UFC Fight Night Picks & Projections: How to Bet Every Bout on Saturday’s Fight Island Card
Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Kelvin Gastelum
- Saturday's UFC Fight Night card is loaded with betting value and we're breaking down every single matchup on Fight Island.
- Looking to lock in a few bets? Sean Zerillo has analyzed each bout to pick out his nine favorite bets.
- Among the fights he's betting are Diakiese vs. Fiziev and Hermansson vs. Gastelum.
UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 begins Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+ with seven preliminary fights.
The main card starts at 8 p.m. ET featuring five bouts, including the Flyweight title fight and rematch between Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo.
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 projections for each of Wednesday’s 11 bouts, including forecasts for those fights to finish inside of the distance, moneylines, or for either fighter to win by decision, knockout, or Submission; with analysis and picks for my Saturday bets below.
UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez
- 5 p.m. ET
Heavyweight fight: Carlos Felipe vs. Serghei Spivak
Crowdsourced Projections: Spivak 52%
Generally, betting the Over on rounds in the UFC Heavyweight division is a contrarian, but profitable investment – but I’m not so sure what to make of the first fight on Saturday’s card, which the crowd projects to finish inside of the distance 78% of the time – more often than all but one fight on Saturday night.
Carlos Felipe has won six of his eight career victories by first-round knockout, while Sergei Spivak has finished all 10 of his wins – six submissions and four knockouts – including eight in the first round.
The Brazilian, Felipe, is making his debut in the octagon against a UFC veteran (43% win rate), and he hasn’t fought professionally since May 2017 due to PED suspensions. Note that fighters who return off of a layoff of more than one year win less than 40% of the time in the UFC.
Both fighters are young at 25-years-old, and Felipe certainly could have made significant strides in the past three years of training. Still, I’m not particularly interested in backing a knockout artist in his first fight off of the juice – despite the projected line value.
Spivak opened as a +110 underdog for this bout but has steadily taken money to push his odds near -173 as of writing.
At this point, the value now lies with the underdog, either on the moneyline or by KO/TKO at +260 (implied 27.7%), which the crowd projected at +142 (implied 41.3%).
Additionally, Felipe to win in Round 1 (+400) or Round 2 (+850), feel like viable plays if you are going the underdog route here – but there are too many unknowns about Felipe’s current skill set.
Given those questions, I have to pass on this fight, but Spivac isn’t a particularly talented Heavyweight prospect, and this is an underdog or pass spot for the UFC newcomer.
Regardless of the outcome, you can probably expect to see an early finish, and betting the fight to finish inside the distance (-200) offers value relative to the crowd projection (-355).
Felipe vs. Spivac Bets
Lightweight fight: Davi Ramos vs. Armon Tsarukyan
Crowdsourced Projections: Tsarukyan 78%
I’m surprised to find this scrap as the second bout on Saturday’s card, as Tsarukyan is a young (23-years-old) and talented prospect while Ramos is an extremely competent UFC veteran.
The 10-year age gap stands out – when there is a minimum of nine years of an age difference between competitors, the younger fighter wins 63% of the time in the UFC, and favorites win 67% of the time at average odds of -141 (implied 58.5%), so that is a built-in edge.
He is also the larger fighter (two inches of height and reach) and better striker in this matchup against Ramos – a world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who struggles to get fights to the mat with his wrestling.
Tsarukyan is a competent grappler and the more well-rounded fighter, however, and I trust him to get the fight back to the feet if he does get taken down at some point.
On the feet, Ramos seemingly doesn’t stand a chance of keeping up in terms of volume – he landed just five of 58 (8.2%) significant strikes in his last fight against Islam Makchachev and absorbed 88 of 148 total strikes (59%).
Tsarukyan lost to Makachev in his UFC debut and landed 13 of 43 significant strikes, and 60 of his 90 total strike attempts in a three-round loss.
The crowd projected Tsarukyan’s fair moneyline odds at -355 for Saturday, and he offers value as a standalone bet or a parlay piece. His prop odds to win by decision (-120) also provide value relative to the projection (-197).
Tsarukyan vs. Ramos Bets
- Use Tsarukyan as a parlay piece
- Tsarukyan by decision -120 (0.5 units)
Flyweight fight: Malcolm Gordon vs. Amir Albazi
Crowdsourced Projections: Albazi 63%
The moneyline projection is spot on for this fight between a pair of UFC newcomers, and the only bets that potentially offer value are the Yes (-115) on the fight to go the distance, compared to listed odds of -185, or Albazi by decision (+188) compared to a projection at +127.
I’m not particularly interested in placing those bets, however. Recently, undercard fights have seen a significantly higher percentage of finishes as compared to main card fights – as competitors try to prove their worth in the UFC.
Furthermore, I’m not confident in the chin on either competitor in this matchup – having seen both men get rocked early in fights – and both are submission artists who prefer to hunt for a finish on the ground as opposed to prioritizing control.
As a result, this bout is a full pass for me – there just isn’t enough information to go on, and this fight could play out in a variety of ways.
A final note, however – Gordon uses a switch stance, and switch fighters beat orthodox fighters 57.7% of the time (421-308) in the UFC.
Albazi vs. Gordon Bets
Bantamweight fight: Brett Johns vs. Montel Jackson
Crowdsourced Projections: Jackson 65%
Jackson will be the noticeably larger fighter on Saturday, with a three-inch height, and four-inch reach advantage. He also has the southpaw edge (53.9% win rate) against an orthodox opponent.
Jackson will have a clear advantage on the feet, with a +2.65 significant strike differential, compared to a mark of -0.97 for Johns, in addition to significantly better accuracy (+7%) and defense (+4%).
Johns is exceptionally durable, and his wrestling (4.29 takedowns per 15 minutes, 52% accuracy) presents problems for anyone in the Bantamweight division. Still, Jackson is no slouch either in the grappling department (4.84 takedowns per 15 minutes, 79% accuracy, 70% takedown defense).
He is also improving rapidly, ascending to an extremely high level with just a few years of MMA training under his belt.
This fight is a big test for the prospect against a former Cage Warriors and Titan FC champion, whose only UFC losses are to top talents – Pedro Munhoz and Aljamain Sterling – and I do worry that this might be too much too soon for Jackson.
But I also wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly took care of business, given his accelerated developmental path.
The crowd projection looks spot-on for all aspects of this fight, and it should be a competitive and exciting undercard bout that I am happy just to sit back and watch.
Jackson vs. Johns Bets
Lightweight fight: Joe Duffy vs. Joel Alvarez
Crowdsourced Projections: Duffy 65%
This line immediately caught my attention – with Duffy listed as the most significant favorite on Saturday night, on the heels of two straight losses and winless since March 2017.
The striking stats between Duffy and Ramos are virtually identical – albeit through just a pair of UFC bouts for the Spaniard, who finished his first UFC win on the ground nearly one year ago:
“El Fenomeno” has finished all 16 of his career wins (14 submissions, two knockouts), and I think that he is a very live underdog on Saturday night.
He is the larger man, with a four-inch height and four-inch reach advantage, but his wrestling is not nearly adept enough to dominate the grappling exchanges.
Johns is significantly more technical on the feet, but I do expect Alvarez to have his moments, however, and the potential for the finish should be there.
Alvarez by decision (+460) technically offers value, since the crowd sees the fight going the distance 59% of the time. Still, given his history of finishes, I’ll make a small play on the underdog moneyline, which the crowd set at +186.
Alvarez vs. Duffy Bets
- Joel Alvarez +260 (0.5 units)
Catch weight fight: Grant Dawson vs. Nad Narimani
Crowdsourced Projections: Dawson 82%
Dawson and Tsarukyan are my two favorite parlay pieces on Saturday’s card.
Dawson has recorded 11 of his 15 career wins by Submission, including nine by rear-naked choke, and he should have a sufficient grappling advantage over Saturday’s opponent, Nad Narimani.
Additionally, Dawson is both longer and taller by two inches, and he fights out of a switch stance (57% win rate vs. orthodox).
Narimani’s two UFC wins came against smaller fighters in Anderson Dos Santos (5’5, 70″ reach) and Khalid Taha (5’5″, 69″ reach), but Dawson (5’10”, 72″ reach) is an entirely differential animal – and that size will only help in the grappling exchanges.
Narimani has never been submitted, but he has also never faced a grappler of Dawson’s caliber (5.04 takedowns per 15 minutes, 48% accuracy, 2.5 submissions per 15 minutes). His takedown defense (75%) will be vital to keep the fight standing.
Dawson by submission (+250) is an appealing prop play – the crowd projected that outcome at -101 – and I’ll be finding ways to play Dawson’s moneyline – either as a one-off or by including him in parlays.
He is relentless on the mat, and the crowd projects his fair moneyline at -455 (implied 82%) for Saturday, a 10.6% edge compared to listed odds (-250).
Dawson vs. Narimani Bets
- Use Dawson as a parlay piece.
- Dawson by Submission (+250, 0.5 units)
Light heavyweight fight: Roman Dolidze vs. Kahdis Ibragimov
Crowdsourced Projections: Dolidze 75%
A strange Light Heavyweight bout concludes the undercard on Saturday, as Kahdis Ibragimov fights for his UFC life against newcomer Roman Dolidze, who hasn’t fought since a 2018 PED suspension.
As I mentioned for the first fight of the night with Carlos Felipe, I simply cannot back a fighter in their first bout after a PED suspension given the question marks surrounding their potentially reduced athleticism, power, and speed.
Additionally, like Felipe, Dolidze is coming off of a long-layoff (40% win rate) and making his UFC debut against an octagon veteran (43% win rate), so I see numerous reasons to avoid backing him as a favorite in this spot, despite the crowd projection.
Ibragimov had a lot of promise before arriving in the UFC, but he is likely on the chopping block with a loss here, so you can expect to see a motivated effort from the underdog.
According to the crowd projection, this is the most likely fight of the evening to finish inside the distance (82%), and Dolidze by KO/TKO (+165) is, therefore, the obvious wager, compared to a crowd projection of -170.
The odds for the inside the distance prop should, therefore, be -455, and there is actionable value compared to the listed odds (-210).
But like the first fight on the card, there are too many question marks surrounding one fighter, and this is a definite pass for me.
Dolidze vs. Ibragimov Bets
Don’t forget, you can now track your UFC bets in the Action Network App!
- 8 p.m. ET
Flyweight fight: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Askar Askarov
Crowdsourced Projections: Pantoja 65%
I couldn’t find any betting value on the first fight on the main card, an intriguing scrap between undefeated Russian prospect Askar Askarov, and Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja – who has been preparing for Askarov and both Flyweights competing for the belt in the Main Event; Pantoja would have stepped in if either Benavidez or Figueiredo had missed weight or tested positive for COVID-19.
Pantoja is the better striker and finisher, and he fights at a slightly higher pace – all signs that point to him as a confident favorite over Askarov.
Askarov is likely the better wrestler, while Pantoja is the better jiu-jitsu practitioner, so the scrambles could be both particularly exciting and result-altering in this fight.
But the projection says that the moneyline and prop odds all appear to be correct, except for the odds on the fight to go the distance (-235), which offers a slight edge relative to the crowd projection (-280).
Askarov vs. Pantoja Bets
Women’s Flyweight fight: Ariane Lipski vs. Luana Carolina
Crowdsourced Projections: Lipski 61%
Lipski and Carolina are both Brazilian and come from a similar striking background, so you can expect 15 minutes of standup action between these two Flyweights, in a fight that the crowd projects to go the distance 87% of the time.
The crowd projection also shows a slight edge on Lipski, the former KSW champion, who is a better technician and has more experience against a higher level of competition – but I am concerned about her output throughout three rounds.
She was out-struck 85-53 and 108-68 in her first two UFC fights – both losses via unanimous decision, and she only landed nine total significant strikes in the second and third round combined of her lone UFC win last November.
Carolina let her hands and legs fly (6.53 significant strikes per minute) in her UFC debut, and the judges have been siding with volume as opposed to power on Fight Island (see Tim Elliott vs. Ryan Benoit and Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski II).
Lipski’s deficiencies are in her grappling game, and in a toe-to-toe striking battle for 15 minutes, perhaps she picks up the volume a bit. I certainly expect her to have the cleaner and sharper strikes in these exchanges.
A potential lack of volume is my only concern for Lipski, and there isn’t a significant sample to go off of here with regards to Carolina.
The crowd projection shows a small edge on Lipski, while also suggesting that her odds to win by decision (+150) should be closer to -113, given her favoritism – and I’ll make a small plus-money play.
Carolina vs. Lipski Bets
- Lipski by decision (+150, 0.5 units)
Lightweight fight: Marc Diakiese vs. Rafael Fiziev
Crowdsourced Projections: Diakese 72%
After a three-fight losing streak, Marc Diakiese made some tweaks to his gameplan and has looked re-invigorated in his past two fights, a pair of blowout decision wins where he won 30-27 on five of six scorecards, and 30-26 on the other.
He has been dismantling his opponents with leg kicks and takedowns in recent fights, securing seven of his 11 takedown attempts against Joe Duffy and Lando Vannata, while out-landing them by a combined significant strike margin of 103-40.
He is the taller (+2 inches), longer (+2 inches), and faster fighter compared to Fiziev, and because Diakiese never been finished, Fiziev seemingly has limited paths to victory.
He could win a decision on volume – averaging more than four significant strikes per minute in his first two UFC bouts, compared to 2.86 for Diakiese, but Diakiese has a considerable power edge – and his ability to change levels and mix it up more frequently will likely appeal to the judges.
If Diakiese sticks to his gameplan and continues to chop away with those calf kicks in the early rounds, he’s going to be very difficult to defeat from range.
With a projected moneyline at -257, Diakiese offers substantial value at his current odds.
Diakese vs. Fiziev Bets
- Diakiese -156 (1 unit)
Middleweight fight: Jack Hermansson vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Crowdsourced Projections: Gastelum 61%
A pair of middleweights who are looking to get back in the win column will meet in Saturday night’s co-main event.
Kelvin Gastelum seemingly offers slight value as a projected favorite in what amounts to a pick’em fight. The crowd would set his fair moneyline odds closer to -200 than even money, at around -156.
Gastelum’s recent losses are against two very accomplished opponents – middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and No. 5 contender Darren Till – who will face the former champion, Robert Whittaker, next Saturday.
He is at a significant height (4 inches) and reach (6 inches) disadvantage against Hermansson, who also fights at a higher pace than Gastelum (5.13 strikes landed per minute) with incredible efficiency (+2.57 vs. +0.74 strike differential).
Hermansson will try to use his wrestling to show Gastelum that he doesn’t belong in the middleweight division. He has averaged 2.23 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC (36% accuracy), and any time he spends with top control presents fewer opportunities for Gastelum to get the best of the striking.
When stepping in against powerful strikers previously, however, Hermansson has suffered knockout losses against both Jared Cannonier and Thiago Santos.
If Gastelum can stuff his takedowns (62% defense), he will be in a position to land some big left hands to put Hermansson to sleep potentially.
The crowd projection set Gastelum’s knockout odds at +178, so you have to take a small stab at his KO/TKO prop (+375) in addition to playing his moneyline.
Gastelum vs. Hermansson Bets
- Gastelum -110 (0.5 units)
- Gastelum by KO/TKO (+375, 0.5 units)
Flyweight fight: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Joseph Benavidez
Crowdsourced Projections: Figueiredo 75%
If you want a more in-depth analysis of the main event, check out my full fight preview.
In short, the crowd expects a fairly binary outcome, predicting Figueiredo by KO/TKO 80% of the time and Benavidez by decision 65% of the time, depending upon who wins – making those fair odds -150 for Figueiredo by KO/TKO, and +515 for Benavidez by decision.
Figueiredo is +135 (implied 42.5%) to win by KO/TKO in the betting market, a 17.5% edge compared to the projection at -150 (implied 60%), while Benavidez is only +325 to win by decision, and offers no value.
The projection sees the fight finishing inside the distance 73% of the time, implied odds of -270, so betting the No – To Go the Distance (-200) offers about 6.3% of line value.
Betting on Figueiredo to end the rematch in the same fashion as he finished the first fight feels icky to me as a contrarian bettor, but I do think that you should at least have to lay juice to play it.
Figueiredo vs. Benavidez Bets
- Figueiredo by KO/TKO (+135, 0.5 units)
Zerillo’s UFC Fight Night Bets
- Arman Tsarukyan by decision -120 (0.5 units)
- Joel Alvarez +260 (0.5 units)
- Grant Dawson by Submission (+250, 0.5 units)
- Ariane Lipski by decision (+150, 0.5 units)
- Marc Diakese -156 (1 unit)
- Kelvin Gastelum -110 (0.5 units)
- Kelvin Gastelum by KO/TKO (+375, 0.5 units)
- Devieson Figueiredo by KO/TKO (+135, 0.5 units)
- Parlay: Grant Dawson / Arman Tsarukyan (+115, 1.5 units)