UFC 253: Breaking Down the Best Value Picks for Gamblers
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya takes on undefeated 185-pound menace Paulo Costa in what appears to be his toughest test to date.
That scintillating matchup is the headliner for UFC 253 this weekend in Abu Dhabi.
But there are plenty of other top-shelf fights on the docket for the next UFC Fight Island pay-per-view card Saturday, including a riveting 205-pound co-main event matchup between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz.
It's a fun card full of excellent bouts, but which fighters might you back this weekend on your favorite betting market in hopes of scoring some extra dough?
Behold, Bleacher Report's best value picks for gamblers for UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa.
Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz meet at UFC 253 to crown the successor to longtime divisional kingpin Jon Jones.
Reyes lost via decision to Jones at UFC 247 in February in a contest that was closer on most people's scorecards than it was on the official judges'.
Regardless, Reyes proved easily to be the most dangerous opponent the UFC's best pound-for-pound fighter has faced since a younger version of Bones fended off Alexander Gustafsson in their first fight back in 2013 at UFC 165.
So Reyes was a shoo-in for the honor of fighting for the vacated title belt after Jones moved up to heavyweight, and Blachowicz got the nod for the other slot thanks to him being the next top contender Jones hadn't yet faced.
Reyes, 30, is seven years younger than Blachowicz and appears to be getting better with every fight. The southpaw lands 4.88 significant strikes per minute and has legit power in all his limbs.
Blachowicz also carries some serious pop in his fights, but the Polish star lands his strikes at a lower rate than Reyes and has already shown his ceiling in the UFC.
On top of that, Reyes came so close to capturing UFC gold in his last fight that he's surely going to pull out all the stops against Blachowicz to ensure he gets the belt around his waist this time around.
You won't win a ton of money in return, but Reyes is almost certainly going to be the next UFC light heavyweight champ.
Back Reyes by any method at -286 (Bet $100 to win $35).
Hakeem Dawodu has looked dominant in just about every UFC fight except for the time he was caught in a guillotine by Danny Henry in his UFC debut.
Regardless, the 29-year-old sure does fight like his "Mean" nickname would imply, and his 73-inch reach will give him a 5-inch advantage against the serviceable but beatable Zubaira Tukhugov this weekend.
Statistically, Dawodu has better offensive numbers than his opponent and enjoyed similar defensive stats. He lands twice as many significant strikes per minute and lands them at a higher percentage, too.
Meanwhile, Dawodu limits his opponent to 64 percent accuracy in strikes with Tukhugov following at 68 percent.
While Dawodu's better numbers could at least partially be due to Tukhugov facing a little tougher tests on paper in his career, Dawodu has the look of a fighter moving up, while Tukhugov has probably already found his level in the sport.
Backing Dawodu at even money or a little better is the right way to play things in this one. He looks like the slightly better fighter in just about every category with a higher upside to boot.
Back Dawodu by any method at +101 (Bet $100 to win $101)
Adesanya is one of the top strikers in the sport, but in his last fight he showed that sometimes he's a little too cognizant of what his opponent might return to him.
Sure, the 31-year-old scored the decision win over Yoel Romero at UFC 248 in March, but against Costa the UFC's middleweight champion will be facing a younger version of Romero that most assuredly won't be as tentative as the Cuban ended up being in that fight.
So the quandary for bettors is deciding whether that's good or bad for the underdog.
Will Costa's power-based pressure fighting leave more room for Adesanya to counter him the way he's done others in the past? Or will Costa's relentlessness win rounds and leave the smaller-framed champion in deeper and deeper waters when it starts to count the most?
On paper, it looks like it will come down to whether the 29-year-old Brazilian contender can handle Adesanya's power and vice versa.
Costa lands 8.43 significant strikes per minute, which is more than double Adesanya's 3.96. But in order to land all those power shots, Costa has to absorb 6.84 of them per minute, while Adesnaya only catches 2.40 in return.
It might not be pretty, but Costa would seem to be in a decent spot to score the mild upset over the champ based on him throwing more strikes per round and landing the much harder shots overall.
On top of that, Costa simply has more ways to win the fight thanks to his advantafe in the submission game.
If this was strictly a kickboxing match, Adesanya would be the easy winner. But that's not what's happening here.
Back Costa by any method at +141 (Bet $100 to win $141).
Bonus Big-Money Pick
Bonus big-money fights are fun because there's a chance to bet a little and win a lot.
But backing the biggest underdog on the card rarely works out, so whenever you're looking for in a big-money value pick, you better have at least a working theory on why you're guessing the bookies are wrong.
Both Kai Kara-France and Brandon Royval are specialists. Kara-France is a long, lean and mean striker, whereas Royval is a gritty submission artist.
Royval just finished another solid flyweight in Tim Elliott in the first round back in May in the 28-year-old American's UFC debut.
Moreover, Raw Dawg was in tears after notching that epic win because apparently he didn't live up to his own massive expectations.
Backing a submission specialist against a striker at plus money is always a passable play. All it takes for the submission ace is one takedown and the fight is totally in his domain.
But I also feel pretty good about backing a guy who sheds tears after dominant wins because he doesn't want to go back to work the next week. When that guy enters the Octagon, he isn't just seeking to land a profession. He's going hard after a true vocation.
Back Royval by any method at +179 (Bet $100 to win $179).