Mar 11, 2022
UFC Vegas 50 Picks, Predictions, Odds
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Anklaev, also known as UFC Vegas 50, is next up on the UFC schedule. The event will take place on March 12, 2022 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada with a light heavyweight showdown between former UFC 205-pound title challenger, Thiago Santos, and surging contender, Magomed Ankalev, expected to serve as the headlining bout.
In the co-main, Marlon Moraes takes on Song Yadong in a three-round bout at bantamweight.
Other notable UFC Vegas 50 appearances include Alex Pereira, former kickboxer turned professional MMA-fighter with two wins over current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, Sodiq Yusuff, and Terrance McKinney who steps in on short notice to face Drew Dober
UFC Vegas 50 Odds & Bouts
UFC Vegas 50 Main Card
- Light Heavyweight: Thiago Santos (+450) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (-650)
- Bantamweight: Marlon Moraes (+220) vs. Yadong Song (-275)
- Featherweight: Sodiq Yusuff (-275) vs. Alex Caceres (+210)
- Light Heavyweight: Khalil Rountree Jr. (+110) vs. Karl Roberson (-135)
- Lightweight: Drew Dober (-160) vs. Terrance McKinney (+130)
- Middleweight: Alex Pereira (-190) vs. Bruno Silva (+155)
UFC Vegas 50 Preliminary Card
- Welterweight: Matthew Semelsberger (-190) vs. AJ Fletcher (+160)
- Women’s Flyweight: JJ Aldrich (+110) vs. Gillian Robertson (-135)
- Bantamweight: Trevin Jones (+130) vs. Javid Basharat (-160)
- Featherweight: Damon Jackson (-120) vs. Kamuela Kirk (+100)
- Women’s Flyweight: Sabina Mazo (+260) vs. Miranda Maverick (-350)
- Middleweight: Dalcha Lungiambula (-125) vs. Cody Brundage (+105)
- Bantamweight: Guido Cannetti (+130) vs. Kris Moutinho (-160)
- Light Heavyweight: Tafon Nchukwi (+155) vs. Azamat Murzakanov (-190)
Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev Picks
Magomed Ankalaev is the guy everyone seems to have their money on to end the year as champion, and for good reason. The guy can do it all.
Apart from a last-second submission loss to Paul Craig in his UFC debut, Ankalaev has kept it perfect inside the octagon. He is currently on a run through the division with seven straight wins and three performance bonuses. As I said, Ankalaev can do it all, however he is primarily a striker.
Thiago Santos is an old war horse at this point in time. He has had a long career with 22 bouts under the UFC mantle and he even challenged for the title when Jones was still champion. Prime time is seemingly in the past for Santos however, as he has battled consistency since that loss to Jones in 2019. He is 1-3 in his last four, with his only win being against Johnny Walker.
Santos used to be a deadly force at 205-pounds; someone you definitely didn’t want to trade with. However age has played a significant role in Santos’ downfall as of late. On top of that, severe injuries in both knees following his bout against Jones have kept from reaching his best.
Thiago was great because of his finishing ability. You take that out of the equation and you only have part of what used to make Santos great. In Thiago’s last bout he went the distance and was outstruck by Walker, a one-round fighter with, quite frankly, the worst composure in the division. Santos did not look good in that bout, and his power was nowhere to be seen. Mind you, Walker is chinny, and putting him out is not a tall order if you connect.
Ankalaev is far too technical to be beaten on the cards. If Santos wants to win he has to go out there and trade with him in a phone booth. The problem is, I don’t think he has the desire to do that anymore. The last time he did that was against Jimi Manuwa, a fight that took place in 2018. Age and two blown-out knees will prevent Santos from staying on top and I don’t see him scraping past Ankalaev this Saturday. The youngster gets it done via finish.
Best Bet: Magomed Ankalaev (-600) via KO.
Marlon Moraes vs. Song Yadong Picks
Just before the main event kicks off we have another prospect-veteran matchup on our hands, this in the bantamweight division. At one point Moraes was thought of as the guy who would reign supreme at 135-pounds. He had flashy wins over big names, and when matched up against Henry Cejudo we decided that he should be the favorite.
Much like Thiago Santos who competes in the UFC Vegas 50 main event this weekend, the exact moment Marlon Moraes’ career went off the rails can be pinpointed to one outing. For Marlon, it was the one against Cejudo in which he was mauled late after seemingly winning the opening round.
With Moraes it's one of those cases where a fighter is not the same after a loss. Perhaps that devastating loss to Cejudo did change something inside Moraes, or perhaps it changed something in the mind of his opponents. I’m close to siding with the latter of those narratives.
Moraes was feared due to his dangerous striking, however after his fight with Cejudo I think everyone realized that you just need to get this guy out of round one and the fight will start to turn in your favor. Moraes has lost three of four fights since his bout against Cejudo. His only win was a close split decision against Jose Aldo. However following that win things would not get better for Marlon who is now riding a horrific three-fight knockout-loss streak.
When you break it down, Song Yadong is essentially a younger and hungrier version of Moraes: he hits hard and he has a strong sprawling game. The difference between the two is simply trajectories. Song is on his way up, Moraes is on his way out. Yadong is still young in the sport, however he has gotten past losing learning experiences which makes me believe he has what it takes to beat an old guy like Moraes who, let’s face it, is being brought out to serve as a layup for Song on Saturday. No doubt about that.
The Song price tag is actually not bad. At -250 (bet $250 to win $100) he is far cheaper than the favorite in the main event, a fight much like this one. The lowdown is this: Moraes is shot. Unless he lands some big hail-mary haymaker in round one Yadong will win. I’ll side with the youngster here, who extends Moraes’ knockout losing streak to four.
Best Bet: Song Yadong (-250) via KO
Sodiq Yusuff vs. Alex Caceres Picks
Heading on down the card we have featherweight prospect, Sodiq Yusuff, taking on divisional veteran Alex Caceres. Yusuff has been consistent in the UFC, however a run in with fellow divisional prospect, Arnold Allen, took his ‘O’ on the big scene. Now he has to bounce back.
Breaking down fights with guys like Sodiq Yusuff is super simple, and I’ll tell you why: if guys can take him down, he is at a disadvantage. Meanwhile if he faces a striker, which the UFC have been kind enough to match him up against up until this point, he is usually at an advantage.
It’s a little bit funny that the UFC are only now matching him up against a guy who can legitimately grapple. I know both Arnold Allen and Andre Fili had wrestling credentials, but I think Caceres is by far the guy who uses grappling as a path to victory most consistently, compared to all the other names on Yusuff’s resume.
Why I think it’s funny is due to the fact that ever since Yusuff was signed to the UFC he has been involved in favorable matchups against strikers. Since he did well the UFC seemingly decided to keep granting him favorable matchups, however after losing to Arnold Allen they’ve now abandoned the Yusuff hype train by orchestrating this matchup. Mind you, this is just my opinion, and it could just be a coincidence. I feel like the matchup pretty clearly indicates that the UFC are no longer seeing Yusuff as a potential superstar. At least not to the same extent. They are not doing him any favors by matching him up against a submission grappler.
I’ll remove my tinfoil hat and get back to brass tacks. Caceres has been a journeyman for the majority of his career - alternating wins and losses on the regular and rarely winning the big fights. That part of his career seems to be in the past though. The Alex Caceres we’ve got right now is a guy on a five-fight win streak. In those five fights he has only lost two of 10 rounds that have gone the distance. We are looking at an improved fighter here. He has learned from all those losses.
Caceres is young enough to still make improvements in his game, and at 33-years of age he could just be entering his prime. In some ways he reminds me of Charles Oliviera - another former journeyman who just figured it all out. 25 fights under the UFC mantle are what makes Alex a dangerous opponent. He has seen it all and has been competing at the highest level since he was in his early twenties. Even before that he was a competitor on TUF season 12 where he faced strong competition. He has been sharpening his game, operating in the dark. I think people are sleeping on him right now.
Yusuff’s takedown defense is listed at 68% and while Caceres doesn’t shoot for as many takedowns as an Andre Fili, his submission game makes him a threat even in the clinch. Sodiq wants to strike, Alex wants to grapple and clinch up. In the smaller UFC Apex octagon this fight favors Caceres. If you’re not sold on fading Yusuff as the favorite, comfort yourself with the fact that Alex just cashed at plus money in his most recent time out. The bookies have not caught on to him yet.
Best Bet: Alex Caceres ML (+210)
Khalil Rountree vs. Karl Roberson Picks
Two strikers face off at light heavyweight. Khalil Routree is 5-5 in the UFC, Karl Roberson is 4-4. This is possibly a contract-eliminator bout. Rountree is the more lethal striker, however his grappling deficiencies make him fairly easy for a potent grappler to control him on the ground. The majority of his losses have been against guys that were able to drag him to the ground.
Khalil is also one of these strikers where his best round is the first. From there on out he tends to fade or lose composure. In the UFC three of his five wins have come inside the first round. Roberson is also primarily a striker however he does have some grappling prowess to fall back on, unlike his opponent in this matchup. Karl has sharp submissions once on the ground. His wrestling is not a big part of his game though.
So we have two strikers, one with no grappling in the toolbox and one with four submission wins. I rarely back fighters with zero grappling - in this day and age of MMA you need to be able to do stuff on the mat. Both guys are similar in age and their career trajectories don’t exactly look promising, however Roberson is the more evolved mixed martial artist, and him getting matched up against a pure striker is a blessing in disguise for him. He needs to snap his losing streak.
I see zero knockout losses on the record of Roberson, in fact, he has only lost by way of submission. Rountree, meanwhile, has yet to win a fight via submission, and he tends to come up short against grapplers. The writing’s on the wall here. Roberson can coast on the feet for long enough to avoid the big shots. Later in the fight he secures a few takedowns here and there and grinds his way to a victory.
Best Bet: Karl Roberson ML (-135)
Drew Dober vs. Terrance McKinney Picks
Initially Drew Dober was scheduled to face Ricky Glenn on Saturday, however Glenn had to pull out due to injury leading Terrance McKinney, fresh off a first-round victory, to step in on short notice. Potential fight of the night here. This matchup is another tale of two opposites: McKinney, a potent wrestler, wants to drag this fight to the ground and win via ground and pound or submission. Dober, a heavy-handed striker, wants to remain standing and do enough damage to win.
The short-notice nature of this bout entails a natural disadvantage for McKinney. However, given the aspects of the matchup, particularly Terrance facing a striker being a wrestler himself, I don’t think McKinney's disadvantage will be as significant as it could’ve been. Dober’s UFC takedown defense of 55% isn’t exactly top notch. He is very strong and good at getting back up though, but we’ve seen that when he faces a high level grappler he gets blown out of the water.
It might be a bit of a stretch to compare Makhachev to McKinney, but Terrance’s wrestling is really good.
My only concern for McKinney is his cardio. Going through his record I see a lot of first-round finishes and not a lot of fights that go beyond round two. Going up against Dober, a very tough and gritty veteran with a head like a fire hydrant, I worry that he will fade once the lactic acid starts building up in the muscles from all the takedown attempts.
Dober is tough but he has been submitted in the past. McKinney has a 100% finish rate. If Dober gets this done I think it’ll be via knockout. Gun to my head I think Terrance tires and Dober gets the finish late, however seeing McKinney in the underdog role again, against another striker, makes me side with him for value’s sake. After all, the wrestler will always have an advantage over the striker in a smaller octagon.
Best Bet: Terrance McKinney (+140) via Submission
Alex Pereira vs. Bruno Silva Picks
Touted middleweight prospect Alex Pereira makes his second walk to the octagon under the UFC mantle this weekend. He takes on Bruno Silva, a heavy-handed striker with a polished 3-0 record in the UFC.
Everybody knows about Pereira’s striking accolades. I think the UFC gave him a little test in his debut by matching him up against a wrestler. Now we know he’s for real.
Now they’re matching Pereira up against Bruno Silva. When I saw this fight was happening I immediately started looking up the grappling credentials of Bruno Silva. Apparently he has a black belt in jiu jitsu, however zero career wins by submission makes me wonder whether we will see any grappling from him on Saturday. In turn, he has five losses via ‘sub. That’s almost all of his pro losses.
If this fight is a striking battle, what chance do you give Silva? Realistically, he does have a puncher’s chance, but Pereira’s credentials are blinding. He has a knockout win over Israel Adesanya. That should tell you everything you need to know. In his three UFC fights Silva has amassed an impressive 2.87 striking differential, however his 32% striking defense worries me. He is hittable.
Reach and height favors Pereira massively. Pereira is obviously still green in MMA with just five total fights in the sport. However the UFC knows what they are doing with this matchmaking, and I think that’s a sign that they’re putting stock into Pereira. They’re building toward him getting a title shot against Adesanya - a rivalry that has been brewing ever since the two fought in kickboxing.
If Pereira can rack up a few knockouts over respectable opponents the UFC can justify him getting a title shot. His best chance of winning is against a striker.
Adesanya is a cash cow who needs a rival. The UFC are looking to make Pereira that person. For that reason I think he wins. If we have the matchmakers on our side we can get comfortable. Of course this is MMA and anything can happen. I just don’t see Silva winning the striking exchanges here, and since he has yet to show any wrestling on the big scene I’m going with Pereira.
Pereira-Silva Best Bet: Alex Pereira ML (-190)
Matthew Semelsberger vs. A.J. Fletcher Picks
In the featured preliminary bout of UFC Vegas 50 Matthew Semelsberger takes on unbeaten prospect A.J. Fletcher.
Semelsberger has had a decent run in the welterweight division thus far, however his competition hasn't exactly been top tier. When he finally did get that step up in competition he bottled it. 30-27 against Khaos Williams.
Semelsberger has a reach and overall size advantage here. He is a striker with good attacks from a far.
Thing is, Fletcher has a wrestling advantage, and with that usually comes an ability to control the physical space.
As is probably well known at this point, the smaller the octagon the bigger the advantage for the wrestler. Wrestlers need the cage to get takedowns and when the octagon is smaller it is easier to trap the opponent.
As far as I can tell Fletcher is also the hardest hitter of the two. More importantly, he uses leg kicks quite well which can disrupt the movement of a lanky guy like Matthew.
In Semelsberger's loss against Williams he was controlled against the fence for extended periods of time. Mind you, Khaos is as pure a boxer as you're gonna get in MMA. There's not a whole lot of wrestling in his toolbox. If Williams can control you on the fence Fletcher can do so easily, regardless of size disrepancy.
I think the opponent is right for Fletcher to implement his grappling and steal some rounds. It might not be a clean victory but I see him getting his hand raised on Saturday night. A good learning experience is never to be taken for granted for these young guys though.
Semelsberger-Fletcher Best Bet: A.J. Fletcher ML (+200)
J.J. Aldrich vs. Gillian Robertson Picks
Heading on down the card we've got Gillian Robertson taking on J.J. Aldrich in the women's flyweight division.
J.J. Aldrich is a boxing-heavy addition to the 125-pound division. She throws with pretty crisp technique. Not a lot of power behind it though. Zero UFC knockdowns and knockouts.
Going through Aldrich's record it's pretty shocking how few grapplers he's faced in the UFC. I know the lower ranks of the women's weight classes can be pretty thin, but I really only see one wrestler on her record, Juliana Lima, a fighter Aldrich lost to in her debut.
Other than that, Polyana Viana is a grappler on her resume, but mostly a jiu-jitsu specialist. There's not a lot of wrestling to her game, mostly pulling guard and looking for submissions on the mat.
Robertson is one of the strongest wrestlers in the division. Her record may look inconsistent at first glance, however, as I always say, the devil's in the details. In the case of Gillian her losses have come against top level competition. Here I'm talking future title challengers. Taila Santos, Miranda Maverick, Maycee Barber - all of whom are in another stratosphere compared to someone like J.J. Aldrich.
Honestly it's one of these cases where I wonder what will stop Robertson from securing takedowns and doing what she wants to Aldrich on the ground. J.J. has zero submission wins on her record, that's indicative of a fighter with no grappling abilities. Meanwhile Robertson can freely implement the takedowns with little knockout or submission threats to worry about.
What makes me even more confident in Gillian is the fact that she looks to do as much damage as possible when on the ground. In the UFC she's actually been finishing girls left and right. In seven total wins she has finished six. She doesn't just hold position and ride out the clock. She wants to get finsihes.
In this weight class that is a big feat - we know judges look for damage when scoring rounds, and I guarantee you Gillian will be the one dishing it out.
The wrestler reigns supreme on Saturday.
Aldrich-Robertson Best Bet: Gillian Robertson (-140) ML
Trevin Jones vs. Javid Basharat Picks
Trevin Jones finally made it to the UFC in 2020 and in his debut he would face prospect Timur Valiev. Incredibly enough, Jones managed to put Valiev out and cashed a performance-of-the-night bonus with a knockout.
Since then Jones has displayed the power in his hands in every one of his UFC outings. The guy can crack.
In his last fight he came up short against a grappler, however he actually controlled the majority of that fight and ended up in a submission late. Tough luck.
Basharat is an unbeaten guy who just won a fight on DWCS. He is a grappler with the submission as his main weapon.
In a jiu-jitsu competition I'd expect Basharat to beat someone like Jones, however in an MMA bout the stronger wrestler has far more liberties to inflict damage in different positions on the ground.
Seeing Jones control someone like Kakhramonov easily is quite indicative of how this fight will go. Basharat is a grappler first - the wrestling advantage lies with Jones.
Then there's the opponents on Basharat's record. In his most recent outing he beat a 41-year-old fighter on a two-year layoff.
If you go further down on his resume you start finding guys like a guy called John Spencer who, I kid you not, has an MMA record of 2-46. Where do you even find guys like that? And mind you, this is not someone Javid was facing in the amateur ranks. He fought that guy in 2019. I'll keep going: Ricardo Morais is another win on Basharat's record (4-10), Julien Bouteix (2-6), Tony Hall (6-5), Oleksandr Bilobrovaka (0-9). I don't think I need to go on.
The level of competition Javid has been facing is ridiculous and his unbeaten record has certainly lost some integrity after finding out who he has been facing.
A guy like Trevin Jones is made for war with vicious punching power and strong wrestling.
Basharat wants takedowns here, but I don't think Jones will give them to him. In fact, I think Jones will be the one grappling here.
Striking goes to Jones, so does wrestling. This fight could turn out ugly for Basharat. I honestly think he's up for a serious reality check this weekend. The step up in competition is gigantic.
All things considered the fact that Jones is the underdog boggles my mind. He's the side to back.
Jones-Basharat Best Bet: Trevin Jones ML (+130)
Damon Jackson vs. Kamuela Kirk Picks
Grappler versus grappler.
Damon Jackson is called 'The Leech' for a reason. In 19 pro wins he has secured 14 of them via submission. His main path to victory is on the ground.
What happens when he faces off against some who has never been submitted though?
Kamuela Kirk was KO'ed by Billy Quarantillo on DWCS, a very respectable opponent with killer cardio in my opinion. Following that loss he made it to the UFC and got past grappling heavy Makwan Amirkhani in his debut. Amirkhani is a pure grappler in MMA with good takedowns. Kirk spent some time on his back in that fight but he never let up. His cardio looked vastly improved.
Jackson carried an unbeaten record into the UFC when he was first signed in 2014. After three fights he was cut as he failed to pick up a win. This is his second stint for the promotion, and his overall game hasn't looked particularly improved this time around.
Mirsad Bektic on a two-fight skid and Charles Rosa aren't exactly good wins.
Damon is a submission guy, but when he's forced to strike he gets uncomfortable. He was folded by Ilia Topuria, and Kirk honestly has a decent advantage in a straight up boxing match.
Then there's the age of Jackson. 33-years of age with nothing going for him in the UFC yet. I don't think he's destined to remain in the UFC, especially not considering he's already been sacked once. Kirk is a younger guy on an upwards trajectory. Jackson is a one-trick pony.
I think the youngster gets it done. He got past Amirkhani in his debut, another one-trick pony going for takedowns. Despite giving up six minutes of control time he used consistent submission attempts to stay in the fight. I believe this matchup is very similar to his debut. If he goes out there and does the same thing, with a few adjustments, he can pick up a win over Damon Jackson here.
Jackson-Kirk Best Bet: Kamuela Kirk ML (-110)
Sabina Mazo vs. Miranda Maverick Picks
We're back in the women's flyweight division where striking-savvy Sabina Mazo takes on Miranda Maverick.
Maverick was a highly touted prospect until she ran into an unfortunate split decision against Maycee Barber followed by a tough time out against superior grappler Erin Blanchfield. Now she needs to dust herself off and get back in the win column.
Sabina Mazo is kind of in the same spot here, as she comes into this fight off a loss to Mariya Agapova via submission.
Maverick's wrestling wins her this fight. Mazo has a lanky frame and the single-leg takedown will be there all night.
The thing is, Maverick is massively outsized in this fight. Mazo towers over Miranda with a reach advantage of five inches and a height advantage of four inches. That size discrepancy is going to help Mazo stay on her feet.
On the feet Mazo is my favorite. She always keeps a high volume and when given the opportunity she can land well over 100 strikes in 15 minutes. That's impressive.
Maverick is taking this fight on short notice.
This matchup reminds a bit too much of another striker versus grappler matchup, Luana Carolina vs. Lupita Godinez, a fight that took place not too long ago. Carolina, the striker, outsized Godinez in that fight and was able to nulify the takedowns with her larger frame.
In men's MMA, I think size is less significant simply due to the strength levels. In women's MMA though I think a big size advantage serves you well against a wrestler.
It'll be a sweat, but I'm actually picking Mazo to get the job done here. In her last fight she faced a superior striker that could match her volume, but she never let up on the pressure. If she can take the center and pressure Maverick she will win. Maverick needs the cage to shoot.
Miranda's last loss was also a devastating one. You need some time to get back on the horse from a humbling defeat like that. She was dominated for three rounds straight. If we're lucky Mazo has recovered just a tad more from her loss and will be the more composed fighter on Saturday.
Mazo-Maverick Best Bet: Sabina Mazo ML (+270)