MMA Best Bets: Chris' Picks, Odds and Predictions for UFC 281

MMA Best Bets: Chris' Picks, Odds and Predictions for UFC 281

This article is part of our UFC Picks series.

Through the eyes of a fan, UFC 281 is a fantastic card full of intriguing matchups and dedicated finishers. Through the eyes of a sports bettor, those intriguing matchups mean a search for value, while the dedicated finishers allow an opportunity for prop betting. We'll cover four fighters to target in this article, including a light heavyweight who wants to make things ugly, and a jujitsu wizard taking a step up in competition. All our plays this month come from William Hill, with the exception of the Michael Chandler prop bet, which can be found on the Rotowire MMA betting page.

Weight class: Lightweight

Dustin Poirier (28-7-0 (1NC) vs. Michael Chandler (23-7-0)

Poirier's only losses in the last few years have come against the champions of the division, which may be why the oddsmakers are looking past Chandler, whose record in the Octagon stands at just 2-2. While he may be nearing the end of his time as a title contender at age 37, Chandler is still plenty explosive and powerful, and showed in fights with Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson that he won't quit just because he's experienced some adversity.

Poirier has come a long way since the fun action fighter who used to go to war with guys like Jim Miller, but "The Diamond" has retained his share of bad habits. These include allowing the opponent to push him beyond the two black lines and not minding his defense. Even in a fight against a noted counter striker in Dan Hooker, Dustin found himself against the cage dealing with the long reach of his opponent. It will be a tough ask to win a fight this way against Chandler, who has some of the best power in the division and will always look to come forward. It's also worth noting that "Iron's" wrestling is a cut above Porier's, and we've seen the former interim champion stall out when put on his back.

With the exception of pure boxing, I think Chandler's skills match or exceed Dustin's in every area of the fight. That we should get such a wide line on a multiple-time world champion feels like a gift, particularly against an opponent that will let him dictate where the fight takes place. I shudder to think what this fight might look like if it sees the final bell, but I don't think we make it that far, as Poirier has too many defensive liabilities to survive such an offensive force.

UFC 280 BET: Michael Chandler wins via KO/TKO (+380) 

 Weight class: Light Heavyweight

Carlos Ulberg (7-1-0) vs. Nicolae Negumereanu (13-1-0)

The check hook that spelled the beginning of the end for Tafon Nchukwi in June may be enough to make Ulberg the favorite here, but I will need to see a bit more than that before trusting the man who exhausted himself into a knockout against Kennedy Nchukwi or was surprised by the power of Fabio Cherant. Instead, I will opt for the fighter with a clear process and skill set to do what he does best.

Light heavyweight is a tough division to exist in without the benefit of athleticism, but "Nick" has found success with a smothering style that relies on cardio and grappling. There is a question of how well he will do at the upper limits of the division, but that is not our concern at the moment. The only question we need to answer is whether Negumeranu can grind down Ulberg and eventually get a finish. His recent bout with Ihor Potieri, another slick kickboxer he was able to wear down against the fence, tells me the answer to that question is a resounding "yes."

This is another scenario in which anyone not comfortable banking on a finish will get decent odds betting the fight straight, but we have evidence that Ulberg isn't equipped to handle long, drawn-out wars, which has me opting for a finish prop.

UFC 280 BET: Nicolae Negumereanu wins via KO/TKO (+250) 

Weight class: Lightweight

Dan Hooker (21-12-0) vs. Claudio Puelles (13-2-0)

Hooker remains the favorite in this matchup despite losing four of his last five fights, with bettors and oddsmakers likely giving him a pass for losing to top-flight competition. While this is understandable, "The Hangman's" penchant for ceding ground to aggressive opponents has gotten him into trouble before, and Puelles will likely bear down on Hooker from the opening bell.

Hooker seemed to find an antidote for intense pressure in his fight with Nasrat Haqparast, but it relied on mixing in a wrestling attack, as we can see from the fact that he scored four takedowns in the bout. Hooker obviously won't want to initiate a grappling sequence with "The Prince of Peru," which makes me wonder how he will fend off his opponent as he pins him to the side of the Octagon and looks to work his game.

The fighter from New Zealand has credible jiujitsu in his own right, which may make him a bit too comfortable if this fight hits the ground. Ultimately, I'm betting that Hooker's style will find him in the grasp of Puelles more than once in the course of 15 minutes, and I expect him to take advantage of his opportunities.

UFC 280 BET: Claudio Puelles wins via submission: (+240)

Weight class: Flyweight

Erin Blanchfield (9-1-0) vs Molly McCann (13-4-0)

In the bout between Karol Rosa and Lina Lansberg, I talked about the advantage of selecting a prop that will turn a big favorite into a moderate one. We have a similar situation in this matchup, as one of the biggest chalk plays on the card in Blanchfield can be had for just short of even money if we pick her to win on the scorecards. Can we rely on her to get the job done?

Truth be told, a bet like this requires help from both fighters, as we need to be sure that McCann is tough/skilled enough to survive what is expected to be a dominant performance from Blanchfield for 15 minutes. "Meatball" has never been stopped on the feet, and while she was submitted by Gillian Robertson, Blanchfield is much less of a submission grappler, finishing just two of her nine victories via tap out. We also have a fairly strong idea that McCann will struggle with the wrestling of Blanchfield, as the last time she faced a committed grappler in Lara Procopio, she was grounded seven times.

It's always a bit nerve-wracking betting that a fight will see the cards, as every minute that goes by feels like an eternity. In this case, however, I trust McCann to keep fighting until the final bell, while Blanchfield does her work on the ground.

UFC 281 BET: Erin Blanchfield wins via decision (-115)

 

UFC 281 Best Bets:

 Here is a recap of my best UFC picks for this weekend's UFC 281 card:

For up-to-date information on the latest odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the UFC odds page on RotoWire.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Olson
Christopher Olson writes DFS articles and blogs for a variety of sports including MLB, NFL and MMA. Follow him on Twitter @RealChrisOlson
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