This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
The UFC is set for its second pay-per-view of 2020, as UFC 258 goes down on February 13 from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In this series of articles, I'll share my favorite play, an underdog pick, a prop, and a two-fighter parlay I like. All lines are taken from William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Chris Gutierrez (15-3-2) vs. Andre Ewell (17-6)
Weight class: 140-pound Catchweight
Although Ewell will have a sizeable height and reach advantage which could pose some problems for Gutierrez, the wrestling will be the difference. In the UFC, although Gutierrez has just a 50 percent accuracy rate, Ewell has a 73 percent takedown defense and has been taken down eight times in five UFC fights. Ewell's two UFC losses are by submission and ground-and-pound TKO, where Gutierrez has proven on the regional scene that is how he finishes fights.
Another cause for concern is Ewell's cardio. In the past two fights, he won split decisions, and many thought he lost to Jonathan Martinez. Part of the reason why he is having these close fights is that he clearly wins the first round, but in the second half of the second round and in the third round, he gasses out. That will hurt him here against a cardio machine in Gutierrez, as in Gutierrez's last fight, he was 10-8'd in the first round and came back to dominate the next two rounds. The same thing could happen here.
The play: Chris Gutierrez (-150)
Maycee Barber (8-1) vs. Alexa Grasso (12-3)
Weight class: Women's Flyweight
Maycee Barber as a +110 underdog is very surprising to me.
In her last fight, Barber was nearly a -1000 favorite against Roxanne Modafferi, and although she lost, she did tear her ACL early in the fight and held on to see the judge's scorecards. Outside of that fight, "The Future" has looked impressive with stoppage wins over Gillian Robertson, JJ Aldrich, and Hannah Cifers. Grasso, meanwhile, is coming off a good decision win over Ji Yeon Kim in her flyweight debut.
Why I like Barber so much is the grappling and the lack of takedown defense on Grasso's side. Wrestling has been the Mexican's kryptonite, as she has a 63 percent takedown defense and in fights against grapplers (Carla Esparza, Tatiana Suarez and Randa Markos), she was taken down a combined 10 times. Even Felice Herrig landed two takedowns against Grasso.
I expect Barber to come out with a wrestling heavy game plan and just control the fight on the ground for a decision win or possibly a ground and pound TKO or submission.
The play: Maycee Barber (+110)
Julian Marquez (7-2) vs. Maki Pitolo (13-7)
Weight class: Middleweight
Both Julian Marquez and Maki Pitlo are finishers, and I'm surprised the number for "fight doesn't go the distance" is only -175.
In Pitolo's four UFC fights, he only hit the scorecards twice and both times were against grinders in Callan Potter and Impa Kasanganay, who are known for decision wins. Julian Marquez, meanwhile, has only ever been the distance twice, and one of those was his last fight in which he tore his shoulder early on in the bout.
On paper, this is a fight between two hard hitters who have a ton of KO power. Pitolo, especially, is a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword fighter. Marquez also has a ground game, where we have seen Pitolo struggle a ton, so it wouldn't even be surprising to see him get a submission win.
Regardless, I think this line should be close to -225, so -175 for the fight to end inside the distance is good value.
The play: Marquez-Pitolo doesn't go the distance (-175)
Bobby Green (27-11-1) vs. Jim Miller (32-15) &
Belal Muhammad (17-3) vs. Dhiego Lima (15-7)
Weight class: Lightweight & Welterweight
Bobby Green and Belal Muhammad are two of my more confident picks on the card, however, their odds are way too high. Currently, Green is -275 while Muhammad is -400, but parlaying them together gets you -142.
The way Jim Miller wins fights is by submitting people in the first round. Yet, Green hasn't been submitted since 2009 and has fought some high-level grapplers since then. Ultimately, I expect Green to lose the first round of the fight, but in the second and third round, as Miller starts to slow down, Green will start picking apart the legend of the game and win a decision.
As for Belal Muhammad, I just don't understand this matchmaking. Muhammad is a ranked welterweight and has proven to be someone to watch out for. Lima, meanwhile, has been very inconsistent in the UFC, and his chin is a major concern. Although I don't think Muhammad will be able to KO him, I expect him to just throw more volume and win a decision.