UFC on ESPN 41 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Meerschaert vs. Silva, Cachoeira vs. Lipski, Ontiveros vs. Benitez (Saturday, August 13)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC middleweight Gerald Meerschaert
A can't-miss bantamweight fight headlines Saturday's UFC on ESPN 41 event when Marlon "Chito" Vera takes on former titleholder Dominick Cruz in San Diego.
Vera (19-7-1) and Cruz (24-3) meet in the main event of the 13-fight card at Pechanga Arena, which also features featherweights Nate Landwehr (15-4) vs. David Onama (10-1) in the co-main event. The event kicks off at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) and airs entirely on ESPN and ESPN+.
So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed two fights and picks on Saturday’s stacked 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: Charlie Ontiveros vs. Gabriel Benitez
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Charlie “The American Bad Boy” Ontiveros is fighting Gabriel Benitez at lightweight, and Ontiveros is a big underdog in this one, with the best line currently around +280 after opening +290.
I’m surprised to see Benitez as a -350 favorite to anybody, though. Benitez is 1-4 over his past five fights, with his only win coming against Justin Jaynes. Jaynes was in the midst of a five-fight skid at the time, including losing his first post-UFC fight.
On the Ontiveros side, his first UFC fight was a short-notice bout all the way up at middleweight against Kevin Holland, followed by a TKO loss to Steve Garcia. Ontiveros dominated Round 1 against Garcia with two knockdowns, but he was outmatched on the ground in the second round.
Benitez has recently fought primarily at featherweight but is coming back to lightweight for this one. Given his size and experience at middleweight, Ontiveros could look – and be – close to two weight classes heavier come fight time.
Ontiveros is extremely tall for the weight class at 6-foot-2, which gives him an edge standing but can lead to trouble in grappling exchanges. Benitez has landed all of one takedown in his UFC career, so this is pretty likely to be primarily a standup fight – a good sign for Ontiveros.
His height also confers a five-inch reach edge over “Moggly,” which could be crucial in a standup fight. Particularly since this bout is contested outside of the UFC Apex center, which means a larger cage.
I'd bet Ontiveros down to +250, at which point I'd being to look for Ontiveros knockout or ITD props as an alternative.
The Pick: Charlie Ontiveros (+280 at FanDuel)
Sean Zerillo: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Bruno Silva
Senior Writer at The Action Network
Meerschaert ("GM3") gets consistently underrated in betting markets, particularly at middleweigh, where he holds the divisional submission record (six) and a grappling advantage over most fighters.
While he doesn't always proactively wrestle, most of Meerschaert's fights end up hitting the mat at some point. His metrics (2.25 takedowns per 15 minutes, 40% accuracy) are more than sufficient to indicate grappling success against Bruno Silva, a powerful striker but a poor defensive wrestler, with five submission losses on his record.
Meerschaert is taller, longer (three-inch reach advantage), and a more technical fighter. He also has grappling and finishing upside. Skill for skill, he may have the advantage too. So why is he such a significant underdog?
GM3 tends to get hurt in each of his fights. His striking defense (51%) – and lack of head movement – is his most significant liability. And Silva is a tremendous hitter with power in both hands who can put anyone on skates.
It seems likely that Meerschaert will get clipped, and hurt, early. Still, if Meerschaert can weather the storm and work his way back into the fight – or repeatedly take Silva to the mat – he stands an excellent chance of seeing his hand raised.
Silva tends to turn and give up his back when returning to his feet, and GM3 will undoubtedly take advantage of any grappling mistakes. And aside from Silva's power advantage, Meerschaert can compete in the striking; Silva's striking defense (37%) is a massive liability, in addition to his defensive wrestling and grappling.
While Meerschaert can undoubtedly crumble on the first exchange and blow up our tickets within a matter of seconds, I have to bet his moneyline (projected +243, listed +250 at Caesars).
Additionally, I show value on either his submission prop (projected +472, listed +550 at Caesars) or his inside-the-distance prop (projected +390, listed +400 at Fanduel), and I'll take a poke at the latter.
The Pick: Meerschaert (+250 at Caesars, 0.5u) │ Meerschaert Wins Inside the Distance (+400 at FanDuel, 0.25u)
Dann Stupp: Priscila Cachoeira vs. Ariane Lipski
Senior Editor at The Action Network
Last week I got a good reminder about the golden rule of betting on combat sports: Back the fighters who are going to go to hell for you. Bet on the badasses who are going to fight like it's their own money on the line.
Last week, it took just a minute or two before I realized I should've backed Juliana Miller, who fought like her life was on the line, and not Brogan Walker in their TUF 30 tournament final. I won't make the same mistake this week with Priscila Cachoeira vs. Ariane Lipski, especially because the underdog offers such juicy odds in what should be a competitive affair.
These two flyweights were scheduled to fight twice before. The most recent fight cancellation happened just last week, when Lipski missed weight for the matchup and was ultimately ruled too ill to compete. A previous bout of Covid reportedly affected Lipski preparations and weight cut for the fight, which was quickly rebooked for this week's San Diego card as a bantamweight bout.
I'm not sure that extra 10 pounds is going to be huge saving grace for Lipski this week, though. It's not so much Cachoeira's size as her reckless aggression that could be problematic for Lipski. Cachoeira is tough, she's willing to eat a punch, and she often fights with her heart on her sleeve. Whether the fight's at 125 or 135 pounds, those are skills that will serve Cachoeira well, especially if this one goes to the scorecards (which most books have lined at -150).
Admittedly, Lipski is the more technical striker, and she's arguably more skilled on the ground. I also wouldn't be surprised if Cachoeira's crash-first-ask-questions-later offensive attacks leave her prone to Lipski's submission attempts.
However, I think that when it comes to pure skill base, these ladies are fairly closely matched. And if you throw in Cachoeira's aggression and fearlessness, it probably evens up the matchup that much more.
I feel that Cachoeira wins this fight at least 45 percent of the time, so getting +170 odds (implied win probability of 37%) is too good to pass up.
The Pick: Priscila Cachoeira (+170 at BetMGM)