UFC Fight Night Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Jackson vs. Buys, Cutelaba vs. Clark and More (Saturday, Sept. 18)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Devin Clark.
UFC action is back, this week with a 14-bout fight card that is headlined by light heavyweights Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann. In the co-main event, two more light heavyweights, Ion Cutelaba and Devin Clark, will go head-to-head on the main card at the UFC APEX. The prelims will begin at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+ with the main card set to take place at 7 p.m. ET.
So, where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew is focusing on three fights in particular and sees a few bets with value in those matchups. You can find their analysis and picks on those confrontations below.
Sean Zerillo: Rong Zhu vs. Brandon Jenkins
Betting Analyst, The Action Network
Brandon Jenkins is a short-notice replacement, making his UFC debut in place of Dakota Bush, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
Jenkins is fresh off of a win at PFL (via flying knee) over former UFC fighter Jacob Kilburn just a few weeks ago, while his opponent — Rong Zhu — is hoping to bounce back from a loss in his octagon debut at UFC 261; against Kazula Vargas as a -250 favorite.
The 21-year-old Rong is a very raw prospect, and both his regional tape and UFC debut were unimpressive. The promotion is trying to pump up Chinese talent wherever possible; otherwise, I don’t think that Rong would be in the UFC.
He was a bit of a wild-man on the regional scene against lower-level opponents. Still, He looked extremely tentative in the Vargas fight, losing the significant strike battle 92-46 (111-49 on overall strikes).
To be blunt, I don’t think Rong should be this big of a favorite over virtually any fighter of this ilk at this point in his career. While he has significantly more long-term upside than the 30-year-old Jenkins, Rong will be the smaller man in the cage (three-inch height discrepancy), and I can’t point to one area where he has a decided skill advantage.
Without significant grappling upside, it’s hard to make Rong a big favorite to win this fight, and I think the opening odds (-200 on Rong) were closer to his actual chances than the current line.
If nothing else, Jenkins has shown good durability and finishing upside in his fights, and with what we have seen to date, it’s hard to envision Rong covering his price tag in this matchup.
I projected Rong around a 64% favorite in this matchup (-179 implied odds), and I would make a play on the Jenkins side at +192 or better; those odds represent a three percent edge compared to my projection.
The Pick: Brandon Jenkins ML (+240)
Erich Richter: Montel Jackson vs. JP Buys
Contributor at The Action Network
The biggest favorite on the card — Montel Jackson — faces off against JP Buys at the bantamweight division on the ESPN+ prelims. Jackson is known for his grappling averaging 4.15 takedowns per 15 minutes in his UFC career. His 11 takedowns were particularly impressive against Felipe Colares.
Buys is very undersized for bantamweight standing at just 5-foot-5 he might be the smallest person in the division. He used to fight at flyweight so his chin could come into question at a larger weight class. Jackson is going to be significantly larger at 5-foot-10.
If Buys wasn’t so undersized I would be tempted to bet against Jackson. He has shown against Brett Johns and Ricky Simon that if he cannot out-grapple his opponent it breaks his spirit.
Brett Johns only landed 11 strikes and was knocked down but still won a decision on the back of eight takedowns and over eight minutes of control time. I think Buys can be competitive on the ground and work to stay in the fight.
The knockout potential is slightly concerning but decisions at the lower weight divisions are significantly more common. My best bet of the card is this fight to go over a round and a half -130 on BetMGM.
Jackson has been very highly thought of throughout his career. However, he only has one finish in his last four fights with an average fight time of 10:50 throughout his UFC career. This fight could easily go to decision as Jackson looks to grapple most of the contest.
I would bet this fight to go to a decision at plus money as well (currently +150 on BetMGM). Jackson has been far from a knockout artist in his UFC career so far. I would bet over 1.5 rounds up to -145 and think it is a solid parlay builder.
The Pick: Over 1.5 Rounds -130
Billy Ward: Ion Cutelaba vs. Devin Clark
Contributor at The Action Network
Devin “Brown Bear” Clark takes on Ion Cutelaba in the co-main event of Saturday’s fight night. Cutelaba has one win in his last fight, including two knockout defeats and a submission. Clark has been better as of late, going 3-2 (all decisions.) Clark’s only losses came at the hands of the two men fighting after him on Saturday, Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann.
I think this matchup sets up very well stylistically for Clark. The UFC lists him as attempting a ton of takedowns with little accuracy, but from watching him that’s not really what’s happening from what I can tell.
His game plan seems to be to shoot with the intention of pinning his opponent against the cage, and grinding out a win from there. While it’s ugly, it’s effective to the judges. When one fighter is stuffed against a fence, it’s hard to say he’s winning.
I don’t see Cutelaba being able to prevent this on Saturday. Clark has solid takedown defense, and appears to be the bigger and stronger man. Both of Clark’s recent losses came by submission, which is not something Cutelaba excels in. He has only two submission wins in his career, neither of which were in the UFC.
Cutelaba’s best path to victory here is by knockout (which is how he’s secured 12 of his 15 wins) but that’s extremely hard to do at the kind of range Clark likes to keep. Even in his loss to Spann (a far better striker than Cutelaba) Clark only absorbed 17 strikes in seven minutes.
I see some value on Clark’s moneyline here, I think this fight should be a pick ‘em at worst and you can currently get Clark at +125 on BetMGM and DraftKings. His most likely winning method is far and away a decision, which you can find as high as +260 on FanDuel. I’m making both bets this week.
The Pick: Devin Clark ML (+125)