UFC Vegas 76 Props: 6 Prop Picks From the MMA Prop Squad (Saturday, July 1)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC women’s flyweight Melissa Gatto of Brazil
Welcome to the latest edition of MMA Prop Squad, in which we offer an array of UFC Vegas 76 prop bets with oversized odds for Saturday's event.
Each Prop Squad installment features a handful of picks from our squad of prop-betting enthusiasts. After a monster event last week with four big Prop Squad hits, we've now tallied a whopping +39.2 units and a +20.1% ROI since inception.
This week marks the return of squad members Clint MacLean, Sean Zerillo, John LanFranca, Tony Sartori and Billy Ward.
Check out their picks for Saturday's event, which airs on ESPN (4 p.m. ET) from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, below.
As with all betting endeavors, always wager within your means. That guidance is especially important when dealing with prop bets. Although the props often offer tantalizing odds, they also cash far less frequently than standard bet types. And be sure to shop around for the best price since prop odds can vary substantially depending on the sportsbook.
Clint MacLean: Luana Carolina by KO (+1400)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Die Hard MMA Podcast
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 4:25 p.m. ET
Luana Carolina welcomes UFC newcomer Ivana Petrovic to the big show on the UFC Vegas 76 prelims.
Carolina is a muay Thai striker who seems to get stronger as the fight gets deeper, and she's coming off a very competitive fight against UFC staple Joanne Wood.
Although Petrovic is a strong grappler and is undefeated in her pro career, she has only six fights at the pro level. Carolina is battle-tested at the UFC level and will have a huge striking advantage in this matchup.
The key to this whole thing is Carolina keeping this fight on the feet. She sports a 73% takedown defense rate and held a strong grappler like Loopy Godinez to just two completed takedowns on 15 total attempts.
I'm not convinced that Petrovic can stay in a fight against a UFC-caliber striker if she cannot get the fight into her realm. On top of that, we have seen Petrovic get hurt and dropped multiple times in her six-fight pro career against non-UFC-caliber strikers, notably with elbows, which is a weapon Carolina draws on heavily.
We hit a WMMA KO prop last week. Let's go for a bigger one this week.
The Pick: Luana Carolina to win By KO/TKO/DQ (+1400 at DraftKings)
Sean Zerillo: Brunno Ferreira vs. Nursultan Ruziboev Goes to Decision (+470) | Ferreira by Decision (+1100)
Senior Writer at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 6:55 p.m. ET
Nursultan Ruziboev, a 44-fight MMA veteran, will make his UFC octagon debut on Saturday. Just eight of those 44 fights have gone to a decision. Ruziboev is 2-6 on the scorecards and has finished 32 of his 34 victories.
He'll meet the undefeated Brunno Ferreira, who has finished each of his 10 MMA fights within six minutes. Ferreira's cardio and three-round effectiveness are still massive question marks for his career trajectory. Still, the Brazilian hits extremely hard on the feet and has an exciting blend of judo and jiu-jitsu that can make him a dangerous threat to the middleweight division – if his cardio holds up.
Ruziboev's skill level is a relative mystery; it's difficult to rate his level of competition regardless of the lengthy fight history. Still, he's lost via finish only twice (in 2014 and 2016), and he may be the type of opponent to finally drag Ferreira to deep waters.
Ruziboev isn't a great minute-winner, however; he spends a lot of time on his back hunting for submissions, and if he can't secure a finish, Ferreira might be able to control Ruziboev and land damage from top position.
The betting market expects this fight to end by finish around 87-88% of the time. However, I would set those chances closer to 80% – still well above the middleweight average (58.9% finish rate) but within range to bet the decision prop.
Bet the fight to reach a decision down to +425, and play Ferreira to win his first career decision (projected +928) at +1000 or better.
The Pick: Brunno Ferreira vs. Nursultan Ruziboev goes to decision (+470 at FanDuel) | Brunno Ferreira wins by decision (+1100 at FanDuel)
John LanFranca: Nursulton Ruziboev vs. Brunno Ferreira Ends by Split/Majority Decision (+700)
Contributor at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 7:25 p.m. ET
While oddsmakers have listed this round total at 1.5, they have assigned an implied 65% chance to the over and a 57% percent chance this bout will see a Round 3.
Benoit Saint-Denis is listed as a sizable underdog in this fight, but he has never been finished inside the distance. Saint-Denis is clearly facing a striking disadvantage on Saturday, which is why I am expecting him to implement a grappling-heavy game plan.
In addition to boasting an impressive 3.3 takedowns per 15 minutes, his cardio and durability are his strongest attributes.
His UFC Vegas 76 opponent, Israel Bonfim, had shown some leaks in his grappling defense pre-UFC, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see both fighters have success throughout their matchup.
Bonfim is undoubtedly an impressive prospect, but he has finished only one of his last four opponents. His most recent knockout victory, over Terrance McKinney, is weighing on the minds of bettors too greatly.
The moneyline on this contest just seems a little too wide for me, and I have also played Saint-Denis to win by split decision at +2000. It will not be easy for either participant to get the finish in this one, and once it hits the scorecards, just about anything can happen.
For a fight that is near-even money to go the distance, getting +700 that the judges may disagree on the victor feels like a gift.
The Pick: Ismael Bonfim vs. Benoit Saint-Denis to be won by split or majority decision (+700 at BetMGM)
Tony Sartori: Melissa Gatto by KO (+510)
Contributor at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 7:55 p.m. ET
On the main card, we have a flyweight bout between Ariane Lipski and Melissa Gatto. Priced as a -230 favorite, Gatto looks to get back on track after her loss to Tracy Cortez in May.
Despite that loss against the current No .14-ranked contender in the flyweight division, Gatto has looked incredible since joining the UFC. She broke Victoria Leonardo's arm in her debut at UFC 265, which she followed up with a nasty body kick to Sijara Eubanks to secure back-to-back finishes.
She's a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and it's not shocking that Gatto's submission prop offers a lesser return than her knockout prop. With that said, her striking has looked clean over her three UFC bouts, and it should be a good avenue to victory once again in this scrap.
Lipski's chin is arguably her biggest weakness, considering that she has lost her last three bouts via TKO. Those three losses came against Priscila Cachoeira, Montana De La Rosa and Antonina Shevchenko – and two of those fighters are likely not on Gatto's level (De La Rosa has faced a ridiculously tough stretch of fighters, but I digress).
While Lipski prefers to stand and bang, that will likely be her downfall in this fight. She is a below-average striker both offensively and defensively, and with a suspect chin and 73% takedown defense, it is worth taking a shot on Gatto to dispose of her via KO/TKO.
The Pick: Melissa Gatto via KO/TKO/DQ (+510 at BetRivers)
Billy Ward: Damir Ismagulov in Round 3 (+2200)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8:55 p.m. ET
Damir Ismagulov is making his return to the UFC octagon on Saturday following a brief “retirement” of about six months. It’s probably not a coincidence that he was also on the last fight of his deal when he announced said retirement, which leads me to believe his stated “medical reasons” were more financial than anything to worry about physically.
With that out of the way, the UFC is giving him a stiff test in Grant Dawson for his return to action. Dawson is 7-0-1 in the UFC with a relentless wrestling style. He’s averaged more than 11 takedowns per 15 minutes in his UFC run.
Ismagulov is no slouch in the wrestling department either, defending two-thirds of the takedowns attempted by Arman Tsarukyan in his last fight. Even more impressive is his ability to escape if and when he’s taken down.
That latter point will be critical against Dawson. I’ve said it in the past, but repeatedly taking down a competent grappler is one of the most physically taxing things one can do. We saw Dawson nearly get finished en route to a 10-8 round against him in the Ricky Glenn fight.
He also slowed down considerably and was hurt badly by Jared Gordon in the final frame of their fight, though Dawson ended up finding a submission.
Ismagulov is a considerably better striker than either of those opponents, and he should be able to capitalize late against a tired Dawson. He also has the grappling chops to perhaps even win some of those exchanges late, giving him some submission upside as well.
The Pick: Damir Ismagulov in Round 3 (+2200 at bet365)