UFC 259: Breaking Down the Best Value Picks for Gamblers
If there's been a better recent pay-per-view than the belt-fest that is UFC 259, you'll have to remind us.
A title opportunity for a long-heralded prospect? Check.
History's greatest female fighter defending her legacy? Check.
A preeminent champion moving up to chase another strap? Check.
It'll all go down Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where the aforementioned boxes are checked by Aljamain Sterling, who'll challenge bantamweight titleholder Petr Yan; Amanda Nunes, set to risk her featherweight crown against Megan Anderson; and Israel Adesanya, in pursuit of champ-champ status with a climb to meet light heavyweight kingpin Jan Blachowicz.
A dozen other fights round out what's sure to be a long and memorable night in the Nevada desert, and Bleacher Report is here to break down the best value picks for gamblers across the card.
Read through these betting tips, and be sure to leave your own in the comments, too.
There are plenty who believe Petr Yan began what'll be a long and dominant reign when he beat Jose Aldo to a pulp to win 135-pound gold at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi.
After all, the Russian is 15-1 in a career that stretches back to 2013, includes title status in the ACB promotion and netted a Performance of the Night bonus from a pounding of Hall of Famer Urijah Faber.
But Aljamain Sterling is no joke himself.
He's had his hand raised in 11 of 14 UFC fights overall, including five straight across the last three calendar years while ascending to the No. 1 contender position.
High regard for the challenger has rendered him an even-money proposition on many platforms heading toward the weekend, though there are a few still sending him off slightly on the plus side.
That'd be the play to make if you can get it. But anything on Sterling's side should turn a profit if he looks as good in a spotlight opportunity as he has while working to get it.
Good Bet: Back Sterling at -110
Take a look at the resume of one Thiago Santos.
Sure, his last two fights were losses. But given that they came amid injuries and were against foes on the levels of Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira, they're a trifle more forgivable if not forgettable.
Glance back a bit farther and you'll see that two of his last four victories include the names Jan Blachowicz and Kevin Holland—the reigning light heavyweight champion and one of the hottest fighters on the roster after a five-win 2020.
So to merely look at the Brazilian's underdog status against Aleksandar Rakic and write him off would be a costly oversight. Though the Austrian is arriving in the afterglow of a smothering of former title challenger Anthony Smith, he's also just one fight removed from a decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir.
If Rakic wins here, he's earned a favorite's tag for the next one. But at this point, it's too soon.
Better Bet: Back Santos at +138
There's an inherent conflict in a column like this.
The defined mission is to scan betting lines and zero in on opportunities for fattening the bankroll. But there's an ever-present danger of letting competitive opinions edge out cash-grab prospects.
Such is the case in the Blachowicz-Adesanya bout.
Based on win/lose analysis alone, I confess to being an Adesanya backer. I think he's a rare talent and dynamic enough to overcome his foe's edges in size and strength.
Here, though, is where that size and strength factor should matter most.
The champ has won four straight bouts since the previously cited loss to Santos, including KOs of Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes. Reyes, incidentally, had just given Jon Jones all he wanted for five rounds; and Rockhold was a former middleweight champ aiming for glory at 205.
The bottom line is this. Whether you believe Adesanya is capable of winning or not, the idea that you can get a reigning, defending champion as an underdog at his natural weight against a smaller man is simply too good to pass up.
Best Bet: Back Blachowicz at +200
Bonus Big-Money Pick
Bonus big-money picks are designed for you to take a small portion of your portfolio to back an underdog.
Since two of the three value picks for UFC 259 are plus money, I thought I'd provide a compelling case for backing Anderson over Nunes in a co-main upset bid.
Yes, I said back Anderson over Nunes.
Once you stop laughing, take a look at the tale of the tape.
While Nunes is indeed the featherweight champion, she's certainly better and more comfortable competing at bantamweight. She stands 5'8" and boasts a 69-inch reach, dimensions that make her a monster at 135 but a mere mortal 10 pounds heavier.
Anderson, meanwhile, is a legit six-footer and will carry 145 pounds on a frame that's freakishly long and powerful and could provide a challenge that'll make Nunes at least somewhat uncomfortable.
Exhibit A: Her one-shot KO of Norma Dumont Viana last year earned a performance bonus.
Backing Anderson in a straight bet sounds ridiculous, but everyone loses at some point, and getting the Australian at +700 could be one of the smartest moves on the board.
Bonus Big-Money Bet: Back Anderson at +700
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