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.
Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (17-7)
Weight Class: Middleweight
Jared Cannonier is returning after a 10-month layoff due to a broken arm and gets a favorable matchup against Kelvin Gastelum, who took the fight in early-June after Paulo Costa was forced out of the scrap.
On the feet, I don't think Gastelum has the power many make him out to have at middleweight, as the only people he has knocked out were old and about to retire. When he fights a legit top contender, he falters and gets exposed (with the possible lone exception of Israel Adesanya).
Cannonier has more power than Gastelum and will likely be able to piece him up on the feet. I also doubt Gastelum will be able to get him to the ground. We have seen Gastelum's peak, as he loses to any top guy and all his wins at middleweight are fighters not in the UFC (or on a skid like Ian Heinisch).
Not only do I like Cannonier, but I think he can be the first person to finish Gastelum with strikes.
The Play: Jared Cannonier (-155)
Austin Lingo (8-1) vs. Luis Saldana (15-6)
Weight Class: Featherweight
Lingo comes from a exceptional camp at Fortis MMA and is coming off a solid win over Jacob Kilburn. Prior to that, he lost his UFC debut to Youssef Zalal, a more-than-respectable opponent. The Texan has crisp boxing and has legitimate, one-punch KO power. His cardio, however, is a concern for me. He's historically struggled in Round 3.
Nonetheless, I don't expect Saldana to be able to implement his grappling. On the feet, he will get pieced up by Lingo. There is a chance he has a dominant third round, but it won't be enough, as Lingo should get the decision or possibly the first-round KO.
The Play: Austin Lingo (+100)
Mark O. Madsen (10-0) vs. Clay Guida (36-20)
Weight Class: Lightweight
Mark O. Madsen is finally returning, and this is a perfect fight for him to get the stoppage.
Although Guida has been durable in his career, he has struggled against grapplers, as he is open to getting submitted. Madsen, meanwhile, is a dominant wrestler who is an Olympic silver medalist. Those skills have so far carried over to the UFC (8.33 takedowns per 15 minutes).
Madsen's gas tank is a big worry, as Guida doesn't slow down. Throughout Guida's career, however, he has been caught in chokes. I think Madsen can land heavy ground-and-pound and eventually get ahold of his neck to submit him.
The Play: Mark O. Madsen by KO/TKO/DQ/Submission (+350)
Brian Kelleher (22-12) vs. Domingo Pilarte (8-2) &
Chase Sherman (15-7) vs. Parker Porter (11-6)
Weight Class: Bantamweight & Heavyweight
Although Pilarte has a 10-inch reach advantage, Kelleher has fought taller opponents, and Pilarte doesn't pose much of a threat to Kelleher. On the feet, Pilarte gets hit a lot, and Kelleher has the power to KO him. Kelleher also has the wrestling advantage to control the fight, and I think he will eventually find the stoppage.
On the other leg, I expect Chase Sherman to KO Parker Porter. Sherman told me ahead of this fight that he partially tore his knee just minutes before he competed against Andrei Arlovski. He also switched camps to Sanford MMA, which I like. Sherman is a very technical striker, and Porter gets hit a lot. Plus, his chin is still a worry.
The Play: Kelleher & Sherman parlay (+130)