MMA Best Bets: Cole's Picks for UFC 263

MMA Best Bets: Cole's Picks for UFC 263

This article is part of our UFC Picks series.

The UFC returns to a full capacity crowd as they head to Glendale, Arizona for a stacked UFC 263 card that sees two titles on the line as well as the return of Nate Diaz.

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.

Steven Peterson (18-9) vs. Chase Hooper (10-1-1)
Weight Class: Featherweight

Steven Peterson opened as a -149 favorite but is now a -125 favorite, and the line is trending towards Chase Hooper. I don't know why.

Hooper obviously has a lot of hype, but he has yet to show it in the UFC. He had a good win over David Teymur, who's not UFC caliber. In his next fight, he lost a decision to Alex Caceres, where he was dominated on the feet. Peter Barrett was doing the same until Hooper landed a hail-mary submission. Peterson, meanwhile, is a better striker than Barrett and has never been submitted in his career. He was actually considered a grappler prior to signing with the UFC.

On the feet, Hooper has lackluster striking defense, as he leaves his head wide open on the centerline and doesn't use head movement. I expect Peterson to piece him up and defend the takedowns to either win a decision or even get a TKO.

The Play: Steven Peterson (-125)

Lauren Murphy (14-4) vs. Joanne Calderwood (15-5)
Weight Class: Women's flyweight

This is a pivotal fight for the flyweight division as the winner will likely earn a title shot, and I like Lauren Murphy as the underdog to pull it off.

There is no question Calderwood is the better striker, but throughout her career, she has struggled against wrestlers, and that's exactly what Murphy is. Murphy averages 1.18 takedowns per 15 minutes, but she likes to clinch up her opponents and wear them out. Calderwood also has a 58 percent takedowns defense which is a worry.

Ultimately, Murphy will have a size advantage and I expect her to use her reach advantage to jab Calderwood, When Calderwood tries to get inside, she'll clinch and grind her out.

The Play: Lauren Murphy (+120)

Jamahal Hill (8-0) vs. Paul Craig (14-4-1)
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight

This is a perfect setup fight for Jamahal Hill to become a legit light heavyweight contender.

If Craig can't get the fight to the ground, he usually gets KO'd, as evidence by his losses to Alonzo Menifield, Khalil Rountree and Tyson Pedro. Hill, meanwhile, has proven himself to be a KO artist after he finished the very durable Ovince Saint Preux in his last fight.

Hill also has insane cardio and moves like a middleweight, as he lands a crazy 7.9 significant strikes per minute and has a 52 percent striking accuracy. I don't expect this fight to last long, as Hill should be able to touch Craig with his jab and then eventually land something big and get the KO win.

The Play: Jamahal Hill by KO/TKO/DQ (-150)

Pannie Kianzad (14-5) vs. Alexis Davis (20-10) & 
Belal Muhammad (18-3) vs. Demian Maia (28-10)
Weight Class: Women's Bantamweight & Welterweight

Pannie Kianzad and Belal Muhammad are both above -200 but putting them together gets you plus money.

In the first leg, I like Kianzad to beat Alexis Davis. In Davis' return to bantamweight, she earned a decision win over Sabina Mazo in which she used her wrestling to control the bout. However, Kianzad will be stronger and has better takedown defense, and I'm confident she'll be able to keep it standing. On the feet, Kianzad has a phenomenal jab and should be able to piece up Davis and earn a decision win.

The other leg is Belal Muhammad to beat Demian Maia, as this is stylistically a bad matchup for the Brazilian legend. Muhammad fights at a crazy high pace and is a great wrestler. In this fight, I expect him to be able to stuff the takedowns and just use his jab to pick apart Maia and win a clear-cut decision.

The Play: Kianzad and Muhammad parlay (+110)

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Cole Shelton
Cole Shelton is a full-time sports writer focusing on MMA.
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