This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
The UFC returns with the second pay-per-view card in its last three events, which means it's time for another edition of best bets. Two juicy plus-money plays stood out this week, in addition to solid chalk selections that could probably stand to be lined a bit higher. All lines are taken from the Caesar's/William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Maxim Grishin (31-9-2) vs. William Knight (11-2-0)
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Knight has done well for himself in the UFC, riding his big power and Judo background to a 5-1 record (including a win on the Contender Series). Despite this success, I have been patiently waiting for an opportunity to wager that "Knightmare" suffers the second KO/TKO loss of his career.
While the reasons for this may seem obvious, I'm basing this play on more than just his short stature. Knight's striking defense has left plenty to be desired throughout his career, as he generally opts to pull his head straight back in an attempt to avoid damage, and Grishin likes to put pressure on his opponents and throw straight shots. We've seen Knight struggle when attempting to grapple with strong competitors in the past, and Grishin's time as a heavyweight should ensure that he will be able to rely on his physicality in this one.
Knight has been able to find big counter shots on overaggressive opponents in the past, but I expect the length and experience of Grishin to serve him well here as he methodically picks apart "Knightmare" before finding the knockout shot.
The play: Maxim Grishin via KO/TKO/DQ (+300)
Renato Moicano (15-4-1) vs. Alexander Hernandez (13-4-0)
Weight class: Lightweight
While some may have looked at Moicano's submission victory over Jai Herbert as a dominant return to form, I saw a kickboxing jiu-jitsu player turned into a panic wrestler due to a spate of KO/TKO losses. Regardless of what it represents, Moicano's renewed emphasis on grappling makes him a formidable opponent, so how can we be confident that Hernandez gets the job done?
It's important to note that even in the fight with Herbert, Moicano got stung hard on more than one occasion. This tells me that someone who is as fast and hits as hard as Hernandez should be able to do damage as long as he can keep the fight standing. While he has been taken down before, we have never seen Hernandez outgrappled in his UFC career, and the agility and footwork of "The Great" allows him to limit his exposure to grappling exchanges when necessary. The fact that he has never been submitted in 17 professional fights speaks to his ability to handle himself in ground situations.
Hernandez has generally faltered when stepping up in competition, but he should have a clear path to victory in this one and shouldn't have to worry too much about Moicano pushing a pace while striking. If he can put punches together early, he may not have to worry about what comes next.
The Play: Alexander Hernandez wins via KO/TKO/DQ: (+250)
Bobby Green (28-12-1) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (13-4-1)
Weight class: Lightweight
We can catch our breath a bit with a standard play featuring an underrated veteran. Green's striking defense and counter punching have always been some of the best in the division, but his willingness to wait on his opponents has often led to curious decisions. Following his knockout of Al Iaquinta, "King" may have another favorable matchup in front of him in an opponent who won't require him to lead the dance.
Haqparast is known as a ferocious puncher but likes to blitz the pocket with big, looping shots, which should allow Green to slip and counter effectively. The other thing to note is that Haqparast has largely been a headhunter in his career, which will help the 35-year-old to see the shots coming. It's also worth remembering that Green is a skilled wrestler and grappler, which gives him another gear to shift into if the situation dictates.
Haqparast will always be a threat on the feet, but it didn't take much more than one well-placed countershot for Drew Dober to hand the 26-year-old the first knockout loss of his career. While I'm not betting on a finish here, it would hardly be surprising if Green landed some shots that were able to change the course of the fight.
The play: Bobby Green (-150)
Derrick Lewis (26-8-0) vs. Tai Tuivasa (14-3-0)
Weight class: Heavyweight
It may not take a genius to predict that a Lewis win is likely to come by knockout, but the fact that we can shave a considerable amount off the line (-190) by selecting the most obvious outcome is something that needs to be considered for those looking to put their money on "The Black Beast."
Tuivasa has improved as a striker over the course of his UFC career, but he is too willing to exchange in the pocket. We saw this most recently in his fight with Greg Hardy when he was wobbled by a shot that clipped him on the side of the head. It was Hardy's inexperience that prompted him to rush in unprotected for the finish, a mistake a veteran like Lewis is unlikely to make. The former title challenger still seems to be improving at 37 years old, as we saw him actively pressure and cut off the cage to set up the knockout of Chris Daukaus.
To be clear, either man could go to sleep in this matchup, but Lewis is crafty beyond his big power and should be able to take advantage of the impulsive mistakes of his younger opponent.
The play: Derrick Lewis by KO/TKO/DQ (-137)