Best Bets for UFC 276

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIJune 29, 2022

Best Bets for UFC 276

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images for UFC

    What: UFC 276

    Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

    When: July 2

    How to Watch: ESPN+ PPV

    What's at Stake: For some, it's about independence. For others, it's about pyrotechnics. And for many, it's simply about enjoying a weekend that stretches into a holiday Monday.

    But regardless of your stance on Fourth of July revelry, the UFC has you covered.

    Dana White and Co. are back in the pay-per-view business with a Saturday night show in Las Vegas that'll feature a pair of championship bouts atop a four-fight (for now, at least) main card that gets under way at 10 p.m. ET.

    Israel Adesanya defends his middleweight title against No. 2 contender Jared Cannonier in the main event while featherweight boss Alexander Volkanovski meets top-ranked Max Holloway in a co-main that provides the 15th trilogy in the promotion's history.

    The main show had included five bouts but dropped one last week when a flyweight encounter between Lauren Murphy and Miesha Tate was scratched. The UFC didn't provide a reason, but Murphy told MMA Fighting it was because she'd contracted COVID-19.

    The B/R combat and betting teams got together to assess how the fights are likely to end and where some possibilities for profit might be found.

Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    There's surely an argument that money-making possibilities exist in the main event.

    Problem is, if you think Adesanya is as good as he's seemed to be since winning the title a few years back, many of them only exist if you blindly roll the dice against that belief.

    The champ is a solid -390 favorite (bet $390 to win $100) on the DraftKings moneyline, while Cannonier is a sizable +320 (bet $100 to win $320) underdog.

    So unless you're willing to take a risk on a flier, it's better to look elsewhere for profits.

    Adesanya has cruised to decisions in three of his five title-fight victories, but he wasn't averse to stepping on the gas to get finishes when available against Robert Whittaker in 2019 and Paulo Costa in 2020. The Costa fight is an intriguing precedent because the Brazilian was heralded as a heavy striker whose best chance was to take Adesanya out early.

    That seems to be the best-case scenario for Cannonier as well, but if the imposingly built American can't put the champion away, it could leave him vulnerable later, as both Whittaker and Costa were on the way to second-round losses.

    We'll suggest Cannonier maintains his firepower a bit longer but ultimately suffers a similar fate and yields a worthwhile profit while doing so.

    The B/R Pick: Israel Adesanya to Win by KO/TKO/DQ in Round 3 (+1100)

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway

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    Alexander Volkanovski hits Max Holloway in a mixed martial arts featherweight championship bout at UFC 245, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
    AP Photo/John Locher

    Given that they've spent 50 minutes in the cage together and five of six official scorecards have rendered a thread-bare 48-47 margin in either direction, we're not exactly breaking news in claiming that there's little separating Volkanovski from Holloway.

    The moneyline has a bit of a spread with the champion at -195 and the challenger/former champion at +165, but neither are figures that'll yield a profit that'll change a tax bracket.

    So in order to get at least a 2-to-1 return on your money, it'll take some work.

    Plenty of options exist if you're willing to bet either man breaks character from the first two fights and gets a stoppage, but considering neither fighter has been close to a stoppage against one another, and neither has been stopped by anyone else in over nine years, it's unlikely.

    Given that reality, the best option seems to be with Holloway.

    The one-time king of the 135-pounders was considered by many to be the rightful winner of the second Volkanovski fight, and he's followed with two more victories against fighters currently ranked third and fifth in the division. It's no stretch to suggest that he's on a roll and not a great risk to think he'd emerge with a decision in the trilogy fight here.

    And if that thought yields more than two dollars for every one risked, even better.

    The B/R Pick: Max Holloway to Win in Round 5 or on Decision (+240)

Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira

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    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    This one's a bit of a head-scratcher.

    Sean Strickland is the fourth-ranked contender at middleweight. He's not lost a UFC fight in more than four years and has beaten six straight foes since that misstep in May 2018.

    And his main-card opponent on Saturday, Alex Pereira, has just six pro MMA fights, only two in the UFC and is not among the 15 fighters ranked at 185 pounds.

    Yet somehow, Pereira is a favorite, albeit a slight one, on the moneyline.

    He's a -120 pick compared to Strickland's straight-up +100 billing, presumably on the strength of a pre-MMA kickboxing career in which he won 33 of 40 fights, including 21 by KO.

    One of those KOs came at the expense of Adesanya, which has led to oddsmakers concluding that Pereira will be able to use his striking skills to offset a Strickland resume that includes 10 MMA KOs of his own alongside four submissions and 11 wins on points.

    It seems ludicrous to think Strickland would choose to stand and trade with a guy who's spent his career in that posture, and you'd have to think it'd be particularly satisfying for Strickland if he could get the big man down and find a way to make him surrender.

    Getting it done inside of 15 minutes is a bit of a heavy lift. But considering the 10-to-1 payout available for bettors if he's able to do it, it's hard not to look that way with a wager.

    The B/R Pick: Sean Strickland to Win by Submission (+1000)

Worth a Shot!

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    Sean O'Malley celebrates during his bantamweight mixed martial arts bout against Kris Moutinho at UFC 264 on Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
    AP Photo/John Locher

    If you've made it this far, you're clearly into the concept of risk vs. reward. And while favorites and moneylines can be a worthwhile option, a well-chosen prop or parlay is nice, too.

    Fortunately, this card isn't hurting for intriguing options, even outside the top three bouts.

    Here are a few we'd suggest you take a look at:

    Sean O'Malley (Win by KO/TKO/DQ in Round 3) +1100

    Sean O'Malley is a world-class MMA athlete.

    But he's also a showman.

    So while simply beating the ninth-ranked bantamweight in the world (Pedro Munhoz) would presumably satisfy the ladder-climber in him, it's a safe bet that doing it in memorable fashion to set up subsequent fights is a primary objective as well.

    Munhoz has never been stopped, but he is on a skid, having lost four of his last five fights by decision (three unanimous). And engaging with a younger, hungrier opponent like O'Malley doesn't seem like the ideal way to reverse that course.

    Bryan Barberena (To Win By KO/TKO/DQ) +400

    Bryan Barberena has never been and likely never will be a UFC champion.

    So if you're comparing resumes and legacies when it comes to his prelim fight with ex-welterweight king Robbie Lawler on Saturday night, "Ruthless" wins easily.

    When the comparisons switch to modern-day relevance, however, so do the results. Barberena has fought at least once every year since 2009 and is 3-1 in his last four. Lawler, meanwhile, has won just once in his last five—against a foe (Nick Diaz) who'd not fought in six years—and he hadn't won before that since UFC 214 in 2017.

    Could the 40-year-old wake up the echoes for another memorable PPV performance? Sure. Using that same logic, though, the New York Jets could win Super Bowl LVIII too. But don't expect anyone to mortgage the house on it. Go with the younger guy, the more active guy and the guy who's simply better at this moment. It's Barberena on all three counts.

    Jalin Turner (To Win By Decision) +350

    Jalin Turner is a man of many opponents but similar results.

    He's faced two Australians, an American and a Serbian in his last four fights and has recorded four straight victories, all inside the scheduled three-round distance.

    He's in with a rugged New Zealander this time, Brad Riddell, a member of the City Kickboxing team that also boasts championship-level clients named Adesanya and Volkanovski.

    While the visiting Kiwi does operate on a slightly higher level than the foes Turner has most recently faced, it's surely tempting to look at the +450 available if Turner were to get his third submission since September 2020 or the +250 on the line if he were to score a KO.

    But we'll encourage a new option instead and forecast Turner's initial trip to the scorecards

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