After strong TV ratings on Saturday night, the UFC is back with 11 more fights on Wednesday night, and the majority of the sports betting public will be focused on a singular event for the second time in four days.
As a result, there is likely betting value to be found somewhere on this card, which is generating a ton of action and interest relative to the quality of the actual fights on it.
And in the past few days, since that UFC 249 card, I scraped as much pick prediction data as I could find for the Wednesday Fight Night card, in an effort to compile a weighted, crowdsourced opinion from more than 2,000 MMA fans and experts on each fight.
It’s not a true betting model, but that also doesn’t mean that it’s not useful or potentially predictive.
The data sample is not insignificant. And based upon that data, six of the 10 fights on tonight’s card show no betting value whatsoever after accounting for the vig. Two main-card fights show modest betting value, while one main card fight and three preliminary fights all look pretty actionable.
And when you combine the data with old school fight handicapping — it’s much easier to see the entire board.
Let’s discuss some of the best value bets on the card, starting with the first fight at 6 p.m. ET.
I’ll run you through each matchup, give my quick prediction and favorite value bets, and tell you what I’m actually playing — if anything.
UFC Fight Night Value Bets
- Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN+
Chase Sherman (-165) vs. Ike Villanueva (+132)
Crowdsourced Projection: Sherman (80%)
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the UFC trying to put on three cards in one week, they simply just needed to fill slots with some guys looking for paychecks, which is how you end up with a natural middleweight or light-heavyweight in Villanueva (weighed in at 232 lbs.) moving up to compete at heavyweight against Sherman (253 lbs.).
In addition to the 21-pound difference, Sherman also has a five-inch reach advantage, is three inches taller, and had a positive strike differential in his UFC days, despite a 2-5 record.
The 36-year-old Villanueva has recorded four consecutive first-round knockouts in Fury FC, including a pair against some UFC veterans. If he can avoid Sherman’s brutal leg kicks and get inside of range, this fight could come down to the first man to land big.
The crowdsourced projection really likes Sherman, however, seeing an 18.2% edge compared to listed odds (implied 61.8%).
Sherman by KO/TKO (+140) will be a popular selection, as will the “NO” (-278) on whether the fight will go the distance.
I might try to include “The Vanilla Gorilla” as a secondary parlay piece, but I’m tepid to bet on any favorite in a lower-tier Heavyweight bout.
Villanueva vs. Sherman Bets
- Use Sherman as a secondary parlay piece
Hunter Azure (-250) vs. Brian Kelleher (+155)
Crowdsourced Projection: Azure (65%)
The odds look about right in this matchup, but it’s still a bout worth watching as undefeated prospect Hunter Azure (8-0) tries to continue his ascension against a seasoned, versatile Brian Kelleher (20-10).
This bout is -186 to go the distance, and Azure is only +110 to win on points.
With six career wins by guillotine, Kelleher by submission (+520) is the most interesting bet — but I’ll sit back and root for my fellow Long Island native instead.
Azure vs. Kelleher Bets
Gabriel Benitez (+146) vs. Omar Morales (-185)
Crowdsourced Projection: Morales (62%)
Like the Azure-Kelleher fight, this bout contains an undefeated favorite in Morales (9-0) facing a seasoned pro in Benitez (21-8) but I don’t see much betting value on either side — they both seem appropriately priced.
The fight is almost a 50/50 proposition to go the distance and I would probably give a slight edge to Benitez as an underdog, with more experience and a pretty sound +1.39 strike differential in the UFC.
If he can avoid Morales’ big kicks, Benitez by points (+290) could be the result — but it’s not something that I’m playing.
Benitez vs. Morales Bets
Sijara Eubanks (-400) vs. Sarah Moras (+290)
Crowdsourced Projection: Eubanks (79%)
When a crowdsourced projection from a very large sample is within 1% of a betting line, it’s hard to ignore it and say, “No, there’s clearly value on one side of this fight.”
Eubanks is a steep favorite despite a 5-4 record, but she has a huge advantage in strike differential (+1.35 vs. -1.13) and presents a stylistic mismatch for Moras, who cannot stop takedowns (37%).
The fight is +170 to finish inside the distance, which would likely come as the result of Eubanks KO/TKO (+520) via ground and pound, but I can’t bet on this significant of a favorite who has lost her last two bouts.
Eubanks vs. Moras Bets
- Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN+
Michael Johnson (-110) vs. Thiago Moises (-115)
Crowdsourced Projection: Johnson (77%)
The consensus projection loves Johnson in a fight that is listed as a pick’em.
His metrics are certainly better across the board, with an advantage in strike differential (+0.3 vs. -0.42) and takedown defense (78% vs. 68%) in particular showing that he should be able to keep the fight where he wants it.
“The Menace” has lost five of his past seven, and seven of his past 10 fights, and it was easy to excuse the first few losses in that run — to Nate Diaz, Khabib, and Justin Gaethje — but after bouncing down in weight, and losing in his return to Lightweight, there are even more question marks.
Moises has also lost three of his past four fights but against grapplers far superior to Johnson, which is what makes Wednesday’s fight more of a true coin flip.
I’ll back the fighter with the higher pedigree and make a small moneyline bet on Johnson.
Johnson vs. Moises Bets
- Michael Johnson -110 (0.5 units)
Andrei Arlovski (+138) vs. Philipe Lins (-175)
Crowdsourced Projection: Lins (79%)
Arlovski seems like the sort of gatekeeper that you feed to a talented light-heavyweight like Lins, who was pretty dominant in Bellator and the PFL after working around some injuries.
The Brazilian enters Wednesday night off of a long layoff — out of action since Dec. 2018, which is my main concern.
But Lins has significantly better hand speed than Arlovski and he should be able to stuff any takedown attempts that could otherwise turn the fight into another grinding win for the Belarusian.
The 41-year-old has been knocked out 11 times, however, including by Jairzinho Rozenstruik 29 seconds into their fight last November:
Lins by KO/TKO (+130) or inside the distance (-173) will be the popular bets, while Arlovski by points (+295) or betting on the fight to go the distance (+128) are the two contrarian plays.
I don’t know how much Arlovski has left in the tank, or in his chin, and I’ll include Lins as a parlay piece to find out.
Arlovski vs. Lins Bets
- Use Lins as a parlay piece
Ray Borg (+130) vs. Ricky Simon (-175)
Crowdsourced Projection: Simon (52.5%)
Styles make fights, which is what makes this matchup between Ray Borg and Ricky Simon such an appealing contest.
Simon has 6 inches of reach on, and is 2 inches taller than Borg — but his takedown defense (71%) will be key against the excellent technical wrestler.
Simon (6.53) and Borg (4.26) each average a ton of takedowns per 15 minutes inside of the octagon, but Borg should get the better of the grappling. He has fought higher-end opponents, and Simon is still trying to rebound from a loss to Uriah Faber.
This bout is -286 to reach the scorecards, so betting Borg on points (+215) may have the most value — but I’ll just enjoy this one.
Borg vs. Simon Bets
Drew Dober (-130) vs. Alexander Hernandez (+104)
Crowdsourced Projection: Dober (51%)
Of the these two powerful Lightweights, Dober is the fighter with the positive strike differential, and he should present unique problems as a southpaw — who win at a higher rate than orthodox fighters in general.
Hernandez is the better athlete and wrestler, with a significantly higher MMA upside, but he looked tepid in his last fight, a close win, after getting knocked out for the first time in January 2019 by “Cowboy” Cerrone.
It’s difficult to bet on this fight, not knowing what version of Hernandez you might get, but the value is on the underdog to prevail, despite the fact that Dober seems to have made greater strides as of late.
I would consider betting the fight to go the distance (-148), or Over 2.5 rounds.
Dober vs. Hernandez Bets
Ben Rothwell (+112) vs. Ovince St. Preux (-140)
Crowdsourced Projection: St. Preux (57.5%)
Once again, there’s essentially no value on either side of this fight — a heavyweight battle between Ben Rothwell and his iron chin against Ovince St. Preux, who tacked on 35 pounds as he moves up in weight class.
St. Preux (“OSP”) should retain his superior athleticism despite the added weight, but I’m curious to see how his stamina carries over the course of three rounds.
He offers better striking and grappling metrics than Rothwell, albeit at a lower weight class, and he’s a major threat to stop the fight via submission, especially with his signature choke:
If he can keep the fight standing, Rothwell has a puncher’s chance with his power, and I don’t think the odds on OSP by submission (+400) are high enough, but I would consider betting on the fight to go the distance (+132) or Over 2.5 rounds at plus-money.
Rothwell vs. St. Preux Bets
- Rothwell/St. Preux, Over 2.5 Rounds (+110, 0.5 units)
Anthony Smith (-190) vs. Glover Teixeira (+150)
Crowdsourced Projection: Smith (69%)
If you want deeper analysis, you can read my full breakdown of Wednesday’s main event.
In short, there is a small amount of value on Smith, as Teixeira has attracted a fair amount of attention as an underdog.
Perhaps I’m just betting against the old guys on this card.
Smith vs. Teixeira Bets
- Use Smith as a parlay piece
UFC Fight Night Bets
- Michael Johnson -105 (0.5 units)
- Rothwell / St. Preux, Over 2.5 Rounds (+102, 0.5 units)
- Parlay (+138): Lins/Smith (0.75 units)
- Parlay (+156): Lins/Sherman (0.5 units)