MMA Best Bets: Chris' Picks for UFC 273

MMA Best Bets: Chris' Picks for UFC 273

This article is part of our UFC Picks series.

The final three fights of the night will garner most of the attention at UFC 273, so let's go down the card a bit and look at four contests prospective bettors can target as they await the fireworks. Picks for this week include an old master doing what he does best and a tornado looking to blow the competition away. I have limited my looks to lines below (-200), as I feel that anything more expensive is supposed to come in, and doesn't really require a write-up. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article. 

Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1) vs. Jared Vanderaa (12-7-0)         Weight class: Heavyweight

 15 minutes. That's how long Vanderaa spent on the ground combined in bouts with Sergey Spivac and Alexandr Romanov. He was taken down eight times on 10 attempts in the two fights. I open with these statistics to express that the old veteran is being disrespected here. While it's true that Oleinik has been battling knee problems for the better part of a decade, I think he has enough in him to notch the 60th win of his career in the manner we are accustomed to seeing.

One of the defining features of Oleinik at this weight class is his 84-inch reach. This allows him to wing big shots at his opponents as a means of getting them into clinch positions. Vanderaa is generally happy to stand in the center of the Octagon and trade, so it will hardly be surprising to see "The Boa Constrictor" once again command the center of the Octagon and push Vanderaa beyond the two black lines. It should also be noted that Oleinik will continue to come forward regardless of how tired he gets, as we have seen him press into adversaries late in contests while seemingly struggling to breathe. The same can't be said for Vanderaa, who had the fight sapped from him after an initial round of grappling from both Spivac and Romanov.

There certainly are reasons to dislike Olienik in high-level matchups, but Vanderaa appears susceptible in the area where the 44-year-old has made his living for over two decades. Add in the fact that Vanderaa has yet to deliver a standing knockout in his UFC (and UFC-adjacent) career, and it becomes much more likely that Oleinik will be around long enough to work his magic.

The play: Aleksei Oleinik via submission: (+165)

Ian Garry (8-0-0) vs. Darian Weeks (5-1-0)                               Weight class: Welterweight

I noted in my preview of Garry's UFC debut against Jordan Williams that I didn't think his finishing ability would translate at this level. I still hold this opinion, despite a well-placed counter shot that landed when the aggressive Williams overextended into a right hand. I don't think he will have such an open target against Weeks, who will bide his time in the pocket while looking for grappling opportunities.

One might look at Weeks' debut against  Bryan Barberena and figure these two will be in for a brawl, but I attribute the high pace of that fight to "Bam Bam," who is constantly in the face of his opponent looking to land strikes. By contrast, Garry generally likes to be on his bike in the Octagon, fading away from strikes and looking for those kill shots. With neither fighter looking for a war, I expect that we will see a much more even-tempered kickboxing match, punctuated with exchanges in the clinch and on the ground.

This line is undoubtedly based on the fact that these men have been finishers in their young careers, but the quality of competition has been such that I don't think we can use those records as a reliable indicator of what will happen going forward. Instead, we can look at two fighters with what appear to be counter-striking/grappling skill sets and take advantage of a line that may have been made by looking at statistics.

The play: Fight goes to decision: (+145)

Raquel Pennington (13-8-0) vs. Aspen Ladd (9-2-0)             Weight Class: Bantamweight

Ladd and Pennington were on very different career paths at the end of 2019, but three consecutive wins for "Rocky" have thrust her into the position of significant favorite, while time away due to injury and a largely non-competitive loss to Norma Dumont has cost the 27-year-old the trust of the betting community. Should we take these recent events as a sign that her career has plateaued?    

It should be noted at the outset that Ladd took that fight on just a week's notice after having to bow out of a bout due to a failed weight cut. It's certainly concerning that Ladd couldn't get her takedown game going, but that can likely be attributed to the fact that the contest was being held at featherweight. Now back at her normal weight class, Ladd should be able to grapple successfully against Pennington, who has struggled with committed wrestlers in the past. While she can blitz with strikes, Pennington will cede the center of the Octagon to an aggressive opponent, meaning Ladd will be able to press forward and control where the fight takes place.

Pennington has looked good of late, but there were too many extenuating circumstances for me to write Ladd off for one bad performance. I think this fight will be highly competitive in the worst case, which puts us on the right side of a fairly wide line.

The play: Aspen Ladd (+160)

Tecia Torres (13-5-0) vs. Mackenzie Dern (11-2-0)                 Weight Class: Strawweight

The era of the specialist competing at a high level is all but gone in MMA. That's not to say that experts in one discipline can't have successful runs or notch big wins, but fighters are so well-rounded that even those at the highest levels in one discipline find themselves having to round out their game after hitting the metaphorical wall.

Enter Dern, a top-flight jiu-jitsu player with a glaring problem: her inability to get the fight to the ground. Amanda Bobby Cooper can attest to her power on the feet, but Dern leaves herself far too open for counter shots, which someone as fast and fluid as Torres will likely use to her advantage. "Tiny Tornado" got her nickname for the incredible amount of volume she produces, as we can see from the nearly five strikes she has landed per minute in her UFC career. Unless Dern starts rolling for leg locks, I am confident the submission danger will be minimal, allowing Torres to overwhelm her opponent on the feet.

Dern has cut through almost everyone she has faced on the ground, but as she continues her career she will inevitably run into fighters that know how to gameplan around her elite skill. If this fight can't get to the one area in which Dern thrives, Torres will look like a (-500) favorite in short order.

The pick: Tecia Torres (-110)

RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MMA Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MMA fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Olson
Christopher Olson writes DFS articles and blogs for a variety of sports including MLB, NFL and MMA. Follow him on Twitter @RealChrisOlson
The MMA Mashup: DFS Picks and Best Bets for UFC Vegas 55
The MMA Mashup: DFS Picks and Best Bets for UFC Vegas 55
Drake's Takes: UFC Picks for Holm vs. Vieira
Drake's Takes: UFC Picks for Holm vs. Vieira
MMA Best Bets: Picks, Odds and Predictions for UFC Vegas 55
MMA Best Bets: Picks, Odds and Predictions for UFC Vegas 55
DraftKings MMA DFS: UFC Vegas 55 Preview
DraftKings MMA DFS: UFC Vegas 55 Preview
The MMA Mashup: UFC Vegas 54 Preview
The MMA Mashup: UFC Vegas 54 Preview
Drake's Takes: UFC Fight Night Blachowicz vs. Rakic
Drake's Takes: UFC Fight Night Blachowicz vs. Rakic