After a rough start to the year, UFC Vegas 85 will get us back on track with an average Fight Night card on paper.
Middleweight title hopefuls Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov headline this event with fan favorites Renato Moicano and Drew Dober preluding them as the co-main event. The final two fights of the night are as good as advertised for an event of this magnitude.
There is a lot to like on the rest of the card as well, with Molly McCann making her strawweight debut against an old foe and rising contender Natalia Silva looking to break into the flyweight top 10. Undefeated prospects Aliaskhab Khizriev and Azat Maksum will also look to take a step closer to the rankings while Themba Gorimbo will attempt to build off of his social media hype from Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.
Without further ado, let's break down the three best bets of the night.
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UFC Vegas 85 best bets
Parlay: Natalia Silva, Azat Maksum (-109)
This is the best play of the night. The UFC is fully behind these two potential stars with favorable matchups against struggling veterans.
Though Charles Johnson is not a layup for Maksum, a loss would be very surprising for the 17-0 Kazakh flyweight. Not only is he undefeated against solid competition, but his last win over Tyson Nam was undeniably a more impressive victory than a hypothetical nod over Johnson.
Currently on a three-fight losing streak, Johnson is taking this fight on short notice as a replacement for Nate Maness. Accepting the fight may keep him on the roster, but Johnson could not find a worse matchup as an opportunity to snap a skid. Maksum still has a lot of questions as a prospect, but the biggest question mark of his game to this point is his striking.
Johnson is a wrestler himself and given Maksum's ability to strike with Nam, he should have little issue with the lack of power in Johnson's hands to expose the openings he leaves. Maksum should be better everywhere the fight goes.
Despite being the biggest favorite of the card, Silva will have a tougher matchup but is still set up for success. Already one of the best strikers in all of WMMA, Silva has not lost since 2017 and is still just 26 years old.
Silva is as polished of a striker in the flyweight division and is receiving the perfect matchup with Viviane Araujo to enter the top 10 after picking apart Andrea Lee. Araujo will hunt for takedowns, but Silva's 92% takedown defense is amongst the elite in UFC history. At 37, Araujo does not have the athleticism to keep up with Silva.
Julija Stoliarenko by submission (+140)
This is in all indications the most puzzling line of the card. Stoliarenko has rightfully been priced as the favorite in this matchup and has won both of her fights in the UFC by submission with a whopping 10 out of 11 career wins in the same fashion.
It is understandable why Stoliarenko is an untrustworthy favorite with a 2-4 UFC record and just 11-7 overall but the matchup could not be better for her. Luana Carolina is arguably the worst fighter in the flyweight division and though she boasts a 76% takedown defense record, has been taken down in her last five fights and given up nine takedowns in that span. As Stoliarenko has shown recently, it just takes one for her to end the fight.
Carolina poses some threat in striking exchanges, but as a former bantamweight, Stoliarenko matches her size and length. Carolina will have three inches in reach but will be one inch shorter and give up considerable strength to Stoliarenko. With just one knockdown in eight UFC fights, Carolina has not shown enough power to crack Stoliarenko despite her paltry boxing defense.
When the fight hits the canvas, this will truly be a mismatch. Stoliarenko is a Roger Gracie black belt and former BJJ submission grappler, winning competitions in IBJJF and ADCC. Carolina is just a blue belt in BJJ, a rare sight in the UFC. The submission defense and grappling IQ from Carolina has been questionable at best thus far and Stoliarenko will by head and shoulders the best grappler she has faced.
Makhmud Muradov ML (+142)
As a 14-0 Russian wrestler, it is no surprise that Aliaskhab Khizriev is the favorite in this matchup. But aside from his name and pedigree, few components of the matchup point in his direction.
From a pure size perspective, Khizriev is one of the shortest middleweights on the UFC roster at just 5'9" with a 74-inch reach. Muradov is one of the tallest middleweights on the roster at 6'2" and will be the bigger fighter in the cage without a doubt.
Not only will Muradov dwarf Khizriev, but his striking is much superior. Muradov is marketed as a former accomplished kickboxer and has shown that striking in the octagon but also has a lesser-known background in combat sambo. Muradov has shown a lack of wrestling defense and IQ but boasts a 77% takedown defense overall.
In Khizriev's debut, he had minor struggles in boxing exchanges against short-notice replacement Denis Tiuliulin as a -1200 favorite. That is not a good visual for a rising prospect with Tiuliulin having just a 1-4 record in the UFC.
Neither man has fought great competition in the UFC heading into this matchup but if Khizriev takes the same shots he ate from Tiuliulin against Muradov, he will not be able to walk through them again.
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change