The UFC is back on ESPN on Saturday night with a fight night card that is headlined by two light heavyweights with knockout power.
Thiago Santos has dropped three straight dating back to 2019, but is favored to get back in the win column against Johnny Walker.
There are 13 fights on the card, so let’s get to it.
All odds courtesy of WynnBET Sportsbook on Friday morning.
Main Event: Thiago Santos (-160) vs. Johnny Walker (+130)
Santos suffered a torn ACL in his fight against Jon Jones for the light heavyweight belt in 2019, and still managed to fight to a split decision. Since then, it's been tough sledding.
He has lost to quality competition including now title challenger Glover Texiera and rising star Alexsandar Raktic. Now he is taking a serious step down in competition, and this line is underselling ‘Marreta.’
His opponent, Walker, is a one-trick pony, in need of a knockout to score a win. 15 of his 18 wins have come via KO. I’m going to side with the 37-year-old Santos, who also packs a punch, to withstand the flurries and control the fight.
Santos is the more advanced striker and should be able to land against Walker, who has a 31% striking defense, per UFCStats.com.
I’m expecting this fight to end relatively quickly, and I’ll play Santos with the biggest favorite on the card, Alexander Hernandez (-530) who should have no issues against Mike Breeden, to make this a -107 parlay.
Pick: Santos/Hernandez parlay (-107)
Underdog Bet: Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko
It’s always a tricky proposition betting on fighters dropping in weight class, but I’m going to side with Cirkunov, who is coming down from light heavyweight to middleweight.
Jotko is a prodding fighter who is going to be fighting off his back foot for the entire match against Cirkunov who lands more than one strike per minute than his opponent. While Jotko has stellar takedown defense, 87%, Cirkunov averages more than four per 15 minutes, in a fight that may not be full of action, the Latvian’s activity is going to sit well with the judges.
Cirkunov may be coming down in weight, but I like his style against Jotko to score a win, I personally think this line should be closer to a pick ‘em than Cirkunov sitting at + money, making this a valuable underdog bet.
Pick: Cirkunov +125, play to +110
Prop Bet: Kevin Holland to Win by Decision (+250)
The book is out on Kevin Holland, which is to take him down. However, I think this is a great buy low spot on him who has lost two straight to elite competition and will be stepping down in competition against Kyle Daukaus.
Daukaus is going to shoot for takedowns, but I don’t think he has the skill that the likes of Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori have. If Holland can stuff a few shots from Daukaus, he's going to look like a -300 fighter on the feet.
Holland can knockout Daukaus if this fight is standing for a majority of it, but I’m going to go a bit contraianan and take Holland by decision.
Daukaus is a calculated fighter and I see him initiating grappling exchanges and slowing this fight down, but Holland will wise up to them and keep this fight standing, albeit will tire him out. Both men have questionable cardio, so I see this fight having less fireworks than expected.
I'll take the far superior striker to win on the scorecards convincingly.
Pick: .5U on Holland by Decision +250