This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
The UFC is in Jacksonville, Florida for a full capacity crowd for the stacked UFC 261 card where three titles are on the line. In the main event for UFC 261 on April 24, Kamaru Usman looks to defend his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal.
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.
Brendan Allen (15-4) vs. Karl Roberson (9-3)
Weight Class: Middleweight
Although Allen is coming off a TKO loss to Sean Strickland, there were a lot of things that went into that fight, from opponent and date switches and then eventually taking it on short notice. Before the loss, Allen was on a seven-fight winning streak, including beating the LFA champ, as well as the likes of Kevin Holland and Tom Breese. He also showed off his impressive ground game, which is why I like him in this fight.
Roberson is likely the better striker, but Allen does have enough tools to stand and trade. However, as we saw in his fights against Marvin Vettori and Cezar Ferreira, Roberson struggles against grapplers.
I expect Allen to be able to take Roberson down and wear on him and eventually get a submission or ground and pound TKO win.
The Play: Brendan Allen (-150)
Uriah Hall (16-9) vs. Chris Weidman (15-5)
Weight Class: Middleweight
Since they met, they both have gone on to be top-15 middleweight fighters. However, Weidman had his time at the top, and recently, I believe he's on the downside of his career. I also have a hard time trusting Weidman's chin. He has been knocked out in all five of his losses and rocked several times against Kelvin Gastelum, but came back to win. Hall, meanwhile, has legit one-punch KO power and will likely only need one solid shot to land to end the fight.
Hall, as well, since going to Fortis MMA, has been a much better defensive wrestler and grappler. He stuffed the takedowns of Antonio Carlos Junior and proved he can go three hard rounds. Weidman, meanwhile, gassed out after the first round in his last fight. I expect him to try and wrestle Hall early and eventually gas out, and Hall lands the KO shot.
The Play: Uriah Hall (+100)
Dwight Grant (10-3) vs. Stefan Sekulic (12-3)
Weight Class: Welterweight
This is a good fight for Dwight Grant to get back into the win column and do so by KO/TKO.
Grant is coming off a first round TKO loss to Daniel Rodriguez, however, to begin the fight, he showed off his power and nearly finished the fight several times. He also has shown off his power with KO wins over Carlo Pedersoli and Tyler Hill. On the other side, although Sekulic has only been KO'd once, he has been fighting not the highest level of competition.
Sekulic also doesn't throw a ton of volume, as he only lands 1.47 significant strikes a minute, so Grant won't have to worry about getting caught coming in. Eventually, I expect the punches to be too much, and Grant will get the KO/TKO win.
The Play: Dwight Grant by KO/TKO/DQ (+100)
Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) vs. Jessica Andrade (21-8) & Danaa Batgerel (8-2) vs. Kevin Natividad (9-2)
Weight Class: Women's flyweight & Bantamweight
Valentina Shevchenko should be able to defend her flyweight title in the first of three title fights, and in the fourth fight of the night, I like Batgerel to get the job done.
Shevchenko has been dominant at flyweight, and many believe Jessica Andrade will be her toughest test because of the power. I just don't see it, as Shevchenko will have a four-inch reach advantage and will be the stronger fighter. Although Andrade lands 6.38 significant strikes per minute, she absorbs 5.26. As we saw against Weili Zhang, she can get overwhelmed by the more powerful fighter, and that should be the case here. The champ will also be able to take her down and have success.
On the other leg of the parlay, I'm liking Batgerel to get back into the win column. Natividad suffered a brutal KO loss in his UFC debut, and his striking defense alarmed me.
In the fight, Natividad absorbed 3.74 significant strikes while only landing 2.57. Batgerel, meanwhile, is someone who throws a ton of volume (5.66 significant strikes per minute) and doesn't get hit all that often (2.61 significant strikes). If Batgerel can't put Natividad away, which I do think will happen, his volume will be enough to get the win on the scorecards.
The Play: Shevchenko & Batgerel parlay (-114)