UFC Fight Night Picks & Predictions: Best Bets for Song vs. Griffin & Zerillo’s Projections (Saturday, March 20)
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images. Picture: UFC welterweight Song Kenan.
- This week's UFC Fight Night is headlined by a middleweight scrap between Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland.
- Our Sean Zerillo uses his projections to break down every fight on the card, and he delivers a best bet for the co-main event.
Editor’s note: The co-main event between Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell has been postponed due to COVID protocols.
I’m sure you were expecting a very poorly executed March Madness pun to kick off this article, but you wont find any of that here.
What you will find are three bets from Saturday’s 11-bout UFC Fight Night card, headlined by a fun middleweight scrap between Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland.
So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew is looking at two fights in particular and sees a few bets in those fights with value. You can find their analysis and picks on those matches below.
You can also check out the moneyline and prop projections for every fight via Sean Zerillo’s betting model.
Sean Zerillo: Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell
Betting Analyst, The Action Network
I’m often hesitant about betting on fighters who are returning from a significant layoff – and Gillespie hasn’t competed since suffering his first career defeat in November 2019 against Kevin Lee, when he fell from a beautiful combination that ended in a flush head kick.
But the four-time All-American wrestler — whose grappling has been dominant against UFC competition (7.02 takedowns per 15 minutes, 47% accuracy, 0.9 submissions per 15 minutes) — was handed a perfect stylistic matchup for his return against Kiwi kickboxer Brad Riddell, who has been taken down 14 times in his three UFC wins against lesser wrestlers.
Furthermore, Gillespie’s layoff didn’t come as a result of a steroid suspension or surgery – which is often the cause for such a significant gap – he took extra time off in order to heal from a knockout loss, which the UFC (unfortunately) doesn’t let fighters do enough.
Riddell is a very technical striker who presses a good enough pace (4.36 strikes landed per minute, +1.74 differential) and has shown strong enough “get-up” ability to have pulled out three wins despite all of those undefended takedowns.
But this fight reminds me a lot of the Drew Dober vs. Islam Makhachev bout from UFC 259, where you have a dominant offensive grappler — with one knockout blemish on his record — going against a powerful striker who will likely have just a few opportunities to land some big shots either at range or off his back-foot on the way in.
Gillespie has controlled his opponents for close to 75% of his octagon time, so in other words, I only expect him to be vulnerable for roughly four minutes out of a 15-minute fight.
Thinking about it logistically, it’s difficult to make him less than a 75% favorite in this spot. Since my independent data sources projected Gillespie at 78%, I would lay the juice up to -300 (implied 78%) at a threepercent edge, to win 0.75 units.
Additionally, I would bet another quarter unit on his decision prop at +200 or better. I projected that prop at +156, but Gillespie is an underrated finisher, and he should have Riddell in some very vulnerable positions on the mat.
The Pick: Gillespie Moneyline (Bet to -300, to win 0.75u) | Gillespie by Decision (Bet to +200, risk 0.25u)
Erich Richter: Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell
Contributor at The Action Network
The return of Gregor “The Gift” Gillespie is bringing plenty of fanfare this Saturday. The New York native is 13-1 in his career, including 11 wins by stoppage. Gillespie was expected to challenge for the title before a brutal KO loss to Kevin Lee in his last fight.
His counterpart, Brad Riddell, has three victories in the octagon, all by decision. Riddell has an impressive 9-1 record with his only loss coming via submission in another promotion.
Gregor Gillespie appeared to be on the fast track to a title shot before his loss to Lee. Lee was in a make-or-break fight as an underdog to Gillespie.
The underlying statistics in this fight tell a difficult story for Riddell. Gillespie is an extremely skilled grappler, landing 7.02 takedowns per 16 minutes.
Riddell typically struggles to stop the takedown. He was taken down eight times against Magomed Mustafev — yet still somehow came away with a controversial decision win.
This is a big step up in competition for Riddell, who has never faced a ranked opponent. Furthermore, Gillespie was expected to compete for a title not long ago. He has a major advantage in the grappling department and trains at an established kickboxing gym.
I do see value in Gillespie’s -240 moneyline as a parlay builder. However, the best bet in this one is Gillespie to win inside the distance +122. Only two of Gillespie’s 14 fights have gone to decision. Gillespie should be able to take Riddell down at will and could conceivably win via submission or TKO on ground strikes.
I would bet his inside the distance prop down to +110 at a 2.5-percent edge. Gillespie has an opportunity to redeem himself as a legitimate contender in the 155-pound division.
The Pick: Gillespie Inside the distance (+122)
Billy Ward: Song Kenan vs. Max Griffin
Contributor at The Action Network
China’s Song Kenan faces off with Max Griffin on the main card of Brunson vs. Holland on Saturday. Song is 4-1 in the UFC, with three of those wins coming by knockout. Griffin will be making his 11th UFC appearance (4-6 for the promotion).
Both guys are brawlers with fairly limited striking defense (54% for Griffin and 52% for Song) and not much desire to grapple. Griffin picks up a well-below -average half a takedown per round in his UFC tenure, and Song, as far as I can tell, has never even attempted a takedown in the UFC.
With matchups like this, I tend to side with the guy who brings more power into the matchup. While precision and volume strikers can certainly be successful, when we have a defense optional bout, more often than not the fighter who can end it in a hurry walks away with their hand raised.
Song is that guy for me this time. While both guys have plenty of KO wins on their records, Song’s have impressed me more (especially his 15-second KO in his UFC debut against Bobby Nash, the punch that ended it appeared to barely clip Nash but it was enough to seal the deal). Both guys are durable, so I’ll take the extra power from Song, especially as an underdog.
I’m seeing Song as high as +176 (FanDuel) in what should be close to a coin-flip bout. I expect this one to be nail-biter for Song backers, as he’s likely to take a lot of shots, and Griffin could even flip the script and force him to wrestle, but ultimately I expect him to find the shot that ends it at some point.
The Pick: Song ML (+176) | Song by KO (+420)