UFC 259 Prelims & Main Card Value Bets
The most stacked UFC card is here and it’ll be live from the Apex Center in Las Vegas tonight with the early prelims starting at 6 P.M. EST. 4 champions. 3 championship fights. Petr Yan’s first title defense as Bantamweight champion. The rise of Aleksander Rakic. The GOAT Amanada Nunes back in action, and Israel Adesanya chasing history. This card is loaded from start to finish, so let’s take a look at our 5 value bets, and break down the fighters. (All value bets are under -200 juice)
Joseph Benavidez (+114) v. Askar Askarov (-134)
Starting off with the 2nd fight of the preliminary card, and possibly my favorite bet of the night, we see former title challenger, Joseph Benavidez vs Askar “Bullet” Askarov. Benavidez made weight at 125.5 lbs, whereas Askarov was the last to weigh in, and was the only fighter on the whole card that weighed in overweight as he came in at 127 lbs. (maximum weight for the flyweight division is 125 lbs with a 1 lb cushion) This worried some after the weigh-ins as they saw the look of defeat on Askarov’s face as he stepped off the stage, but once he came back out for the face-offs, he looked ready to go for tomorrow night, and since Benavidez accepted the fight and will take 20% of Askarov’s purse from the fight, this fight is still on.
Benavidez had a streak of 4 years where every one of his fights went the distance and that is mainly due to his speed and striking defense (62%). Benavidez has 7 losses on his resume while 4 of those are against 2 of the greatest bantamweight and flyweights of all time in Demetrius Johnson and Dominick Cruz, 3 of those went to decision. Benavidez comes into this fight on a 2 match losing streak, both of them coming from the flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiedo, which shows exactly why he should be champion. Askarov comes into this fight 12-0-1 in his MMA career and 2-0-1 in his UFC career with all of these fights going to decision, with the draw being a controversial one in Askarov’s MMA Debut. With both fighter’s history of going the distance in 3-round bouts and both averaging a mere 2.56 strikes absorbed per minute, look for this one to go the distance and back the undefeated Askar Askarov to come out victorious. Pick: Askar Askarov by points +135.
Song Yadong v. Kyler Phillips
Another great fight on the preliminary card as Song Yadong and Kyler Phillips will follow-up our previous fight. Someone is going to have to record their first UFC loss, but this fight is going to be one you’re going to want to circle for tonight as these two could quite possibly put on the fight of the night in the octagon together. Yadong has not lost in an MMA fight in nearly 5 years, and Phillips has not lost in an MMA fight in 3 years. Over the last 5 years, neither fighter has lost by finish, both of these men are incredibly quick on their feet and both are wonderful at shooting for takedowns. Expect a lot of strikes to be thrown in this one, but do not expect this to finish inside the distance. Pick: Fight to go the distance? Yes. -144.
Aleksander Rakic (-168) v. Thiago Santos (+142)
Aleksander Rakic is a monster of a man for the light heavyweight division, but him and his opponent Thiago Santos both weighed in at 206 lbs, but when stepped up to face-off with each other yesterday, the size difference was noticeable. Rakic comes into this fight with a record of 5-1 since joining the UFC with his only loss coming to a controversial split decision that many think he should have won 2 years ago. He did, however, win his last bout against Anthony Smith and his looking to continue his rise, which a win here could possibly put him in a spot to face Glover Texiera for the #1 contender spot for the light heavyweight division. Thiago Santos comes into this fight after dropping his last 2 fights to Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira. Over the last 7 years, Thiago Santos has lost 5 fights, with 4 of them coming by finish. Thiago Santos may never see a championship fight again, whereas Rakic has his eyes on climbing to the top. I feel like even with Rakic at -168, its still too generous for him, but we are going to take Rakic and his reach advantage to KO Santos inside the distance. Pick Rakic to win by KO/TKO +195.
Petr Yan (c.) (-132) v. Aljamain Sterling (+112)
Possibly the most competitive division in the UFC and two of the best in it will square off for the gold in the first championship fight of the night. There wasn’t a lot of “smack talk” from the other fighters in the press conference or the weigh-ins, but Yan and Sterling made up for it as every part of the pre-fight activities with these two were intense. Sterling might have more losses on his record, but since the year Yan has debuted in the UFC, neither fighter has lost. This fight is going to have it all, from the lateral quickness, the strikes thrown, and the takedowns. These fighters are meeting at the perfect time as they are both in the best shape we have ever seen them in, and their styles match-up perfectly with each other. This biggest difference between these two is that Sterling only absorbs 1.94 strikes per minute whereas Yan absorbs 3.25 strikes per minute. Both of these fighters are great on the ground and great on their feet, but Sterling’s counter attack, head movement, and his reach are making me lean towards Sterling to be the new Bantamweight champion. Pick: Aljamain Sterling ML +112
Jan Blachowicz (c.) (+184) v. Israel Adesanya (-220)
Champions vs. Champion. Adesanya looks to make history and be the first ever undefeated double champion. The biggest story about this fight was the weigh-in. Adesanya teased us all week about weighing in at 193 lbs in a 205 lb. weight class, but when weigh-ins came around, he weighed in at 200.5 lbs which was 5 lbs under Blachowicz’s weight. Do not expect to see Blachowicz to look the same or weigh the same when he steps into the cage tonight, because he already promised he was putting on more weight after weigh-ins and we could possibly see him put on 10-15 lbs. Adesanya still staying light for the weight class is a good move in retrospect for his fight style as he depends on his head & body movements into his counter attacks. Blachowicz gaining more weight is also good for his fight style as he is very dependable on his famous “Polish Power”. Every fighter we have seen Adesanya face where their fight style is to cut the distance between them and Adesanya and go for the kill, has been knocked out by Adesanya: Paulo Costa, Robert Whitaker, Derek Brunson (outside of the Kelvin Gastellum fight). As we have seen in Blachowicz’s last 4 fights, he has knocked out 3 of his opponents by being the initiator and going right for the one punch KO and has been very successful with it, but he has also not seen a counter-striker like Adesanya, so he will not be able to fight as aggressive as he has in the past and will have to play more on his heels and take the shots that open up for him. I see Adesanya’s counter striking and his 86% takedown defense being too much for Blachowicz to handle and see Adesanya walking away as a 2 division champion by KO/TKO. Pick: Israel Adesanya to win by KO/TKO +140.