UFC Vegas 76 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov and More (Saturday, July 1)
Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC lightweight Ismael Bonfim of Brazil
Check out our UFC Vegas 76 best bets ahead of Saturday's event on ESPN from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.
The 12-fight card kicks off at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) with the preliminary card, and then the main card commences at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to the ESPN broadcast, ESPN+ offers a full simulcast.
In addition to a Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov main event, UFC Vegas 76 features a handful of other notable names. It also features some compelling matchups that are the targets of our UFC best bets.
So where should be looking to place your wagers? Our crew has pinpointed four fights and seven picks on Saturday’s ESPN-televised 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.
Sean Zerillo: Alexander Romanov vs. Blagoy Ivanov
Senior Writer at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 3:55 p.m. ET
Saturday's heavyweight opener features a substantial cardio mismatch as Moldovan fighter Alexander Romanov faces Bulgaria's Blagoy Ivanov.
Romanov weighed in near the heavyweight limit on Friday – roughly where he weighed in against Alexander Volkov in his first-round loss in March. Romanov had dropped about 25-30 pounds before his fights against Chase Sherman and Marcin Tybura but has seemingly fallen back out of shape following his first career setback.
In that last fight against Volkov, he essentially stopped fighting after missing his first takedown attempt. Romanov has shown limited stamina in other fights, too, essentially quitting (following a groin strike) as he tired in the third round of his technical decision over Juan Espino.
Romanov is a powerhouse takedown artist for about one round and has his iconic double hammerfists from the top position. Still, if you can survive one or two explosions from "King Kong," Romanov should start to fade.
Ivanov (70% takedown defense) has been grounded in the past (and submitted by Alexander Volkov in 2014). Still, the Bulgarian is exceptionally durable and seems likely to take over the fight if he survives past five minutes.
Either Romanov can be favored, or the Over 1.5 can be -200, but not both. One of those lines is almost certainly wrong; we'll figure out which one in hindsight, but Ivanov wins the vast majority of iterations of this fight that goes beyond seven and a half minutes.
This matchup is a coin flip, and I would bet Ivanov pre-flop down to +110. However, a live entry might be the best way to play it; Romanov should find his best success early. If Ivanov is still there after five minutes, bet the Bulgarian to stage a comeback at a better price than the pre-fight number.
Additionally, take small shots on Ivanov to win in Round 2 (+1000) or Round 3 (+1700) via FanDuel. He doesn't hit particularly hard, but Ivanov might be able to score an attritional finish in the final two rounds against a tiring opponent.
The Picks: Blagoy Ivanov (+120 at FanDuel, 0.5u) | Ivanov wins in Round 2 (+1000 at FanDuel, 0.1u) | Ivanov wins in Round 3 (+1700 at FanDuel, 0.1u) | Ivanov live after Round 1
Billy Ward: Kevin Lee vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov
Junior Predictive Analyst at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 6:25 p.m. ET
They’ve shifted a bit, as we expected, with -200 the best option as of Friday afternoon – and those are likely to disappear as sharper books have moved even further.
While I’d still take those lines, I think there’s a better way to play this one. Too often we conflate dominant performances with (early) finishes in the UFC, but one doesn’t necessitate the other. This fight is a prime example of that.
Fakhretdinov is a former middleweight, and he's taking on former lightweight Kevin Lee. Lee also had major injuries to both knees during his time away from competition. That means Fakhretdinov should be both larger and faster, a tough combination to overcome.
With that said, he’s generally been happy to win minutes from top control, doing just enough damage to keep the fight there while not taking any chances. While he was able to put away lesser competition prior to his UFC run, he’s yet to do so in the UFC octagon.
Plus, Lee is a highly experienced veteran who is fairly difficult to finish early. Just once was he finished in the first two rounds of a fight, with his other stoppage losses coming down more to cardio than being outclassed.
Which is why we’re playing Fakhretdinov with the over 1.5 in a same-game parlay (+105 at bet365) as opposed to Fakhretdinov by decision. A late submission of a frustrated Lee wouldn’t at all surprise me here, but the 18-fight UFC veteran almost certainly won’t be put away early.
The Pick: Rinat Fakhretdinov & over 1.5 rounds SGP (+105 at bet365)
Tony Sartori: Ismael Bonfim vs. Benoit Saint-Denis
Contributor at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 7:25 p.m. ET
The UFC Vegas 76 main card includes lightweights Ismael Bonfim vs. Benoit Saint-Denis. These are two strong up-and-comers in the 155-pound division, though Bonfim has shown more thus far and, therefore, is appropriately priced as a -335 favorite.
Entering this scrap in terrific form, Bonfim has won 10 straight professional fights with seven of those wins coming inside the distance. Capping off this impressive run was a highlight-reel flying-knee knockout over Terrance McKinney, which has really put Bonfim on the radar among lightweight prospects.
While that clip showcased Bonfim's striking and muay Thai, he is also more than capable of handling himself on the mat. In fact, he has scored both a knockdown and a takedown in each of his first two UFC scraps.
Meanwhile, Saint-Denis has also made a name for himself rather quickly, winning 10 of his first 11 professional fights. His lone loss came to long-time UFC veteran Elizeu Zaleski.
That lone defeat came via decision, which is why we are catching Bonfim's inside-the-distance prop at plus-money. Like Bonfim, Saint-Denis is a balanced mixed martial artist and can handle himself both on the mat and on the feet.
With that said, his biggest weakness is his striking defense, and I am not sold that he can survive an onslaught from Bonfim. Since joining the UFC, Saint-Denis has absorbed 6.72 significant strikes per minute, which is a recipe for disaster against a guy with Bonfim's knockout prowess.
Add to the fact that Bonfim also boasts six submission wins professionally, look for the prospect to make a name for himself with another finish inside the distance.
The Pick: Ismael Bonfim inside the distance (+102 at BetRivers)
Dann Stupp: Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov
Senior Editor at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 9:25 p.m. ET
Well, if the other guys are going to tap into the props market for their best bet, I'm going to do the same.
Although I was extremely close to declaring prelim underdog Luana Carolina (+185) as my best for this week, I just couldn't look away from the UFC Vegas 75 main event.
As the week wore on, I kept looking at betting options for Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov. And like my wife (and perhaps her husband) drawn to a Below Deck marathon, I just couldn't look away.
A special offering from FanDuel was just too tantalizing.
Under the "Round Props" menu, there it is: "Sean Strickland Round 4, 5, or by Decision" at plus-money odds of +125.
In other words, instead of taking Strickland on the moneyline (-140 to -164 depending on your book of choice), we're tacking on "over 3 rounds" and essentially making a pre-built same-game parlay.
I'm not the world's biggest Strickland fan, but I find it hard to bet against him – confidently, anyway – in this spot against an experienced opponent but one who's never been past the third round.
Still, even if Strickland can survive what are surely to be some dicey moments from Magomedov early, I don't expect him to necessarily go wild looking for finishes. Instead, I think he finds his range, peppers his jabs, and simply picks away at an opponent whom he should be able to out-cardio and out-pace, especially in the second half of the fight.
(And, boy oh boy, just imagine if Strickland actually used his wrestling and heavy top game in this main event – I'd like this FanDuel bet even more then. But let's not get crazy and bank on Strickland taking the path of least resistance.)
Although I wouldn't fault a punter for playing it safe and taking Strickland on the moneyline, I think the extra juice is worth the squeeze in this case.