the distance. Additionally, you can find actionable value on either man to win by decision.

Both fighters recently lost in their UFC debut.

Kelley had a fight of the night performance against Kai Kamaka on Aug. 15, battling through fatigue on short notice to land 114 significant strikes.

Al Qaisi lost a split decision to Irwin Rivera on Aug. 8, while securing just two of his nine takedown attempts.

Kelley should be the larger man, moving down from featherweight to bantamweight. He is three inches taller, with a two-inch reach advantage. He was taken down five times by Kamaka in his debut but managed to keep returning to his feet, and if Al Qaisi cannot keep him down he will be at a major disadvantage in a striking battle.

Ultimately, I expect Kelley to prevail. But Al Qaisi has the type of fighting style that leads to ugly split decisions, and I would rather know the result of my bet before hearing what the scorecards actually say.

Kelley could get put out on the feet, or Al Qaisi could catch him in a guillotine, but this fight goes the distance far more frequently than the betting odds suggest.

Bets to Consider:

  • Fight to go the Distance
  • Al Qaisi to win by Decision
  • Kelley to win by Decision

Impa Kasanganay vs. Joaquin Buckley

This is the lone bout on Saturday’s card where I didn’t see any projected betting value.

However, I was impressed by Buckley’s performance against the much larger Kevin Holland in his short-notice debut on Aug. 8. Despite being four inches shorter than Holland, and giving up five inches of reach, Buckley put in work on the larger man’s body, landing 31 of 58 significant strikes with a barrage of hooks.

Buckley only landed six of 59 head strikes, however, leading to an overall 33% significant strike accuracy, and he eventually gassed and was flattened by Holland’s right hand in the third round.

Impa has already shown himself to be a high-ceiling prospect despite limited professional experience, but Buckley has faced a significantly higher level of competition at Bellator and LFA — and has more power than his opponent.

The difference for Buckley this time around is the size differential. He actually has an inch of reach on Impa, who will also need to adjust to Buckley’s southpaw stance (53% win rate vs. Orthodox fighters).

Impa is also the short-notice fighter this time around, but he has shown a sizable gas tank, and I still expect him to sustain later into the fight than Buckley.

But the underdog has the ability to do damage and presents serious knockout power. I suppose I’ll look like an idiot if I continue to fade Impa, and he continues to improve at such a rapid pace, but such a run would be almost unprecedented.

It’s a matter of time before Impa takes a loss, and Buckley should find his range early here.

Bets to Consider:

  • Buckley’s Moneyline

Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Chris Daukaus

This heavyweight bout is one of two fights on Saturday that show greater than a 90% likelihood of finishing inside the distance.

The outcome seems fairly binary: Nascimento by submission, or Dauskas by KO/TKO, and the result likely depends upon the latter’s wrestling defense and grappling skill.

Nascimento, who trains with American Top Team, is the fighter with more long-term upside, and it’s possible that he made significant strides in the five months since his most recent appearance.

Daukaus has bigger power, but Nascimento has the overall skill edge, and the undefeated record to protect.

All three career losses for Daukaus have come by finish after gassing himself out early, and I expect Nascimento, a far superior athlete, to maintain his composure better in the middle rounds. However, he has wrapped up all eight of his career wins in eight minutes or less.

Once it hit the mat, Rodrigo Nascimento closed the show quickly 😤 #UFCFL

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 16, 2020

Rather than playing the under 1.5, I bet this fight to finish in the first round at even money.

If the fight does extend further, look to live bet Nascimento live after Round 1.

Bets to Consider:

  • Fight Ends in Round 1
  • Fight to end inside the distance
  • Nascimento live after Round 1

Tom Breese vs. KB Bhullar

Breese had a significant size advantage at welterweight, but that is severely diminished at middleweight, and he takes on a large 6-foot-4 debutant in KB Bhullar, who has a five-inch reach advantage, coming off of his first career knockout loss in February.

Breese was once considered a top UFC prospect, but he has dealt with anxiety issues and been extremely inactive. This would be just his third fight since 2016.

Bhullar is a well-rounded prospect in his own right, but a fully confident and motivated Breese should overwhelm him quickly.

That being said, both intangibles are major question marks following that knockout, and it’s possible that Breese is here to collect a check, and doesn’t want to do this anymore.

If that’s the case, he could certainly get finished again, but the odds for Bhullar to win by a decision are a bit inflated, and I made a small play on the underdog’s winning method.

Bets to Consider:

  • Bhullar to win by Decision

Youssef Zalal vs. Ilia Topuria

The main card kicks off with a potential fight of the night candidate between Zalal, a 24-year-old with a 3-0 record in the UFC, and Topuria, an undefeated 23-year-old and talented debutant making a short-notice octagon debut.

Topuria has recorded seven of his eight wins by submission, and he’ll try to finish “The Moroccan Devil” tap for the first time in his career.

Zalal is primarily a striker, but his movement is extremely active, making him difficult to get a hold of, and he has shown decent grappling skill, too.

Topuria is the superior grappler, but he also has fast hands with big power, and he’s far from overmatched if this fight stays on the feet.

The biggest mark against Topuria is the fact that he has never gone three rounds previously, while Zalal is 3-2 on the scorecards, including all three of his UFC wins.

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Topuria pulls the small upset – his line has dropped down from an opener of +190 in the past week – but I have to play the value, and the short notice angle against him, and bet the favorite to win by decision at plus money.

Betting the fight to go the distance is too closely correlated with Zalal’s win condition to consider playing both.

I did consider a blind bet on Topuria’s moneyline, despite the lack of projected value — and I wouldn’t fault anyone for backing a potentially immense talent.

Bets to Consider:

  • Fight to go the distance
  • Zalal to win by decision
  • Topuria’s Moneyline

Tom Aspinall vs. Alan Baudot

The UFC is seemingly looking to setup Aspinall for fast success. He was handed a knockout win on a platter in his UFC debut against former middleweight Jake Collier:

The next heavyweight prospect!?

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Tom Aspinall makes his sophmore showing this Saturday.

[ #UFCFightIsland5 | #InAbuDhabi | @VisitAbuDhabi ]

— UFC (@ufc) October 7, 2020

He was supposed to fight Sergey Spivak on Saturday, but will now take on a late-replacement in Alan Baudot, who is 1) likely not UFC caliber and 2) a natural Light Heavyweight.

Baudot is now making his UFC debut, on short notice, in the wrong weight class — and he’s coming off of a significant layoff and win via disqualification after he was choked out in the third round in April 2019.

Aspinall has some fast, powerful hands, and I would look for him to continue his streak of first-round finishes.

Neither fighter has gone the distance in their respective careers, and I’m betting on an early finish in a variety of ways.

My projections say that Aspinall stops this fight early nearly 85% of the time, and you can bet him to win inside the distance at -240 (implied 70.6%), more than a 10% edge.

Bets to Consider:

  • Aspinall’s moneyline
  • Aspinall to win in Round 1
  • Aspinall to win inside the Distance
  • Under 1.5 Rounds

Markus Perez vs. Dricus Du Plessis

Du Plessis is yet another short-notice debutant on this card, but he enters this bout as a decent favorite against Perez, who is 2-3 in the UFC.

The 26-year-old South Africa native has a ton of high-level experience on the regional scene, with 16 professional MMA fights following his time as a K-1 kickboxer, impressively winning the KSW welterweight strap against Roberto Soldic after surviving an early onslaught:

Neither Du Plessis nor Perez packs overwhelming power, and Perez is very durable (never finished), so Du Plessis may have to win on the scorecards for the first time in his career.

Perez has been at a striking disparity during his time in the UFC (-1.16 significant strike differential), and his takedown accuracy (26%) has been debilitating for his style.

Du Plessis should have the advantage on the feet and the grappling chops to neutralize the Brazilian on the mat, and I think he takes enough minutes to win on the cards.

The moneyline price on Du Plessis is a bit too steep for me personally, as a short-notice debutant facing an established UFC veteran, but I happily took a stab on his decision prop at an inflated price.

Bets to Consider:

  • Du Plessis’ Moneyline
  • Du Plessis to win by Decision

Ben Rothwell vs. Marcin Tybura

This is an interesting heavyweight bout between Rothwell, a plodding man with an iron-cast chin, and Tybura, a significantly more athletic fighter with three knockout losses since 2018.

Their output is fairly similar (3.37 and 3.32 significant strikes landed per minute) but Tybura is the more efficient striker (+7% accuracy, +7% defense), and he will likely change levels (1.69 takedowns per 15 minutes, 48% accuracy) if Rothwell continues to press forward.

Big Ben, a veteran of 50 professional fights, hasn’t been knocked out since 2009 and should continually pressure Tybura for 15 minutes, or for as long as his opponent lasts.

His takedown defense (69%) and recovery will be key to keeping this fight where he wants it, and Rothwell can deploy his guillotine (two UFC wins) if Tybura gets careless.

This seems like a strong matchup for Rothwell, who is looking for his second three-fight winning streak in the UFC, and at the age of 38, he is still in his prime in this division.

Bets to Consider:

  • Rothwell’s Moneyline

Edson Barboza vs. Makwan Amirkhani

Barboza has dropped five of his past six fights, including his featherweight debut in May against Dan Ige, but he looked strong in that fight for all 15 minutes before losing a controversial split decision. 74% of fans and all but two media members scored the bout for the Brazilian.

He has a significant advantage on the feet against Makwan Amirkhani, who has recorded 11 of his 16 career wins by submission. “Mr. Finland” generally gasses out after a hot start, and it’s hard to imagine him out-pointing Barboza, who averages an additional +2.53 significant strikes landed per minute.

Barboza also has sturdy takedown defense (80%) and he hasn’t been submitted since 2015 in a bout against Tony Ferguson.

I would expect Amirkhani to be his typically aggressive self, but Barboza should have significantly more energy in the second half of this fight when he could finish a severely tiring opponent.

I like Edson to win inside the distance, which I projected at 57%, implied odds of -132, and I would also consider betting the fight itself to finish inside the distance.

Bets to Consider:

  • Barboza’s Moneyline
  • Barboza to win by KO/TKO
  • Barboza to win Inside the Distance
  • Fight to end Inside the Distance

Marlon Moraes vs. Cory Sandhagen

Sandhagen is a massive bantamweight, standing five inches taller with a three-inch reach advantage against Moraes, and he pushes a ridiculous pace for any division with 6.95 significant strikes landed per minute.

Sandhagen is a member of Team Elevation, a Colorado-based camp which has been dominant of late, and the consensus is that Cory is an ideal Live play after Round 1.

I don’t completely disagree, but I also see some projected value on Moraes as an underdog, and I’ll bet into Moraes’s win condition, which most likely involves a first-round finish.

Sandhagen’s striking defense (4.08 absorbed per minute) is vulnerable, and very few bantamweights hit as hard as Moraes. Furthermore, Aljamain Sterling took Sandhagen’s back with ease — and Marlon is a high-level opportunistic grappler.

If he doesn’t secure the early finish, Moraes should eventually begin to tire out, and Sandhagen should start to take control of the fight, which makes him a logical live play.

Moraes is 7-1 on the scorecards in his career, and 2-1 in the UFC, but all three of those bouts ended with split judges.

Sandhagen might also be able to find a finish in the later rounds and prove that he belongs at the top of the bantamweight contender rankings behind Aljo. Moraes has only been finished once since 2011, when he lost the bantamweight title fight to Henry Cejudo via TKO in June 2019.

Sandhagen’s length and pressure should ultimately prove too much for the Brazilian, particularly after the early stages of this fight.

I’ll have a small Round 1 wager on Marlon, in case he has some more magic in store, and then I’ll look to come in on Sandhagen live.

Bets to Consider:

  • Moraes’ Moneyline
  • Morales to win in Round 1
  • Moraes to win by KO/TKO
  • Sandhagen Live after Round 1

Zerillo’s UFC Fight Night Bets (Oct. 10)


  • Stephanie Egger +160 (0.5u)
  • Joaquin Buckley +205 (0.5u)
  • Ben Rothwell (-152, 0.5u)
  • Parlay: Tom Aspinall / Edson Barboza / Tagir Ulanbekov (-106, 0.5u)

Live Betting Notes

  • Rodrigo Nascimento after Round 1
  • Cory Sandhagen after Round 1

Props and Totals

  • Tagir Ulanbekov to win Inside the Distance (+160, 0.5 units)
  • Chikadze / Morales, Fight Goes the Distance (-200, 0.5u)
  • Al Qaisi / Kelley, Fight Goes the Distance (-170, 0.5u)
  • Dauskaus / Nascimento, Fight Ends in Round 1 (+100, 0.5u)
  • KB Bhullar to win by Decision (+550, 0.25u)
  • Youssef Zalal to win by Decision (+160, 0.5u)
  • Tom Aspinall to win in Round 1 (+135, 0.5u)
  • Tom Aspinall to win inside the Distance (-240, 0.5u)
  • Baudot / Aspinall, Under 1.5 Rounds (-175, Risk 1u)
  • Dricus de Plessis to win by Decision (+300, 0.5u)
  • Edson Barboza to win Inside the Distance (+115, 0.5u)
  • Marlon Moraes to win in Round 1 (+550, 0.25u)

[Bet UFC Fight Night at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

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