This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
The second UFC pay-per-view in less than three weeks means we are back with another edition of Best Bets, where we feature four prop plays to turn big favorites into manageable lines, and big underdogs into golden opportunities. This week is no exception, as we kick things off with a four-figure plus-money play from a crafty ground fighter, and cap things off betting that a durable competitor will hear the final bell. Our betting lines this week come from William Hill and are accurate as to the post date of this article.
Weight class: flyweight
Veronica Hardy (6-4-1) vs. Juliana Miller (3-1-0)
Hardy (formerly Macedo) being undersized has hurt her throughout her UFC career, and this bout will be no different, as she enters at a three-inch height deficit against Miller. This has led to an unsightly 1-4 record in the Octagon, but I believe "Killer" will give her an opportunity to win this fight in the area where she is most comfortable, despite a three-year layoff.
Hardy wasn't anyone's idea of a volume striker prior to her 2022 bout with Bea Malecki, but it seems as though she had a revelation prior to that contest, as the 27-year-old came out like a house on fire, using her agility and pressure to equal the lands of her opponent while throwing 112 strikes in Round 1. She was ultimately unable to get past an even starker disadvantage in height, but Macedo using her movement against the foot-slow Miller will likely lead to Miller shooting takedowns. On the ground is where Hardy is truly in her element, as she will relentlessly hunt for submissions off of her back, and we saw the inexperienced "Killer" put herself in compromising positions after securing takedowns in her UFC debut.
I've often said that I don't like picking fights on small margins, but Miller is so intent on using her physicality that Hardy will almost certainly get her opportunities. It should also be noted that her lone UFC win was a submission over Polyana Viana, which marks the only time "Dama De Ferro" has tapped out in her 18-fight career. Miller may have an appealing skill set, but she is so rough around the edges that I will happily take a shot on one of the juiciest lines I've ever seen for what I would consider a realistic potential outcome.
UFC 286 BET: Veronica Hardy wins via submission (+1200)
Weight class: featherweight
Jack Shore (16-1-0) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (17-8-0)
Absent an explosive finish of Andy Ogle in his UFC debut, I'm struggling to recall an Amirkhani win that didn't result from "Mr. Finland" having a clear grappling advantage. Not only is Shore a committed wrestler who stuffed 6-of-8 takedowns in his fight with Ricky Simon, but Amirkhani's boxing has never looked as sharp as he would like it to be, and he doesn't carry the power that Simon does in his hands.
This likely means that Shore will fend off early takedown attempts from his opponent while pushing his own advantage in the striking game. A slick grappler in his own right, I don't think Shore will want to wade into waters where Makwan is comfortable, particularly when he has shown himself to be a solid combination puncher. I expect Amirkhani to have even less success than usual in this bout, as I don't think he will be able to surprise Shore with a fast start.
Shore has yet to finish an opponent with strikes in the UFC, but he is facing an opponent whose last two losses have come via KO/TKO, and "Tank" should be able to pour on the pressure after a few fast-paced minutes.
UFC 286 BET: Jack Shore wins via KO/TKO or disqualification (+180)
Weight class: welterweight
Kamaru Usman (20-2-0) vs Leon Edwards (20-3-0, 1 NC)
A mere seven months ago, it looked as though Usman would cruise to another title defense via unanimous decision. That was until Edwards hid a head kick behind a feint with a little more than a minute to go in the final round that sent shockwaves through the MMA world. While the achievement was incredible, and the drama was what we as MMA fans live for, nothing in that fight leading up to the point of contact has convinced me that "Rocky" can repeat the outcome.
To be clear, Edwards is a talented striker with some solid wrestling defense. This makes me think he can be competitive with Usman in the opening rounds. As we saw for most of their last bout, however, Edwards is far too susceptible to pressure, meaning that "The Nigerian Nightmare" will likely be able to seamlessly transition from striking to wrestling in order to get takedowns against the fence. This will be particularly true as the fight wears on, as Usman was able to notch the bulk of his control time later in the bout.
The unexpected finish has drastically changed the betting world as well, as Usman looked to be close to a (-500) favorite leading up to that head kick but can now be had for less than half that (-246). What's more, we actually get juice on his most likely method of victory, as Edwards has never been finished in 23 professional fights.
UFC 286 BET: Kamaru Usman wins via decision/technical decision (+105)
Weight class: welterweight
Gunnar Nelson (18-5-1) vs. Bryan Barberena (18-9-0)
Barberena has always been a fun action fighter, but grapplers have been the bane of his existence in the UFC, as evidenced by the dominant loss he suffered at the hands of Rafael dos Anjos via submission. This means I can't pick "Bam Bam" to beat Nelson in this spot, but I can choose a fight outcome that's a bit off the beaten path.
While Barbarena was submitted by "RDA" in what seemed like an instant, it's worth noting that the tapout was only the second of the 33-year-old's career and the first since he was submitted outside the UFC more than a decade ago. Nelson is fairly active when it comes to hunting for subs (0.9 attempts per 15 minutes of Octagon time) but is a position grappler first, who looks to grind down his opponent in top position.
Barbarena will have to protect his neck here, but the difference between the "decision" and "submission" win lines is too good to pass up, particularly when Barbarena will never stop trying to get back to his feet.
UFC 286 BET: Gunnar Nelson wins via decision /technical decision (+200)
UFC 286 Best Prop Bets
Here is a recap of my best UFC picks for this weekend's UFC 286 card:
- Veronica Hardy wins via submission (+1200)
- Kamaru Usman wins via decision/technical decision (+105)
- Jack Shore wins via KO/TKO or disqualification (+180)
- Gunnar Nelson wins via decision/technical decision (+200)
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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