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Last Updated Feb 12, 2022, 17:31 PM

UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker Predictions, Picks, Odds

UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 is next up on the UFC schedule and will take place on February 12, 2022 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. 

The card features 15 total bouts with the middleweight title on the line in the headliner between former rivals Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. The pairing met previously at UFC 243 in a bout where Adesanya unified middleweight titles by knocking out Whittaker in round two. Now they are set to lock horns again.

UFC 271 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Saturday, February 12, 2022
  • TV-Time: Early Prelims (ESPN+ 6:00 p.m.), Prelims (ESPN, 8:00 p.m.), Main Card (ESPN+ PPV, 10:00 p.m.)
  • Venue: Toyota Center
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Odds Analysis: UFC 271 Betting Odds Analysis

Odds & Bouts Subject to Change - per BetMGM

UFC 271 PREVIEW & ANALYSIS

UFC 271 HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT
ISRAEL ADESANYA VS. ROBERT WHITTAKER PREDICTION

Adesanya and Whittaker face off for the second time. The first meeting saw Adesanya walk away as the victor scoring a second-round KO over then-champion Whittaker to unify the interim title with the belt. Robert Whittaker surrenders six inches in reach to Adesanya.

Whittaker is a traditional karate-guy, or at least that’s how he fights, meaning he darts in and out from a distance with his hands down. His specialty is a one-two to a high-kick combination which he has landed on just about every opponent he has fought over the years. Everyone but Adesanya.

The reach is an issue for Whittaker in this fight and he had an issue dealing with it in the first encounter. As I mentioned he tends to rush in from a distance and relies on his speed to connect with combinations. On guys like Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum, more traditional strikers in my book, that style works because the distance at which boxing-heavy fighters feel comfortable is much closer than kickboxing range. Adesanya is a kickboxer.

That means Whittaker has to cover the distance of his own preferred range and also that of Adesanya, a guy with a six-inch reach on him. He got exposed trying to do just that in the last bout, getting dropped hard and saved by the bell in round one and finished in round two. Adesanya was connecting all night.

Israel Adesanya beat Robert Whittaker via KO - Punches in 2019 at UFC 243. (AP)

The kicks do favor Whittaker more than someone Paulo Costa in this matchup though, I’ll give him that, but the distance is still too great for Robert. Adesanya fights well on the back foot and even knocked out Whittaker whilst on the back foot in the first fight. He can comfortably wait for Robert to come in once again and look to counter. I expect him to adopt such a gameplan.

Unless Whittaker brings his hands up after stringing together combinations he will lose again. Adesanya is far too quick with his counter hooks and is more defensively sound than Whittaker. Robert does not want to get in a phone booth with Adesanya again, but at the same time he can’t stand at a distance and fight with Adesanya either. I see him lose both of those scenarios.

Whittaker should clinch and look for takedowns to win this fight. This fight is in some ways similar to Chikadze vs. Kattar - the specialist versus the striker. As Kattar did, Whittaker needs to make this fight as dirty as possible. Do damage in the clinch, cut the champion, attempt takedowns at all costs. Whittaker cannot win this fight solely by striking. 

The road is paved for Adesanya - he can pick apart a striking Whittaker once again. For Robert to win he needs to change up his game quite drastically - something not a lot of fighters are prepared to do. Whittaker is championship material though and he could shock the world this weekend, but I see Adesanya winning more times than not in my head. The winner in rematches also tends to be the winner of preceding bout, meaning the statistics are in favor of Adesanya here.

While looking at the props for Adesanya, one number jumped out at me. The Adesanya to win inside the distance can be for +160 (bet $100 to win $160) with some sportsbooks. That seems valuable based on the fact that Adesanya won inside the distance last time, alongside the fact that ‘Izzy’ is a historical finisher. Whittaker’s durability tends to be his shortcoming in bouts that he has lost as well.

BEST VALUE BET: ISRAEL ADESANYA ITD (+160) 

BEST SU BET: ISRAEL ADESANYA ML (-300) 

UFC 271 HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT
DERRICK LEWIS VS. TAI TUIVASA PREDICTION

In the UFC 271 co-main, the big boys take to the stage. Derrick Lewis, 37, has had somewhat of a career resurgence in the last few years. His peak came in the shape of a four-fight winning streak spanning from 2019 to 2021. The streak was ended by Ciryl Gane last year but Lewis bounced right back with a big win over Chris Daukaus to round out the year on a positive note.

Lewis is a potent finisher known for his ability to separate opponents from consciousness with few punches. ‘The Black Beast’ does have the ability to win on the cards too, but the knockout is his main path to victory. In Lewis’ most recent bout we saw just why you can’t coast against the big power punchers - you get stuck on the fence. Coming from a guy who picked Daukaus to beat Lewis, I gotta say I probably underestimated Lewis’ ability to force opponents to play ball his way. 

Against a guy like Lewis you need to resist the urge to go backwards. Once you feel the cage against your back your chances of winning plummet. Guys like Lewis need the center because their offense is their defense. It is also where Lewis is comfortable fighting. In the rare moments Lewis is pressured he starts fatiguing faster and his defense is exposed.

Tuivasa is a wild guy with big power and entertaining performances. I think he might just be crazy enough to meet Lewis in the center and throw down. Tai has also shown the ability to think on his feet when he somehow managed to turn the tables on Greg Hardy and find the KO while being on skates himself. If Lewis lands and rushes in it could end badly for him.

Lewis has the experience edge here though and Tai rarely does well once a fight goes past rounds one and two. His volume is his strongest asset against the extremely low-volume Lewis. Tuivasa might just be crazy enough to meet Lewis in the center. I think that crazy might just be what hands him this victory however. Daukaus was way too cautious and apparently a bit undersized too. Lewis has a reach advantage but in terms of height and weight these guys are fairly equal.

At underdog odds the value is on Tuivasa. His youth also makes him a valuable play as fighters with nine-year age advantages tend to do quite well against their older counterparts. Just blindly betting fighters with a nine-year age advantage you cash almost 70% of your tickets. That’s a trend I’ll back when I can get plus money in doing so.

In heavyweight fights 67% of bouts don’t see the scorecards and for this matchup we have two hard-hitting strikers in the octagon. If we are picking a side we might as well go with the inside the distance prop on the same side. Tuivasa has a 92% finish rate.

BEST VALUE BET: TAI TUIVASA ITD (+220)

BEST SU BET: TAI TUIVASA ML (+165) 

UFC 271 MIDDLEWEIGHT BOUT
JARED CANNONIER VS. DEREK BRUNSON PREDICTION

Just two fights before a middleweight champion bout takes place two men possibly next in line for a shot at gold meet in the octagon. Whoever wins this fight might get to fight the winner of Adesanya vs. Whittaker. 

Cannonier is a hard-hitting striker with a long reach. His strikes are mainly targeted up top but what he lacks in kicks he makes up for with powerful striking. Cannonier actually used to compete as a heavyweight but dropped down to middleweight after an erroneous run there as well as at light heavyweight. He seems to have found his home at 185-pounds however as he is 4-1 over his last five, only losing to Robert Whittaker.

Possibly due to heavyweight days fighting heavy guys ‘The Killa Gorilla’ is very strong for middleweight and is an effective anti-wrestler. He has amassed a 62% takedown defense over the course of his UFC career and although that might not sound impressive in itself his biggest strength is sprawling back to his feet after getting taken down. Grapplers have a hard time holding him down. Cannonier’s ability to spring back to his feet was put on display when he defeated Jack Hermansson in Copenhagen in 2019. ‘The Joker’ was unable to keep the fight on the mat and came up short against the power being thrown his way.

Cannonier’s power does come at a cost though. Jared ‘only’ throws about three and a half punches every minute on average. Of course everything is relative, but for a striker I reckon that number should be way higher. Cannonier is a low volume fighter. After defeating Anderson Silva via vicious leg kicks, something we rarely see on the big scene, I thought Cannonier’s leg kicks would be his biggest trump card over the top of the division. However since that fight he hasn’t really incorporated them into his game as a path to victory. Against Whittaker he threw the kicks but without a lot of effect.

Brunson is mainly a wrestler with heavy top control. Prior to fighting Darren Till the narrative in the betting market was that Till is impossible to keep down. That narrative was demolished just minutes into the first round. Whether it was the move up in weight for Till or simply a lacklustre defensive wrestling put on display I do not know. What I do know is that Brunson makes guys that are good grappling-wise look like scrubs on the mat. 

His wrestling is mostly utilized to gain advantageous positions and set up ground and pound, however Brunson has decent submission ability too. He submitted the aforementioned Till in their encounter. Cannonier has the striking, Brunson has the wrestling, this is absolutely a classic grappler versus striker matchup.

The thing is, Cannonier is the far more one-sided of the two, if you ask me. Brunson can hold his own on the feet against good strikers, Cannonier has been blown out of the water on the ground before, most notably against Glover Teixeira at 205-pounds. Once you take Cannonier out of his preferred realm, he will come up short. Cannonier’s wrestling game is one hundred percent defensive-minded, meaning you will never catch him going for a takedown offensively. He always wants to remain standing with opponents.

This automatically makes the toolbox far larger for Brunson - he can set up strikes by faking takedowns and he can set up takedowns by faking strikes. This is one of the main reasons grapplers often beat strikers. Once on the ground Brunson seamlessly moves into full mount where he attacks with vicious ground and pound. As always, Cannonier has a puncher’s chance, but in a 15-minute fight I don’t see Brunson not getting to an advantageous position on the ground at some point and closing the show. 

Looking at the betting line, I can’t believe sportsbooks are making Brunson the ‘dog once again. He has been the underdog in four of his last five outings, all of which he has won. The guy is positive EV beyond belief, and I don’t know why bookies aren’t course correcting on him. He is the rightful favorite here in my mind.

If the narrative is that Cannonier can’t be held down then I’d suggest going back and watching the Darren Till fight. The narrative was similar - Brunson’s wrestling is fundamentally sound and he just doesn’t let opponents get back to their feet. The plus money on Brunson is pretty mind boggling to me. Cannonier doesn’t even have a giant advantage on paper either. Reach is identical, Brunson has a slight height advantage.

Striking differential also goes to the wrestler as well as overall experience. Brunson’s heel has always been age for me - he is quite old for the division. But I guess I forgot that Cannonier is as old as Brunson. Age isn’t even an advantage for the striker already at a disadvantage facing a wrestler. All arrows seem to point in the same direction for me. I think I’ll back Brunson over just anyone in the top 10 at 185-pounds, apart from Adesanya, if he is priced at plus money.

BEST VALUE BET: JARED CANNONIER ITD (+120)

BEST SU BET: DEREK BRUNSON ML (+145) 

UFC 271 BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT
KYLER PHILLIPS VS. MARCELO ROJO PREDICTION

Kyler Phillips looked like a new addition to the already stacked 135-pound division, but then came trouble. ‘The Matrix’ came up short in his most recent outing against Raulian Paiva and now we get to see what he’s made of. Can he bounce back? It’s always interesting to see which of the hyped prospects actually end up in the top tens of their divisions and possibly even challenge for the title. I don’t see Phillips as someone getting as much hype as a Sean O’Malley. He’s a prospect that has flown under the radar of most fans. 

Kyler’s biggest strength is the fact that he’s so well-rounded. You won’t catch him lacking in any areas a fight can go. Standing he’s sharp and flows in and out well. On the ground he excels too and averages about three takedowns per fight. Phillips ran into the first major glass door of his career by completely emptying his gas tank in the first round and going on to lose a majority decision against Raulian Paiva.

Of course the glass door is an analogy for obstacles and learning experiences a fighter must face as his or her career unfolds. Some fighters are good enough to take all the beatings and learn the ropes in the gym, and some have to face those moments in the octagon. 

I think this fight will show whether or not Phillips is for real. If he can keep his cool and bounce back from a loss it tells me that he is an avid learner with a good fighting IQ. If he fights over-zealously again and gasses himself out I think he runs into another glass door somewhere down the line. Regardless of adjustments this fight should be an easy one for Phillips. Marcelo Rojo is an older guy with some good experience on the regional scene, but his UFC debut was unimpressive.

Kyler Phillips has seen three of his last four fights go the distance. (AP

Rojo has been competing at 145-pounds in the past and he seemed flabbergasted by the speed of Charles Jourdain in his last outing. Perhaps it was the debuting factor but Rojo seems to only have one gear. He just couldn’t keep up. Rojo has power in those hands, and if you let him he will close the show. I just don’t think the fundamentals are quite there for the 33-year old. He is easily backed up and he does not like being on the back foot. 

The takedowns will also be there if Phillips wants them. Rojo doesn’t have the best wrestling defense and he seems adamant that he is savvy enough to catch his opponent with a submission from bottom position. Being too comfortable on bottom position is a classic pitfall jiu-jitsu fighters succumb to when transitioning to the big leagues - the chance of catching someone in a submission in the UFC is very low compared to on the regional scene.

All in all I expect Phillips to get the win here, but I won’t be too devastated if Rojo pulls off the upset. At least I’d then get to see his Raptor celebration post fight. I think Kyler Phillips will be dictating the dance here and his preferred method of victory has been the decision in the UFC. Marcelo Rojo is durable enough to survive on the feet. Phillips has some submission ability but I doubt it’s enough to submit Rojo.

BEST VALUE BET: KYLER PHILLIPS VIA DECISION (+250)

BEST SU BET: KYLER PHILLIPS ML (-350)

UFC 271 LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT
BOBBY GREEN VS. NASRAT HAQPARAST PREDICTION

Nasrat Haqparast is another former prospect who has had a rocky past few outings in the UFC. Nasrat’s loss against Dober was a flash-KO. That stuff happens. His most recent against Hooker was different however. The 26-year old was outclassed by an opponent from the top of the division. Clearly he has some training to do before he is ready for that level.

Green is not quite at that level but his experience and track record makes him almost that level. Nasrat is a great striker with crisp technique however he seems to fold when opponents are able to stifle his offense. Both Drew Dober and Dan Hooker were able to effectively pressure every ounce of volume out of Nasrat by marching him down. Green absolutely needs to be going forward against Nasrat. If not, I think Haqparast has a solid chance at winning a striking battle in the middle. 

Bobby has amazing technique himself, but he has a sour history with the scorecards. The judges just don’t like him. Sometimes I don’t blame them though - there’s a bit too much pitter-patter to the striking of Green sometimes. If Nasrat can land the more damaging shots he can be outstruck on the totals and still win on the cards. That’s exactly what happens to Bobby in all of the shoddy decisions he has lost. 

Nasrat unfortunately recently lost his mother and whether or not it hindered his performance against Hooker we will have to see on Saturday. Regardless there is definitely an overcorrection taking place in the betting market given that Nasrat can be had at plus money against an ageing veteran like Green.

Nasrat has closed at average odds of -110 throughout his UFC career. That’s an implied win probability of about 52%. Meanwhile Nasrat has won five of his eight UFC appearances giving him a UFC win rate of 62.5%. Bobby Green has closed at average odds of +175 throughout his UFC tenure. The betting market has decided that Bobby should be the underdog in 12 of his 17 outings. He is 9-8 in the UFC so it's not like that notion is far off.

Green won his last fight impressively but has been the underdog for the most part. Nasrat lost his last fight unimpressively and has been favored for the most part. The betting line should be flipped. Green is a savvy veteran with great experience. I think he can hang with the younger striker here. Haqparast is good at coasting too so if the fight doesn’t go his way he will be able to survive too.

BEST VALUE BET: FIGHT GOES THE DISTANCE (-189)

BEST SU BET: NASRAT HAQPARAST ML (+140)

UFC 271 HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT
ANDREI ARLOVSKI VS. JARED VANDERAA PREDICTION

43-year old Arlovski looks to make it three in a row with a win over Jared Vanderaa. The age gap is 14 years here and Vanderaa is the youngster. Just blindly betting on youngsters with a 14-year age advantage you’d have cashed about 70% of your tickets. That’s huge for obvious statistical reasons.

Arlovski has a wealth of experience in his backpack and has been able to use that veteran knowledge to beat some lower ranked guys as of late. The former champion’s career is in a bit of a weird place at the moment. The heavyweight division is very shallow allowing for an old guy like Arlovski to still pick up some wins at the lower end of the division, meanwhile when he is matched up against actual young contenders he loses. I guess ‘gatekeeper’ is the perfect word for this situation.

Arlovski has also adopted an extremely careful style at 43-years old. He has not finished an opponent since 2015 which is pretty crazy to think about considering he’s a heavyweight legend. The ferociousness of the younger guys has been shown to overwhelm Andrei before, notably against Rozenstruik and Aspinall - both guys finished him. 

The wins have been questionable for Arlovski - Chase Sherman is a former UFC reject with a 3-8 UFC record. Carlos Felipe is a decent win but Felipe is comfortable going the distance which plays directly into Arlovski’s point fighting style. And then Philipe Lins, another newly-signed fighter with no wins under the UFC mantle yet. 

Jared Vanderaa might not be a Tom Aspinall, but he has a high finish rate and he comes with a certain intensity that Arlovski doesn’t like. Arlovski will also be facing a guy relatively equal to him in size which is significant considering he has been bigger than most of his recent opponents which he has beaten.

Vanderaa is coming off a tough loss against Alexandr Romanov, a very respectable opponent with an unbeaten record. Romanov is one of the biggest prospects at heavyweight at the moment, and losing to him is nothing to be ashamed of. Vanderaa has had some issues with fundamentals in his career, but he is young enough to still be evolving.

Arlovski does have the technical advantage, but he possesses no threat on the feet and that will allow the finisher to march forward with reckless intent. A plus money shot is warranted on the 14-years younger fighter. When Arlovski loses it is his durability that fails him. I think that narrative will come into play on Saturday. At heavyweight most fights tend to end inside the distance. I think the Vanderaa to win inside the distance prop is valuable.

BEST VALUE BET: JARED VANDERAA ITD (+330)

BEST SU BET: JARED VANDERAA ML (+150)

UFC 271 WOMEN'S FLYWEIGHT BOUT
ROXANNE MODAFFERI VS. CASEY O’NEILL PREDICTION

Roxanne Modafferi makes her walk to the octagon one last time this weekend as she takes on up and coming prospect Casey O’Neill at 125-pounds. Modafferi’s UFC career has had its ups and downs however she is - and has never been - one to shy away from a good challenge in the underdog role. Her biggest accomplishment came in the form of a victory over Maycee Barber at UFC 246. Modafferi was a sizable +600 underdog in that fight. 

O’Neill showed up on most fans’ radars with her last win over Antonina Shevchenko - the sister of esteemed women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. A win over that surname is bound to have its benefits for any fighter.

Casey has a strong base in grappling but can throw down on the feet as well. Once she gets an opponent to the ground she either looks for submissions or goes for the ground and pound. The latter has been her bread and butter in the octagon up until this point, with two of her three wins coming by way of knockout due to punches from mount. 

Matchup-wise this could be worse for Roxanne. The veteran has a fundamental base in grappling herself and usually looks for takedowns at some point in the fight. If she is lucky her defensive capabilities hold up and she is able to strike with O’Neill. That said, Modafferi doesn’t do particularly well on the feet and Casey’s youth and speed advantage makes her superior in that area.

We haven’t seen Casey forced to strike yet in the UFC and even though I just mentioned the probability that Modafferi is able to keep this standing her 25% takedown defense diffuses that statement a little bit. If Casey really wants the takedowns they will be there all night. An overshadowing x-factor in this fight is the fact that Modafferi has announced her retirement prior to this bout. This fight will be her last.

I can’t remember once in history where a fighter has ever announced retirement prior to a fight and then going on to win that bout. Maybe someone like Jon Jones could do it, but an ageing veteran with an inconsistent track record facing a hungry, young contender makes me wonder what chances Roxanne realistically has here. Maybe she wins one out of ten times these two meet? 

Let me also give my two cents on that Maycee Barber win because I know a lot of people will be having that upset in mind when handicapping this fight. I saw a relatively even fight up until Barber injured herself. From there on out it was top control but nothing threatening from Modafferi. The outcome of that one Barber fight is baked into this betting line. Bettors still remember that upset. I think Casey O’Neill wins this fight easily and although I respect Modafferi a lot she is in over her head this weekend.

Let me put the recency bias on display: against Maycee Barber, an unbeaten prospect on a three-fight win streak with all three wins coming inside the distance, Modafferi closed a +600 favorite. This weekend she faces O’Neill, an unbeaten prospect coming off three straight finishes and Roxanne is a +300 ‘dog. 

BEST VALUE BET: CASEY O’NEILL ITD (+175)

BEST SU BET: CASEY O’NEILL ML (-400)

UFC 271 FLYWEIGHT BOUT
ALEX PEREZ VS. MATT SCHNELL PREDICTION

Alex Perez takes on Matt Schnell at 125-pounds.

This fight is one of the better matchup between two tough contenders in the flyweight division. Perez needs a tuneup after losing to Figueiredo and Schnell wants a win to boost his ranking.

The betting line heavily favors Perez so I’ll be handicapping this fight with value in mind.

The first thing that jumped out at me with this matchup is the size discrepancy - Schnell is the bigger man by two inches in height and five inches in reach. Second of all, Perez is superior to Schnell in pretty much every major statistical category. Strikes landed, absorbed, takedowns, submissions, all of it.

The trick in this situation is to look at experience. Both fighters have had well over five outings in the UFC.

In my experience, the more bouts the less statistics matter. As it so happens, experience flattens out skill gaps meaning underdogs become increasingly valuable if both fighters have a lot of UFC outings.

I think this is the case for Perez versus Schnell. On paper Schnell is subpar, but the experience is not accounted for in that betting line. The recency bias also goes to Perez who is coming off a fight with Figueiuredo. He did not get his hand raised in that fight but people associate his name with a title fight and put him on a pedestal for that reason.

Schnell has the reach advantage, and is 5-3 in the UFC. We are definitely not looking at some nobody here.

I’ll predict Perez to win, but the value resides with the underdog in this fight.

BEST VALUE BET: MATT SCHNELL (+300)

UFC 271 LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT
WILLIAM KNIGHT VS. MAXIM GRISHIN PREDICTION

Grishin was initially scheduled to take on Ed Herman, however due to a pullout William Knight stepped in to face the veteran on short notice.

Maxim has an extensive MMA career with a whopping total of 42 professional bouts. He signed with the UFC in 2020 and has suffered defeat twice whilst winning one bout so far.

Grishin’s most recent outing was against a respectable opponent in Dustin Jacoby, (5-2-1 in the UFC), in a fight where he not only out-landed his opponent on the strike totals, but also managed to drop him twice in round one. He did not get his hand raised once the scorecards were tallied, and I have my opinions about that, but regardless it was a great performance against a good opponent.

Grishin is a tall and lanky fighter with a 78-inch reach. He holds a five-inch reach advantage in this fight on top of a four-inch height advantage.

William Knight is mainly known for his explosiveness in the octagon. He has serious power and is built like a tank. He has shown issues with overcoming a reach disadvantage before though when he was manhandled by Da Un Jung not too long ago.

Knight can crack on the feet but he can mix in wrestling and go for takedowns too. That size discrepancy just makes me wonder how effective the grappling will be and even if he does manage to get Grishin down in round one I think it will do more harm than good for Knight because it could cause him to gas out prematurely. William has that tight build with a lot of fast-twitch muscle fiber - that’s where all the power comes from, but that power comes at a cost, and he carries a lot of muscle to go three rounds.

Knight did fine going the full 15 recently against Alonzo Menifield, but that was only because Menifield was huffing and puffing by the end of the first himself. Knight also went the distance against Aleksa Camur, but in that fight he was able to consistently gain top control over an opponent similar in size to himself and save energy. I don’t believe these things will be a possibility for Knight going up against a far bigger and stronger opponent with a hefty experience advantage on him. The short notice replacement also means Knight will naturally have a decreased likelihood of winning - at least that’s what historical stats tell us.

All in all Knight has come up short against the size discrepancy before. History always repeats itself.

BEST VALUE BET: MAXIM GRISHIN (-182)

UFC 271 BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT
LEOMANA MARTINEZ VS. RONNIE LAWRENCE PREDICTION

For this fight we have two promising, newly-signed fighters going up against one another. One is coming in hot off a performance-of-the-night outing and the other won via split-decision in his last time out. That is why we are getting this wide betting line.

Skill for skill I don’t see that much of a difference between the fighters. Lawrence, perhaps the stronger wrestler, averages more takedowns but Martinez has the striking advantage in turn.

If not for the betting line, I’d probably go with the stronger wrestler, but that plus money makes me want to take a stab at the underdog.

I definitely feel like the dogs will be barking this Saturday.

In the lower weight divisions it is usually harder to amass a high control percentage because each fighter has a low center of gravity which makes it hard to not only take down but also keep down.

Fighters at this weight class tend to pop right back up after hitting the canvas which makes it a nightmare for wrestlers mediocre striking. Guys like Merab Dvalishvili has to average over five takedowns a fight to win with grappling. And even Lawrence has averaged a whopping 10.86 takedowns per 15 minutes in his last two outings. Sure, he has been racking up control time in those bouts, but we know the judges are looking more at damage with the new rules in place. The striker will always have an advantage in that area. He just needs to land something significant and get a big reaction whereas the wrestler needs to be perfect for five minutes to win a round.

The plus money makes me side with the ‘dog.

BEST VALUE BET: LEOMANA MARTINEZ ML (+230)

UFC 271 LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT
ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ VS. RENATO MOICANO PREDICTION

Two former 155-pound prospects fight for their right to keep that title.

Renato Moicano looked like he was on a rocket ship to the top of the featherweight division in 2018. With a 5-1 UFC record, with his only loss coming by way of submission against Brian Ortega, the sky was the limit for Moicano.

A run-in with former champion, Jose Aldo, was the start of a downfall for the 32-year old, and losing that fight via knockout would be the first of three devastating knockout losses over the course of just one year.

Today Moicano is in a weird spot. He has made the move up to lightweight for good but the results just haven’t been there. He has trouble getting that consistency back after racking up a few knockout losses.

Age-wise he is not exactly on the young side, and if he wants to establish himself as a contender in the UFC that is here to stay, he needs to get a win streak going right now.

Hernandez is similarly in a questionable position in the division right now. He has lost every time he has made a step up in competition, meanwhile he beats the lower ranked guys that are fed to him.

Digging a bit deeper, it’s clear that Moicano’s preferred method of victory is the submission. In fact, fights that go the distance have been very close in the UFC for Renato. Two split decisions and one unanimous decision is what Moicano has amassed going the distance. Hernandez is actually a potent wrestler with a strong core. He is hard to keep down and if this fight stays standing I don’t see Moicano doing that well. Hernandez has also never been submitted so there’s that. That is a big notch in his belt going into a fight against a submission specialist.

If Hernandez can stop the takedowns his power advantage could expose the suspect durability of Moicano once again. I don’t see a finish on the Moicano side unless it's a submission. The guy has never knocked anybody out so why should he start doing so now?

BEST VALUE BET: ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ ML (+140)

UFC 271 LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT
CARLOS ULBERG VS. FABIO CHERANT PREDICTION

Israel Adesanya’s teammate Carlos Ulberg is ready for another shot at UFC action this weekend as he will take on Fabio Cherant.

Ulberg botched his UFC debut against Kennedy Nzechukwu by throwing technique out the window and choosing to brawl against a more powerful puncher. That strategy resulted in a second-round knockout loss.

Ulberg can be technically sound and lethal, however unless he starts implementing that technique into his MMA game I doubt he will get far in the UFC.

Cherant is a struggling bottom-tier contender at light heavyweight. He can crack but in doing so he usually leads himself open to counters. If Ulberg does this right, Cherant is a perfect lay up for a highlight reel finish.

Fabio has been finished in all of his outings on the big scene so it's not like putting him away is an extreme task.

Cherant has zero professional knockouts on his resume and if this fight stays standing I have to believe Ulberg will be able to win. He just has to stop the takedowns and win with his volume.

As I said, the opponent could not be better for him. Cherant is a good grappler but his wrestling is not up to speed with the formal requirements of the UFC. Add this to that fact that Ulberg is training with Adesanya, someone with tremendous takedown defense, and I think he has the ingredients to make this work.

My only concern is if he decides to brawl in the pocket again and gets caught with something big. However the zero knockouts for Cherant eases my worry there a bit, and Ulberg must have picked up something from that loss to Kennedy.

BEST VALUE BET: CARLOS ULBERG ML (-200)

UFC 271 LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT
A.J. DOBSON VS. JACOB MALKOUN PREDICTION

In this bout we have another teammate to a fighter in the headlining bout, only this time it’s Whittaker’s teammate, and not Adesanya’s.

Jacob Malkoun got a rude awakening in his UFC debut, getting brutally knocked out by hard-hitting Phil Hawes in the very first round.

Malkoun is a strong positional wrestler with strong takedowns. In his aforementioned debut he seemed unconditioned to the pace of an actual high-level fight, however in his next outing against knockout-producing Abdul Alhassan, he had seemingly adjusted.

Dobson is another finisher with heavy hands, however he’s a great opponent for someone like Malkoun to out wrestle.

As long as Malkoun doesn’t start cold like he did against Phil Hawes, I think he has a real shot at implementing his wrestling skills to their full effect on Saturday.

Malkoun amassed over 10 minutes of control time against hard-hitting Alhassan, who is no scrub on the ground - that’s a serious feat. Dobson has the puncher’s chance, but Malkoun should be able to grind this to a decision win.

BEST VALUE BET: JACOB MALKOUN ML (+130)

UFC 271 LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT
DOUGLAS SILVA DE ANDRADE VS. SERGEY MOROZOV PREDICTION

Andrade is an athletic UFC veteran with heavy hands. In most of his UFC outings he is a legit knockout threat. Despite getting up there in age Andrade has not shown many signs of decline.

Douglas has alternated between wins and losses for most of his UFC career which is worrisome considering he is coming off a win heading into Saturday’s bout.

Without completely donning the tinfoil hat, I think there are usually some factors behind the matchmaking that keeps a guy like Andrade in the position that he is in. In all of his losses he has come up short against strong grapplers that can get him down. With that in mind it makes me curious as to why he is now matched up against a strong grappler with a takedown average of over three takedowns per 15 minutes. It seems like it is written in the stars that Andrade takes an L this weekend.

Morozov managed to get six takedowns on his opponent in his last outing which is quite spectacular. Defensively he is sound with a 64% striking defense which beats that of Andrade by a couple of percentage points.

With a historical takedown defense of 66% I doubt Andrade will be able to stop the takedowns coming at him right from the get-go. He could always land something big but the puncher’s chance is decreased the further down you go in weight. This being a bantamweight bout means the grappler naturally has the advantage.

I think Morozov will be able to slow down the pace of the fight with his takedowns and survive the biggest shots on the feet, long enough to see the scorecards where he will win a unanimous decision.

I usually go with strikers against grapplers in the lower weight classes but since there is an age discrepancy at play here too I’m leaning with the younger and more well-rounded fighter.

BEST VALUE BET: SERGEY MOROZOV ML (-225)

UFC 271 LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT
JEREMIAH WELLS VS. MIKE MATHETHA PREDICTION

The first fight of the night is a sleeper hit for sure. Jeremiah Wells goes up against another kickboxer out of Adesanya’s stable.

Mike Mathetha is quite green on the MMA scene with a record of just 3 wins and 0 losses. The experience gap is probably the biggest thing going for Jeremiah Wells in this fight, but it’s also super significant.

Generally I have a hard time siding with fighters who are not only inexperienced in MMA but who are also making the transition from another sport past the age of thirty. Your learning curve generally flattens once you get past your mid twenties. Only in rare instances does such a transition end up going well.

I don’t think that narrative will change on Saturday. Jeremiah Wells is mostly known for his highlight reel knockouts, but most fans may not be aware of the fact that he is a jiu-jitsu black belt. The ground game is there and if he implements it he can punish the one-sided striker that Mathetha is.

Now I touched on the inexperience on Mathetha’s side, but there’s also the fact that his three opponents have had a combined record of 7-9. None of the guys he has faced have ended up anywhere and are probably all retired now. That is the MMA experience Mathetha has. Forget the kickboxing background for a minute because it is not MMA.

The leap in competition Mathetha will be making on Saturday is unfathomable. Wells is a legit addition to the 170-pound division and is coming off a second-round knockout over savvy veteran Warlley Alves (8-5 in the UFC) and has already gotten that debut out of the way, meaning he was one of few that managed to beat the trend and win his debut over an experienced veteran. Not a lot of people can do that.

Mathetha has the striking advantage, but this is not a kickboxing fight. Wells will close the distance and look for takedowns.

BEST VALUE BET: JEREMIAH WELLS ML (-240)

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