UFC on ESPN 39 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Vanderaa vs. Sherman, Nunes vs. Calvillo, Lawrence vs. Kakhramonov (July 9)
Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC bantamweight Ronnie Lawrence.
Editor’s Note: Nina Nunes has announced she’s pulled out of her bout with Cynthia Calvillo due to an illness.
The UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas hosts Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 39 event, a 12-bout lineup with some solid betting opportunities.
This week’s card doesn’t boast the same star power that the recent UFC 276 pay-per-view offering did. But some proven veterans and up-and-coming talent provide a host of compelling matchups, with prelims kicking off at 6 p.m. ET and the main card at 9 p.m. ET – both on ESPN and ESPN+.
So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed three fights and picks on Saturday’s fight card that present betting value.
You can find their analysis and picks on those matches plus Sean Zerillo’s projections below using odds from BetMGM.
Billy Ward: Jared Vanderaa and Chase Sherman
Contributor at The Action Network
The stoppage line on this bout genuinely surprised me, with neither Vanderaa nor Sherman showing much ability – or even interest – in securing finishes in their UFC careers.
Sherman has scored just two knockdowns in his 12-fight UFC career, while Vanderaa has yet to pick up one in five fights. Both throw with a ton of volume for the weight class – but not much ill intent.
Both have been finished many times, of course, but the vast majority of those have come on the ground. Vanderaa has one loss via submission and two by ground and pound in his UFC stint.
That’s not much of a concern against Sherman, who’s never so much as attempted a takedown in the UFC. Sherman has also been submitted in each of his past two fights though.
While Vanderaa has a bit of grappling upside based on his non-UFC bouts, he’s also never attempted a takedown in the UFC. (The UFC official stats disagree, but that includes his time on the Contender Series.)
Still, Vanderaa with a submission or ground and pound is probably the likeliest way this one ends early. Betting this one to go the distance will probably result in a scary first round, with Vanderaa having the best chance to land a takedown early.
Once we get out of the first round, though, this one should turn into a classic heavyweight slop-fest. I’ll be interested in adding on live after Round 1 if the price gets better, but I’m more than happy with the +165 on DraftKings that this fight goes to decision.
The Pick: Jared Vanderaa and Chase Sherman GTD +165
Sean Zerillo: Ronnie Lawrence vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov
Senior Writer at The Action Network
Lawrence reminds me of current No. 6-ranked bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili.
Both men shoot and land a high number of takedowns per minute (9.15 for Lawrence on 78% accuracy; 7.3 for Merab on 45% accuracy), and it’s challenging to win minutes against those types of high-paced wrestlers when you’re forced to constantly look to defend takedowns or scramble up off of your back.
Lawrence’s striking also improved in his recent win over Mana Martinez. Lawrence dominated all aspects of the fight and looked like a -900 favorite until he got clipped by a taller and more powerful opponent late in the third round.
To that point in his career, “The Heat” had shown good cardio and durability – and that wobble may have provided some line value against his upcoming opponent, Kakhramonov.
Kakhramonov showed holes in his defensive grappling in his UFC debut against Trevin Jones, in which he was held up against the fence and put on his back for 8:59 worth of control time.
Kakhramonov has some finishing upside in this matchup with Lawrence: He’s a dangerous boxer in the pocket, and he’s shown the ability to snatch up the guillotine when his opponents shoot takedowns.
Still, Lawrence is the far likelier minute-winner in this matchup. And he’s adept at staying on the outside – using his kicks – and avoiding those boxing exchanges.
Unless Kakhramonov manages to capitalize on a violent moment – and finish the fight – I would expect to see Lawrence emerge victorious.
There are undoubtedly trickier matchups for Lawrence – against fighters who can consistently deny the takedowns and keep pace with him on the feet.
That said, Kakhramonov showed too many holes against Jones to suspect that he’ll win this fight at a significant rate.
I projected Lawrence as a 60% favorite in this matchup (-150 implied), and I would bet him up to -138 (48% implied) at a 2% edge.
The Pick: Ronnie Lawrence -120
Dann Stupp: Nina Nunes vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Senior Editor at The Action Network
If you can tiptoe through the field of red flags, ignore the countless areas of uncertainty, and keep your focus on the odds, the flyweight bout Nunes and Calvillo provides a solid betting opportunity on Saturday.
UFC officials recently promoted Nunes vs. Calvillo to the event’s main card from the prelims. However, it’s likely due more to their nominal name recognition than any expected fireworks.
After all, we really don’t know what to expect in this bout. We’ve got two vets in their mid-30s who have made minimal strides in recent years. Both are on losing skids. Neither has a victory over the past two years. And motivation is a question mark for each.
So, why not just steer clear of this bout? Because I’ll happily take plus-money odds on what’s essentially a 50-50 fight. And with Nunes opening at +145 and still in the neighborhood of +130 at this writing, there’s value in a line that should be more of a coinflip.
Ultimately, Calvillo’s best shot at victory is on the mat. However, Nunes has better-than-average takedown defense. She’s the more active striker. She’s also a more accurate striker. She’s got better cardio. And she’s facing an opponent in Calvillo who struggles and sometimes crumbles to such pressure fighters, as she did in recent losses to Jessica Andrade and Andrea Lee.
I think oddsmakers are putting a little too much weight behind Nunes’ most recent performance, when she rushed back from her pregnancy in a submission loss to strawweight Mackenzie Dern. But that was more than a year ago, and now moving up a weight class, Nunes should be comfortable and now suited to her new body.
Seeing how I believe Nunes would theoretically win this fight as many times as she loses it, I like Nunes at the current +130 – and down to +110.
The Pick: Nina Nunes +130