UFC 263: Gambler's Guide to Adesanya-Vettori and More

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2021

UFC 263: Gambler's Guide to Adesanya-Vettori and More

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    What: UFC 263

    Where: Glendale, Arizona

    When: June 12

    How to Watch: ESPN+

    What's At Stake: Sequels don't always exceed originals.

    But Dana White and Co. have given themselves a good opportunity for success.

    The Gila River Arena will host a sizzling rematch between Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori for the middleweight title Adesanya won a year after narrowly beating Vettori in a three-rounder. 

    That fight was at the same venue on a show topped by Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje.

    This time, it's the main event on a UFC 263 show supported by flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo and challenger Brandon Moreno, who'll run back a split-decision draw from UFC 256 in December.

    Bout No. 3 is the UFC's first non-title, non-main event still scheduled for five rounds, and it pits lightning-rod welterweight Nate Diaz against third-ranked contender Leon Edwards in a match that had been slotted as the co-main at UFC 262 in Houston before Diaz suffered an injury.

    Eleven other fights round out the main and preliminary cards, and the B/R combat and gambling teams got together to assess how the fights are likely to go and where the best possibilities for profit might be found.

Will the Main Event Go the Distance?

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    It's the nature of writing about the gambling business.

    The urge is to find the most exotic of exotics and encourage readers to bet it to the max, but the mandate alongside that urge is to ensure they leave with as much or more money than when they arrived.

    So while we'd love to suggest there's a ton of reasons to go crazy and lay cash on the prospect that either Adesanya or Vettori get things done inside of five rounds, the numbers simply don't back it up. 

    The champ has fought 10 times since arriving to the UFC, winning all but one. Five of his nine wins have gone the distance, including his first time with Vettori, who's dropped four of 21 career fights—all by decision. 

    The challenger reached the UFC in 2016 and has won seven of 10 fights with two losses and a draw. As mentioned, both defeats were by decision, as were five of the seven wins.

    And the two foes he did submit—Alberto Uda in 2016 and Karl Roberson in 2020—could hardly be considered on Adesanya's level, given a combined UFC record of 4-6.

    Given all that and considering the close-to-the-vest nature of the DraftKings odds either way, the pick to make is that, yes, the main event will go the distance.

    Lay the $139 to collect the $100 and resolve to make your big score elsewhere on the card.

Adesanya vs. Vettori 2: Who’s Going to Win?

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    So, who thought this was what Israel Adesanya would get next?

    The New Zealand-based middleweight striking machine climbed to 205 pounds after three defenses at 185 and entered a bout at UFC 259 with Jan Blachowicz as the favorite to become a two-division champ.

    Instead, he's back to the drawing board against a former foe.

    Adesanya was outlanded and/or manhandled for most of 25 minutes while dropping a wide unanimous decision to Blachowicz and incurring his first loss in 21 bouts.

    His return coincides with the rise of Marvin Vettori, who's won six straight fights since losing narrowly to Adesanya in 2018. That fight ended with three 29-28 scorecards—two for Adesanya, one for Vettori—and saw the now-champ aim to strike while the Italian tried to get to the floor.

    Vettori got two takedowns, but never established control and was on the wrong end of a decisive 57-46 gap in significant strikes across 15 minutes.

    Needless to say, Saturday's winner will be the one who consistently imposes his will on the other across 25 minutes. Another thing to look is how the champ responds to his initial loss.

    After the domination on the mat by Blachowicz, is he less willing to take risks to land shots and open himself to takedowns? Or does he take the opposite tack and become even more aggressive and varied in his striking to try to dissuade the Italian from getting into takedown position?

    The former scenario is the guess from here.

    Vettori may not be as powerful as Yoel Romero was heading into Adesanya's second-most recent title defense, but he is faster and more athletic. He'll do more damage on the feet than the massive Cuban was able to and get the fight to the mat in a manner that Romero never accomplished.

    It may not result in a stoppage, but it should be clear-cut enough to get the scorecards.

    And don't worry, if you're brazen enough to follow our advice suggesting a plus-200 underdog will beat an accomplished champion, we won't even ask for a slice of your profits.

Value Picks

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    If you've read this far, you already know how we feel about underdogs.

    And given our wager of choice in the main event, it's no surprise we'll be prospecting elsewhere, too.

    Fortunately, this is a card that's not hurting for intriguing plus-side options.

    Here are a couple we'd suggest you take a look at.


    Nate Diaz (+400) vs. Leon Edwards

    We'd be foolish to suggest the world's third-ranked welterweight isn't deserving of the praise he's gotten and the status thrust upon him. So we won't.

    But Nate Diaz, for all his faults, has a track record.

    He shows up. He makes things difficult. And even when he loses, he tends to go down swinging.

    Don't believe us? Ask a prohibitive favorite named Conor McGregor.

    So while it should surprise precisely no one if Leon Edwards puts on a clinic and advances to a title shot, getting Diaz with a full training camp and a plus-400 next to his name is simply too much to ignore.


    Paul Craig (+225) vs. Jamahal Hill

    Perhaps Jamahal Hill is the real deal. Perhaps the three wins he posted in 2020 are indicative of talent that'll carry him far beyond the No. 15 ranking he now possesses at 205 pounds.

    Let's just say we're not quite convinced just yet.

    While Ovince Saint Preux is an ex-title challenger and a recognizable name to have on your victim list, he was also 37 at the time of their fight in 2020 and had gone a pedestrian 6-6 in his last 12 outings.

    Paul Craig doesn't win them all either, but he is unbeaten in four bouts since mid-2019 and possesses top-end jiu-jitsu skill, a high-revving motor and enough acumen on his feet to be a stout challenge.

    And in our minds, it's worth a plus-225 investment to have him kick Hill's tires.

Parlay Play

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Once is fluke. Twice is coincidence. Three times is trend.

    OK, the actual quote from Goldfinger in 1959 was "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." 

    But still, exactly how many UFC preview articles are channeling James Bond creator Ian Fleming?

    Go ahead and check, we'll wait.

    Regardless, we're leaning on the British author to illustrate the task we're undertaking in this final piece of the slideshow puzzle—finding the perfect three-fight betting parlay consisting of one apiece from Saturday's main, preliminary and early prelim cards.

    Let's be clear, picking three fights of any betting sort across a well-matched card is hard enough. Picking three that might actually generate a worthwhile level of financial return is even more difficult.

    But that's the fun part for us B/R types. So here goes.


    Part 1: Chase Hooper (-112) vs. Steven Peterson

    It's not quite make or break for a kid with one loss in 12 fights, but it's still pretty important.

    Chase Hooper was one of the UFC's darlings around this time a year ago as he rolled into a UFC 250 match with Alex Caceres as a 20-year-old with a 10-0-1 record.

    Fifteen minutes later, the 0 was gone.

    He came back in December for a get-well date with Peter Barrett but was down after two rounds and on his way to a second straight loss before engineering an unlikely heel-hook submission from an Imanari roll with just two minutes remaining.

    This time, in with a guy who's lost three of five UFC dates and five of his nine overall, it shouldn't need to be so dramatic.


    Part 2: Drew Dober (-139) vs. Brad Riddell

    If you're going to risk money, you might as well be entertained, right?

    If that's your vibe, too, look no further than the final prelim fight of the show.

    Popular Colorado lightweight Drew Dober has earned Performance of the Night bonuses from each of his last two wins and finds himself in the featured preliminary slot—read: last chance to get the pay-per-view card—against streaking New Zealand-based import Brad Riddell.

    Riddell has won three straight in the UFC since arriving from the regional circuit and captured Fight of the Night cash for a scorecard defeat of Jamie Mullarkey in 2019.

    Still, though Riddell's a good fighter with some upside, Dober has only lost to emerging elites during a stretch in which he's gone 8-2 since the start of 2016. One loss was to Beneil Dariush, who recently dusted Tony Ferguson at UFC 262; and the other to Islam Makhachev, a Khabib Nurmagomedov disciple on a seven-fight win streak.

    The New Zealander simply doesn't measure up.


    Part 3: Marvin Vettori (+200) vs. Israel Adesanya

    Every parlay needs a good money-making jolt. And a plus-200 underdog provides it here.

    If you've read this far you already know how we feel about the main event.

    We love Adesanya but believe that a rugged, multitalented Vettori is simply a difficult style matchup for him and will be for as many times as they get together. And if things go the way we expect here, go ahead and get the betting slips ready for the trilogy fight.

    Vettori wins. New Zealand mourns.

    No matter, the tears will be drowned out by your rising bank balance.


    If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).

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