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UFC FN 131 Best Bets
UFC fans are off a Sunday morning card from across the pond in Liverpool and now we’re looking at another show five days later. To avoid competing head-to-head with the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals this weekend, the promotion wisely scheduled UFC Fight Night 131 in Utica, N.Y., for Friday night on Fox Sports 1.

The three fights on UFC FightPass start at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, followed by the four-fight Prelims on FS1. The main card has six scraps beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET, with fourth-ranked Jimmie Rivera taking on fifth-ranked Marlon Moraes in the main event.

For just the seventh time in 16 UFC events this year, all 26 fighters made weight on Thursday.

As of late Thursday afternoon, most books had this key bantamweight showdown listed as a pick ‘em (-115 either way). The total was 4.5 rounds (‘over’ -220, ‘under’ +180).

Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) has won 20 consecutive fights and hasn’t tasted defeat since 2008. ‘El Terror’ made his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 72 in the summer of 2015, beating Marcus Brimmage by first-round knockout. Since then, the 28-year-old New Jersey product of Puerto Rican and Italian descent has won four straight fights by decision, including back-to-back scalps of Urijah Faber and Thomas Almeida.

Moraes (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) became the World Series of Fighting’s bantamweight champion in 2014 and successfully defended his belt five times before vacating it to join the UFC. In his Octagon debut, the 30-year-old Brazilian dropped a split decision to Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212.

‘Magic’ bounced back to edge John Dodson in a split decision. Then this past December at UFC Fresno, Moraes earned a Performance of the Night Bonus with his flying-knee KO of Aljamain Sterling in the opening round.

Prediction: I’ll go with Rivera at -115 for two units.

The co-main event is a lightweight match between Gregor Gillespie and Vinc Pichel. As of early Friday morning, Gillespie was the largest ‘chalk’ on the card at -500. Pichel is +350 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $350). The total was 2.5 rounds (-125 ‘under,’ +105 ‘over’).

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Gillespie (11-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) has a pair of first-round knockouts to his credit during his four-year tenure with the promotion. His 21-second KO of Andrew Holbrook earned him a 50-large Performance of the Night bonus, while his second-round submission of Jason Gonzalez garnered Fight of the Night honors.

‘The Gift’ is 31 and fights out of Long Island. Gillespie won a pair of state title in high school wrestling before becoming a four-time NCAA Division I All-American at Edinboro University. He won a national title in 2007 and is the school’s all-time leader in wins with 152.

Prediction: I’ll take Pichel, who is 11-1 in MMA and 4-1 in the UFC, for one-half unit as a +350 underdog. Furthermore, let’s get one unit down on ‘under’ 2.5 rounds at -122 (via 5Dimes.eu).

The only heavyweight title on the card features Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz. As of this morning, most betting shops had Harris listed as a favorite in the -260 neighborhood. The best comeback price was at William Hill (+250), where Harris was at -333. The total was 1.5 rounds (‘under’ -150, ‘over’ +130).

Harris (10-7 MMA, 3-4 UFC) is looking to avoid a three-fight losing streak, although we should point out his back-to-back defeats came under unfortunate circumstances. When Derrick Lewis had to pull out of his UFC 216 fight against former heavyweight kingpin Fabricio Werdum, Harris was chosen to replace Lewis.

Harris was already on the same card, booked to meet Mark Goodbeer. Werdum submitted Harris via armbar in merely 65 seconds. Less than a month later, Harris faced Goodbeer and lost by disqualification (illegal head kick).

All three of Harris’s UFC wins have come by knockout, two coming in the opening round and another in the second stanza. Four of his seven UFC fights have ended in Round 1.

Spitz (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) lost a unanimous decision to Goodbeer in his Octagon debut at UFC 209. ‘Daddy Long Legs’ is 6’7” was a college football offensive lineman at Washington State and fights out of Spokane. He need only 24 seconds to KO Anthony Hamilton his last time out.

Prediction: Let’s go with two plays here. Although -150 is a tad expensive for my taste, we won’t risk too much with a one-unit wager on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds. Also, let’s go with the proposition bet of Harris to win in Round 1 for one unit that earns a +125 return. If you’re feeling aggressive, I’m not against a small play (one-half or one unit) on Harris to win by TKO/KO at a -140 price. I prefer going with the prop at plus money to win in Round 1, though.

**Other Picks**

-- I’ll take Gian Villante for one unit as a +130 underdog vs. Sam Alvey. Also, let’s go with two units on ‘under’ 2.5 rounds for a +157 payout (5Dimes).

-- Let’s go with one-half unit on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds (-112 at 5Dimes) for Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders.

-- Best of luck with your bets and enjoy the show!

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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