UFC Vegas 87 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our 4 Best Bets for Saturday Afternoon (March 2)

UFC Vegas 87 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our 4 Best Bets for Saturday Afternoon (March 2) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC flyweight Muhammad Mokaev of Russia

Check out our UFC Vegas 87 best bets with the latest MMA odds for the Saturday, March 2 event on ESPN+.

UFC Vegas 87 takes place at the UFC Apex facility, and the entire event streams on ESPN+ at a special early start time of 1:30 p.m. ET (10:30 a.m. PT).

Saturday's event features what is undoubtedly one of the weakest fight cards in recent UFC history. The event, which was originally expected to take place in Saudi Arabia, features several fighters from that region who are substantial favorites over their opponents.

Still, though the card may look weak on paper, you never know how the fights will play out – and there's always value to be found.

So where should be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed four fights and picks on Saturday afternoon's ESPN+ 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.

*UFC Vegas 87 matchup odds as of Saturday and via FanDuel. Use our FanDuel promo code and tap into the extensive MMA betting markets. 

Moneyline Projections

Prop Projections

Sean Zerillo: Christian Leroy Duncan vs. Claudio Ribeiro

Staff Writer at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 1:55 p.m. ET

There are numerous hefty moneyline favorites on Saturday's card, but unlike his pricy peers, Christian Leroy Duncan ("CLD") is one of the few juice plays lacking obvious grappling upside.

Instead, Duncan (-360) is a karate-style fighter with a two-inch reach advantage. He will either look to stay on the outside of the octagon and work his jab and kicking game, or look to get inside of the clinch against Claudio Ribeiro (+290) and tire out the power puncher while staying out of the pocket.

Duncan is the far more technical fighter while Ribeiro looks to roll the dice, land winging punches, and clip his opponents.

Additionally, Duncan has superior cardio and should be able to implement his game plan for the duration of the fight. Meanwhile, Ribeiro tends to tire after the opening frame, and his power and effectiveness should wane in the second half of the bout.

The smaller cage at the Apex should provide Ribeiro with opportunities to land power shots and close the show; still, I expect Duncan to wear on the Brazilian early – drain his gas tank – and increase the pressure down the stretch of this fight.

I expect this fight to reach a decision more often than the odds suggest (projected +221, listed +290), but I prefer to bet the Over 1.5 Rounds down to -125.

The Pick: Duncan vs. Ribeiro Over 1.5 Rounds (-110 at ESPN BET)

Billy Ward: Eryk Anders vs. Jamie Pickett

Staff Writer at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 3:25 p.m. ET

I’m struggling to understand the discrepancy between Eryk Ander’s moneyline at -500 (roughly 83%) and inside the distance odds of +130 (43%) at the time of this writing on Friday.

They suggest that Anders, who’s finished four of his seven UFC wins, goes to a decision nearly as often as he puts away Jamie Pickett (+385) in their featured prelim bout.

Based on his base finishing rate, that’s an almost reasonable assumption, I guess. However, Pickett is arguably the worst fighter Anders has fought in the UFC octagon. Pickett is 2-6 in the promotion but has four straight losses heading into this fight.

Pickett has been finished in three of those four fights despite fighting bottom-of-the-barrell competition himself (outside of Bo Nickal). It’s remarkable Pickett even has a spot on the roster at this point, and this is probably his last chance to pick up a win.

I don’t expect Anders to play with his food here, so getting plus-money odds on any finish is a bit of a gift. The likeliest path for Anders is on the ground, but given that it could come via ground and pound or submission, let’s cover all the bases and roll both into one pick.

The Pick: Eryk Anders by Finish (+130 at DraftKings or ESPN BET)

Tony Sartori: Matt Schnell vs. Steve Erceg

Staff Writer at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 3:55 p.m. ET

Kicking off the main card is a flyweight bout between the No. 9-ranked contender, Matt Schnell (+350) and No. 12 Steve Erceg (-450).

The UFC loves to start its main cards with fights that are likely to end in a finish, and that is certainly the case on Saturday afternoon as oddsmakers have priced this bout at -215 to end inside the distance.

This bodes well for Erceg, who enters this bout with a promising 11-1 record. Seven of those 11 wins have come inside the distance, with six of those seven wins coming by submission.

Erceg is a talented mixed martial artist and can handle himself in pretty much any situation. Whether he is wrestling, grappling, in the clinch or striking at distance, Erceg has proven across multiple promotions that he can take care of business no matter what direction the fight goes.

However, just like he said during his media scrum this week, Erceg will surely prefer this fight to go to the mat. I like to call Schnell an "agent of chaos" because that man is willing to just go into the pocket and let the hands go in an all-out war.

That is where Schnell is most comfortable, and since Erceg is more comfortable in the grappling department, it makes sense why Erceg would want this fight on the mat. I think that Erceg will succeed in that endeavor, considering Schnell's terrible 46% takedown defense across 12 fights in the UFC.

Once on the mat, Schnell is going to be in trouble due to the aforementioned submission prowess of Erceg. Additionally, Schnell has lost twice in his career by guillotine, a choke that Erceg has used in two of his six submission victories.

The Pick: Steve Erceg by Submission (+240 at FanDuel)

Dann Stupp: Alex Perez vs. Muhammad Mokaev 

Senior Editor at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 4:55 p.m. ET

I've got to admit that I considered taking a small underdog flier on Alex Perez (+295) against fellow flyweight Muhammad Mokaev (-370) in their main-card bout, especially as the odds have widened throughout fight week.

However, the more I considered the tangibles at play and some of the advantages that Mokaev possesses, I quickly jumped to the other side of the equation.

In fact, not only do I think Mokaev gets the victory, but I also think he's going to have ample opportunity to get a stoppage.

Mokaev can dictate the action and dominate control time, as he's done throughout his UFC tenure. And sure, Perez's striking is a serious threat, but it also leaves him vulnerable to takedowns. Perez has good takedown defense (77%), but with Mokaev spamming 6.5 takedown attempts per fight, the Californian's going to have to be essentially perfect in that department.

I don't see that defense holding up over a full 15 minutes, and when Mokaev inevitably forces the action to the mat, Perez isn't going to get any reprieve.

I'm not expecting Mokaev to mess around once he gets the fight to his chosen domain. Expect him to work quickly and efficiently and look for the submission – though a stoppage due to grounded strikes or simply attritional damage is also a distinct possibility.

My heart says Mokaev via submission at juicy +150 odds. However, I'm going to punt for coverage, protect myself in the case of one of those TKO scenarios, and take Mokaev by stoppage at +105 odds via FanDuel. I'm comfortable take it down to -125 odds.

The Pick: Muhammad Mokaev by Stoppage (+105 at FanDuel)

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