This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
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.
Luana Pinheiro (8-1) vs. Randa Markos (10-10-1)
Weight Class: Strawweight
Markos is on a three-fight losing streak, is 1-4 in her last five and hasn't looked good along the way. Last time out, she lost a decision to Kanako Murata in November. In that fight, Markos struggled on the feet and the ground, and against Pinheiro, that is a problem.
The Brazilian in Pinheiro has legit knockout power at strawweight and also has a very good ground game. Why I like Pinheiro in this fight is due to her striking. In her Contender Series fight, she landed 3.57 significant strikes per minute, while Markos absorbs 3.20 significant strikes a minute.
Although Markos has a good chin and has never been knocked out, I do think Pinheiro has the capability to either KO her, or hurt her and catch her in a submission. Even if she doesn't finish the Canadian, she will likely do enough to win a decision.
The Play: Luana Pinheiro (-175)
Cody Stamann (19-3-1) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (12-4)
Weight Class: Bantamweight
I just don't understand the odds for this fight which is why I am picking Cody Stamann.
Stamann and Merab Dvalishvili are both very good wrestlers, with Merab likely being the better one. Stamann is the superior striker, however.
Dvalishvili averages 7.71 takedowns per 15 minutes but only has a 43 percent takedown accuracy. Stamann, meanwhile, has an 80 percent takedown defense and averages 3.03 takedowns per 15 minutes. There is no question Dvalishvili will land some takedowns, but I think Staman will as well. Stamann is a more technical striker who will likely be able to piece up the Georgian.
This will be a close fight. To me, this is a pick'em, so to get Stamann at +190 is a bet I have to make.
The Play: Cody Stamann (+190)
Ion Cutelaba (15-6) vs. Dustin Jacoby (14-5)
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Cutelaba has about three minutes of cardio and looks to find the KO punch early. Jacoby, meanwhile, is a technical striker and was dropped twice in his last fight so he could be put away, but also has a lot of power.
Cutelaba lands 5.10 significant strikes per minute while he absorbs 3.37. Jacoby, meanwhile, lands 2.68 and absorbs 2.94. In Cutelaba's last six fights, five have ended in the first round and the other ended in the second but just missed the over 1.5. Jacoby, meanwhile, went the distance in his last fight but he did get a first-round finish in his UFC debut.
If Cutelaba wins, it will be early in the first. If Jacoby wins, meanwhile, it will likely be later in the first or early in the second. Regardless, I like the under 1.5 in this light heavyweight scrap.
The Play: Cutelaba-Jacoby under 1.5 (-110)
Sean Strickland (22-3) vs. Krzystof Jotko (22-4) &
Loma Lookboonmee (5-2) vs. Sam Hughes (5-2)
Weight Class: Middleweight & Strawweight
Strickland, since returning from his motorcycle accident, has been excellent. He's coming off a KO win over Brendan Allen, and against Jotko, I expect him to be able to do the same. Jotko gets hit a lot and has been knocked out before, and Strickland is super technical and lands his shots well. I do think Jotko will try and wrestle but won't have much success.
In Hughes's UFC debut against Tecia Torres, she was picked apart and showed off lackluster striking defense. Lookboonmee, meanwhile, is a Muay Thai specialist and has excellent striking and a solid clinch game. She will be able to piece up Hughes and likely earn a decision win.
The Play: Strickland & Lookboonmee parlay (-143)