This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
The UFC is set for UFC Vegas 21 which goes down on Saturday, March 13 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the UFC Apex. 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.
Gloria de Paula (5-2) vs Jinh Yu Frey (9-6)
Weight Class: Strawweight
Frey, who is the former Invicta FC atomweight champion, got signed to the UFC and had to move up a weight class to strawweight. In her debut, she was submitted by Kay Hansen and then lost a decision to Loma Lookboonmee.
The problem for Frey in the UFC has been she is slowing down, and she is undersized. That will be a problem against de Paula, as she is a bigger strawweight and has the strength to control this fight on the ground.
Although I think de Paula could win this fight on the ground, I actually like her on the feet. She has a ton of power and is more active. In de Paula's Contender Series fight, she landed 4.9 strikes per minute, while Frey, in her two UFC appearances lands just 1.9. De Paula also absorbed just 0.8 strikes per minute while Frey absorbed 4.05 strikes. Gloria de Paula should have her way with Frey and likely win a decision, but don't be surprised if she gets the stoppage win. At -200, I still think there is value there, as she should be in the -300 range.
The play: Gloria de Paula (-200)
Ryan Spann (18-6) vs Misha Cirkunov (15-5)
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
This fight should be a pick'em, so to get plus-money on Ryan Spann is a play for me.
Misha Cirkunov is very dangerous on the ground, but his chin is a problem. The Canadian has been knocked out in three of his past five fights, and the way he is getting finished is a problem. Spann, meanwhile, hasn't been submitted since 2016 and has solid takedown defense.
In the UFC, Cirkunov is successful in 57 percent of his takedowns, while Spann defends 60 percent of attempts. I do think the Cirkunov will eventually get him down, but I do believe in Spann's scrambles and that he can get back to his feet, which is where he will win this fight.
Both Cirkunov and Spann do get hit a lot, and against other hard-hitting light heavyweights, I probably wouldn't pick them. However, I just can't trust Cirkunov's chin, and I think Spann will eventually find it and get the KO/TKO win.
The play: Ryan Spann (+100)
Leon Edwards (18-3) vs Belal Muhammad (18-3)
Weight Class: Welterweight
Leon Edwards is making his return to the Octagon and will do so with a bang.
Edwards was supposed to fight Khamzat Chimaev, but will now take on short-notice replacement, Belal Muhammad. Muhammad just fought exactly a month ago against Dhiego Lima, who destroyed his calf with kicks. That is a concern for me. Another concern I have is Muhammad's cardio and whether or not he will be able to go five hard rounds with Edwards.
Although Edwards' last three fights have gone the distance, I actually like Edwards by KO/TKO. This will not be a popular prop, but Muhammad has been knocked out before, and he gets hit a lot. In his UFC career, he absorbs 4.03 strikes a minute. I think the longer the fight goes, the better Edwards will be, and eventually, the calf and the damage Muhammad has taken will be too much. Give me the Brit by KO/TKO.
The play: Leon Edwards by KO/TKO (+350)
Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-6) &
Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6)
Weight Class: Featherweight & Strawweight
Jourdain is one of the top Canadian prospects, and he is fighting Marcelo Rojo, who is moving up a weight class on short notice to get into the UFC. Rojo has also not fought since September of 2019, and his chin is a worry. He has a problem with grapplers, and although Jourdain is more of a striker, his grappling is underrated. However, he is also the better striker and should be able to outpoint – if not finish – Rojo.
Angela Hill, meanwhile, has already beat Ashley Yoder and since their first fight, she has been the more impressive fighter. Yoder will need to use her grappling to win, but Hill's takedown defense has gotten better, and on the feet, she will be able to pick Yoder apart for a decision win.
The play: Jourdain & Hill parlay (-142)