Welcome back this week and I hope you are ready for International Fight Week in Las Vegas, NV. It is going to be hard to follow up my performance last week as we were all over it with the huge Amanda Ribas submission win along with many others. This card is a little light for the prelims but the main card certainly makes up for it with an exciting PPV card. Let’s get into it.
Julia Avila 8.6K vs Pannie Kianzad 7.6K
At 31 years old, Julia Avila is making her UFC debut this week against a short-notice replacement in Pannie Kianzad. Avila is coming in as a two to one favorite here and I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see this line get steamed. She has legitimate power and is going to put a pace on any opponent that steps into the octagon with her. She is willing to throw eight or nine punch combinations repeatedly and has strong knees and elbows in the clinch. Her opponent, Kianzad, was actually released from the UFC after getting submitted by Macy Chiasson. She is not a great striker and is susceptible to eating a heavy right hand but is a purple belt in BJJ. However, I don’t see her being able to take this fight to the ground so I have to favor Avila here. Avila is the better and more powerful striker and I expect her to dominate the exchanges in the clinch with heavy knees. She has an ITD line of (+180) which is very solid for Women’s bantamweight fight and I don’t mind the price on her in the mid-range. Even if the fight goes to decision, she has pretty high volume and should pay off the price along with a realistic shot to finish Kianzad early. I’ll make it a point to be overweight to the field especially since this fight as a whole will be underowned. My official pick is Avila by TKO.
Ismail Naurdiev 9.3K vs Chance Rencountre 6.9K
This is an interesting matchup here at Welterweight. I’m actually really surprised at how much steam is coming in on Naurdiev. He opened as nearly a three to one favorite and has already touched (-500) on some books. He is a young fighter at just 22 years of age coming off his UFC debut against Prazeres which resulted in a decision win. I’m not convinced that he is some type of world class fighter all of a sudden especially considering Prazeres clearly gassed after round one. That being said he does have legitimate knockout power and many of his regional wins have come by knockout. He should have his hands full with Chance Rencountre who I believe is the more experienced and well-rounded fighter. Rencountre trains at Alliance MMA which is a much better camp and is coming off a first round submission win back in January. His only other fight in the UFC was against Belal Muhammad that he took on 10 days’ notice and didn’t look bad before losing a three round decision. He has finished three of his last four fights in the first round via submission and has never been finished himself. He is a lanky fighter with a quick one two and a heavy left hand that I don’t believe he has showcased much to this point in the UFC. It’s no surprise that Naurdiev is the favorite and he probabaly should be but I think it’s closer to a pick em than most people think. Fight doesn’t go to decision is currently (-115) so we could potentially see a finish here which means we should be targeting this fight. However, the price on Naurdiev means he most likely needs a finish to pay off his salary which makes me favor Rencountre for the cheap price tag. Give me the Black Eagle in this one and because the line is way too wide that will be one of my favorite bets this week as well. Rencountre wins inside the distance (+625).
Edmen Shahbazyan 9.4K vs Jack Marshman 6.8K
This fight is pretty simple to breakdown. Give me all the Shahbazyan here. Marshman is simply no match for him anywhere this fight goes. Marshman doesn’t throw in high volume and really struggles to defend takedowns which happens to be the specialty of his opponent. Shahbazyan should land takedowns and probably knock him out and preferably both for DraftKings scoring. He has a strong inside distance line of (-130) and I even think it should be higher. Regardless give me all the Shahbazyan, even at 9.4K. My official pick is Shahbazyan by TKO.
Alejandro Perez 7.7K vs Song Yadong 8.5K
Yadong opened up as a small favorite and has since been bet to (-220) in most spots. It’s definitely warranted as Yadong is coming into this fight on a six fight win streak and is currently 3-0 in the UFC. On the other side, Perez is coming off a decision loss to Cody Stamann. Both fighters train at a good gym and are both similar stylistically speaking. That being said, Yadong is just the better version of Perez and I have to favor him in this matchup. Look for both fighters to come out swinging but it is Yadong who I expect to land takedowns and control the majority of this fight with the potential to submit Perez. He is the more aggressive striker and in a fight that should end in a decision, his aggression will go a long way along with the multiple takedowns that I expect to see. At 8.5K, he is a few hundred more than I would like but still definitely worth some exposure as he could pay off that price even in a decision win. My official pick is Kung Fu Panda by decision.
Claudia Gadelha 8.8K vs Randa Markos 7.4K
Up next we have an exciting matchup in the Women’s Strawweight division. Claudia Gadelha opened up as a big favorite here but money has been coming in on the underdog and has moved Gadelha down to (-225) on most books. Markos is no stranger to being an underdog and although her record isn’t pretty, do not overlook her. She has come through as an underdog multiple times and I’ll be the first to admit that I have doubted her in the past. However, we have to look at how Markos wins fights. She stays busy on the feet, clinches up and goes for takedowns. She’s a solid submission grappler and a purple belt in BJJ. The problem is that Claudia Gadelha will be looking to do the same thing. Gadelha is probably the better striker on the feet and even if Markos is able to take her down, I don’t see her being able to do much with it. Gadelha is a first degree blackbelt in BJJ and if Markos takes this fight to the mat then she could be in trouble. I think the best gameplan for Markos is to keep it standing and stick and move. The problem is I just don’t see her doing that. I think she still tries to beat Gadelha with her usual style of clinch work and takedowns and it’s going to end up biting her. She has burned me in the past but I have to go with Gadelha in this one. Gadelha by decision is my official pick but with both fighters shooting for takedowns and willing to grapple, the winner should score well on DraftKings.
Marlon Vera vs Nohelin Hernandez (Pricing not out yet on DraftKings)
I feel like Marlon Vera is always a big favorite in all his fights and I’ve been waiting for the UFC to give him a tough matchup for once. It looked like this was going to be that week but Sean O’ Malley got popped again and was forced to fall out. That leaves Nohelin Hernandez stepping in on short notice to make his UFC debut. Hernandez does train at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) but I’m really not impressed with him at all. His last six fights have gone to decision and he previously talked about taking a fight on short notice in LFA back in 2018 just because it was televised even though he knew he wasn’t ready and I think it’s the same case here. Marlon Vera is much more experienced and I expect him to use his black belt BJJ skills to make quick work of Hernandez here. Vera by submission is my official pick.
Arnold Allen 9K vs Gilbert Melendez 7.2K
This is a fight that I want absolutely no part of. Allen is a good technical fighter but doesn’t throw in high volume (2.19 significant strikes per minute) so the only way he pays off his 9K salary is with a first round finish. Fight goes to decision is (-205) and three of Allen’s last five fights have ended in decision wins and I expect this to go the same way. His opponent, Melendez has a 1-5 record in the UFC. Yes, you’re reading that correctly and all but one of those contests ended in a decision. Even though I think Allen handles Melendez fairly easily, this fight is going to be low scoring which makes it a complete fade for me on DraftKings. Allen by decision and moving on with this one.
Michael Chiesa 9.2K vs Diego Sanchez 7K
I’m actually pretty excited for this fight at Welterweight. We have the reenergized veteran in Diego Sanchez who is coming off the exciting TKO of Mickey Gall his last time out in March, facing off against Michael Chiesa. Both fighters are former winners of The Ultimate Fighter and have are similar stylistically. Chiesa is a pretty heavy favorite here with an ITD line of (+104). I wouldn’t get too excited about Sanchez last performance against Mickey Gall who looked pretty terrible in that fight with no gas tank whatsoever. That being said, Diego Sanchez is an experienced black belt in BJJ and grappling is usually Chiesa’s biggest advantage. For that reason, I think both fighters could have their moments but I’m still picking Chiesa here by decision. I think his takedowns and control will get him the win here and although Sanchez is a black belt, Chiesa is an experienced Purple belt and likely isn’t scared to take this fight to the mat. I expect him to land 4-5 takedowns and look to advance but would be surprised if he gets the finish here. For that reason, I won’t be targeting him too heavily on DraftKings.
Luke Rockhold 8.4K vs Jan Blachowicz 7.8K
This is going to be a really fun fight for the light heavyweight division. None of Rockhold’s UFC fights have gone the distance and both fighters are coming of TKO losses and will be looking for redemption. Because this is priced in the mid-range and should be high scoring, I want heavy exposure to this fight as a whole because the winner has a strong chance to end up on the optimal lineup. Rockhold is the (-225) favorite here and I have to agree. I just think he has more paths to victory as the better grappler and striker along with him being the more aggressive fighter. That’s not to say Blachowicz can’t win though as he’s a good fighter himself which is why I’ll have exposure to both sides. Official pick is Rockhold by submission.
Jorge Masvidal 7.5K vs Ben Askren 8.7K
Most of the UFC world has this fight starred as one they cannot wait for. In case you have been living under a rock or don’t follow MMA closely, these fighters strongly despise each other. Masvidal is coming off the electric knockout of Darren Till in which he infamously coined the term “three piece and a soda” after getting into it with Leon Edwards back stage after the fight. He’s an experienced striker and will surely be looking to put Askren’s lights out after all the back and forth smack talk. Funky Ben Askren on the other hand, is coming off his UFC debut against Robbie Lawler in the controversial win where he basically got the shit kicked out of him before submitting Lawler. The controversy though was that Lawler got up immediately and protested the stoppage. Either way, Askren proved that he has one tough chin taking that beating from Lawler without getting knocked out. In fact, he’s never been finished in any of his professional MMA fights. For that reason, I find it hard to believe that Masvidal knocks him out here. If Askren is able to weather the storm similar to the Lawler fight but preferably taking less damage, then I think he will be able to shoot for takedowns and control Masvidal on the mat. Both prices are enticing because even if Askren doesn’t get the finish I think he could exceed value with takedowns and advances. Masvidal wouldn’t have to do much to exceed value in a win and he does have the better ITD line at (+279). My official pick is Askren by decision but I will have exposure to both fighters on DraftKings.
9.1K Amanda Nunes vs Holly Holm 7.1K
The breakdown of this matchup should surprise no one. Amanda Nunes is arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC, period. The lioness is the better fighter here regardless of where this fight goes. Respect to Holly Holm she is a great fighter in her own right and a strong veteran in this sport but she is simply outmatched here. I fully expect Nunes to knock her out within the first few rounds and she has the second best ITD line of the entire slate at (-139). My official pick is Nunes by TKO and she is a strong target at 9.1K.
9.6K Jon Jones vs Thiago Santos 6.6K
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the main event of the evening. Just like last week’s main event, don’t blink because you may miss this fight. We have the challenger Thiago Santos coming into this fight with three straight TKO wins and he is arguably the most powerful striker that Jon Jones has ever faced. Jon Jones is a six to one favorite here and has the strongest ITD line of the slate at (-225). That being said, because the price on Santos is dirt cheap, he is definitely worth some exposure here even as a heavy dog. We know he has knockout power and I know nobody ever believes Jon Jones will ever lose but you think it’s impossible until it happens. I’m not saying it will be this fight but all it takes is one shot to land clean and we know Santos has the power to put him out. My official pick is Jon Jones by TKO but I am definitely higher on Santos than most people and think he has a real possibility to knock out Jon Jones. For that reason, I’ll have exposure to both on DraftKings but Jones price tag is tough with Nunes and other cheaper options.
My DraftKings core:
My favorite bets:
Rencountre ITD (+625)
Rockhold ITD (+130)
Askren ITD (+350)
Avila by TKO (+275)
Gadhella wins by Submission (+365)
As always, I will post any Vegas line updates or changes in anyting on Twitter @JonKelly22 so feel free to follow me there. Also, if you enjoy reading this, do me a favor and click the thumbs up on this post! Best of luck to everyone playing and enjoy UFC 239!